Looking over the much-blogged-about list compiled by a panel of noted conservatives of the “ten most dangerous books”, I have to say that my ability to imagine or appreciate what other people are thinking deserts me a bit.
I readily understand the intellectual and political histories that put Marx, Friedan, Hitler, and Mao on the list, though putting Friedan there kind of seems like a Sesame Street exercise: “one of these things is not like the others…”. But the underlying logic of selection seems so variable. Some books seem to have been deemed dangerous because they inspired murderous or destructive social action. I suppose that’s why Dewey is there as well, though the proportionality problem seems even worse in that case. Other books, though, seem to be there simply because they were wrong or factually flawed but widely viewed by many as credible or accurate in the context of ongoing social or cultural debates–Mead or Kinsey or Ehrlich. I’m all for being a harsh in retrospect about the credulous readings of such works by their devotees, but “harmful”? Harmful like Mein Kampf harmful?
Then there’s the weird choices: can somebody direct me to the intellectual debates or writings that would explain why Comte is on the list? High up on the list of the top ten. I think I missed a chapter in the intellectual history of American conservatism that would help explain why he’s a bugbear of such note.
As long as we’re at it, help me understand why John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty almost cracked the top ten?
And they picked the wrong Foucault if you really want take a crank’s eye view of him as “harmful” in this vein. Kind of feels like somebody said, “We need something by that French guy Foucault” and they picked the first title they came across.