Posts Tagged ‘Richard Hofstadter’

Anti-Intellectualism and the Creation of National Myths

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

NwswkPopulism.jpg-550x0At the dawn of the 1960s Richard Hofstadter was in his prime as a historian. A recipient of a Pulitzer for his book, Age of Reform, he had been part of an elite group of thinkers who were attempting to re-shape the national discourse in the United States. Among these thinkers were Lionel Trilling and Reinhold Niebuhr. Like all historians, Hofstadter admitted that he wrote for the present and that his efforts were in the service of a larger vision of American democracy.

It took him seven years to write his next book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.  It was a deeply personal work, a kind of thinking man’s guide to populist rage in which Hofstadter took on middle-class America for what had happened during the Eisenhower years (1953-1960).

The era had been launched by Arthur Miller’s indictment of McCarthyism in The Crucible. It would end with Hoftstadter’s indictment of Midwestern populism and evangelical revivalism as hostile not only to intellectuals, but to the life of the mind itself.

Hofstadter set out to construct a new national narrative for America, one that would find its way into the work of Robert Mapes Anderson who studied at Columbia during the 1960s and into the work of Mark Noll who utilized Hoftstadter to foist blame for the scandal of the evangelical mind upon those belonging to the Holiness-Pentecostal movement. It was, in short, the creation of a new National Myth.

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