All posts filed under: Top Stories

Wilfrid Laurier and the Creep of Critical Theory

The social justice movement is known for routinely staging demonstrations, shouting down (and shutting down) speakers, and issuing demands. More significantly, however, its ideas and terminology have become part of the fabric of university culture. As psychologist Jonathan Haidt said in an interview earlier this year: This is all so new. There’s been, I believe, a kind of a moral revolution, a new moral culture emerging on campus but it really is only in the last two years. If any of your viewers graduated from college in 2013, they probably haven’t seen it. … [I]t’s organized around victims of oppression, it’s a vertical metaphor of privileged and oppressor people, and victims. This idea that everything is power. To make way for this moral revolution, values that historically have defined secular universities are increasingly being swept aside. The most recent example is perhaps the most chilling. Lindsay Shepherd, a young teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, was reprimanded for screening a five-minute clip from a televised debate on public education channel TVOntario between …

Sex Through the Looking Glass

A review of The New Politics of Sex: The Sexual Revolution, Civil Liberties, and The Growth of Governmental Power by Stephen Baskerville (Angeliko Press, 2017) 408 pages. One needs to be of a certain age to remember how much of a bounty was promised during the early days of feminism. It was to be a revolution in just about everything, transforming a world made out of male aggression and oppression into a world of feminine love and kindness, of which we would all, men as well as women, be the beneficiaries. For my own field, organizational behavior, the implications seemed to be pretty well laid out in Carol Gilligan’s classic In a Different Voice. Organization would be based, not on the rules that men had developed to keep from killing each other, but on the feelings that women had evolved to connect. Working life would consist in being cared for and loved. Being a hater of rules, this appealed to me. But I had my concerns and I thought they needed airing. In accordance with …

The Poverty of Cosmopolitan Historicism

When the Soviet Union fell, Marxist utopianism came to an end. In the decades since, a new breed of utopianism has gripped the collective imagination. Cosmopolitanism dreams of a borderless world united in peace and understanding, and it is underpinned by a powerful narrative of historical progress that has much in common with its Marxist cousin. Its name is cosmopolitan historicism. In The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper wrote that “we may become the makers of our fate when we have ceased to pose as its prophets”. In Popper’s view, historicism was defined by its simplistic understanding of history, viewed as an unfolding of inexorable iron laws. Based on what they saw as their unique insight into these presumed laws, historicists issued wild prophecies about the future of human society. For this they were mercilessly critiqued by Popper. In his eyes, dogmatic attachment to a utopian blueprint provided by what was understood as history’s ultimate destination caused historicist zealots to doggedly push ahead toward the end of history while ignoring signs that their …

Pursuit of Injustice: Further Adventures Under Title IX

A specter is haunting American colleges and universities, the specter of Title IX. Originally the portion of the Civil Rights Act concerned with gender equity on campus, the previously laudable Title IX was twisted beyond recognition by the infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” Letter and the new regime of federal compliance it created. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued the DCL with the intent of reducing sexual harassment and assault, but instead it ushered in ivory tower McCarthyism. Last year, I endured a Title IX investigation (detailed in a previous article for Quillette) over trumped-up allegations made by a colleague seeking to settle a decades-old score. I was acquitted, but the ensuing investigation led to an entirely new set of administrative charges originating from a different office on my campus, the University of Utah. This article tells the story of how a Title IX case metastasized into a protracted and expensive ordeal. So, how did the Dear Colleague Letter turn universities into star chambers? It lowered the burden of proof for a guilty finding …

The Problems of “Privilege”: Lessons from the French Revolution

In recent years, ‘privilege’ has become an important concept in modern politics, academia, and popular culture. It appears in an increasing and disorienting number of forms, from male privilege and white privilege, to “gay privilege,” “black male privilege,” and “family privilege,” and these claims about privilege animate a wide array of political stances. Supporters of Hillary Clinton criticized voters for Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein as privileged radicals risking a Trump victory for the sake of inflexible principles. Supporters of the latter candidates returned fire, targeting Hillary voters as privileged centrists out of touch with America’s economic and racial inequalities. Donald Trump, of course, as countless media outlets insist, is (white, male) privilege personnifed; his supporters, meanwhile, are said to demonstrate the extent of their own privilege by denying that privilege exists. In the classroom and in the media, people are increasingly asked (or made) to measure, acknowledge, and strive to reduce their privilege. “Privilege studies” is a growing field, with more and more scholar-activists devoting themselves to its practice. In the midst of all …

Jung and the Trumpian Shadow

Carl Jung was done a disservice by the sanitized spirituality of the New Age movement. Jungian archetypes were shoved into the same bucket as the zodiac, astrology, and healing crystals, lost in the blur of wishful thinking that had captured the late 1960s and 1970s and its desire to create a better society out of love and mercy alone. But the short-lived optimism of the sexual revolution and the hippie movement meant its demise in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration saw the rebels hang up their flowers and instead don suits, taking to Madison Avenue and extinguishing the flame of creative renaissance that wanted so badly to break free from the Cold War West. Perhaps there is some parallel here with the Obama years culminating in the election of Donald Trump. During the Obama Presidency, American progressives became pacified, trading economic arguments for cultural dissatisfaction, forsaking the ideas of the New Deal for an emotional and ideological clamp upon the unconscious forces of racism and sexism. There was a pervasive sense that history had …

A ‘Noble Savage’ Speaks Up

At the height of Islamist terror in 2015, an American radio station contacted me. They asked me whether I wanted to comment on the fact that the media appeared to be paying more attention to terror attacks in Europe than their counterparts in the Middle East. Could it be that the media knew that people were not going to tune in to listen to the news of attacks in places like Baghdad and Beirut? What was it about American culture that made the people sympathize with Paris but not with Beirut? I responded that yes I would be happy to comment but by the time I answered the email, it was already too late and I had missed the slot. I felt relief because had I been on air, I would have said things that would not have been expected of me. The truth is that my conscience was troubled because I could no longer bring myself to guilt-trip the people of the West for not being emotionally egalitarian. This piece of writing is testimony …