Tim Lockman's Reviews > Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky

Intellectuals by Paul  Johnson
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Nov 17, 2011

it was ok

An interesting exploration of the less-flattering sides of some major intellectuals. It's worth a look, but Johnson brings a heavy-handed ideology to his subject. If you read this book, be sure to also have some more balanced background on these characters. If you don't, you may end up thinking that they never did *anything* right. I think his basic point is well-taken: people who are really smart in some ways, and therefore highly respected in the academy, are often really stupid in others; beware of taking them too seriously. Still, I think he is unfair at times, and tries to score points with his caustic tone. He also hits below the belt by delving into his subjects' sexual lives, and even in one case at one's private anatomy. His work probably provides a needed balance in historical scholarship, but in his zeal, Johnson is a bit shrill and extreme. As always, read with a critical eye.
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