The 50 Worst Books of the 20th Century

From The Intercollegiate Studies Institute:

Our lists include only nonfiction books originally published in English. We define “worst” as books that were widely celebrated in their day but that upon reflection can be seen as foolish, wrongheaded, or even pernicious.

Our “worst” list reveals a remarkable number of volumes of sham social science of every kind. The attempt to understand human action as an epiphenomenon of “hidden” and purportedly “deeper” motives such as sex, economics, or the Laws of History is a powerful yet hardly salutary trend in our century. The presumed “breakthrough” insight that professes to reveal the shape of some inevitable future has time and again proven to be profoundly misguided. And with human life reduced in these theories to a matter for technological manipulation, our century also reveals a persistent attraction to a dehumanizing statist administration of society. 

1. Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)

So amusing did the natives find the white woman’s prurient questions that they told her the wildest tales—and she believed them! Mead misled a generation into believing that the fantasies of sexual progressives were an historical reality on an island far, far away.

2. Beatrice & Sidney Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (1935)

An idea whose time has come . . . and gone, thank God.

3. Alfred Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)

So mesmerized were Americans by the authority of Science, with a capital S, that it took forty years for anyone to wonder how data is gathered on the sexual responses of children as young as five. A pervert’s attempt to demonstrate that perversion is “statistically” normal.

4. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (1964)

Dumbed-down Heidegger and a seeming praise of kinkiness became the Bible of the sixties and early postmodernism.

5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916)

Dewey convinced a generation of intellectuals that education isn’t about anything; it’s just a method, a process for producing democrats and scientists who would lead us into a future that “works.” Democracy and Science (both pure means) were thereby transformed into the moral ends of our century, and America’s well-meaning but corrupting educationist establishment was born.

Link to the rest at The Intercollegiate Studies Institute

1 thought on “The 50 Worst Books of the 20th Century”

  1. What’s so amusing about the OP’s list is that it misses so many of the candidates fitting its criteria that are even more left/liberal than its own predispositions to “question progressive orthodoxy” (indicating that, for example, they didn’t actually read the Rorty or the Galbraith, both of which explicitly reject both the concept of an enforced, unquestioned orthodoxy as a good thing and many — indeed, most — of the positions usually criticized as “progressive orthodoxy”). It definitely means they didn’t read The Pentagon Papers themselves… let alone any of the underlying documents.† Conversely, anyone who claims that the Skinner is left/liberal, or represents any “progressive orthodoxy,” hasn’t read it, either. Conversely, they completely missed such goofiness as “Marxist literary theory and criticism of the 1970s,” and they betrayed their purported “educational” purpose by limiting themselves to works in English (thus neglecting the entire semiotics movement — an overripe target indeed).

    Then, OP’s sponsor proclaims that

    We don’t train activists; we educate talented, intellectually curious students and bring them in to our vibrant intellectual community.

    followed by a list of “thoughtful, principled leaders” it has trained including Peter Thiel, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Larry Arnn, and Ed Feulner — and if there’s one word that describes all four of them, it’s “activist who frequently refuses to engage with, or usually even listen to, any opposing view or evidence inconsistent with preconceived notions and Randian self-interest.”‡

    The left/progressive/liberal, umm, opposition has plenty of people with equal intellectual dishonesty (don’t get me started on Stanley Fish!). I just find it rather amusing to find such… righteousness coming from people who who claim to be attacking an “orthodoxy.”

    † I have. I have also read many of the underlying documents, because at one time it was my job and I had all of the necessary clearances, need to know, and actual authorized access. One wonders what they’d say about the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, United States v. Calley, and United States v. Medina — actually, no, one shouldn’t wonder; one really shouldn’t want to know.

    ‡ Because this is not my forum, I will not go any farther than that, which can be demonstrated readily through their own writings and conduct.

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