Daniel Joseph Boorstin (October 1, 1914 – February 28, 2004) was a prolific American historian, professor, attorney, and writer. He served as the U.S. Librarian of Congress from 1975 until 1987.
Boorstin graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD. at Yale University. He was a lawyer and a university professor at the University of Chicago for 25 years. He also served as director of the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution. Boorstin wrote more than 20 books, including a trilogy on the American experience and one on world intellectual history. The Americans: The Democratic Experience, the final book in the first trilogy, received the 1974 Pulitzer Prize in history. Boorstin also wrote the books The Discoverers, The Seekers and The Creators, a trilogy of books that attempt to survey the scientific, philosophic and artistic histories of humanity respectively.
The Image and the Pseudo-event
Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin’s 1961 book The Image: A guide to Pseudo-events in America is notable as an early, landmark attempt to describe aspects of American life that were later termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture - mainly due to advertising - where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or 'real' than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity. The idea of pseudo-events closely mirrors work later done by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work is still often used as a text in American sociology courses.
Librarian of Congress
When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to be Librarian of Congress, the nomination was supported by the Authors League of America but opposed by the American Library Association because Boorstin "was not a library administrator." The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.
During his term as Librarian of Congress, Boorstin established the Center for the Book to encourage reading and literacy. In addition, he spearheaded what became a 10-year project to completely renovate the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, restoring the main building to its original 1897 condition. He became Librarian of Congress Emeritus on August 4, 1987. Boorstin was born in Atlanta, Georgia and died in Washington, D.C. Boorstin was of Jewish descent.
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