Flat White

Our universities: foundering in the shallows of farce and incoherence

26 November 2020

2:01 PM

26 November 2020

2:01 PM

As noted by the British Conservative politician Michael Gove in Celsius 7/7, whereas classical Marxism defines the revolutionary struggle in terms of the workers overthrowing capitalism and taking control of the means of production, neo-Marxism focuses on what has come to be called the culture wars. 

Gove associates the rise of neo-Marxism with the establishment of Germany’s Frankfurt School in the 1930s by a number of academics who realised the West’s workers would never be interested in taking to the streets and storming the barricades.  

As an alternative to Marxist theory Gove writes:  “The thinkers of the Frankfurt School revised Marxism as primarily a cultural rather than an economic movement.  Instead of anger against traditional capitalism, scorn was directed at the reigning value systems of the West”. 

The emergence of cancel culture involving identity politics and victimhood where whiteness must be abolished and personal agency is replaced by structural racism and structural sexism can be traced to the culture wars beginning all those years ago.  

Central to the Frankfurt School is the emergence of critical theory; a theory that argues the most effective way to overthrow capitalism is to infiltrate, take control and subvert the institutions on which capitalism depends for its survival.   

A process exemplified by the expression ‘the long march through the institutions’ associated with the German student activist Rudi Dutschke and inspired by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.  Such institutions include schools, universities, the media, family, church, government agencies and intermediary organisations like trade unions and professional associations.   

Such bodies and organisations form what the Marxist Louis Althusser terms the state ideological apparatus that conditions citizens to accept their position in society even though they were being oppressed by an inequitable and exploitive capitalist system.  

Gramsci uses the expression cultural hegemony to describe this process whereby women, for example, who are happy and fulfilled being wives and mothers are in fact being exploited by a patriarchal, capitalist society where men exert domination and control. 

During the late 1960s, critical theory was reborn with the emergence of a rainbow alliance of cultural-left ideologies including postmodernism, deconstructionism and feminist, gender, queer and postcolonial theories.  While often in disagreement all embrace a liberating and emancipatory view of the world directed at overthrowing capitalism and the evils associated with Western civilisation. 

The long march through the institutions is best illustrated by the way universities are no longer dedicated to the ideal of education being impartialbalanced and based on rationality and reason.  Instead, for many years now universities have been captured by cultural-left academics committed to teaching politically correct ideology and groupthink. 

In the United Kingdom a research paper carried out by the Adam Smith Institute titled ‘Lackademia Why Do Academics Lean Left?’ concludes “Individuals with left-leaning views are overrepresented in British academia.  Those with right-wing and conservative views are correspondingly underrepresented”. 

As evidence, the UK study draws on a number of surveys undertaken by the Time Higher Education detailing voting habits of university staff.  In relation to the 2015 UK election 44% said they would vote for Labour while only 11% nominated the Conservative Party.  This compares to 50% of the public who voted conservative at the same election. 

In relation to leaving the European Union, a second Times Higher Education survey revealed, compared to the majority of the British people voting for independence, 89% of those academics who responded supported the remain campaign. 

Research undertaken by two American academics, Sam Abrams and Amna Khalid published on the Heterodox website titled ‘Are Colleges and Universities Too Liberal?’ reaches a similar conclusion to the UK paper. 

Based on a number of surveys of staff, administrators and students the paper concludes the data “unequivocally show that liberals (defined as those left of centre) are considerably overrepresented on university and college campuses”.  One survey referred to showed “60% of the faculty identified as either far left or liberal compared to just 12% being conservative or far right”. 

While no comparable surveys of academics’ political leanings are readily identifiable based on anecdotal evidence it is possible to conclude Australian universities, especially Arts, History and Sociology faculties, are also left-leaning and heavily weighted towards cultural-left inspired critical theory. 

Academics including Pierre Ryckmans, John Carrol, Ross FitzgeraldMerv Bendle, Jennifer Oriel and Barry Spurr, all with years of experience in academia  are all convinced the cultural-left now dominates universities across the nation. 

The parlous state of higher education is best illustrated by Pierre Ryckmans when he states in his 1996 ABC Boyer Lectures: “A true university is (and has always been) anchored in values.  Deprived of this holding ground, it can only drift at the caprice of all the winds and currents of fashion, and, in the end, is doomed to founder in the shallows of farce and incoherence”. 

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of How Political Correctness Is Still Destroying Australia (available at kevindonnelly.com.au.) 

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