February 16, 2004

Still More on Conservatives in Academia

5. Along the same lines, ostensible political views and intellectual temperament may not map well onto each other. Temperamentally, most academics are highly conservative in the (Edmund) Burkean sense: they tend to oppose any change to their own institutions and they tend to argue strongly in favor of the maintenance of core traditions and practices. Many of the critiques of academic life circulating in the blogosphere now have less to do with the party affiliation of academics and more to do with this tempermental leaning, and the behaviors or attitudes which are justifiably seen as troubling would be no different if the party affiliations or political views of academics were changed, barring major changes to the nature of the institution. Magically turn everyone in the humanities into Republicans tomorrow, and they’d still exhibit all the behaviors that everyone is complaining about. Indeed, some of the conservative critics of academia seem to me to be actively campaigning for just this option.

-- Timothy Burke, "A Pox on Both Houses, or Conservatives in Academia (again)"

Burke (that's Timothy, not Edmund) offers thirteen observations, and in so doing provides some much-needed perspective, on many of the key issues surrounding the "conservatives in academia" question. His latest post probably won't much appeal to those committed to a campus culture warrior ethos, to reductive us-v.-them dualisms, and to the notion that these are simple questions with even easier answers. Yes, of course I mean that as a high compliment. As they say in the blogosphere, read the whole thing.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at February 16, 2004 07:58 PM

On behalf of the reductive "us vs. them" dualists, I remained committed to a binary I would normally deconstruct when the "them" is David Horowitz, thank you.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 16, 2004 08:42 PM

Thank you, Timothy Burke, for the most reasonable, even-handed, analysis I've read on this topic.

Posted by: THB at February 16, 2004 08:44 PM

I think there's something to this. I blog about political issues all the time, and while I'm a liberal, some of my stances are outside the political mainstream of my field. Yet since I'm under my own name, I definitely shy away from anything related to the status of and possible reform of academics in general. I don't know which opinions of those issues would cause some people to go ballistic, but I don't want to find out the hard way.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at February 16, 2004 11:56 PM