Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind turned 25 this year. As Sean Collins notes, there are many who see the publication of this book as one of the opening salvos of the so-called “culture wars.” Bloom attacked universities for abandoning the liberal arts. He pointed to a “social and intellectual crisis” happening on college campuses. In some of the more controversial parts of the book, Bloom took shots at rock music and youth culture.
Conservatives loved it. Liberals thought Bloom was trying to turn back the clock. But as Collins argues, Bloom’s argument in The Closing of the American Mind was much more nuanced. Too often Bloom’s book has been read in the context of the culture wars, but to read it this way is to “miss what’s vital and distinct about it.” Here is a taste of Collins’s piece at Spiked:
Like traditional moralists, Bloom rails against rock music, but for a very different reason: ‘My concern here is not with the moral effects of this music – whether it leads to sex, violence or drugs. The issue here is its effect on education, and I believe it ruins the imagination of young people and makes it very difficult to have a passionate relationship to the art and thought that are the substance of liberal education.’