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The Closing of the American Mind [Paperback]

Allan Bloom , Saul Bellow
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15 1988

The Closing of the American Mind, a publishing phenomenon in hardcover, is now a paperback literary event. In this acclaimed number one national best-seller, one of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is essential to understanding America today. It has fired the imagination of a public ripe for change.

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From Publishers Weekly

This work by a University of Chicago professor was a bestseller in cloth. According to PW, "marred by the author's biases, this jeremiad laments the decay of the humanities, the decline of the family and students' spiritual rootlessness and unconnectedness to traditions."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Bloom is angry about college studentstolerant of everything, they cannot appreciate the virtues of Lockean democracy and often abandon the great questions about God and man. Meanwhile, the humanities are like "a refugee camp where all the geniuses driven out of their jobs and countries . . . are idling." The reason is partly relativism in the social sciences but largely German philosophers since Nietzsche, especially Heidegger, who "put philosophy at the service of German culture." Bloom's case about the humanities and German philosophy deserves an ear, but his students from "the twenty or thirty best U.S. universities" are nothing like my recent American students, who pursue the old questions with vim and vigor. Perhaps they do not belong to Bloom's elite. Leslie Armour, Philosophy Dept., Univ. of Ottawa, Canada
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I used to think that young Americans began whatever education they were to get at the age of eighteen, that their early lives were spiritually empty and that they arrived at the university clean slates unaware of their deeper selves and the world beyond their superficial experience. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Roots of American Disorder Sept. 23 2008
By Randy A. Stadt TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The university is supposed to be the place where excited young minds come to be initiated into the mysteries of the cosmos. And it wasn't long ago that such adventures were both available and pursued. Liberal education encouraged students to ask for themselves the question "what is man?" and to wrestle with alternative answers. The university provided a haven where the easy and preferred answers of the culture could be safely set aside, at least for a time, while the great minds of history past were consulted, argued with, and learned from.

But in Bloom's thirty years as a university professor he has witnessed a change, both in the mood and expectation of the students, and in the university's sense of identity, which has fragmented into a smorgasbord of unrelated pursuits. Confusion over the nature of knowledge confounds both. The spirit of the age, relativism, the truth that there is no objective truth, has settled like a smog over the campuses. Students no longer expect to find truth and meaning "out there", but only within. So the appeal of liberal arts to students is vastly diminished if it is denied that these studies can point to any reality beyond themselves.

Bloom notes that "the university now offers no distinctive visage to the young person. There is no vision...of what an educated human being is. The student gets no intimation that great mysteries might be revealed to him, that new and higher motives of action might be discovered within him, that a different and more human way of life can be harmoniously constructed by what he is going to learn." The "undecided student is an embarrassment to most universities, because he seems to be saying, 'I am a whole human being.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Changed My Life June 6 2003
Have you ever read something that perfectly illuminates ideas that you have been perceiving on an intuitive level, but couldn't quite put into words? Have you experienced that incredible moment (all too rare) when a powerful thinker opens up your mind to whole new dimensions of thought and understanding? The Closing of the American Mind is one of those books. It's not light reading, but for those with above average reading comprehension and the patience to read slowly, Closing will take you places you've never been before.
I first heard about this book while reading Dionne's _Why Americans Hate Politics_. It was mentioned as a work that was influenced by the famous political philosopher Leo Strauss, who was very influential among the so-called "neoconservatives" (anti-communist liberals who believed in virtue and rebelled against the new-Left in the 1960s). Dionne stressed that this important group of intellectuals, having been liberals themselves, were particularly adept at criticizing the policies of the Left. I found this fascinating, so I decided to read Closing for myself. At the time, I had no idea that it would be a life changing experience.
This book is incredibly interesting. It is a brilliant critique of the American education system, particularly the University. It is even more relevant today than it was in the 1980s. If you take nothing else away from this book than a better understanding of a liberal arts education, it will be worth the price of admission. On the other hand, if you read this book carefully like I did, you will be rewarded with Bloom's brilliant mind, his incisive wit, his astonishing observations, his (sometimes overwhelming) references to the greatest works human history, and finally, an appreciation for the irony of America's great closing, a closing cloaked behind a veneer of openness.
I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A major impact in my thinking and an awesome introduction to Nietzsche, nihilism and the American education system. Bloom outlines what education was compared to what it is today. How cultures consisted of much more than mere nationalism, but rather, educated thinkers who influenced Western civilization from non-equalitarian societies. Bloom relates thoughts from Alex de Toquville and the problem of equalitarianism, the deterioration of the American educational system and the problem of nihilism. In doing this, Bloom, outlines the teachings of Nietzsche, Max Weber, Marx and other major thinkers that have dealt with such issues.
Weber's charisma, to Marx's rationalism to Nietzsche's culture, self-positing and value creating ability, using Heidegger's term of "authenticity," Bloom delivers a book that is worth every page and chapter. His outline of the 1960's turmoil that aided to both the extension of nihilism and the deterioration of the University is essential reading. The MBA has replaced true educational and cultural reflection that molds, shapes and infuses interior authenticity in individuals that in turn, form our leaders, thinkers and greats of our time period. But where are they today? Certainly a much smaller and obscure group that is both surrounded and smothered by external, outer-direction that fails to produce those great thinkers that have literally changed the course of Western civilization.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I admit, I don't get it
I freely admit, I don't get it. I greatly enjoyed Bloom's effortless survey of the difficult landscape of philosophy and its relation to modern cultural, political and societal... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rodge
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
A well written and fantastically thought provoking book that's bound to have an instant effect on all who read it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Chris Leckenby
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight Sullied by Criticism
Allan Bloom's book is a brilliant look at some of the problems that we face philosophically in Western society. Read more
Published 22 months ago by AP
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Conservative Book I've Read
Forget Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, this guy is a real intellectual. Bloom is very direct in his criticism of the intellectual crisis in America, and it's getting worse since... Read more
Published on May 28 2004 by J. McAndrew
3.0 out of 5 stars Yeah, but so what?
My review is in regards to Mr. Bloom's chapter on the corruption brought about by rock music. I really wish I could find out what it is in rock 'n roll that Bloom says drives an... Read more
Published on March 28 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone talked about it, yet few really understood it.
I was amazed that so many of my conservative friends purchased the Closing of the American Mind yet how few if any actually read it. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars the emperor has no clothes
Bad news from the groves of academe: the american university is failing to keep the wisdom of Aristotle, Rousseau and Nietzsche in the forefront of the undergraduate imagination. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Bloom got the subtitle backwards
What he seems to demonstrate is that democracy has failed higher education, not the reverse. His recurring theme is that the philosophic underpinnings of democracy have eliminated... Read more
Published on Nov. 14 2003 by Francis J. Lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Best Treatise on Education of the Last 50 Years
I read The Closing of the American Mind during a summer semester at Reed College during the mid-1980s. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2003 by Greg T. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars The issue is relativism
Alan Bloom begins his controversial book with this statement, "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university... Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2003 by Inna Tysoe
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