• October 24, 2014

Taking the Right Seriously

Conservatism is a tradition, not a pathology

Conservatism on the Campus 8

U. of Chicago

Left to right: Allan Bloom; Ayn Rand; Edmund Burke; Irving Kristol; Whittaker Chambers; William F. Buckley Jr.

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close Conservatism on the Campus 8

U. of Chicago

Left to right: Allan Bloom; Ayn Rand; Edmund Burke; Irving Kristol; Whittaker Chambers; William F. Buckley Jr.

This month the University of California at Berkeley opened a Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements. The center is housed in the Institute for the Study of Social Change, which the university advertises online as an institution placing "issues of race, gender, and class at the center of the agenda," conducting "research with a conscience," and capitalizing on "Berkeley's history as the birthplace of transformative social movements." Needless to say, the center is not promoting conservatism. This is, as the university reminds us, Berkeley.

It's not even clear that the faculty members involved have figured out what terms like "right wing" and "conservative" might mean. The Web-site blurb introducing the center describes anti-Communism as the "transcendent" issue for the right for most of the 20th century, and says that since the end of the cold war, right-wing groups have "spun on to the political stage with centripetal energy," whatever that means. This statement does not inspire confidence. In fact, the right-wing political parties in Europe have much older pedigrees, going back to the 19th-century counterrevolution. So do American and British conservatism, which came onto the political scene at least a century before 1989. In his recent book, The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History (Yale University Press), Patrick Allitt, a professor of history at Emory University, explores the full range of conservative concerns: states' rights, religion, the corruptions of urban life, immigration, the League of Nations, mass democracy, creationism, the New Deal, free markets, race, and so on.

It is a convenient left-wing dodge to reduce 20th-century American conservatism to cold-war politics, since it implies that conservative ideas are embedded in a world that no longer exists and never should have. In fact, in the 1930s American conservatives were far more obsessed with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his domestic legacy than with Joseph Stalin, and looked askance at all foreign entanglements, including the Second World War. The anti-Communist cause was first conceived by cold-war liberals, not by conservatives.

And what of the Berkeley center's mission to encourage and nurture "comparative scholarship on right-wing movements both in the U.S. and abroad during the 20th and 21st centuries"? That could be a good thing. For instance, it would be useful to know something about the affinities between European right-wingers like Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front in France, and David Duke, the American white supremacist and anti-Semite now living, as it happens, in Austria. But mainstream American conservatism, which pretty much is all there is to the American right, shares nothing meaningful with those protofascist figures. Our conservatives accept the legitimacy of constitutional self-government, even when they hate the legislation and court decisions resulting from it; they play by the rules. The same cannot be said of the European right, which has always been suspicious of parliamentary politics. One wonders whether "comparative study" in the Berkeley context presumes a continuous slippery slope running from conservatism down to violent far-right movements. It's a little like the Hoover Institution announcing a study "comparing" the Red Brigades with, say, Adlai Stevenson.

But beggars can't be choosers. The unfortunate fact is that American academics have until recently shown little curiosity about conservative ideas, even though those ideas have utterly transformed American (and British) politics over the past 30 years. A look at the online catalogs of our major universities confirms this: plenty of courses on identity politics and postcolonialism, nary a one on conservative political thought. Professors are expected to understand the subtle differences among gay, lesbian, and transgender studies, but I would wager that few can distinguish between the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, three think tanks that have a greater impact on Washington politics than the entire Ivy League.

Why is that? The former left-wing firebrand David Horowitz, whom the professors do know, has a simple answer: There is a concerted effort to keep conservative Ph.D.'s out of jobs, to deny tenure to those who get through, and to ignore conservative books and ideas. It is an old answer, dating back to the 1970s, when neoconservatives began writing about the "adversary culture" of intellectuals. Horo witz is an annoying man, and what's most annoying about him is that … he has a point. Though we are no longer in the politically correct sauna of the 1980s and 1990s, and experiences vary from college to college, the picture he paints of the faculty and curriculum in American universities remains embarrassingly accurate, and it is foolish to deny what we all see before us.

Over the past decade, our universities have made serious efforts to increase racial and ethnic diversity on the campus (economic diversity worries them less, for some reason). Well-paid deans work exclusively on the problem. But universities show not the slightest interest in intellectual diversity among faculty members. That wouldn't matter if teachers could be counted on to introduce students to their adversaries' books and views, but we know how rarely that happens. That's why political diversity on the faculty does matter. As it stands, there is a far greater proportion of conservatives in the student body of typical colleges than on the faculty. A few leading thinkers on the right do teach at our top universities—but at some, like Columbia University, where I teach, not a single prominent conservative is to be found.

Contra Horowitz, the blackballing of conservatives and conservative ideas is by now instinctive and habitual rather than self-conscious, reflecting intellectual provincialism more than ideological fervor. I recall being at a dinner in Paris in the late 1980s with a distinguished American historian of France who had gathered her graduate students for the evening. The conversation turned to book printing in the early modern era, which she was studying, and the practice of esoteric writing, which was more widespread than she had imagined. I mentioned that there was a classic book on this subject by Leo Strauss. She searched her mind for a moment—this was before the Iraq war made Strauss a household name—and then said, "But isn't he a conservative?" In a certain way he was, I said. Silence at the table. She smiled that smile meant to end discussion, and the conversation turned to more-pleasant topics.

I have experienced similar reactions throughout my academic career. In the early 1980s, I helped edit the neoconservative public-policy journal The Public Interest, and though I haven't considered myself a conservative for at least two decades, many academics I meet are astonished to learn this little fact. Some are rendered speechless. Others ask, "Are you still a neoconservative?," by which they mean, "Are you still beating your country?"

All this understandably drives conservatives crazy. But what can be done about it? David Horowitz inclines toward witch-hunting, which he practiced with malicious skill in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery, 2006). Horowitz makes hay (and money) by affirming conservatives' longstanding conviction that the university is a hostile place best avoided. He apparently doesn't see how his campaign hurts the larger conservative cause, since it gives students one more reason not to pursue graduate studies and actually become professors. My brightest conservative students, brought up on hair-raising tales of political correctness, dismiss academic careers out of hand because they are certain of not being hired or getting tenure. And I can't say I blame them. Even as an ex-conservative, I was lucky to have passed through the eyes of those two needles.

The late Paul Lyons, a professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey until his death, in January, recognized the problem but proposed something far more radical than anything David Horo witz has considered. And that was to persuade his liberal colleagues to teach courses on conservative political thought. Lyons was an American historian who wrote about the 60s and made no secret of his liberal politics or his loathing of Reagan and post-Reagan conservatism. But he was also disturbed by how few colleges offer courses on conservatism, treating it as a "pathology" rather than a serious political tradition, and by reports from his conservative students that "most of their liberal professors blow their comments off." So he not only posted a course on American conservative thought in 2006 but also kept a diary about his teaching experience. That diary has now been published, along with some of his own essays, in American Conservatism: Thinking It, Teaching It (Vanderbilt University Press).

The diary is fascinating and reassuring, at least about our students. Lyons's class was split almost evenly between liberal and conservative students, who had no trouble arguing with each other. They seemed to understand what thin-skinned professors wish to forget: that intellectual engagement is not for crybabies. The students had loud debates over Reagan's legacy, Bush's foreign policy, religious freedom, abortion, even the "war on Christmas"—and nobody broke into tears or ran to the dean to complain. And the more the students argued, the more they came to respect one another. According to Lyons, students learned that that conservative guy was no longer just the predictable gun nut or religious fanatic. And the conservative students learned that they had to make real arguments, not rely on clichés and sound bites recycled from Fox News.

There were many surprises as the students examined the history of conservatism. The biggest one, for both Lyons and me, was how attractive all the students found Whittaker Chambers and how much they enjoyed his cold-war memoir, Witness. Who knew? If anything, the liberal students were more enthusiastic because they saw Chambers as an idealist participating in a cosmic battle between good and evil, which is how they saw themselves. Apparently it never occurred to them that conservatives, too, could be idealists. Even Lyons caught the bug, admitting that before reading Witness he had considered Chambers a "degenerate," but now saw him as a "compelling if sad figure." It turns out a book can change your mind. Again, who knew?

The course was wide-ranging and gave the students a good sense of the various strands of conservatism. They read selections from Burke, Maistre, Hayek, Buckley, Ayn Rand, Irving Kristol, Allan Bloom, and many others, including Lyons's personal favorite, Peter Viereck. (Now, answer honestly, dear reader of The Chronicle Review: How many of these authors have you yourself read?) Lyons also invited to class a young colleague, who had recently won tenure and was rumored to be a conservative, to talk about living as an ideological minority in the university. She told them how hard it had been and why she had kept her politics hidden until she got tenure. Apparently she had had a sharp political argument with one of her senior colleagues shortly after she was hired, and he told her that unless she moderated her ideological views, she would never get tenure. Whether this was a prediction or a threat was unclear, so she took a vow of silence. Lyons was appalled.

Paul Lyons clearly loved his students and must have been a wonderful teacher. We should be grateful for his modest book, which has lessons for everyone. It reminds liberal academics of just how narrow-minded and conservative (in the nonpolitical sense) they are in their hiring and teaching, and how much they have to learn if they want to understand the political world we live in.

There are lessons for conservatives, too. Anti-intellectualism has always dogged conservative tradition (you betcha!), and figures like David Horowitz, who stoke the hysteria, only contribute to the dumbing down. Hopped up on Fox News, too many young conservatives have become ignorant of the conservative intellectual tradition and incapable of engaging civilly with their adversaries. The truth is that a former student of Paul Lyons probably has a greater chance of becoming a serious conservative thinker than a follower of Horowitz does.

So, in the end, I give my ex-conservative blessing to the Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements and wish it a long life. If nothing else, it will get professors and students to discuss ideas and read books that until now have been relegated to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. That's a start. And who knows, maybe Berkeley will even begin hiring conservative professors, if only to preserve its reputation as "the birthplace of transformative social movements."

Mark Lilla is a professor of humanities at Columbia University.

Comments

1. pbasch - September 12, 2009 at 02:40 pm

Congratulations Berkeley - may the department be devoted to serious and open-minded inquiry. As a graduate of Columbia (and, sadly, a dropout of Berkely), I'm proud to see this lucid commentary by Prof Lilla. I remember, back at Columbia College's required Humanities (or Contemporary Civilization, I forget which), a firebrand self-styled Stalinist student being shunted aside by our professor. The young man was a bit of an embarrassment, frankly, given to loud annoying speeches. I suspect he thought he could meet girls (in college, that can absorb all your attention). This is just to illustrate the point that ideology may be less important in being ignored than being irritating.

2. paultheexpoet - September 12, 2009 at 06:32 pm

While I agree that serious study of conservative views is right and proper, the writer of this article forgets that many of the liberal professors, especially the elder ones in authority, grew up fighting racism and sexism and having conservatives constantly in the way. It should not surprise him that so many professors see conservative philosophy as little more than justification for not helping people and have bad memories associated with it. More over, they see conservatives trying to push God into biology class in public schools and have no wish to give Christian conservatives (the bulk of the grass roots Republican Party) any leverage in the Ivory Tower.

3. valois - September 13, 2009 at 08:55 am

Best wishes from Australia for the success of the venture - even though I've probably read all I need to read about American anti-federalists, opponents of the League of Nations and international courts, and various other kinds of nay-sayers. But anyone who wants to start a centre for the study of "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (the title, as most of your readers will know, of Hofstadter's great 1964 essay) can count on my full attention and might even make the world a better place.

4. asfo_del - September 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Given that the center calls itself a "Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements", I would not expect it to focus on the study of conservatism generally, just as I would not expect something called a "Center for the Comparative Study of Left-Wing Movements" to study liberalism. Right-wing movements, in my view, might include McCarthyism and the Moral Majority, just as left-wing movements would include the Black Panthers and the SDS. So I'm not sure that the objections being raised as to UC Berkeley's intentions are entirely a propos.

Having said that, I think that the reason why conservative thought is not taken seriously in academia is because, at least as it's been manifested in the US in the last several decades, it is not a serious philosophy. It has been a means to do away with reason and rationality in order to justify actions that serve the ends of those in power. While it may be useful to study it as a propaganda tool to manipulate public opinion, taking it seriously as an ideology would be a disservice to serious scholarship.

5. irfan_khawaja - September 13, 2009 at 05:46 pm

A comment on this passage from Lilla's essay:

"The course was wide-ranging and gave the students a good sense of the various strands of conservatism. They read selections from Burke, Maistre, Hayek, Buckley, Ayn Rand, Irving Kristol, Allan Bloom, and many others, including Lyons's personal favorite, Peter Viereck. (Now, answer honestly, dear reader of The Chronicle Review: How many of these authors have you yourself read?)"

In all honesty, I've read all but Maistre and Viereck. But answer honestly, dear author, how much of Ayn Rand have you read? I've read enough to know that she doesn't belong on a list of conservative thinkers, or even of contributors to conservative thought. She wrote an essay early in her non-fiction career explaining in detail why she rejected conservatism ("Conservatism: An Obituary," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, first delivered at Princeton University in 1960), and she reiterated that anti-conservative message in a consistent way in her speeches and writings for the next two decades. To describe her as a "conservative" for the sake of journalistic or pedagogical convenience is precisely NOT to take her thought as seriously.

6. irfan_khawaja - September 13, 2009 at 05:48 pm

Sorry, I accidentally deleted the last phrase of my last sentence: "...as serious as it deserves."

7. irfan_khawaja - September 13, 2009 at 05:48 pm

Sorry, I accidentally deleted the last phrase of my last sentence: "...as seriously as it deserves."

8. barrycooper - September 13, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I have a degree from UCB, and I have to say the level of intellectual diversity in what after all is called a UNIVERSITY is absolutely appalling.

What is the point of spending that money--particularly in the humanities--if you graduate unable to express, much less defend, your own views based upon sound philosophical principles?

I have been debating people on-line for 5 or 6 years. The simple sad fact is that most college graduates have been taught to parrot and not argue. Maybe this fellow's students are different, but in my own experience intelligent, educated, otherwise well read and astute people COLLAPSE when asked to explain basic policy positions of the Democratic Party.

Diversity is when people actively disagree with you, and take you to task for not thinking things through. We have NO diversity on most college campuses, in most subjects. Rather, we have intellectual ghettoes. The Business Schools, sure, you get conservatives. Everywhere else, not so much.

When I was at UCB I was a moderate Democrat, which meant I was a conservative. What happened when I started debating is I moved steadily to the right, as I increasingly realized the intellectual vacuity of the Left.

If you look at, as one simple example, Pres. Obama's "Stimulus" package, scheduled to run through Fiscal year 2015, you realize that Henry Hazlitt covered that topic fully and completely in 1946. You will not hear his name, for the simple reason that his logic--and the history since the writing of the book "Economics in One Lesson"--is incontrovertible.

One can hope that there is a resurgence in UNDERSTANDING (the point, n'est pas, of multiculturalism?) as a result of this project, but my firm suspicion is the intent is strictly polemical. You must understand your "enemy" to beat them.

One must, I think, look at all of these things as water arising from a deep spring of broken cultural systems. Simple logical refutation is not enough to sever someone from a source of deep personal meaning and identity. This much is clear, as I have observed often.

As such, in my view, one must view Leftism (the other side of "right wing", which is a term in itself that is objectionable) as a de facto religious system--with accompanying fervor and uncritical faith--and work to create something that both rightists and leftists can agree on, that depends neither on actual religious faith, nor failed economic and social policies.

That is my own preoccupation. For what it's worth, I get my news from books. Very little that matters changes on a weekly basis.

9. fossil - September 13, 2009 at 11:35 pm

There is, indeed, a body of conservative social critique that has to be taken seriously. As a leftist myself, I have urged those who share my sympathies to read and understand the best conservative thinkers, from Aristotle to Hobbes to H.L. Mencken, as well as those of our contemporaries who offer an articulate defense of traditional western ethical, esthetic, and epistgemological values in opposition to fashionable multiculturalism. Such contemplaton would be a lot more useful to the maturation of one's political thought than simply leaping on the bandwagon of the latest trendy left-wing "theorist". Edmund Burke would have been a lot more useful to the left, all things considered, than Michel Foucault.

However, there is a grave error in conflating serious conservatism with the "actually existing conservatism" of American political life. To put it in a nutshell, what in the world does Alan Bloom (or his champion, Saul Bellow) have to do with the tinfoil-hat-wearing mobs that tune in Rush Limbaugh and turn out for "tea parties"? In short, a serious and respectful study of conservative thinkers will do little to comfort those who practice the yahoo politics of the American "right".

10. 11211250 - September 14, 2009 at 06:46 am

Most of what passes as conservativism in the media today bears little resemblance to the thoughtful dialogue of past conservative luminaries like Buckley. It sounds more like nativism, bigotry, and anti-intellectualism. The tens of thousands that participated in the 9-12 protests seemed united only by rage stoked by Glenn, Rush, and Joe the legislator.

11. eelalien - September 14, 2009 at 08:41 am

I find it most curious that now, after consistenty dominating American political discourse for the past 40 years, conservatives feel the need to cry that they should be taken "seriously". It's as if they are suddenly wounded puppies on their way to the pound, never to be seen again. Obama's election and the Democrats' majority in Congress must really worry these folks. However, if some of the "valid" arguments made in the past by conservatives - such as fiscal responsibility - are to be taken seriously, the rage-contorted mob that is fed 24/7 by ideologues shouting via tv and the Internet must be separated from the serious thinkers and allowed to drift off into perhaps their own party. But nominally rational conservative lawmakers so fear the loss of support among certfiable crazies that they continue to pander to this ever-increasing group, smearing themselves with the same slime that effectively negates any rational discourse. As some have stated, the "new right" are, in fact, anti-intellectual, and when a mob like that controls your actions and speech... you cry that you are not being taken "seriously"!

12. creativepowerhouse - September 14, 2009 at 09:05 am

I would advise you to take care when suggesting those tea parties were simply tinfoil-hat wearing mobs. Remember, mainstream media reported on the tea parties. Liberal reporters can be selective in who they determine will solidify their particular opinions about conservatism. True, many of my friends with PhDs chose to stay home and write books and articles on the subject rather than don hats and hold banners, but I know of others who tried to get to the news crews with solid, well-thought out arguments against current economic policy to no avail.

For that matter, eelalien, there is a mob within the Democratic party that perhaps would be better off forming its own party as you suggest. The irrational person who wrote this would need to leave before I could ever return to the Dem party of my youth (from Dakotawomen.blogspot.com): "If something is inside my body, I'm entitled to have it killed no matter what it is. If all the human beings on Planet Earth--innocent and guilty, unborn and already-born, great and small, young and old, rich and poor, smart and stupid--were assembled somewhere inside my body, along with Baby Jesus, Almighty God, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then I'd be entitled to holocaust 'em. That's part of the meaning of the word 'my' in the phrase 'my body.' " The person who wrote this was applauded as an up and coming voice for reproductive rights. Where is the intellectual argument for choice in this person's logic? Nonexistent. It works both ways. You can't suggest that "nominally rational conservative lawmakers so fear the loss of support among certifiable crazies that they continue to pander to this ever-increasing group, smearing themselves with the same slime that effectively negates any rational discourse" and refuse to turn around and look at the members of your own party. Dems have alienated their moderates for decades. I finally, and sadly, turned to the right and marched forward to find others who would participate in stimulating dialogue and intellectual thought.

13. barrycooper - September 14, 2009 at 09:44 am

I'm curious. For those of you who want to use the classic propaganda tactic of demonization and depersonalization (tin foil hat wearing loonies): how many of you watched the videos of Van Jones' own words that only Glenn Beck and Matt Drudge linked to?

He was calling for "Revolution" in 2008. He was a leader of a Maoist political group (STORM-Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement) until 2002. None of this was reported in mainstream media. Not even Fox, except for Beck.

Why should it not be worrisome that he was appointed to a high position in the White House, which clearly understood his past?

Do you really think you are that much smarter than everyone else that you can insult them without even making a rudimentary effort to understand them? Isn't that normally the task assigned to knuckle dragging rightists, at least on the left wing account?

14. dryancey - September 14, 2009 at 09:48 am

I am not a political conservative but much of what that author states rings true in my experience. I would like to have more open and honest debate in my classes but by the time my studetnts get to my classes they have already been programmed to only seek progressive solutions. I have to work hard to undo some of this socialization so that real discussions can take place. As far as anti-intellectual elements in the Right, they obviously exists. But then again there are those such as Keith Oberman, Randy Rhodes and Jennine Garfalo (Sorry but I do not know how to spell their names but if you watch MSNBC or listen to Air American then you know who I am talking about) who I do not think reperesent much intellectualism either. Media commenators of all ideological strips have to gain and maintain an audience andyou do not do that with deep intellectual arguments. So you can find solid conservative arguments if you look at the same places for solid progressive arguments - at thinktanks and in books by conservative intellectuals. Colleges and Universities would be better off if we dealt with those arguments directly rather than merely blow them off as racist, xenophobic, sexist etc.

15. mawst95 - September 14, 2009 at 10:45 am

Van Jones was a mid level pol with no budget and no real power. That's why 80% of the country doesn't care about him. People like myself wonder why the right was so frenzied about what Van Jones said, but not a peep about what John Yoo said in his position at the OLC (Executive has the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/documents/memomilitaryforcecombatus10232001.pdf). This was policy until 2008.

But that's not what I wanted to say for this comment. I wanted to point out that I was a Biology major at college and maybe it's for that reason that I never really came accross the liberal bias that I keep hearing about in the above commentary and others. Maybe its this same science training that forces me to ask: where are the data?

Op/Eds like this rarely cite anything beyond anectdote and commonly use phrases like, "as we all know," and "obviously." The hypothesis is that there is a dearth of conservative professors at most US universities because of ideological bias. Okay. Prove it. Proof by assertion isn't enough. A story you heard about this one conservative at this one university isn't enough. Its not enough that you may have a dozen such stories.

Even if there are far fewer conservatives at universities (a point that is your burden to prove), there could be several reasons for this, some of which have nothing to do with liberal bias. Someone, somewhere must have studied this and published a peer-review article and if so, cite it. If not, its time for the author of this paper to get to work.

16. marytexas - September 14, 2009 at 11:07 am

I find those of the left bent so closed minded I do not bother my oxygen on them. THe Republican party was started in the era of lincoln. Yes it was a brand new very radical organization for it's time. what did they epouse? freedom for blacks, vote for blacks, land given to them, it was the "left" that started the KKK. The democrats assinated several very radical republicans for their efforts at equalizing blacks life. Most the left people i know are more a taker than a giver. Meaning they want all the money they can get from the government without earning it. when FEMA needs help these very left people go work for them they see no hypocrisy in hating anything and everything about the right. A prime example is a friend that always talks about how horrible Americans are when in europe. How we refuse to learn a second language but expect Europeans to learn english. tHat we can not communicate in that nations language. We are the worst!! No she does not know a second language. A moment later i asked about mexicans here legally or illegally and stood firm they did not to learn a second language. We all needed to learn spainish. Again she only speaks english.

17. dank48 - September 14, 2009 at 11:28 am

Asfo_del makes some good points in the first paragraph. However, consider just one change to the second paragraph:

Having said that, I think that the reason why liberal thought is not taken seriously in academia is because, at least as it's been manifested in the US in the last several decades, it is not a serious philosophy. It has been a means to do away with reason and rationality in order to justify actions that serve the ends of those in power. While it may be useful to study it as a propaganda tool to manipulate public opinion, taking it seriously as an ideology would be a disservice to serious scholarship.

While liberal thought is in fact taken seriously in academia, I'd have to say the rest of the paragraph is equally true of liberal thought as of conservative. The problem is not necessarily with the thought; it may have something to do with the person considering it. No part of the political spectrum has a monopoly on narrow-mindedness.

18. podritske - September 14, 2009 at 11:37 am

Ah yes, the "anti-intellectualism" of "conservatism" is prevalent, particularly if you define "conservatism" in terms of "traditionalism" or resistance to change. However, "liberalism" has shown itself to be quite resistant to change as well, at least in terms of continuing to promote the discredited ideas of Karl Marx, for example. It is hardly surprising though when the left/right axis consists of varying degrees of collectivism with shifting emphasis on how the State is to run our lives.

And, while on the subject of "labels," it is worth noting that anyone who associates Ayn Rand's ideas with a "strain of conservatism," displays a stunning ignorance of her arguments. She credited the liberal intellectuals with more orientation to ideas than she did the conservatives, even as she dismissed both schools of collectivism.

19. podritske - September 14, 2009 at 11:39 am

Ah yes, the "anti-intellectualism" of "conservatism" is prevalent, particularly if you define "conservatism" in terms of "traditionalism" or resistance to change.

However, "liberalism" has shown itself to be quite resistant to change as well, at least in terms of continuing to promote the discredited ideas of Karl Marx, for example. It is hardly surprising though when the left/right axis consists of varying degrees of collectivism with shifting emphasis on how the State is to run our lives.

And, while on the subject of "labels," it is worth noting that anyone who associates Ayn Rand's ideas with a "strain of conservatism" displays a stunning ignorance of her arguments. She credited the liberal intellectuals with more orientation to ideas than she did the conservatives, even as she dismissed both schools of collectivism.

20. twaite - September 14, 2009 at 11:54 am

Those of us on the right (whatever that means anymore, although it is starting to mean American) care about Van Jones and other socialists because it is biting the hand that feeds you. To say nothing of the ridiculous czars! It is because we are not about the failed experiment called socialism in this country. Ever read the Constitution? Do you ever wonder why in this country only you are able to espouse your socialist dribble? Dissent is fine until it becomes a fundamental shift in the reason for being the greatest nation on Earth. Frankly socialism should not be classified as even left or liberal but just plain bad business and counter to human nature and achievement. Amazing the way libs classify any conservative as anti-intellectual, when it is only in a free republic that you can spew such dribble to students and peers with nothing more on your resumes than I graduated from high school and have not left the classroom since. It is why the intellectual resumes lack any sense of business or production for the greater good. And as a student of history it still eludes me, when in the course of time anything intellectual became the domain of the left. Give me any socialist name and I will offer you Jefferson -- still smarter than all of us combined.

21. twaite - September 14, 2009 at 11:55 am

Those of us on the right (whatever that means anymore, although it is starting to mean American) care about Van Jones and other socialists because it is biting the hand that feeds you. To say nothing of the ridiculous czars! It is because we are not about the failed experiment called socialism in this country. Ever read the Constitution? Do you ever wonder why in this country only you are able to espouse your socialist dribble? Dissent is fine until it becomes a fundamental shift in the reason for being the greatest nation on Earth. Frankly socialism should not be classified as even left or liberal but just plain bad business and counter to human nature and achievement. Amazing the way libs classify any conservative as anti-intellectual, when it is only in a free republic that you can spew such dribble to students and peers with nothing more on your resumes than I graduated from high school and have not left the classroom since. It is why the intellectual resumes lack any sense of business or production for the greater good. And as a student of history it still eludes me, when in the course of time anything intellectual became the domain of the left. Give me any socialist name and I will offer you Jefferson -- still smarter than all of us combined.

22. twaite - September 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Sorry to post twice -- first time and there was a long delay :)

23. audmcl - September 14, 2009 at 12:12 pm

How can you take the left or the right seriously when too much time is wasted on Left, Right, North, South, Democrat, Republican, the with me or against me labels. This binary thinking is at the root of a serious identity crisis. Unfortunately, most Americans, including many in academe, have trouble functioning outside of the binary box of zeroes and ones. The Right is not a living, breathing entity in the same way that the stock market is not a body with an intellect capable of making decisions. Unfortunately, people desperately align themselves with the philosophies of a given group for the sake (and protection) of inclusion. Where is the creativity, the independent thinking needed to lift us up out of such limited functioning?

24. audmcl - September 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm

How can you take the left or the right seriously when too much time is wasted on Left, Right, North, South, Democrat, Republican, the with me or against me labels. This binary thinking is at the root of a serious identity crisis. Unfortunately, most Americans, including many in academe, have trouble functioning outside of the binary box of zeroes and ones. The Right is not a living, breathing entity in the same way that the stock market is not a body with an intellect capable of making decisions. Unfortunately, people desperately align themselves with the philosophies of a given group for the sake (and protection) of inclusion. Where is the creativity, the independent thinking needed to lift us up out of such limited functioning?

25. audmcl - September 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm

How can you take the left or the right seriously when too much time is wasted on Left, Right, North, South, Democrat, Republican, the with me or against me labels. This binary thinking is at the root of a serious identity crisis. Unfortunately, most Americans, including many in academe, have trouble functioning outside of the binary box of zeroes and ones. The Right is not a living, breathing entity in the same way that the stock market is not a body with an intellect capable of making decisions. Unfortunately, people desperately align themselves with the philosophies of a given group for the sake (and protection) of inclusion. Where is the creativity, the independent thinking needed to lift us up out of such limited functioning?

26. twaite - September 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

audmcl -- completely agree -- so tired of both. Why not be citizens and not have to organize into a group every time we have an opinion. The individual is lost anymore and seems to desire to belong to a group. Excellent posting -- and the point of a great deal of Ayn Rand's work.

27. mhick255 - September 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

paultheexpoet wrote: "...many of the liberal professors, especially the elder ones in authority, grew up fighting racism and sexism and having conservatives constantly in the way."

Most academics I know cherish the art of careful nuance...except when it comes to "conservatives." There's more than one kind of conservative. Are we talking about a libertarian? A fiscal hawk? A social traditionalist? A small business owner who wants fewer regulations and lower taxes? In the same spirit, lumping together today's conservatives with racist and sexist authorities who were in power 50 years ago is even worse. If amoral Republicans took political advantage of racist Democrats' opposition to civil rights legislation in the early 1960's to gain a foothold in the South, it's hardly the fault of the sophomore in your Tuesday morning lit class.

28. twaite - September 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm

It is very inspiring to see that I think many of us are tired of far left and far right and overall titles that define us.

29. clementj - September 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Unfortunately the right while it has a grand tradition, also often currently displays an absolutist philosophy. A previous writer used words like "incontrovertable" about an economics text. Economics is not math, and it is not governed by pure logic. Indeed a physicst showed that the stock market is a chaotic system, and as a result it can not be taken as a reliable indicator of anything. Economics has been called the "dismal science" by Galbraith for good reason. Indeed the recent near depression surprised the vast majority of economists including the conservative Chicago school and Greenspan. Nothing in economics is incontrovertable.

Then they result to phrases like calling the left "as a de facto religious system". Both sides have deeply held convictions which are based on experience and evidence that they have looked at. Most academics have a more nuanced view of history, and indeed a more nuanced view is coming into science and math. I have found that the religious argument often comes into play when the arguer either can't rebut the other side, or just doesn't want to do the work to rebut.

If the right wishes to make inroads into academia they have to give up the idea of "rightness". The economy, science, education... are all things that can be researched and many times there is not a right or wrong answer. We now live in a society where social rules and religious ideas are quite diverse. Insisting that your idea is "correct" especially in economics and other social spheres is flying in the face of our evidence oriented age. Both sides have to acknowledge that the other side may have some good evidence.

Finally the rallies where a demagogue says they are building a new "generation of patriots" is one way the right is discrediting themselves. When this sort of thing happens intelligent conservatives should rise up and disavow this type of thing. Implicitly calling other people unpatriotic is not a way to gain favor. Wars and policies can be supported or opposed by pragmatic arguments without resorting to religion, patriotism, or outright lies.

In the past conservatives were associated with good manners and high virtue, but now they are associated with incivility. Incivility used to be the perception of the left in the 60s and 70s, but not any more. While incivility may garner some votes, it probably turns off the academics.

30. jamesggilmore - September 14, 2009 at 01:30 pm

Conservatives are underrepresented in higher education?

Please find me a business school or department in the country with a working, active Marxist on the faculty.

Why are the humanities judged to have ideological content, while business schools aren't? Where are the challenges to unfettered free-marketeerism and greed in our business schools? Why are leftist and non-capitalist thought blackballed from university business departments?

31. dogood1776 - September 14, 2009 at 01:44 pm

barrycooper wrote, "The Business Schools, sure, you get conservatives. Everywhere else, not so much." Why is this true?

Let's remember that the real debate between the left and right is how to manage the economy. Academics at business schools make it their life's work to understand and apply knowledge of economics in order to achieve success. Leftist academics in the other social sciences don't have to be so concerned with whether or not their theories really work. What really works is what matters.


32. dogood1776 - September 14, 2009 at 01:54 pm

I would submit that the phrase, "unfettered free-marketeerism and greed" is a bit over the top. Our capitalist system has produced the strongest economy that has ever existed in the history of mankind. The poor in our country would be considered rich in much of the rest of the world. Our current economic woes have more to do with legislation that forced lending institutions to bankroll mortgages that people could not afford to pay back than it does with greed on Wall Street.

33. myemotan - September 14, 2009 at 01:56 pm

Overlapping Realities
Sometimes, the liberal/conservative or left wing/right wing labels don't fit some serious transformative thinkers in many disciplines. The simplistic but politically convenient and marketable tendency to tag and thus analyze fundamental thinking and thinkers along leftist or rightist lines often eschews rigorous thinking. This black-white approach to social or natural reality usually leads to simple reverse logic of if not a leftist then a right winger or if not a rightist then a left winger. This dogmatic phenomenon has arguably misled many into regarding as conservative certain motley fundamental thinkers such as Nietzsche. Similarly, forget left-right/right-left badges when facing such others as Husserl, Einstein, Wittgentstein, Godel, Merleau-Ponty,(Donald) Davidson, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, (Lewis) Carroll, Emerson, Achebe, Ellison, Hurston, and Head. Being dogmatically in accord with the orthodoxy of any ideology or philosophy may win a popularity contest but it hardly produces creative transformation. Surely, we need boxes and stability but boxes break to form or allow for some fluidity or some other boxes. (Dr. Okhamafe)

34. fossil - September 14, 2009 at 02:51 pm

"creativepowerhouse" succeeds admirably in making my point for me.

"marytexas" might benefit from a careful study of US history in the period 1850-1880. The abollitionist Republican Party of Lincoln (and Sumner) rapidly faded away, to be replaced by a party strongly aligned with the industrial and financial plutocracy, and quite willing to trade away the rights of the freedmen for a modus vivendi with the white South. The key event is the election of 1876, effectively stolen from S.J. Tilden by Rutherford B. (Old 8-to7) Hayes through a deal with unreconstructed southerners for disputed Louisianna electors. Hayes commited himself to the end of Reconstruction in order to win those tainted votes. (Sort of reminds one of Gerorge W. (Old 5-to-4) Bush in 2000.)

The Democratic Party in the late 19th century and well into the twentieth is a more curious beast. Generally speaking, and allowing for the usual weaseling, in the urban North it was the party of workingmen and immigrants. In the Midwest, it took the side of farmers against their creditors. In the South, it was the creature of White Supremicists who pushed through Jim Crow laws, absurd voting tests for blacks, and who frustrated the passage of Federal anti-lyniching laws through their alliance with Republicans. Williams Jennings Bryant (vide. the "Cross of Gold" speech, a stirring denunciation of the plutocrats whose like one longs to hear from Obama) represents the noblest aspects of the turn of the century Democrats, but even he had to make his peace with the Dixiecrats.

The alliance of the Democrats with the white-supremacist South began to fray under Roosevelt and Truman (see under "Strom Thurmond"). The process was accelerated during the Eisenhower administration. The split between Democrats and Dixiecrats was enormously accelerated by the "Southern straegy" developed by the Republicans in the 60s and pursued vigorously ever since (Strom Thurmond being, again, a key emblem). In effect, the Republican Party has turned itself from the Party of Lincoln into the Paty of Jefferson Davis.

Perhaps a bit of the old Dixiecrat influence in the Democratic Party lingers in the form of the "Blue Dog" Democrats.

35. mbrmark - September 14, 2009 at 03:17 pm

Where is the leftwing in the USA? I am British , so by my standards you have no socialists, just centre (NPR & PBS), centre right, and right and those who are so far right as to be off the edge of the universe. However, I agree that the rightwing viewpoints should be as supported by academic institutions as other viewpoints in order to have dynamic political discussion. This is vital for poltical engagement such that apathy does not allow a small minority of people on either side of the political spectrum to run the show.

36. cia1255 - September 14, 2009 at 03:17 pm

I think what is often lost in debates about the merits of conservative ideas is where those ideas come from. The average progressive in my opinion has a very limited knowledge of what conservatism is and the depth of its thought and the variety of its branches. Saying that conservatism is what you find on Fox News, in the tirades of Rush Limbaugh, or the writings of Ann Coulter loses sight of this. Glenn Beck and the tea parties no more reflects intellectual conservatism than the various anti-Bush protest movements represented intellectual progressivism.

Also of note is that two elements of the modern conservative movement dominate it: the neoconservatives and the Religious Right. The former has a genuine intellectual tradition (originating on the Left as it so happens) while the latter has only pockets of intellectualism (and I don't refer to Falwell or Robertson).

While the neoconservatives and the Religious Right dominate the GOP and the mainstream conservative movement another conservative intellectual tradition is starting to make a comeback: traditionalist conservatism. Founded just after World War II by academics such as Russell Kirk, Peter Viereck, Richard Weaver, Eric Voegelin, and Robert Nisbet, traditionalism emphasized cultural and educational renewal and a return to first principles by defending what T. S. Eliot called the "permanent things". Inspired by the Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, these traditionalists (known as the "New Conservatives" by the popular press of the time) were also influenced by other conservative thinkers from Eliot and Christopher Dawson to Irving Babbitt and the Southern Agrarians. Their work is carried on today in such publications as "Modern Age", "The University Bookman", "The Political Science Reviewer", and "Touchstone", and in such organizations as the Eric Voegelin Institute, the Russell Kirk Center, the Trinity Forum, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the McConnell Center, the Wilbur Foundation, and the Howard Center. Modern traditionalists would include the Allan C. Carlson, journalist Rod Dreher, professors Claes G. Ryn, George A. Panichas, George W. Carey, Stephen J. Tonsor, Thomas Molnar, John Lukacs, and others. Likewise there are many traditionalist scholars at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH (including its president and most of its professors).

Now I ask you, aside from Joe Scarborough on MSNBC, Jon Meacham in Newsweek, and a few other places, where has this conservative intellectual tradition been mentioned? In truth it hasn't and I am willing to bet most of those who have read this article or these comments haven't heard of these thinkers, these publications or these institutions. If this new center at Berkeley does anything I hope it will reveal that refective intellectual conservatism is to be found on the Right despite the cacophony of voices to the contrary.

By the way a great history of American conservatism intellectualism is Dr. George H. Nash's "The Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America since 1945" which is published by ISI Books, itself a traditionalist imprint.

37. barrycooper - September 14, 2009 at 03:19 pm

How about the party of Thomas Jefferson? Certainly, the modern Democrats would be unrecognizable to him, and utterly disgusting in their fanatical insistence that larger government is the solution to every human ill.

I find this comment funny: "Insisting that your idea is "correct" especially in economics and other social spheres is flying in the face of our evidence oriented age."

Rightness IS based on evidence. Certain economic policies DO work, and certain ones don't. Keynesianism, in particular, relies on what I call "temporal displacement": you borrow from the future for prosperity today.

I used the word incontrovertible. Hazlitt's book IS, in my view, incontrovertible. I have challenged many, many people to read it and refute it, or find flaws in his logic, which is oriented around the foundational "broken window" fallacy. No one has been able to. You won't be able to.

There can be a multiplicity of opinions about the value of a blank canvas hanging in a museum, or postmodern prose, but when it comes to things which can be measured, the notions of RIGHT and WRONG are quite relevant and USEFUL.

Utility left the academy at the same time the Left moved in. The point of Leftism is not to help people. There are no people. There is no there there. There is no feedback loop where things are tried, lessons learned, and tactics changed. There is only an eternal drumbeat.

I have little to no hope this Center will yield the political equivalent of Inter-faith dialogue. It is much more likely it will be used to create and refine counter-revolutionary propaganda.

Over the top? Not if you're standing in my shoes.

And remember, you can't judge me. That would be intolerant, right?

Just kidding. We all know rightists are the only ones you CAN judge. They get ALL the rotten tomatoes.

Books to read: "Economics in One Lesson", Henry Hazlitt; "Conscience of a Conservative", Barry Goldwater; "A Better War", Lewis Sorley; Burke of course; Hayek's "Fatal Conceit"; and "History of the American People" and "Intellectuals" by Paul Johnson.

38. barrycooper - September 14, 2009 at 03:23 pm

Make that counter-counter revolutionary. Contra-rightist? Counterrightist? Leftist, dare we say?

You must understand your enemy. Alinsky's system relies on disruption from within, and you need to tune into the correct frequencies to be maximally destructive.

To think this center might be useful would be to suppose that actual conservatives would be hired in the Humanities by UCB. Inconceivable.

39. barrycooper - September 14, 2009 at 04:08 pm

Actually, I just had a funny image pop in my head. This center is going to be like that scene in Birdcage, when Nathan Lane is trying to figure out how "they" act.

If there is no "they" there--and I doubt there will be--it will be a bunch of "us's" trying to place themselves imaginatively into their place. "Now, why would I have an irrational hatred of everyone who isn't like me, and only favor stupid economic policies?. . . hmmmm--this is going to be harder than I thought".

Farce, indeed. At the public expense.

40. 12052592 - September 14, 2009 at 04:46 pm

"students learned that that conservative guy was no longer just the predictable gun nut or religious fanatic. And the conservative students learned that they had to make real arguments, not rely on clichés and sound bites recycled from Fox News" This is good. But adding supernatural explanations (Creationism or ID) in a science course should never be taken seriously.

My father was "conservative." He believed in fiscal responsibility, loving your neighbor as yourself (without the fear of hellfire as motivation), sustainable agriculture that feeds the populace, rationality, and abhored big business as much as big government. I believe in the same stuff and I consider myself a "liberal."

41. ksledge - September 14, 2009 at 05:38 pm

I agree with this article except that I don't think we should have actual affirmative action for conservative professor hiring. That being said, faculty need to check their natrual biases when making hiring decisions for the sake of this kind of diversity, just as they should for other kinds of diversity (and even in spite of knowing about their own biases, they are pretty bad at doing this.) Likewise, a lot of faculty need to change the way they teach. They need to remember that their point is to offer several points of view and to teach their students critical thinking skills to challenge dominant narratives. Their point in teaching is NOT to get a bunch of people to agree with them on an issue. Some faculty are blatantly hostile towards conservative students or ideas, a practice that needs to stop immediately.

All of that being said, I'll also reiterate what the article said at the end -- the conservative movement brought this upon themselves by having a dumbed down debate. That's not an excuse for the problems faculty have that I listed above, but I do wish that the conservative stance hadn't become so anti-intellectual. I'd rather have an honest debate.

42. 11272784 - September 14, 2009 at 05:46 pm

There truly would be value in examining historical liberalism and conservatism, and students would doubtless be surprised to discover that their meanings today are very different from a century ago. Examining both positions based on substance rather than the shrill and content-free propaganda being promulgated today would be a valuable addition to a liberal arts education.

43. paultheexpoet - September 14, 2009 at 06:00 pm

To mhick: You have made the classic mistake or flanking manuever of using the liberal Republicans actions against the conservative Democrats as a defense of conservative Republicans. This is why I avoid using the words Republicans and Democrats when talking about conservatives and liberals, as you will note if you reread my posting. I do not mean to lump conservatives like Ron Paul with bigots, I mean to lump anti-gay, anti-women rights conservatives with anti-black, anti-Hispanic conservatives. If those are the loudest voice of conservatism, blame the rich guys funding them (so they can lower taxes and detooth programs like the EPA).

44. softshellcrab - September 14, 2009 at 06:13 pm

Of course there's no need for an article about "Taking the Left Seriously" in Academia. They dominate academia. Even this article is written by yet another (although well meaning and thinking) liberal. The attack against Conservatives is like the attack against the Catholic Church or against Christians. These seem to be the only groups not entitled to all the rights and political correctness that every other group gets. It seems to be perpetually open season on these groups in academia and in the liberal media. (And is IS a VERY liberal media).

45. mbrmark - September 14, 2009 at 07:11 pm

There has been no change in media ownership since George and Dick were running the country. So how has it suddenly become liberal, and also what is wrong with liberal as a political viewpoint? I am quite baffled by the continous use of liberal as a swear word in the USA. Conservatism is also a political viewpoint that has some merit. There needs to be intellectual debate, not vacuous mud-slinging
What is detestable is when either are used as platforms for raving anti-intellectualism linked to little rationality, and raving bigotry masquerading as political discourse. Currently, he conservatives need to reclaim the rightwing discourse from the insane fringe (Coulter/Limbaugh). Recolonise the middle ground of american intellectual life. I think the reason Obama won had something to do with the fact that the people of America could see what was happening to the Republican party, and voted accordingly.
Also, I would be fascinated to know what persecution are christians suffering in the USA.

46. ronknecht - September 14, 2009 at 08:30 pm

Prof. Lilla's piece is excellent, save only for the gratuitous swipe at the Hoover Institute, a fount of outstanding scholarship and public education. As a Regent (NV System of Higher Ed), I had it sent to our folks as a reminder that we need to focus on educational quality at the same time we deal with budget cuts and the downward economic spiral generated for years (since Bush I) and for the foreseeable future (Obama) by statism moving into full gallop.

Anent a few other comments: 1) Let's definitely not use affirmative action or similar bad ideas as the model for remedy of this problem. 2) The statists and PC fringe's invocation of alleged conservative anti-intellectualism, and their rants about Rush & Beck, and their disdain for religious folks and especially Christianity are conclusive proof of their willful, cultivated benightedness and pure hatefulness and dishonesty. Those characterizations are proof they don't even know about the rich, wide and deep "conservative" literature published daily (WSJ, IBD), (bi-)weekly, monthly and quarterly, even after the sad departure of The Public Interest. Are Limbaugh & Beck entertaineers given to excess? Of course! Duh! They also are often spot on and very informative -- sometimes even thoughtful. Overwhelmingly, the statist and PC rave crowd doesn't even listen to them enough to have an opinion of them (or of conservative sources in general) that's meaningfully informed. So, they resort to shreiking their names and characterizations like simplistic bogeymen. This hypocrisy from the same people who can't bring themselves to say an unflattering word about the stupidity, hatefulness and dishonesty of The Daily Kos, ACORN, Mr. Jones, etc. (Never, ever, any enemies on the Left.)

Ron Knecht
NSHE Regent & Economist

47. fossil - September 14, 2009 at 09:04 pm

ronknecht:

I hope your intellect serves you better as a Regent than as a CHE commentator on the present issue.

Now to business:

Christianity can, in some manifestations, be an interesting system of thought. I don't hear much about lefties bad-mouthing St. Augustine or Sor Juana. And of course, there's always my favorite Anglican Divines, Lawrence Sterne and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

And then there's the compelling metaphysical tension that broods over "Moby Dick" when one keeps in mind Father Mapple's sermon, the sermon of the old black sea-cook, and Ahab's peroration from the quarter-deck.

But whose Christianity are we talking about anyway?; Society of Friends? Old Order Amish? Catholic Workers? Or the megachurch yahoos and the dark eminences behind the Discovery Institute? The two last-named are worthy of all the contempt one can muster.

Rush, Glenn, (and Bil O' and Ann (Mad Dog) C.) are near-perfect exemplars of the need for intellectual potty-training. Your indulgence of them says something about you, little about them.

BTW, if you're casting about for "statists" to denounce, try Dick Cheyney, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia. They're the real goods.

48. the_chronicle_jim - September 15, 2009 at 05:10 am

Would everybody please just read Karl Mannheim's essay on conservative thought before concluding that the left has only an ideological interest in political conservatism?

49. the_chronicle_jim - September 15, 2009 at 05:10 am

Would everybody please just read Karl Mannheim's essay on conservative thought before concluding that the left has only an ideological interest in political conservatism?

50. happycrow - September 15, 2009 at 10:20 am

My former department head is quite liberal, and was seriously involved in the Civil Rights movement. I'm younger, and like many of my generation, fundamentally libertarian: whether politics is dominated by (what to me is) the "better half" of the 60s New Left, or that portion of the Reagan Coalition which isn't precisely the soulless and amoral portion of the Republicans alluded to by "Fossil" above, is largely irrelevant to me. (MaryTexas, the dyspeptic truth is that Fossil is entirely correct. Whether said Republicans were actually "conservative," on the other hand, is a separate debate. I myself see them as fairly narrow class actors.)

We have great discussions and debates, including a friend who also worked for Reagan.

But the author of the article has a point -- I can go not very far at all from this happy position to one where I know my job is at stake should I ever, *ever* voice a political opinion, by simply walking a shorter distance than most of the inhabitants of cubicle-land do to pour themselves a cup of coffee. Once I'm out of that office, my job is at stake every time my mouth opens.

It's not the ideology. Rather, it's the anti-intellectual incuriosity of modern intolerance, which forms the problem.

51. barrycooper - September 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Could someone please define "anti-intellectualism"? It would seem to me it would comprehend some portions each of willful ignorance; rejection in principle of ordered thinking; and castigation of those who favor seeking knowledge, and trying to think seriously about it.

If that is a valid definition--and I think it is--then all those above who accused Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck of anti-intellectualism are themselves anti-intellectuals.

As far as religion, is it not the point that it is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS what they believe? Your opinion does not and should not matter, in principle. That is the point of our LIBERAL Constitution, and what makes the vitiation of those LIBERAL principles by leftists so damaging to the goals of freedom and tolerance in pursuit of which our nation was founded.

52. _perplexed_ - September 15, 2009 at 01:39 pm

Well barrycooper, I really wish religious conservatives thought my beliefs were NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS and kept their beliefs out of public places.

53. cstars - September 15, 2009 at 01:48 pm

As others have noted, Rand was a libertarian NOT a conservative. Nor was Hayek a convservative. That the author of this piece knows so little about theoretical conservatism is itself alarming.

That said, in my political philosophy courses we do indeed read conservative theorists from the ancients to contemporary thinkers. As someone noted in the comments, above, discovering the real roots of liberalism and conservatism - much less those of socialism and communism - is a mind-opening experience for my students.

54. barrycooper - September 15, 2009 at 02:05 pm

How exactly are they hurting you? The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of religious expression. If this right has any content, it relates to the expression of religious idea IN PUBLIC. You could worship whatever you wanted in private even under Stalin. You are not hurt by someone praying in public. The people who wrote the Constitution did it. All of our Founding Fathers read the Bible regularly.

You are failing to distinguish between the right clearly given all citizens to express religous sentiments in public, and your own ANTI-Constitutional demand that no religious sentiments be expressed in your hearing. That right simply is not there. That the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise is simply further prima facie evidence of their failure to adhere to the intent and letter of the actual document.

For those of you who want to demonize without understanding, by no means read this piece by Glenn Beck: http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/30536/

Finally, I dont' think there is any need for the word libertarian. It is already implicit in Liberal. The words get used imprecisely, but in my own rendering Liberalism is the doctrine that all freedoms should be allowed, subject to not hurting others. The purpose of the government is to secure these freedoms. It's in the Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of virtue (as Jefferon's eudaemonia might well be rendered).

This includes the freedom to pass your own laws governing yourself. On my reading, this would necessarily mean that increasing freedom would be allowing each State to determine their moral position on things like abortion, euthanasia, drug laws, and other issues which cannot be resolved scientifically in any substantive way. They will ALWAYS be subjective.

Conservatism is simply sticking to the Constitution. Nothing more, in my view. Don't reinvent the wheel. Governments can get in the way, but they can only rarely facilitate, and then only in mass undertakings like national defense. Even there, our Founders feared a standing army, and didn't create a substantial one for quite some time.

55. dank48 - September 15, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Fossil, right on, as we used to say.

This is a bit off subject, but I'd still like the name of that book you wrote: DKirklin@LibertyFund.org if you wouldn't mind. Thanks.

And yes, Perplexed, I agree. One of the times the curtain fell aside was when George H. W. Bush was asked about atheists and citizenship. I don't for a moment think the former president is such a dolt as to believe it, but he knows what gets votes, which is almost certainly why he told the interviewer that no, in his opinion, atheists really aren't American citizens.

Constitution? Who needs it?

56. lmwal931 - September 15, 2009 at 03:22 pm

it is impossible to describe a thinking liberal or conservative. i usually identify with conservatives but not always. i think for myself. i loved reagan but disliked nixon. i am totally against murder. only GOD can take a life. after all HE created it. so i am against the murder of innocent, defenseless, and precious babies. they never lied. they are virgins. they never loved their life. (from the book of revelation)

57. lmwal931 - September 15, 2009 at 03:23 pm

it is impossible to describe a thinking liberal or conservative. i usually identify with conservatives but not always. i think for myself. i loved reagan but disliked nixon. i am totally against murder. only GOD can take a life. after all HE created it. so i am against the murder of innocent, defenseless, and precious babies. they never lied. they are virgins. they never loved their life. (from the book of revelation)

58. artcleve1 - September 15, 2009 at 07:27 pm

Thank you Mark Lilla for interesting reading and a great title and subtitle. Refreshing. Art

59. aristos_editor - September 16, 2009 at 01:32 am

Help!

60. laoshi - September 16, 2009 at 02:44 am

We already have had a market-driven Limbaugh Institute for Conservative Studies for 25 years, so why do we need a faux conservative studies curriculum at University of Circusfreaks and Bisexuals (UCB)? Those of you who wax apologetic or criticize Rush obviously haven't listened to him for more than 20 minutes of your life. Otherwise you'd know he's a former disciple of William Buckley with a strong intellectual foundation to his arguments.

This class is going to be a joke, taught by biased and mentally-ill liberal professors who wish to put us in a fishbowl to analyze our "pathology", using their syllabus as a cover.

Critical thinking is the purview of conservatives. Liberals are mentally-ill crybabies who make the grandest anti-tenure argument of all.

61. mainiac - September 16, 2009 at 05:44 am

Geez is George Soros funding it?

62. barrycooper - September 16, 2009 at 11:36 am

dank48, please allow me to summarize your logic for you. If I have misunderstood you, and you are still reading, please correct me.

If a person does not like atheists, or consider them on an equal footing with Christians;

If that person says so in public;

Then that person does not understand or is opposed to, the American Constitution.

The logical implication of this chain of reasoning, if it is valid, is that in order to support the Constitution, one must like everyone equally, regardless of their beliefs.

To be clear, George Bush did nothing to compel his views on anyone. He merely indicated his dislike for people like the fellow who was asking the question.

There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents me from, as an example, saying that most academics are America-hating extremists and that our nation would be better if they were swallowed in a giant black hole. There is nothing that prevents me from openly wishing for and praying that will happen. There is nothing that prevents me from calling them unpatriotic, unthinking, reflexive morons, and hoping they get hit by cars or mugged and shot by people their policies got released from jail.

There is nothing that prevents me, ultimately, from using the same language and expressing the same hateful sentiments I see offered up by the Left, against the Right; examples available right here on this page.

The key point in this regard, though, is that the Constitution guarantees the primacy of LAW over personal sentiment. It says nothing about never getting your feelings hurt, or hearing something you don't like. What it says is that your rights cannot be curtailed on the basis of your beliefs, UNDER THE LAW.

Now, if we talk about a drinking establishment, that is not a generality. That is a physical place you can go. By extension, a religious estabishment, likewise, is a building you can visit, or more abstractly, a concrete organization with people structured in such a way that there is some-thing there.

In 18th Century England, you were not allowed to hold office if you were not a member of the Church of England. Jews and Catholics, if memory serves, were not allowed to attend Oxbridge.

Until the 17th Century, and perhaps well into it, you could be fined for not attending church. There were Ecclesiastical Courts which had the power to arrest and punish crimes of "morality", that were fully separate from the public courts of the monarchy.

Self evidently, Roman Catholicism was mandatory for much of southern Europe for quite some time.

The intent, then, quite obviously, was to prevent the centralized authority they were creating, which they rightly feared could become a domineering monster, from having the ability to form a church and compel membership; in short, from "establishing" a church.

These points are clear and irrefutable in my view. That contrary views have gained traction is best explained through the simple observation that propaganda and a lack of critical thinking go hand in hand. The point of propaganda is saturation: wherever you go, whatever you do, the message is the same.

And Leftists have largely achieved that aim in the modern academic world. The discussion is between moderate leftists and radical leftists, with nothing but disbelief and incomprehension to be found with respect the so-called "right".

63. dank48 - September 16, 2009 at 01:55 pm

Barrycooper, for whatever it's worth, you do too need to take your medication.

George H.W. Bush was asked, not by some baiting left-wing godless wacko, as if the control freaks would ever let such a person near himself, about the atheism/citizenship matter. Bush, whatever his faults and strengths might be, was not at the time anyway brain-dead. He was however quite aware that telling the truth is not necessarily the road to popularity, so he came up with that brazenly cynical comment that atheists aren't really American citizens. This opinion has exactly zero correspondence with the constitutional requirements for citizenship, as I'm sure Bush knew perfectly well.

When a president, current or former, is willing and able to go for the votes at the expense of the truth, not to mention such outmoded concepts as civility, fair play, and common decency, we've got a problem.

When an academic is unwilling or unable to tell the difference between this narration and whatever you thought I said, you get the sort of smartass comment I made at the beginning of this comment. There is an extensive history of conjoined church and state, and it seldom resulted in tolerance and freedom.

64. barrycooper - September 16, 2009 at 06:18 pm

You know, President Obama had a teleprompter snafu in Ireland and introduced himself before he caught it. Politicians on occasion made ill-advised and angry comments. This was clearly one of them.

One of the patent truths I have observed in debating people like you for many years is that facts are never contextualized. What you have done, here, is a good example.

You took one quote which seemed to indicate a latent capacity to deprive atheists of their rights as citizens. What you did not show, because you can't, is any pattern whatsoever of pursuing that policy. There were no policy initiatives. There were no executive orders. The amount of action in that direction was ZERO. Nada.

On the flip side, religious people can point to any number of active, aggressive, cynical abuses of judical authority to deprive them of THEIR rights. Ten Commandments in the Court? Gone. Under God in the Pledge? Gone. School prayer? Gone.

To be clear, the very people who founded our nation were categorically and explicitly OK with religion in the classroom, courthouse, and legislature. The very clear, unambiguous intent was to create in the Federal Government a means by which to avoid the problems of the Artices of Confederation--like multiple currencies, inability to marshall up a general army, lack of recourse in legal disputes--without vitiating the ability of the States, otherwise, to govern themselves as they saw fit.

You accuse me of needing to take my medications, then have the temerity to invoke civility, fair play, and common decency.

This is what you get when you jettison the disciplined use of logic in favor of systematic propaganda that at some point even its creators begin to believe.

You have not, here, even remotely supported your case. You can't. You are wrong.

But of course, that statement makes me the loser by definition in the World of the Left, doesn't it? We all know everyone is right all the time, even when they are wrong. To suggest otherwise is, self evidently, to be a bigot. Right?

65. rebel40 - September 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

I too find my self more moderate and deplore the automatic labeling of conservative and liberal ("liberal" or "conservative" as swear words). "Leftism" is not a religion (even though some "conservatives" deem it as such). Interesting that barrycooper seems to be a strict Constitutionalist but deems withdrawl of religious doctrines (not part of the Constitution) from the public sphere as wrong (they could smack of a State Church). Religion does also impact the public sphere on its denigration of evolutionary theory and demands for public school debate on discredited creationist arguments (often disguised as "intelligent design" while not accepting those arguments fully). That IS an attack on intellectionalism.

I'm definitley in favor of good academic debates on political thought, without screaming, dogma, etc.

66. rebel40 - September 17, 2009 at 10:19 am

I too find my self more moderate and deplore the automatic labeling of conservative and liberal ("liberal" or "conservative" as swear words). "Leftism" is not a religion (even though some "conservatives" deem it as such). Interesting that barrycooper seems to be a strict Constitutionalist but deems withdrawl of religious doctrines (not part of the Constitution) from the public sphere as wrong (they could smack of a State Church). Religion does also impact the public sphere on its denigration of evolutionary theory and demands for public school debate on discredited creationist arguments (often disguised as "intelligent design" while not accepting those arguments fully). That IS an attack on intellectionalism.

I'm definitley in favor of good academic debates on political thought, without screaming, dogma, etc.

67. crusade2267 - September 17, 2009 at 10:26 am

While I agree that serious discussion needs to take place, and that conservatives and liberals need to both respect each other's views and form intelligent, well reasoned arguments rather than parroting slogans, I wonder if members of my generation are as a whole capable of this in our culture. We live in a society where Rep Joe Wilson's outburst on the House floor is equated with Kanye West's behavior at the VMAs. We live in a society where people are radically polarized and get into fierce arguments based off the 30 second TV spots paid for by the DNC and RNC and various special interest groups affiliated with one or the other. We've created an environment where policies and politicians have been divided into 2 and only 2 sides, both convinced that they are the absolutely best choice.

It's easy to debate when you are absolutely certain that you are arguing for the "good guys" and your opponent is the "bad guy." It's sad that debates and public discourse have come down to this, but I think our national media is more interested with scoring points over trivial things than actually informing people of the real issues at stake.

When I was in college I had 2 strongly conservative friends, and from time to time, I would debate them on various issues from No Child Left Behind to Gene Robinson. Occasionally I would get support from my liberal friends. However, it became clear in many of those debates that many of my friends on both sides were quoting slogans, or parroting things they heard from their parents, their church, or their favorite Fox News or CNN commentator. Essentially, they were allowing other people to tell them what to think, and it became fairly easy for me or one of my more informed conservative counterparts to win the debate using logical, reasoned arguments that had no natural sound byte retorts.

In the 2008 election, I told my Freshman Seminar class that I didn't care which Senator they voted for, but it did matter that they vote. We did an entire lesson on reading and evaluating an opinion piece from the New York Times that was critical of Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain for their stance (or lack thereof) on Education. I then asked each student to go find an issue that was important to them, read as much as they could about it from a variety of sources, and then pick the candidate that would best represent their standpoint on that issue. Not all of them picked the candidate I voted for, but I think it is more important that my students really think about the choices they make than for us to agree on the end result.

68. barrycooper - September 17, 2009 at 11:35 am

There is no question at all in my mind that the discipline of systematic philosophical thinking has virtually disappeared from our educational landscape. It is profoundly disheartening to me how often I see people I KNOW are college educated, often even in the Humanities, who--once confronted with a contrary view--start huffing and puffing, spewing innuendo and outright insult, then try and beat you verbally into silence. Being a de facto Neanderthal is a great way to do this. Smart people shut up because continuing to talk has no point.

Yet, deployed on the internet, this same tactic has the effect of causing the more sensitive, careful, and nuanced thinkers simply to vanish. Maybe they start their own blogs; maybe they confine their thoughts to the silence of their rooms.

The best way to understand the collective outrate we are seeing today is simply to point out that increasingly large numbers of people are realizing that there are large issues that are simply not being dealt with seriously by our politicians or the media. The people, for whose welfare all parties claim to work, are simply being ignored in favor of backroom deals in Congress, and backroom deals in the news room. The cleansing water of open and honest examination of different policies, conducted with a sincere spirit of political agnosticism, is absent. It is dammed up.

Rebel0: is it not the case that all forms of behavior not explicitly disallowed by the Constitution were to be allowed, at least potentially? Is it not the case that all power not explicitly given to the Federal Government was to devolve to the States?

You act as if "religious" behavior differs from any other behavior. The simple fact is that religiosity was ubiquitous in our shared cultural life until about 30-40 years ago. Praying was as common as drinking water. The importance of it was considered self evident.

Some States even had official religions, although that did not last long.

The Bill of Rights was very explicitly intended to console the many States who (rightly, as it turns out) feared an encroaching Federal government telling them how to live their lives. The first amendment simply says that the Federal government will not create an officially sanctioned church, and that it will not, anywhere, at any time, abridge or restrict the freedom of worship of the sundry States.

It is only propaganda and self serving bias that permits this obvious and historically clear fact from being well known, and enshrined not just in law (where it remains, hidden, covered in dust), but in PRACTICE.

Yes, there is a need for separation of church and state. What does a unified church and state look like? Catholic France under the Bourbons; Anglican (and Catholic) England under the Tudors.

The objections atheists raise need to be demoted from legitimate Constitutional objections to the mere expression of distaste, cloaked in a legal pill some dishonest and stupid judges have been persuaded to swallow, to the collective detriment of our actual liberties.

69. y_lulat - September 17, 2009 at 07:07 pm

After one has cut through the thick jungle of psuedointellectualism, one is confronted with the sad truth that in every field of human endeavor (from the arts to the sciences), conservatism has stood as a reactionary bulwark against all human progress. That said, one can still champion a serious study of conservatism much in the same way one would study, say, fascism.

70. y_lulat - September 17, 2009 at 07:11 pm

The sad truth is that, after one has cut through the thick jungle of psuedointellectualism, one is confronted with the incontrovertible fact that conservatism has stood as a reactionary bulwark against all human progress. That said, one can still champion a a serious study of conservatism much in the same way one would study, say, fascism.

71. michaelchamberlain - September 18, 2009 at 04:00 am

Amazing so many of these irrational responses appear here, in a publication read largely by academic, Slightly less so that many of these ignore the argument (study the intellectual tradition) and then launch into denunciations of the opposition's villains. As an academic I'm concerned: if you want your students to stop shouting party slogans at one another you might stop shouting them yourself. Conservative like liberal covers a wide spectrum of policy preferences and intellectual predispositions, Lilla makes a serious suggestion (and he's a serious guy): before spouting off on Olberman or Beck, whom our students know all too well, why not read the work he has suggested? If you find any compelling and appropriate to your field expose students to some of them. Writing hate-filled screeds about how the other side has coarsened political debate tells us that you are emotionally unsuited to discussing politics with students, and in some cases intellectually incapable of addressing an uncongenial argument. You'd think most here would want to improve in that respect. Some trolls in here no doubt: I've spent a long career in the humanities and have met exactly three republicans and no cultural conservatives, none of whom would write such nasty stuff. Has some conservative activist website has linked to this article?

72. barrycooper - September 18, 2009 at 10:25 am

I'm not sure what nasty stuff you're talking about, but there is no question that some Conservatives do at times lower themselves to utilizing Saul Alinsky's tactics of simple insult and aggravation. The obvious purpose for which he intended was simple to silence debate, so that the implementation of propaganda campaigns were not noticed. How can you observe what is being hidden from you? How many people are capable of seeing what is NOT being said, the ideas being hidden?

As a concrete example, to my mind the obvious solution to our health insurance problem--it is hardly a crisis, since anyone can go to a hospital and be treated--is to allow insurance carriers to sell directly to individuals. That is not allowed in over half the States. This is not being discussed.

We could offer all insurance carriers the same competitive access which is being proposed for the so-called public option. The Democrats want the Federal government to be able to sell without restriction in all 50 states. Why not let the private carriers do it too?

These are just two simple ideas. I have a complete proposal which I won't bother with here.

The point, the critical, ineluctable point, is that these are common sense and available options WHICH ARE NOT BEING DISCUSSED. The Democrats say they want a debate, then they ignore valid counter-proposals. I infer from this they don't want a debate.

With respect to Conservatism, I will note y-lulat, first your violation of Godwin's Law, which very definitely applies here. More importantly, you have addressed none of the issues I discussed. I presented understandings of the Constitution, which you ignored. I made points on a variety of topics, and your response, in effect, is make a blanket assertion about a very diverse group of people, then demonize them.

In point of fact, the term "Conservatism" was coined by Edmund Burke in reaction to the French Revolution. In his seminal essay "Reflections on the French Revolution", he detailed substantially all the same sorts of impulses that one can still see on display today: haughtiness, inability to tolerate dissent, a recourse to violence, a rejection of tradition, and a failure to base behavior on clearly articulated and coherent principles. In the Revolution, what one saw was violent swings one and the other; people were like schools of fish who turned on a dime the moment their leaders declared it.

That tendency is still with us. For those with the will and eyes to see, look at this thread. Who is doing the thinking? Who is carefully considering issues? Who is working in the direction of a common community?

The alternative to Burke is Communism, in some form or other. Lenin was a big fan of Robespierre, and pursued substantially the same tactics--terror--and ends--autocracy. Thus Burke was critiquing in the 1790's the same tendencies that were again expressed in the 20th Century (Marx, for those don't know, got the name Communism from the Paris Commune, itself a descendant of the French revolutionary tradition).

Propaganda ends where dialogue begins. And where dialogue ends, propaganda begins. If we are unable to conduct rational dialogues, then, well, what does that tell you?

And who benefits from the failure of rational discourse? Propagandists.

They may not have issued the boots yet, but I see prodigious numbers of people arrayed in neat little rows and columns chanting in unison "I am an individual; I am a free thinker".

For those of us who see this, can you seriously wonder why we are worried?

73. barrycooper - September 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

I will add that Edmund Burke said: "A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation."

If you actually read his essay, he is by no means opposed to progress. It's just that you can't trot out a chicken and call it a duck, and you can't implement a system of tyranny and call it freedom OR progress, which is in my view what self-proclaimed progressives do. I call them Regressives.

Conservatism is, in its very root and essence, about asking the question: what is the value of this proposed change? Change for the sake of change is stupid. You are as likely to go backwards as forward. To claim that doing something is always better than doing nothing is to claim that drinking batter acid is better than going thirsty. It's a silly claim, that would not be made by serious people.

Arch-conservative Barry Goldwater founded the Arizona chapter of the NAACP. Why? He believed in their cause, and understood that that cause could be furthered WITHIN our existing system of laws.

It has become difficult to speak frankly, and quite honestly for those of you who are academics reading this, I believe you carry much of the blame. Debates still happen in high schools. They do not, from what I can tell, happen on college campuses.

If anyone is so inclined, it would be a marvelous, useful project to actually sponsor a political debate, on any topic. Get two speakers, or teams of speakers, find an issue, then allow them to go back and forth. Doing that once would likely teach genuinely critical thinking more than most of them will get in 4 years of classroom instruction.

You get stronger pushing against resistance. You atrophy riding on the prevailing breeze.

74. mainiac - September 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

I always admired the "Progressive" response to the Duke Univ. Lacrosse team rape case.

75. dickwhyte - September 18, 2009 at 07:24 pm

The language of this article is telling:

"According to Lyons, students learned that that conservative guy was no longer just the predictable gun nut or religious fanatic. And the conservative students learned that they had to make real arguments, not rely on clichés and sound bites recycled from Fox News."

Note that what the conservatives learned was to argue better, while the other 'students' (leftists? liberals?) learned to respect conservatives as real people. Why did the conservatives not learn to respect other's views? Why did they only learn to fortify their views? This is central problem: as leftists (?) we are interested in compassion for other's views. As conservatives you simply want to strengthen your own view.

Language is telling.

76. dickwhyte - September 18, 2009 at 07:31 pm

crusade2267

You are right on the money. Well done!!!

77. barrycooper - September 18, 2009 at 07:58 pm

At the substantial risk of pointing out the painfully obvious, what you have done is quote an OPINION of the author, who is a self described leftist, and used it as FACT.

What you have NOT done is respond to ANY of the large number of specific arguments I have made.

When I say there is there, there (Gertrude Stein, obviously), what I pointing to is the patent contradiction between your own self image of being interested in understanding others, and your manifest failure to do anything but interact with a caricature, here, and that with prejudice.

If you're interested in understanding this iteration of the proverbial "Other", you could do worse than reading this thread and posting an intelligent response from which someone could infer that you were doing more than "relying on sound bites and cliches" from Keith Olbmerman and the New York Times.

78. barrycooper - September 18, 2009 at 10:36 pm

You know, I think it might be justified to come up with some new concept, which will be totally foreign to professors in the Humanities. I am going to call it the "Essentializing Narrative". I know, it sounds complicated, but I will explain it.

An essentializing narrative is when a relatively homogeneous culture encounters, out in the wilds, a culture which differs from its own in important ways. As an historical fact, what tends to happen is that first impressions--given a backdrop of physical and cultural power--are granted ontological status.

For example, one finds statements like "Negroes are basically. . .", and "Conservatives are basically. . ."

Quite obviously, serious, well intentioned individuals reject essentializing narratives, for the simple reason that they are INACCURATE. How can one generalized template do justice to a large culturally variegated populace?

Very simply: it can't. Essentializing narratives might have uses in limited cases, and gain value when vetted empirically, but philosophically are objectionable as tending to confuse symbol with sincere efforts to craft on-going understandings with respect to observable--and mutable--realities.

IS is a bad word.

Make sense? Maybe some of you all should incorporate this concept in your curriculums. "Essentializing narrative": again, I apologize for the seeming opacity of the term, but perhaps it might make sense to someone somewhere.

Irony intended.

79. barrycooper - September 18, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Make that "no there, there", as a description of Oakland. I typed all of this fast.

Was Gertrude Stein, though, essentializing Oakland when she said that? Is there an inverse relationship between the bon mot and reality?

80. barrycooper - September 19, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Oi. There may in fact be no there, there. It may be the case that no one is still reading this. I did want to quote the brilliant Jacques Ellul.

"The propagandist must first of all know as precisely as possible the terrain on which he is operating. He must know the sentiments and opinions, the current tendencies, and the stereotypes among the people he is trying to reach."

Read his "Propagandas", then tell me how leftism is meant to save the world.

81. boxofrox - September 21, 2009 at 06:19 am

Carl Jung might be interesting for those wishing to explore a difficult yet cogent exploration of personal and collective distinctions and implications.

82. wturnertsu - September 21, 2009 at 10:54 am

People constantly refer to "modern day" Republicans as conservatives. Are they conservatives? They strike me as being Preservatives. They are hellbent on preserving only for themselves, and their kind, the fruits of liberty and justice. They do not believe that others, particularly persons of color, should be aforded the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence s something that they are determined to preserve for themselves, primarily persons of European descent. Sadly, because they preserve that presumption for whites, a white man who kidnapped, raped and brain-washed a child was able to hide his dastardly deed for years. If he had been Black or Hispanic, he would have been thoroughly investgated after the first report of his suspicious behaviour was made. But, he wasn't. So, Elizabeth remained a sex-slave and bore him and his sick wife two little girls. Go figure, neo-conservatives. Conservatives are preservatives. They want to preserve all that they think are positives for themselves and those who look like them.

83. mainiac - September 21, 2009 at 04:02 pm

"Go figure, neo-conservatives. Conservatives are preservatives. They want to preserve all that they think are positives for themselves and those who look like them."

Those are fascinating identity politics with a binary twist. In fact, there is a sermon type cadence and ring to this sociopathic homily. By the way, how is Reverend Wright and the chickens? Yours, WHITE DEVIL.

84. pschmehl - September 22, 2009 at 02:50 pm

The comments on Mark's article are even more fascinating than the article itself. Among the more entertaining was this gem.

"Note that what the conservatives learned was to argue better, while the other 'students' (leftists? liberals?) learned to respect conservatives as real people. Why did the conservatives not learn to respect other's views? Why did they only learn to fortify their views? This is central problem: as leftists (?) we are interested in compassion for other's views. As conservatives you simply want to strengthen your own view."

Here the reader assumes that the conservatives did not learn to respect other's views even though no evidence of that kind was offered in the article. (In point of fact, the inference cannot be logically made based on the sparse evidence offered, and that merely in the author's opinion.)

He then uses that unsupported allegation to support his central thesis, viz. leftists are interested in compassion for other's views, while demonstrating simultaneously an inability to have compassion for the views of conservatives.

Assuming the thesis is correct (for the sake of argument) are we then to infer that the commenter must be a conservative him or herself?

Or to put it another way, is irony a concept understood by this particular commenter?

One thing is clear from the comments. There is much work to be done if dialog in academe is to ever begin much less bear fruit.

85. sumitindrani - September 25, 2009 at 07:05 pm

Mark Lilla's list unfortunately lumps serious thinkers like Burke or Le Maistre, significant economists like Hayek (in many ways the precursor of the field of the the econoimics of information) with influential but unoriginal journalists like Kristol, tedious annotators lke Leo Strauss and shallow-minded cranks like Ayn Rand. Maybe he had to get a few Americans into the list ..

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