Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Parallel Universe of Academia (or, Chomsky's last stronghold), Shadi Hamid, Democracy Arsenal, 06-05-03

Referring to Todd Gitlin's article in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education, “The Self-Inflicted Wounds of the Academic Leftthis post at The Democracy Arsenal blog is on the futility of the orthodoxy and protestations of the 'radical left.' Power is not in numbers, but in ideas and the ability to translate them into sustained action. This explains the rapid rise and fall of the neocons.


If the Left wishes to resuscitate itself, it might like to take a careful look at (and in) the halls of the academy. I was reminded of this by Todd Gitlin's perceptive essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education. One cannot begin to count the endless numbers of young, otherwise well-meaning liberals obsessed with orthodoxy and ideological purity. It is, however, orthodoxy of a peculiar kind, one that holds post-modernism, anti-Orientalism, anti-imperialism, “deconstruction,” and other such things as self-evident truths immune, ironically, from criticism.

Academia really is, in a way, a parallel universe, the only place left in the
United States where Noam Chomsky is still quoted as an authority.

For their part, significant segments of the Left have chosen to disengage from the System and to complain and criticize at every turn, oblivious to the fact that their protestations provide yet more proof of their heightened irrelevance.

It is worth noting that in the run-up to the
Iraq war, more than 10 million people throughout the world protested, presumably united against the perils of unwise intervention. They may have been right, but history has the final say, and it happens to judge outcome, not intention. Despite overwhelming opposition, the war still happened and we have had to live with the many consequences. On the other hand, 10-15 people – once Leftist graduate students, now “liberals mugged by reality” (i.e. neocons) – were able to provide the intellectual ammunition for a small but effective movement that would steer US foreign policy in rather interesting, and often destructive directions.

Thus, power is not in numbers, but in ideas and the ability of convert them into tangible, sustained action. This is the both tragic and empowering lesson of neo-conservatism’s unlikely ascendancy, as well as its sudden demise.


At Fri May 05, 08:50:00 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

The question is, however, how to translate ideas into action. I would say the left has attempted this and failed. While some are interested in ideological purity and orthodoxy, I think that there are some that would really like to change things, have perhaps even tried, and have gotten not so far. I know progressives need a strategy. I'm just wondering what that might be?


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