Eric HofferEric Hoffer, (1902-1983) American author, philosopher, awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Eric Hoffer Quote

“The fact is that up to now a free society has not been good for the intellectual. It has neither accorded him a superior status to sustain his confidence nor made it easy for him to acquire an unquestioned sense of social usefulness. For he derives his sense of usefulness mainly from directing, instructing, and planning- from minding other people's business- and is bound to feel superfluous and neglected where people believe themselves competent to manage individual and communal affairs, and are impatient of supervision and regulation. A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual's sense of worth as an automated economy is to the workingman's sense of worth. Any social order that can function with a minimum of leadership will be anathema to the intellectual.”

Eric HofferEric Hoffer
~ Eric Hoffer

Ratings and Comments

jim k, austin

I suspect that many intellectuals think that socialism would work if only they were in charge. Our college campuses are over run with these birds whose only contribution to the country is to brainwash students with socialistic non-sense. In the outside world, most of them would be lost.

Waffler, Smith

Are we sure this was not written by Pol Pot? Sure sounds like Pol Pot, the Communists, or Nazi's. BURN ALL THE BOOKS, KILL THE INTELLECTUALS, DESTROY THE MACHINES and let the workmen do real work digging ditches by hand etcetera. Lets stop this nonsense of thinking, and innovation! I can't believe you five starers can really fall for this crap!

  • Reply
Blue    3/11/09

this is not about innovation versus tradition; its about who gets to decide what happens in our society --either central planners or everyone for themselves and their own lives.

Waffler, Smith

A free society is great for the intellectual, that is why Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin tried to instigate a controlled now free society and you guys go along with it. Intellectual freedom is the best of a free society and you guys are against it, go figure!

Nan, Franklin

I'm afraid that Waffler is confusing the word "intellectual" with the word "despot." That problem aside, I thought that it was our new President's plan to put people to work in the infrastructure. Surely someone will be digging holes someplace, and I guarantee you it won't be the intellectuals Be intellectual, be smart, be intelligent, but don't have the hubris to think that it gives you the right to run other people's lives because you think you know more about how to do it than they do. One of the problems with our society is the prevalance of experts in every field, who think they are better at whatever it is they do than anyone else. Thus we see our country and lives being run by politicians. Please, someone...anyone, tell me what qualifies a politician to tell us what's best for us.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Waffler, can you not read? Do you not understand history at ALL? This delves into the classic argument of whether or not the people should be free to rule themselves; as opposed to whether to the people are stupid, ignorant, lazy, etc. and cannot be rightfully assigned their own self-government. The "intellectual" being discussed here is that of the heightened academic who he argued tried to influence government policy to their own detriment (the intellectual thinking that government could coerce, force, and legislate people into freedom). Hoffer was never pigeon-holed into being a "right" or "left" author -- so, don't try. He merely argues that the aristocrat finds it difficult to exercise his perceived "right" over society due to his academic achievements and knowledge over his fellow man when the people are free. This isn't a hard concept to understand; he is certainly not advocating book burning, killing the intellectuals, or destroying all the machines -- get real... Or, at least get an education. Learn how to read.

Waffler, Smith

Try to fix a car or a computer and tell me we do not need experts. And the desire for simplicity in this complex world is understandable. The uneducated, the inexperienced often think that the better educated or the experts are snobs etcetera. We need a respect for education and thinkers, the current President as have past Presidents encourage and promote education and expertise. Let us continue this in all endeavors including the passing of legislation. Simpletons and the uneducated as Hitler was will just destroy all in the name of his or her dictated idea of what is right and what is Unity. Such a UNITY of thought as such as Mike and Logan would preach to us should send a chill down our spines. Hoffer did not use the word despot. A despot can be educated or uneducated, intelletual or non intellectual. Hitler was a gutter politician and uneducated as far as college and university learning goes (that is not to say that he was not intelligent) and he burned the books and killed the intellectuals. Most intellecuals and most educated people realize how little it is that they know and are a little more circumspect about their views and opinons and give the other guy a little bit of respect and space. Those who look down on education, intellect, and expertise should be watched closely very closely.

  • Reply
Anon    3/12/09

Great post Nan. You said; "Please, someone...anyone, tell me what qualifies a politician to tell us what's best for us." LoL, The same thing that qualifies me to tell you what's best for you! Hey, if your mate for life doesn't know what's best for you ALL the time, what are the odds that some stranger you voted for has a clue to what is best for you anytime? Rhetorical questions, I just wanted to add to what you said. Brilliant!

Waffler, Smith

When you see others as "know it alls" or experts consider whether or not the issue is that are you just a "know nothing"!

E Archer, NYC

Well, the word 'intellectual' is bandied about enough to confuse any one who thinks and thus may consider themselves 'intellectual.' I believe in this context the 'intellectual' is someone who thinks they know what is good for everyone else but produces nothing of value except protocols for others to follow -- for their own good of course. Waffler's own narcissism prevents him from seeing that the quote is about him. Now of course, he will be impressed with being called an intellectual! Needless-to-say, the 'intellectuals' being referred to are not actually considered to be smart...

Waffler, Smith

Is it not absolutely amazing that commentators on this site bewail the low level of achieviement of our children students. Actually wish to see "public education" or government education eliminated. Ostensibly so that the children can be better educated elsewhere, ostensibly so that they can be better scholars, intellectuals and experts in their chosen fields and go on to great things. Now what are these great things to be if after they become experts, intellecutals and scholars we sneer at them, disparage them and tell them to cast their knowledge aside. Those who now sneer at the earth scientists who speak of global warming, those who sneer at the economists etcetera. So what is the purpose of education if we are just going to sneer at it once it is achieved. Again I think sneering at these accoplished and knowledgeable people is a sign of lack of knowledge, and ignorance on those who are sneering.

E Archer, NYC

It is not about intelligence, Waffler, it is about control. Yes, education is vital, but do not confuse government indoctrination with 'education.' When the 'ideas' turn into 'commands,' it is no longer an issue of intelligence but of power. Hitler's policies were regarded as highly intelligent and therefore necessary for all to OBEY the dictates of self-declared 'intellectuals.' It is one thing to scientifically theorize that carbon dioxide contributes to the warming of the Earth, it is another to dictate to others how much they may exhale or fart or how much tax they will pay for the 'priviledge.' When 'theory' is artificially forced as 'fact,' we are no longer talking about science but politics. Making these kinds of distinctions, Waffler, is what separates science and politics. And BTW, there are at least as many scientists (or more) who theorize that the Earth's temperature cycles are caused by the Sun than those claiming that global warming is caused by man. The fact that those in power love the 2nd theory more does not make it true -- it is just another opportunity for a power grab. The worst is to think that these guys really care about the environment -- look at Gore! It is great to think -- it is arrogant to think that everything you think is true... but even that does not matter -- what matters is the FORCE used to make others accept unproven ideas.

Ken, Allyn, WA

The intellectuals were the eugenicists of the early 20th century, and they still are as a matter of fact. Anyone who thinks they can direct how someone else can or cannot live their life is on that same evil path. It's only a matter of time before they start marching undesirables to the showers.

Patrick Henry, Red Hill

The besotted by fragmentary knowledge intellect, uninformed by understanding, unconstrained by humility, is the author of the undoing of the Human Race.


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