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Conservatives Want to Bring Politics into Academic Hiring

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I don’t think there’s a single more surefire way to draw attention to yourself than to claim that academia discriminates against conservatives.

As for the question of why there are more liberals than conservatives in academia–and note the op-ed conveniently leaves out economics and the enormous and growing business schools in this discussion–it’s about two things. First, studying the human past and present in depth tends to challenge the mythology about the world conservatives hold dear. I’ve known many a person who came to graduate school a conservative and came out a liberal. One includes a founder of this blog. It’s not because of some Clockwork Orange-style indoctrination. It’s because understanding the world tends to make people rethink their position. Studying the history of race, class, gender, sexuality, environment, etc., tends to do that. Given how strongly conservatives don’t want to have us study those subjects in high school or college, you can see why they would be chafing over having to deal with that in academia and worrying that studying these subjects creates liberal “bias,” i.e. a realistic understanding of society’s complexity.

Second, it’s that conservatives are unlikely to take low-paying jobs in professions that have no future. Chalk that up to conservatives being smarter than liberals I guess.

But the idea of there being an active liberal bias is ridiculous. Rather, it’s conservatives bringing politics into academic hiring by evidently wanting–dare I say it–a quota on conservatives in academic departments. I guess a professor’s politics are supposed to matter in hiring if it benefits right-wingers.

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  • Matt McIrvin

    Rather, it’s conservatives bringing politics into academic hiring by evidently wanting–dare I say it–a quota on conservatives in academic departments.

    I always assumed the analogy with affirmative-action quotas was intentional, as what John Holbo would call poetic-justice-as-fairness. “Give the hypocrites a taste of their own medicine, see how they like it.” Etc.

  • Warren Terra

    Also, in the sciences there’s the issue that the Conservatives are so frequently so rabidly anti-science, in particular with respect to climate change, evolution/creation, abortion/stem cells, and homosexuality-as-willful-deviation.

    Though, some of the more quantitative/stereotyped-as-antisocial disciplines such as chemistry and especially physics have more libertarians, conservatives, and even Republicans.

  • CJColucci

    If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, you can’t stop them.

    • rea

      Yogi!

  • Davis

    He’s the first conservative I know of who believes that human diversity is a blessing. Really? Or just in academia?

    • DrDick

      For all values of “diversity=more conservatives and less of everyone else”.

  • FridayNext

    Not only did this author leave out economics and business schools, he left out almost all pre-professional schools and agricultural schools. Some of the most conservative people I meet are professors in the ag school, vet school, and various medical programs like nursing, pharmacy, and dentistry. Some of the most intolerant comments I heard during the 2008 election were between professors who taught in the agricultural school and vet schools. (Both had joint appointments) “If Obama wins all us women will have to wear burkhas” is something I expected to hear from my family in southern Indiana, not a PhD, DVM tenured professor and expert in avian surgery. Since then I have many met many more academics who break the tweed wearing liberal in the English department stereotypes.

    • is she wearing a burka now?

    • Amanda in the South Bay

      People don’t realize this as much, because most schools don’t have Ag, Vet, Forestry, etc schools (Oregon State grad here).

      • FridayNext

        More than you’d think. My local community college as degrees and certificates in dentistry, vet science, medicine, and a host of other professional programs including fire science, law enforcement, etc. You can’t become a Dr., Vet, or Dentist, but you can become a nurse, vet tech, and hygienist. My wife got her nursing degree there and got into more than one discussion with her teachers over whether evolution is real.

        • Amanda in the South Bay

          Well, I should’ve limited my statement to four year colleges. Community colleges have lots of programs that don’t exist or don’t exist in nearly the same form as 4 year colleges.

      • witlesschum

        The head of pesticide research at Michigan State taught an intro to science course for people in non-science majors, obviously because he enjoyed it. He was very good at it, except the one day of class he used to repeat a bunch of fakery about sex with regard to disease, including the idea that condoms couldn’t stop viruses, which had zero to do with the curriculum.

        A fine lesson for his students in the way people can compartmentalize things.

    • joe from Lowell

      Nursing?

      I find that quite surprising. The rest of the list, not at all surprising.

      • The Dark Avenger

        My sister was a nursing instructor, and she got some guff from her fellow teachers and others for boycotting Nestle over the infant formula outrage. She was heartened to hear me say that I had not only boycotted it as well, but she had a right to do so and that anyone who gave her guff about it was an idiot.

        She taught in Bakersfield, CA, which is a very Red part of California.

  • Matt Stevens

    “But the idea of there being an active liberal bias is ridiculous.”

    I’d resist the very idea that “bias” is a meaningful term in this context.

    In stats classes I talk about “bias” in, say, opinion polls, and it refers to consistent differences between your samples and the population numbers. If your polls say Candidate X will win by 8 points and he wins by 3, there’s a 5 point bias in his favor.

    With out any objective measure of the “truth,” though, there’s no way of saying what “bias” is. And they don’t demonstrate that these liberal academics are objectively wrong on any particular issue, because they can’t.

    No, all they do is point out that academics vote differently than the public at large. If that’s so bad for academia, though, it should also be bad for banking, the oil industry, corporate boards and the U.S. officer corps. If they want to purge liberals from academe, we should be able to kick Republicans out of the U.S. military. Let’s hear what they think of that idea.

    • King Goat

      This! There’s a pretty demonstrable conservative bias in the officer corps, but we never hear complaints about that. If I had to worry about political bias in a government institution the one with all those guns and tanks would be my primary concern.

      • Amanda in the South Bay

        We need more ROTC grads from the Bay Area, not Columbus State.

        • Lee Rudolph

          So that the officer corps would tilt from Authoritarian Conservative to Libertarian Conservative?

          • Amanda in the South Bay

            The same people who’d be ROTC officers from Berkeley and Stanford are not exactly the same people dropping out of school to get funded by Y Combinator.

            • Amanda in the South Bay

              Regardless, my OP was a plea for diversity. substitute Pacific Northwest, urban Northeast, whatever for the Bay Area. It doesn’t matter.

        • joe from Lowell

          This was one of the arguments against the ROTC ban some colleges adopted in response to DADT.

          Thank God Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone. What a disaster of a policy. “Hurr durr, let’s encourage some of the troops to be guarded among their colleagues and dishonest with their superiors. What could possibly go wrong?”

          P.S. – We seriously need a victory lap about DADT repeal. We need to dredge up all the horrified predictions about what it would do to the military, and throw them in the faces of some people who still have reputations for being experts on military/security issues.

          • Bruce B.

            Really, we need to do this about everything, since they lie so confidently and persistently. DADT repeal, marriage equality, the ACA, every single issue that can conceivably affect public life in any way – they’ve got their lies about how it’s all doom, and a lot of people who aren’t deeply invested hear just those.

    • matt w

      With out any objective measure of the “truth,” though, there’s no way of saying what “bias” is. And they don’t demonstrate that these liberal academics are objectively wrong on any particular issue, because they can’t.

      Yes. Not-David Brooks writes:

      Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas

      as though all ideas were equally worthy of a hearing in academia. Guess what! When your movement takes as base tenets things that academics know to be objectively wrong, and targets academics for attack on those issues, academics become less friendly to your movement! Film at 11!

    • DrDick

      For conservatives anything that does not favor them is “bias.”

  • King Goat

    I’m not sure why it would be surprising to find few conservatives in academe. The GOP and conservatives have for decades attacked academe as an institution, they look on it with suspicion and derision, full of, in their view, overly nuanced jargon laden people questioning what should be obvious to good old common sense. Conservative candidates and pundits like to argue that things are actually very, very simple, that liberals muddle it by overthinking things. That doesn’t lend itself to academe, and then when academe questions that kind of thing it receives hostility and derision.

    • DAS

      I’m not sure why it would be surprising to find few conservatives in academe. The GOP and conservatives have for decades attacked academe as an institution

      They’ve also questioned government as an institution, but that doesn’t stop them from running for office and getting elected.

  • pianomover

    The Senator Jim Inhofe School of climate Science.

  • NewishLawyer

    Most of these read as attacks on the arts and humanities to me.

    A lot of Conservatives seem to have a love/hate affair with the world of the arts and humanities. Mainly they seem to dislike that center-left leaning people are the ones who are often part of the cultural gatekeepers zone (as much as gatekeepers exist anymore). They are also perplexed at reasonably high-income people voting Democratic. Remember in conservative land, snobby is someone with an undergrad degree from Smith who shares an apartment with three people and makes 35-50K a year because she is an actor. Koch Brothers and Romney are not elitist. A lot of people dislike the “cultural elite” over the financial elite.

    Yet on the other hand, they have their own Ivory Tower and elite fantasies. I remember during the Derbyshire affair, one of the NRO editors waxed nostalgic about Derbyshire being like an Oxford Don. So they want to be a cultural elite in tweed. There is a dislike of the Brooklyn-SF-Portland-Seattle type of cultural elite that skews more avant-garde perhaps.

    I still imagine that there are a fair number of conservatives in higher education or adjuncting though. Maybe some of them keep quiet.

    • Conservatives love the idea of studying the humanities if it is studying exclusively ancient philosophy and all white authors, i.e., St. John’s College in New Mexico and Maryland. But once the humanities have any relevance to the present or start privileging the voices of anyone who is not an elite white male, they hate them passionately.

      • AcademicLurker

        And even the Great Books programs that conservatives claim to love don’t seem to work out in terms of winning them converts. The most conservative St. John’s alumni that I know are mainstream liberals, and the rest are further left.

        Maybe the idea is not so much to read Great Books as to worship them from a safe distance.

        • DAS

          Well, that’s how they approach the Bible.

        • Karen24

          This is exactly it. Conservatives worship heroes. They can’t get their heads around their heroes having opinions that offend people in the 21st C, and that it is possible to appreciate and even love text or author or historical figure while sharply disagreeiing with some of theiir works, they give up on actually learning about the past entirely. I’m surprised AEI hasn’t re-issued Rev. Bowdler’s “Family Shakespeare” yet.

          • weirdnoise

            Conservatives worship heroes.

            Just another symptom of the conservative bend toward authoritarianism.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        But don’t tell them that the ancient philosophers’ writings only survive because of the efforts of Muslim philosophers (like Ibn Rushd) during our book-burning Middle Ages!

      • Crusty

        I don’t think they even like that anymore.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Ever since the canon wars of the 1990’s, whenever I hear one of these jackasses puff themselves up like Sam the American Eagle to talk about how we need to indoctri…er, educate the youth with the classics of Judeo Christian Civilization, starting with the Greco-Roman yadda yadda…

        My gut reaction is to think about how happy these very same people would be to have Italian Catholic or Greek immigrants move into their neighborhood. I suspect they’d have something to say.

  • altofront

    Let me also add that in many fields choosing a life in academe means choosing lower pay and more work in support of the community (teaching, service) in favor of more security and greater independence within the system (or at least, that’s the desire). This doesn’t strike me as a characteristic right-wing choice.

    • FlipYrWhig

      That’s what I was going to say. Conservatives interested in public service and respect-without-lucre are what you call “pastors.” I don’t hear a lot of conservatives complaining that churches don’t have enough liberals. If you don’t like the social compact that goes with it, don’t enter that profession. The end.

  • Jordan

    Second, it’s that conservatives are unlikely to take low-paying jobs in professions that have no future. Chalk that up to conservatives being smarter than liberals I guess.

    There are, of course, millions of conservatives who have low-paying jobs in professions with no future. I think the truth is more that academia has (imagined or real) benefits that particularly qualified liberals value much more than do particularly qualified conservatives (in addition to your first point, of course, which partly explains why there are more of those particularly qualified liberals as opposed to conservatives in the first place).

    In other words: the idea that conservatives are smart because look at all the rich conservatives is a dumb meme that shouldn’t be propagated.

    • Well, put it this way–it’s unlikely that an active conservative is going to spend a decade of their lives making no money for a career where there is no future. If you are going on for the PhD, you always have other active choices.

      That’s totally different than a working class conservative at Walmart.

      • Jordan

        Oh ya, of course.

        But, for instance, in fields where there *is* a very pretty remunerative private sector out there for ya, academic fields are still quite liberal. This supports both the “graduate school makes you more liberal” point that you made, and the “they choose it because they are liberal and like it” point as much or more so than the “dumb liberals” point.

        Some of the disparity surely is because some academia-inclined conservatives look at it rationally and see that their best path to making the most money is outside academia.

        But also quite a bit of it is because some of the conservative-inclined graduates don’t make that choice and become liberals (as you say) and also quite a bit of it is liberal-inclined academics look at it rationally and decide that the academic life offers benefits that are unavailable outside of academia.

        Again, what I’m mainly saying is: the meme that conservatives are smart because they took real jobs in the real economy for real money as opposed to those liberals with their academic aspirations is not a good meme to perpetuate. I don’t think its true in any meaningful way, and I think pushing it is not a good thing.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I’ve known many a person who came to graduate school a conservative and came out a liberal

    Or undergrad. In 2008 I did some canvassing for Obama in our ultra-conservative enclave. They had lists of people to visit who’d signed up or shown interest at some point. There were basically three responses after I asked for the voter by name and said who I was representing: 1) yep, we’re voting for him, 2) no, those people have moved, we moved in, and of course we’re not voting for him, and 3) that’s our child in college, who we’ve since straightened out.

    Personally that was my experience as well. Living in a back-of-Bourke southwestern Colorado town I was definitely a social liberal – rebelling against the idiocy I saw around me – but clung to my simplistic libertarian-ish economic beliefs. But unlike 85% of my graduating class I went to a 4-year college, and unlike all but 3 others mine was a small liberal arts school. I finally admitted to myself sometime early in my second semester that’d I’d evolved into a social democrat based both on economics, politics, and history courses and on interactions with the student body.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Just want to pile on to what FridayNext said to add that medical school is pretty conservative as well (despite a consistent thread of paper-thin liberal do- gooding of the “let’s paint a mural to solve AIDS” variety). Medical students are easily the least politically aware young people you will ever meet – med school tends to require wealthy parents and a privileged upbringing, plus a healthy belief that everything you’ve achieved in life was sui generis. Keep in mind this opinion is based on both my and my wife’s experience attending state schools in solidly red states.

    And when said young politically unaware people enter middle age and start to accumulate gobs and gobs of money, their political consciousness moves in the directions you’d expect…

    • That’s not been entirely my experience. I am a part-time medical school professor (being semi-retired now) and have been teaching medical students for 35+ years. In the 1970s students didn’t even know how much money the various specialties made. But there came a time in the early 90s or so when a lot them chose the ROAD (radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesia, and dermatology) for the easy hours and big bucks. But I’ve seen social consciousness return since then among many medical students. Of course my viewpoint is probably skewed because I’m in pediatrics, which is the main place (plus maybe family practice) you’ll find liberals in medicine. The big money, procedural specialists are mostly right-wing nuts, as you would predict. They sit off by themselves in the physician’s lounge and talk about the stock market and right-wing politics. Of course they make fun of us kiddie docs in our crunchy naïveté, as all True Conservatives should. And they always wear scrubs with a surgical cap, often with a surgical mask dangling at their neck even when out of the OR suite, as a means of signaling their importance. (Strict infectious disease guidelines show why this is a bad idea, but signaling is the important thing here). Some anthropologist should study that form of preening.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      And then some politically unaware types finish a career, retire, and run for president, displaying tragic levels of ignorance!

  • john fremont

    The author also left out engineering scools. I’ve met plenty of degreed electrical, aerospace and software engineers who are staunch conservatives through the many years I’ve worked in the aviation industry. Granted there is a lot of veterans employed in this sector but even the non vets have skewed very conservative. How these guys can be so analytical in their day to day jobs and yet are so stubborn when it comes to political and social topics has always confounded me. When they’re on the clock it’s all about gathering accurate information, test readings, root cause analysis etc. Later on when they’re home,they’re forwarding chain letters and posting debunked conservative memes on their Facebook pages. I don’t get it sometimes.

    • My experience as an engineer is that many engineers believe they always perform thorough analysis and make rational decisions, unlike people in those squishy fields. (And many include medicine as a squishy field.)

      • weirdnoise

        My experience as an engineer is that often the “thorough analysis” is nothing more than a intensive application of confirmation bias.

        • Hence my use of “believe.”

    • Karen24

      Almost all the “academics” who write young-Earth creationist texts are engineers. Make of that what you will.

      • Ronan

        Yeah afaik they’re disproportionately represented as religious extremists, suicide bombers , etc

        • OBL was a civil engineer.

          • Ronan

            Engineering departments are the new religious madrasah

          • Lee Rudolph

            Not all that civil.

      • They like the idea of god pulling an all-nighter to finish the project.

      • jmauro

        Yes, this. Once, I had an electromagnetics engineering professor start the semester by saying he believed the Earth and the Universe was only 4,000 years old. Basically started the class by announcing he’s anti-science.

        How he could rectify that with they proved its age with you know what he was teaching us I could never understand. Did he not believe what he was teaching?

  • Randy Stores

    As a graduate of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, I would add to Erik’s comment that from my experience even the study of the canonical Great Books tends to produce graduates (and indeed attract students) who are liberal and even radical in their politics. It turns out that reading classics of philosophy and literature and (maybe more importantly) being forced to discuss and argue about them leads people to think about how best to live their lives, and those conclusions tend not to be compatible with conservative politics no matter how much they fetishize Plato and Aristotle.

    • CJColucci

      When I was in college, back when Latin was taught in the modern languages department because people still spoke it, the various fancy post-post types were just coming to the fore and, in those days, I never read any of them. I developed my ideas from reading and thinking about the same DWEMs that our current wingers fetishize. Just like the fancy post-post types, who could hardly have developed their ideas by reading themselves.

  • J. Otto Pohl

    Again the false claim that people who reject state control over the means of production are all idiots. The reasons for the domination of US academia today by the left are institutional and they do have similarities with why racial minorities are underrepresented in these same institutions. US academia is extremely insular and has since the long march of the 1970s been dominated by white leftists with certain particular research interests. They have hired people like themselves particularly regarding a similarity in research interests in the humanities and social studies for decades now. If you look at other countries like the UK in the not too distant past you can find lots of politically conservative top rank scholars. Robert Conquest died not too long ago. Then there was Geoffrey Wheeler. Even today British scholars like Service and Hoskings are still actively publishing. It was only in the US that the views of Fitzpatrick and the people she trained became dominant in Soviet history.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “rejecting state control over the means of production” is down a ways on the list of reasons conservatives are idiots

    • The Dark Avenger

      it was the Stalinists in American Academia who kept you from working here, Otto. Just blame the right people and move on.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Some scholars like Young and Rabaka have done a good job of pointing out the connection between the ideological Marxist domination of parts of academia and the white racial domination of the same parts.

      http://jpohl.blogspot.com/2013/08/love-your-mama-not-mama.html

      • The Dark Avenger

        Are you talking about ideological Marxists like Angela Davis?

      • DrDick

        Now you are just hallucinating. As a Marxist academic, I can testify that we are really pretty thin on the ground, even in the social sciences and humanities.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          Take it up with Robert Young (White Mythologies) and Reiland Rabaka (Africana Critical Theroy) they are the ones that have noted the dominance of in Young’s words of “Male Anglo-Saxon Marxist Academia.” I certainly am not taking your word over that of Robert J. C. Young.

          • DrDick

            You would not take my word over that of Jonah Goldberg, but we have already established your lack of critical judgment. Citing a postmodernist English and cultural theory professor as your source (a group not known for their love of data and facts), hardly supports your argument. From briefly looking at the work of both of these men, it would seem that their primary focus has been less on Marxism than on Eurocentrism, which would also be typical for you.

        • DrDick

          I would add that many actual liberals (of the kind you complain of) reject Marxism as fiercely (and just as ignorantly) as you do. Not everyone to the left of Attila the Hun is a Marxist.

      • DAS

        I don’t know if this is central to your point or not, but I always find it rather funny when upper-middle class white academics decide who is and who isn’t oppressed, whose narratives are and are not worth listening to (somehow “we ought to listen to narratives of the underprivileged” means “we can ignore everyone else’s narrative because they are imperialists because we say they are imperialists”) and who is and who is not an indigenous person.

        • ASV

          I also find it funny when those self-same academics rail on and on about power and hegemony while constantly overworking and gaslighting their grad students. And by “funny,” I mean, “frustrating beyond measure to have to spend so much of my time trying to help these students put their doctoral programs back together.”

          • The Dark Avenger

            My mother used to remark that crazy people think they’re sane, and that it’s the rest of the people around them who are nuts for not seeing the obvious truth.

      • JR in WV

        Some people reject state control of the tools of production for all the wrong reasons, others for some of the right reasons.

        Some people would prefer state control of the capital assets of production to control of those assets by evil overlords who prefer to control near-slaves to making good contracts with labor unions.

        After attending a number of different colleges, I did not note a serious proportion of Marxists at even the most liberal of liberal arts colleges. J Otto, maybe the issue is you, not the missing Marxists?

    • Ronan

      There’s undoubtedly (at least in theUS, I haven’t seen evidence for other countries as they’re generally not as self critical) a bias towards liberals in the humanities and social sciences. My understanding is most is the result of self selection (opting out) on the part of conservatives . Personally I think the consequences of this are worse than people recognise, based on what we know about arguing from priors and ideology and cognitive limitations “even” in academia we might be missing out on some aspect of the truth . However, it’s not the end of the world

      • Ronan

        Slightly bullshity considering the source, none the les

        edge.org/conversation/jonathan_haidt-the-bright-future-of-post-partisan-social-psychology

        • Ronan

          (I now see this research was mentioned in the OP link)

    • matt w

      J. Otto, Brooks is not talking about state control over the means of production. He’s talking about “liberals,” which is going to include anyone who votes for the Democratic party. And yeah, people who vote for Republicans by and large have a humongous anti-fact bias.

    • Scott Lemieux

      And Harvey Mansfield and Bobby George are still actively publishing, so I’m not sure what your anecdotes are supposed to prove.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        It refutes the claim that there are no good conservative scholars in the humanities. The claim by LGM that only socialists can perform good scholarship because only they are intelligent and other people are idiots is wrong.

        • The Dark Avenger

          Cite omitted. You’re beginning to make Manju look sane by comparison.

        • DrDick

          Oddly, nobody but you has ever made that claim here. Both in academia and here, actual Marxists are a very small minority and we get attacked by liberals just as much as by conservatives.

        • witlesschum

          People who make shit up, as you are here Otto, might be idiots.

          • sparks

            Some of the commentariat keep patting Otto on the back when he seems reasonable only to be disillusioned.

            • witlesschum

              I like Otto and I’m glad he hangs around. But he’s unhinged sometimes, like here.

        • JR in WV

          I’ve never seen that claim made here by anyone but you, strangely…

          As I see others have observed! Amazing!

  • Pingback: How Economics Became a Right-Wing Field - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money()

  • I am SHOCKED to find a right-wing essayist claiming to be a social scientist while throwing around the technical term “groupthink” as a snarl-word, without knowing (or caring) about its actual meaning.

    I remember reading the Behavioral & Brain Sciences essay that is being pukefunneled here. Yes, it was co-authored by Jonathan Haidt, maintaining his kayfabe about being a liberal (albeit a liberal who thinks that conservatives are superior in every way).

    • Ronan

      If there is ideological homogeneity though (which it appears there genuinely is) isn’t that a bad thing ?

      • If there is ideological homogeneity though (which it appears there genuinely is)

        “Ideology” is a strong word. There have been surveys of liberal / conservative sympathies among academics, but ideology?

        • Ronan

          (Genuinely) What’s the distinction though ? Ideologies are just aggregations of policy preferences , values, tribal identities and more vague sympathies. The evidence , as far as I’m aware , Is that to some extent all those factors are skewed to the left in the humanities and social sciences ?

          • Say what you like about the tenets of policy preferences and vague sympathies, at least it’s an ideology.

            ETA: But if your claim is that “there is homogeneity of vague sympathies”, I am all “Meh”… whereas “homogeneity of ideology” carries connotations of purity tests and such.

            • Ronan

              It doesnt carry such connotations (at least for me). As I said above from what I know most is opting out self selection by those who identify as conservatives . So A lot of this is the fault of conservative talking heads for fostering this culture of oppositionalidm and self pity.. Still, the critique is the same as for economists (who are claimed as RW although on a number of levels poll as liberal) that their assumptions and research interests and priors are “ideologically” predetermined (which is true, though not even as true as in the humanities and social sciences)

  • dbraaten

    I wonder how many liberals work at AEI?

  • DAS

    I recently chaired two faculty search committees. I know I am not supposed to say this sort of thing aloud or type it in a public forum, but the conservatives are correct: we search committee chairs were explicitly instructed to only hire liberals and leftists. When we interviewed candidates, we made sure first and foremost to get their political views by asking such questions as “which method for planning syntheses is more in line with the dialectic: retro-synthetic analysis or bio-mimetic synthesis?” and “how does your plan to research the use of Fe(III) catalysts in preparing cyclic peptides advance the class struggle?”. Yep. When universities hire, they are completely focused on ideological tests …

    Can I have my wingnut welfare now?

    • Lee Rudolph

      “which method for planning syntheses is more in line with the dialectic: retro-synthetic analysis or bio-mimetic synthesis?”

      Talk about pitching softball. Sheesh.

    • Jonas

      Hey, I know one of those! The lantipeptides are necessary to produce cyanobacterial biofuels which we can use to destroy the fossil fuel industry. Are you hiring?

      • DAS

        No. We’ve already hired our complement of chemists. But I would be happy to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • ColBatGuano

      Yeah, the overwhelming number of liberals in the physical sciences kind of refutes Brook’s entire argument.

  • petemack

    Um. Some of the people studying race gender, etc. really are objectively bad researchers who assume a result and then go about proving it. Not much different from phrenology, except in the results they “look for”.

    Bottom line: plenty of people on the left think postmodernism, while occasionally useful in examining literature, is an absolute disaster when applied to social science.

    • DrDick

      Yes, and many of us studying race, gender, and the like (I study both) also reject most of postmodernism (though they have some useful and important incites). Indeed, I would argue that the most ardent postmodernists (though they would never call themselves that) are the conservatives.

      • Paul de Man comes to mind — Nazi collaborator, bigamist, embezzler, then an influential voice for post-modernism and the fluidity of historical facts.

        • Lee Rudolph

          A disposition to favor fluidity of historical facts is surely enormously useful to both Nazi collaborators (particularly post-Reich) and embezzlers (in all circumstances whatever); in fact one might say that it’s a sine qua non of Embezzlement Considered as One of the Fine Arts.

          • weirdnoise

            So the present Republican Party is pretty much postmodern, yes? Or am I been naïve?

            • DrDick

              Completely postmodern.

              • rea

                The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

                What could be more post-modern?

      • DAS

        The most enthusiastic postmodernist among academics whom I know and who are in my age group is politically and religiously quite conservative. FWIW.

  • DrDick

    First, studying the human past and present in depth tends to challenge the mythology about the world conservatives hold dear.
    This is really important. While I have always been liberal, I only became a socialist in my 50s and that was clearly driven by the empirical data I encountered in my reading and research.

    • Ronan

      This is ridiculous. Plenty of people here aren’t socialist though many have seen the same “empirical data.” Looking at the data can lead to multiple outcomes, so claiming your endpoint is the result of “empiricism” while others isn’t is not credible

      • DrDick

        What is ridiculous is taking exception to something I never said. What I said is that increasing knowledge pushed me that way, not that it was inevitable or did so to everyone. On the other hand, I have never met anyone who became more conservative by studying the actual human condition and society.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          Thus proving your insularity. There were a huge number of French scholars that moved to the right abandoning communism in the 1970s in the wake of the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. It was the empirical data in that multi-volume book that pushed them to abandon Marxism.

          • DrDick

            Here again you distort facts. First off, Stalin and the Soviet Union are not synonymous with Marxism and much that was done there directly contradicts the writings of Marx himself (it was much more Leninist than Marxist). Some abandoned Marxism (more abandoned the Communist Party for its unquestioning support of the USSR), though not that many as it is still a dominant academic movement in France (in marked contrast to America), but they did not become “more conservative”. Conservative” does not mean everything that is not Marxism. Within the Postcolonialist movement, it was more about the rejection of the Eurocentric assumptions embedded in academic Marxism than of the basic tenets (they looked to expand it, not to reject it). If anything, conservatism as manifested in the West is far more Eurocentric.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Revel and Courtois and the scholars around them certainly did become more right wing. I am not sure how you can claim that Courtois or Revel did not become more conservative. But, then again I am not the one claiming that the study of human society inevitably makes intelligent people socialists.

              • The Dark Avenger

                He was making no such universalist claim. You call yourself an academic when a comprehension of basic American English seems to be beyond you.

              • DrDick

                But, then again I am not the one claiming that the study of human society inevitably makes intelligent people socialists.

                Oddly enough, no one else here did so either. I said that it did so for me, but I did not realize that I embody all of humanity. I would add that citing two individuals is hardly compelling given that Marxism was a dominant force in the French academe in the 50s and 60s and remains important today.

          • JR in WV

            Marxism is not identical to socialism, which is not identical to communism, none of which were employed in the economic management of the USSR for more than a few months back in the 1920s.

            Abandoning communism is not identical to becoming right wing or conservative. Wasn’t Stalinism more the problem being addressed in “The Gulag”?

            I’m sorry you never achieved an academic career in the US, but to blame that on Marxists in academe seems pretty silly. Most Marxists I know are pretty accepting of everyone but right-wing Nazis. Oh, wait.. maybe…

            • DrDick

              A lot of us hate Stalin as much as he does, we just do not blame Marx for him.

        • Ronan

          You’ve never known anyone move to the right from studying the “human condition”?

          And you absolutely are saying studying the evidence can only lead to one outcome (ie moving to the left)

          • DrDick

            No, I am not. Why do you keep insisting that I am making universalist declarations when I have never framed them that way? Many people do not move ideologically at all and I only spoke to my own experience not to all of humanity. However, as I have been in academia for over 50 years it would seem rather rare if it exists at all. What I have seen a lot of is that people (including some social scientists) may become more conservative as they age and their position in society changes, but that is never founded in their research, but in their self interest (and is framed as such by them).

            • Ronan

              First of all you quoted , and agreed with

              “First, studying the human past and present in depth tends to challenge the mythology about the world conservatives hold dear. “.

              Second you said

              “I have never met anyone who became more conservative by studying the actual human condition and society.”
              And now

              “may become more conservative as they age and their position in society changes, but that is never founded in their research, but in their self interest (and is framed as such by them).”

              So I don’t know how you’re not at least strongly implying that “studying the evidence can only lead to one outcome (ie moving to the left)”

              • DrDick

                So I don’t know how you’re not at least strongly implying that “studying the evidence can only lead to one outcome (ie moving to the left)”

                Because I have explicitly said that it does not necessarily move people ideologically at all? What I would assert quite clearly is that the empirical evidence does not support conservative positions and ideology. That does not automatically mean that it necessarily supports socialism either, though I think it generally does so.

                • weirdnoise

                  I think it depends upon ones motivations for studying the human condition. Not a perfect example, but Machiavelli was an insightful scholar of his culture. So are some of the PR types I’ve encountered — more knowledgable in practical psychology than most psychotherapists I’ve known.

                  Cynical, sociopathic ethics aren’t going to interact with deep knowledge of society and the human condition in the same way as someone with a bent towards empathy and egalitarianism.

                • DrDick

                  weirdnoise –

                  As an aside, that is a point I make when talking about in teaching Marx in my theory classes. Analytic marxism is distinct from political marxism and even conservatives can employ the marxist analytic to advance their ideas. In my own case, I adopted the analytic at least a decade before I became a socialist.

  • The Free Marketplace of Ideas is a wonderful thing, but sometimes people aren’t buying what I’m selling, which is why we need dirigisme and subsidies.

    • Lee Rudolph

      The Free Marketplace of Ideas is a wonderful thing, but sometimes people aren’t buying what I’m selling

      Myself, I’m more of a Flea Marketplace of Ideas man.

  • Sebastian_h

    It is interesting how many people here are dismissive of statistical representation evidence in the academic conservatives case only. Seeing the “they choose to opt out” excuse is interesting too. For literally any other allegation of discrimination those wouldn’t be acceptable responses.

    • Ronan

      Self selecting and “Opting out ” is given as a factor in a lot of cases of disproportionate representation based on race , gender etc. Whether or not it’s as important that conservatives are opting out of certain professions as the fact that women Or non whites are is debatable, although I don’t think so.
      Whether or not conservatives and liberals are developing cultures if victimisation that are causing these consequences is also arguable , but much more plausible in the case of conservatives. Discrimination on the basis of political beliefs isn’t really comparable to that on race, gender or class.
      Also very plausible that truth does , in fact , have a liberal bias (really, especially considering most of the right these days are merely a different branch of liberalism )

      • Ronan

        Or to put the last part another way, when it comes down to the differences after that level of education(and I’d include you in this) the differences are trivial. So the question is why do the values and beliefs of academia not represent the population at large. I think this is basically the WEIRD phenomenon and is a result of high intellectual attainment + self selection + socialisation .
        The interesting question is not whether there should be more “conservatives” in academia (for a trivial definition of conservative ) but whether the global cognitive elite could ever be said to represent and understand the values and beliefs of those with genuine divergent outlooks (both domestically and internationally ) I think yes. Possibly.
        The second question is whether genuine conservatism (not this watered down nonsense that’s called conservatism) could survive the critical self questioning of academia, as a prescription for political life , not just description. I’d guess possibly not

      • Sebastian_h

        The truth has a liberal/left bias most clearly when you get to retroactively erase from memory the wrong choices (communism, progressive eugenics, the initiative system, rent control). It is just a bullshit catchphrase to make your in group feel good about itself.

        Methodologically I tend to think “they opted out” might be an ok response to certain questions, but if you disagree, you shouldn’t get to use it unselfconsciously just because your side is implicated.

        “But the idea of there being an active liberal bias is ridiculous.” in the OP is particularly egregious. You don’t have to have blatant self knowing bias in order to have active systemic bias. Hiring the people you ‘feel’ you get along better with, or who know the right mentors, or who research the right projects is plenty enough.

        If you want you can say yes there may be systemic bias, but we don’t care. That’s fine. But when you use exactly the same excuses as the law firm partners, shouldn’t that cause even the tiniest bit of self reflection that there might be systemic bias? Or maybe lead you to believe that the law firm partners may actually have a point? Whichever direction you go with it, you shouldn’t leave things unchanged.

        • To compare rent control with communism and eugenics is so wrong as to be offensive. Even if you don’t agree with it (and the evidence is not nearly as strong against it as its haters present), it has absolutely nothing to do with those other things.

          • Sebastian_h

            I wasn’t comparing rent control to communism or eugenics in terms of overall bad consequences, Erik. I was comparing them in terms of the liberal academic worlds’ willingness to ignore facts in favor of politics.

            Did you think I thought the initiative system and communism were comparable in every way? So, where is the outrage coming from?

        • Warren Terra

          You realize your view of history is quite blinkered, right?

          I wasn’t aware “communism” had been erased from memory. Also: the failures of communism have to do with totalitarianism and the abrogation of civil rights. The consequences of this have been tragic, but it’s not clear to me they’re the fault of the social-democratic movement.

          “Progressive eugenics”, indeed! Eugenics was the pet project of a bunch of toffs in England and Bluebloods in America long before it fell into the hands of genuine fascists in Europe and would-be fascists in the Jim Crow south. Although the toffs and bluebloods had somewhat utopian ideals, none of this had squat to do with the Left and it became a signature crime of the extreme Right.

          The “initiative system” was populist rather than in any way leftist; populism is not something that clearly falls along left/right lines. And the worst uses of the initiative system have mostly been the result of its capture by wealthy individuals and organizations hostile to the Left.

          On “rent control” I’m largely ignorant (I’ve never lived anyplace that had it). On the other hand, even if a failure it was an attempt to address a real problem, and the solutions emerging from the right tend to be things like California’s Prop 13 that entrench the position of the haves and further penalize the have-nots.

          • DrDick

            Yes, but it he has an ax to grind, like JOtto, and does not care whose neck he uses.

          • Sebastian_h

            I didn’t say communism had been erased from memory. I said it had been erased from the calculus of what bias the truth has. It doesn’t get counted by people who want to suggest that conservatives can’t make it in the academic world because the academic world is too worried about facts rather than politics.

            And questioning my view of history if you don’t even know about the deep links of progressives and eugenics in the US only serves to directly illustrate my point.

            Initiatives were one of the hallmarks of the progressive movement. They thought that initiatives would allow the popular will to FINALLY succeed against money interests. Again, if you don’t know that, questioning my knowledge of history seems cheeky. Seriously, look it up.

            • DocAmazing

              In California at least, the rise of initiatives occurred when the railroad interests were no longer getting everything they wanted from the legislature. You might want to look it up.

              As to the “deep links of progressives and eugenics”; are you going to give us the same nigh-illiterate boilerplate about Margaret Sanger and eugenics that we’d get from Jonah Goldberg?

              • Sebastian_h

                That is a very misleading way of framing it. The rise of initiatives and the railroads were indeed linked, but the rise of initiatives was in response to railroad power, not as a part of it. See for example here

                Statewide initiative and referendum

                After accomplishing the placement of I&R in his local charter, Haynes turn his attention to gaining statewide I&R. The odds against him were daunting. The entire state government had for decades been under the control of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bribery was the accepted method of doing business in the state capitol. Realizing the hopelessness of dealing with the current officeholders, Haynes and other reformers began a campaign to get rid of them and remake state government from top to bottom. In May of 1907, they founded the Lincoln-Roosevelt League of Republican Clubs, and elected several of their candidates to the state legislature. Once elected, these legislators worked for a bill to require the nomination of party candidates through primary election rather than the backroom deals of state party conventions.
                Taking back the legislature

                The bill passed, and the League’s 1910 gubernatorial candidate, Hiram Johnson, ran in the state’s first primary election. Johnson won the primary and the general election and swept dozens of other reformers into the legislature on his political coattails.

                Johnson and the new Progressive majority in the legislature made the most sweeping governmental changes ever seen in the history of California. Among these were the introduction of initiative, referendum, and recall at both the state and local levels. Voters ratified these amendments in a special election on October 10, 1911.

                So, what were you saying about the railroads and initiatives again? And did you notice the name of that party? Truth has a what bias?

                You’re making my point.

                • Sebastian_h

                  See also here

                  The Populist and Progressive Era The 1890s and early 1900s saw the establishment of the Populist and Progressive movements. Both were based on the people’s dissatisfaction with government and its inability to deal effectively in addressing the problems of the day. The supporters of both these movements had become especially outraged that moneyed special interest groups controlled government, and that the people had no ability to break this
                  control. They soon began to propose a comprehensive platform of political reforms that included women’s suffrage, secret ballots, direct election of U.S. Senators, recall, primary elections, and the initiative process.
                  The cornerstone of their reform package was the establishment of the initiative process for they knew that without it many of the reforms they wanted – that were being blocked by state legislatures – would not be possible.

            • Warren Terra

              I didn’t say communism had been erased from memory. I said it had been erased from the calculus of what bias the truth has. It doesn’t get counted by people who want to suggest that conservatives can’t make it in the academic world because the academic world is too worried about facts rather than politics.

              This paragraph is completely incoherent, which I take to mean that you didn’t have a point beyond Godwin.

              And questioning my view of history if you don’t even know about the deep links of progressives and eugenics in the US only serves to directly illustrate my point.

              I will admit that I’ve only read one book on the history of eugenics, but it’s a bit of a doorstop (the Kevles book) and moreover it’s a serious work of the history of science, rather than a political take on the subject like whatever Jonah Goldberg-esque semiliterate screeds I’m betting you read.

              Initiatives were one of the hallmarks of the progressive movement. They thought that initiatives would allow the popular will to FINALLY succeed against money interests. Again, if you don’t know that, questioning my knowledge of history seems cheeky. Seriously, look it up.

              (1) This doesn’t actually address my point about the distinction between populism and left/liberal ideology, and your craven blurring of the lines around the changing meaning of the word “progressive” over time doesn’t help, as it clearly wasn’t meant to. (2) And in any case you’re wrong, as indeed anyone who looks at the history, or at how initiatives are used today (or reads DJW’s post) could tell you. Initiatives were and are an ideal of populists and also a tool of sneaky powerbrokers, all of which is completely independent of their roots on the left/right spectrum.

              • The Dark Avenger

                Hiram Johnson, who got the referendum, the initiative, and the recall, passed into law and incorporated into the CA Constituion, was a Progressive Conservative, whose stated goal was to keep a Democrat from becoming governor of California. So to cite these as an example of Liberal/Leftie politics, is to demonstrate an almost complete lack of understanding about the politics of the time in question.

        • Ronan

          Rent control isn’t really a conservative liberal division. Rent control is an example of the triviality of small differences I was talking about. Whether its empirically unsupportable depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to reward and incentivise long term settlement in an area, for example (which could also be a conservative aspiration ) then it’s more than supportable by the evidence as it stands.
          As I said though , the right left divide is overblown. As Ernst gellner said in a now overused cliche, the real conservative doesn’t even know they are one (or something like that) . Point being that what passes for conservatism and ideological division in politics and particularly intellectual disagreements three days are primarily aesthetic conflicts, or explosions of contrariness

    • DrDick

      Given how routinely conservatives dismiss academics, do you really think very many of them want to pursue it? When your whole worldview holds that you can judge a man’s worth and character by the size of his paycheck and his bank account are you going to take a rather low paying job with little room for advancement relative to comparable fields? The reality is that not many conservatives want to be academics, but there are still a considerable number in this country, even whole universities dominated by them (George Mason University comes to mind). Your persecution complex to the contrary, there is no discrimination based on your political views.

      • Sebastian_h

        Again, is the reality that not many women want to become CEOs? Or is it maybe that systemically things are stacked against them to make it so that as they are climbing up that ladder they eventually decide to give up? Or maybe it is both? Maybe the path to CEOdom means you have to give up too many things you hold dear and that fewer women are willing to do so. Does that make the women wrong? Or the path tho CEOdom? Or maybe neither!

        I don’t claim to definitively know the answer to any of those questions. But I do know this thread illustrates how easy it is to not ask those questions for groups you don’t favor. That is a very liberal, fact-loving thing to point out.

        • Ronan

          I think it’s both and I think (theoretically) trying to correct gender imbalances in every profession and at every level is probably a bit of a fools errand

          • Ronan

            Although on a personal level, if your professional conduct is making specific demographics uncomfortable and turning them off a career in your profession (even conservatives) you should correct that , professionally.
            But as the op says as well , self selection isn’t only (or primarily) due to a real or perceived hostile culture,but due to tjings like wages snd status that self described conservatives might value in different ways than self described liberals.
            And ideological underrepresentation isn’t comparable to that on gender and race and class(is there a history of discrimination against conservatives ? Should there be a Marxist in every Econ dept, etc)

            • DrDick

              Does that mean academic departments should be required to hire people who hold positions, relevant to the discipline, which are demonstrably false? That is the biggest problem conservative academics actually face. Historian and former professor Newt Gingrich believes that Belgian control of the Congo was entirely benign and uplifting. Would you hire him?

  • Simeon

    I’ve known many a person who came to graduate school a conservative and came out a liberal. One includes a founder of this blog.

    Ooh, which one? I bet it was Farley. (As the “Guns” in “Lawyers, Guns & Money”, he makes the most sense to me.)

  • Rattus Norvegicus

    Unfortunately I think that Brooks showed a great weakness that conservatives have when it comes to data and experimental results. They like to make shit up. In his article he cited, w/o providing a reference of course, a World Bank study which showed that liberals tended to misinterpret data when it went against their beliefs. The study he cited involved data which was first presented as the results of a skin rash test and then presented as data on minimum wage laws on poverty. Hmm, I said to myself, skin rash, conservatives, liberals? I think I’ve seen this study described in a different context. And what Brooks said was flat out fucking made up. Here is a description of the real study:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2013/09/chris-mooney-was-right.html

    The interesting panel in the four panel figure is the lower right one, which as the author of the article linked said “the study showed that conservatives are barking mad”. The fact that “numerate” conservatives were so unable to accept the findings of a study which did not jibe with their ideology is telling.

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