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The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,444 Ratings  ·  314 Reviews
The clean slate
Nihilism, American style
The German connection
Two revolutions & two states of nature
The self
The Nietzcheanization of the left or vice versa
Our ignorance
The university
From Socrates Apology to Heidegger's Rektoratsrede
The Sixties
The student & the university
Paperback, 25th anniversary, 400 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 (first published December 1st 1987)
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Aug 03, 2013 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps this book deserves five stars -- it did, after all, shake me up a bit, the way the best books do. Bloom is rightly concerned with a problem I see in my own classrooms: the assumption that, since all views are to be tolerated in our modern liberal democracy, all views are equally valuable; furthermore, since all ideas are equally worthy of consideration, none of them are worthy of consideration. It is difficult to say anything of real importance about poetry, literature, art, religion, ph ...more
Jun 14, 2009 booklady rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any college bound student
Bloom's 1987 bestseller is still relevant today. In it he critiques the American education system for removing the Great Books from the required reading in most colleges. Booklady that I am, I couldn't agree with him more. The Great Books should be read and in the originals, not in watered down or abridged versions--however much modern students complain about Dickens being repetitive, etc. If they absolutely cannot force their eyes to follow the words on the page, then get the audio versions of ...more
This is the best argument for conservatism I've ever read. To be fair, it's also the only one I've ever read, outside of the occasional David Brooks column. And let's be honest: Bloom is about as elitist and conservative as you can get. But he makes the position seem very enticing with his brilliant argumentation and his penetrating logic as he delves into the state of the late 20th century American citizen. It doesn't hurt that he has a staggering breadth of knowledge on just about every single ...more
Paul Rhodes
Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind was published twenty years ago this month. Parents gave this book to their kids upon graduation from high school to warn them against the moral rot they would encounter at the modern university. I received this book from my uncle (may God rest his soul!) when I was graduated in 1986 but did not read it until after I suffered through the collegiate moral rot from which this book was supposed to rescue me.

Of course, I did not need Allan Bloom to tell me t
Feb 22, 2009 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to the contemporary study of Western decline, there is hardly a tome that compares with Allan Bloom's tour de force, "The Closing of the American Mind." Writing in the mid 1980s, he skillfully unravels the knot of factors that have contributed to the current malaise. Nothing escapes his scalpel: feminism, narcissism, affirmative action, cultural relativism, and the collapse of academia are all sliced and diced, exposed in their entire historical and ideological depth.

Bloom (1930-19
Feb 02, 2008 Trevor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-theory
I know nothing about American Universities and so when Bloom says things about the lowering of standards to accommodate black students who have been admitted without the requisite standard of education to succeed I just assume this is standard racist crap. But I’m really not in any position to argue one way or the other.

He certainly doesn’t waste time supporting any of his arguments with facts, mostly just vitriol. In fact, this book is so full of bile that after a while the need to spit become
Mar 27, 2010 §-- rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: At this point, all Americans.
Recommended to §-- by: Every conservative I know.
Shelves: philosophy
5 stars, but that doesn't tell the whole story. In fact, it's one of the most complicated books I've ever read. I took 35 pages of notes on this book, a new record for me for note-taking. I give it 5 stars despite that Professor Bloom vanishes after Part One and his thesis becomes obscured by his grand narratives of philosophy.

Part One is good enough to warrant buying the book, because it is simply the clearest and deepest analysis of postmodern man out there. You can see why people thought Sau
Ahmad Ardy
May 15, 2015 Ahmad Ardy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Buku ini teramatlah payah untuk dibaca. Aku harus mengakui bahawa aku tidak memahami kebanyakan perkara yg disebutkan pengarang. Tentang Nietzsche-sasi, Heideggernisasi; minda-budaya Jerman yang telah menerobos masuk ke dalam kesedaran universiti2 di Amerika; signifikasi zaman 60-an kepada kelangsungan universiti sebagai pendukung kersarjanaan ilmu di Amerika. Jarak topik yang disentuh penulis begitu luas. Setiap satunya pula mempunyai medan makna dan sejarah yang tersendiri. Buku ini dikatakan ...more
Scott Rhee
I was in eighth grade when the late Allan Bloom's 1987 seminal classic "The Closing of the American Mind" was published. I remembered it because my parents, like thousands of other parents across the country, bought it and put it on the bookshelf proudly. And there it sat, unread, for almost two decades.

I wish that I had read it before I had gone off to college, but I will be honest, I probably wouldn't have understood it. I don't pretend to completely understand everything in it now, at age 40
Jan 10, 2015 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
was expecting this to be a more charming version of Kimball's awful Tenured Radicals, but it is rather much more rigorous and thoughtful. that said, am still reading it as 'wrong.'

author reveals his major malfunction late in the text, which occurred during a campus altercation wherein certain left activists occupied university buildings and apparently took hostages of university personnel. this event, and university's failure to discipline, soured author on entire left project in the '60s, if i
Allan Bloom is a hysterical, raving, reactionary lunatic. he and his academia ilk are exactly the reason why education teaches kids nothing, because they know absolutely zero about the children they're supposed to teach. mostly, this book is little more than a "get off my lawn" diatribe against any and all (race, sex, drugs, rock music) youth fascinations, blaming each of them in turn for the "Closing of the American Mind."

Bloom continually condescends in the most irritating manner of the Americ
Andrew Morton
Oct 09, 2007 Andrew Morton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in education (or why they're in education)
The Closing of the American Mind is a thoughtful book, if somewhat overwrought at times. With that in mind, it's fair to say that the late professor Bloom's comments on education had some impact on reinvigorating my own interest in academics.

Professor Bloom examines the educational development taking place (then in the 1980s) taking place particularly in elite higher education in the US. While some argue that his appreciation for classical literature and education is antiquated and out of date,
Apr 06, 2008 Gerard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most influential books I've read in the last five years. The presentation of a brilliant mind. From a man that is an atheist, homosexual, and conservative. Not conservative in the Ronald Reagan sense. Conservative in that he admires Nietzsche and longs for ancient Athens. A very brilliant analysis of modern culture.
Jan 04, 2008 Shane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One hundred pages into the book, I picked up a penand began a serious dialogue with this book. I especially found the parts on Nietzsche and Freud important in regard to their impact on American culture. At one point Bloom made the statement that Freud pulled the rug out from under our feet and the elevator plunged bottomlessly down into the psyche. I think this is really apparent in a lot of postmodern and contemporary literature where there is a lot of soul searching and digging through the fa ...more
I steadily read this book a few pages, sometimes even a few paragraphs, at a time for about two months. On page 160, I decided to give it up.

Mr. Bloom's politics and mine are totally incompatible.

At the risk of oversimplifying his thesis, I fail to see how short skirts, rock & roll, and encouraging college students to have open minds has (to quote the subtitle) "...Failed Democracy And Impoverished The Souls Of Today's Students." I believe one of the purposes of a liberal arts education is t
Ben Crosby
Jun 28, 2009 Ben Crosby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ben by: college students (former and current), college graduates, and fa

On balance, this book is a disappointment. It is an important idea (a still much needed polemic against the American aversion to real learning), but it seems deployed with a level of arbitrariness. I was with Bloom for the first few chapters. I applauded his frankness when discussing race in the academy, and how the culture studies ideology is poisonous. I responded with appropriate indignation when he decried the disappearance of a reading culture and the emergence of professional "training." I
Jun 13, 2007 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
an analylitical look at the culture that is modern western society. our society as seen through the eyes of his 40+ years as a professor at an elite university and the degradation of mankind in the west (with plenty to say about the rest of the world, too). doesn't sound too compelling, but unlike the other half-million books on this subject, bloom's insights are at once intellectually honest, relevant and, at times, stunning. bloom dares you to reason with him. here he had placed political corr ...more
Feb 13, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is as if Bloom believes he has divined the totality of meaning in the last 200 years and he alone has the right to judge where the world is failing. He comes across as a grumpy old man who is angry at his students and refuses to believe things he does not like have any value.
Jul 24, 2010 Mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
They say you should write about something you know. Mr. Bloom knows more about closed minds than most, but I think he should have kept it to himself.
Jul 26, 2011 Teri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't actually read this - but it's on my list. However, I couldn't just share the review below unless I listed this book as having been read. So... here is the review that has me watering at the mouth to read this book. I got the review off Amazon. Enjoy! - - Teri

When The Closing of The American Mind was published in 1987, it instantly ignited a firestorm of praise and condemnation. Conser
Bryan Smith
Hands down one of the most challenging (and illuminating) books I've read yet. With an astonishing combination of insight, erudition, and philosophical richness, Bloom (in a nutshell) carefully traces the decline of educational standards within the university (especially with regards to the humanities), which he ultimately holds responsible for the anti-intellectual relativism and culture of self-interest that dominates the American mind to this day. Although the book is well written on par, Blo ...more
After reading this book, I was inspired to write the following:


On Graduating

I have been wondering for a while now what I have gained from the past four years at University. When I refused a practical, career-driven Accounting program at [University] for the sake of studying Cognitive Science at [my University], I thought I was making the right choice. I wanted to be educated. Cognitive Science promised something beyond rote office learning, manmade laws to accommodate white collar workers' de
Thomas Dineen
Jun 16, 2009 Thomas Dineen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a cautionary tale for those who consider themselves 'educated.' Allan Bloom's erudite, fluently written reflection on the parlous state of the American mind laments the intellectual and moral complacency of today's university students. It also outlines the academic trends that have contributed to our country's growing Philistinism and decadence.

Bloom almost entitled this controversial, surprise best-seller 'Souls Without Longing.' He devotes several chapters to diagnosing the condi
Sep 21, 2009 Kyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative." So begins Allan Bloom's outstanding analysis of American universities and, more broadly, American culture. Published over 20 years ago, it remains relevant. His thesis is that universities have abandoned their callings to be refuges for the pursuit of truth (although make no mistake--Bloom is no Christian); academic freedom no longer e ...more
Apr 02, 2007 Rustam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written by a certified windbag. His main premise is that Western civilization is going down the tubes, because we read more books written by women and minorities these days, and because we don't make love to the Western canon on a twice-weekly basis. He also claimed that the repetitive 4/4 beat of certain Rolling Stones songs is a clear indicator of the decline of Western civilization. Given the high standard for culture that he advocates in the book, there was a certain irony, six ...more
Jul 29, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a challenging (read: worthwhile) book for anyone who has any interest in defining, experiencing, or achieving education. Bloom's discussion of campus politics and the newly arrived student's hopes and frustrations cut too close to the bone for the general criticisms to hold much water; Noam Chomsky, as usual almost impossibly dismissive, called it mind-bogglingly stupid, and Lawrence Levine devoted an entire book to an argument that Bloom accepts and places in context in a few short page ...more
Oct 25, 2007 Sparkie731 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this is a crabby old white guy who can't get with the times and uses big words, loves obscure references and thinks if everyone just read the 'Classics' in Greek/Hebrew/Latin our problems will go away and we'll be back in 1850 when we had no social problems. sort of.
But his insights into society are so astute and felt (at least to me) so perfectly phrased and diagnosed that more than once I sat/jumped straight up thinking "yes!"
Allan Bloom might have spent a little too much time in academia
Aug 09, 2010 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This author is right on! What an amazing statement about how our society and its education have deteriorated. Allan Bloom points the finger at the families that have not taught morals or religion. New students coming to the universities from broken homes and broken morals cannot relate to the classical education wherein lies the meaning of life and the portrait of human nature. They end up seeking only a general or specialized training in a career and forego the real education from the great min ...more
THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND. (1987). Allan Bloom. ***.
When this book came out I remember it creating quite a stir. I have managed to avoid reading it until now because I felt that I probably wouldn’t understand the author’s arguments. Well, the book has caught up with me. As I read it, I eventually discovered the author’s thesis. He kept repeating it over and over again in different ways – so many in fact that you would have to be a non-English reader to miss it. The problem is that he is a
Apr 22, 2013 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't understand what I was thinking all those years ago, when I read this the first time. The author is obviously massively well read, and has a broad range of exposure and experience in arts, music, and literature. I have to wonder how a person with so much exposure to the best of western culture could author such a narrow, biased, sneering, elitist, and hateful rant. I'm so sorry that i wasted my time the first time, and doubly sorry now all these years later.
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  • Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties
  • The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe
  • Witness
  • The Idea of a University
  • The Shadow University: The Betrayal Of Liberty On America's Campuses
  • Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Allan David Bloom was an American philosopher, essayist and academic. Bloom championed the idea of 'Great Books' education, as did his mentor Leo Strauss. Bloom became famous for his criticism of contemporary American higher education, with his views being expressed in his bestselling 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind.
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“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency -- the belief that the here and now is all there is.” 262 likes
“Picture a thirteen-year-old boy sitting in the living room of his family home doing his math assignment while wearing his Walkman headphones or watching MTV. He enjoys the liberties hard won over centuries by the alliance of philosophic genius and political heroism, consecrated by the blood of martyrs; he is provided with comfort and leisure by the most productive economy ever known to mankind; science has penetrated the secrets of nature in order to provide him with the marvelous, lifelike electronic sound and image reproduction he is enjoying. And in what does progress culminate? A pubescent child whose body throbs with orgasmic rhythms; whose feelings are made articulate in hymns to the joys of onanism or the killing of parents; whose ambition is to win fame and wealth in imitating the drag-queen who makes the music. In short, life is made into a nonstop, commercially prepackaged masturbational fantasy.” 27 likes
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