Summary of The Death of Expertise

The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

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The Death of Expertise book summary
Americans are hostile to expertise, and seem to view their own lack of knowledge as a virtue.


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Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College, says America has become a country “obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance.” Americans have always been skeptical of intellectuals and experts. Today, says Nichols, that attitude has mutated into outright hostility. In general, Americans have never been so willing to reject the knowledge of those who actually know something. This embrace of self-righteous ignorance bodes ill for the nation’s future. Nichols puts some blame on US universities, which fail to instill critical-thinking skills in students, and on the proliferation of news sources that compete by affirming their audiences’ biases. Nichols’s pessimistic polemic occasionally suffers from a “kids-these-days” tone, and he doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions to the problems he describes. Nevertheless, he provides a focused and frightening snapshot of current US attitudes. While always politically neutral, getAbstract believes Nichols helps laypeople understand the value and limits of expertise and offers insight to experts who are trying to communicate with the public.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How traditional American distrust of experts transformed into outright hostility,
  • Why democracy requires the input of experts in specialized subjects, and
  • What strategies can help re-establish trust and dialogue between experts and laypeople.


Ignorance Is Strength?
Recent decades have seen a drastic shift in how people in the United States view expertise. Americans have always been skeptical of intellectuals – the “eggheads.” But today, laypeople have turned that resentment into hostility and have elevated know-nothingness ...
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About the Author

US Naval War College professor and adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School Tom Nichols is a senior associate of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs and a fellow of the International History Institute at Boston University. He won Jeopardy! five times.

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    Itai Atedgi 3 months ago
    Great read
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    Duncan Parkes 3 months ago
    A cry for help from an academic in a post academic world. The internet has done for academia as the camera phone has done for Kodak and email has done for the fax.
    • Avatar
      Don Angotti 3 months ago
      Alas, the loss of critical thinking skills shows itself again.

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