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The Closing of the American Mind

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  4,898 ratings  ·  497 reviews
The Closing of the American Mind, a publishing phenomenon in hardcover, is now a paperback literary event. In this acclaimed number one national best-seller, one of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is essential to understa ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published May 15th 1988 by Simon & Schuster (first published December 1987)
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Will This complex book, has a simple argument at its heart – one expressed so eloquently by Bloom I shall struggle to do it justice in my summary here, but…moreThis complex book, has a simple argument at its heart – one expressed so eloquently by Bloom I shall struggle to do it justice in my summary here, but here we go nonetheless:

Every university student believes truth is relative. This is a necessary belief, because relativism is necessary to openness, the inculcation of which has gone on for so long, it has become de facto part of the university curriculum. This openness is actually antithetical to learning, and society more generally: when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract even possible anymore?

What was shown to be a great opening – the acceptability of all beliefs – was actually a great closing, as we cut off our critical faculties, dismissed the ancients as having nothing relevant to say, and accepted all ‘cultures’ and devotees to pursue this goal of ‘openness’.

“What is advertised as a great opening is a great closing. No longer is there a hope that there are great wise men in other places and times who can reveal the truth about life – except for the few remaining young people who look for a quick fix from a guru.”

Bloom shows how we have gone from an Enlightenment era of Lockean philosophy that lead the new world to assertively claim that “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, via Rousseau, to a post-Nietzschean, Freudian world where to claim the self-evidency of would no longer be possible, or desirable, as to do so would set limits on the freedoms, actions, and in all likelihood the equality of the opinions of others.
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W.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
booklady
Jun 08, 2008 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
Andrew
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Trevor
Feb 02, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Joshuacitrak
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
...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
...more
Paul Rhodes
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
...more
Amy
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Samuel Tran
At times it feels like listening to your Republican grandpa at dinner. He begins by bewailing the modern tastes of young people (rock music and walkmans!) and how no one cares about getting a real education these days. The word curmudgeon comes to mind.
Unless you keep reading. Suddenly he begins to lay the groundwork for his complaints. It is rambling, to be sure, but profound and thought-provoking. It begins to shift the way you think. Then he is off on another tangent...Plato...Great Books...a
...more
Mark
Jul 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
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.
John David
Unless you were attending a university when this book was published, or have a special interest in the general ongoing dialogue we call the culture wars, "The Closing of the American Mind" may not be on your radar. When it first came out in 1987, it caused quite a fracas and became, I'm sure to everyone's (including Allan Bloom’s) surprise, a bestseller. It's difficult for me to imagine a book by an unprepossessing University of Chicago professor on the debilitating effects of Heidegger and Niet ...more
Angela
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 to in
...more
Mehrsa
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Bloom was so sure a few decades that we fixed racism and sexism that people were complaining for no reason. College campuses are segregated, he says, and it's not at all the fault of white students. Women are also still bitching even though every door is opened to them and we got rid of sexual harassment. I believe he spoke too soon. Still, reading this made we nostalgic for Bloom's sober and curmudgenly conservatism--so sure were they that the left would destroy American civilization that they ...more
Kris
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was enthralled with Part I and Bloom’s remarks on student habits, the purpose of universities, and the significant paradigm shift in academics in recent decades. Though written in 1987, his thoughts here are incredibly perceptive and relevant, perhaps even more so in today’s landscape. The race piece of all this has become even more charged than Bloom could have seen.

In Part II he lapses into a big section on philosophers and loses the attachment to the everyday lives of students on campus. Be
...more
Andrew Morton
Oct 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
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,
...more
sologdin
Nov 28, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
...more
Gerard
Apr 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
MM
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Teri
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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When The Closing of The American Mind was published in 1987, it instantly ignited a firestorm of praise and condemnation. Conser
...more
robin friedman
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Education, Democracy, And Soul

The late Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind" was an unexpected bestseller when it appeared in 1987. It is an outstanding work combining polemic against the diminution of American standards with serious thought about how we came to this impasse. Bloom's book is a testament to the power of ideas.

If "The Closing of the American Mind" captures Bloom's thought, his friend Saul Bellow's novel, "Ravelstein" (1996) captures much of Bloom the man. I think Bloom'
...more
Mike
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Richard
Jun 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Julie
Aug 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Robert
Sep 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Matt
Feb 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Thomas Dineen
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jul 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
It's easy to mock the author. Rock music leads to promiscuous sex, sex is bad when it has no consequences, blacks stick together, "no fault insurance, no fault divorce, and no fault sex" leads to lessening of our values, romantic love is dead, and so on, but that's not the reason he wrote the book and I won't mock him for those silly statements.

He does state that "tradition and myths even if they are not real" help us determine our real nature and develop our soul. Our individual values and valu
...more
Kyle
Sep 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"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
Roseanna White
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some really good insights in here on how the new motto of American higher education is oxymoronic and ultimately devalues what education is meant to be...and also a whole lot of words that made my eyes glaze over as Bloom explores themes of philosophy in general that seemed to have little to do with his thesis. I listened to the audio and would have preferred reading it in paper, I think, so I could skim sections that I didn't find as interesting. (Hate confessing to the desire to skim, but ther ...more
Ben Crosby
Aug 25, 2007 rated it liked it
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
...more
Bryan Smith
Feb 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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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. ...more

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