In Defense of Elitism

In Defense of Elitism Summary

From Thurber finalist and former star Time columnist Joel Stein comes a "brilliant exploration" (Walter Isaacson) of America's political culture war and a hilarious call to arms for the elite.

"I can think of no one more suited to defend elitism than Stein, a funny man with hands as delicate as a baby full of soft-boiled eggs." —Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!

The night Donald Trump won the presidency, our author Joel Stein, Thurber Prize finalist and former staff writer for TimeMagazine, instantly knew why. The main reason wasn't economic anxiety or racism. It was that he was anti-elitist. Hillary Clinton represented Wall Street, academics, policy papers, Davos, international treaties and the people who think they're better than you. People like Joel Stein. Trump represented something far more appealing, which was beating up people like Joel Stein.

In a full-throated defense of academia, the mainstream press, medium-rare steak, and civility, Joel Stein fights against populism. He fears a new tribal elite is coming to replace him, one that will fend off expertise of all kinds and send the country hurtling backward to a time of wars, economic stagnation and the well-done steaks doused with ketchup that Trump eats.

To find out how this shift happened and what can be done, Stein spends a week in Roberts County, Texas, which had the highest percentage of Trump voters in the country. He goes to the home of Trump-loving Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams; meets people who create fake news; and finds the new elitist organizations merging both right and left to fight the populists. All the while using the biggest words he knows.

Book Reviews


Loved it.5 star

Very much enjoyed this book. Giggled out loud at least every other page. I found it insightful and honest. I feel like I am a moderate. I do get angry with elites especially in the media. I thought his points were good. A fun read.55

Nathan El Dooderino

A sincere attempt4 star

Joel attempts to make the case for why the intellectual elite is superior to the “boat elite” as he puts it or “captains of industry” as others have referred to them. He has some fascinating points and it’s certainly an entertaining read, but I think it’s going to take another book before he truly understands the origin of the populist fervor redefining politics worldwide, and it’s not entirely the Meteorologist fallacy. Recommend reading this in conjunction with Nassim Taleb’s trilogy, which pretty much rips the expertise argument to shreds.45

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