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"If They Can Find Time for Feminist Theory, They Can Find Time for Edmund Burke":

Peter Berkowitz, a political philosopher who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, has an excellent short opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, "Conservatism and the University Curriculum," for which the title of this post is the subtitle. Berkowitz is an extraordinarily gifted thinker and writer, and this short piece is well worth reading by academics of any political persuasion, in thinking about the proper formation of the university curriculum:

Political science departments are generally divided into the subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Conservative ideas are relevant in all four, but the obvious areas within the political science discipline to teach about the great tradition of conservative ideas and thinkers are American politics and political theory. That rarely happens today.

To be sure, a political science department may feature a course on American political thought that includes a few papers from "The Federalist" and some chapters from Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America."

But most students will hear next to nothing about the conservative tradition in American politics that stretches from John Adams to Theodore Roosevelt to William F. Buckley Jr. to Milton Friedman to Ronald Reagan. This tradition emphasizes moral and intellectual excellence, worries that democratic practices and egalitarian norms will threaten individual liberty, attends to the claims of religion and the role it can play in educating citizens for liberty, and provides both a vigorous defense of free-market capitalism and a powerful critique of capitalism's relentless overturning of established ways. It also recognized early that communism represented an implacable enemy of freedom. And for 30 years it has been animated by a fascinating quarrel between traditionalists, libertarians and neoconservatives.

While ignoring the intricacies - no doubt not all of them debates for the ages - of the debates within conservative and libertarian and neoconservative thought, the academy has no difficulty accommodating the intellectual interests and political commitments of its members on the progressive side of the political spectrum:

While ignoring conservatism, the political theory subfield regularly offers specialized courses in liberal theory and democratic theory; African-American political thought and feminist political theory; the social theory of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and the neo-Marxist Frankfurt school; and numerous versions of postmodern political theory.

But the most important point of this op-ed is Berkowitz's attack on the natural, deeply instinctive response of the academy when pushed to address the lack of attention to a deeply important intellectual structure ... you conservatives must want some affirmative action of your own, a few token conservatives who self-identify as conservatives, some conservative identity politics to satisfy a particular interest group constituency ... we know all about this, we can negotiate something:

When progressives, who dominate the academy, confront arguments about the need for the curriculum to give greater attention to conservative ideas, they often hear them as a demand for affirmative action. Usually they mishear. Certainly affirmative action for conservatives is a terrible idea.

Political science departments should not seek out professors with conservative political opinions. Nor should they lower scholarly standards. That approach would embrace the very assumption that has corrupted liberal education: that to study and teach particular political ideas one's identity is more important than the breadth and depth of one's knowledge and the rigor of one's thinking

One need not be a Puritan to study and teach colonial American religious thought, an ancient Israelite to study and teach biblical thought, or a conservative or Republican to study and teach conservative ideas. Affirmative action in university hiring for political conservatives should be firmly rejected, certainly by conservatives and defenders of liberal education.

To be sure, if political science departments were compelled to hire competent scholars to offer courses on conservative ideas and conservative thinkers, the result would be more faculty positions filled by political conservatives, since they and not progressives tend to take an interest in studying conservative thought. But there is no reason why scholars with progressive political opinions and who belong to the Democratic Party can not, out of a desire to understand American political history and modern political philosophy, study and teach conservatism in accordance with high intellectual standards. It would be good if they did.

I suppose I count as a libertarian conservative of some vague stripe. It strikes me as a weird label, because only within the bowels of the academy do I think my political views would be counted as "conservative" in any real sense, or even libertarian. More to the point, I am not especially political; I'm interested in policy and ideas, and don't have much of a sense of politics, even while residing in DC. The politicization of everyday life by the socio-economic-professional-New Class I hang out with - the tendency, for example, to twitter one's fleeting political thoughts twenty times a day, or to Make Political Statements with status updates on Facebook a couple of times a day - strikes me as somewhere between bizarre and pathological. Or, worse, trivial - merely the identification of professional sports. I understand it if it's sports; I don't understand it at all if it's politics.

Yet within an academic institution, I find myself treated as "conservative" - either to recoil from in faint horror, with a certain advice to students, well, if you take him, you have to know what you're getting, or with a certain faint institutional pride that we're broad-minded enough to have someone like him, which is to say, there is nothing an academic institution cannot praise itself for if it tries hard enough. I've had conversations - earnest, well-intentioned - that amounted to saying, "We're so glad you're our token conservative."

There are institutions that have admirably managed to avoid either the "affirmative action for conservatives" syndrome or the 'let's just avoid them altogether' approach. Harvard Law School is one of them - Elena Kagan had a deep understanding of what it takes to build a genuinely eclectic intellectual community, and I am certain that Martha Minow - mazeltov! - as the new Dean feels the same way. Harvard is unusual that way, among top schools; it is not a club of the like-minded, and among the top law schools where I have any personal knowledge, it has a vibrant intellectual culture that does not receive that accolades it deserves. But there's a reason why not - that kind of vibrant culture that reaches widely across political and policy views is not as much admired as one might have hoped. HLS doesn't receive the praise for the variegation of its intellectual culture that one might have anticipated because its peers don't necessarily think HLS does well, or more precisely, does itself any good, to promote it.

But across much of the rest of the academy, Berkowitz is right - and right about the intellectual risk posed by the instinctive response of an academic community defined by identity politics - "Oh, we get it, we need to have one of those."

(Thanks Instapundit for the link, and welcome Instapunditeers.)

itshissong:
This is a great piece. As a classic Upper West Side liberal reform jew who went to "an elite private school" and a liberal arts college in New England, I have always desired more intellectual engagement with strong conservative thinkers and ideas in my scholastic endeavors. Thus, when the time came and I had to pick between NYU and UChicago for law school I picked UChicago for, among other reasons, its reputation for interesting conservative thinkers. Thus far, I am very happy I made that choice but wish that, if anything, there were more conservative professors and students. Anyway, I am still a raging lefty but love being challenged by and learning from conservative principles and ideas.
6.13.2009 1:03pm
Seamus (mail):

But most students will hear next to nothing about the conservative tradition in American politics that stretches from John Adams to Theodore Roosevelt to William F. Buckley Jr. to Milton Friedman to Ronald Reagan.



Theodore Roosevelt? Theodore Roosevelt? TR is only a conservative in the eyes of neocons and of liberals who like to point to him as an example of what they wish conservatives today were like.
6.13.2009 1:12pm
Desiderius:
See also.

Exceptional post. It doesn't help matters that a large chunk of what is now labeled "conservative" is, in fact, the very liberal tradition that through the ages established those norms in which the academy believes itself to be operating. Indeed, the academy itself.

The problem is more dire than understanding the "Other". It is, in a very real sense, about the academy better understanding itself.

"While ignoring conservatism, the political theory subfield regularly offers specialized courses in liberal theory and democratic theory; African-American political thought and feminist political theory; the social theory of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and the neo-Marxist Frankfurt school; and numerous versions of postmodern political theory."

This (dominant) curriculum is many things, but I strain to see how it can be construed as liberal, or at least as encompassing anywhere near the breadth, or even the essence, of liberal thought.
6.13.2009 1:15pm
Mountaineer (mail):
It sounds like he's fighting for more political philosophy in political science departments as much as anything else. And unless one is talking about a tiny subset of schools, that fight was lost decades ago. In the wake of the behavioral revolution political science is much more about the science part of its name. His complaints are probably better aimed at Philosophy or History programs - unless he can tell us how Burke and Adams can contribute to rational choice, formal models, and higher r-squared values.
6.13.2009 1:16pm
corneille1640 (mail):
re: "affirmative action" charge

I agree with Berkowitz that it's ridiculous to assert that a curriculum that discusses conservatism needs to be billed as a plea for "affirmative action" for conservatism.

My one quibble is that the affirmative action charge comes more from the perception that conservatives and demanding greater inclusion in the academy simply because they are conservatives. I'm not sure that this perception of what conservatives are asking for is correct, although I wouldn't be surprised if at least some conservatives in the David Horwitz mode ask for just that. I do suspect (without any hard evidence) that many liberal or left minded academics have that perception and that perception motivates the "affirmative action for conservatives" charge.
6.13.2009 1:18pm
corneille1640 (mail):

This (dominant) curriculum is many things, but I strain to see how it can be construed as liberal, or at least as encompassing anywhere near the breadth, or even the essence, of liberal thought.

It seems to me that Berkowitz was using "liberal" in the way it is used most commonly in everyday political discourse in the US. This use, by my observation, involves calling "liberal" ideas ranging from "socialist" to pro-governmental regulation, to assertion of at least some civil liberties, to marxism, to identity politics. I agree with you that little of this comports with the classical definition of liberalism.
6.13.2009 1:22pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Seamus,

Funny, I had a hard time concentrating while reading the whole piece, because I thought the exact same thing.

It'd be like holding up JFK as the exemplar of modern progressivism.
6.13.2009 1:29pm
Gilbert (mail):
It's easier to incorporate feminism because it doesn't claim an unbroken chain of historical principle like that which Berkowitz seems to attribute to conservatism. The historical case for consistency in the alignment of the veiwpoints Berkowitz describes is dubious. No doubt there have always been supporters of each of these causes, but they have not always been in the same ideological camp.

If Berkowitz is disappointed that political science professors don't teach that conservatism today is an intellectual direct descendant of conservatism at the founding of the country, he demanding not just the impossible, but the implausible too.
6.13.2009 1:38pm
EstaLaw 1 (mail):
Eugene, thank you for posting this excellent article and analysis. I have a recommendation for Those who feel they did not get a thorough review of conservative thinking in college but would like to get one. The Teaching Company, which sells specially designed audio courses on all manner of subjects, has just released a course on the Conservative Tradition taught by Patrick Allit of Emory. It is an excellent neutral overview of conservatism in the US and England from the Glorious Revolution onward. They also have produced an equally excellent course called Thinking About Capitalism, taught by Jerry Mueller of catholic. The two make perfect companion classes. The Teaching Company is at www.teach12.com
6.13.2009 1:44pm
Mark N. (www):
I think some of this ties in, in a way that isn't particularly partisan, to what the teaching role of an academic is. Is it to develop their own particular views of how the field should go and what theories should be defended, and teach these to students, who act as apprentices of sorts? Or is it to teach a neutral, broad view of current consensus in their field? Historically, both views have been present.

American academia in its early years tended towards the "teach consensus", but partly because in its nascent years its researchers themselves spent much of their own time getting up to speed with the (largely European) state of the art. Other countries at other times have tended much more towards "teach what the professor thinks". When someone attended Kant's lectures at the University of Königsberg, for example, they were not getting a comparative overview of philosophy up to Kant's time---they were getting, instead, Kant's views on philosophy.
6.13.2009 1:48pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I have to ask: Did Dean Minow's experience as a kluge Yidishke make her a better candidate for the job?
6.13.2009 1:51pm
Hadur:
Is Edmund Burke relevant to American conservatism? I like the point of this article, but I think the title needs work.

(I say this as an American conservative, though not a libertarian)
6.13.2009 1:51pm
rosetta's stones:

Is Edmund Burke relevant to American conservatism?


...not lately.

It's a good name to drop on the academy, insular lot that they are.
6.13.2009 2:00pm
MikeS (mail):
If the Hoover institution can employ people deranged right-wingers like Shelby Steele, they can employ intelligent liberals too.
6.13.2009 3:19pm
josil (mail):
Political Science (and other social studies) would be well served to eliminate its scientific pretentions. Footnotes and statistics do not make a science, although they provide a nice patina. There is nothing wrong with teaching or writing studies: They can be interesting, especially when the language is used to communicate and not obfuscate. As a long-past graduate of PoliSci, I am glad to have preceded (by many decades) much of the current silliness in the academy.
6.13.2009 3:23pm
frankcross (mail):
I'm in great agreement with the overall thrust of the editorial, but it seems historically very confused, counting John Adams and TR as conservatives. Neither was a small government type, in fact both led big government parties.

It's very difficult to define conservatism. Adams might reasonably be considered Burkean, but Jefferson was the one for states rights. Conservatism has certainly changed in content over time, as has liberalism. But it seems true that conservatives of various types are not sufficiently examined in universities, I think.
6.13.2009 3:38pm
DiversityHire:
The parts around: "The politicization of everyday life ...strikes me as somewhere between bizarre and pathological."… What can I say… I love the new Conspirator.
6.13.2009 3:55pm
David Welker (www):
I don't know what it is with conservatives and their need to deny the importance of identity. Look, I am not saying that identity should or should not be important. I am saying in the real world, it is important. Always has been, always will be.

Do you really think a liberal would teach conservative political thought in the same way a conservative would teach it? Yeah, in theory, they could. In reality, they probably would not. Usually. A few exceptions does not change the tendency.
6.13.2009 4:04pm
corneille1640 (mail):

Do you really think a liberal would teach conservative political thought in the same way a conservative would teach it? Yeah, in theory, they could. In reality, they probably would not. Usually. A few exceptions does not change the tendency.

I would hope that a wise liberal professor would teach conservative thought better than a wise conservative professor who hasn't had the same life experiences.
6.13.2009 4:08pm
ari8 (mail):
Gotta go along with the others: counting TR as a "conservative" is absurd, unless anyone who is a rabid jingoist is inherently conservative.
6.13.2009 4:15pm
corneille1640 (mail):
While it is plausible to say that TR was not a conservative, at least some of his thoughts, policies and actions might be agreeable to some conservatives today. For instance, despite his "trustbuster" title, he claimed that it was better to work with the trusts through friendly regulation. I'm speaking here of his essential opposition to antitrust law and his wish to replace antitrust law with a program of federally chartering interstate corporations. There is much in this that probably would not necessarily appeal to conservatives today, but his willingness to work with at least some businesses is different from the caricature of "liberals'" approach to business.

TR's extreme and bellicose nationalism might fit with the definition of some who claim that conservatives are extreme and bellicose nationalists.
6.13.2009 4:24pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Interesting piece. Many thanks for the post.

The classification of certain figures is debatable, as many have noted. Many philosophers would define philosophical conservatism so as to stretch from Plato to Marx - emphasizing the ideas of collectivity over individuality and of the state as the best mechanism to ensure the Good [thickly conceived]. Insistence on minimal government is taken, in our circles, as typical of philosophical liberalism. It gets more complicated as one investigates variations of these philosophical perspectives and theoretical efforts to blend or transcend them, so we usually choose other terms to help make those distinctions. And, the economic focus of much current 'liberal/conservative' debate really is incidental to the way most of us think of political theory for undergraduates.

At any rate, I agree that the main problem with Berkowitz's complaint is that political scientists really do not teach - or read - much political theory. We philosophers do that. I think we would do well to teach theorists - such as Burke - more than we do, but small philosophy program can only manage so much. So, our standard, on-the-books courses focus on the theoretical framework I noted above and often skip Burke, on 'period' courses or, more and more, debates within contemporary 'liberalism.'

As a wise WASP-ita, I try very hard to present all - seldom merely 'both' - sides of every topic. And I always point out that the libertarians of today are the only U.S. block whose positions are theoretically consistent, which probably accounts for their not being politically dominant.
6.13.2009 4:39pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
theorists such as Burke
6.13.2009 4:42pm
rosetta's stones:

"...his wish to replace antitrust law with a program of federally chartering interstate corporations. There is much in this that probably would not necessarily appeal to conservatives today, but his willingness to work with at least some businesses is different from the caricature of "liberals'" approach to business."


How do you figure it's different? Obama Motors has just federally chartered multiple interstate corporations, and in fact claims ownership in them. If it looks like a duck, and walks like... etc.




TR's extreme and bellicose nationalism might fit with the definition of some who claim that conservatives are extreme and bellicose nationalists.


I think you're speaking of neocons here... not conservatives. Neocons would more readily fall closer to the banner of contemporary liberalism than conservatism, especially when coupled with federally chartered interstate corporations. Certainly, bellicosity is not a conservative trait.

The only thing "conservative" that comes to mind re TR would be wildlife conservation, but I'm not even sure that holds. He was a voice for it , and maybe that was important at that time.
6.13.2009 4:42pm
frankcross (mail):
corneille that makes the opposite case. The relatively free market solution to the trusts was antitrust, Roosevelt's regulation was the pro-government response. He wasn't all that friendly. Railroad regulation and food and drug regulation. The federal chartering was a strike at federalism. He favored creating an income tax and an estate tax. All very liberal progressive.

His nationalism and eagerness for war might be seen as conservative, though I'm not sure that's what conservatives want to embrace
6.13.2009 4:44pm
Anderson (mail):
Leaving aside that Berkowitz makes a living out of whinging about the academy, the point is well taken -- but I would like to see some empirical data, not just anecdotes.

Looking around a while back for "what conservatives think," I picked up the Viking Conservative Reader, which unfortunately suffers from having been edited by Russell Kirk; I would think there are much brighter conservatives who could put together a much better anthology (any suggestions welcome).

Re: Burke, the chapter in Strauss's History of Political Philosophy is a ludicrous hagiography by Harvey Mansfield. I hope to get around to finding something that addresses the strengths and weaknesses of Burke's thought, so's to improve on my present superficial understanding.
6.13.2009 4:57pm
Cato The Elder (mail):

The politicization of everyday life by the socio-economic-professional-New Class I hang out with - the tendency, for example, to twitter one's fleeting political thoughts twenty times a day, or to Make Political Statements with status updates on Facebook a couple of times a day - strikes me as somewhere between bizarre and pathological.


You expressed my personal view of politics better than I've ever seen anywhere else. Bravo, bravo! So many people want a future of mass political opinion and hope for a process that enables the finely tuned control of others' lives, which is terrifying to me. All of that course is justified under the facade of Very Serious And Important Discussion, but I've thought, like yourself, ever since I was a child that those who go into politics are almost pathological, or at least twisted from me in some morally important way. Who needs to have an opinion on every damn subject or fix every problem wrong in the world? My perfect world would be a largely apolitical one, but the expansive nature of the government in the United States today requires every citizen to be actively engaged in resisting its machinations even if that engagement is against their nature and interests. Yet for these perfectly defensible opinions "libertarian conservatives" are branded as selfish reactionaries.
6.13.2009 5:49pm
David Welker (www):

More to the point, I am not especially political; I'm interested in policy and ideas, and don't have much of a sense of politics, even while residing in DC. The politicization of everyday life by the socio-economic-professional-New Class I hang out with - the tendency, for example, to twitter one's fleeting political thoughts twenty times a day, or to Make Political Statements with status updates on Facebook a couple of times a day - strikes me as somewhere between bizarre and pathological. Or, worse, trivial - merely the identification of professional sports. I understand it if it's sports; I don't understand it at all if it's politics.


This is precisely why identity matters. You view people who are not like you as "somewhere between bizarre and pathological." Right, and we are to suppose that you can fairly teach about the world from the perspective of such people?

By the way, I personally think that cheering for sports teams could be considered "somewhere between bizarre and pathological" especially as there is no real connection between team members and geography. It is not as though, when you are in Atlanta, that the members of the Braves baseball teams are all from Atlanta. Nor are these people you know or have any connection with. Yet, people will cheer for their "home team" as though they really care. Bizarre or what?

When you think about it like that, it is bizarre. But, when you lighten up and realize it is all for fun. It is fun to cheer for one side or another. It makes it more interesting if you imagine yourself having a stake in the outcome. That the "stake" you have in the outcome is totally artificially is really secondary. If you want to enjoy watching sports, choosing teams to root is often a smart choice, even if, when it comes down to it, there really is not good reason for most of us to choose one team over another.

Anyway, my point here is that people who post about politics are neither bizarre or pathological. They, unlike you, just happen to be interested in politics. They think political outcomes matter, and they like to talk about it.

Anyway, I think it is fairly narrow of you to label someone as between bizarre and pathological merely because they do not think like you or because you don't "understand" them. Since when is your understanding or not the measure of anything important?

More to the point, you obviously are not fit to represent all points of view fairly. (And probably none of us are.) You just are incapable of understanding certain people and practices that are different from your own. It is precisely because of this that identity is important. In the real world.
6.13.2009 5:50pm
corneille1640 (mail):
rosetta's stones, frankcross:

Thanks for your thoughts, and I'll probably have to re-consider what I said. At any rate, I'm not particularly committed to calling TR a conservative.

As for calling antitrust the "relatively free market solution to the trusts," I guess the key word is "relatively." It seems to me that antitrust in its execution--and perhaps in its formulation--functioned mostly to limit competition and thus place constraints on the "free market." (Not that anyone asked, but I tend to believe that what are called "free markets" are a fragile thing and require government maintenance to keep them propped up.) Sorry for going off topic.
6.13.2009 5:51pm
corneille1640 (mail):
David Welker,

I submit that even if someone believes (as I do) that identity matters and that it affects how one teaches what one teaches (and further, that a committed leftist's ideological commitments would lead him or her to to teach conservative thought differently from the way, say, a committed libertarian would), it does not necessarily follow that the person in question cannot teach the topic fairly or well.

In other words, you're right, but I'm inclined to believe your point really hasn't fully made the case that a non-conservative cannot teach conservative thought. (I'm not fully sure you were trying to make that case, but it seemed implied in what you wrote.)
6.13.2009 5:57pm
Michael D. Giles (mail):

"If the Hoover institution can employ people deranged right-wingers like Shelby Steele, they can employ intelligent liberals too."



Ah. So you see academia in general, as no more then a liberal think tank, since the Hoover Institute is a conservative one?
6.13.2009 6:01pm
Anan Sudanomos (mail) (www):
Contemporary political conservatism is such an odd beast because it's formative event was Kirk's decision to toss all of history into a blender. Today few people on the American political right can even admit there exists such a thing communitarian right-wing. Doesn't anyone else consider it odd that most of today's political conservatives would side with Locke over Burke?

Europeans, who still largely understand right and left as historically constituted subjects, tend to shake their heads in disbelief when American conservatives argue that the BNP must truly be understood as left-wing because they don't embrace laissez-faire capitalism and favor protectionist trade policies.

I can't even begin to tell you the odd looks I've received when suggesting that it's tremendously profitable to read Burke, Eliot, and Foucault together as representatives of three distinct phases of anti-liberalism.
6.13.2009 6:05pm
Kenneth Anderson:
Re sports. See my new post above.
6.13.2009 6:08pm
corneille1640 (mail):

Today few people on the American political right can even admit there exists such a thing communitarian right-wing. Doesn't anyone else consider it odd that most of today's political conservatives would side with Locke over Burke?

I think what you describe is partly a question of how names change. Lockean liberalism is, to a large degree, the conservatism of those who distrust centralized government power or who favor strong restrictions on government actions.

It also seems that a significant strand of social conservatism favors something like what one might call communitarianism (there might be a better word for it). I'm referring to the concern that government should enforce certain moral norms or forbid recognition of practices deemed immoral because they are immoral. (Here, ssm comes to mind. Not that that's the only reason people oppose ssm, but it is one of them.) I'm referring also to the belief among many churchgoers that it is important to take care of the local community and that certain governmental practices, such as granting tax exempt status, are justified because they help local organizations to help the community. Although all churchgoers are not necessarily conservative, many do self-identify as conservative and see their role in the community as emblematic of their putatively conservative values.
6.13.2009 6:12pm
ARCraig (mail):
Milton Friedman was about as "conservative" as Karl Marx, with the added benefit that he, unlike Marx, was right.

As usual, Hayek can throw some illumination on the subject:

Why I Am Not a Conservative
6.13.2009 6:17pm
Anan Sudanomos (mail):
corneille1640 -

I basically agree. Before the war years American conservatives were more-or-less of a communitarian bent and tended to regard unrestrained commerce as a threat which acted to undermine the sources of traditional authority. Kirk and company then struck upon the necessary rhetorical adjustments that allowed conservatives to embrace free markets while convincing economic liberals that their new conservative brethren could be made to serve as an army of useful idiots.

Or so it appears to this left-libertarian with proudhounian-mutualist roots.
6.13.2009 6:38pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Anan &corneille:

I do think you are both on the right track, one I tried to point out in my previous post. I'm not sure Kirk is ALL to blame, but he certainly helped to reify a sea-change in what I call 'quotidian U.S. politics' so as to confuse the theroetical discourse.

I think this confusion is evident in KA's inability to see how he fits into current political categories and in the comments about how to 'classify' TR.

By the way, one of my poli sci colleagues said to me (with approving nods from his departmental colleagues) that he is very glad they no longer 'teach theory' and simply 'leave it to the philosophers' because it is so difficult to move undergrads out of their mish-mashed politics to think about coherent political views.

Again, I don't know if it should all be laid at Kirk's doorstep, but it is a problem. Actually, I find it most problematic when I have self-described 'conservative' students. I really struggle to get them to see that moment at which rhetorical adjustments ... allowed conservatives to embrace free markets

They are just convinced that 'conservatism' means 'pro-free markets,' and they see no disjunct between that position and being in favor of the kind of legal moralism that corneille describes as 'communitarian.'
6.13.2009 7:22pm
Desiderius:
Anan,

"it's tremendously profitable to read Burke, Eliot, and Foucault together as representatives of three distinct phases of anti-liberalism"

A characterization which would no doubt have surprised the Liberal member for Wendover, Bristol, and Malton. As if opposition to the, alas, profoundly illiberal French Revolution constitutes illiberalism itself.

What is striking to me is the extent to which not only Conservatives, but increasingly even Liberals themselves are considered beyond the pale or beneath the notice of the academy.

The great Liberal/Left alliance of the 20th Century is over. The Liberals lost.
6.13.2009 7:38pm
Perseus (mail):
And, the economic focus of much current 'liberal/conservative' debate really is incidental to the way most of us think of political theory for undergraduates.

Agreed. Thus the resistance to classifying Adams or TR as a conservative (though I agree that TR is more ambiguous).

At any rate, I agree that the main problem with Berkowitz's complaint is that political scientists really do not teach - or read - much political theory.

Sad, but largely true. The situation has been made even worse by the attempt to absorb all of political theory into formal (i.e. mathematical) political theory.

Do you really think a liberal would teach conservative political thought in the same way a conservative would teach it?

Unfortunately, I think that there is a large measure of truth to this precisely because of certain intellectual currents running throughout the academy.

Burke, the chapter in Strauss's History of Political Philosophy is a ludicrous hagiography by Harvey Mansfield. I hope to get around to finding something that addresses the strengths and weaknesses of Burke's thought, so's to improve on my present superficial understanding.

Your reading is indeed superficial if you think that Mansfield's treatment is simply hagiography. It's just that the implied criticisms of Burke come not from the vantage point of modern or modern leftist political philosophy, but from ancient political philosophy (which is not very conservative in the Burkean sense). And it should be noted that the articles in HPP are intended to serve primarily as a general introduction to each thinker's thought, not an extended critique.
6.13.2009 7:38pm
Desiderius:
ChrisRedux,

"By the way, one of my poli sci colleagues said to me (with approving nods from his departmental colleagues) that he is very glad they no longer 'teach theory' and simply 'leave it to the philosophers'"

If the only theory on offer is bad or narrow (which is to say bad, given the purpose of the academy/diversity of the students), then it is natural for students to assume that theory itself is to blame, not just the particular theory to which they are exposed, thus gravitating toward the practical, either in the sense of careers in banking/law or in conceiving of political science in an overly technocratic manner, aping hard science or, worse, engineering.

If your colleagues are given to bemoaning that drift, perhaps a broadening of the theoretical horizons would be in order.
6.13.2009 7:47pm
Anan Sudanomos (mail):
ChrisRedux,

Sorry if I seemed to place too much blame directly on Kirk himself. I don't take a particularly conservative view of historiography and, as such, I attack Kirk as an icon and not as an actual person.

I understand your frustration with self identified conservative students. The other day I was having an argument with someone who was absolutely convinced that the BNP were really radical leftists and people only thought otherwise on account of the biased MSM.
6.13.2009 7:56pm
theobromophile (www):
the tendency, for example, to twitter one's fleeting political thoughts twenty times a day, or to Make Political Statements with status updates on Facebook a couple of times a day - strikes me as somewhere between bizarre and pathological.

As a few-times-a-week Facebook political snark-er, I'm going to object to this. :)

Some of this is a direct result of the blogging trend. Many people who took up blogging but did not have time to continue it will replace it with Facebook or Twitter.

Some of this is also networking. A lot of the Tea Party organisation and networking came about through Facebook and Twitter. On a smaller scale, people use those media for communication about letter-writing campaigns, new bills to be introduced, political overreaching in their states - things that can only be stopped with an active and engaged citizenry.

A relevant part, for those of us living in enemy territory, is to get our ideas out there. I'm always saddened to meet people who seem to have a caricatured view of conservatives and conservative thought; presumably, liberals living in Alabama feel the same way about their viewpoints. Facebook status messages serve to communicate that the entire world is not divided into exactly two groups: people who think the same way as the reader and people who are barking mad.
6.13.2009 9:02pm
GoodBerean (mail) (www):
Forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

"[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
Recovering Republican
JLof@aol.com

PS – And “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” Rush Limbaugh never made a bigger ass of himself than at CPAC where he told that blasphemous “joke” about himself and God.
6.13.2009 9:15pm
Desiderius:
Anan,

"I understand your frustration with self identified conservative students. The other day I was having an argument with someone who was absolutely convinced that the BNP were really radical leftists and people only thought otherwise on account of the biased MSM."

Where would he get that idea?

Oh, I forgot, the support of Conservatives for Economic Liberalism (i.e free-markets) is merely a charade put on for marketing purposes. Get back to me when your Left colleagues start teaching Hayek with the respect he deserves. Or at all.

Your selection of this argument, of all arguments, with your "self-identified conservative students" suggests that you may be part of the problem KA identifies. Surely you could come up with a more boneheaded example. They are students, after all.

As for identity, the lost tribes of Liberalism had to go somewhere. If erstwhile "Conservatives" were more welcoming than the Left (Old and New, Stateside and Overseas), can you really blame them for going that way? Do you imagine they had no influence upon arrival?
6.13.2009 9:21pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
I don't twitter myself, but did somebody just commnet on a political blog post that twittering about politics is bizarre and pathological? I mean, seriously, the next-most-recent form of telling the world your feelings about politics in a truncated way is cool, but the most recent and somewhat more truncated way is basically sick?
6.13.2009 9:40pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
"comment"
6.13.2009 9:41pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Sorry if I seemed to place too much blame directly on Kirk himself. I don't take a particularly conservative view of historiography and, as such, I attack Kirk as an icon and not as an actual person

No, no. I was not scolding you by any means. Kirk's book really did go along way towards the results with which you and I are concerned. I just don't think he was alone in this quasi-theoretical move.
6.13.2009 9:56pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Desiderius:

I said nothing about students' 'drifting' towards 'practical' matters, nor did my colleague in Poli Sci. I took his point to be that political scientists now focus on matters such as polling, voter turnout patterns, etc. What I might describe as 'social science data collection.'

I certainly did not mean to suggest they have NO theoretical interests. But, they seem to have happily bandoned what most of us philosophers think of as political theory.
6.13.2009 10:00pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Sigh: a [space] long way
6.13.2009 10:02pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Joseph Slater:
I don't twitter myself

Wheh! I should hope NOT, Sir.
6.13.2009 10:03pm
Pyrrho:
This editorial strikes me as simply wrong. I can only speak from my own experience having attended a state school that has a reputation as being very liberal. Although most of the professors certainly weren't "liberal," it wasn't as if "conservative" (using this term as loosely and indefinitely as the editorial does) ideas were not taught. Of course nobody taught the thought of Theodore Roosevelt (who is apparently a conservative now) and Ronald Reagan. They weren't thinkers - they were presidents. Nobody taught the political philosophy of FDR either. Similarly, although Buckley was certainly a thinker and an intellectual, he did more to popularize and legitimize conservative ideas, rather than devise original ones. Milton Friedman's ideas certainly came up, although they were not given much attention because, frankly, as a political theorist (in contrast to his work as an economist) I don't think he said much that wasn't said earlier or better. Robert Nozick, for example, is given a great deal of attention in "liberal" political science departments, which teach him right along side Rawls. And Adams, of course, features prominently in any course on American political thought, along with Jefferson and Madison, both of whom contributed to conservative political thought as well.

The reference to Burke is also absurd. Burke plays a front and center role in political science courses; I read at least some Burke in probably 4 or 5 different courses in undergrad. Locke, of course, contributed enormously to conservative political thought, particularly with regards to property rights - he is perhaps the central figure of any modern political theory class. If we are including libertarian ideas under the umbrella of conservative (which I think is fair enough), then certainly we have to consider Mill.

This editorial seems to me to be a pretty poorly argued and rather ignorant critique of the liberal academic establishment, which is certainly open to criticism.
6.13.2009 10:23pm
Ricardo (mail):
I've never studied political science so I can't comment on the truth of this op-ed but if there is a course where people study the political (rather than moral) theory of John Stuart Mill and don't read any Burke, that would certainly be wrong.

After all, Mill has what I read to be a slap against Burke in "On Liberty" when he talks about some thinkers who prefer to defer to tradition rather than carry out social experiments in liberty. Students wouldn't be able to make sense of this passage without reading Burke and other thinkers in the conservative tradition.

As for Hayek, I'm not sure bias against libertarian* thought is at work. Instead, I think it is the nature of how social sciences are arbitrarily segmented while Hayek was a true inter-disciplinary thinker. There are also some very non-ideological biases (some emanating from University of Chicago, of all places) against Hayekian thought as political scientists and economists prefer to explain reality through mathematical models. One of Hayek's points was that reality is too complicated to capture in mathematical models.

* No, conservatives do not get to claim Hayek as one of their own. Nor can they claim Milton Friedman, whose starting point for looking at the world was the advance of human freedom, not the preservation of tradition. Conservatism == free markets is a very recent idea and was not true historically. It's not clear why it is true today, even.
6.13.2009 11:26pm
Anan Sudanomos (mail):
Desiderius:

As for identity, the lost tribes of Liberalism had to go somewhere. If erstwhile "Conservatives" were more welcoming than the Left (Old and New, Stateside and Overseas), can you really blame them for going that way? Do you imagine they had no influence upon arrival?

Not at all. They've had tremendous influence. So much so that conservatism is no longer really recognizable as such.

Why do you think that social conservatives have lost every single battle in the culture war? Because the economic liberalism they so effectively espoused entirely eroded away the foundations on which they hoped to build an ethos of "ordered liberty." Where industriousness is elevated to the highest public good all other virtues are either crowded out or rendered subservient.
6.14.2009 12:44am
Nick Nussbaum (mail):
Perhaps Mr Berkowitz could publish how the Hoover Institute presents the valuable parts of liberal tradition as an example.
6.14.2009 3:17am
Mark N. (www):
@Desiderius: I wouldn't say that the support of the UK Conservatives for economic liberalism is all that deep or foundational. They've historically been more of a communitarian/traditionalist conservative party, upholding the social order and moral values and such. You could fairly call economic liberalism the characteristic feature of Thatcher's administration, but she's somewhat of an aberration in the party's history, whether compared to those who came before or after her. In recent years, it's not even clear if the Conservatives are particularly more free-market than New Labour is, and on some issues they opportunistically run to Labour's left.
6.14.2009 3:44am
pmorem (mail):
David Welker wrote:

I don't know what it is with conservatives and their need to deny the importance of identity. Look, I am not saying that identity should or should not be important. I am saying in the real world, it is important. Always has been, always will be.

This is precisely why identity matters. You view people who are not like you as "somewhere between bizarre and pathological." Right, and we are to suppose that you can fairly teach about the world from the perspective of such people?

I don't understand the obsession with "identity". It seems like some people have a need to fit everyone into nice, neat boxes. Maybe it's the color of their skin, their income, their social affectations, their interests, religion, or some political belief.

Don't get me wrong. I understand and respect people wanting to choose some identity of their own. It's trying to assign an identity to others that troubles me. Maybe it's because I've had some bad experiences with people deciding (usually incorrectly) that I was of some certain "identity" and therefore it was appropriate to assault/abuse/whatever me.

Self-selection is an exercise in free will. Selecting identity for others is bigotry at best.

I think that's part of why some "conservatives" reject the importance of identity and identity politics - because it is the only way to truly reject bigotry.
6.14.2009 5:58am
Desiderius:
Anan,

"Why do you think that social conservatives have lost every single battle in the culture war?"

Because the forces of illiberalism, reaction, and social immobility have discovered a friend in Jesus Marx, and have thus retaken the cultural commanding heights under a faux-Left banner?

From those heights, a narrative of privilege is convincingly constructed and propagated to sap the confidence of the rising classes, as is a caricature of conservatism, especially of the social variety, to frighten them with the specter of regress, their most dire fear.

Social conservatism has lost every battle due to it's utility as a cudgel to beat down economic liberalism.
6.14.2009 8:37am
BooBerry (mail):
Social conservatives have lost every single battle in the culture war for the simple reason that in the United States, history marches on, slowly, towards equality and individual liberty. I frankly find few things as disgusting as social conservatism.
6.14.2009 10:30am
mesquito (mail):
Heh. In earning my polical science degree I was assigned Foner, Gorky, Dewey, Adorno, Fanon, Marx, Lenin, Mao, Rawls and -- really -- Ayn Rand. But never Hamilton, Madison, Burke, De Toqueville, Spencer, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Lincoln, Friedman, Hayak, etc.
6.14.2009 10:38am
JohnK (mail):
"Social conservatives have lost every single battle in the culture war for the simple reason that in the United States, history marches on, slowly, towards equality and individual liberty."

You are kidding right? No question the country has made great progress in the areas of race relations and equality of the sexs. But outside of those two admittedly important areas, we are less free today in nearly every area than we were 100 years ago. A hundred years ago there was no war on drugs, there were few banking laws and reporting laws so that you could move money around without having to play mother may I with the govenrment, our taxes were much lower, we had much more pivacy, we could eat what we wanted and do pretty much whatever else we wanted. In short, there was no nanny state ruling our lives as it does now. Yes, it is good that Jim Crow ended. But, I fail to see why we couldn't have ended Jim Crow and kept our privacy and freedom. Sorry but the freedom to sodomize and look at porn on the internet doesn't quite make up for all freedoms we have lost.
6.14.2009 10:49am
BooBerry (mail):
JohnK: I was referring to progress in areas of discrimination and bigotry based on gender, race, sexual orientation, disability and religious belief.
6.14.2009 10:57am
ThomasD (mail):
Bull Connor certainly was a conservative, of sorts.
6.14.2009 11:36am
ThomasD (mail):
The current POTUS sure seems conservative about SSM.

Rabid right winger Charlton Heston marched with King back when King wasn't cool.
6.14.2009 11:38am
TGGP (mail) (www):
The Inductivist discusses the conservatism of Durkheim here.
6.14.2009 12:07pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
Anan:

I'm still with on the broader points. I do think I would revise this: Where industriousness is elevated to the highest public good all other virtues are either crowded out or rendered subservient. It seems to me that U.S. conservatism has encouraged the lionizing of making money rather than elevating the virtue of industriousness.

I think you are correct that linking social conservatism/traditionalism with economic liberalism was bound to fail. It is an even more tenuous linkage than that of social liberalism and economic progressivism, which really only required embracing both equality and liberty as values. The latter combination creates an often awkward dynamic, but the theoretical grounds for those values provides at least some coherence. What theoretical connection there is between social traditonalism and free market capitalism is impossible to make out.
6.14.2009 12:50pm
wyswyg:

Is Edmund Burke relevant to American conservatism?



Yes. He first laid out the principles which later came to be called "conservatism". And they have not changed since, any more than the American lefts ideas have changed since Rousseau.

For instance -


Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.



That still sums up the difference between conservative and liberal today. The right wants to put more control "within", the left wants to "free the individidual" from the process of having virtue instilled and therefore favors the "without", at least implicitly and often explicitly. You can't be a conservative, American or otherwise, without accepting Burkes ideas.
6.14.2009 12:50pm
ChrisRedux (mail):
mesquito:
Heh. In earning my polical science degree I was assigned Foner, Gorky, Dewey, Adorno, Fanon, Marx, Lenin, Mao, Rawls and -- really -- Ayn Rand. But never Hamilton, Madison, Burke, De Toqueville, Spencer, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Lincoln, Friedman, Hayak, etc.

Wow. Some of the ommissions are surprising, but the collection of included views was certainly, umm, eclectic.
6.14.2009 12:53pm
Latinist:
All right, a few things:

1. I went to a prestigious university, and took exactly two classes in Political theory. I read Burke, and Adam Smith for that matter, and no feminist theory at all. Maybe my experience is exceptional, but I'd be much more convinced if this article (or the many articles like) contained any, you know, facts.

2. A lot of people have taken issue with the various particular thinkers Berkowitz wants to include in "the Conservative tradition." I'm not qualified to enter the specific argument, but it's worth noting a general point here: defining a group of thinkers and statesman as belonging to a particular group or movement is itself an ideological claim. This can't be treated as coming from some sort of neutral, unimplicated position that "both sides" (as if there were only two) can agree on.

One more, more important point, which I'll give a whole comment to itself in a minute.
6.14.2009 12:55pm
wyswyg:

It seems to me that U.S. conservatism has encouraged the lionizing of making money rather than elevating the virtue of industriousness.



It's not correct ot call this attitude "conservatism", and one benefit of the sort of education in conservatism being proposed is that more people would be aware of that.

If you come right down to it, lionizing the making of money is not libertarianism either. What was the state which Nock saw as the enemy in "Our Enemy, The State"? It was the merchant-enterpriser state, the state which dedicated itself to the promotion of business.
6.14.2009 12:56pm
wyswyg:

What theoretical connection there is between social traditonalism and free market capitalism is impossible to make out.




It all depends on how you chose to define your terms. Free market capitalism does not, or did not, mean the same thing as Cato-style/Rand style worship of corporatism. Conservative free marketers are aware that the biggest enemies of capitalism are capitalists. So said Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.
6.14.2009 1:02pm
wyswyg:

in the United States, history marches on, slowly, towards equality and individual liberty.



Equality and individual liberty are not compatible. At least not in the sense that the left uses the words, which is freedom to do what you want and equality of outcome.
6.14.2009 1:05pm
Latinist:
Okay:
3. I'm not sure it's very useful to keep arguing the claim "this should be included in the expertise of political theorists." Because nobody's really making decisions at that level. People are deciding "which of the available professors should I hire" and "what subjects should I teach." So what should be done to get people to teach about the neglected conservative tradition? Because what generally happens is that people hire people whose thoughts they find interesting, and teach subjects that they find interesting or important, and liberals, for pretty obvious reasons, tend to find liberal ideas more interesting and important than conservative ones (not universally, of course, but in general). So to get around this, you either need a certain amount of "affirmative action" for conservatives (or non-conservatives interested in conservatism), which Berkowitz denies is his goal; or you need to make existing political theoriststake a greater interest in conservatism. What steps should be taken to bring this about?

So really, I'm sympathetic to Berkowitz's complaint, but I'm not sure what he's actually suggesting.
6.14.2009 1:14pm
wyswyg:

Because what generally happens is that people hire people whose thoughts they find interesting, and teach subjects that they find interesting or important, and liberals, for pretty obvious reasons, tend to find liberal ideas more interesting and important than conservative ones (not universally, of course, but in general).




I'd expect professors employed in a university to be a whole lot more professional and broad-minded than that. You don't say if you are liberal yourself, but you painted a pretty unflattering picture of liberals just now.

I don't confine this to political science. I expect professors in all fields to be knowlegable about those fields in their entirety, and not to focus on whatever they happen to find emotionally pleasing. What a load of self-indulgent twaddle.

Perhaps what we need is not "affirmative action for conservatives", but a restoration of the proper meaning of the university and some sense of professionalism among academics.
6.14.2009 1:23pm
wyswyg:

Looking around a while back for "what conservatives think," I picked up the Viking Conservative Reader, which unfortunately suffers from having been edited by Russell Kirk; I would think there are much brighter conservatives who could put together a much better anthology (any suggestions welcome).



What was your objection to the Conservative Reader? And to Kirk?



Kirk and company then struck upon the necessary rhetorical adjustments that allowed conservatives to embrace free markets while convincing economic liberals that their new conservative brethren could be made to serve as an army of useful idiots.


That is simply untrue. Kirk was a critic of free market capitalism and libertarianism. His favorite economist was Roepke.
6.14.2009 1:43pm
wyswyg:

I always point out that the libertarians of today are the only U.S. block whose positions are theoretically consistent




I don't think that is the case. Conservatism and liberalism are also theoretically consistent. Problems occur when you try to cobble together a coalition of different interests in order to form a majority party, as the Dems are discovering now.
6.14.2009 1:48pm
CJColucci:
Like phyrrho and, to a lesser extent, latinist, I call bullshit. When I took political philosophy courses, I got a bellyfull of pre-moderns (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc.) who simply pre-date current ideas of conservatism or liberalism and can't be characterized as either. Once we got to the modern era, I got Burke, Adams, Hamilton, Tocqueville, and Calhoun. Is Max Weber a liberal? To this day, when I find myself in a college bookstore (which I often do for professional reasons not worth explaining), I see the same folks. So who's missing? TR (a conservative in the important sense that he advocated reforms to keep the peasants from slaughtering the less flexible conservatives in their beds) and Reagan were, as others have rightly pointed out, Presidents, not thinkers. They, like Gladstone and Disraeli, or FDR, get studied in history, not in political philosophy. Milton Friedman belongs in Economics, Nozick in Philosophy.
So who are the: (1) important (2) conservative (3)thinkers neglected in political science and political philosphy classes? Some of the European rightists like de Maistre? Old-school American communalists? Is that really what you're looking for? Name names.
6.14.2009 2:35pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It all depends on how you chose to define your terms. Free market capitalism does not, or did not, mean the same thing as Cato-style/Rand style worship of corporatism. Conservative free marketers are aware that the biggest enemies of capitalism are capitalists. So said Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.
As did Cato and Rand. You're confused.
6.14.2009 3:05pm
Steve J. (www):
Berkowitz writes "the conservative tradition in American politics that stretches from John Adams to Theodore Roosevelt to William F. Buckley Jr. to Milton Friedman to Ronald Reagan. This tradition emphasizes moral and intellectual excellence"

It emphasizes neither. Buckley put out a magazine that is mostly writings by ideological hacks, Friedman is a one-trick pony that has died several times and Reagan? Please!
6.14.2009 3:12pm
Steve J. (www):
Hadur asks "Is Edmund Burke relevant to American conservatism?"

No. Burke was a strong defender of Habeas Corpus.
6.14.2009 3:20pm
Latinist:
I expect professors in all fields to be knowlegable about those fields in their entirety, and not to focus on whatever they happen to find emotionally pleasing.

You're right, of course, but I think I was unclear. By "things they find interesting," I don't just mean things they're particularly interested in. I mean something more like "things that they think are legitimate objects of interest for scholars of a subject." In the case of political theory, I'm imagining a political-theory scholar thinking something like: Mary Wollstonecraft is a fascinating thinker and I love to teach and write about her; Edmund Burke isn't really my cup of tea, but he's obviously important -- I'd certainly include him in a general survey of political theory and a good department could use a Burkean; Milton Friedman's political theories are dumb, there's no interesting work being done interpreting him, and students shouldn't waste their time on him.

You may disagree with that particular set of assessments, but to have coherent ideas about political theory (or any other subject) you're going to have to put SOMEONE in each of those three categories, and there are inevitably going to be admirers of the thinkers in category three complaining that they're unfairly dismissed. So what should be done about that?
6.14.2009 3:47pm
Pyrrho:
Mesquito:
Heh. In earning my polical science degree I was assigned Foner, Gorky, Dewey, Adorno, Fanon, Marx, Lenin, Mao, Rawls and -- really -- Ayn Rand. But never Hamilton, Madison, Burke, De Toqueville, Spencer, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Lincoln, Friedman, Hayak, etc.
If that is really what you were taught, you should get your money back. I have never heard of any person graduated with a poli sci degree without reading those thinkers. A professor who teaches ancient or classic political theory class that doesn't teach Aristotle or modern political theory class that doesn't teach Machiavelli and Burke is guilty of educational malpractice.

wyswyg:
Equality and individual liberty are not compatible. At least not in the sense that the left uses the words, which is freedom to do what you want and equality of outcome.
Who is this "left" you are referring to? That is only a tiny portion of the American left. The vast majority of the American left understands equality to mean "equality of opportunity." In the view of the American left, individual liberty - understood as the freedom to do what you want - is impossible unless you are not restrained by economic forces. I am not necessarily endorsing this view, but the mainstream American left does not understand equality to mean equality of outcomes, and, in their view, equality is not only consistent with individual liberty, it is necessary for it.
6.14.2009 4:13pm
Desiderius:
Chris Redux,

"I said nothing about students' 'drifting' towards 'practical' matters, nor did my colleague in Poli Sci. I took his point to be that political scientists now focus on matters such as polling, voter turnout patterns, etc. What I might describe as 'social science data collection.'

I certainly did not mean to suggest they have NO theoretical interests. But, they seem to have happily bandoned what most of us philosophers think of as political theory."

Then I've given your colleague too much credit. Somehow I doubt that parents/society are investing $40K/annum to be educated by glorified census agents.

Or perhaps they are. As Kors puts it:

"The power of universities comes from their monopoly of credentials. As Richard Vedder so deeply understands in his "Going Broke by Degree," they are the only institutions allowed to separate young individuals by IQ and by the ability to complete complex tasks. They do not add value to that, except in technical fields. Recruiters do not pay premiums because of what the Ivy League or the flagship state universities teach in English, history, political science, or sociology. They hire there despite, not because of, that. Recruiters do not pay premiums because our children have been sent to multicultural centers for sensitivity training. Recruiters pay premiums for the value already there, which universities merely identify. So long as recruiters pay premiums, however, it is rational for parents who wish to gain the most options for their children to send them to the university with the most prestigious degree. That will not change in the current scheme.

We now have closed-shop, massively subsidized, intolerant political fiefdoms, and they are the gatekeepers of society's rewards. Without incentives for different models of higher education, we shall have this same system of colleges and universities as far as the mind can foresee. The tax-free mega-endowments will grow. The legislators and the public will not end the subsidy. The alumni will continue their bequests. The trustees will proudly attend the administrative dog-and-pony shows, the most efficient act on any campus. Well-intentioned donors will support ghettoized "centers" (without faculty lines, cross-listed courses, graduate fellowships, or degrees) that marginalize inquiries that should be central to the academy. These provide protective coloration for administrators, help with fund raising in certain quarters, and permit a transfer of funds to the accelerating thirst for ever new forms of regnant campus orthodoxies. Until civil society makes administrators pay a price for the politicized hiring, curriculum and student life offices they administer, nothing truly will be reformed.

In my fantasies, I try to imagine a way to force these academic enterprises to engage in the truth in advertising they claim to value. Let colleges and universities have the courage, if they truly believe what they say privately to themselves and to me, to put it on page one of their catalogues, fundraising letters and appeals to the state assembly: "This University believes that your sons and daughters are the racist, sexist, homophobic, Eurocentric progeny or victims of an oppressive society from which most of them receive unjust privilege. In return for tuition and massive taxpayer subsidy, we shall assign rights on a compensatory basis and undertake by coercion their moral and political enlightenment." It won't happen."

Nobody here but us "social science data collectors"! Riiight.
6.14.2009 4:24pm
Desiderius:
ChrisRedux,

"What theoretical connection there is between social traditonalism and free market capitalism is impossible to make out."

It is literally breathtaking that a putative political philosopher in the United States of America, of all places, could seriously advance such a claim. In fact, it would take some effort to produce a colorable argument for a disconnect (Anan gives a decent suggestion for how one would commence constructing one) between the two, in the American context, but such an argument could serve as a useful corrective to the conventional wisdom. The Amish, after all, have their charm, and an appeal beyond.

For that corrective to serve as the only wisdom on offer is madness.
6.14.2009 4:35pm
Desiderius:
Pyrrho,

"In the view of the American left, individual liberty - understood as the freedom to do what you want - is impossible unless you are not restrained by economic forces."

See this for how such a view leads inexorably away from the individual liberty the Left(s) claim to prize.

And, no, such works were not on my high-priced syllabi, which featured a sterile list such as Mesquito's - I had to find it on my own, as I did those works on Mesquito's second, more.... socially/economically incendiary... list.

It's no wonder that such works are in disfavor at elite institutions. What's a wonder is that it's a wonder.
6.14.2009 4:43pm
Desiderius:
Pyrrho,

Consider the possibility that your state-school tortoise has unwittingly surpassed the elite school hare with the old-fashioned earnestness and inclusiveness of it's liberal-left.
6.14.2009 4:45pm
Anan Sudanomos (mail):
ChrisRedux:

I'm still with on the broader points. I do think I would revise this: Where industriousness is elevated to the highest public good all other virtues are either crowded out or rendered subservient. It seems to me that U.S. conservatism has encouraged the lionizing of making money rather than elevating the virtue of industriousness.

"Industriousness" is probably a bad choice of words. What I had in mind was the process spelled out by Weber. Anyhow, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who finds the alliance between social conservatives and economic liberals makes for a relationship fraught with unresolvable tensions. Although it's ahistorical nature of it all that I find so personally maddening.
6.14.2009 4:57pm
Ohio Scrivener (mail):
Much of the problem with the university curriculum goes back to personnel. Conservatives are often not welcomed in academia and have, in large measure, responded by seeking success elsewhere. Why bother fighting for tenure in a hostile environment when you can be successful (and in many fields make more money) in the private sector? Tenured conservative professors in some disciplines are so rare that they carry the moniker “token conservative.” And the untenured conservative professors have every incentive to keep quiet and not rock the boat. That leaves little support within the university system for curriculum reform in favor of more conservative subjects.


In contrast, consider the success the left has had over the past 40 years in remaking the university curriculum. New majors and disciplines have sprung up that employ almost exclusively left wing professors (i.e., ethnic, gender or sexual orientation studies to name just a few). The numerical disadvantage for conservatives has grown inexorably and is a major impediment to the curriculum changes Berkowitz has in mind.
6.14.2009 5:17pm
Micha Elyi (mail):
The Hoover Institution does employ liberal scholars and some leftists too.
6.14.2009 5:27pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Conservatives are often not welcomed in academia and have, in large measure, responded by seeking success elsewhere. Why bother fighting for tenure in a hostile environment when you can be successful (and in many fields make more money) in the private sector?

Cart::horse. Enlightened self-interest keeps conservatives out of the academy. Realizing that one's students' starting salary will exceed yours is a powerful disincentive.
6.14.2009 6:39pm
Desiderius:
Anan,

"Anyhow, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who finds the alliance between social conservatives and economic liberals makes for a relationship fraught with unresolvable tensions. Although it's ahistorical nature of it all that I find so personally maddening."

Ahistorical? Seriously? From one who has read Weber? What is his thesis but the working out of that tension? Do you imagine that there were no Calvinist Whigs? Of course working out is different from resolution - a good tension is one that admits the former without losing itself in the latter.

Traditions are collections of innovations that have proven their mettle, but the strongest traditions are those which contain within themselves the mechanisms by which that tradition can continue to innovate. The debate within the Western Tradition social conservatives seek to conserve is whether that mechanism should be organic (which is where Burke comes in, entirely consonant with Economic Liberalism) or imposed by some authority, whether a College of Cardinals or an overweening State.

Social conservatives come in on both sides of that question, and have ever done, especially in the Anglo-American version of that tradition. When the statists attack that tradition itself, it is no surprise that such conservatives lean against them and toward the more organic outlook. So too they did during the Reformation.
6.14.2009 9:21pm
Desiderius:
Mark N.,

"I wouldn't say that the support of the UK Conservatives for economic liberalism is all that deep or foundational."

Yes and no. I'm a Whig so I can't argue too convincingly for the merit of the Tory worldview across the sweep of history. However, at its best - Thatcher, Churchill, Disraeli, Peel, to some extent Wellington (I'm sure that MarkField could furnish a more extensive list) - British Tories recognized that the source of the strength they so prized was the British tradition of respect for, and defense of, liberty - including, or even especially, economic liberty - that traced itself back to Magna Carta.

Once Labour - which at its worst approaches the neofeudal - arrived on the scene, the game was inexorably changed. Given the failure of Blair and the struggles of the LibDems, its not entirely outside the realm of possibility that British Liberalism will find a home in the Conservative Party going forward, following Thatcher's lead.
6.14.2009 9:36pm
wyswyg:
Pyrrho



Who is this "left" you are referring to? That is only a tiny portion of the American left. The vast majority of the American left understands equality to mean "equality of opportunity." In the view of the American left, individual liberty - understood as the freedom to do what you want - is impossible unless you are not restrained by economic forces.



I think your last sentence undermines your earlier ones. Since economic forces are everywhere, this requires the American left to intercede in peoples lives on a massive scale to get equality, even, as you admit, "equality of opportunity".

If fact I think it is safe to say that the American left will assert that opportunity is not equal for just as long as there are unequal outcomes - that is, either forever or until the American left takes complete control of every aspect of peoples lives.
6.14.2009 10:00pm
wyswyg:

By "things they find interesting," I don't just mean things they're particularly interested in. I mean something more like "things that they think are legitimate objects of interest for scholars of a subject." In the case of political theory, I'm imagining a political-theory scholar thinking something like: Mary Wollstonecraft is a fascinating thinker and I love to teach and write about her; Edmund Burke isn't really my cup of tea, but he's obviously important -- I'd certainly include him in a general survey of political theory and a good department could use a Burkean; Milton Friedman's political theories are dumb, there's no interesting work being done interpreting him, and students shouldn't waste their time on him.




Such a person should be fired for incompetence. I'd say the same thing if the person said Marx was too dumb to waste time on.

We don't allow teachers in math and science (or even law) this same freedom to teach what they want and ignore what they don't. If political science wants to be serious about being a science, it needs to grow up.

Suppose a real science professor said " I'm not teaching this evolution nonsense, I'm teaching creationism". Would everybody be as quick to defend his freedom? If not, why this wide latitude for quack political scientists?
6.14.2009 10:09pm
wyswyg:

As did Cato and Rand. You're confused.




If you think that Rand regarded capitalists as the biggest enemies of captalism, you're painfully ignorant.
6.14.2009 10:12pm
Mark N. (www):
@wyswyg: I think you're overestimating the extent to which many fields actually have a consensus canon, though. I work as a computer-science academic, and despite it being a non-political, technical field, there are huge variances in what different professors think are the necessary core of the field every student should learn.
6.14.2009 10:22pm
Fascitis Necrotizante:
Just thought I'd add that I went to NYU for undergrad about five years ago and took a course on "the rise of the conservative movement from the 50s to today." I was somewhere on the left at the time but was moving towards my current libertarianism and wanted some real exposure to conservative thought, which I hadn't really had before. I think all I need to say is that the only book required for the class - seriously the only one - was What's the Matter With Kansas.
6.14.2009 11:05pm
Ohio Scrivener (mail):


"Cart::horse. Enlightened self-interest keeps conservatives out of the academy. Realizing that one's students' starting salary will exceed yours is a powerful disincentive."


I agree that a lower salary discourages some potential applicants from teaching. But your generalization is far too broad. Only in certain select fields will college graduates out-earn their tenured professors. Moreover, conservative and liberal professors in the same discipline presumably face the same economic incentives. Yet, while the left is well represented in the faculty lounge, in your argument only conservatives eschew the academy in favor of a salary-driven "enlightened self-interest."

While that may be true of some conservatives, that is a very cramped and artificial definition of what it means to be a conservative. Conservatives in other professions have had little trouble defining their "enlightened self-interest" in ways that are not tied exclusively to money. While conservatives may be scarce in the faculty lounge, they are not so scarce in the barracks, police station, small businesses, pulpit or farm fields of this country (to name just a few examples). And its not because those professions pay six figure bonuses like Wall Street back in the day. Therefore, while money is important, it is not the whole story. A more complete story would explain why conservatives, who thrive in so many professions, are so scarce among university faculty.
6.15.2009 12:05am
Latinist:
wyswyg: basically, what Mark N. said. Is Friedman really as important to learn about as Marx, by the way? In the opinion of most political theorists? (I really don't know; my interest in political theory largely ends with Tacitus.) Also of course, you wouldn't have to be quite as anti-Friedman as that to leave him out of most syllabi. Maybe a better way to make my point: an awful lot of people, including a lot of smart people, have written about politics; no matter what your syllabus (or even the set of authors studied in a medium-sized department), someone's going to be able to say, "But you totally ignore these important, and importantly connected, thinkers!" And they'll often have a point (and they'll very often be able to call their set of thinkers "the conservative tradition").

And there's also disagreement about who's even a plausible person to put on the list. An awful lot of people think Ayn Rand is a major political thinker, and unfairly excluded from the academy; but should someone who doesn't respect her ideas be fired for incompetence?
6.15.2009 12:07am
Latinist:
Oh, one other point about Berkowitz's article. He claims that not only he, but conservatives in general, are "misheard" as calling for affirmative action for conservatives, when they actually just want more study of great conservative thinkers like Burke. This is pretty clearly BS; if it were true, conservative complaints would be limited to Political Science and related departments, which they aren't. The complaint about English departments, if there is one (and there is) can't possibly be that they don't study enough T.S. Eliot.
6.15.2009 12:12am
Latinist:
Going back to that little point I made earlier about facts, I just did a Google search for "political theory syllabus"; feel free to check for yourself, but it looks to me, as I suspected, like Berkowitz is full of it. Burke is, in fact, somewhat more common than feminist theory (perhaps I'll write an article complaining about that). And in general, among authors recent enough to be fit into contemporary political categories, conservative thought really isn't neglected. See, for example, the Political Science classes at Barnard College (!). Scroll down to political theory, and what do we find? Well, in the fall semester of the survey class, one of the three syllabi given has Burke (and no feminist theory); one has no Burke and J. S. Mill On the Subjection of Women; one has neither. In the spring, where we get to more contemporary stuff, there's a nice division between the two syllabi; one has Malcolm X and Carol Gilligan, the other has Adam Smith, Mises and Hayek. (That's not really fair to either; they're both more odd and interesting than that.)

Now it seems to me that if Berkowitz's claims about conservatism being driven out of Poli Sci departments don't hold for a prestigious women's liberal arts college in New York City, they don't have much going for them.
6.15.2009 12:37am
Tony Tutins (mail):

Now it seems to me that if Berkowitz's claims about conservatism being driven out of Poli Sci departments don't hold for a prestigious women's liberal arts college in New York City, they don't have much going for them.

The experience of a friend's daughter -- rejected by Columbia but admitted by Barnard -- makes me wonder just how prestigious Barnard is. She reports Barnard admission is a common back door entrance for women wanting to study at Columbia.
6.15.2009 9:44am
Anderson (mail):
Your reading is indeed superficial if you think that Mansfield's treatment is simply hagiography. It's just that the implied criticisms of Burke

"Implied" criticisms? So now we have to be Straussian readers to even decipher a criticism in an article from an anthology edited by Strauss?

Mansfield practically creams himself writing about Burke. If you can find even an "implied" criticism, bring it on, and then let's compare it to the rest of the article.

... As for the commenter who asked why I griped about Kirk, two things struck me unfavorably about the Viking anthology:

(1) Kirk almost completely limits himself to English and American authors, from Burke to the present, which seems just nuts to me. Are we really supposed to believe there were no worthwhile conservatives writing in other languages? This also results in Kirk's presenting us with some rather, ah, questionable folks.

(2) Kirk's introduction presents a conception of "conservatism" that raises serious issues with that putative philosophy (see prior link). I feel convinced that someone else could do a better job. (See also Alan Wolfe on Kirk.)
6.15.2009 10:56am
wyswyg:

wyswyg: basically, what Mark N. said.



Then I'll respond to Mark N, since you seem to have nothing to say.



I think you're overestimating the extent to which many fields actually have a consensus canon, though.


I don't think that's an adequate response to my earlier comment. We can argue about who exactly should be in the "canon" of political science, but not that the canon should exist and should include the major divisions of political thought. A canon which pretends that conservative opinon does not exist is not a canon at all.

Political science ought to cover both political principle and political practice, the latter including the examination of poltical parties and individuals. FDR is one such individual. Reagan is another.

I'd expect that somebody who has taken PoliSci 101 would have a broad overview of Western political thought since the Enlightenment and be able to write an intelligent one paragraph description of its major strands. Actually I'd hope that anybody who has graduated collge would possess such knowledge. They don't, and I think it is worth pondering why they don't. They certainly emerge from our system of "higher education" with an ingrained understanding of the lefts views on race, class, and gender, so the system is capable of transmitting information when it wants to.
6.15.2009 10:59am
CJColucci:
I'd expect that somebody who has taken PoliSci 101 would have a broad overview of Western political thought since the Enlightenment and be able to write an intelligent one paragraph description of its major strands.

You expect too much from a single course. And, in most departments, the 101 course isn't the one designed to fill, however inadequately, that particular function.
6.15.2009 11:35am
wyswyg:

Kirk almost completely limits himself to English and American authors, from Burke to the present, which seems just nuts to me.




That something "seems nuts" to you does not strike me as a cogent argument.



Are we really supposed to believe there were no worthwhile conservatives writing in other languages?



Strawman. Kirk notes the existence of conservatives of other languages, Montesquieu for instance, and discusses them in some detail in other books. But as he says himnself, he is focused on conservatism in the English speaking world. Why do you care? Surely you read the book tryng to understand conservatism in the English speaking world. Or do you object because it impedes you from throwing out fatuous clams linking conservatism to sundry other figures you dislike?



This also results in Kirk's presenting us with some rather, ah, questionable folks.




This is idiotic. The history of liberalism and the left is well populated with "questionable" folks in many respects. Should they therefore be excluded from a history of liberal thought? The FDR era Democratic Party was the party of Jim Crow. Should it be airbrushed out of the history books on that account? Abraham Lincoln had what might be described as "questionable" views on race.



Your prior link (to yourself) does not substantiate your claim. For one thing, Burke was opposing slavery in the days when the liberals were defending it.

For another, a putative analysis of conservative philosophy which consists of nine sentences whining about slavery and pretending that it was a conservative institution opposed by liberalism is both shallow and ignorant. The abolitionist movement was almost entirely a religious one and had no points of contact with the liberal movement of the time. Tom Jefferson was the most "liberal" of the Founders and was also a committed slave holder.



Fine, you say; “liberty” is obviously a tenet of “liberalism,” not of conservatism.



I'm curious. You went to the effort to read Kirks book, which shows some minimm of intellectual curiosity. And yet you give every indication of being the most blinkered and hidebound of of thinkers, one who beieves whatever pleases him and nothing else. Do you actually believe the nonsense you write, or are you just throwing mud?


Some points you seem to have missed, if you even read the book at all.

You mention six premises of conservatism as laid out by Kirk, then complain that liberty is not among them. Liberty is not a premise. That hardly means that the topic is ignored. The very first section of the book is titled "The Tension Of Order And Freedom". And the second is "American Liberty Under The Law".

I am having a hard time believing that you did more then glance briefly at this book. The alternative explanation is that you are staggeringly dishonest.

In general, I'm getting the impression that you think that liberalism means "people who have good thoughts, like me" and that conservatism means "people who have bad thoughts, like not me".

Grownups understand that not everybody on "their side" is perfectly good and that not everybody on the other side is dumb and/or evil. When will you grow up, Anderson?
6.15.2009 1:02pm
Latinist:
I'd expect that somebody who has taken PoliSci 101 would have a broad overview of Western political thought since the Enlightenment and be able to write an intelligent one paragraph description of its major strands.

This, of course, defines the basics of PoliSci ("101") within some pretty debatable ideological limits. "Since the Enlightenment," for example, is a point I'd want to argue (with my own biases, of course): PoliSci 101 doesn't involve Aristotle, Machiavelli, or Hobbes? Other people would argue the "Western" part, I imagine. And of course, which strands count as "major," and even what counts as a "strand," are disputed questions. You clearly have opinions on all this, but "I'd expect" really isn't enough of an argument to convince anyone.

Of course, there is some consensus on some of this stuff. Looking over those syllabi I found, it looks like the focus on Western thought is more or less undisputed (though there was one syllabus with Lao-Tzu on it). And the basic list of thinkers, at least until the 19th century, is pretty stable. But on other issues (and especially in more contemporary stuff), there's disagreement (and not just along liberal-conservative lines).

Also, once again, facts. I learned pretty much nothing about "the Left's views on class, race and gender" in college (though of course, if I'd majored in Women's Studies or something it might have been different). And frankly, for all the complaints about how that's all that's taught, I don't see a lot of people (in these comments or elsewhere) demonstrating a lot of familiarity with, e.g., feminist theory. So I'd like to see some evidence of this state of affairs before we start considering what to do about it.
6.15.2009 1:21pm
wyswyg:

Other people would argue the "Western" part, I imagine.



"Other people" may argue a lot of things. But since this is a Western country they should not have a say in the matter.





And of course, which strands count as "major," and even what counts as a "strand," are disputed questions.



The pathological dishonesty of people on the left never ceases to amaze me. Can anybody actually say with a straight face that conservatism is not "major" or a "strand" in Western political thought? Or that it is disputable whether it is ot not?

In general I find this "it all depends on persective" schtick to pathetic. You don't really believe it, it is merely a rethorical ploy to dismiss arguments you would rather not engage. You certainly have no problem in putting your relativism aside when it suits you.

As I mentioned above, this "who's to say? we have to leave it up to the individual teacher" line gets shot down quickly enough if the teacher says things you don't approve of, for instance by teaching intelligent design.


The left is perfectly capable of making distinctions, when it suits it. It only trots out the line that distinctions are impossible when it's losing the argument.
6.15.2009 1:49pm
wyswyg:

I learned pretty much nothing about "the Left's views on class, race and gender" in college



So where did you pick it up then?



I'd majored in Women's Studies or something it might have been different



Assuming you took any English courses, you got your helping.
6.15.2009 1:51pm
CJColucci:
Can anybody actually say with a straight face that conservatism is not "major" or a "strand" in Western political thought? Or that it is disputable whether it is ot not?


I repeat my original challenge: Name names. A course about "conservatism," as such, will necessarily find room for a lot of second-raters, just as a course on, say, "Marxism," as such, will find room for a lot of hacks far less important than Marx. Few, if any, of these conservative or Marxist second-raters will, or should, find room in courses on general political philosophy or theory. Name some (1) neglected (2) major (3) conservative (4) thinkers that belong in general political philosophy courses. Burke or Tocqueville are not neglected, Buckley and Friedman (as a political thinker rather than as an economist) are not major, Montesquieu and Weber are not "conservative," Reagan and TR are not thinkers. If your complaint, rather, is that there ought to be more courses explicitly about "conservatism" as such, why not let supply and demand work their way out?
6.15.2009 2:13pm
Anderson (mail):
Wyswyg, if you think your 4:1 ratio of jerkiness to content is helping your argument, I would be the last to blame that on conservatism, rather than on your own personal failings.

Kirk sets forth 6 premises of conservatism, as he defines it. I wondered how one would argue from those premises against slavery. You don't seem to have an answer.

Citing Burke doesn't help; it merely suggests that Kirk's premises are unequal to the reality of conservatism.

Looking to the big picture, I have a hard time seeing how Burke's argument in the Reflections boils down to much other than letting the elite decide what's best for the masses.

That seems to be a persistent thread in conservatism, logically independent of the economic laissez-faire theory that's been one of the more attractive aspects of conservatism, but which bears a strong resemblance to what the 19th century called "liberalism."

Just as those are two threads of conservatism, so too liberalism is a divided house, between the laissez-faire school and those wishing for a more positive content, as popularized by Berlin in his famous essay. John Gray, for instance, thinks there's no reconciling these two, and that liberalism is fundamentally flawed.

Where do I go to find conservatives as knowledgeable and open-minded about their own tradition as Berlin and Gray are about theirs?
6.15.2009 2:18pm
Anderson (mail):
CJ, my own dim impression is that a course on Big-C "Conservatism" would be too scary, including as it would people like de Maistre.

In a blog post linked above, I quoted the editor of the Liberty Fund's edition of Burke, Francis Canavan:

Who, then, shall make the practical judgments of politics? The question cannot be answered by appealing to the rights of men. “Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit.” But as to what is for their benefit, Burke said: “The will of the many, and their interest, must very often differ.” The first duty of statesmen, indeed, is to “provide for the multitude; because it is the multitude; and is therefore, as such, the first object . . . in all institutions.” But the object is the good of the people, not the performance of their will. The duties of statesmen, in consequence, do not belong by right to those whom the many have chosen, but ought to be performed by those qualified by “virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive,” for the task of government.

Presuming that Canavan (whose criticisms of Paine in the Strauss volume mentioned above are not merely "implied") has correctly summarized Burke (as I think he has), that presents a flavor of "conservatism" that certainly merits academic discussion, but will not I think find many takers. The Framers evidently agreed with Burke to an extent, but their antidemocratic speed bumps (indirect election to the Senate, for ex) slowed but didn't stop the rush of rights-based democracy.
6.15.2009 2:31pm
Anderson (mail):
And in case I wasn't clear above, I think that "scary" figures like de Maistre are excellent fare for undergrads. There is no reason why their prejudices in favor of democracy and against theocratic government should be allowed to thrive without having to consider opposing theories and consider them rationally.

Rights-based democracy *is* a tradeoff and *does* have flaws. Which isn't to say that anyone has a better idea.
6.15.2009 2:46pm
conlaw2 (mail):
So I'd like to see some evidence of this state of affairs before we start considering what to do about it.

I too would like this. We need a standard definition of what conservative means. We also need an average of what classes are politically bent and how much. Some poster said if you've taken an english class you've been exposed to liberal teachings. I don't think that is a correct assessment. In English Class at the collegiate level, you learn to read into texts and to make arguments. I don't see how that is political.

On another point to the extent that students desire to learn about these subjects, the universities will teach them. As I believe, conservatives desire the market to run freely. So in this case, why does a conservative desire that a University ram something that the students don't want down their throats?
6.15.2009 2:46pm
CJColucci:
Anderson:
I agree with you that exposure to the scarier folks you'd encounter in a course on Big-C Conservatism -- de Maistre, Gobineau, and so forth -- would be a good thing for complacent undergraduates. I have packed away in some boxes in my basement two '70's-vintage volumes entitled, if memory serves, "The Liberal Tradition in Western [or maybe "European"] Thought" and "The Conservative Tradition in Western [or maybe "European"] Thought," each anthologies edited by a different scholar. They're probably out of print now, but I had found them good, thorough, and, sometimes, scary.
6.15.2009 3:33pm
Latinist:
@wyswyg:
I don't really think there's much point in arguing this particular aspect back and forth but, for what it's worth: I did actually take a lot of English in college, and really, no, I didn't get indoctrinated in all feminist theory, etc. Many people have tried to convince me that, secretly, I did, but those people weren't there. If you have some reason to disbelieve me on this, or some evidence that my experience was anomalous, feel free to present it.

I wasn't claiming that it was reasonable to read all conservatives out of the history of political thought. But I think Berkowitz is playing the game of "I define conservatism idiosyncratically as this set of thinkers; by this definition, you are ignoring conservatism!" Of course this game can't be won: if you include Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, someone will say "There's no Ayn Rand on your syllabus! Why are you ignoring conservatism?!" and it all starts again.

Now if it were really true that all conservative thought, by any definition, was banished from the academy, that would of course be a problem. But it's not true. As I've now pointed out a couple times, Poli Sci departments do, in fact, teach Burke, as well as (depending on the department) Smith, Mises, Hayek, Nozick, etc. So I submit again that this whole complaint, at least as framed by Berkowitz, is BS.
6.15.2009 3:56pm
Latinist:
As I mentioned above, this "who's to say? we have to leave it up to the individual teacher" line gets shot down quickly enough if the teacher says things you don't approve of, for instance by teaching intelligent design.

Again, I think I must not have explained myself well here. I'm certainly not saying that this kind of decision should be left entirely to individual teachers. ID is not taught, not because I disapprove (who would listen to me?) but because there's a pretty strong consensus among biologists that it shouldn't be taught. In Poli Sci, it seems to me (again, as an outsider) that there's a pretty strong consensus about, e.g. Machiavelli and Hobbes, but much less of one about, e.g., Christine de Pisan and Milton Friedman. So the decision about those authors is generally left up to individual teachers, as it should be. Maybe the consensus is wrong, of course; maybe Friedman should be on absolutely every 101 reading list; but to make that happen you have to convince people of his value, not whine that they're being unfair to him.
6.15.2009 4:09pm
Anderson (mail):
"The Conservative Tradition in Western [or maybe "European"] Thought,"

Hey, thanks, CJ -- I seem to've found it. (It is "European" btw.)

Will order it, on the theory that it must be superior to Kirk's volume, or at least complementary to it.
6.15.2009 5:09pm
Name Witheld to Protect the Reticent:
"If political science wants to be serious about being a science, it needs to grow up."

We did. Starting 50 or so years ago, we began systematically driving the theorists out. In another 100 - maybe less - all of that will be in philosophy departments.

And, before you start bemoaning this, please recognize that it is a good thing. It decomplicates our lives, and keeps philosophy departments alive when they are otherwise headed for shutdown, thanks to low enrollments and numbers of majors.

(Finally: no, this is not sarcasm. I'm a tenured political science professor at a major research university, and I believe every word I just typed.)
6.15.2009 5:13pm
Anderson (mail):
Philosophy, the queen dustbin of the disciplines?
6.15.2009 5:28pm
Desiderius:
Name Withheld,

"To despise theory is to have the excessively vain pretension to do without knowing what one does, and to speak without knowing what one says."

- Fontenelle
6.15.2009 5:34pm
Desiderius:
Columbia syllabi are maddeningly difficult to get to, or maybe my Google-Fu is weak. Here's one:

POLS W4226

Barnard syllabi, from this site:

POLS BC 1001

POLS BC 3200

POLS BC 3210

POLS V 3212

POLS V 3230


POLS V 3313


POLS BC 3335

POLS W 4226

POLS W 4311

POLS W 4316

POLS W 4321

Judge for yourself who's bullshitting whom.
6.15.2009 6:06pm
Desiderius:
I'm unconvinced that 101 courses were what the original poster had in mind, given Berkowitz' reference to sub-fields. Higher-level courses and research programs are where the true dearth is to be found, and not just a dearth of Conservative viewpoints.

I get the sense that many of the most public-minded of my generation saw the weak sauce offered there and drifted off into our lives of quiet atomization, some of us finding our way into public life, whether in politics, or community service, or administering publicly-owned enterprises. What we often lack is the critical faculty the academy once prided itself in inculcating into each of its students. Criticism in Arnold's sense, as "a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world."

If the syllabi linked above contain that, God help us all.
6.15.2009 6:22pm
Desiderius:
Anderson,

"And in case I wasn't clear above, I think that "scary" figures like de Maistre are excellent fare for undergrads."

I believe that de Maistre's views are already more than represented.
6.15.2009 6:25pm
Latinist:
Desiderius:
Thanks for all that information. I had looked only at intro political theory classes, but it's true that Berkowitz also thinks American politics classes are relevant.

That said, at this point I may have to leave this discussion to those who know what they're talking about: looking over those syllabi, I realized that I have no idea who any of those people they're reading are, and their titles didn't reveal enough to judge whether they're liberal or conservative. Oh well.

I will note, though the lack (unless I missed it) of a "feminism in America" or "African-American politics in America" or similar class. And those and related fields didn't seem to dominate the topics that were covered (though, again, maybe if you know the authors there's more there than I can see).
6.15.2009 6:54pm
Latinist:
Desiderius:
By the way (and I really ask out of ignorance) what was so obviously missing from those syllabi? What was wrong with them? What would you have liked to see?
6.15.2009 6:57pm
Desiderius:
Latinist,

"By the way (and I really ask out of ignorance) what was so obviously missing from those syllabi? What was wrong with them? What would you have liked to see?"

"I have no idea who any of those people they're reading are, and their titles didn't reveal enough to judge whether they're liberal or conservative. Oh well."

You don't think something is amiss when the entire roster of course offerings contains not one book of which you've heard? You strike me as being quite a bit smarter than the average bear, so I don't think you're the problem.

I've spent twenty years studying political economy, as an auto-didact admittedly and part time, but I was given a solid grounding in that field at Man U. I've never heard of any of those authors/books either.

I'm looking for the same thing Arnold (very much a Liberal!) was. If it were there, I'd have recognized something. Sure, include some contemporary and specialized works, but the Founders studied the ancients alongside their Montesquieu for a reason.

It's not a liberal/conservative thing. Seriously. It seems to me that several commenters here have been too vigilant against ghostly threats from the "Right" (Does anyone really imagine that KA is bullshitting here? To what end? Does he strike anyone as the sort that bullshits much? Really?), while somehow not noticing that the likes of Name Withheld are busy lobotomizing Political Science.

It's not just Poli Sci.
6.15.2009 8:33pm
Desiderius:
Name Withheld,

""If political science wants to be serious about being a science, it needs to grow up."

We did. Starting 50 or so years ago, we began systematically driving the theorists out."

No doubt that Albert Something-or-Other might have amounted to something as a scientist had he left the theorizing up to the philosophers and stuck to experimentation and data-collection.

The mind reels.
6.15.2009 8:37pm
Desiderius:
I'll close with another passage from Kors that seems to me to strike at the heart of the matter.

"Those often kindly teachers, however, do have a sense of urgent mission. Even if we put them on truth-serum, the academics who dominate the humanities and social sciences on our campuses today would state that K-12 education essentially has been one long celebration of America and the West, as if our students were intimately familiar with the Federalist Papers and had never heard of slavery or empire. Having convinced themselves that the students whom they inherit have been immersed in American and Western traditions without critical perspective—they do believe that—contemporary academics see themselves as having merely four brief years in which to demystify students, and somehow to get them to look up from their Madison and Hamilton long enough to gaze upon the darker side of American and Western life. In their view, our K-12 students know all about Aristotle, John Milton and Adam Smith, have studied for twelve years how America created bounty and integrated score after score of millions of immigrants, but have never heard of the Great Depression or segregation.

Academics, in their own minds, face an almost insoluble problem of time. How, in only four years, can they disabuse students of the notion that the capital, risk, productivity and military sacrifice of others have contributed to human dignity and to the prospects of a decent society? How can they make them understand, with only four years to do so, that capitalism and individual- ism have created cultures that are cruel, inefficient, racist, sexist and homophobic, with oppressive caste systems, mental and behavioral? How, in such a brief period, can they enlighten "minorities," including women (the majority of students), about the "internalization" of their oppression (today's equivalent of false consciousness)? How, in only eight semesters, might they use the classroom, curriculum and university in loco parentis to create a radical leadership among what they see as the victim groups of our society, and to make the heirs of successful families uneasy in the moral right of their possessions and opportunities? Given those constraints, why in the world should they complicate their awesome task by hiring anyone who disagrees with them?"

As a high school teacher, I can attest that this attitude is all-to-common here as well, with the concomitant student disengagement it inevitably engenders.
6.15.2009 8:47pm
Desiderius:
"But where's the Man, who Counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, and not proud to know?
Unbiass'd, or by Favour or by Spite;
Not dully prepossest, nor blindly right;
Tho' Learn'd well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and Humanly severe?
Who to a Friend his Faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the Merit of a Foe?
Blest with a Taste exact, yet unconfin'd;
A Knowledge both of Books and Humankind;
Gen'rous Converse; a Sound exempt from Pride;
And Love to Praise, with Reason on his Side?"

Pope, Essay on Criticism
6.15.2009 9:00pm
Perseus (mail):
Mansfield practically creams himself writing about Burke. If you can find even an "implied" criticism, bring it on, and then let's compare it to the rest of the article.

As I said, the article is designed to be a general introduction that gives Burke his due (or more than his due from your perspective, which is also a perspective that dominates the academy), not some sort of extended critical analysis.

But in your obsessive desire to find criticism, why don't you try beginning with the straightforward question that Mansfield himself puts to Burke near the beginning of the article:

...the problem of his [Burke's] political philosophy would seem to be to design a theory that never intrudes into practice. Our question in assessing it is: Can theory serve solely as a watchdog against theory and never be needed as a guide?

If you think that Mansfield's answer is "yes, oh god, yes!" then you didn't read the article the least bit carefully. For example,

Burke solves the problem of prudence within prudence: he keeps moral prudence distinct from mere cleverness, yet maintains its sovereignty over clever theorists except for occasional interventions by higher prudence.

Mansfield then begins subtly raising doubts about how airtight Burke's solution is, and explicitly raises doubt in his discussion of the relationship between human art and Nature in Burke's thought:

One wonders whether prudence is after all sovereign for Burke, if it must operate "under that discipline of nature."

Of course, if prudence is not ultimately sovereign, then Burke will need theory (speculative metaphysics) as some sort of guide in politics, the very thing that he rails against so vehemently. Now you may think that Mansfield set up a straw man, or that he didn't delve into issue enough (though that would distract from the main purpose of the article), but it is a pretty clear criticism.
6.15.2009 9:18pm
Latinist:
Desiderius:
I wasn't bothered by not having heard of those people because I've never read significantly about, e.g., the politics of the American Presidency. It doesn't strike me as obvious that that kind of class (one on a specific political issue, limited in place and time) needs to include the most respected thinkers of the world. Political theory classes should include such thinkers, and it's pretty clear that, at Barnard, they do. I already talked about the intro class; but looking at the higher level ones it seems the same. So I guess the question is: does every Poli Sci class need to be about the history of political theory? Should a class on the American Presidency start with reading Machiavelli? Or should there never be a class on the American Presidency? I really don't think I understand your complaint.
6.15.2009 9:25pm
Latinist:
Also, I have to add, again from my own experience, that that quote from Kors does not remind me of anyone I have ever met in academia. That's just not how my colleagues or teachers seem to see themselves; and again. . . facts? It would be a lot more convincing if that passage contained a quote, or a poll, or even an anecdote -- something other than just a pronouncement about The Way Things Are.
6.15.2009 9:32pm
Latinist:
Also, as an aside: it is a really depressingly common claim that women's studies, or African-American Studies, or queer theory, or whatever, consists entirely of claiming that group X is/ has been oppressed. That's just not true.
6.15.2009 9:55pm
Desiderius:
Latinist,

Broad brush. My experience is that it describes maybe 20-30%, with too many of the rest keeping their head down/vigilant against the "Right"/too narrowly focused (see the syllabus links) to offer an effective counterpoint. Judging by the character of those I've known, they have much more than that to offer.

My primary concern is that the brightest students are thereby not engaged, in lieu of those that can most effectively echo the orthodoxy/play the language game/perpetuate the narrowness.

In the greater scheme of things, it seems more promising to encourage those students with the gumption to challenge your views - that's what new generations are for, after all. You can be sure that they'll then piss off the next generation, who will then be more sympathetic to your perspective. The promotion of sycophancy seems to produce only decay.

And, yes, I do believe that Political Science, as a "soft" science, which is to say a more difficult one, does need to maintain some grounding in deeper currents than perhaps, say, Physics can get away with. The Book-of-the-Month club approach seems more likely to repeat history as farce than to achieve the "relevance" it seeks.

Of course, I'm cognizant that I overcompensate the other way, but the untilled field does tend to be more fertile. BTW, how is life in the Classics treating you these days?
6.15.2009 10:31pm
Anderson (mail):
or more than his due from your perspective

Where, exactly, did I slight Burke? Your winged sandals have carried you off to slay mythical liberals.

As for Mansfield, by showing that Burke's philosophy calls for some value beyond prudence, this is both accurate as regards Burke (as Canarvan's quote above suggests), and "saves" Burke by showing that, properly understood, he's a stepping stone to the ancients, which is the highest praise that a Straussian can offer to a modern.

Burke's discussion of prudence vs. theory, IIRC, is pitched vs. the abstractions of the Revolutionary thinkers, i.e., is polemical in nature, so it's not terribly impressive to single that out for criticism. (Of course, the Reflections is a polemic, which perhaps tells us something about conservatism?)

... Re: poli sci vs. political philosophy, the quest for scientism is nothing new; there's probably a book on it particularly as regards poli sci (and Strauss of course presents his History of Political Philosophy as an antidote to that trend).

I am tempted to say that poli sci discarded philosophy and became a number-crunching discipline when it ceased to become the study of politics and became the study of how to win an election. But others are better qualified to make that call.
6.15.2009 11:29pm
Perseus (mail):
We did. Starting 50 or so years ago, we began systematically driving the theorists out. In another 100 - maybe less - all of that will be in philosophy departments.

And, before you start bemoaning this, please recognize that it is a good thing. It decomplicates our lives, and keeps philosophy departments alive when they are otherwise headed for shutdown, thanks to low enrollments and numbers of majors.

(Finally: no, this is not sarcasm. I'm a tenured political science professor at a major research university, and I believe every word I just typed.)


Your triumphalism is premature, particularly given the advent of the Perestroika movement.
6.15.2009 11:50pm
Perseus (mail):
Where, exactly, did I slight Burke?

You slighted Mansfield for his supposedly too generous treatment of Burke.

by showing that Burke's philosophy calls for some value beyond prudence, this is both accurate as regards Burke (as Canarvan's quote above suggests), and "saves" Burke by showing that, properly understood, he's a stepping stone to the ancients, which is the highest praise that a Straussian can offer to a modern.

That Mansfield believes that Burke needs to be saved is itself a nontrivial criticism (would, say, Russell Kirk agree?). Moreover, contrary to your suggestion, this particular criticism does not necessarily point to the ancients specifically, but rather to the need for political theory as such (which would include the moderns as well). But you apparently don't think that the criticism is impressive enough, but that hinges on your own (less studied) interpretation of Burke (since you seem to think that Burke's criticisms of the intrusion of theory into practical politics are merely "polemical"). In any event, I seriously doubt whether you would find any criticism of Burke offered by Mansfield as sufficient to revise your silly characterization of his article as "hagiography."
6.16.2009 12:56am
ChrisTS (mail):
Anderson (mail):
Philosophy, the queen dustbin of the disciplines?

All things return to The Mother.
6.16.2009 5:02pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Desiderius:

I want to make clear that I, as a bona fide* political philosopher, am not at all sure that it is a good thing that most Poli Sci depts. have abandoned theory. In some ways, we philosophers are happy enough to have them do so because we don't think they did it very well. (Difficult to do justice to Plato's political theory if you don't understand the metaphysics and epistemology, for ecample.)

I assume they did so primarily because they, like people in pyschology, got sick of being told they were just idle speculators by those enamored of the 'hard' sciences. I imagine they also found lots of interesting stuff to investigate.

At any rate, I think it is silly for others to tell political scientists what they ought to be studying and teaching at a very general level. And that is the level at which one must begin if one is going to go on and insist on specific authors who should be taught as part of that general curriculum.

*Sorry I did not respond to your comments and your reference to me as a 'putative political philosopher.' I am sure you teach your high school students to avoid ad hominem arguments.
6.16.2009 5:11pm
Desiderius:
Chris,

"*Sorry I did not respond to your comments and your reference to me as a 'putative political philosopher.' I am sure you teach your high school students to avoid ad hominem arguments."

I teach math. Keeps me out of trouble. Also not first career, but looks to be last. Love it. Nowhere is theory and practice more readily integrated, nor a thirst for learning more quickly rewarded.

As for ad hominem, I call 'em as I see 'em. If you had advanced an argument, the charge might be valid. Instead, you punted. You said:

"What theoretical connection there is between social traditonalism and free market capitalism is impossible to make out."

Impossible? Really? Even for the sake of argument? Trade itself is a social tradition, one of the oldest. Not all traditions are static, indeed the best are the most dynamic, and I count myself fortunate to have born into a society that celebrates just those traditions, among them free-enterprise and capitalism.

Of course there are persuasive counterarguments. But that is all that they are. They do not thereby erase the possibility of the argument itself.

Sorry, but I'm no respecter of Persons, much less Titles.

"At any rate, I think it is silly for others to tell political scientists what they ought to be studying and teaching at a very general level. And that is the level at which one must begin if one is going to go on and insist on specific authors who should be taught as part of that general curriculum."

Please. Political scientists of all people? Dentists, ok, as long as they keep my teeth clean. Firemen? Great, as long as fires are fought. But political scientists?

You will note that I did not suggest, let alone insist, on any specific authors, rather a general approach that leaves wide latitude for professional expertise. Would that there were more evidence of the latter.

Look, the age of the Renaissance Man is long past, but Politics, of all fields, should maintain some contact with the general understandings of the well-educated person, especially in a democracy, and with those who came before and those who will follow. For its own sake.

“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”
-Aristotle, Politics

"Some have said that it is not the business of private men to meddle with government - a bold and dishonest saying, which is fit to come from the mouth of a tyrant or a slave. To say that private men have nothing to do with government is to say that private men have nothing to do with their own happiness or misery; that people ought not concern themselves whether they be naked or clothed, fed or starved, destroyed or instructed, protected or destroyed."

- Cato
6.16.2009 6:31pm
Desiderius:
And here are the syllabi from the Barnard Political Theory Ghetto:

BC 1013

BC 1014

POLS V 3020 DEMOCRACY AND ITS CRITICS

POLS V 3027 LIBERALISM, COMMUNITARIANISM, AND THE GOOD

The intro to the second basic theory course mentions two people: Marx and Hitler.

Can we do no better?
6.16.2009 6:48pm
Anderson (mail):
Moreover, contrary to your suggestion, this particular criticism does not necessarily point to the ancients specifically, but rather to the need for political theory as such

Perseus-dude, we're talking the Straussians here. Political theory since the ancients is worse than no political theory at all .... ;)
6.16.2009 8:36pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Please. Political scientists of all people? Dentists, ok, as long as they keep my teeth clean. Firemen? Great, as long as fires are fought. But political scientists?

Is that your idea of advancing an argument?

I was responding to Anan on a related point on which we agreed. I was not adavancing an argument. I'm sorry you disagreed with the point I made, but your response to me was uninformed ad hominem. Period.

By the way, my dad was a mathematician. So was my spouse. It's a fine calling.
6.16.2009 10:09pm
Desiderius:
"Is that your idea of advancing an argument?"

In response to the proposition that its silly for "others" to tell political scientists what they should be teaching, including, I assume, even political philosophers, and when the "telling" consists of suggesting that they might try a book that someone outside the narrow (with plans to be even narrower, evidently, after outsourcing theory, of all things. How does one actually do science without theory?) confines of the field might have heard of?

I should think I was being gentle, but my bark is worse than my bite in any case.

And apologies if I've been too bold to suggest that a political philosopher should be able to conceive of some connection, however hypothetical, between social traditionalists and free-market capitalism when the vast majority of living, breathing social traditionalists I've actually known also happen to be gung-ho on economic liberty. History, as well, is not deplete with examples.

The irony is that I'm somewhat sympathetic to the argument that you and Anan were advancing. Certainly economic liberalism is corrosive of existing arrangements, including some which have not yet outlived their usefulness. I've known enough Amish and Mennonites to recognize that reasonable people can disagree. And, you know, the odd reasonable Progressive. But I fail to see how throwing up one's hands in befuddlement is at all philosophical, let alone how it advances your argument.

Guess that's why I'm not a Political Philosopher, but only a political philosopher.

On the other hand, if you have any suggestions for my Math curriculum next year, I'm all ears.
6.16.2009 10:42pm
Desiderius:
ChrisTS,

Sorry to hear of the past tense.
6.16.2009 10:43pm
ChrisTS (mail):
)Desiderius:
ChrisTS, Sorry to hear of the past tense.


Ah, well, c'est la vie. Thanks, by the way. I have a deep spot for matematikos.

I should think I was being gentle, but my bark is worse than my bite in any case.

The famed 'atonality' of e-writing. It's not that I am unable to 'conceive of a connection;' rather, I think Anan and I were agreeing that the likely proposed connections are not persuasive - to us.
6.17.2009 12:16am
Desiderius:
ChrisTS,

"It's not that I am unable to 'conceive of a connection;'"

Then say what you mean, and mean what you say.

"Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes."

- Arnold, The Buried Life

"rather, I think Anan and I were agreeing that the likely proposed connections are not persuasive - to us."

Of course not, so it has been with conservatives like yourselves for millenia, especially those drawn to the hallowed cloisters of academe. It is well that this is so.

The reason that the "conservative" ideas KA prefers are not welcome there is because the place is already crawling with conservative ideas, from Precautionary Principles, to Legal Realism, to Political Correctness.

If KA and friends (including myself) wish for the ideas of Burke, Hayek, Friedman (and I would add Berlin) to find purchase there, we'll need to let the liberal freak flag of those ideas fly. The market for conservative ones is already cornered.
6.17.2009 8:19am
ChrisTS (mail):
Good lord. I never thought to be called conservative on VC!

I'm going away to cherish this moment.
6.17.2009 8:31pm
Desiderius:
ChrisTS,

"Good lord. I never thought to be called conservative on VC!"

We're often the last to know. Hence the poem.

"Fate, which foresaw
How frivolous a baby man would be--
By what distractions he would be possess'd,
How he would pour himself in every strife,
And well-nigh change his own identity--
That it might keep from his capricious play
His genuine self, and force him to obey
Even in his own despite his being's law,
Bade through the deep recesses of our breast
The unregarded river of our life
Pursue with indiscernible flow its way;
And that we should not see
The buried stream, and seem to be
Eddying at large in blind uncertainty,
Though driving on with it eternally.

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.
And long we try in vain to speak and act
Our hidden self, and what we say and do
Is eloquent, is well--but 'tis not true!
And then we will no more be rack'd
With inward striving, and demand
Of all the thousand nothings of the hour
Their stupefying power;
Ah yes, and they benumb us at our call!
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.

Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness plays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast.
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose,
And the sea where it goes."

Keep in mind that conservative for me is no epithet. You, too, have your valuable work to do. I long thought that I was a conservative due to my affinity for Havel (and his hero, Thatcher). Berlin, Arnold, Hayek, et. al., with the help of a beloved hand or too, convinced me otherwise.

If, as you argue, liberal institutions (foremost among them limited government) are corrosive of existing arrangements (a point I have granted, indeed would argue myself), does not the contrapositive as well hold?

Put on your reality-based, critical-thinking, no illusions hat for a bit. Do you imagine that the plutocrats (hey, better Pluto than Goofy!) who call the shots for our institutions of Higher Learning are not aware what you and your colleagues are up to, and wholeheartedly approve?"

The guys in the Che t-shirts know all too well. Unfortunately, what they have in mind is not at all liberal.
6.18.2009 7:07am
Desiderius:
The contrapostive:

Progressive institutions (as we have come to know them) demonstrably perpetuate existing arrangements, and are hence conservative.
6.18.2009 7:10am

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