Books of the Times: Review of the Closing of the American Mind

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Books of the Times: Review of The Closing of the American Mind," New York Times, 23 March 1987.


ALLAN BLOOM fools you in his remarkable new book, ”The Closing of the American Mind,” which hits with the approximate force and effect of what electric-shock therapy must be like. He begins by describing contemporary college students – or at least the ones he has taught and observed at such schools as Yale, Cornell, Amherst and the University of Chicago, where he now teaches – and he finds these students wanting and symptomatic of what’s wrong with American society today.

They don’t read the classics. They get their information from movies and drug out on rock music. They lack passion and commitment and the capacity to love. They are confused, and the universities they seek help from merely reflect their confusion. The problem, Professor Bloom asserts, is the relativity of truth in the academic mind today. ”Openness -and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of various claims to truth and various ways of life and kinds of human beings – is the great insight of our times,” he writes. But this openness has had the paradoxical effect of closing the American mind.

New York Times