Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography

By David S. Brown | Go to book overview

The Crisis of Intellect

The widespread distrust of intellectuals in America reflects
a tendency to depreciate their playfulness and distrust their
piety. Our is a society in which every form of play seems to
be accepted by the majority except the play of mind.

RICHARD HOFSTADTER, 1953

Richard Hofstadter wrote or coauthored nearly a dozen books in less than thirty years. A prolific writer blessed with a felicitous and engaging style, he valued the power of good prose, encouraging students to sharpen and condense their essays with an eye toward impact and clarity. He imparted one additional piece of advice to his students: produce at least one page of original material each day. “I write at least three drafts of anything,” he noted of his own habits. “I have a lot of second thoughts, and I'd rather have them before the book is bound. I'll fight right down to the galleys and sometimes even after the book is in print.” Presentation meant more to Hofstadter than a packet of facts and footnotes; and while he respected monographs generated by archival materials, his own talents tilted toward history as an artistic rather than scientific persuasion. “If one were to compare the proportion of time given to expression with that given to research,” he informed an interviewer, “my emphasis is on the first.”1

Hofstadter's work habits were methodical and took on a momentum born of routine that carried him through diffcult periods when words were hard to find. After collecting his first Pulitzer in 1956 for The Age of Reform, Hofstadter faced the daunting challenge of producing a followup. For seven years (a long time for this writer), he labored away on AntiIntellectualism in American Life, a penetrating if problematic study that proved to be his most ambitious and least satisfying work. As a form of therapy, Anti-Intellectualism delivered a magnificent blow for those who experienced (or thought they experienced) the Eisenhower fifties as

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Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction - Interior, Exterior xiii
  • Part I - Education, 1916–1950 1
  • 1: Radical Roots 3
  • 2: The Twilight of Waspdom 28
  • 3: The New American Political Tradition 50
  • 4: The Historian as Social Scientist 72
  • Part II - Engagement, 1950–1965 97
  • 5: The Age of Reform and Its Critics 99
  • 6: The Crisis of Intellect 120
  • 7: The Paranoid Mind 142
  • Part III - Eclipse, 1965–1970 161
  • 8: Rebellion from Within 163
  • 9: Conflict and Consensus—redux 188
  • 10: The Trials of Liberalism 207
  • 11: A World Full 222
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliographic Essay - In Search of Richard Hofstadter 267
  • Sources 277
  • Students of Richard Hofstadter 281
  • Index 283
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