The Age of American Unreason

The Age of American Unreason

Book - 2008
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Combining historical analysis with contemporary observation, Susan Jacoby dissects a new American cultural phenomenon--one that is at odds with our heritage of Enlightenment reason and with modern, secular knowledge and science. With mordant wit, she surveys an anti-rationalist landscape extending from pop culture to a pseudo-intellectual universe of "junk thought." Disdain for logic and evidence defines a pervasive malaise fostered by the mass media, triumphalist religious fundamentalism, mediocre public education, a dearth of fair-minded public intellectuals on the right and the left, and, above all, a lazy and credulous public. Jacoby offers an unsparing indictment of the American addiction to infotainment--from television to the Web--and cites this toxic dependency as the major element distinguishing our current age of unreason from earlier outbreaks of American anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism. With reading on the decline and scientific and historical illiteracy on the rise, an increasingly ignorant public square is dominated by debased media-driven language and received opinion. At this critical political juncture, nothing could be more important than recognizing the "overarching crisis of memory and knowledge" described in this impassioned, tough-minded book, which challenges Americans to face the painful truth about what the flights from reason has cost us as individuals and as a nation. From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, 2008
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375423741
Branch Call Number: 973.91 JAC
Characteristics: xx, 356 p. ; 25 cm

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Jan 27, 2015

A better title: Clueless! Or how How Susan Jacoby Loves to Parse! Telecommunciations Act of 1996, anyone???? Who funded Sesame Street and who is the creator/producer married to? Beam me up, Scotty!!!! Jacoby's homework assignment: read Culture Crash [Scott Timberg] - - Relentless [Dean Koontz] - - The Doubt Factory [Paolo Bacigalupi] - - Universities and Empire - - Subversion as Foreign Policy [Audrey R. Kahin] - - The Age of Acquiescence [Steve Fraser] - - Trust Us, We're Experts [Sheldon Rampton] - - Lords of Secrecy [Scott Horton] - - Two Days in June [Andrew Cohen] - - The Rich and the Super-Rich [Ferdinand Lundberg] - - Treason of the People [article by Ferdinand Lundberg] Earth to Jacoby - - there is no left wing in America, as defined by those you believe!

Jan 28, 2014

Discusses the processes that interplay in the "dumbing down of America." It is an interesting read that covers topics including how political speeches have become increasingly simple and have lost their lofty language of metaphor and allegories. A main theme of the book is the resistance of accepting scientific research. Although Jacoby concludes fundamental religious views are part of the problem, she does not think sole blame lies with religious views. Mass Media according to Jacoby has lead to people wanting small, digestible and entertaining sound and video bites. Jacoby also recalls that America used to listen to opposing views, attend lectures of those they disagreed with and generally embraced discourse on a wide variety of topics. Although Jacoby makes sentient points, the claim that mass media and "the culture of distraction" is most to blame seems a stretch. TV, video games and music can all be a part of the life of a well rounded individual. Thinking that reading books and dialogue are the only way to engage seems short sighted. Although she is willing to accept that video games can teach some skills, she doubts their usefulness. The same can be said for her views of reading on the internet. As a reader I struggled to engage and connect with all of the claims, but the book does present important points. Unfortunately the book seems targeted to the non-target audience (those who are already engaged) and never presents any practical steps for reversing the trends presented.

Feb 27, 2013

One of the finest resources for a person wanting to understand our American political system...She explains how the right and left wing in the country have attacked and destroyed those groups that protect working people in the USA. In Europe, they have strong unions, a communist and socialist party which counter-balances the greed and power of the one-percenters in the USA.

Jul 12, 2010

Depressing to learn how the US is becoming a dumber and more ignorant society (goes a long way towards explaining Bush's election), but Jacoby misses the fact that Americans are now little more than consumers interested only in instant gratification and finding the money for their next purchase; that is the problem, not intellectual laziness.

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