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Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky
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Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,460 Ratings  ·  177 Reviews
The controversial and provocative bestseller about intellectuals in history, from Rousseau, Marx, and Tolstoy to Sartre, Noam Chomsky, and Lillian Hellman."Johnson revels in all the wicked things these great thinkers have done...great fun to read." "--New York Times Book Review"
Paperback, 385 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published 1988)
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Greg
Aug 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Back in 2001 I had an internship at Verso. They are the publishers of some left-wing books. When I worked there I would come in for a few hours a day. I'd get paid twenty five dollars and I'd be given lunch. I was also allowed to take home copies of any books that I wanted. It was a pleasant arrangement while I was taking classes.

One day, probably a couple of months after I started I showed up at the office and one of the real employees pulled me aside and told me that Alexander Cockburn was in
...more
Gary
Jan 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book about what why each of the profiled intellectuals profiled are worthy of being remembered, but it's mostly how they are flawed human beings. The author would pick an intellectual, barely explain why they are important today, and then dwell on the persons foibles to a churlish degree making the listener lose sight of why the person is of interest today.

Does the author really know that Marx had "anger is heart" but didn't really act on it? Sometimes it can help to understand the
...more
Eric_W
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Paul Hollander, in a review of Intellectuals by Paul Johnson defines "intellectual" as a western concept connoting "preoccupation with and respect for ideas but not for ideas as sacred doctrines." (Society, Se/Oc 1989, p. 97)

The positive embodiment of this ideal is the "fearless social critic, inquisitive and iconoclastic interpreter of ideas, selfless promoter of the common good." To some extent, the role of intellectual is self-defined; there are no specific requirements for the job, unlike t
...more
Szplug
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As other reviews have pointed out, Johnson has selected a mitt-full of left-wing/atheist writers, thinkers, and philosophers and attempted to sully their names and reputations with copious slinging of mud. Each intellectual - and there are some curious inclusions under this rubric - has their (personal) life strained for gossip and innuendo: the resulting sexual shenanigans, neurotic peccadillos, rampant paranoia, unpleasant interactions and general grade-A assholery apparently should serve as a ...more
Riku Sayuj

Single Quote Review:

“The famous technique of not separating the author from his work which made him* the leading critic of the nineteenth century ignores what should be obvious to anyone upon reflection, that a book is produced by a different person than the one whom we see in his daily life with his strengths and his weaknesses as a man.”

~ Marcel Proust



[ *him - refers to the French critic Sainte-Beuve, who had inspired a school of critics in the nineteenth century, l’homme et l’oeuvre, which d
...more
Frieda Vizel
I read every word of this juicy book even though I lost trust in the author very early on. The book reads like a delicious tabloid writeup of the venerated thinkers; sex, drugs, drinking, mental illness, theft, fighting and a plethora of other personal scandal depicted with questionable reliability. If nothing else, this book feeds our personal cravings for schadenfreude. Johnson loses his credibility when the faults he finds in these thinkers - which at times seem quite human and expected - are ...more
Peter N.
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book that is devastating to many of those that modern thinkers hold in high esteem, such as Rousseau, Marx, Tolstoy, Sarte and Brecht. Johnson knows a lot, has studied a lot, and is willing to call these men (and one woman) what they were: mean, greedy for fame and often money, immoral, hateful towards women and children, and above all persistent liars. Truth for them was malleable, especially when their reputation was at stake.

One reviewer said that Johnson ignored their good contributions,
...more
Dfordoom
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals is a fascinating examination of the reasons we should distrust intellectuals, especially of the left-wing variety.

He looks at a selection of intellectuals from Rousseau to Noam Chomsky and sees some disturbing common patterns. They achieve a certain eminence in a particular field (Bertrand Russell in mathematics, Chomsky in linguistics, Shelley, Tolstoy and James Baldwin in literature) and then decide they are uniquely qualified to refashion civilisation. They t
...more
Michelle
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished this--it took me quite a while. I found it necessary to do a few chapters at a time, broken up by something else. This book is an amazing, weighty but readable look at the "intellectuals" we've crowned as "experts" in the last few hundred years. Johnson notes the trend of intellectuals seeking to lead humanity to a better place than the priests and religious leaders of an earlier day, and asks the oddly-rarely-mentioned question "How is this working out?" Are we better off for ...more
Douglas Wilson
Apr 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Excellent.
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Paul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.

Paul Johnson has published over 40 books incl
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More about Paul Johnson...
“It was part of Rousseau’s vanity that he believed himself incapable of base emotions. ‘I feel too superior to hate.’ ‘I love myself too much to hate anybody.” 5 likes
“inside the angry man a fearful one cowered.” 4 likes
More quotes…