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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Academic Fortunes



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Mark Bauerlein offers a revelatory contrast of the vicissitudes of academic regard in an excellent Chronicle piece on the divide between a public sphere in which conservative intellectuals are prominent, and a university sphere where they are absent. Look to this:

Consider a curricular example. Decades ago a thinker who’d witnessed oppression firsthand embarked upon a multibook investigation into the operations of society and power. Mingling philosophical analysis and historical observation, he produced an interpretation of modern life that traced its origins to the Enlightenment and came down to a fundamental opposition: the diverse energies of individuals versus the regulatory acts of the state and its rationalizing experts. Those latter were social scientists, a caste of 18th- and 19th-century theorists whose extension of scientific method to social relations, the thinker concluded, produced some of the great catastrophes of modern times.

Here’s the rub: I don’t mean Michel Foucault.

He meant Hayek, and details the virtual absence of his non-economic works. Worthily, later on he notes the perceptions of “corporate interest” with which such conservative scholars are tagged.

Herein lies the plight of conservative intellectuals. They seek to reflect upon the events of the day, but the ideas they draw upon are ignored by professors and cheapened by liberal intellectuals. Count the names Hayek, Russell Kirk, Irving Kristol, etc., on syllabi in courses on “Culture & Society.” Tally how often, in left-of-center periodicals, those names are linked to moneyed interests. The framing is complete. Heralds of conservatism start and finish in the messy realm of politics and finance, never rising into the temple of reflection.

More discussion, of Berube, Sullivan, and Horowitz continues in the piece, for those lucky enough to hold subscriptions.



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