In an article for Tablet, Russell Jacoby, author and professor emeritus of history at the University of California Los Angeles, admits that he was wrong to dismiss the damaging effects of postmodernism and critical pedagogy on American culture.
The Takeover – Russell Jacoby in @Tablet https://t.co/wjea5wB5bf h/t @JaneBColeman pic.twitter.com/sjO0YHuqJ7
— Ron Coleman (@RonColeman) December 21, 2022
“In 1987 I published ‘The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe’ which elicited heated responses. Only now do I see I got something wrong — as did my critics,” Jacoby says.
In his book, Jacoby had argued that conservatives should stop worrying about “radical scholars destroying America and relax.” Jacoby believed that academic revolutionaries would stay on college campuses and that their influence “remained peripheral because it was small, underfunded, and distant from cultural life.”
Jacoby now admits that he had missed something. He had not taken into account “the dawning takeover of the public sphere by campus denizens and lingo.”
Jacoby believes that changes in the university landscape have contributed to the change in the culture. Whereas students taking critical pedagogy, insurgent sociology, gender studies, radical anthropology, Marxist cinema theory, and postmodernism usually found jobs in universities in the 50s, there were eventually too many of them to place in intellectual settings. As a result, Leftists who would have kept their ideas on campuses were forced to join the workforce, taking with them “sensibilities and jargon they learned on campus.”
“The buzzwords of the campus — diversity, inclusion, microaggression, power differential, white privilege, group safety — have become the buzzwords in public life. Already confusing on campus, they become noxious off campus,” Jacoby says.
“For all their sophistication, these learned professors are continuously gobsmacked by the most elementary facts of society. Society is hierarchical! The rich have more clout than the poor! The powerful dominate the weak! They repeat these observations endlessly as if they just discovered them. Apparently, they just did,” says Jacoby.
Jacoby points out that the “self-righteous professors,” who formerly prospered in their campus enclaves by plumping each other’s brilliance but left the rest of us alone,” have now spawned “self-righteous students who filter into the public square.” He compares these students to old “Soviet apparatchiks,” who carry out party policies. “Intellectually”, Jacoby says, “they fetishize buzz words (diversity, marginality, power differential, white privilege, group safety, hegemony, gender fluidity, and the rest) that they plaster over everything.”
Jacoby says Leftists are no longer trying to reach out to enlarge their constituency. Instead, they only reach in, operating more like a club for members only.