liberal scholarship (a digression)


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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145 Responses

  1. Avatar 36-year-old-graduate-student says:

    You are an idiot masquerading as an intellectual. 36 years old and still a graduate student? Please. It’s not the problem of the scholarship the academy is producing. It’s idiot conservatives like you.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      Let this be a lesson to you, Rufus. Don’t mention age in your biographical snippet!Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I did mean to edit that biographical snippet to read that I’m not a member of whatever political party you might think I am. Also that I’m well-endowed.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      #1: I’m still not a conservative.
      #2: I’ve never once claimed to be an intellectual.
      #3: The assumption that everyone starts college at age 19 is pretty typical of trust fund brats who didn’t have to work to save up the money to go.Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

      If I can become a grad student again at 36 (or before or after), I’ll be a happy man.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        It’s not uncommon either. About half of the PhD candidates in my incoming class were older than me. Going into grad school directly after undergrad is actually a bad idea for a number of reasons.Report

        • Avatar Ben Wolf says:

          I completely agree. Spending a number of years outside the academy can give one a unique perspective which benefits the field one later studies in.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yes, you should be out in the private or public sector and we should be complaining about how it’s a shame that you don’t feel like you can go back to graduate school because of how little you’re paid.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Ah, the Conservative Scholar is to my mind an equally-sordid Piece o’ Work. Consider the work of Bruce Thornton of the Hoover Institute, waxing prolix on the subject of Appeasement.

    A more ridiculous and unhistorical brief cannot be imagined.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Well, I definitely didn’t mean to suggest that thin scholarship is unique to liberal academics. I tend to cringe a bit when classics profs write books trying to apply events from Greece to today and shame us for not being Themistocles.Report

  3. Avatar Thoreau says:

    Maybe I’m giving too much benefit of the doubt, but on the study of European attitudes toward Native Americans since 500 B.C.E., I can think of a reasonable possibility: Look at texts prior to European contact with the Americas (I’ll leave aside for now whether Viking contacts “count”, since those contacts didn’t seem to have much impact in Europe, AFAIK) and see what sorts of myths were woven about people living far in the Western seas. Then look at texts after contact, see how the Native Americans were described, and see if those pre-contact myths had any influence on descriptions after contact?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      William Vollman is writing a brilliant series on exactly this topic in his Seven Dreams series.

      The Ice Shirt
      Fathers and Crows
      The Rifles
      and though it’s not in the Seven Dreams series-
      Argall, the Pocohontas StoryReport

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      That’s what I was thinking. They said she was adamant about having texts from Europeans about North America from 500 BCE, but I think she must have been talking about something like that. Or maybe she’s a Mormon- doesn’t their Book claim the lost tribes of Israel came over?Report

      • Avatar Thoreau says:

        Dear god, I hope she wasn’t buying some myth about Egyptians having contact with the Meso-Americans or something. Though that wouldn’t really be “European” contact, unless she considered the Egyptians part of a pan-Mediterranean culture shared with Europeans, or thought that Europeans were writing texts based on their understanding of Egyptian contact with the Americas.

        However, I don’t know that that would count as “liberal” or “left-wing” scholarship. More like just plain wacky.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      William Vollman is writing a brilliant series on exactly this topic in his Seven Dreams series.

      The Ice Shirt
      Fathers and Crows
      The Rifles
      and though it’s not in the Seven Dreams series-
      Argall, the Pocohontas StoryReport

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    I think you’ve said you don’t pay much attention to politics, correct me if i’m wrong. But this statement ” When people point to studies on race or the transgendered as proof of “liberal bias”, it’s unclear to me why conservatism as a political philosophy should be opposed to studying those topics.” certainly suggests you don’t pay attention to the current organization known as the republican party. Racial resentment, race baiting and a largely white population make up the R’s. Certainly not all Conservatives fall into that league but a large section do. I’ve certainly heard prominent Con. pundits actively mocking the study of race and gender.

    I would suggest also that national greatness was a huge area of study for most of the history of the country up until the 60s, criminal justice depts definitely do research all views on crime, pysch/soc programs do study the family and there are entire programs on religions. There are plenty of places conservatives can study the topics you list if they want to.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I know they can. I was just trying to walk through the argument as I understand it. What I kept thinking was that it’s really hard to think of any topic that academics aren’t studying somewhere, usually with its own journal and annual conference.Report

    • Greginak,

      I don’t think conservatives necessarily mock gender studies – just their conclusions and the types of people that (often) do the work. The stereotypical uber liberal feminists who keep their own last names and are embarrassed to admit they are married.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:


        Speak for yourself, I mock gender studies every chance I get. Being the open mined person that I am, I took a woman’s studies class in college and was surprised at all the man hating that went on.Report

  5. Avatar BSK says:

    “When people point to studies on race or the transgendered as proof of “liberal bias”, it’s unclear to me why conservatism as a political philosophy should be opposed to studying those topics.”

    This is a really interesting statement, and I have a few thoughts:
    1.) I do a lot of work on diversity. When I approach my more conservative colleagues about engaging in this work, the response is often something along the lines of, “What role do I play in that?” It baffles me. They might not prescribe to my philosophy of how to approach issues relating to diversity. But to act as if they operate in a world in which diversity does not exist, or in which they must not or can choose not to interact with it, just seems to be willfully ignorant. And I don’t mean that as a potshot. I just can’t think of another way of describing people who think that diversity, as a reality, doesn’t impact or involve them.
    2. On the other hand, I wonder if we are a victim of semantics. A liberal might study the role of women in the work place and, because of the angle he takes, be considered to be working in the field of “gender studies”. A conservative might also be evaluating the role of women in the work place and, because of the angle he takes, be considered to be working in the field of “family studies”. If the liberal’s contention is that woman in the work place represents a small step forward in a long battle towards gender equity and the conservative’s contention is that households without the mothers as primary caretakers are a primary cause of the downfall of the traditional family unit and, with it, our societal structure (massive apologies for unabashed typecasting), the two folks are likely to be seen as studying very different topics that might only be tangentially related. Yet, I would contend, they are really studying the same thing, just from a different perspective and with different conclusions. That is not to say that they would be equally well-received. Only that what we perceive to be “liberal” or “conservative” fields of study may exist in large part because of confirmation or self-selection bias.

    In the end, I’m not sure what to make of it. There seems like there should be room at EVERY table for liberals and conservatives alike. How can a field of study only have room for one perspective? Perhaps a theoretical approach does, but not the field of study itself… right?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think the same thing. I know it probably sounds naive, but why couldn’t there be a “conservative” perspective on race/gender/cultre/class as one theoretical school among many? Certainly they’ve got something to say on those topics.Report

      • Rufus – I don’t think it’s correct to call the conservative perspective a ‘school’. In theory each school of thought should have the full spectrum of views with liberal and conservative being at both ends. I would also note that in this sense ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are not political designations per se though they correlate with their political incarnations at the individual level.Report

        • Avatar BSK says:


          Maybe “school” is the wrong word. But why not have conservative crafted papers on homosexuality? Or gender? Why do they so often assume that a “diversity” meeting is not for them?Report

          • BSK,

            I guess it’s just really a matter of personal interest. For me, when I was working on my history degree I was really into military history so all of my research tended to be in that area. When I was working on my anthropology degree I was very interested in race so I did a lot of work on that.

            I think race issues DO get a fair amount of attention from conservative scholars, but as for gender and sexual orientation studies I just don’t think there’s much going on. Gender studies still carry that liberal / feminist stigma and to be honest, when I was in college in the late 90s no one on either side was talking about sexuality much in the anthro field. I’n sure that’s much different now.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Yeah, okay, ‘school’ doesn’t work. Maybe a ‘perspective’ works better.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Oh they do. But it’s not a part of a research program, it’s part of their lives. A very important part for some, less for others. And for that matter, it’s the same with the classics, which is why conservatives don’t study them as much as they “should”.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      “1.) I do a lot of work on diversity. When I approach my more conservative colleagues about engaging in this work, the response is often something along the lines of, “What role do I play in that?” It baffles me. They might not prescribe to my philosophy of how to approach issues relating to diversity. But to act as if they operate in a world in which diversity does not exist, or in which they must not or can choose not to interact with it, just seems to be willfully ignorant.”

      Yikes. The scholarship the modern American academy produces wrt to diversity is cultural pollution. I can’t think of a single exception offhand. If you spend your time working in that context, it’s almost guaranteed you’re part of the problem.

      Find some combination of race, gender, sexuality, and class, throw in some cute context and a few pages later we’ve got some grist for the academic mill, completely useless outside of it.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Would the percentage of conservatives (or those interested in “conservative” scholarly topics) in academia increase if there was a greater demand for more conservative-minded scholars inside and outside of academia? I imagine that schools and departments would seek out more conservative students if there were more jobs (academic and otherwise) to be had by conservative scholars. And if more schools and departments were offering study and specialization in these subjects, there would be a greater incentive for conservatives to enter academia. I’m not sure how to create this increased demand; fields of study often emerge because there’s an interest among faculty and students who aspire to become faculty, but there also has to be a decent payoff to an emerging field for it to live beyond the careers of a few academics.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      There’s a whole alternate Conservative academia, think tank and university system out there. We don’t hear much about them, but they’re reasonably well-funded and they’re producing papers. You might find this interesting.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Actually, it’s interesting you mention that because a handful of universities, some of them traditionally thought of as having a very left-leaning culture, have started programs in the study of conservative thought, in hopes of making their schools more inviting to conservatives. And certainly there’s room in history. One of our grad students is working right now on a study of evangelical attitudes to Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. I’ve read a few chapters and it’s very straightforward and takes the figures seriously. I keep wondering why there’s not some conservative research organization that he can apply to for funding. Grad students all need funding.Report

  7. Avatar Ben JB says:

    This might seem a little bit Balloon Juicy to some readers here, but it seems like, in some cases, the very act of academic investigation is un-conservative. I mean, if a Hannity-conservative thinks about American history, it’s not really history, is it? (I’m thinking of Hannity’s maxim that America is the best country that God gave mankind–not really a historical pov.) People who are interested in American exceptionalism in the same vein as Hannity are not interested in thinking about the contingent historical factors that go into that special situation which they take as a given.

    Similarly, the very act of talking about gender construction attacks the conservative notion of the givenness of gender. Let’s rephrase the old conservative position on the universe–“it’s turtles all the way down”–as their position on gender: a woman is a woman all the way down, a man is a man all the way down.

    (Although, that said, I can imagine some instances of conservative-friendly academia, like Newt Gingrich’s dissertation on how Belgian paternalism was a good thing for the Congo (

    • Avatar Sam MacDonald says:

      I think you might be on to something here. I think of an area of study like “composition.” When I started grad school, I had no idea what it was about. I was just teaching it because I was in an English Department. I eventually found it fascinating, but i have a hard time thinking up a project that a real conservative might be interested in “doing” in the field. A whole bunch of it was based on Foucault, Said and all the rest.

      The main barrier, however, was the fact that conservatives I know view something like “writing” in a very rules-based way. There are rules of grammar. There is sentence structure. There are sentences to correct. To DIAGRAM.

      I know. I am sure there is a way to approach this from a conservative angle. Or to critique the now common approach to comp. But I would have to think really hard about how that might look. More importantly, why would a conservative WANT to do it? Other than to thumb their noses as people who talk about Foucault in bars, what would be the point? They certainly wouldn’t want to work in a composition program, or attend conferences about comp.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Look, Conservative is an adjective, not a noun. Advocatus Diaboli, if the Libruls have overrun academia, they’ve also let their mouths outrun their asses. I’m sick to death of sitting through the Librul Two Minutes Hate movie wherein every dumbass Conservative is flashed on the screen for us to hate, as if they were representative of the entire Conservative movement.

      There was a valid movement afoot in the 1950s and 60s, re-examining the role of gender in many aspects of academia.

      Do you have any idea of how revolutionary it was to have effective birth control? It changed women’s lives forever and not always for the better. They moved into the workforce, brave little things, little realizing they’d given their hearts away, a sordid boon. You can love your kids and your dog and your husband and the way the sun sets over Molokai. But don’t love your job, that SOB will never love you back. Feminism was a valid topic and the daughters of the feminists would not always follow in the footsteps of their mothers.

      And the Conservatives tried to warn them. I remember the debates back then, all those high-minded earnest kids who’d never changed a diaper or put a Band-Aid on a kid’s knee or consoled a sobbing child after her first breakup, talking as if they had all the wisdom of the world packed into their windy heads. All that Free Love bullshit and they ended up sterile from the gonorrhea they gave each other with such frivolity. And by the 80s, there they were in the fertility clinics, trying to have the baby they claimed they’d never bring into such a horrible world.

      Academia becomes conservative over time and its lessons, if properly learned, are terribly cautionary. There’s Thucydides — “on to Sparta” cried the Athenians. There’s Madame Bovary in her vanity, destroying everyone around her and ultimately herself. Macbeth in his ambition, Alexander murders Cleitus the Black who’d saved his life — the ignominious fall of a thousand characters consumed by hubris resonates through history and literature. The overweening pride and collapse of the Gilded Age, the vicious and unscientific persecution of the scientists, let me tell you, I came to college very full of myself and left a humbled man who’d seen the vast horizons of his own ignorance.

      And let’s not confuse Sean Hannity with an actual Conservative. That charmless square-head wouldn’t know Edmund Burke or Bill Buckley if both rose from the grave and beat his ass with a pair of shovels. Very convinced is Sean Hannity of his rightness, the acid test for idiot detection in any field of study.

      But as for America, it really is the greatest country. And why? Because we are from everywhere, from every tribe and nation. Our faults are many but our virtues come borne in on all four winds. E Pluribus Unum.Report

      • Avatar Ben JB says:

        And let’s not confuse Sean Hannity with an actual Conservative.

        No true Scotsman, eh? I agree with you on the philosophical angle–Hannity and many others on Fox are not sufficiently Burkean. But from a political angle, “Conservative” has taken on a meaning far divorced from the philosophical, and Hannity fits in today’s political conservative movement. Which is why I tried to focus on this type of conservative–after all, it’s this political conservative who is most likely to complain about the liberal bias of the university (cf. David Horowitz, no true Burkean).

        As for the idea that certain conservative lessons can be gleaned from higher education–“Ah, Bovary. Ah, humanity”–I’ll grant that, but what Rufus seems to be focusing on here is the idea of academic scholarship–i.e., research. Why would conservatives be interested in research since everything is already known? (And yes, I’m still talking about American political conservatives.)Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          That’s okay. I contend the lunaticks are in charge of the asylum over in Conservative Town. I am sorry to say they are not Conservatives by any stretch of the imagination. By comparison, it is more likely you may encounter some New Guinea savage with a bone in his nose wearing a Campbell kilt and dancing the Highland Fling, singing “No truer Scotsman ever lived than I” at the top of his lungs than an actual Conservative at Fox News these days.

          I repeat myself in saying Conservative is an adjective. There’s fiscal conservatism, legal, ethical and religious conservatism, geopolitical conservatism — every one of which has been very badly mangled and might require Refudiation at the hands of a competent scholar. Leaving the likes of Rev. Huckleberry from Arkansas and Sarah Palin, if I were a Conservative with a chunk of spare change, I’d fund a whole platoon of scholars just to furnish arguments for reasonable Conservatives to chase these ignorant and tendentious blatherskites off the TV set.Report

          • Avatar well okay says:

            Sure, but the brand of conservatism you are espousing has sadly become pretty marginalized in the United States. In terms of the current discussion, the reason there aren’t more of those types of conservatives in academia isn’t bias or self selection, but simply lack of many people of that disposition in the nation.

            In fact, I would bet that Burkean conservatives if anything might be a little over represented in academia, compared to their representation in the society at large. Not that that’s a bad thing.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I question how marginalized Rational[1] Conservatism has become. Like every political movement, the Conservative movement has internal inconsistencies and the fracture lines of irrationality[2] form without a common purpose to unite that movement. Look at the Progressives during the run-up to the presidential election: all those Hillarites with their noses out of joint, flouncing out of dKos in the thousands. They came back, sorta, but the Hillarites have not forgotten.

              Conservativism, by my lights, has evolved considerably since the era of Reagan. Though they all bow the knee and utter peace be unto him after every utterance of his name, Reagan was never much of a Conservative. He had those chumps back in the 80s completely buffaloed.

              Now for my money, the finest exemplar of American Conservative philosophy was James Madison, a wonderfully complete thinker, a man waylaid by the circumstances of his times. He was the champion of the individual against the tyranny of the majority and it is his name we ought to praise more than any other Founding Father, for he gave us the unified Constitution and the Bill of Rights as we understand it today. If the modern Conservative wants to make a sound argument for his positions, he could do worse than to take up the Federalist Papers.

              Trouble is, Madison doesn’t sound anything like what passes for Conservatism today, if we’re to read the papers and watch the TeeVee. Though they praise the Founding Fathers, today’s soi-disant Conservatives will not read what the Founders wrote nor will they act on their considerations. Madison would be horrified to see the PATRIOT Act, disgusted by this flabby, weak-willed Congress, deeply annoyed by the current collection of partisan mullahs on the Supreme Court.

              [1] to act in one’s own best interests: in game theory, to apply a potentially winning strategy to a problem domain.

              [2] to break from a winning strategy, where one partner puts his own interests of the collective interests of his allies under which the coalition and the strategy was formed.Report

              • Avatar well okay says:

                I’m honestly confused how you can square “the finest exemplar of American Conservative philosophy was James Madison” (at least arguably true) and “Madison doesn’t sound anything like what passes for Conservatism today” (also probably true*) with “I question how marginalized Rational Conservatism has become.”

                Are you saying that the conservatism we read in the papers and watch on TV is unrepresentative of conservatism on the ground? Sorry, I don’t see it.

                *Though arguably not true as well; one could certainly argue that, from a small government conservative perspective, it was the critics of the constitution who got it right. Though yes, I am well aware that of the authors of the Federalist papers Madison was more of a limited government type than Hamilton. But as is so often the case, as president his record was mixed in that regard.Report

              • Avatar Simon K says:

                No. He’s saying that what’s called conservatism now would not be recognizable to conservatives from the past. Its become a mere party political label, not in any way a coherent philosophy.Report

              • Avatar well okay says:

                Well yeah, I get that – I just had trouble with squaring that with his first sentence. But maybe I’m misreading the first sentence.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I can see how you might find it discongruous. There are Conservatives who are acting in their own best interests, cases in point, the Tea Parties. I don’t agree with all they say, but they’re sick of the political parties and seem intent on tearing down the walls of a few Bastilles ere all is said and done.Report

              • Avatar well okay says:

                Your analogy is in my opinion perhaps more apt than you think.

                “[T]earing down the walls of a few Bastilles” is a deeply nonconservative reaction.

                It’s not even that I think that the picture of the tea party that you draw is inaccurate – it is just a picture of a movement which is not really conservative in a different way than establishment conservatism isn’t conservative.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Is Teevee Conservatism different than Conservatism on the ground? Absolutely. I’ve gotten to know quite a few people who attend Tea Party rallies in Minnesota and Wisconsin, knew a lot more from Louisiana and Arizona. Now you might argue these folks aren’t entirely representative of what passes for Conservatism on the street and I won’t object. Just injecting what I’ve actually seen, all over the country, which might lend some credence to what I’m saying, which is worth exactly what you’re paying for it: nothing.

                You know that old saying about Kink: first it’s just horrible, then it’s fascinatingly horrible and after a while it’s merely fascinating. That’s how I initially felt about the Tea Parties — Good Lord, here come the Brown Shirts. So I made an effort to find out who they were, what they actually represented.

                The media simply does not understand these people. They aren’t racists. They don’t like the GOP, they distrust the Democrats even more and they’re generally outraged by how the government is behaving these days.

                They’re terrified of losing their place in the world. They resist labeling: Kierkegaard said “to label me is to negate me” and that’s what the press has done to these people. The one constant I’ve seen among them is a painful anomie: though they know they are suffering, they don’t know know why but they’re making guesses. Lots of those guesses are wrong, but many are right. They’re being led around by idiots like Sarah Palin, but I’ve had some Tea Partiers tell me they think she’s just a power-hungry narcissist.

                I’ve urged them to read the Federalist Papers, to see what those Founding Fathers actually had to say. The Federalist Papers have remained fresh and vital, though some of the original considerations are outdated, the conclusions are not.

                I watch Fox News, every so often, just to keep an eye on these jamokes. Fear sells. They’re not out there to impart the full picture, they’re putting asses in armchairs, selling advertising. Of course they’re not going to sell Fair and Balanced, but they’ll tell you that’s what they’re doing. What’s the competition? CNN’s Parker / Spitzer with that bald headed bloviator Eliot Spitzer sucking the oxygen out of the studio? Of course Kathleen Parker’s gonna leave, she can’t shout over him.

                It’s easier to do a pan shot of a bunch of protesters with studio voiceover than to interview the protesters themselves. Facts are boring. If you want actual people, we have reality shows for that.Report

              • Avatar well okay says:

                I’m perfectly willing to believe that the media portrayal of the tea party is distorted.

                I’m much less willing to believe that many of these people are even close to being the type of conservatives that you are talking about.* Certainly the polling data of self described tea party members doesn’t support such a conclusions.

                “They’re terrified of losing their place in the world. ” – is probably true and a good observation. Yet … does that make them conservative in any meaningful sense? Not really. “Keep the government out of my Medicare,” indeed. Yes, just one sign, but it captures the movement quite accurately, at least if the polling data is at all accurate.

                And as for Fox & Palin … look, you don’t need to talk to tea party members personally to confirm that they distrust the Republicans also. But their trust levels for Fox and the Palins of the world are sky high. Now, you can argue, and in fact seem to be arguing, something along the lines that they are being fooled at some level by Fox & the Palins of the world. But to the extent that they are fooled – how are they, really, any different from the train wreck that is modern conservatism, so called? I don’t mean in any moral judgment sense, I mean in the sense that it just isn’t meaningful to pretend that they are “real” conservatives as you define it. You say you have advised them to read Madison. How many of them have, do you think?

                And again the polling data. The majority of the tea party crowd believes some pretty crazy, non-conservative stuff. Again, this isn’t a moral judgment thing – maybe they are people mainly afraid of losing what they have. Say this is morally laudable or neutral. So what? How does it make them conservatives?

                You said conservatism has changed a lot since Reagan. It has. But sadly in the direction of being less conservative (by any historical measure) and more incoherent.

                *Nor am I willing to believe that they have any potential to be anything but a noxiously destructive political movement, on any level. But that’s a separate subject.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          As for that old pinko David Horowitz, don’t get me going on his Road to Damascus conversion. He was an idiot in the 60s and has not improved in the intervening years. His screed on Islam and the Left is the height of idiocy: the troublemakers within Islam would lop off his condescending Jewish head in a heartbeat if he dared to set foot within two meters of them.Report

      • Avatar Ija says:

        “They moved into the workforce, brave little things, little realizing they’d given their hearts away, a sordid boon.”

        SHUT UP you patronizing piece of shit. Seriously. SHUT THE FISH UP.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Erm… uncool.Report

          • Avatar Ija says:

            You know what is uncool? That no one here calls him out on these things.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Be the change you want to see in the world!

              If you’re going to call him out, however, I’d suggest attacking the things that he said than the things that he was obviously feeling when he said them.

              (For the record: BlaiseP is a lot closer to being on the side of “Progress” than the side of the “screw you I’ve got mine” glibertarian reich.)Report

              • Avatar Ija says:

                Yeah well, I’ve known a lot of “Progressives” myself who are worst woman-haters than conservatives. Being “liberal” or “progressive” does not shield people from being an asshole as well.Report

              • Avatar Ija says:

                “If you’re going to call him out, however, I’d suggest attacking the things that he said”

                I WAS attacking the things he said. Did I make any quote up? No, he said all that.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                You most certainly attacked him as a person, too.

                I’m afraid that “SHUT UP you patronizing piece of shit” just can’t be read in any other way. As with the rest.Report

      • Avatar Ija says:

        “All that Free Love bullshit and they ended up sterile from the gonorrhea they gave each other with such frivolity. ”

        Myisogynist asshole alert! Misogynist asshole alert. It’s amazing that no one here calls you out on these things. I guess hating women is acceptable in these gilded space. Good to know. Continue congratulating yourselves, brilliant bloggers of LOG. You guys are sooooo amazing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Myisogynist asshole alert! Misogynist asshole alert. It’s amazing that no one here calls you out on these things. I guess hating women is acceptable in these gilded space. Good to know. Continue congratulating yourselves, brilliant bloggers of LOG. You guys are sooooo amazing.

          Surely what he wrote is nuanced enough to actually engage with rather than pointing, yelling “hatred”, and issuing a sweeping condemnation of everybody on the site.

          There are upsides for things that happened.
          There are downsides for things that happened.

          If someone says “I think that this was a downside”, it’s far more interesting to respond with something like “the upsides were so much greater, the downsides were for me and mine to wrestle with and not for you and yours to protect me from” than yelling “misogyny”.

          You’re more likely to turn folks off than get them to sagely nod.

          (For what it’s worth, I don’t see misogyny in what he wrote as much as paternalism. I’m not a fan of paternalism, myself.)Report

          • Avatar Ija says:

            “You’re more likely to turn folks off than get them to sagely nod.”

            Please, I don’t expect anything better from the people in this blog. Of course they’ll get turned off, it’s people being “uncivil”. That’s so much worse than being wrong or a liar, right?Report

      • Avatar Ija says:

        “I came to college very full of myself and left a humbled man who’d seen the vast horizons of his own ignorance.”

        You came and left college a patronizing douchebag who thinks he knows best.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          Looks like it’s time to quote the ol’ comments policy:

          This site exists for the purpose of advancing debate and understanding of any number of issues. Perhaps no principle is more essential to this purpose than the basic concept of civility. Although we recognize that there can sometimes be a fine line between honest but passionate debate and outright ad hominem attacks, we reserve the right to delete comments that do not appear aimed at advancing the relevant discussion.

          In an effort to ensure that we err on the side of encouraging more debate, the author of a post will not have the right to delete comments to that post; however, the remaining contributors to this site will have the authority to judge comments that simply cross the line into ad hominems that hinder rather than advance the debate.

          Seems like a clear instance to me. So voted, and consider yourself warned. The next time, you’re gone.Report

          • Avatar Ija says:

            Yes, by all means, ban me right now. Don’t even wait. Just erase all my comments so that it will become clear to everyone that NO ONE ELSE, NOT A FISHING ONE PERSON, has a problem with the misogynistic bullshit this guy is spouting. Everybody is just hunky dory with it.
            Classy joint you have here. Wouldn’t want to come back.
            Because uncivility is a greater crime than being a misogynistic asshole.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I’m banning you, and I’m keeping your comments up as a reminder of why.

              While BlaiseP’s comments were sharply critical of feminism, they were not remotely misogynist.

              Personally, I found them frankly wrong and more than a little embarrassing, but yours were overwhelmingly more hurtful to debate. There is wrong, and there is merely abusive, and there is a world of difference between them. Learn it.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              Look, seriously, he wrote that there were downsides to the sexual revolution. He said that investing your emotional energy in your career can be unfulfilling and people didn’t realize that (I think they did). He said that a lot of people who took part in free love in that time got venereal disease. (Probably so, but this seems more an argument for condoms than against free love.)

              I disagree in part with what he wrote. But I don’t agree that saying that women found that work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be or that free loving hippies got venereal disease constitutes misogyny. And certainly not in the self-evident way you seem to think. Is it condescending? Yeah, I can see that. But woman-hatred? You’re going to have to do a much better job of making that case than just writing it in all caps.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Woah…. day-um. The weirdest part of all this: I wasn’t even writing from my own positions, it’s Advocatus Diaboli, Devil’s Advocate.Report

              • That darn Devil…he’ll get you every time if you let’im. Still, I suppose even the Devil gets due process rights, so we should probably let the advocate speak.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Damn Blaise, and I was all set to praise your astute differentiation, defend your position and go on some sort of rant.
                Man, I missed a good one…bummer!
                Jason, I agree with you banning him, he did have a potty mouth. Also, Barry asked us to be ‘civil’, e.g. until those contretemps began in Wisconsin. Now it’s ok for libruls to be uncivil. My goodness if our beloved TPers behaved like the union gun-thugs Wisconsin teachers, they’d be in jail.
                Could you write a blog on the Wisconsin uprising?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Defend away, for I remember what the Conservatives of the 1960s and early 70s were saying. The Conservatives were stupidly opposed to the study of feminism at the time, and I believe it is an important field of study.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Beyond equal pay for equal work (maybe I shoulda put that in quotes?) what is it about ‘feminism’ I should, morally, want to know?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Let’s take an arbitrary topic we can hopefully agree might be worth the writing of a dissertation. If you don’t agree, I’ll understand and we can discuss why it might not be such a good topic.

                A Historical Analysis of the Changing Role of the Recently Emancipated Black Male during Reconstruction.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Thanks, everyone for the hep! Chris, that’s nice to send a link. I’ll get to it ASAP. BP, let’s do a ‘dissertation’ on our choice of Southern literature? Let me know when you can link me to yours and I’ll link you to mine.
                H-man, yea, some of those commie-fem women were, shall we say, unattractive. To be honest, I always thought their unattractiveness weighed heavily on their choice of statist, political ideologies.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Interesting subject to ponder, Blaise. How about, “Is God an Atheist?” And why you’re at it God, “who created you?”

                Also, do you–God– object to manger displays in public buildings during Christmas? And we REALLY miss your Son, God! Don’t you know that? Can you not feel the longing of the entire human race? Can’t you let Him visit us a little more often than say, at least every 2000 years? I want you/God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost to sit down tonight, kick back and have a few beers and listen to Handel’s Messiah. After that, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and for the finale, Bach’s b minor Mass. I dare you not to visit us after hearing that musical Trinity. We love you God, oh how we love You. Please don’t make yourself so scarce, that’s all we’re asking. And please make it a little easier for your Son and our Beloved Jesus. Pontius Pilate never could recover from handing down that sentence, a sentence that truly changed our destiny. You try being nailed to a cross for three hours.
                Thanks, God.Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Good question, Bob. Most of the good ones have croaked. Now Germaine Greer–very, very hot! Not entirely sure but I think she died. Oddly enough, several feminists went into the “adult” film industry, you know, “art” films. Hat-in-the lap films. Certainly an interesting fantasy for one to entertain. Granted, Andrea Dworkin would require a very large imagination, but there’s a guy for every girl on this planet. And I would most definitely not hold my breath for those 72 virgins–they might all look like Dworkin or even worse, Lynne Stewart. Scary thought.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:



        • Avatar Heidegger says:

          Hey now, Mr. Ija, this is very disturbing. I DEMAND that ALL insults be directed at me whether or not they are at all justified. Blaise is Blaise. I have to admit, it would be rather amusing to see him pull a Hannibal Lecter on you. I would hope he would NEVER modify his thoughts and words because of some poor soul who should seriously consider psychosurgery–you’re not well, my friend. We’re here to help you or at least be entertained by you–the woman haters accusation is just downright hilarious, so, by all means, do play on! On a more serious note, I would seriously consider putting together a pool among the Leaguers here to help pay for your much-needed surgery. It’s not that bad–I’ve already be lobotomized twice and life is just, happy, happy, happy! Join the party. And please, do check out the people who really do participate in sexual slavery. I suspect your real, Russian mail-order bride just hasn’t worked out for you, and for that I’m truly sorry. Don’t give up, though–HELP is on the way. (I forget–do you prefer blondes or brunettes?)

          See ya at Hooters!Report

      • Avatar Pooh says:

        As far as I can tell, the alleged dearth of scholarship on Burke, Oakeshott and Hayek has asymptotically zero to do with the actual debate over “conservatives in academia” as actually practiced, so the “no true Scotsman” point is possibly both true and completely irrelevant to this discussion.Report

    • To riff on what Sam said and also what I mentioned in Rufus’ last post on this topic – the problem isn’t a conservative unwillingness to do academic investigation. The problem is that conservatives often reach conclusions that are black & white and don’t get the hearts of other academics racing. That’s why conservatives do much better in History than Anthropology. In the former, if you get proof that a certain historic figure was in Georgia in 1903 working as a blacksmith, that’s sort of it. In anthropology they spend much more time speculating on what cultural forces brought said figure to Georgia and there is room for endless speculation. Conservatives don’t like wild conjecture nearly as much as liberals in my anecdotal experience.Report

      • So, where would you put yourself on this spectrum?Report

        • Dennis, I’m certainly on the conservative end. When I was doing archaeology full time I spent an incredible amount of time complaining about over-speculation, thin analysis, etc. My anecdotal experience was that someone’s politics directly correlated with how far they were willing to stretch their analysis of our findings. I worked a lot of former slave sites in Kentucky and because the written records are poor there is ample room for academics to make conclusions that are tenuious at best.

          On the flip side though, I certainly ran into conservative biases as well. These were usually of the ‘tradition trumps facts’ variety. It was especially problematic at historic sites which were often run by little old ladies from the DAR who liked to characterize slavery in Kentucky as a ‘kinder, gentler slavery’ and told stories about traveler’s rooms and fainting rooms. Their minds were just as hard to change as the liberals I worked with.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    In response to the obvious question, “Wait, exactly what sort of sources would you use from 500 B.C.E.?” the response was, “I use texts”.

    The entire subject presented in 140-character chunks.Report

  9. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “I have a feeling that conservatives think there are so many studies about how gender is constructed, for example, because the profession only legitimizes those studies, or blocks scholarship on more traditional topics. But, of course, it’s pretty hard to actually prevent someone in academia from working on any topic they want. ”

    Well, you can in theory work on whatever topic you want. The conservative potential-academic, though, might look at the typical distribution of studies and see an example of what work is likely to be accepted. If there are dozens of studies about how alternative gender theories and only one about the validity of traditional gender roles, then the potential academic might well conclude that traditional gender roles are not considered worthy of study; and “traditional gender roles” versus “alternative gender theory” is right at the heart of the typical perception of conservative/liberal character.

    There is also the perception that weakly-founded research will be accepted as long as it has sufficient liberal attitude; as you point out, it’s far more common to see trendy or flimsy research in liberal-leaning topics than in conservative-leaning ones.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Well, it’s just much more common to see research in general in liberal-leaning topics. Trust me: I’ve seen some pretty lousy research by academic conservatives as well.Report

  10. “Conversely, I’m little interested in topics like Foucaultian surveillance, the gendered body, how knowledge is culturally constructed, and really cultural history as such.”

    “In the course of my education I took two graduate seminars. One was on postmodern art history, and the other was on the ecology of the Siskiyou Mountains.

    I took the art history seminar because at the time I was making grid-based collages of the Cold War presidents composed of thousands of postage-stamp sized news photographs from their administrations, and one of my art professors suggested I might enjoy the class. Sadly, the only thing I really remember is that the name “Foucault” came up a lot and that I didn’t like the class very much.”Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      The joke is that we live in such an age of surveillance.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Well, I do history of Franco-Ottoman relations, so there’s plenty of surveillance, but nothing like what Foucault is talking about. My real problem with Foucault is that I can’t find a single example of a non-alientated social interaction or discourse in any of his books, so I can’t tell if he even recognizes the possibility. Everything ends up becoming power, which sort of removes the potential for any constructive resistance to power. I said this to a professor once at our university who actually knew Foucault and he just said, “Oh, that’s what everyone says about Foucault!” But, you know, it’s still a question.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Ooh, he said “Ottomans”. Always had a soft spot for the Ottomans. And Francis the First of France.

          I read a great deal of Foucault. It’s hard to read him without understanding him as soixante-huitard, one of the red-faced ranters of the late 60s. There was something about him that reminded me a bit of Captain Ahab:

          “Hark ye yet again,–the little lower layer. All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event–in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ‘tis enough.”

          I don’t think Foucault really understood Kant as well as he thought he did. Foucault, we must remember, was deeply influenced by Madness and Reason. He has as much to say about medicine and psychology as he does about anything else: he was a qualified psychologist. Long before he became the darling of the Left (a torrid and troubled affair at best) he was poking around in the dark, slimy regions of the troubled mind. And I think that’s the only way to read him in context, a sort of Captain Ahab, chasing the White Whale of Meaning.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Hmm… I wonder if you’ve read any Foucault in a while, if you think his view of madness has the sorts of implications that you are… implying it does, much less that it’s contrasted with Reason. What’s more, seeing Foucault as soicante-huitard is kinda funny, and not only because he wasn’t even in Paris in May, 1968. He did, after 1968, become an activist of sorts, particularly in the area of prison reform, and he certainly surrounded himself with radical Marxist intellectuals (and got heat for it, a lot of it, with real consequences), but he then spent the rest of his life (after he got his chair at the College de France) being as tame as he was before his prisoners’ rights activism of the early ‘70s. He was, in many ways, quite un-red faced. That’s probably because, as anyone who’s engaged his more overtly political works (e.g., those on power) knows, those works make political action highly problematic. Of course, his early, Kantian stuff was distinctly non-red faced. Maybe you’re mistaking some of the more fervent Foucauldians on the left, particularly in the 80s and early 90s, with Foucault himself?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              The soixante-huitards weren’t merely a bunch of kids in Paris, they were marching all over the Francophone world, including Tunis. Then there was all that Paris Huit hoop-de-doo in Vincennes, where Foucault was the chief playground attendant, le soixante-huitard-en-chef.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yeah, he led a bunch of post-structuralist radical Marxists, at an institute created as a result of 1968. He wasn’t, however, very red-faced. It’s almost strange to hear someone suggest so.

                He did look like Uncle Fester, though.

                Have you watched his “debate” with Chomsky?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                C’mon. Foucault is out there throwing rocks at les flics with the worst of ’em. He was everything I said he was and worse.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I haven’t even thought of that in years. I found it online, let me go through it again.Report

  11. Avatar jncc says:

    “another mechanism by which conservatives might be alienated from academia is the sort of scholarship that the profession is producing.”

    Why would you suggest that it is only “conservatives” who believe that much of the “scholarship” that academia produces is worthless crap?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I didn’t suggest that. Read the sentence again. There are plenty of people who contend that much of the scholarship academia produces is worthless crap. On occasion, you even find one of them who’s actually read an academic book or two before assuming sweeping knowledge of the entire profession.Report

  12. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Okay, so let me make sure I’ve got this straight: conservatives, as a group, are underrepresented in academia. So, if we ask why that is, the liberals will generally want to believe it’s because conservatives are beneath the intellectual level of academia, and conservatives want to believe that academia is beneath the intellectual level of conservatives. Is that about it?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I tend to agree. It’s tribalism.

      I don’t believe for a moment that conservatives are inherently stupid, or that conservatism is a disposition that only the stupid could share.

      I just think other institutions capture conservative people of high cognitive ability a lot better. The military, the clergy, and entrepreneurship all have plenty of openings for intellectual conservatives, and I think all three skew conservative demographically. Somewhere, too, a tipping point was reached, in which these tendencies became self-reinforcing. The military has become more conservative as academia has become less, no?

      Not to say, however, that the cycle can’t be reversed, but it would take factors I can’t readily identify.Report

      • I could see an agrarian, localist conservatism producing more scholars than soldiers.Report

      • Avatar stillwater says:

        I tend to agree. It’s tribalism.

        I cannot, will not, refuse to, believe you believe this. What you’re saying here is that belief in the scientific method is merely a tribal identity marker. And that the idea that a belief be justified by empirical evidence and sound argument is merely a tribal identity marker.

        Look, you can reject those things if you want to (I don’t think you do), but one thing is clear: accepting them excludes much of conservative thought from the arena of rational inquiry. Conservatism is defined by an adherence to first principles, evidence be damned. So if you want to invert the definition of academic investigation to include compiling evidence to prove what I already believe, you’re more than free (of course) to advocate for it. But be clear what you’re arguing for: not the inclusion of conservatives into academia, but a redefinition of academia that includes conservatives.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          What you’re saying here is that belief in the scientific method is merely a tribal identity marker. And that the idea that a belief be justified by empirical evidence and sound argument is merely a tribal identity marker.

          That’s not what I’m saying. Belief in the scientific method — or even willingness to employ it — is a very different thing from making one’s career in the academy. I was talking about the latter, and I reject equating it with the former. Counterexamples abound.

          Particularly in the academic humanities, there is often almost no scientific method in evidence. Conversely, many entrepreneurs (spit on those hated conservatives!) rely on science and technology very directly.

          My comment had nothing to do with anti-scientific bias on the right. I agree that this bias exists, but I don’t see it as a significant explanation for the conservative flight from universities.Report

          • Avatar Ben JB says:

            Have we really seen a conservative flight from the universities? I mean, a lot of the critiques of academia that get air-time (out of academia) are from the conservatives about liberal indoctrination, etc. But is there really a demographic political shift? (And just to limit the discussion, I assume we’re talking only about the teachers and not the administration and labor.)

            To address your point, Jason (it’s not about science), I think we’d have to go back to BlaiseP’s comment on the multiplicity of conservatisms–your economic conservative may very well be a pro-science entrepreneur developing the next Facebook; but your cultural conservative may see such innovation as a threat against our grand traditions, etc.

            Now, with both those points in mind (a: has there been a flight? b: there are multiple conservatisms), we might have to ask not about the conservative flight from academia but the conservative flights from academia. And there I think there is some overlap with the anti-science bias in the contemporary American conservative movement: your cultural conservative doesn’t like innovation/change and so isn’t so into the academy’s research project. Meanwhile, your economic conservative may be going full-speed ahead with scientific research–but may be thinking more about money-making and applicable technologies.

            (Now, that said, we have to admit that the last few decades have seen a rush of private venture capital into certain research projects in the academy. So maybe we should be talking about the economic conservative flight (or money-bomb) TO academia.)Report

          • Avatar stillwater says:

            Particularly in the academic humanities, there is often almost no scientific method in evidence.

            There’s still rational inquiry, the presentation of theses justified by argument and evidence, a value placed on discovering theories with explanatory power consistent with the breadth of available evidence, an understanding and respect for a method in which one’s own theory must be internally consistent and not self-refuting.

            Look, I’m no fan of post-modernism and lots of the new-agey academic disciplines that PM gave rise to. But I think tribalism fails to account for the lack of a conservative presence in the academy even in those cases, or the soft sciences for that matter.

            I agree that this bias exists, but I don’t see it as a significant explanation for the conservative flight from universities.

            But why not? Surely no one is saying that conservatives are too dumb for post-graduate work. But people are saying that the subject matter of academic investigation, in addition to the methodological restrictions that apply within the academy, is something conservatives are allergic to. Conservatives in general aren’t looking for the most powerful explanatory theory to explain the way the world works, they’re looking for confirmation of a preferred explanatory theory.

            Or do you disagree with that assessment?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              I disagree when you write:

              Surely no one is saying that conservatives are too dumb for post-graduate work.

              Look, I’m no conservative. I’m gay. I’m an atheist. I’m pro-choice and anti–death penalty. Evolution is correct; creationism is not only wrong, it’s incoherent. I’m basically a rational hedonist when it comes to sex and drugs. I enjoy “decadent” art, with or without the scare quotes, if you please.

              But still. I hear all the time that conservatives are too stupid for the academy. Saying that they are “allergic” to the scientific method hardly seems an improvement to me. It’s still pretty condescending, isn’t it?

              Are conservatives wrong? Yes, about a lot of things. Are they biased? Again, yes. Is there stupid and/or evil on the conservative side? Yes!

              Ideologically, though, conservatives ought to love the scientific method, and many of them actually do. It’s just these are (1) usually not in the academy, (2) often very blinkered when it comes to certain conclusions resulting from the scientific method.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Federalist Society is assuredly part of the academy. Their brief is for freedom and the notion that the judiciary should interpret the law as it is, not as it should be. Nothing particularly unscientific about those conclusions.

                I’d argue, from the Liberal side, that Freedom is an illusion and the excuse for every evil imaginable. I’d argue law ought to provide equal justice, not merely hidebound rulings. If we are to talk of an Activist Court and rail against its excesses, let Anthony Posner, Edwin Meese and that bearded false prophet Robert Bork be entered into evidence as Activist Judges and Attorneys General.Report

              • Avatar stillwater says:

                It’s still pretty condescending, isn’t it?

                It may sound condescending, but I hardly think that’s a reason to reject it. I’m more concerned about whether the view is accurate or not. And whether it accounts for the lack of conservatives in academia better than tribalism. This presupposes, as BenJB said, that such a lack of representation actually exists (an empirical matter) and if conservatism isn’t still represented by different dimensions in any event. It’s a complex issue, but surely you must admit that ‘conservative flight’ from academia could be the result of features internal to conservatism, especially contemporary conservatism, itself. Right?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            The Conservative has his own mythologies and he is not immune to the charms of the Liberal Arts. He just reaches different conclusions, often frighteningly different.

            Consider what might happen to an unwary reader of Plato’s Republic. He’d have some rum ideas about political power, rather fascist in my opinion. I remember going through Ayn Rand at one point as a teenager, thinking, gosh this is heady stuff, thinkers and doers running a whole society. Then I thought a minute and said to myself, this can’t be a workable solution, if it were so obvious, some would have already done it.

            Mercifully, I’d just read de la Rouchefoucald who said La philosophie triomphe aisément des maux passés et des maux à venir. Mais les maux présents triomphent d’elle. == Philosophy easily triumphs over the evils of the past and the evils of the future. But the evils of the present triumph over it.

            Politics is always the evils of the present in conflict with philosophy. Politics cannot be reduced to science, but it can be reduced to the philosophies of those involved. Anyone can be a political naif, even a Conservative who loudly proclaims he espouses the wisdom of the ages, sight unseen. This doesn’t discount the wisdom of the ages, that wisdom merely triumphed over the evils of the past.Report

          • Avatar stillwater says:

            many entrepreneurs (spit on those hated conservatives!)

            What makes you think entreprenuers are conservatives? I know many, and (around here) they overwhelmingly tend to be straight ahead liberals who believe in a progressive taxation, social programs, public education, clean water, science, gay marriage, etc., etc.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Well, as a solo consultant, I am hit very hard with onerous taxation and over-regulation. It’s extremely hard to be an entrepreneur in this country. I pay substantial retainers for legal and financial advice, just to stay on the right side of the law, which will crush me with penalties, given half a chance.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                As a paleo-conservative, I’m sympathetic. I know what it’s like to have to select Jim Beam rather than Buffalo Trace at the State Store. Damn commie-dems!Report

            • Avatar Heidegger says:

              stiller writes:

              “etc., etc.”–why did that make me laugh so hard? Because it’s very, very funny and thanks for the laughs, Stillwater! etc. etc. etc……

              And by the way all you libertarians, what are your thoughts on Big Brother making it illegal to have toys with incandescent light bulbs? Yes, this is true. I just saw thousands of perfectly good kids’ toys being destroyed because they were not able to accommodate those damn ugly fluorescent bulbs…and for the Damn Children, no less. (sorry, any kids out there–you’re not to blame for adults idiocy)

              And once they go bad, forget about trying to get rid of them–you would have an easier time storing plutonium in your back yard than disposing of these toxic bombs. Can we have at least a little bit of civil disobedience regarding this latest invasion of basic rights? Like every single house in the United States being illuminated with incandescent light bulbs for a day or so. Will there be some kind of “light-bulb” police?

              “in our own day, gross usurpations upon the liberty of private life” (John Stuart Mill).Report

            • Avatar stillwater says:

              Heidegger, how about this usurpation of rights by big brother, the fallout of malicious prank calls embarrassing our elected officials:

              Although representatives deny any connection to the recent prank call on the governor, two legislators began circulating a bill Monday that would ban making trick calls masking the caller’s true identity.

              Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, and Rep. Mark Honadel, R-Milwaukee, authored a bill that would prohibit tricking the call’s recipient into believing the caller is someone they are not for malicious purposes.

              First they came for our prank callers …Report

              • Avatar Heidegger says:

                Just astonishing, Stillwater. Does this mean, terrorist pranksters could end in Gitmo? Good thing Kesey, Cassady, and his Merry Pranksters with Cassady at the helm, aren’t driving the highways–they’re driving the highways to heaven I think.

                HA! First They came… – Pastor Martin Niemoller
                First they came for the communists,
                and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

                Then they came for the trade unionists,
                and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

                Then they came for the Jews,
                and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

                Then they came for me
                and there was no one left to speak out for meReport

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            My comment had nothing to do with anti-scientific bias on the right. I agree that this bias exists…

            Is it worth discussing that the bias is relatively narrow? That is, some social conservatives are opposed to the concept of evolution because it conflicts with their religious axioms, but the same people are not bothered by the study of protein chemistry in living systems that leads to new antibiotics. Many on the Right think the whole concept of anthropogenic climate change is silly, but are not bothered by studies of thunderstorm formation and function that allow tornado warnings to be made more accurately. And, of course, some would question whether anthropology was really a science at all.

            At least one characterization that has been made is that conservatives generally have no problems with science that can be turned into engineering.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              “Is it worth discussing that the bias is relatively narrow?”
              Absolutely. Another interesting thing is that conservative acceptance of the theory global warming tends to go up if we use the term ‘climate change’ instead.

              Besides, I’m more interested in the humanities and why there would be a gap there. It’s not that they don’t use similar methodologies there- I don’t know if it’s exactly rigorous testing of a hypothesis in every case, but that’s pretty much what I was taught to do in historiography. But I’m unconvinced that this would pose any special problems for conservatives, even if we are talking religious conservatives.Report

  13. “I just think other institutions capture conservative people of high cognitive ability a lot better.

    You have manage to say without saying what I had hoped to imply: that there is a degree of self-regard in academia that would be laughable were it not so eagerly embraced by the culture at large.

    The *only* reason I had been considering going back to school and getting a PhD was because of how it would look on a TV kyron; and in the end I decided that was a stupid reason.Report

  14. Avatar Barry says:

    Rufus: “….how knowledge is culturally constructed, and really cultural history as such.”

    The joke is that this topic is relevant – in the USA, we live in a country where:

    Creationism flourishes, even as the biological and historical data rolls in by the terabyte.

    Birtherism – a bunch of clear liars and frauds get actual mainstream media time for pure BS. And if any of them were also babbling about the Clinton Death List’, that doesn’t disqualify them at all.

    Punditry in general – if you gave me a dollar for everybody who supported the Iraq War and suffered for being wrong/lying, while I bet the opposite way, I’d be broke and you’d be rich. It’s seldom that we’ve seen such an obvious and clear-cut example of the dominant forces in our society push a clear pack of lies and get away with it.

    Global warming denialism – every year more data rolls in, from multiple fields of study. Meanwile, the major denialists are clearly in the pay of rich parties with a clear interest in pushing lies. But you wouldn’t know this from your TV or newspapers or magazines.

    Supply-side economics. Thirty years ago, an experiment was conducted in the USA, and the results are clear. But the dominant voices are the ones who lied before, no matter how long they’re wrong. Even after a formerly unthinkable crash, they’re still there, sticking us with the bill, and claiming that their theories are still there (and the people who have been scr*wed will spend 100x as much energy and time complaining about the auto industry, while striving to ignore Wall St). A related trend – we *still* see people on the internet talking as if the CrashLords were the wealth generators in our society, and the rest of us were ‘takers’, who should be glad to get a farthing rather than a boot in the face.

    I could go on, and on, and on. All beautiful topics.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      How did the Queen of Hearts put it: “Sentence first, verdict after!”

      Anyone, Liberal or Conservative, who goes after knowledge to support his conclusions will always end up Down the Rabbit Hole. The Creationists, Birthers and suchlike always come to a bad end: there’s only so long you can go on denying the obvious.

      But from the Liberal side, there’s been an awful lot of condescending to the poor and minorities they’re supposedly defending. Throwing ducats out the carriage window will not get the poor what they most desperately want and need, education for their children, a meaningful job and the dignity that comes with it. I am a Liberal, but I’ve seen what happens when this country tries to legislate away poverty. We can legislate away some forms of injustice: let us not in our zeal to do good summon the Demon of Unintended Consequences.

      In this, our Conservative brethren have much to teach us. If we do not like their short-sighted, counterproductive and mean-spirited solutions, they despise our own counterproductive solutions, do-gooderism and summary rejection of all they say.Report

      • Avatar Heidegger says:

        Or, another variation from Judge Roy Bean.

        “Sure, we’ll give a fair trial. And then hang him in the morning.”Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        BlaiseP March 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

        “How did the Queen of Hearts put it: “Sentence first, verdict after!””

        Sequitor, please.

        Rufus, here’s nother example, along with Heidegger.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Sentence first, verdict after -> Conclusion first, evidence later. And I think that’s sequitur.

          Look, I’m one of those odd creatures who believes honest scholarship will lead us to conclusions we may not have supposed when first we began. I believe in Data First. This philosophy has saved my software-designing ass, time after time.

          I am a Liberal because I hold to the philosophy of a More Perfect Union. But I should hope I can exhibit the good grace and humility to admit not all Liberal Solutions have worked out in practice. Those solutions didn’t work because they were based on flawed assertions: the data simply wasn’t there.

          Case in point: public housing in the 1960s. Had the Liberals of the era built those gargantuan projects and simply deeded them over to the people they were supposedly “helping”, those projects would still be there, well-maintained and now inhabited by a very different class of people. Subsidizing the poor and fatherless is not a good idea: trap people in poverty and you just get more of it.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think cultural history is very popular for exactly this reason- it describes the sorts of things that people can recognize in contemporary society. My problem with it is that cultural histories tend to make the same argument. Let’s say it’s a cultural history of ____; the argument will be something like “____ does not have an objective meaning. Instead, ______ is a contested and fluid space of cultural negotiation and political power struggles, which have, in some sense, created _____.” It’s not that this isn’t an interesting approach- it’s just that after reading 20 or so of these books, it wears a bit thin.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      “X is culturally constructed” is not the same thing as “X is wrong”.Report

  15. Avatar Barry says:

    Oh – Premillenial Dispensationalism. We have a minority heresy of recent origin which is dominant in religious culture in our society. But for decades (or over a century), they’ve been preaching that We are in the End Times, and (insert political enemy of the moment) is the Antichrist.

    But no matter, these frauds and liars keep on going………….

    Willing to take those guys on, Rufus, for the sake of real, traditional Christianity?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I’m not a Christian, but I’m certainly not afraid to point out the origins of different religious traditions, and point out when they’ve recently been created from whole cloth so, I guess so. If it comes up. But, no, I tend not to have a God in this fight.Report

  16. Avatar Steve S. says:


    Since nobody knows what this word means let’s use a reasonable proxy. Google “Department of Theology”, then “Department of Religious Studies”. Conservatives aren’t seriously complaining about this, are they?


    As I think I mentioned in a previous comment, one of the more interesting courses I ever took was in kinship systems from a department of Anthropology. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that any Anthro department worth its salt will have courses in this. That’s not to mention crossover into other disciplines. Or does “family” mean something else?

    “national greatness”

    I don’t know what this means. Maybe my liberal education failed me.

    “cultural/moral decline”

    See above.

    “the ill-effects of social programs”

    Shouldn’t the actual chain of events be, “I’m going to study social programs and if I discover ill-effects I will publish on them”? I think you could probably find lots of academic papers of this sort, couldn’t you?


    Google “Department of Criminology”.

    Other than the ones that I admit to not understanding, is it really true that conservatives are complaining that they can’t study these things in college? Should I take these complaints seriously?Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Maybe someone else can answer that question better than I can. I have heard, frequently, that the subjects that conservatives would like to study are seen as illegitimate in the academy. I was trying to make that argument as strong as I could, but maybe my examples sucked. Usually though I get sold something like, “You can’t even study Shakespeare in universities anymore!” that can be easily disproved with the local university’s course catalog.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

        I think the question is probably more one of HOW we’re studying Shakespeare. A professor of mine once went on a tangent in the middle of our reading Sophokles’ TRACHINIAE about how too many of his colleagues tried to be “innovative” in their writing and teaching about Shakespeare, or to make him “relevant,” when, from his perspective the most (and sometimes only) valuable way to understand Shakespeare is as a critique/exploration, from a generally skeptical-conservative position, of Elizabethan society/human nature.

        This was the same professor with Allan Bloom on his office bookshelf who also spent several minutes complaining to me about Mitch McConnell once he found out I was from Kentucky, so it’s not entirely clear to me whether he’s a political conservative, or just a conservative by dent of caring about literary tradition. (The complaint conversation happened at his home, so I don’t think it serves as any kind of politics-in-the-academy example.)Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

          Ugh. I got distracted. You could also argue that there’s a need for a “conservative” reaction against crazy pomo textual “readings”/literary theories, in the same way that the New Criticism was a “conservative” reaction against early Freudian/psychoanalytic readings.

          And the several-decade dominance of New Criticism before the advent of varied post-modern theories would, I think, indicate that this type of thing comes in cycles. After all, NC needed something to replace it once it had gone as far as it could.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

      1) I think you’re just off of what Rufus is discussing. It’s not “conservatives can’t study these things in college” but “there is not room within academic research for these areas of inquiry, from a conservative perspective.”

      2) I’d say, in response to your question, that yes, you should take these complaints seriously — the potential flaws in Rufus’ shorthand for those areas of research notwithstanding.

      3) I would, however, assert that the “conservative complaint” is itself off the mark: It’s likely less that there is no room for such research, than that the number of academics interested in pursuing it is shockingly small, especially when one considers A) the state of much so-called “liberal” (someone recently used “tenure-mill”; this may be more accurate) research and B) that many of these research areas/angles of approach are not themselves inherently without academic merit. Especially when compared to 3.A.

      4) The questions we ought to be discussing then, are, “Why the disparity?” “Are we capable of doing anything to correct?” “What?” And, finally: “Should we actually take action to correct it?”

      But this, I think, is sort of where Rufus is pushing the discussion.Report

      • Avatar well okay says:

        “national greatness”

        In this case (at least) I’m having a hard time understanding just how this is a legitimate subject for scholarly inquiry, conservative or liberal, except perhaps in a way which wouldn’t necessarily be appreciated by most conservatives.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          I think the question of what constitutes greatness and how have different cultures answered that question is interesting at least. I assume it’s still possible to ask the question in an academic way.Report

          • Avatar Steve S. says:

            It’s a trivial truth in anthropology that all cultures conceive of themselves as being the “correct” way to live. So does “greatness” mean that or something else? Does it mean biggest? That’s been pretty straightforwardly measured by historians without reference to ideology.

            Some of these things that you say conservatives are complaining about are coming across more as, “I’ve already decided that my God is the true God, I’ve already decided that my country is the best ever, now I want reify that academically but the lefties won’t let me.” Not to say lefties never do it, but that’s not how it’s supposed to work for either side. So again, I’m having trouble understanding what exactly is being complained about.Report

      • Avatar Steve S. says:

        1. I don’t see the distinction other than one is shorthand for the other.

        4. “Why the disparity?” – I suggested in one of the previous threads that conservative self-selection out of academia, or portions of academia, is a factor. How much I have no idea. Are the people doing gender studies disproportionately female?

        “Are we capable of doing anything to correct?” – Maybe get conservatives interested in gender studies?

        “Should we actually take action to correct it?” – I’m not sure it isn’t all a tempest in a teapot, but one of the premises of these posts, if I’m reading them correctly, is that it’s a problem needing correction.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Well the premise was just to consider the problem. What happens whenever a study comes out showing that conservatives are underrepresented in certain parts of academia is that, almost immediately, liberals (usually outside of academia) argue that conservatives are just not smart enough to do academic work, so there’s no problem; conservatives, meanwhile, either argue that there’s widespread institutional discrimination against them in academia or that contemporary academia is beneath the intellectual level of the average conservative. Frankly, I don’t find any of these arguments particularly compelling. However, my sense of it, having worked on the graduate school search committee, is that conservatives are not even coming in at that level in any great numbers (we do have a few grad students working on the history of conservatism, who are themselves essentially conservatives, but really they were the only applicants in the last five years who wanted to study identifiably conservative topics and, since there were so few, we aggressively courted them), and I’m interested in knowing why that is.Report

          • Avatar Steve S. says:

            “liberals (usually outside of academia) argue that conservatives are just not smart enough to do academic work, so there’s no problem;”

            That would be correct. If individuals outside academia are saying this there is no problem, or only a very tangential one. I think we should focus our attention on whether individuals inside academia are saying this.

            “conservatives, meanwhile, either argue that there’s widespread institutional discrimination against them in academia or that contemporary academia is beneath the intellectual level of the average conservative.”

            Taking the second first, if this is the case then again there is no problem. So let’s focus on whether there is “widespread institutional discrimination” against conservatives. Step one would be to determine how this manifests itself. Now, you’ve said you’re at a bit of a disadvantage because you’re trying to speak for conservatives rather than as one, but the examples you’ve given are not striking me as evidence of discrimination. To me they come across more as either faux complaints or attempts to reify prejudice. Now, do lefties go to college and get away with that sort of thing? Perhaps to some degree, but the remedy for that is not to balance it with reification of someone else’s prejudice.

            We can fairly readily identify overt discrimination against ethnic minorities or women. Can we identify “widespread institutional discrimination” of this sort against conservatives in academia? If we can, and if a remedy is necessary then there are remedies, based on our collective history with ethnic minorities and women’s rights, that suggest themselves. There are more insidious forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities and women; for instance, the treatment of a resume with a “black sounding name” but otherwise equivalent to a resume with a “white sounding name”. The remedy for that sort of thing is far from obvious.

            “we do have a few grad students working on the history of conservatism, who are themselves essentially conservatives, but really they were the only applicants in the last five years who wanted to study identifiably conservative topics and, since there were so few, we aggressively courted them”

            Did you tell them they were the beneficiaries of affirmative action, and were they grateful?Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              “That would be correct. If individuals outside academia are saying this there is no problem, or only a very tangential one. I think we should focus our attention on whether individuals inside academia are saying this.”

              I meant ‘so there’s no problem’ in that people making that argument say that underrepresentation is no problem, not that it’s no problem that liberals outside of academia say those things, although of course that’s not what I think of as a problem either.

              I have talked to all sorts of academics about this topic and I’ve never heard anything like that from them. Instead, they tend to explain the underrepresentation as being that conservatives are probably not interested in the profession.

              “So let’s focus on whether there is “widespread institutional discrimination” against conservatives.” You go into detail about how easy it would be to remedy such discrimination using legal or institutional means, but it’s sort of pointless because, again I said I don’t find the idea of ‘widespread institutional discrimination’ compelling as an explanation. The ease of remedying that is one more reason I don’t find that argument convicing.

              Again, where I’m coming at this from is seeing how few conservatives actually enter the profession at the graduate level because I have seen proof of that and very little to no proof that they’re being weeded out by institutional discrimination.

              “Did you tell them they were the beneficiaries of affirmative action, and were they grateful?”

              That’s remarkably unfair. When we have 500 applicants wanting to study the history of the labor movement, gender norms, or state drug policies, and 1 applicant who wants to study Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, he’s going to have an advantage because his topic is unique and different and no one else is doing it. No, we still don’t ask what their party affiliation is on the application. But, if conservatives are correct that “their” topics are little studied in academia, this gives an advantage to conservatives wanting to study those things because they’re doing something new and different. Which is all I was trying to say.Report

  17. Avatar Steve S. says:

    Forgot that I wanted to comment on the notion that gender studies are “liberal”. That strikes me as very odd, since sex and gender are the primary identification markers in our culture. Seems to me that would be a natural field of study regardless of political affiliation. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that females go into gender studies far more often than males. So perhaps “of disproportionate interest to females” translates into “liberal” in some people’s minds. Just speculating.Report

  18. Avatar Steve S. says:

    “academics … tend to explain the underrepresentation as being that conservatives are probably not interested in the profession.”

    Which says that they are viewing the situation much as I do, and suggests that *overt* discrimination is not a systemic problem.

    “You go into detail about how easy it would be to remedy such discrimination using legal or institutional means”

    Not exactly, I say that *overt* discrimination, if it exists, has historical precedents that we can reference. How “easy” it would be to remedy, I don’t know. *Insidious* discrimination, if it exists, is difficult to identify much less remedy. But carrying on…

    “I have seen … very little to no proof that they’re being weeded out by institutional discrimination.”

    Okay, so we’re not sure the problem even exists. Carrying on…

    “That’s remarkably unfair. When we have 500 applicants wanting to study the history of the labor movement, gender norms, or state drug policies, and 1 applicant who wants to study Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, he’s going to have an advantage because his topic is unique and different and no one else is doing it.”

    You said that you “aggressively courted” people doing “identifiably conservative” topics. What else is that except affirmative action for conservatives? I take your word that you really meant, “something new and different,” but I don’t think I was being at all unfair to interpret your original words as “affirmative action” for conservatives.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Okay, I see how that read. All I’m saying is that conservatives claim that the topics they want to study are underrepresented in academic, which they probably are since there are less conservatives. But, the result of that isn’t that we see someone who wants to study one of those topics and think, “Oh, well screw that guy!” Instead, it’s more like when we see someone who wants to study South East Asia or Africa, or any other topic that we don’t see as often- it’s a good thing because that person fleshes out the department. We see it as a sort of diversity of scholarship. But, no, it’s not that we think “oh we need a conservative and this one will do”. It’s usually got to do with just being interested in their topic because it’s something different. And, finally, it’s not the visceral response people seem to think happens.Report