Interesting essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Mark Lilla here and some commentary here.
It takes a great deal of patience to pick through the religious superstition, racism, anti-feminism, homophobia, and general anti-intelelctual, arrogant unpleasantness to find anything worth taking seriously in the right.
While I agree that serious study of conservative views is right and proper, the writer of this article forgets that many of the liberal professors, especially the elder ones in authority, grew up fighting racism and sexism and having conservatives constantly in the way. It should not surprise him that so many professors see conservative philosophy as little more than justification for not helping people and have bad memories associated with it. More over, they see conservatives trying to push God into biology class in public schools and have no wish to give Christian conservatives (the bulk of the grass roots Republican Party) any leverage in the Ivory Tower.
Having said that, I think that the reason why conservative thought is not taken seriously in academia is because, at least as it's been manifested in the US in the last several decades, it is not a serious philosophy. It has been a means to do away with reason and rationality in order to justify actions that serve the ends of those in power. While it may be useful to study it as a propaganda tool to manipulate public opinion, taking it seriously as an ideology would be a disservice to serious scholarship.
The fact that academia (Wolfe) considers these two as conservative exemplars just shows how far distorted to the left academia is.
Couldn't the argument also be that those on the right (such as yourself, presumably) have so narrowly defined what it means to be a "true" conservative, that virtually everyone is a "liberal."
It is my experience that left-wing academics are far more hostile to conservatives--especially religious conservatives--than libertarians.
He used to be a Marxist. About ten years ago Genovese decided the Southern Agrarians he was studying were right and became a conservative.
Doesn't he write for the National Review? I know his wife does.
Actually he became something like what in Europe might be called a Christian Democrat. He still blames capitalism for the evils of modern American society.
In his response to Lilla's article, Alan Wolfe argues that there are in fact conservatives at Columbia and provides as examples the Marxist historian Eugene D. Genovese and the extremely liberal Stephan Thernstrom. Unfortunately, this kind of unaware self-parody is all too typical of today's professoriat.
The diary is fascinating and reassuring, at least about our students. Lyons's class was split almost evenly between liberal and conservative students, who had no trouble arguing with each other. They seemed to understand what thin-skinned professors wish to forget: that intellectual engagement is not for crybabies. The students had loud debates over Reagan's legacy, Bush's foreign policy, religious freedom, abortion, even the "war on Christmas"—and nobody broke into tears or ran to the dean to complain. And the more the students argued, the more they came to respect one another. According to Lyons, students learned that that conservative guy was no longer just the predictable gun nut or religious fanatic. And the conservative students learned that they had to make real arguments, not rely on clichés and sound bites recycled from Fox News.
It's not as though people we'd now call "religious conservatives" occasionally founded academic institutions or anything.
Religious conservatives tend to be extremely hostile to academia and not want to be a part of it at all. So why should their small numbers be surprising?
Simply put, conservatism is a methodology, not an ideology. My 4 points towards a new conservatism are:
To be conservative in the US means to align yourself with the founding principles of the country - you wish to conserve those princples.
That is not descriptive of American conservatism. Giving value to the past is only one part of the ideology (or methodology). Limited government (how limited varies all over the place) is another. Individual responsiblity is a major theme. There are others. To focus merely on the word "conserve" is to have to narrow a view.
In short, I see conservatism at its core as being:
1) Distrustful of innovation
2) Distrustful of our ability to re-engineer society.
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