Middlebrow Culture of Effort

The distinctive feature of American middlebrow culture was its embodiment of the old civic credo that anyone willing to invest time and energy in self-education might better himself. Many uneducated lowbrows, particularly immigrants, cherished middlebrow values: the millions of sets of encyclopedias sold door to door from the twenties through the fifties were often purchased on the installment plan by parents who had never owned a book but were willing to sacrifice to provide their children with information about the world that had been absent from their own upbringing. Remnants of earnest middlebrow striving survive today among various immigrant groups, but the larger edifice of middlebrow culture, which once encompassed Americans of many social classes as well as ethnic and racial backgrounds, has collapsed. The disintegration and denigration of the middlebrow are closely linked to the political and class polarization that distinguishes the current wave of anti-intellectualism from the popular suspicion of highbrows and eggheads that has always, to a greater or lesser degree, been a part of the American psyche. What has been lost is an alternative to mass popular culture, imbibed unconsciously and effortlessly through the audio and video portals that surround us all. What has been lost is the culture of effort.


The post-WWII people who bought encyclopedias and literature were trying to better themselves and believed in self-improvement through self-education. When that culture was lost in favor of pop-culture, America lost its middle-class intellectualism.

Folksonomies: anti-intellectualism intellectualism

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America:Continent (0.892027 (negative:-0.657817)), middlebrow:City (0.777010 (neutral:0.000000))

Culture (0.961884): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Popular culture (0.762642): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Immigration to the United States (0.709811): dbpedia | freebase | yago
High culture (0.668660): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Low culture (0.601769): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Social class (0.598757): dbpedia | freebase
United States (0.592618): website | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc | yago
Globalization (0.520027): dbpedia | freebase

 The Age of American Unreason
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Jacoby , Susan (2008-02-12), The Age of American Unreason, Pantheon, Retrieved on 2011-04-06
Folksonomies: anti-intellectualism elitism