The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters (Hardcover)

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“The death of expertise…is a different problem than the historical fact of low levels of information among laypeople. The issue is not indifference to established knowledge; it’s the emergence of a positive hostility to such knowledge. This is new in American culture, and it represents the aggressive replacement of expert views or established knowledge with the insistence that every opinion on any matter is as good as every other.”


Nichols details how the Dunning-Kruger Effect, confirmation bias, and our social brains combine to stifle reasoned, in-depth argument and deliberation. He shellacs the customer service model of higher education and journalism, the state of journalism in general, Wikipedia, the Internet and its glut of information, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, experts themselves, and many more.  This disturbing book makes plain what our shallow-to-nonexistent discourse and our inability to be intellectually humble is doing to our democracy. The truth is that, if you’re reading this book, you’re one of the least likely people who need to be doing so—because you read lengthy works and not just headlines. But it needs to be read.

— From Andy's Staff Favorites


People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

As Tom Nichols shows in The Death of Expertise, this rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine. Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.

Nichols has deeper concerns than the current rejection of expertise and learning, noting that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy-or in the worst case, a combination of both. The Death of Expertise is not only an exploration of a dangerous phenomenon but also a warning about the stability and survival of modern democracy in the Information Age.

About the Author

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School, and a former aide in the U.S. Senate. He is also the author of several works on foreign policy and international security affairs, including The Sacred Cause, No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security, Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War, and The Russian Presidency. He is also a five-time undefeated Jeopardy! champion, and as one of the all-time top players of the game, he was invited back to play in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Nichols' website is and he can be found on Twitter at @RadioFreeTom.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780190469412
ISBN-10: 0190469412
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: March 1st, 2017
Pages: 272
Language: English