As an undergraduate I remember getting so frustrated at a mandatory Political Science course that I complained to the Dean of Studies that the subject was not a ‘real’ one, not a ‘proper’ subject. Asked to explain what a ‘proper’ subject was I uttered something to the effect that it wasn’t eternal, that in fifty years the knowledge contained in the textbook would be completely forgotten (not just subsumed) and probably the subject would have ceased to exist. This post is my belated attempt to answer the Dean not only more cogently but also more comprehensively as I include other subjects, many of which didn’t exist at the time of my exchange. I would now include under the rubric of subjects that are not ‘proper’, according to the gospel of Malcolm: media studies, gender studies, ethnic studies, black studies, women’s studies, diversity studies and maybe even sociology. For the purposes of this post I will call these disciplines improper subjects.
It’s not just the bad writing. After all, poor writing can occur in any field, but surely writing as bad as the following can only exist in a field where any pretence at genuine inquiry has deliberately been made subservient to obscurantism for purposes of group solidarity. Here is Judith Butler, a gender theorist and currently a professor at Berkeley University in California, where she no doubt enjoys tenured status subsidized in part by my tax dollars:
“The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.”
Economics is the study of human action and the closest thing we have to a social science. The tools of economics have been successfully used to study areas as diverse as religion, family, law, politics, discrimination and sexuality. If the improper subjects were really about disinterested research their departments would require students to take courses in economics so they could apply economic tools to their respective areas of study. The reason they don’t do this is that the improper subjects are not true academic disciplines but rather indoctrination camps to prepare students for political activism in support of a preset agenda. This is no secret and even a cursory review of university websites where the improper subjects are taught will yield examples similar to the following from the University of San Francisco’s Gender and Sexualities course:
“Pragmatically, the minor aims to… prepare students for informed political action.”
Continue to produce graduates in these areas, lacking real work skills but articulate and self-righteous about student rights, the rights of women, the rights of minorities, the rights of gays, the right to a minimum wage, the right to health care, the right to green energy and the right to clean air etc., and you are well on your way to breaking up the body politic into warring factions, each trying to get the largest slice. Come to think of it, didn’t we reach that point long ago?
“Creating whole departments of ethnic, gender, and other “studies” was part of the price of academic peace. All too often, these “studies” are about propaganda rather than serious education. Academic campuses have become among the least free places in America. “Speech codes,” vaguely worded but zealously applied to those who dare to say anything that is not politically correct, have become the norm. Few professors would dare to publish research or teach a course debunking the claims made in various ethnic, gender, or other “studies” courses.” Thomas Sowell