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The Age of American Unreason

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,637 Ratings  ·  438 Reviews
Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a new American cultural phenomenon—one that is at odds with our heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern, secular knowledge and science. With mordant wit, Jacoby surveys an antirationalist landscape extending from pop culture to a pseudo-intellectual universe of "junk thought." Disda ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Tantor Media (first published 2008)
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Bill  Kerwin

This thoughtful exploration of anti-intellectualism in America was originally published in March of 2008, six months before John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. In it, Jacoby alerted us to an America already sick with "a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism.” Now, more than eight years later, Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. Jacoby's book was relevant then, and it is relevant now.

The first section of
...more
Skylar Burris
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Because I am a product of the Age of American Unreason, I’m going to begin reviewing this book before I’ve finished reading it. Besides, I don’t have time to read the entire book. I have to watch all the re-runs I’ve DVRed of America’s Biggest Loser and Bachelor, and then I need to fantasize about the end times when everyone who disagrees with me gets theirs, and I’ve also got to spend a few minutes irrationally doubting whether macroevolutionary theory is a fully sufficient explanation for the ...more
Trevor
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was indeed, there was an America that proudly stood as the intellectual beacon of the world, the light on the hill which shone and illuminated even down into those darkest of places the light of reason and hope. Because reason and hope are sisters and hand-in-hand they can transform the world.

Then one day one of these sisters got lost in the woods, lost in the dark and impenetrable woods of ignorance and stupidity and aggressive ignorance. And hope calle
...more
Scott Rhee
May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, politics
Society is going to Hell in a handbasket. That seems to be the general consensus regardless of one's political leaning.

In Susan Jacoby's immensely fascinating book "The Age of American Unreason", Jacoby explains the history of how and why we arrived at this sad state of affairs. It is a fascinating history that starts with a group of extraordinary gentlemen who, in 1776, were able to put aside their differences and collaborate on the creation of an extraordinary document, one that still continu
...more
Kristine
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, but take it with a grain of salt
Recommended to Kristine by: Katie Schreiner
If you agree with everything Jacoby says, you're not paying enough attention. She's out to diagnose all the reasons why Americans are falling behind the rest of the world intellectually. I think she's right about a lot of what she says, but she blames quite a bit on conservatives and on religion that I don't agree can be laid on those particular doorsteps. At the same time, it's fascinating to read her take on the 60's--particularly given that my in-laws were definitely part of the counter-count ...more
Kristen
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
I know I vowed in my previous reviews not to read any more of these particular sorts of books, more liberals explaining the mind of those crazy conservatives, and how unsatisfied I inevitably am with their explanations. Yet surely Susan Jacoby will be different, considering how much I loved her Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Sadly, no. While the book starts out on the right track towards the end it veers wildly off course. Perhaps my two star rating is me taking my frustration w ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thinkers
Shelves: favorites
How did America get to this point, a point of hubristic anti-intellectualism, of a mocking dismissal of science, a point at which Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s main advisor, could say — in all seriousness — to author Ron Suskind, as he did in 2004,
that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” ...

“That's not the way the world really works anymore,” he
...more
Scot
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is thoroughly researched, logically organized, eloquently written, and incredibly significant for the real problem it points out: the severe dumbing down of America that has occurred in the past forty years. With wit and wisdom, the author puts this troubling phenomenon in the larger historical context of the history of this country, and traces the strong and virulent forces that coalesced to set us on the path toward the bleak future sardonically portrayed in the 2006 film Idiocracy ( ...more
Terence
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Terence by: Jacoby interview on Bill Moyer's Journal
The Age of American Unreason is another road-trip audio CD adventure so I couldn't take notes, I got distracted on occasion, and I can't review the text as I write this. Consequently, this review will be brief (perhaps blessedly so) and lacking in much detail but, for what it's worth, here it is:

Jacoby traces three streams of American culture: A low-brow, ignorant-and-proud-of-it tradition that's wary of education and distrustful of the educated; a high-brow tradition of educated elites, who hav
...more
Lunnon
Mar 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been hyped with a lot of articles in newspapers, esp. a big one in the New York Times and sounded interesting. I found that the sections of the book where she laid out the historical foundations of American anti-intellectualism were not as interesting as the sections towards the end where she starts cataloging all the junk science, junk thought, obsession with celebrities,technological distractions, and 'us folks' relativism that have taken over society today. Some of it approaches ...more
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Susan Jacoby (born 1945) is an American author, most recently of the New York Times best seller The Age of American Unreason about American anti-intellectualism. She is director of the New York branch of the Center for Inquiry.

More about Susan Jacoby...
“This mindless tolerance, which places observable scientific facts, subject to proof, on the same level as unprovable supernatural fantasy, has played a major role in the resurgence of both anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism.” 39 likes
“The specific use of folks as an exclusionary and inclusionary signal, designed to make the speaker sound like one of the boys or girls, is symptomatic of a debasement of public speech inseparable from a more general erosion of American cultural standards. Casual, colloquial language also conveys an implicit denial of the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated: talking about folks going off to war is the equivalent of describing rape victims as girls (unless the victims are, in fact, little girls and not grown women). Look up any important presidential speech in the history of the United States before 1980, and you will find not one patronizing appeal to folks. Imagine: 'We here highly resolve that these folks shall not have died in vain; and that government of the folks, by the folks, for the folks, shall not perish from the earth.” 13 likes
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