Liberal Academia (Part 1)


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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175 Responses

  1. Avatar Steve S. says:

    Wild guess on my part, but professions will select for the types of people suitable to the profession, right? Academia will select for liberal-left because one must join a vigorous and diverse community which includes females on an equal footing, sexual minorities, ethnic minorities, foreign-born, and unconventional folks of every stripe. Or do these types gravitate toward college because they feel they will be more accepted there? Probably doesn’t matter, they’ve got to go somewhere and college seems as good a place as any. Are conservatives systematically kept out of academia, or do they avoid it because they aren’t completely comfortable with unconventional people? Is there a nice career that you could track all the lefties, gays, and freaks into and not have conservatives complain that they’re being left out? These questions are beyond my pay grade.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Could the answer be somewhere in the middle of ‘discriminated against’ and ‘self-selection’?Report

      • Avatar Steve S. says:

        Of course it *could*. Is there any evidence either way that you’re aware of? As other commenters have pointed out, how would the supposed Liberal Academic Conspiracy know which applications for Distinguished Lecturer on James Joyce to reject? I suppose subtle probing could take place during interviews; is there any evidence this takes place in a systematic fashion? I have no idea.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          That’s a bit unfair though because I never posited that there is a conspiracy to weed people out- maybe McArdle did. At any rate, I doubt it. What I’m interested in more is whether or not conservatives recieve discouragement within academic environments. After the interview process, you often work for years in a department. And one aspect of doing well in a department, for undergrads, graduate students, and post-grads- is conviviality; what corporations call “fit” with the program. And, that’s what I’m curious about. Honestly, I’ve been to plenty of conferences and department Christmas parties in which people talk about politics in a way that assumes that nobody present is a conservative. And, sure, sometimes they feel free to express their disdain for conservatives and their ideas. Now, would a conservative, in that situation feel they were out-of-place in academia? I don’t know. Maybe they’d just ignore it since, yes, in many cases, these things never come up in hiring decisions. I will say, however, that the most openly conservative professor in our department got sick of what he saw as an unfriendly environment in the department and left, long after having gotten tenure.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Q: As a staunch neoconservative and the author of a new feminism-bashing book called “Manliness,” how are you treated by your fellow government professors at Harvard?

            Harvey Mansfield: Look, if I only consorted with conservatives, I would be by myself all the time.

            —So your generally left-leaning colleagues are willing to talk to you?

            HM: People listen to me, but they don’t pay attention to what I say. I should punch them out, but I don’t.


          • Avatar Steve S. says:

            “I never posited that there is a conspiracy to weed people out”

            If the problem exists then there has to be a plausible mechanism proposed to account for it. My bit about the Conspiracy was a bit of snark, I agree that if the alleged discrimination exists it is a softer bigotry. So…

            “I’m interested in more is whether or not conservatives recieve discouragement within academic environments. ”

            I suggested as much by noting that maybe they are uncomfortable with the academic environment, thus selecting themselves disproportionately out of it.

            “one aspect of doing well in a department, for undergrads, graduate students, and post-grads- is conviviality; what corporations call “fit” with the program…I’ve been to plenty of conferences and department Christmas parties in which people talk about politics in a way that assumes that nobody present is a conservative.”

            I believe you. I worked for a number of years at a private sector business and it was apparent to me that most of top management were well to the right of me politically. It didn’t occur to me as something to be complained about. Maybe I should have? That’s not to mention the religious aspect, which I will now mention. The owners of the company had a particular religious book which was influential to them and they republished it as a vanity project, then gave a copy to everybody in the company. I didn’t share their religious beliefs. Were they creating an unacceptably uncomfortable work environment for me? When are we going to get Affirmative Action for the irreligious?

            Possibly the dearth of conservatives in academia is a problem, though if it’s a problem then it’s equally a problem, I would think, that I can’t get on the board of Goldman Sachs. I’m not sure what the solution to the alleged problem is. Way back when I was in college it was kind of assumed that the freaks and misfits would major in liberal arts and the conservatives would major in business. Maybe that was the solution.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill says:

    Humans being what they are, I find it a little difficult to believe that you can have an atmosphere where the vast majority of people share a particular perspective (or simply share some degree of hostility to an alternate perspective) and not have there be a resultant bias towards the alternate perspective.

    When I was working as a programmer and we were hiring people, we were more inclined to hire people with whom we felt comfortable. We didn’t have the multitude of super-qualified candidates that academia has, but even within the parameters we had, you were more likely to get the job if you shared our (youngish, geeky) perspective. It’s not right, but it was definitely there.

    It’s pretty hard to imagine the same thing does not happen, to some extent, in academia. Are you more likely or less likely to hire someone that espouses ideas outside what you consider to be reasonable? Less likely. Add to that what I believe is genuinely a greater interest in intellectual pursuits by liberals, and I think you can create a critical mass where those with different ideas are going to be uncomfortable, are going to pursue other interests (going into academia is risky enough as it is even if you don’t have the “correct ideas”), and create an even larger majority of (more) like-minded individuals.

    Honestly, if a conservative decides to go into business rather than the professatoriat due to a (perceived or maybe real) modestly hostile work environment, I don’t consider him to be all that put upon. Given the hard road of academia, I might argue that they are being done a favor.

    I do consider it problematic, though, when certain industries or groups are dominated by a particular mode of thought. Not necessarily for those that are left out, but for the institution in general. That kind of consensus can lead to some real blind spots.

    Another example would be the recent flap about the dearth of women contributing to Wikipedia. There’s not much indication that they are being shut out or anything, and if women have better things to do with their time then power to them. But I do think it makes Wikipedia less than it otherwise could be when the vast majority of its contributors – even if acting entirely in good faith – are coming at things from a particular (in this case, male) perspective.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      This sounds suspiciously like a grounding argument for affirmative action for conservative scholars.

      I kid, because I love.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        Well, there is that. 🙂

        More seriously, I have some real issues with that proposal. Some problems don’t have a solution and I think that this may be one of them. I do wonder from time to time if some also-ran state universities that lack identity (or maybe some land grant schools looking to differentiate themselves more from the flagships) ought to consider making a point of recruiting more conservative professors and make it their niche.

        But even there, I am not sure that would do much to solve the problem. It might help conservative would-be academics believe that there may be some place for them, but unless that resulted in more of them being hired to non-niche schools, it would still be segregation which would not defeat the primary problem I am seeing. And if they weren’t really careful, they would run the risk of contributing to academic discourse every bit as little as Liberty and Regent do.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          McArdle also suggested it could be a problem without a solution. My problem is that whenever I think of ways to address the problem, they require conservatives outside academia and academics within to work together towards a solution, and I just can’t see that happening.Report

          • Avatar Mike says:

            The problem is that the current attitude from the so-called conservatives is completely anti-education.

            You have constant Glenn Beck screeds, you have that fat stupid windbag Rush Limbaugh screaming about “Screwal Teachers”, and you have a constant drumbeat of antagonism against the public education system in general from the right wing. On the more extreme end, you have the Ree Tardier/Ron Paul front, who insist that the first thing they want to do is shut down the Dept. of Education altogether.

            This is unsurprising. Many studies have shown that the less educated someone is, the more likely they are to believe that they have a serious chance of winning the lottery. Thus, you have sizable groups of the poor who literally throw every penny they can get their hands on into buying lottery tickets.

            What the Republicans have done for the past 30 years is consistently spread two lies: first, that they give a damn about “small business” and “middle class” people and that their tax cuts are benefiting to them (reality: more than 50% of the Bush Tax Cuts, to name just one example, went into the pockets of the wealthiest 1%). Second, that it is in the interest of the rural poor to vote Republican because if they don’t, then they might have to pay more in taxes “when they win the lottery.”

            This is what makes for such idiocy. Republicans are insisting that public employees in every state they control take pay cuts and benefit cuts. At the same time, Republicans themselves are responsible for creating a completely fucking artificial “budget crunch” by handing tax cuts to billionaires and spending like drunken fucking sailors the entire time Bush was in power.

            To someone who is not a Republican, this perspective is what is often called a “no-brainer.” The agenda of those running the Republican Party is fairly obvious; the money-laundering Koch Brothers and their front groups are on record as having a clear agenda of union-busting and education-busting.

            The other problem is that the “conservative vs liberal divide” in academia only exists in certain disciplines where a “conservative viewpoint” is either not going to feel welcome, or is going to feel the whole premise of the field is worthless. For instance, you’re going to find precisely ZERO conservatives in any ethnic studies field, or in a social services/social justice/social relations/social work field, or in art or music (conservatives HATE the idea of publicly funded or taught fine arts). On the other hand, if you poll law school professors, or economics professors, or political science professors, you’re going to find that those fields are where the majority of conservatives in academia gravitate and that those fields, if not 50/50 everywhere, generally lean towards a 60/40 or at least 70/30 split.Report

            • Avatar David Cheatham says:

              I’m glad you made that rant instead of me, because I as really this close to it, and I’m trying to not do rants that piss people off here. (Although I refrain from calling groups insulting names.)

              But, to summarize the important point: The far right in this country are often anti-education and anti-science. Anti-science is not the same as being anti-fact, which both the far left and far right are sometimes, but against the entire premise of science.

              I.e., the far left often have really really stupid ideas, but they, in general, accept the modern world, the enlightenment, and that science can tell them the truth. Even the mysticism presents as pseudo-science. They are ‘pro-discovering-stuff’, even if their facts are utterly made up nonsense about vaccines and healing crystals and even communism.

              The far right, OTOH, seems outright hostile to science and education, outright hostile to the idea that anyone would try to figure anything out. they seem to think facts are just handed to them, either via the Bible or via what they imagine Adam Smith said. This makes them a _spectacularly_ poor fit in the academic world. (And, I should point out, in the news world.)

              And when I say ‘the far right’, I actually generally mean ‘the right’. There actually are moderate right people in academic…but they’re to the left of the people complaining about the liberal bias, so don’t count.Report

            • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

              Exactly what does the Fed. Dept of Edu do again that makes it worth saving (that can not be done more effectively at the state level)?

              Otherwise, yeah, pretty much spot on (I grow weary of this conservative celebration of the idiot, I mean, common man.Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    McArdle’s conclusions presume conservative colleges don’t exist. Parallel to their so-called “liberal” counterparts, the Catholic university system, e.g. Franciscan University, St Vincent College, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More and the Protestant system: Wheaton College (my alma mater), Liberty University, Patrick Henry, Taylor University, Regent University and many others exist to provide a conservative viewpoint.

    If Conservatives do not appear in academia, it is because they have chosen not to participate in it. The ROTC programs graduating all these Conservative officers seem to have matriculated a whole boatload of conservatives from within these bastions of liberal thought.

    I grow sick of the whining from the Conservative side of the fence of academia. Yes, they have endured discrimination, entirely justified discrimination. For centuries, they have stood against progress in any form. In the 1960s and 70s, when schools were integrated, they withdrew their children into Lilywhite Christian Academy. In the 1980s, they began to home school their children. Those children go to conservative colleges and are accepted into the conservative workforce with all the nods and winks and perquisites afforded the graduates of arguably more prestigious universities.

    These Conservatives exist in a world of their own, as insular in many ways as the Amish or Old Order Mennonites. This is my world, the world from which I emerged, I know these people, I graduated from their educational institutions and it took the US Army to give me an introductory course on ordinary Americans.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    What is this “academia” people keep referring to? The Uni’s i’ve attended had multiple departments and colleges. Now there were stereotypes, some possibly true, about who gravitated to certain programs. But how can anybody even come up with good stereotypes across every area of study. Shouldn’t geologists get their own unique stereotypes. Do physicists really tend to be liberals? Do MBA or business schools go liberal!!!!!!!!! Are all or MBA’s being taught about Marxism?!?! Are you more likely to find libertarians in Comp sci programs? Do people put their political preferences on their professor applications? Does a potential liberal bias in philosophy or english programs mean anything?Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There’s all kinds of definitions of “conservative” and “liberal” and I don’t necessarily see how they map to what would strike me as the conservative or liberal positions in practice.

    For example: reprinting Huck Finn with all of the n-words removed. Conservative? Or Liberal?

    Arguing that you, yes *YOU*, have a responsibility to read banned books. Conservative? Or Liberal?

    Arguing that you should probably read Plato and Aristotle before reading Virgil. Conservative? Or Liberal?

    “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go!” Conservative? Or Liberal?

    Latin. Conservative? Or Liberal?

    There are parts of the academy that, if they can be categorized at all, are soooo freakin’ Conservative that it seems silly to argue that the University has a Liberal bias.

    That said, the fact that there are so very few Republicans does indicate that something is going on. The various arguments that say that it’s not a big deal make sense to me… but when I’ve seen arguments that say “it’s not a big deal” that have made sense to me in the past, I’ve had it pointed out that my privilege is blinding me and I’m so blind that I can’t even see that I’m blind.

    I don’t know how good I am at figuring out the difference between something that isn’t there and something that I’m not seeing because I’m blind, so blind that I can’t even tell that I’m blind.Report

  6. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    What “liberal academia?” What is “liberal?” What is “academia?”

    This post makes no sense.

    One Fish: The water’s cold today.
    Other Fish: What water?

  7. Avatar Fargus says:

    Here’s the mechanism that I don’t think I’ve seen brought up, or at least not particularly loudly. Let me illustrate with an example.

    Let’s say that a person who is basically apathetic toward politics enters a discipline as a professor. He is fairly able to ignore the political opinions of his colleagues and go about his business. But his department is at least partially dependent on federal funding, and when he hears the debates about his department’s funding, the side calling for cuts (and not just calling for cuts, but often undermining the very legitimacy of his discipline) is uniformly the conservative side. Wouldn’t that be a mechanism by which that guy, otherwise apathetic about politics, would reject conservatism? And a mechanism, by the way, that requires no discrimination or indoctrination?Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    2. Addressing the criticism could lead to a much more vibrant academic community and improve town-gown relations,

    Town-gown relations have frack all to do with ideology, they center on the conflicts around land use (broadly defined) both on and off campus.Report

    • Avatar Fargus says:

      As well as the perception, at least where I went to school, that as the town went into decline, the school closed up its shutters because it didn’t need the town to survive. Town-gown relations were improved at my college by, well, the school explicitly reaching out to the town and working on projects together.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Yeah, I was using the term “town-gown” in a somewhat broader sense than normal- I just meant something like “relations between academia and the larger culture”.Report

  9. Avatar Murray says:

    As greginak pointed out the whole liberal v conservative “debate” can only affect a small part of the subjects discussed in academia.

    Another aspect which has always annoyed me in these quarrels is the notion that there are two easily distinguishable teams. Liberalism and conservatism come in all sorts of shades. Most people, including professors, are rather liberal on some issues and rather conservative on others.Report

  10. Avatar E.C.Gach says:

    There is little reason why most of conservatism’s libertarian principles aren’t just compatible with, but often necessary for good scholarship.

    That said, the idea of conservatism as “conserving” and “traditional” will come into conflict with the exploratory nature of learning and understanding. Being introduced to or discovering new knowledge or new methodologies/conceptual frameworks is always hostile to one’s previous beliefs/views. So while in a libertarian sense of freedom and autonomy, research and scholarship is possible, and while in a conservative sense of teaching youth our current notions and mythologies to maintain social cohesian and cultural narrative, educating the younger generations is possible, when it comes to pushing the boundaries of thought, belief, and current understanding, conservatism seems not only incompatible but rather completely antithetical.

    Of course, as antithetical, there is an argument to be made for it’s necessary role in education as a wall to push against and as a jumping off point. Something must be changed, transformed, destroyed in the learning process, and conservatism provides that opposing pole. But that opposing pole is probably not recognizable to many outside academia, just as many self proclaimed dems/libs might also find the liberal pole of academia far from recognizable.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I agree with that to some extent. On the other hand, a lot of what we do in the humanities involves reading, rereading and re-rereading texts that, through our rereadings, we’re conserving. I often joke that part of my job means, if the mob ever comes to me and asks if they should burn Dianetics or Guide for the Perplexed, to admonish them against burning any books, but vote for saving Maimonides.Report

  11. Avatar steve says:

    Having grown up in a very conservative family in a very conservative area, there was little prestige seen in becoming a professor. I suspect that is true for many others, so you probably start with a smaller population of conservatives wanting to enter academia.

    I also find that conservatives, not all but quite a few, have worked very hard to insulate themselves away into a conservative only world. I think that they get used to reinforcement, not challenge. I think it must be difficult for kids coming out of that background to deal with different ideas. In my case, I had 4 years in the Navy to see that all blacks were not lazy and that women could do lots of different kinds of work. The issues are different now, but I suspect the principles still apply.


  12. Avatar Smedley the uncertain says:

    For Pete’s sake, will you guys proof read your essays…
    “…she sites the following essay…”
    Dumb mistakes like this create a real discord in your narrative flow.
    Just because your a blogger is no excuse for crap like this that would earn you an F in any English course.
    C’mon, you can do better than this.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:


      Dude. Seriously.Report

      • Avatar Aaron W says:

        This is too funny not to be trolling.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Okay, I’ve fixed it and rescued the narrative flow. I’ll try to do a better job of proofreading in the future. Funny story- I actually had other things going on today in addition to posting this. Also, seriously? An F for a single misspelled word in a 1200 word piece? That’s a really demanding English course.Report

      • Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

        In addition, those extolling people to proofread more carefully should probably not write “proof read.”Report

        • Avatar Heidegger says:

          Bullseye, Sam!! That was pretty good. Although, I should talk-I never edit or change a single word in my replies. I could be wrong, but I sort of think of this exchange of ideas as an informal, kick back put your feet up, and enjoy a few beers with friends type of deal. I really don’t think of misspelled words or grammatical mistakes–is this something I should be more conscientious of? Damn, look at that–ending a sentence with a preposition. That’s deserving of a good flogging…

          Maybe IReport

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        JB, dude, your/you’re (pick one) aces!Report

        • Avatar Heidegger says:

          Greetings, Honorable Wild Man Bob! I gave up trying to have conversation with you–it’s not that I don’t enjoy that, but comments, replies, jump all over the place and before you know it, I find myself almost bludgeoned to death by Communists and Anarchist ne’er do wells lurking in the netherworld.Report

    • Avatar Heidegger says:

      Hey–that’s better than, “she sights”, don’t you think?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        In all seriousness, ‘cites’ is one of those words that frequently bedevils me. I have no idea why because I always spell citation correctly. But I have done the same thing (once) in a dissertation chapter draft. Luckily, they were forgiving.Report

  13. Avatar Aaron W says:

    Interestingly, even scientists, who you would assume would be much more apolitical members of the academy than those in the humanities or social scientists, tend to be overwhelmingly liberal Democrats. (Source: ) I always found this to be quite interesting, but I could never come up with what I felt was an adequate explanation. Part of this may be perceived anti-science bias from Republicans trying to teach creationism in schools, and more recently denying the science behind climate change. Even when Republicans are in office, though, they tend to increase funding to grant agencies such as the NSF or NIH. (Notably the recent budget cuts actually increase the budgets of these agencies) I wonder if anyone else has an adequate explanation for the political views of scientists.Report

    • Avatar Pooh says:

      In the lack of a really compelling alternative explanation, I tend to think that (perceived or real) anti-empiricism would be particularly problematic amongst the hard science community, though I suppose that the overt religiosity of much of movement conservatism would be disconcerting for historical reasons. And of course those two things aren’t completely independent of each other.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      You know, I could be wrong, but I seem to remember, back in the 80s, there being a stereotype that scientists more often voted Republican because of defense spending. I can’t really explain why they’d be more likely to be liberals now, although I’d sort of wonder if it really matters in most sciences. If a geologist was a liberal or a conservative, would that make any difference in his work?Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        Slate had an interesting article a while back (google “most scientists are Democrats” – no quotes – to find it) on the subject. There are issues of trust involved when the fact-finders are perceived to have an agenda. Whether these trust issues are warranted is another matter.

        You know, I could be wrong, but I seem to remember, back in the 80s, there being a stereotype that scientists more often voted Republican because of defense spending.

        Engineers. Particularly aerospace engineers. Heavily Republican. I’m not sure that goes for scientists in general. I would bet a lot of chemical (and particularly petroleum) engineers, too. But I wouldn’t necessarily bet that way for chemistry academics.

        If a geologist was a liberal or a conservative, would that make any difference in his work?

        Politics can creep into geology, for what it’s worth, due to environmentalism. I have a liberal geologist friend who doomsays a lot about irrigation in the western US and how we’re destroying the ecology by settling there at all in significant numbers. Given his political leanings, it’s not hard to imagine that he approaches his work with a philosophy to be validated (he’s a smart, honest guy, but we’re all human).Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Okay, I can see that. I know a guy who talks my ear off at the Christmas party every year about how global warming is a lie- he does some sort of geological surveying for an oil company.

          Now, I wonder how important politics would be in teaching the sciences. I have no idea if the woman who taught us bio 101 was a republican or a democrat, for example, and I can’t tell if it would have made any difference.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            I’m not so sure those two views of geologists match up well.
            AFAIK, oil exploration is a different ballpark. You have a crew of jug hoppers that goes in, and then the wildcatters. At no time does anything having anything slightly to do with global warming figure into the picture.
            On the other hand, I remember reading in the Omaha World-Herald about water rationing for irrigation purposes due to the low level of the Ogallala aquifer. When I asked a friend in Texas about it, there was no coverage of it.
            And so, I’m thinking that specialized knowledge in a field removes the effects of regionalism; at least to some degree.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          I don’t know where you’re getting your stereotype about aerospace engineers, because I am one, and my experience has been that the political distribution is about like everywhere else–ten percent strongly on one side, ten percent strongly on the other, and the other eighty percent don’t give a hoot in hell.

          Aerospace engineers in the defense or science industry deal with the government bureaucracy, and that’s a group that is barely affected by who’s in office.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill says:

            The town/suburb I come from is a company-cluster-town for aerospace contractors. Very, very Republican. Lots and lots of engineers. It’s also the family trade, with my father and brother having been aerospace engineers (both moved on to administration, the former is retired), and so my father’s coworkers were all there, too.

            (Also, a lot of chemical engineers around, too. Nobody wanted to live near the chemical plants a couple towns over, so they would get a job in my burb because of the numerous advantages of living with other engineers. Good schools, good neighborhoods, etc.)Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              My wife had an old boyfriend who worked for NASA and told her he could care less about politics, but always voted Republican for the funding. Another girlfriend’s father, who also worked in the field, said the same thing to her. And, as I said, I used to hear this claim pretty often in the 80s. It might have been a left-wing canard though. I was a bit too young to know.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Somehow my reply to your post ended up hereReport

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                For some, it may be about the funding. For others, it’s Country club conservatism. Engineers make good enough money that they can make the money they need from working, good enough money that they fear the tax man, but not good enough money that they feel they can easily absorb tax hikes. Oh, and they’re disproportionately male.

                On the other hand, I would not be surprised if the younger generation of engineers weren’t notably more liberal. I haven’t noticed it myself (I’ve been away from home for a long time), but they do fit the demographics increasingly embarrassed by Republicanism.Report

              • I can’t decide if I am a conservative liberal or a liberal conservative.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I could see someone who doesn’t pay attention to the news “voting Republican for the funding”. But, as far as engineers are concerned, George W. Bush was the biggest defense cutter in history–the only new-development project that made it through his term was F-35. Damn near everything else that wasn’t actually being built got cut.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      @Aaron W: “Notably the recent budget cuts actually increase the budgets of these agencies”

      Is this correct? The impression I was getting was more along these lines: “House Republicans want to cut NIH funding for the current year by more than $1 billion, to $29.5 billion. Obama proposes a small increase in NIH funding.“. And I can tell you that my whole department got an e-mail blast about these cuts when they were proposed.

      I actually think underrepresentation in the hard sciences can be explained very well by the conservative approach to government funding bodies. When you’re a PI that spends most of your time writing grants for what you believe are fascinating, worth-while ideas (worth-while enough to take a pay-cut versus industry); when only between 10-20% of these grants get approved; and then you’re told that the funding agency is wasteful and needs to be cut … the reaction seems pretty natural.

      Moreover, GOP leaders have directly been behind stuff like: asking approved NSF grants to be flagged by on-line votes for de-funding; specifically targeting grants to be cut because of their “silly-sounding” titles; and deriding fundamental projects like “fruit fly research” as doing no public good. A pretty clear pattern starts to emerge before you even get into intelligent design and global warming.

      I bring these instances up specifically because they’ve linked and passed around the bio department I’m in, and they really had an impact on people. By the way, plenty of my co-workers are fiscally and culturally conservative – that mindset is not at all disjoint from hard-science – but none of them consider themselves to be big-R Republicans.Report

  14. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Just a general note to address something many of you are bringing up: I plan to spend the next post trying to define our terms and what could constitute a problematic ‘liberal bias’ within academia.

    For now, I’m just trying to establish that it’s a topic worth discussing.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        RufusF, the torrent of sophistries this post unleashed illustrates the current crisis. There is no argument that cannot be parsed and defined away.

        “Everyone was terrified of Doug. I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Doug. He used… sarcasm.

        He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns,
        parody, litotes and… satire. He was vicious.”

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          I usually avoid discussing the topic because both sides of the debate are pretty solid in their positions. Either academia is a liberal brainwashing factory or conservatives have entirely invented the problem. I suspect the truth is somewhere else. But I do think people here are relatively openminded. I’ve discussed the issue before on sites like Frontpage or Red State and been basically accused of supporting Pol Pot and Stalin.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Rufus, I see only a negation of the very existence of your thesis and argument, as well as an off-hand dismissal of every possible figure from the “right” since antiquity! The problem is this sophistic deconstruction itself. It just takes a different form than Pol Pot; it’s more clever.

            But rock on. I see your point in that a few more fascists like Plato around might at least oblige the prevailing orthodoxy into a bit more rigor. Any rigor.Report

  15. Avatar Hyena says:

    One thing I always have to ask here is “what do they mean by conservative?”

    Over time, the mainstream left has shifted to where the right was in the 1960s/70s aside from, you know, wanting to shoot war protesters. But conservatives have become ever more radical. Moreover, there’s an extent to which “conservatism” is oppositionally defined relative to the beliefs of certain groups, professors being one of them.Report

  16. Avatar Will H. says:

    I’ve spoken with a number of people about this before, and the general consensus seems to be that the problem is a lot more pronounced 1) in graduate level studies; 2) regionally, varying upon the university; and 3) among certain degree programs.
    And there’s more to it than a general trepidation or distaste on the part of conservatives.Report

    • Avatar Hyena says:

      To be fair, though, conservatives don’t really try or at least aren’t well-represented even outside academia on certain subjects. For example, in art, aside from Scruton, they seem to generally have nothing important to say. In the cultural disciplines, the cultural conservatism movement will generally be a non-starter; it is, after all, premised on the idea that there shouldn’t (or can’t) be progress or change in culture.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I think that shows a lack of understanding about the matter, and even more so of the people involved.
        I had an English professor (the head of the department) that was basically a more bloated version of the Church Lady. She held degrees in English and psychology.
        I was one of the two students in my class that she took a dislike to (longhairs). First time I ever made anything less than an A as a final grade.
        Cultural enough for you, or do you want to talk finger-painting?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Yeah, my assumption is that there is more to it than just trepidation on the part of conservatives. I’ll have more to say in future posts though.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Rufus, I wanted to ask you about something a while ago.

        What was funding the turn toward deconstruction and such in the humanities over the last 20 years or so? I can’t figure it out. It wasn’t private sector grants. Most of it didn’t involve undergrads, so it wasn’t tuition either. So it had to have been endowments and other institutional resources of the universities. Am I missing something?Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Yeah, I’d say endowments and other institutional resources of the universities is about right. Just like anything else. If you can get grants, they usually give you a lot of leeway about your research, so I don’t think the money really drives the direction of research very much. Really what drives those things are just the basic laws of fads- deconstruction was sort of the ‘next big thing’ for a while. People wanted to appear cutting edge to their peers- I think that’s what drives these things. I think it’s less popular now, but there are fields in which it’s still nearly unavoidable.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Back in the day, it was the Democrats who doled out the NASA largesse. LBJ put NASA in Houston though there was no good reason for it to be there. The Senator from Boeing, Scoop Jackson, was also a Democrat.

            When Republicans came to power in Texas, Alabama (Marshall Space Flight) and Florida in the wake of the Nixon Southern Strategy, those politicians carried the torch for NASA for many years.Report

            • Avatar Trumwill says:

              It’s also the case that in the 1980’s, a lot of liberals were complaining about how much money we were spending to send people into space when we should be spending it on poor people.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                NASA was an expensive, ineffective mess after Apollo: America grew bored with space after we got to the moon. A great deal of money was wasted on manned space flight, money better spent on unmanned scientific probes. The Space Shuttle program was wildly oversold, the International Space Station even more so.

                I’m not sure it was the Liberals who were to blame for NASA losing sight of the possible. NASA was a purposeless bureaucracy. The most egregious example of how bad things became was the Hubble Space Telescope. The NSA had many telescopes on orbit and collimated them in its own barns. They offered to collimate Hubble but nothing doing. There it hung on the wire, year after year, still wrapped in its gold foil. As we all know, HST arrived on orbit with faulty optics, a problem a proper collimation would have caught immediately.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                Regardless of whether the anti-NASA sentiment had merit or not, I don’t think it was the kind of thing that went over very well in Houston and Huntsville.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Houston is practically a third world republic unto itself, a barnacle on the ass of Texas. Zoning is nil. Gasoline Alley periodically burns down. That whole area around George Bush International is an industrial Mordor of incomparable ugliness. Its barbeque is horrible, the scent of diesel and creosote permeates it throughout. Houston’s drivers exhibit all the fatalistic panache of a Baghdad car bomber.

                Just getting to my hotel in Houston is a nightmare. Barreling south out of IAH, past the hotel a few hundred meters, pulling out of traffic onto a grossly insufficient Texas U turn lane, gunning the engine then crossing five lanes of traffic, pulling into the hotel parking lot with my PTSD kicking up. My scotch consumption triples every time I have to go to that town and glad am I to see it below the starboard wing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                R&D is usually considered expensive and ineffective.

                Until, of course, the moment it’s not.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > NASA was an expensive, ineffective mess
                > after Apollo

                See the recent comments on software programming: if you don’t have a solid mission/goal, “Do Stuff” gets really expensive really fast. After Apollo, NASA didn’t really have a solid mission/goal, so R&D == $$$.

                > America grew bored with space after
                > we got to the moon.

                I keep hearing this as established wisdom, but everyone of my generation thought space rocked out. I was born after the moon landing, but I wasn’t the oldest dude at the first screening of Star Wars. Talking to people in the 40-60 bracket, most of ’em don’t talk about being bored of space.

                They were bored of the lack of space. We didn’t *do* anything after the moon.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Let me rephrase that last sentence: we didn’t appear to *do* anything after the moon.

                Nobody marketed space exploration to the public.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                NASA’s problems were endemic. The White Scarf mentality stifled the infant space industry: NASA continued to try to put men on orbit, wasting money on STS and ISS. Both went hideously over budget and there was no payoff. The Russians ended up teaching us how to build a space station: they’d been ahead of us there for quite some time.
                The fundamental equation for space vehicles is how much it costs to put one kilo on orbit. NASA just couldn’t make the numbers with STS, giving Ariane the upper hand in commercial launch. The Chinese got into that market space with Long March. The USA never managed to catch up and probably never will. Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composites firm will finally achieve what NASA never could and what it had always promised, space flight for the masses.

                Thank God for Jet Propulsion Labs: they would build the unmanned vehicles which did the science and gave us the oohs and ahhs back. NASA’s administrators were pushed to the back seat, a very good thing in my opinion. JPL preceded NASA, did better science, brought its projects in on time and within budgets, in short, everything NASA never could.Report

          • Avatar Koz says:

            That’s about what I thought. I’m sympathetic to your argument that the academic establishment shouldn’t be hostile to the Right, politically or academically, as it’s been for the last thirty years or so. Unfortunately, I fear the problems of academia are too deep for that to make a difference.

            Educational establishments suck huge amounts of money from students and taxpayers for questionable value. If the economy were in better shape, people might be willing to support the humanities more. As it is, I don’t think we can afford to.

            Assuming we lose the Derrida-Foucault fad, which hasn’t happened yet.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              Sure it has. You’re not in academia, are you? You’re talking about lit programs as if they were the “humanitites” in full. In history, we were never very interested in Derrida and Foucault’s time has pretty much passed. Interestingly enough, philosophy departments have never seemed to have any interest in any of the ‘continental’ philosophers like Foucault. It was always the lit departments that were most enamored with those guys.

              Besides, the idea that two popular French theorists support the case that society can no longer support the humanities is, itself, an exaggeratedly hostile stance. Sure, I am saying that academics need to stop circling the wagons and engage more with conservatism, but I’m also saying that both academics and conservatives suffer intellectually from their cold war. You have to recognize the irony of saying that academics take an overly hostile stance towards conservatives right before making the popular conservative argument that my profession is a parasitic drain on American society that can no longer be supported.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                No, I haven’t been in academia for 15 years. In any case, I think my last comment wasn’t clear enough. Ie, the problem is that universities aren’t offering enough for the student’s time and money even after they’ve cleared out Derrida-Foucault-racism of Moby Dick and what not.

                I’m thinking of this guy in particular,, a moderately prominent blog on the left. Leaving aside all the political stuff, I might trust this guy as a teacher but he’s either in denial or indifferent to the value of what he’s teaching his students. Now government and IR aren’t humanities exactly and they’re less susceptible to worst of the fads but still. The 20 year olds are bumbling idiots until our hero, fighting against the forces of Republicanism and mental sloth, educates them against their will. Then he wonders why the money in academia is so brutal.Report

  17. Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

    “More conservatives in academia could encourage the growth of a more intellectually-vibrant conservative movement, which would be good for political life as a whole.”

    Could it? And would it? Maybe. But I find it hard to believe that “more book learnin'” is NECESSARILY equivalent to intellectual vibrance. It could be, I guess. But movements can be driven by other things.

    But let’s take that as a given. OK. Would a more academic, “ntellectually vibrant” conservative movement be good for political life as a whole? I am not so sure. From time to time, people argue for a more WONKISH conservative movement, but I am not sure that requires extreme academic rigor beyond a basic level. Some quanititative analysis, perhaps, but that seems different than intellectual high-falutin-ness. And i know some people who are pretty certain that LESS of that stuff would be a good thing, if we could substitute a little more aw-shucks, honest to goodness American something-or-other.

    Generally, I think I lack a little in the aw-shucks department, and I think politics has plenty of people like me.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I wasn’t thinking as much of book learnin’ as hashing out ideas in academic debates. I think having more conservatives in academia would sharpen the ideas of liberal and conservative academics; or, at least, make conferences more lively.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Rufus, the problem with ‘having more conservatives’ in academia is that you migtht actually get ‘real’ conservatives that understand and are willing to resist the machinations of a unitary gummint; and willing to make their stand for the virtues of a federated gummint. And, that Rufus, would make academia a hot bed of revolution, rather than the soild bed of an old whore.Report

      • Avatar jfxgillis says:


        ” I think having more conservatives in academia would sharpen the ideas of liberal and conservative academics;”

        Movement conservatives have nothing, pardon me, less than nothing, to contribute to academic discourse. Sheesh. Just look at the pop-culture criticism at Big Hollywood or National Review. It’s somewhere between AP high school and solid-B freshman writing, when it’s coherent, which it frequently isn’t, and not simply an excuse for talk-radio skreeee masquerading as criticism, which it frequently is.

        Mark Steyn and Victor David Hanson are the only exceptions. The rest of them couldn’t get through the first semester “burn” course in most grad programs. Not only should we not encourage such conservatives to join the academy, we should actively discourage them.

        Having said that, paleoconservatives are not just another story, they’re the opposite story. I’ve read the Rockford Institute’s “Chronicles” pretty much monthly for pretty much twenty years, and, the NBA All-Star Game being tonight, I can only say “Ball Don’t Lie.” Those paleos can both think and write with profound insight and elevated rhetoric.

        In fact, one of the great joys of reading the paleocons is when they demolish Movement Conservatives like David Horowitz or Jonah Goldberg. There’s usually no stone upon stone remaining, with the bonus being the target doesn’t get to whimper about liberal bias in the review.

        The funniest part is, you’ll NEVER hear a paleocon whining about underrepresentation in the academy. Either they figure one of them against the rest of the liberal department is a fair fight (One riot, one Ranger) or they settle in at a congenial school of the sort Blaise mentioned above and just do their work.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Pretty sure I’d fail Victor Davis Hanson if he was in a course I was teaching…not because of his ideology mind you, but his inability to make logically consistent and coherent arguments in policy terms. The man’s a good (but vastly overrated) classicist, but his abilities as a political commentator leave a lot to be desired.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke says:

            Dissing Victor Davis Hanson in a world where Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, and Bob Herbert are paid far more handsomely for their political opinions?

            These are strange times indeed.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              The highest-paid pundits are all Conservatives: Rush Limbaugh stands head and shoulders over everyone else in terms of compensation. By comparison, the NYTimes pays its ink-stained wretches peanuts.Report

              • Shouldn’t we consider them “entertainers”, though, in the same category as comedians and professional athletes?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                This depends on your definition of Entertainer. Though wrestling is an Olympic sport, the real money is to be made in “professional wrestling”, where the outcomes are predetermined and the fights are “worked”.

                Rush Limbaugh is pure kayfabe.Report

              • I think professional wrestling is a pretty good analogy for pop-politics, actually. The Republican commentators are considerably more fit for the comparison, I think, not because the Democrats don’t aspire to the lowest common denominator of showmanship, but because Democrat hacks tend to lack spirit.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Democrats and Republicans are engaged in a variant of trench warfare: completely covered in the mud they’ve slung at each other (and on their fellows in their own trenches, they have become irrelevant, indistinguishable from each other, so covered in the muck and shit and blood of those trenches.

                Meanwhile, the fragile (if rapidly evolving) airplanes of the blogosphere twist and dodge above their heads, the future of political debate.Report

              • Trench warfare is a good metaphor too: neither side makes any progress; their soldiers are unquestioning relics of the past; there are massive casualties on both sides. No Christmas Truce though…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Holiday truce.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I despair of the Two Party System. Consider the problem of analyzing Barack Obama. By every practical policy assessment, he is no Liberal. The Progressives are heartily sick of him. The Conservatives are amazed by his seeming pragmatism: he has proved less a devil than they ever supposed from his stump speeches.

                For my money, the two parties are indistinguishable from each other. They vary only in the vector from which they want to screw us: the Democrats from the top down, the GOP from the bottom up.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think they’re both infected with the idea that Man is perfectable with only the right imposed framework.

                At the end of the day, both sides remind me of the folks who sang the praises of Prohibition in 1918. “If only we were allowed to make X illegal, the reign of tears would be over… The slums would soon be only a memory. We would turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs.”

                And, of course, when they get elected for a while and this does *NOT* happen, it’s always because of wreckers and not because of any fundamental flaw in their ideology.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                During the Christmas Truce of 1914, a brave little German pastry chef ran into No Man’s Land with his cook’s hat on his head and armed with nothing more than Christmas tree. He knelt and lit the candles, to the amazement of everyone. Both sides agreed to an informal cease fire: the corpses were hauled out of No Man’s Land and the soldiers came out to exchange gifts and sing carols.

                One German soldier, an atheist, disapproved of the religious celebrations and refused to participate. His name was Adolf Hitler.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I would argue with this notion of Perfectibility as Politics. The GOP, long accustomed to the Politics of NO, can only see as far as the end of its nose: its only objective at present is to undo the Obama legislation and prevent any more from passing. They have no working replacement policy: they never did.

                The Democrats wasted their political capital on health care. If they’d been shrewder politicians, they would have crushed down the GOP, making them the villains and scapegoats for all that came before. They would have crucified the bankers and Wall Street Types, not that this petty vindictiveness would have solved anything or undone the harm those bankers caused.

                The Democrats, as has been stated above, simply lack the cynicism required to effectively destroy their political opponents. They want to argue from the facts, which never take sides, always a losing position in American politics.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dude, remember Dubya? Patriot, Schiavo, NCLB, Real ID, and Partial Birth Abortion bans?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Dubya? The Democrats caved to Dubya’s War on Iraq. They caved to the PATRIOT Act. On every single issue, the Democrats caved to Bush43: if there was so much as a shadow of doubt, Bush43’s fearmongering trumped every other consideration.

                As for GWB the man, the fact remains, Bush43 walked away from his TXANG obligations, scot free. Everything other consideration is moot in my book. John Kerry might have been a glory hound and a medal chaser, but GWB always had the faint smell of doo-doo in his britches.

                Discussing GWB and his era is a waste of time and energy. He’s been alternately validated and discredited: nobody will ever take him seriously as a statesman. If the Democrats haven’t fixed things, they didn’t prosecute him or Cheney or Rumsfeld, either.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                My argument was not that Republicans are better at beating up Democrats but the “perfectibility” one.

                They just have different things that they consider “perfect”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I do not understand your point: neither party has long-term ideals. Returning to the original point, the Liberal Academic Establishment, the moot courts convene and issue their little proclamations from the safety (and perspective!) of the ivory tower, but politics is a nasty, messy process.

                Actual politics is more akin to convincing someone to have sex with you. Nothing theoretical about it: either the chemistry exists or it doesn’t and ere all is said and done and uglies are bumped, the beer goggle vendors are doing land office business. Voters aren’t convinced by facts or high-minded propositions.

                Never try to shoehorn Ideals into politics.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And yet discussions of health care (to pick a recent example) result in dead children being picked up and waved in my face while folks scream about how I just don’t care.

                I wish it were more like mating rituals. It’d be easier to opt out.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How did Joe Stalin put it? One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

                The statistics don’t lie. America’s got the second-worst infant mortality statistics in the developed world, six per thousand, twice Germany or France’s infant mortality per thousand.

                Don’t you worry your head about infant mortality. Chalk it up to personal responsibility, if it suits you. If you don’t like dead babies being shoved in your face, I won’t blame you. Clearly, from where you sit, there’s no concept of society’s role in preventing those deaths because those children don’t matter.Report

              • Yeah, the infant mortality statistics for the U.S. are frankly shocking. We did a lot of research on that when we were trying to decide whether to have our second child in the U.S. or Japan. Guess what? We easily chose Japan. This basically meant that my daughter was in a glass box for the first four days of her life, but she certainly did not get any deadly infections during that time from well-meaning but virologically ignorant distant relatives.

                And after we do move back to the United States, we’re planning on continuing with our current Japanese health insurance plan and actually flying back to Japan for any non-emergency treatment for reasons that anyone who has lived in a country with a halfway decent healthcare system knows: America’s healthcare system is absolutely terrible and shameful from the world’s richest country.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m not talking about Infant Mortality either.

                Though, I understand, were we to adopt different standards for the difference between “stillbirth” and “mortal infant”, we could pump up our numbers pretty good overnight…Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                A: wait, how did a discussion of academic political imbalance turn into a discussion of infant mortality?

                B: Jaybird is exactly right.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill says:

                I’ve heard that about infant mortality, but usually without any cites as to what our statistics would look like if we redefined the terms. Anyone got a good one?Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              Dissing VD Hanson for somebody who should know better. It’s like the difference between the guy at the next barstool spouting absolute gibberish about the law, and a lawer spouting absolute gibberish about the law. There’s no question of honesty vs stupidity.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          Dude, you’ve just about nailed it as well as its ever been nailed here at the League. I’m your new friend! Not to worry, you’ll get to like me.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          We cannot pit Andy Breitbart and his Big Scribblers against the academics: a cheap harangue requires no research (indeed a good harangue benefits from half-truths and outright lies) and doesn’t have to make a coherent point from the facts. Some arguments simply read better painted in day-glo spraypaint on a concrete wall than 10 point Times Roman floating in an APA template, garnished with footnotes and a bibliography.

          Mark Steyn’s rhetoric remains as blissfully unencumbered by pesky, argument-deflating facts as a child’s balloon floating over the Hudson River. His writing is not all that good: he can’t distinguish editorial from fact.

          As for Victor Davis Hansen, he is neither a warrior nor a competent scholar of war. Returning to a point I made above, there’s a Conservative sentiment of revulsion vis-à-vis The Academy. Hansen blows his rusty bugle and urges us to study the Greeks and Romans, as if they were exemplars for modern life. Nothing could be farther from the truth: the Roman world had more in common with a colony of vicious army ants than anything we’d call a democracy society today. Pining after Plato and the Golden Age is the pastime of ninnies: anyone who can get through Republic and declare it wisdom is a fascist.

          In summary, the paleocons can be summarized as genteel bigots, as were their intellectual forebears.Report

          • I’m anticipating a flame war with Mr. Cheeks over this particular comment.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Mr. Cheeks is a fine human being, a worthy adversary and not for all the world and its pomps would I deviate from that opinion.

              I said elsewhere the fervency of the zealot varies directly with the circumstances of his conversion. “Saul, Saul, why kickest thou against the pricks?”Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Christopher, no flame war, rather a civil exchange. I agree that in one sense Rush is a damn good entertainer. He’s been in the bidness long enough to know what people want to hear.
                BP, some zealot’s seek the comfort of an ideology, Goebbels, Trotsky come to mind. Others seek the frightening, unknowing path toward the truth of stuff.
                Re: the Paleo, remember this, he/she, above all else, rejects the horrors, derailments, and distortions of the unitary state and embraces the federated republic like a warm and faithful lover.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                In Gulliver’s Travels, there’s a wonderful bit where Gulliver can call up many figures from history to hear them debate.

                I then desired the governor to call up Descartes and Gassendi, with whom I prevailed to explain their systems to Aristotle. This great philosopher freely acknowledged his own mistakes in natural philosophy, because he proceeded in many things upon conjecture, as all men must do; and he found that Gassendi, who had made the doctrine of Epicurus as palatable as he could, and the vortices of Descartes, were equally to be exploded. He predicted the same fate to ATTRACTION, whereof the present learned are such zealous asserters. He said, “that new systems of nature were but new fashions, which would vary in every age; and even those, who pretend to demonstrate them from mathematical principles, would flourish but a short period of time, and be out of vogue when that was determined.”

                The Paleo is as much the slave of an -ism as any other zealot. Though the history of economics is written in blood, he persists in the error of laissez-faire capitalism, as if markets will regulate themselves. He believes in some natural moral order, though mankind is manifestly a self-deluding and vicious little hominid whose ethics are imposed upon him: fear, not innate goodness compels him to obedience. In his world of misty waaater-color’d maaaaamaries, the heroes of the past stand astride history like the Colossus of Rhodes, their every imperfection glossed over like Parson Weems’ depiction of the infant Washington.

                The Paleoconservative is a Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn. There never were any Good Old Days. If the past teaches us anything, mutatis mutandis, the human condition has not evolved as quickly as his powers of destruction and self-delusion.Report

          • Avatar jfxgillis says:


            “[Steyn’s] writing is not all that good”

            Au contraire mon frere. He may be crazy wrong, or possibly even dishonest in his premises, but his prose style is elegant and sharp.

            “Hansen blows his rusty bugle and urges us to study the Greeks and Romans, as if they were exemplars for modern life. Nothing could be farther from the truth”

            That’s a more than fair criticism.

            To clarify, I mentioned Steyn and Hanson not because I agree with them, but because of all the Movement Conservatives with any kind of public profile, among all those wingnut welfare fellows on think-tank mastheads, those are the only two who could plausibly fit Rufus’s “liberals and conservatives sharpen each other” criterion.

            “the paleocons can be summarized as genteel bigots”

            That might be a little stronger than I’d say. Or maybe not. At any rate, the reason I like the paleos is because at least they’re honest, indeed proud, of the anti-Enlightenment implications of their thinking–unlike the Movement Conservatives, who corrupt and poison Enlightenment values while claiming to champion them.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I observe my own baroque stylings do not noticeably improve the gist of my arguments. I am a connoisseur of sermonizing, Steyn’s bafflegap is nothing more than a cat turd wrapped gold foil pretending to be a bon-bon: woe betide the uninformed consumer thereof. Steyn is a would-be Marat, completely and utterly wrong in his assessment of Islam.Report

              • Avatar jfxgillis says:


                I guess I like shiny things.

                Seriously. My assessment probably seems strangely misplaced for a person of my general political persauasion because I read and adored his movie reviews in the Spectator for years before he became a notorious right-winger (or before I discovered he was a notorious right-winger).

                Whachagonna do? I can’t go back and un-enjoy the film column, so I’m kinda stuck.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I enjoy the stylings of my political opponents: for years, I assiduously read WF Buckley. There’s much to admire in our enemies. I learn nothing from those with whom I agree.

                Clausewitz says the first question we must ask is what sort of war we’re about to wage, before we wage it. I’d argue, as a consultant, the next question is “What does Done mean in this situation?”

                The war on the likes of Mark Steyn must begin with their collection of facts. I have (as you know from previous incarnations on other blogs) written extensively on the history of Islam, especially on the Ottoman Empire. I contend Islam’s war is an internal struggle: if the West has meddled, and it has, it meddles in what it does not understand.

                Steyn the Stylist can and must be parsed away from Steyn the Polemicist. WF Buckley was an incomparable stylist but his conclusions are rubbish. History has not been kind to the Paleoconservatives.

                I am even now writing a long essay on Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojève, the best of friends while they lived. Strauss would send his students to Kojève. Those students would make war on each other, lapsing into doctrinaire arguments their respective prophets never made.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:



              • Avatar jfxgillis says:


                Steyn’s Eurabia writings can be dismissed on rudimentary demographics alone, for the same reason that Papist, Jewish, feeble-minded and now Hispanic “takeovers” of the USA never occurred, despite two hundred years of “warning” about it.

                His only intellectual defense is that, well, he’s making the same idiotic mistake lots of other smart folks have made for two hundred years.

                As for the doctrinal/ideological questions you raise about his understanding of Islam, I yield to your superior knowledge.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’ve always thought the finest statement of Conservative principles was embedded in the Declaration of Independence.

                Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

                Now that’s Conservatism. Tossing and turning in bed last night, I was watching a Yale lecture on Absolutist Monarchy in Europe. Louis XIV could not have come to power without a complicit bureaucracy and the emotional support of the people, who remembered the Thirty Years War and the Fronde. Versailles was constructed to be as much a prison as a palace: there Louis could keep an eye on those troublesome nobles.

                While evils are sufferable. What an amazing sentence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I should probably amend that one paragraph: I do not mean to conflate WF Buckley with the Paleoconservatives. Buckley, through guile and sophistry, bedazzled the schizophrenic Conservatives of his era, Establishment and Populist alike. But only while he lived: once he had been tucked away into his coffin, his bemused audience rubbed their eyes and wondered how they had all been kept in the same camp for so long.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                The above is beautiful and allow a moment to collect my thoughts….yes, the problem is that only the Paleo is a suitable citizen for the republic because he does not require largesse, does not want largesse, and will never vote for largesse. He is a freeman, supports himself and his family, helps his friends, succors the poor and infirm, and worships the Word.
                Sadly, most of us are the spawn of Roooosevelt, JFK, and LBJ and we require, nay demand Largesse and a lot of it.
                Ultimately the Paleo is the victim of the transfer scheme’s of Kenyan-Marxists et al.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Paleocon wishes with all his heart the world and its problems would get off his lawn. Gladly would he bump down rutted roads on his horse-drawn farm wagon, extolling the virtues of self-sufficiency.

                Isaiah Berlin thought the intellectual father of the Paleocons was that old royalist Joseph Le Maistre and called him an enemy of freedom. Be careful what you ask for, o ye Paleocons, for the prophet Samuel tried to warn Israel of the consequences of asking for a King.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                The Paleo seeks to participate in the polis from the perspective of man as a fallen creature and fully aware, unlike so many of his contemporaries, that there is no utopia, past or present, though the past offers a much clearer view.
                The Paleo has no love or appreciation of a unitary regime determined to alter the nature of man and corrupt his soul. Rather he believes it is best that the general gummint retreat to its own environs, long defined, and leave us alone, circa 1822.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          X-man, I have a congratulatory comment for you below, but this commie system screwed up placement!Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          There are quite a few paleoconservative were in the academy already, right? I remember one of our older profs (and probably the last real radical in our department) telling me about pleasant afternoons spent arguing with Leo Strauss in the archives in Paris. But, of course, the intellectual strengths of academic paleocons (even if they are overrated) would seem to make my point. Part of the reason that the arguments are so bad in the ideological bubbles is that they are bubbles. I’m not saying you could turn Breitbart into Buckley- I just think that if more conservatives went through arguing their points in grad school and beyond, you’d get less Breitbarts and more Oakeshotts, and that overall this would be good for politics.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            Rufus, politics needs its mud and guts boys as well as the unsoiled.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Bob, Paleo is dependent upon time and place.

              I visited a wonderful war re-enactor Convention with my cousin a year ago (when I went back to Michigan, of all places, to visit my Grandmother). I had assumed that the re-enactors would all be Civil War types… but no. They were all Revolutionary War types.

              I yelled something about Kings being there because of God’s Will at the “progressives”. They looked at me like I had two heads.

              All that to say: We’ve nothing but unsoiled ’round here.

              At least, in Michigan.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Well, careful now, because you’re poking around the obvious flaw in my ‘thinking’ and I’m working on a way around the Enlightenment’s Rights of Man, vs. the inherent freedom in man as a gift of God given and held in free will, that predates the initiating revolution. It is possible, though I would like to read the thoughts of the gifted cadre, that the American revolution rests on the soft soil of the secularist humanism championed here by those who no longer attend church. Or perhaps the true understanding of history unfolding is to understand the concantation of secular/faith throughout that period? Few events related to the fallen nature of our specie are apodictical in their final analysis.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Ah yes, the ‘gifted cadre’ respond. As always Mr. van Dyke, thank you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m one of those crazy nutballs that says “if X is true, then it is true for Time T, no matter the value of T”.

                If X ceases to be true prior to 1912, it isn’t true.

                It’s just useful.

                But, as I said, I’m a nutball.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Of course, stuff like “so-and-so is the President of the United States” changes truth values according to time.

                I’m talking about moral claims.

                “It is morally wrong to X another person without their consent.”

                That sort of thing.Report

  18. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think there’s a significant over-valuation of the notion that people are “conservative” or “liberal” in academia when in fact the majority are (in so far as political LEANING is concerned) apolitical. In fact one of the most striking things (being a public policy graduate student) I find in interacting with grad students from other departments is how explicitly apolitical most of these people are until they’re approached about subjects in their own discipline. After which they tend to be very focused on politicians who support their specific field, rather than some overt political agenda/ideology guiding them.

    Where there seems to be more “balance” ideologically is fields where political ideology is actually fully relevant. Whether it be political science, law or economics you are MUCH more likely to find strong ideological partisans that have a consistent slant through all issue areas rather than party partisanship based on field of study.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think this is spot on actually. I do think it’s a generational thing. I don’t know any grad students either who I would call ideological. And when I encounter the most left-leaning professors, they tend to be on the other side of 60. Finally, one of the things I find most fascinating and heartening about undergrads is how open they are to different points of view and how reluctant they are to be ideologically pigeonholed.Report

  19. I think the idea of “liberal” bias is basically incoherent for several reasons, regardless of how we may or may not define terms. The first is that it is the duty of professors and researchers across disciplines to challenge the status quo. In the humanities, challenging the status quo is of course challenging culture itself. Since usually we think of people trying to protect the status quo as “conservatives”, most college professors will be “liberal”, in fact the vast majority baring a few strange exceptions, like PoliSci or Economics or other social sciences. And indeed this is what we usually find.

    The idea of bias towards the “Democratic Party” however, seems like a fairly legitimate concern and is a more interesting issue to explore. When I was a senior, David Horowitz came to my university to polish some turds that were then eaten up and regurgitated by the sycophants at the school newspaper. One of the more vocal Cult-Anth professors – famous for wearing pink dreadlocks – wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to the paper asking why there weren’t more professors who were registered members of the Rhinoceros Party or the Beer Lovers Party. The Democrats are just as representative of the status quo as the Republicans in that blandly evil, Mr. Burns kind of way. Trying to “balance the books” between registered Democrats and registered Republicans just threatens to entrench the two-headed monster in a spirit of “bipartisanism” (read: establishment power cartel).

    In the humanities, I think we should expect professors to try and put forth good arguments against the status quo, and in the sciences, who cares about a Professor’s voting record? Can you imagine a physics department: “I’m sorry, Dr. Einstein, we need more conservative professors to make sure we aren’t producing politically biased research on elemental particles.”?

    That basically just leaves PoliSci and Economics as directly concerned with politics and thereby even relevant to this debate. Empirical research has shown that the more one studies political science, the more socially liberal one becomes; the more one studies economics, the more economically conservative one becomes (in the sense of putting stock in free markets). This would seem to suggest a libertarian bias in academia, since actual knowledge tends to correlate with an overall libertarian portfolio. But we know for a fact that there is no libertarian bias in academe, so… have I just deconstructed the accusation of liberal bias or proved it?Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I’m not so sure I follow this.
      Could you please explain to me the status quo of “The Miller’s Tale?”
      I’m not so sure my status quo was sufficiently challenged….

      And I would like to know about the status quo of “The Return of the Native.”
      I thought I was stuck reading that darned thing, and now I find out that I should have challenged the status quo.Report

      • By challenge the status quo, I mean come up with new forms of interpretation. There are lots of systematized approaches within Literature, like structuralist analysis, post-structuralist analysis, feminist analysis, Marxist analysis, etc. Specifically with the Canterbury Tales, the status quo may be that the collection was a quintessential exemplar of culture in the High Middle Ages; challenging that status quo may entail arguing that the Canterbury Tales was actually a quite radical text considering prevailing social norms, or even the the exact opposite that the entire concept of the Renaissance was a revisionist Enlightenment fantasy. The point is that none of these reinterpretations or critical perspectives seem to correlate easily with social conservatism, the idea of protecting and favoring existing institutions.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          The Canterbury Tales are full to brimming with symbolism, especially in their use of colors. If ever there was a text begging to be deconstructed, it’s the Canterbury Tales.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Thank you for the explanation.
          But I’m not so sure that the two are mutually exclusive.
          And also, I have to question the value of “otherness” simply for the sake of being something other. I believe I might have seen a bit too much of the “other;” and especially so in music, art, and literature.
          While John Cage was doing his thing, Gordon Young was also doing his. Whereas Cage is an oddity fit for some side-show booth at a carnival, Young wrote music that people would actually want to listen to.
          I remember seeing somewhere (I believe it was Houston), passing by the museum there, a big red sculpture. It was obviously a study of line done in 3-D; kind of a novelty from the perspective of a study of line, but as sculpture, worthless. And I have to wonder how many people pass by that piece and think, “Study of line,” in comparison to the number which passes by to think, “Worthless sculpture.”
          And likewise, I have to question the value— scholarly or otherwise– of “The Whale Anus as Finger Food in Melville’s Moby Dick as Viewed from a Black-Feminist-Marxist Perspective.” I’ve seen some of this literary criticism, and to me it looks like too much of it hangs by threads and misappropriates meaning away from the piece. Of course, the best literary criticism of all is when the writer can conclusively demonstrate that the author meant something entirely different that what the text would plainly state.
          I have to wonder if that sort of thing has anything to do with my preference for non-fiction, whereas before I was an avid reader of fiction.
          But this goes back to the town-gown relations.
          If all the town gets is John Cage, worthless sculpture, and the Black feminist Marxist perspective on Melville’s whale anuses, then the Academy is definitely not culture– indeed, it runs counter to it.
          Or maybe it’s just that the Academy is actually borderline retarded, and has incredible difficulty in assessing the value of things in even the most basic of ways.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            I remember one heartbreaking conversation with a grad student at William & Mary in which he told me “the only legitimate reason you would ever want to read Moby Dick is to understand the depths of racism in that era”. He is now at Berkeley and I did not go to grad school in literature.

            Having said that, I do think that it’s a bit counter-cultural to be reading and studying books like Moby Dick. When universities try too hard to give the people what they want, the result is usually things like “Identity and Lady Gaga” or “Pornography and Culture”. The universities love those sorts of courses because they get high enrolments, but the academic value can be just as lacking.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              I think Melville is important because of his place in history, much like Bill Gates or the Beatles. Other people might have been able to do it better, but they were there first.
              I was thinking about this, and it led me back around to the start.
              What I was getting at is that the Academy is not culture, nor is it the guardian of culture, but rather an element of culture which does not exist apart from it.
              The other side of that has to do with what constitutes “conservatism.” I know you mentioned up-thread that you wanted to do a Pt. 2 to define terms, etc.; but for now, let’s say that the talk-radio conservative is a different ballpark than “conservatism” altogether. I don’t see how (and I know of no individual cases) a “conservative” whose positions are primarily induced by some extravagant columnist could attend college for four years and come out of it without having grown a bit in perspective.
              Consider the “conservative” position on climate change. What’s so conservative about it? Now, I can give you three good reasons (all inherent in the mathematics of it) why you shouldn’t trust projections from computer models, no matter how sophisticated, but I can’t give you one reason not to consider the existing data. But I don’t see a position that is really conservative out there; we’ve got this other thing instead. And I don’t know how long that’s going to last; just the phenomenon in general.
              Now, I’m not prepared to say that Cage, the study of line, or the (fictitious) aforementioned literary criticism are without merit. It seems like they would have a time and place appropriate to them.
              Now, in my work, no one wants anything truly accurate– not even on the “high precision” work. It’s all within a tolerance or margin of error. When things go outside of that margin of error, they need to be reworked until they meet the specs.
              Maybe the Academy just needs a bit of calibration. Of course, then you have to decide whether it’s going to be precision work or a slop job, but the right answer is that it depends on the equipment– there’s no one right answer.
              And I suspect the same is true in this case.Report

            • Rufus, I remember reading your first piece on this blog about the people in academia who read and appreciate the classics being the real cultural conservatives, and now I see that this was indeed a very layered description.Report

          • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

            In the era of hard science research, the humanities have to compete for funding, and in order to legitimize themselves, attempt to turn out “research” that usually consists of taking artifact x, and analyzing it through theoretical structure y, and seeing what you get. Why?

            Because getting published is so important, and you are more often rewarded for the number of published pieces rather than their particular value.

            A prof I had complained about his grad seminar, saying he would never teach another one, because all the students wanted to do was read secondary literature and utilize various theoretical structures (i.e. marxist theory, feminist theory, etc.) This was because by doing so they could put on their CVs that they were learned in such theories and could teach them if hired as adjunct other places.

            In other words there’s a vicious cycle where universities pressure humanity departments to produce “research” not in quality but in quantity, with that pressure tickling down to the new hires and thus to the grad departments that turn them out.

            Ultimately the professor (a lit prof) was sad because recent surveys show lit professors actually read very few books every year, and the grad students on the way up have no interest in dealing with the text itself, as is.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              I understand why a bit better now.
              And it is sad that the grad students would rather deal with secondary works.
              But what can be done about it?
              If the focus is on quantity rather than quality, then some sort of quality control is needed. And I’m fairly certain that lies outside of the authority of the individual teachers to deal with.Report

          • I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive either, but I think that the nature of academic discourse tends to select for liberals; that is to say that the people who generally lean towards cultural liberalism and the people who generally become successful academics have similar characters.

            I think counter-culture is a good description for much of what (has to) go on in the academy in order to further conversation. The problem arises when we start getting a bit too avant garde, with black feminist Marxist critiques of notions of hermaphroditism in Twelfth Night or whatever, but that sort of thing is bound to happen if everyone is cooperating to push the limits of scholarship.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Rufus – Let me suggest a much harder argument, one that I think a lot of conservatives would identify with. The problem isn’t the bias of individual professors, hard or soft. The problem is the bias within fields of study. You mention three decades of Foucault. Within the humanities and social sciences, there is a tightly-regimented heterodoxy: against the classics, against the Enlightenment, in favor of deconstruction and minority studies. A person doesn’t study Melville without talking about his whiteness; a person doesn’t study Kipling at all. Music written before 1910 is only valuable to the extent that the composer can be reasonably labelled gay. In economics, state intervention is promoted; in psychology, no behavior is frowned upon (other than frowning on behavior). The problem isn’t (just) that co-workers may disapprove of your politics while sharing your passion for the field of study. The problem is that co-workers will disapprove of your academics.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I can only respond directly, since i’ve only done grad study in psych, to your statement that “in psychology, no behavior is frowned upon (other than frowning on behavior)” doesn’t make a lick of sense. The first part that no behavior is frowned upon is ridiculous and has no relation to fact.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I think you mean orthodoxy. But, again, my problem is that this just doesn’t square with my experiences. At least half the people I know who are doing academic research would be in violation of one of these strictures. My own work is in violation of five of them! I mean, maybe you’re at a university where these norms apply, but just let me say that I’ve never even heard of half of them. I’d hope my dissertation director would mention things like this.

        I think a more plausible argument would be that there isn’t a lot of very original scholarship being produced now. But there’s a much simpler explanation for that: most people aren’t original thinkers. They’ll reach for ready-made ideas before they’ll come up with something new. And I think that is an argument for getting more fresh blood in academia. But, the idea that there’s this rigidly-enforced reigning orthodoxy just doesn’t match up with what I’ve seen and experienced.

        So, maybe conservatives would identify with this argument, but it sounds about like listening to my wife’s hippie friends speculate about how cops think and behave at the police station.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          No, I meant rigid heterodoxy. That’s my point.

          As for whether my observations match others’, I don’t know. In my limited experience in academics, I’ve seen something greater than a lack of original thought – I’ve seen an antagonism against it. The classical and modern thinkers built edifices; the post-moderns toppled them. The rigid heterodoxy insists that the rubble stay exactly where it fell. To rebuild, or to wax nostalgic about the old structures, is labelled “orthodoxy” and stamped out.

          Maybe you see things differently, or maybe I’m putting them too poetically or generally. It’d take too long to go into specifics. But you can see, I hope, that a bias against classical or Enlightenment thought would be seen by conservatives as a bias against them.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            I don’t know for sure about that- you might want to ask Bob Cheeks what he thinks about the Enlightenment; or most paleocons for that matter.

            Anyway, I do know of whom you gripe here, but the thing you have to remember is that you’re talking about trends that caught on in the late 70s and mid 80s. A lot of those trends are played out by this point, and so, I have found that there is much more reception to criticizing Foucault or whoever than you might imagine. My work, for example, critcizes Edward Said in a fairly intense way. I suppose we could say that I still have to respond to him, but I definitely have not found that I have to agree.

            And, the other thing is there really has been a generational shift. A frequent complaint I hear academics from that 80s generation make about us grad students is that a lot of us just don’t “do theory”. Of course, I’m in history and not lit. But I think there’s much more interest in the classics and in more traditional, slow-cooked research in general than you might expect and, in fact, a number of universities are talking about re-instituting the great books program. All of this, ideally, would bode well for… I don’t know if conservatives is even the word here, but let’s say the traditionalists in academia.

            Honestly, let me be the first to say this here- the po-mo boom is over and we’re waiting for something to replace it. I’m a big advocate of radical traditionalism and political inactivism.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              Rufus, you should explicate your thought on those and other philosophical subjects!Report

            • Avatar Pinky says:

              If things are getting better, well then, fantastic. I always had the sense that post-modernism couldn’t develop much beyond a critique of other thought. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re in an interim between po-mo and something else. Hardcore skepticism salts the earth, and I’d bet that even if academia has decided to move past post-modernism, it’s going to take a long while for something new to grow.

              There’s always a pack mentality in academia, though. The tenured are experts in a particular system of thought, and are understandably reluctant to watch their profession pass them by. It takes a critical mass new thinkers to move any field out of a rut.

              One last comment – I like the word “traditionalist”. I think that conservatives can find a natural home in academic traditionalism, taking a respectful but not static approach to the great ideas and works.Report

  20. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    BP, some issues; the Paleo lacks the will to be ideological, rather he is the only legitimate participant yearning for the federated gummint. Everyone else, re: of their claims and statements actually declare for, in one degree or another, a unitary regime. See Kirk’s biography of the slightly unbalanced (we all have issues) John Randolph of Roanoake a rarity indeed, because he was one of the truly American Americans.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The Paleoconservatives all remind me of a particularly bad-mannered collection of hobbits.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Your confusing manners with the self-denying virtues of the Paleo. Often self-denial is violent.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          “‘Proudfeet!’ shouted an elderly hobbit from the back of the pavillion. His name, of course, was Proudfoot, and well merited…Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            “Ptolemy Proudfoot,” Berry wrote with a certain panache, “was a large man from a large family.” And Ptolemy, cut his own tobacco, fed his own stock, and made his own crops. He helped his elderly neighbors with their chores that they might die as men and women. He taught his children to avoid those who carry the mark of the demon, those seduced by the Enlightenment…and a remnant survived.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I posted the Rieff quote because he was veeeerrryy paleoconservative (his son described him as being to the right of Ghingis Khan), in spite of having married Susan Sontag. Basically, the continuation of that passage is a call for academics to hang back from the culture, trying to analyze all projects, but never really aligning with any. Of course, by the end, he was pretty clear that one simply cannot avoid culture wars.Report

  21. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    McArdle: This is the 300th beautiful, sunny day this month!Report

  22. Avatar Brandon says:

    I went to Mizzou, the flagship (and perhaps the largest) university of the state of Missouri. Mizzou had at least 25,000 undergrads. They had some of the best professors, although I constantly heard in the student newspaper that, for whatever reason, Mizzou was oftentimes listed in a fairly low spot when it comes to compensation for professors compared to other universities. YET I never once heard any of this “raging liberal bias” that right-wingers always claim is rampant in the elite universities!

    And you know what else? I was a political science major! If you can’t get exposed to this “raging liberal bias” in the flagship university’s most political major, maybe this “liberal bias” crap was lies from the beginning? Hell, I even recall the head of MU College Republicans a year or 2 ago writing a letter to the editor in the student newspaper praising the non-bias of professors on campus.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think for a lot of people there is a striking dichotomy between what they’ve heard they can expect to encounter in academia and what they actually encounter there. I was pretty surprised anyway.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I’ve heard the same thing from other people that went to college in Missouri.
        And it made me think that maybe the effect of regionalism could be further divided. The people that I had talked with that noted any bias had went to schools located in New England and the Upper Midwest.
        Now, Mizzou is in Columbia, which is a more conservative part of the state. You know this immediately driving through there if you have the radio on. The first place I ever heard Michael Savage.
        But consider, if it is so that the college would be more liberal than the town it is in, then the people coming in from St. Louis might view of what they’re accustomed to thinking of as ‘conservative’ to be a bit to the left end of the scale in a place like that.
        The same with the people from the little towns out around Colorado Springs. If they go to Boulder to attend college, practically everything they see in Boulder is going to have a ‘raging liberal’ bias.Report

  23. Avatar Brandon says:

    Hell, I once saw an economic study not too long ago that seemed to indicate that professors are becoming LESS liberal, although not necessarily more conservative. The amount of professors at elite universities who reported that they were moderate or center-left/center-right was at least fairly higher than in previous decades.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      This is what I’ve noticed with grad students- there’s a pretty healthy level of skepticism for fixed political worldviews among my peers, with the result being that I really couldn’t pin many of them down politically; it seems to be quite a bit easier with professors who are in their 50s or 60s now, but even there it’s trickier than you’d think. I don’t really know what my dissertation director’s political opinions are, for instance.Report