Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth
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About the Author
Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer of The Atlantic. His previous books include Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch resides in Washington, DC.
"Rauch's graceful and accessible writing takes us into the abyss of a dark new age, where Trumpian disinformation and even stifling wokeness threaten the search for truth, but then shows us the path to reality-based uplands. Rauch proves there really is a constitution of knowledge, if we can only keep it."
--James Comey, former FBI director; author of A Higher Loyalty and Saving Justice
"Twenty-five years ago, Jonathan Rauch's Demosclerosis ignited interest in the problem of government immobilized, like Gulliver among the Lilliputians, by thousands of threads of transactions on behalf of factions. Now this singularly talented analyst addresses an even more dangerous problem--the collapse of shared standards of truth. He is a James Madison for this era, a framer of a Constitution of Knowledge."
--George F. Will, author of The Conservative Sensibility
"The ability to talk in good faith about a shared reality is a foundational element of civics that we didn't know we had until we suddenly and surprisingly lost it. Jonathan Rauch explains how we got it in the first place and how we are now letting it slip away. His telling of the story is well grounded in history and philosophy as well as in the very latest dispatches from the meme wars. Readers will come away from The Constitution of Knowledge not just concerned about the mess we're in, but also with new ideas as to how we might dig ourselves out of it."
--Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash and Fall; or Dodge in Hell
"Liberty, of course, requires constant vigilance, but who would have thought until recently that the idea of truth needed defending? Sadly, we now see that it does, but happily, Jonathan Rauch has come to the rescue of both truth and liberty in this thought-provoking, essential work."
--Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana
"Why can't we have shared facts anymore? The most profound and useful answer is contained in this book. Jonathan Rauch shows us how it is that societies ever come to know things. It is only after we appreciate the miracle of knowledge production (the "constitution" of knowledge) that we can understand the tragedy befalling us now, as key institutions and practices decay. This book is a magnificent integration of psychology, epistemology, and history. It is among the three or so most important books I have read in the last five years. It is a joy to read--deep insight after deep insight, embedded in playful writing, about one of the most important problems of the 2020s."
--Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, NYU-Stern School of Business; author of The Righteous Mind; co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind
"Long one of the country's wisest and most honest voices, Jonathan Rauch has written a hugely valuable and necessary book, an illuminating exploration of the flight from fact. If, as the Gospel of John put it, the truth shall set us free, then count Rauch among the liberators."
--Jon Meacham, historian; author of His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope
"Thanks to a global epidemic of nihilistic trolling, manipulative disinformation, and addictive outrage, modern democracies are facing an existential challenge: it's not merely that their citizens don't agree on politics, they don't agree on the nature of truth itself. In The Constitution of Knowledge, Jonathan Rauch offers an original definition of this epistemological crisis, as well as a range of innovative solutions. It's no exaggeration to say that this is a book that anyone who cares about truth and democracy needs to read."
--Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
"The digital age was supposed to bring about the blessings of unlimited knowledge fueled by radically egalitarian free speech allowing everyone to access, share, and learn from freely available information to the benefit and progress of all. Instead, an epistemic crisis supercharged by viral disinformation and indifference to truth has bred deep cynicism about the benefits of free speech and the liberal ideals that underpin this increasingly unpopular idea. In his unputdownable new book, Jonathan Rauch provides both a surgically precise diagnosis and a promising cure for the ailments that torment the twenty-first century with its crisis of authority, distrust, and rampant tribalism. We ignore Rauch's warning and prescription at our own peril."
--Jacob Mchangama, founder and executive director of Justitia; author of Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media
"In what could be the timeliest book of the year, Rauch aims to arm his readers to engage with reason in an age of illiberalism. Nothing is off limits in this ingenious work which builds on his Kindly Inquisitors. Anyone curious about the state of American discourse and culture will devour it."--Juliana Rose Pignataro, Newsweek
"Mr Rauch's book is a manifesto for liberals and eccentrics, which explains how carefully the great, distributed knowledge-making network has been assembled, how enduring it has proved--yet how fragile it seems."
"In 'The Constitution of Knowledge, ' Jonathan Rauch makes a convincing case that we still need our institutions of expertise and the people who work for them. . . . Mr. Rauch's defense of the constitution of knowledge is an insightful and important reminder of the real goods produced by expertise."
--The Wall Street Journal
"It's a great book, truly important in the pantheon of defenses of free speech, free thought, and the commitment to truth, the perfect counter to post-truth claims on the left and populist truth claims on the right. Destined to be a classic, in the tradition of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty."
--Michael Shermer, Publisher Skeptic magazine, Presidential Fellow Chapman University, author of The Moral Arc and Giving the Devil His Due