About the Book

In response to denunciations of populism as undemocratic and anti-intellectual, Intellectual Populism argues that populism has contributed to a distinct and democratic intellectual tradition in which ordinary people assume leading roles in the pursuit of knowledge.

Focusing on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, this book uses case studies of certain intellectual figures to trace the key rhetorical appeals that proved capable of resisting the status quo and building alternative communities of inquiry.

Through these case studies, Intellectual Populism demonstrates how orators and advocates can channel the frustrations and energies of the American people toward productive, democratic, intellectual ends.

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Paul Stob rescues the term “populism” from its associations with bigotry, reactionary nationalism, and anti-intellectualism. Treating it instead as a “flexible discursive practice,” he examines how prominent thinkers in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era deployed populist rhetoric to spur intellectual inquiry and build democratic community. Through an intriguing array of case studies, he shows how the rhetoric of populism can be deployed not to foster division and resentment, but to build stronger, more diverse cultures of inquiry.

J. Michael Hogan, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric, Penn State University

Can the rhetorical resources of U.S. populism—often denounced as anti- intellectual—be deployed instead to promote learning, to create coalitions of inquiry, and to respond to public needs and aspirations? This is the provocative argument advanced by Paul Stob’s Intellectual Populism. Recounting fascinating stories of Gilded Age and Progressive Era leaders in arenas as disparate as public agnosticism, medico-religious advocacy, analytic philosophy, labor for racial uplift, and pan- Indian activism, Stob dramatically explicates the flexible craft of civic engagement for a turbulent time.

Angela G. Ray, author of The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States

Building on his previous work on William James, Paul Stob identifies “intellectual populism” as an important element of American political culture. He elucidates intellectual populism’s central ideas and rhetorical markers through a series of well-written and interesting case studies. In doing so, he provides valuable insight into both our political history and our present moment, contributing to conversations on deliberative democracy, education, and the connections between them and civic democracy. This book will interest historians, rhetoricians, political scientists, and anyone invested in a healthy democracy.

Mary E. Stuckey, Professor, Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State University