In my field, for example, we could offer lots of reasons that the study of English literature is a romper room from leftist politics, and many of those reasons are probably simultaneously true. At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to money. The path to financial success is easier for leftist literary scholars, and so many more pursue that path.But why? His post offers no explanation on that score.
Let me suggest one: the market test for scholarship is incomplete, and it corrects errors in resource allocation slowly. Had leftist literary scholars continued to teach close reading and tight writing at the same time that their research considered different ways of interpreting literature, their disciplines might not have faced the problems they currently face. That, however, is not what has happened. I find myself frequently suggesting that the Economics Department time-slip the English Department for all the basic writing instruction we are doing, which has apparently been neglected in freshman composition and in the common schools. And I'm not alone. Here's a gripe by John Jay of Chicago Boyz. (Spend some time at the site for more on the same theme.)
This is not true in the Academic Humanities, by and large. One of the greatest crimes against scholarship perpetrated by the Boomers is their popularization of Post-Modernism, which tends to take ideas that range from the sophomoric to the idiotic and wrap them in impenetrable prose. Recently, I ran across an excellent article skewering that tendency:So the humanities types can't write well, but by virtue of their current positions, they are gatekeepers for their university presses and their journals. Thus elephantine and content-free writing accumulates in the library stacks and the curriculum vitae of the select get longer and the prestige and prizes accumulate.
For those ideas, in the main, are quite simple, and often anything but revolutionary in essence. What is genuinely remarkable about them is not their novelty, or their complexity, nor even the fact that a professor should harbor them; it is the astoundingly grandiose and rococo manner of their statement, the almost unbelievable tediousness and flatulence of the gifted headmaster's prose, his unprecedented talent for saying nothing in an august and heroic manner.
Professor Nokes recognizes the self-referentialness of academic publishing.
Imagine, for example, a conservative literary scholar has managed to navigate the shoals of graduate school, freshly-minted with Ph.D. Now comes the time to publish that dissertation. Now Jane Scholar finds herself trying to find a publisher, and discovers that not many academic publishers are friendly toward conservative scholarship. Eventually, though, Jane Scholar manages to find a publisher, a few tiers down from the top.That's apparently irrespective of the quality of the argument the dissertation makes. (I'm skeptical about that dimension: there is no better evidence of the weakness of the market test for humanities research than the prestige that has attached to Theory devoid of theorems or of testable implications. But I digress.)
On the basis of her book, what kind of job does she find? If her politics are conservative, she probably can hope for little more than to have her book ignored; if it gets reviewed, the reviews will be hostile. She'll find herself scrambling for work in a tough market, near the bottom of the academic heap.
Professor Nokes's suggestion: create viewpoint diversity in research by creating new publishing houses.
One thing, and one thing only, will change Academe -- money. See your mouth? Put your money in it's current geographical location. Fund some well-paying named chairs. Create some conservative academic publishing houses (Regnery is not enough) and publish some first-tier scholarship. Fund some swank academic conferences in desirable locations. Create grants for research. In other words, put up some cash!Oh, come. Regnery will never be enough with its editorial staff of polemicists who consistently use excessively provocative language when plain English will work. But will additional publishing houses really facilitate a renaissance in conservative scholarship in the humanities? Or will the self-referential gatekeepers view the upstart presses as ideologically correct vanity presses for individuals whose work is insufficiently rigorous (yeah, right) or of insufficiently general interest (ditto) to merit consideration by the prestige presses? There's also the little problem that the prestige presses are resource sinks at the universities where they live, which is stimulating some interest in puncturing the research myth that these presses perpetuate.
You would think that conservatives would understand the motivating power of money. If scholars could sudden publish openly conservative work, could get their travel funded and their research supported, and found themselves getting tenure and promotion because they were able to publish prolifically, you would have a lot more openly conservative scholars in Academe (and probably some fake conservative scholars as well). Until then, all things being equal, liberal ideas will win out in the academy, because liberal ideas can get people published, tenured, and promoted. Conservatives outside of Academe need either to put up some cash or stop the griping.