Education, Free Speech, History, Media, Philosophy, Recommended, Tech

Age of Amnesia

We live, as the Indian essayist Saeed Akhter Mirza has put it, in “an age of amnesia.” Across the world, most notably in the West, we are discarding the knowledge and insights passed down over millennia and replacing it with politically correct bromides cooked up in the media and the academy. In some ways, this process recalls, albeit in digital form, the Middle Ages. Conscious shaping of thought—and the manipulation of the past to serve political purposes—is becoming commonplace and pervasive.

Google’s manipulation of algorithms, recently discussed in American Affairs, favors both their commercial interests and also their ideological predilections. Similarly, we see the systematic “de-platforming” of conservative and other groups who offend the mores of tech oligarchs and their media fellow travellers. Major companies are now distancing themselves from “offensive” reminders of American history, such as the Nike’s recent decision to withdraw a sneaker line featuring the Betsy Ross flag. In authoritarian societies, the situation is already far worse. State efforts to control the past in China are enhanced by America’s tech firms, who are helping to erase from history events like the Tiananmen massacre or the mass starvations produced by Maoist policies. Technology has provided those who wish to shape the past, and the future, tools of which the despots of yesterday could only dream.

Factories of  “Mass Amnesia”

Sadly, many of  the very institutions charged with understanding the past are now slipping back to Medieval antecedents. Writing in 1913, the historian J. B. Bury compared the Middle Ages to “a large field … covered by beliefs which authority claimed to impose as true, and [where] reason was warned off the ground.” Scholars at the University of Paris, described as the “theological arbiter of Europe,” were “licensed” by the bishop to, among other things, defend church dogma. In the late 1300s, the University held a conclave to reassert the reality of demons that were supposedly infecting society. 1   

Over the ensuing centuries, as capitalism and liberal thought arose, the university gradually  emerged as a beacon of liberal education, open inquiry, and tolerance. But this period of liberalization seems to be coming to an end. Like the Medieval scholars, today’s intellectuals are narrowing the field of inquiry. The “frantic energy to know more and more about less and less,” identified by Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin a half century ago, has made academic life increasingly irrelevant to most people.

A healthy appreciation for the past is being lost. Today, historical analysis is increasingly shaped by concerns over race, gender, and class. There are repeated campaigns, particularly in and around schools, to pull down offensive statues and murals—including of George Washington—and to rename landmarks to cleanse Western history of its historical blights.

It is not surprising to find that a worrying number of  students possess remarkably little knowledge of history or of how civilization developed. The number of history degrees being awarded is down 33 percent this decade to the lowest on record, and history departments, like the even smaller classics departments, are increasingly run by progressive critics with little conservative or liberal input. University summer reading lists largely ignore the great texts of Homer, Confucius, Shakespeare, Milton, de Tocqueville, Marx, or Engels. Professors have faced criticism for assigning too many books written by dead white males who, as a group, are linked to such horrors as slavery, the subjugation of women, and mass poverty. Books written before 1990, suggests the Guardian’s Ashley Thorne, represent “a historical cliff beyond which it is rumored some books were once written, though no one is quite sure what.”

These trends are combining to produce what the late Jane Jacobs called a “mass amnesia,” cutting Western societies off from knowledge of their own culture and history.2 Europe, the primary source of Western civilization, now faces a campaign, in both academia and elite media, to replace its art, literature, and religious traditions with what one author describes as “a multicultural and post racial republic” supportive of separate identities. “The European ‘we’ does not exist,” suggests French philosopher Pierre Manent. “…  European culture is in hiding, disappearing, without a soul.”

The Rise of  Post-Literacy

Peasants and many nobles in the Medieval period usually lacked first-hand knowledge of even the Bible and Christian theology and lore. Yet they had the excuse of being illiterate during an age in which books were expensive to produce and rare. By contrast, the liberal era that began in the sixteenth century saw dramatic gains in literacy, notably in Great Britain and Holland; between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, English literacy rates rose from 30 to 50 percent.

This trend was most marked in the British colonies of North America. Benjamin Franklin noted that high levels of literacy helped American traders and mechanics instigate the rebellion against the Crown and sustain it.3 But now, with access to information unimaginable in the past, our knowledge of history is fading. Information is increasingly separated from actual knowledge; blogs replace books, and tweets replace essays. Knowledge of even relatively recent events, like the Holocaust or D-Day, is become scanty. Four in 10 American millennials, and at least one in three Europeans, say they know “very little” about the Holocaust, and one in five young French respondents are not even aware it took place.

Nor is it likely they will become better informed outside of school. Book-reading outside of school and work has declined markedly, particularly among the young, so that barely half actually read anything for pleasure or personal edification. Between 2011 and 2015, the number of American children who said they read “for fun” dropped nearly 10 percent according to a recent survey. Indeed, one recent study of American college students found that upwards of 40 percent “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college. A landmark study by University College London (UCL), based on 11,000 children tracked from their births in 2000, found that only one in 10 students surveyed ever did any reading for pleasure in their spare time.  

New Inquisitions

Intellectual intolerance thrives when the heritage of the past—with its mixed and inconvenient lessons—is sent down the memory hole. In feudal times, classical heritage was replaced by rigid religious dogma. Today’s clerisy uses the education system, the media, and the means of cultural production to impose its standards of “privilege” and value, and to decide who deserves special dispensations.

Throughout history, those who assume an absolute superiority of belief rarely demonstrate a natural inclination to skepticism or doubt. Education and culture are not prerequisites for enlightenment; academicians, entertainers, and scientists thrived in the Soviet Union, and in Nazi Germany, they served as a “stronghold” of the party and, later the regime.4 Academics, artists and journalists can prove to be the most vociferous conformists and enforcers of orthodoxy.

Critical to this devolution is the absence of conflicting views. The faculties of universities in the West are increasingly afflicted with troubling levels of unanimity. In 1990, according to survey data by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, 42 percent of professors  identified as “liberal” or “far-Left.” By 2014, that number had jumped to 60 percent. Another study of 51 top colleges found that the ratio of liberals to conservatives can be as high as 70 to one and is usually at least eight to one. At elite liberal arts universities like Wellesley, Swarthmore, and Williams, the proportion reaches an astonishing 120 to 1.

These trends are particularly acute in fields that most impact public policy and opinion. Well under 10 percent of faculty at leading law schools—such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Berkeley—describe themselves as conservative. These patterns can also be seen in the United Kingdom. Although roughly half of British voters lean to the Right, only 12 percent of academics do so. Such gaps are common both in Canada and across EuropeProfessors who criticize multiculturalism, mass migration, or even the utility of “bourgeois values,”  can find their employment threatened.

Liberals like Cass Sunstein suggest that students raised in an atmosphere of homogeneity “are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy.” Yet too few university administrators counter these trends. One college President in Canada, for example, justified efforts to tamp down on “free speech” by arguing that doing so created “better speech.” At many schools, professors are now asked to sign “diversity” pledges that eerily reprise the kind of “loyalty” pledges common during the darkest days of the Cold War. This passion for thought control extends even to comments such as “America is the land of  opportunity” or professing to believe in a colorblind society, views which can now be categorized as punishable “microagressions.”

This ideological rigidity has shaped a generation of progressive activists who also now represent the best educated, whitest, and most politically intolerant portion of the American polity. A common tendency among progressives is to designate certain conversations as “hate speech,” an approach to free speech recently endorsed by the California Democratic Party.

In the end, the embrace of wide-ranging ideologies such as “intersectionality”—linking all manner of gender, racial, colonial, and class oppression—makes a nuanced discussion about the past almost impossible. As the writer James Lindsay has observed, only a “morally pure” version of history and culture is now acceptable. “They especially tend to demonize heretics or blasphemers,” he said, “or anyone who goes too far outside that dogmatic structure of belief and threatens it. Those people are often excommunicated.”

The Threat to Democracy

The purge of conservative or even traditional liberal thought from the universities and the media is already having an impact on democracy. Some 40 percent of American millennials favor limiting speech deemed offensive to minorities, well above the 27 percent among Gen-Xers, 24 percent among Boomers, and 12 percent among the oldest cohorts. Millennials are also far more likely to be dismissive of basic constitutional civil rights, and more sanguine about a military coup than previous generations.  

Similarly, European millennials display far less faith in democracy and fewer objections to autocratic control than previous generations, which lived under dictatorships or in their aftermath. Young Europeans are almost three times as likely to say democracy is failing than their elders.

The spread of mass education may have exemplified the promise of liberal civilization. But, without an understanding and appreciation of what allowed it to flourish, it could also accelerate its dissolution. The reduction and reshaping of the past are essential to undermining liberal democracy. The great exemplars of the past—Washington, Madison, Burke, Jefferson, Lincoln, Churchill—all warned that human beings are not necessarily good and, for that reason, power must be dispersed and restrained not concentrated. Yet we are witnessing the creation of a society, as envisioned by HG Wells, controlled by a credentialed elite. This “emergent class of capable men,” Wells wrote, should take upon itself the task of “controlling and restricting…the non-functional masses.” This new elite, he predicted, would replace democracy with “a higher organism” of what he called “the New Republic.”5

Any reasonable reading of history cautions us against such power grabs, however well-intentioned. But this won’t resonate if our next generation remains cut off from the past and molded by a highly manipulated tech-driven reality. If one does not even know about the legacies underpinning democracy, individual freedom, and open discussion, one is not likely to miss them when they are eroded.6


Joel Kotkin is a Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His last book was The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us (Agate, 2017).


1 James Westfall Thompson and Edgar Nathaniel Johnson, An Introduction to Medieval Europe, WW Norton, (New York:1937), p.724; Cantor, op. cit, p.373, p.385, p.459, p.503-5;  Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Knopf, (New York:1978), p.160, p.319, p.371
2 Jane Jacobs, Dark Ages Ahead,  Random House,  (New York: 2004), pp.7-9
3 Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Yale University Press, (New Haven,CT:1964), pp.130-1
4 Gordon A. Craig, Germany: 1866-1945, Oxford University Press, (New York: 1978),p.551; Mayer. Op. cit., p.269; Carsten, op. cit., p.33; H.W. Koch, The Hitler Youth: Origins and Development 1922-1945, Cooper Square Press, (New York:1975), p.43, p.175
5 H.G. Wells, Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought, Dover Books, (Mineola, NY: 1999), pp.85-87, p.99, p/151; Siegel, op. cit., p.100
6 Roderick Seidenberg, Post Historic Man: An Inquiry, Viking, (New York:1974), p. 179


  1. rm_pr says

    Why are only liberals subject to manipulation by the “credentialed elite”?

    • Sambu says

      The credentialed elite are “liberals”/progressives. They are the ones who overwhelmingly occupy positions of power. They control the governments, the media, the universities, and big business.

      They (who are dominant) manipulate people to follow their ideology.

      • David of Kirkland says

        Unless they impose the tyranny via law, isn’t everything those “liberals” do just free speech, just arguing against “conservative” ideas?
        You are free to found a conservative university, but basing the future on a belief that tradition is most important, that change is suspect, may not garner much of a student body.

        • Barry says

          The situation is more serious than you seem to realise. There is growing intolerance on university campuses for anyone with supposedly “conservative” or “right-wing” ideas, or even seen as remotely sympathetic to such ideas. Have a search online for Evergreen State College in the US and what happened to two of its professors (Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying) for questioning the wisdom and fairness of a new “equity” policy at their college. Mob rule at its finest.

        • Socratic moment says

          Mr. David of Kirkland just proved he is a member of the neo-scholastics. “Unless they impose the tyranny via law…” They in fact impose it by the taxes which go to public universities. Thus we “are free” to finance his vision of a university but we must spend additional $ to fund our own! What arrogance and hypocrisy.

        • It’s free speech, until they work at a public university and use their power to stifle other viewpoints. Then they’re acting as agents of the state.

        • FREEDOM! says

          @David of Kirkland:

          There is little that people, especially young people, are more terrified of than being publicly shamed for his or her beliefs and ideas. Peer pressure is a terrifying and powerful tool. Manipulating minds into being ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to even hear other opinions is crossing the line. It is forcing change through manipulation and propaganda.

          There is constant “advice” given to students on who students should and should not, read, listen to, speak to, or even consider seriously. It is stated over and over that particular people, opinions, and ideas are bad. Professors are prone to long winded lectures, and even public shaming, directed at students who even dare toe the liberal/conservative line. Grades are in danger over even perceived moderate or conservative views. Is this “free speech”?

          There are many who fear that speaking their mind at their place of employment will have them labeled as “toxic” and risk their job.
          A justified fear as leftists have been know to state that they feel anyone who isn’t far left SHOULD be afraid to speak their opinions.
          When the whole office has a “support (or shame) such and such day”, people are fearful of holding a different view. If they DO stick up for themselves, they are more and more likely to find themselves unemployed and unemployable! Free speech causes this? No, this is an abuse of power to control other people’s speech, not voice our own.

          People in positions of power over others, such as those in the education system and the media, should present information fairly, evenly, and unbiased. As much as possible, these should stick to the cold, hard facts and keep personal opinions on ideas, opinions, hypothesis, and theories to themselves.

          These entities (those in the education system and the media) are fallible humans and should never offer their views for or against anything as educators and commentators. Just like the military forbids service members from being seen in their uniform having their own opinions, those in the education system and the media have far too much power to sway others (worse) and should check themselves, keeping their personal feelings unconnected to their duties.

          For those in the education system and the media to be encouraging specific positions, for or against ideas, wrongly uses the trust they are given as a weapon to gain sympathy from a trusting and unsuspecting person.
          We expect these people to provide true, unbiased, trustworthy information; it is dishonest then to present one’s bias to their audience as if it is the end all of sure and certain fact.
          None of us knows everything; none of us are right about everything all of the time. Most of us are rarely right even some of the time no matter what our brain and heart tells us.
          If people believe it is your JOB and DUTY to tell them the bare facts and total truth, keep your opinions to yourself.

        • staticnoise says

          Poppycock, but that’s just a ridiculous statement. You state they are “Just arguing against conservative ideas?” That’s not how it works. Arguing takes two. When only one side is presented that is not an argument! The university doesn’t hire or actively runs out conservative professors, and conservative guests. Tenured conservative professors eventually retire or die and are not replaced, a strategic ploy that is all but complete across the land. Shout downs or holding a riot is not arguing. So no, “arguing” against conservative beliefs is not happening on campus.

      • Booo! Scary Progressives Are Coming For Your Toys! says

        I don’t know where you live, but here in the U.S. liberals/progressives most certainly do not control the government.

        • It is true they don’t control all of the government, but they became very spiteful when Trump won, as if he had thwarted Hilary Clinton’s manifest destiny. Thus, liberals have decided to consolidate those areas in which they do have control and to rule them with an iron fist. These areas include universities, mainstream media and the internet. There has been zero evidence Trump colluded with Russia to win the election, there is plenty of evidence that Google manipulates search results according to it’s political bias. Universities aren’t about education anymore, but propaganda. Same with the news. Jussie Smollett’s ludicrous hoax met widespread support initially and his legal reprieve was bizarre. By contrast, there is no dispute that Andy Ngo was beaten up by Antifa, but liberals couldn’t care less. In short, the problem is that if the Democrats won, they wouldn’t be very democratic. They would be totalitarians.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Kapeth

            It was actually far funnier than that. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the media promoted Donald Trump, because they thought that he was the one Republican candidate that Hilary Clinton could beat, with her huge problems of unpopularity and distrust. What they didn’t count on was him picking up the selfsame disaffected voters, who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

          • staticnoise says

            Insolent, petulant children describes modern liberals in the age of Trump. Curiously it also describes Trump! I think besides just having beaten them at the ballot box Trumps also bests liberals in obnoxiousness department. It’s like they are being knocked off their game by his behavior. Quite interesting actually. Liberal mouth pieces try to up the ante and rile up the masses and Trump just serves up another outrage. Bottom line they have exposed themselves for the unprincipled, unlikable people they are.

        • Just Sayin' says

          Booo, I agree. It was Conservatives who pushed for and got Gay marriage. It was Conservatives who pushed for and support the killing of a baby up to the minute of birth, and in Virginia, maybe a week or two later. It was Conservatives who decided spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sex change operation for PVT Manning, a convicted, jailed, felon, was a good use of taxpayers’ dollars. It was Conservatives who made it a legal requirement for all Green Card holders to have their card at all times while traveling in the US but then made it illegal for anyone, police officer or otherwise, to ask to see that card. It is Conservative cities like Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland that have tens of thousands of homeless defecating in the streets.

          I could go on like this for an hour, but we all know it’s the crazy Conservatives who write all of the craziness into our laws. Conservatives run America. The proof is all around us.

          Booo, your argument is solid! If anyone doubts this, they just need to go back and re-read the rock-solid argument that you made.

          • Not in Agreement says

            Not sure what you mean,It may have been GoP (who are usually globalist progressives, not “conservatives”) presidents during some of these events, but were mostly at least partly dim (or pure leftist) congresses, and more importantly , driven by left-wing media, academia, pop culture influencers, and the courts.

            Austin, SF, Seattle, etc. are the opposite of conservative. The gov. of VA,dim, was pushing for killing newborns if the mother wanted it (no mention of father). Mayors are usually in charge of the police and appointing their chiefs; all those who have denied officers the right to stop and frisk were either decided by them, as in Chicago and NY (with dim mayors)or pushed by presidents like O with the help of an organized “community” and media who advocated and even rioted to end stop-and-frisk.

            Seems that most of us on this page are old enough to remember when it was happening. We remember the truth, not what is acceptable to believe these days. For instance,does anyone not recall that the people of every state that got a vote, voted against gay marriage, but courts imposed it on all states (reciprocal, not like gun laws, which are written into the federal Constitution) anyway.

        • Andrew P says

          The liberals /progressives have far more governmental control than you realize. Sure, they don’t control the White House right now, but they control the “Deep State” – the great mass of functionaries, government lawyers, and bureaucrats in DC who have ranks of GS12 and above, and most of the SES crowd – especially in Dept of State, Department of Justice, Treasury, Fed, etc. This level of government is where the rubber meets the road. Where policy is actually implemented, or not implemented. This is where feet can be dragged during Republican Administrations, and implementation can be done with gusto during Democratic Administrations. And under Obama, who had a deep understanding of the Deep State and played them very well, they were very effective at implementing his policies. Trump’s appointees are not as competent at managing the Deep State, since most do not have the deep government background required to get those skills. Also control of the Media helps a lot, because functionaries are not willing to cross the Media and in so doing jeopardize their careers.

        • Al-Cel says

          You seem to know very little about your own government. The House is run by the Democrats, the Senate by Republicans, and executive branch is Republican. The Supreme Court is now a Dead even split between conservative and liberal views in the constitution. There was a far stronger liberal presence under Obama too.
          How do you not know this? Then make a smug comment that is not even true? You are literally the subject of this piece, except you seem to forget even the history of the past decade and current state of things.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Al-Cel

            Conservatives throughout the West suffer from a structural disadvantage in that they want to do away with many government agencies, and most NGOs and QANGOs- if they find they can’t, then they usually ignore them or only change the structure at the very top level. This leads to the Left possessing an inordinate amount of power, through the culture of the employees that staff all of the above.

          • staticnoise says

            Umm, you have to look below the surface – as Andrew P has done. You can slap a label on something and accept it at face value, but that would be foolish. Yes, the Senate may be controlled by Republicans it’s a far cry from conservative control. Anyway, dig a little deeper, things are not always so black and white.

        • RRDRRD says

          What a naive statement! Government is not just the White House, nor any given branch, nor is it just a current administration. It is all branches, it is all the laws and regulations that remain on the books from year to year and decade to decade, and it is the un-elected bureaucrats who all too often decline to adhere to those laws or accept the changes from one administration to the next.

          Your statement confirms that this is the age of amnesia – you can’t remember anything prior to 2016.

          I will concede this though, the leftists who call themselves liberal and/or progressive are actually neither.

        • I live here in the US & why yes, liberals/progressives most certainly do control the government.

        • Anna Mac says

          Yes, through the “deep state” of Democrat-beholden career bureaucrats, the left most certainly does control the government. How about Lois Lerner and the Cincinnati office of the IRS? Or the EPA usurping Army Corp prerogatives with the Clean Waters Act while at the same time handing down rulings that cost taxpayers billions and that are designed to wipe out industry.

        • Prof. Kotkin –

          Thanks for your interesting assessment. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I suggest you broaden your historical scope. According to Suetonius, the Emperor Augustus, newly empowered, “collected all the copies of Greek and Latin prophetic verse then current, the work of either anonymous or unsuitable authors, and burned more than 2000.” He didn’t want any awkward prophecies out there. Some call it amnesia.

          See The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves revised by J.B. Rives (Penguin Classics, 2007), p. 60.

      • Paul says

        And we have right wing fanatics in the executive branch that is so corrupt and contemptuous of the Constitution it is stupefying. But you blame it all on other people – take a look in the mirror.

        • Sarah says

          Trump and Obama are so similar it’s laughable. Unless you are fine with saying that both of them were corrupt and don’t respect the constitution, then you are clearly just cherry picking your facts. You also cannot call Trump a “right wing fanatic”. If you do, you have no idea what one is. It’s ironic that this article is about people like you, hyperbolic and repeating the narrative fed to you, then you tell the author he should look in the mirror for not talking about a topic that the paper isn’t intended to talk about, which demonstrates exactly what the author was referring to.

        • Not in agreement says

          Do you have names, the topics on which they are fanatical, or examples of times when they have taken fanatical positions? Since “right-wing” is small government, individual freedom and left-wing is more goverment, power (whether for good or bad) and control, a “right-wing fanatic” is, by definition, an extreme libertarian. Interested in knowing who these people in the executive branch are!vla

      • DrZ says

        @Sambu. Manipulate? I would use a stronger word, perhaps “force”. Witness ANTIFA beatings and other types of intimidation. Also consider how careers can be ruined by saying or vaguely implying something not PC, especially at high tech companies on the west coast of the U.S.

        I do not have hard data, but it would not surprise me if it turns out that liberals largely control K-12 public schools through government-union backscratching. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the case in California. There are strong incentives to turn out left thinkers to fuel the next generation of progressives.

    • michael says

      Because they (Liberals — which are the left, since classic liberalism is dead) are the easiest road to world socialism and one world government.
      The average conservative is generally a stalwart individualist and supports absolute free speech and Laissez-faire capitalism.

    • Susan Petrarca says

      Because they are actually illiberal, ceding control to credentialed experts an unelected bureaucrats. Conservatives believe in individual rights that are God-given, not granted or controlled by government or the collective.

  2. Klaus C. says

    On the other hand, in the US, as in most Western countries, the conservatives are now solidly ensconced in government, and are likely to be so for the long term. What’s happening in academia in such countries is therefore presumably a conservative responsibility.

    Instead of constantly moaning, why not pass legislation to restructure education in the conservative, right-wing mold you favour? If you don’t have enough power, grab more power, it’s the right-wing way.

    But you’ve decided to pretend that the conservative right actually favour a “dispersal of power”, free, open, liberal enquiry etc etc. This appears to be a rhetorical position forced on you by the fact that there just aren’t many conservatives interested in academia, and intelligent and resourceful enough to reassert conservative hegemony in such fields.

    The idea that progressives are taking over society doesn’t square with political reality. Conservative politicians and their allies are in a position to round up those they see as their enemies, but have decided they’d rather sit back and whine about them. Presumably because they need the “credentialed elite” to actually run society for them, and can’t work out how to convert them into conservatives.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Klaus C
      Well said. As a Tory I agree with you. But these days everyone is fighting to be the underdog.
      And you are right about the democratic paradox. We all support democracy when it gives results of which we approve. But it suddenly stops being ”democracy” when the voters elect a party or candidate whom we find odious.
      The question thus remains what if the voters democratically decide to curtail democracy?
      I suspect the problem with that is that the voters’ decision makes it difficult for later generations to have a say in government.

      • Charlie says

        Peter from Oz. Learning history is hard work: either one is a classicist and one has to master Latin and Greek or a Modern Historian ( Post Roman ) and one has to learn Anglo-Saxon, Latin, early French , Norse, Celtic , early English, etc. Ibn Khaldun said societies decay when they lose vitality and solidarity, John Glubb says it is a loss of energy, courage and initiative. People lack the vitality for rigorous study which is needed to learn Latin and Greek. To enter Oxford up to 1920 one had to pass papers in Latin and Greek to read any arts subject.

        The rigour of Shakespeare’s education in Latin and Grammar, where boys were easily capable of translating Caesar and speaking Latin at the age of 13 years , requires training from the age of 7 or 8 years of age.

        Think of university as a pyramid with Oxford and Cambridge in 1920, being the summit : one can only increase numbers quickly by lowering standards. The Philosophy, Politics and Economic degree was introduced in 1922 because many of the lesser grammar schools could not teach Greek to an adequate standard for university entry.

        Those reading History up to the early 1960s would have been fluent in French, Anglo Saxon and Latin as one would have needed to translate documents. How many academics have a level of scholarship close to Jowett?

        The massive expansion of universities, especially the arts departments from the 1960s led to a massive drop in standards in lecturers and undergraduates- Anthony Sampson mentions this in his anatomy of Britain 1982. Arts education has become a pleasant money making exercise for mediocre middle class people employed in the system.

        In Britain, conservatives support tradition which means the Common Law: one could do whatever one wanted provided there was law which forbade it. William 1 forbade the sale of people which made slavery impossible in England. It is the opposite of Roman Law which one can only undertake an action if the law permits it. Conservatives were against the centralisation of power, increase in taxation and the growth of government. It is about The Ruler consulting with and acting with the consent of the people which has been so since the mid 5th century. Edward 1 in the 1290s said ” That which affects all must be consulted by all ” and the model parliament dates from 1295.

        English Conservatism is about not interfering in peoples lives; it is about taking responsibility for oneself and one’s family. It is not prying in peoples hearts and it is letting the peoples money fructify in their pockets- adages of Elizabeth 1 and Burghley . The divide goes back to the Fall of Rome and the differences between Angles, Saxons and Jutes and Franks- Dr D Starkey Monarchy Episode 1 which is on You Tube explains all.

        Of course to understand the difference between England and Continental Europe requires a knowledge of Latin, Anglo Saxon, early French , etc, in order to read documents.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ Charlie

          Great comment. There was no aspect of law or history, in which these values were made more manifest than in styles of policing. The continental method, invariably relied on the use of spies and informers, to enforce law and order in difficult urban settings. In Britain, at least, the model of Anglo-Saxon policing which emerged was largely based on persuasion, with police going into urban neighbourhoods to earn trust, fix problems and persuade people away from criminal activities through vigilance.

          This is why the current trend of constabularies to put up posters to inform on their neighbours or perfect strangers for offensive speech or behaviour is so wrong. It’s a betrayal of our history, our culture, our customs and our laws- the adoption of a system of policing that would have been more at home in the Third Reich, rather than in Britain. Indeed, for those interested in history, I would heartily recommend the BBC’s ‘Nazis: A Warning from History’, episode 2 ‘Chaos and Consent’ which details ‘A look at the degree of voluntary support ordinary Germans gave the infamous Gestapo’. Now some might accuse me of hyperbole, of making mountains out of molehills, and they might be right, but then again, this might just be the bloody start.

          • Charlie says

            Correct. Historically, every village had an elected, the Parish Constable who held the position for a year. it was the duty of the Parish Constable and Justice of the Peace to keep the King’s peace and they were answerable to the Constable of the Hundreds and Sheriff.
            If the Constable raised the hue and cry, every male from the age of 15 to 60 had to assist ; if they did not, they were fined.

            Conservatism in Britain is freedom and the sanctity of the individual and their person, property and home. It requires the individual to take responsibility for themselves which includes self defence. The boundary of a persons home is the limit of the state but also their responsibility to defend. A man cannot expect another man to defend his person , home and family and be free. Once a man relies on the state to defend him he is no longer free and his interests are subordinate.

            The Metropolitan Police were only formed because the increase in the size of the City had increased violent crime. British men were expected to be able to defend themselves. A gentleman was expected to be able to box bare knuckle, fence and fight with cudgels in order to stand up to tyranny. A Bryant in his second and third volumes of British history explains the willingness of people to fight to defend their freedom. There were many criticism from Conservatives that the creation of Police force would lead to the tyranny of Louis XIV where 1 in 3 of the populace was an informer.

            When the Prussians asked The Home secretary to read K Marx’s letters he refused as it was private property. The Gestapo was the continuation of the Prussian Secret Police which dated from before 1850, even the early 18th century.

            Increasingly the divide is based upon character; those who enjoy freedom requires a person must be willing to fight to defend it and those affluent effete types who lack the fighting spirit to defend their comfortable lives and are happy to pay others to do it. At least a knight and baron in the Middle ages was capable and willing to fight to defend their home, not many Silicon Valley billionaires have this ability.

            Klaus C. How many of the Leftists writers volunteered to fight in combat units in WW2? If the Leftists wanted to defeat the Nazis they could have flown in bombers where the death rate was about 25% or more of those who flew or fought with the USMC in the Pacific. Hardly any Marxist or communist intellectual volunteered for elite dangerous combat units in WW2 whereas they were full of conservatives – Guy Gibson VC, Lord Jellicoe SBS, Lord Lovat – Commandos, Fitzroy MaClean SAS/SOE, The Stirling Brothers the French aristocracy fought the Nazis while the communist betrayed them to June 1941( Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact ) and then tried to kill them in 1944 and take over France. Sartre took no risks in WW2. Aristocrats such as Cardinal Graf von Galen did far more to opposed Hitler than Hollywood leftists.


            In Greece in 1944-45, communists spent more time killing conservatives than killing Nazis. The Cubans are somewhat intolerant of homosexuality.

            How many Leftists informed the USA of the mass murder by the Communists both in the USSR and China, the way Malcom Muggeridge did? Leftists wanted to use the freedom and democracy to turn the USA into a communist dictatorship.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Charlie

            My brother and I actually bought a bow for our local Vicar. Because, according to the statutes he was still responsible for the muster of local men, and their training and instruction in the longbow.

        • Klaus C. says

          “Think of university as a pyramid with Oxford and Cambridge in 1920, being the summit : one can only increase numbers quickly by lowering standards. The Philosophy, Politics and Economic degree was introduced in 1922 because many of the lesser grammar schools could not teach Greek to an adequate standard for university entry.”

          On the other hand, it’s pertinent to ask: of what actual use to society were those dusty old humanities courses and their “high standards”?

          They certainly did nothing to prevent two world wars – the worst in human history – and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe in the 1930s.

          And yet the author of this piece, and presumably you, would have us believe that the loss of those particular academic traditions is somehow perilous to the survival of modern Western civilisation.

          • David of Kirkland says

            Indeed, why not point out the founding desires to understand the Bible as the most important work of literature. There is much more to know today than in 1920. How many rockets did such greatest thinkers shoot into space? Their pharma and medical procedures? Their computers, cars, trains, planes…? Their microscopes and telescopes and cell phones and Internet? Their green tech?

          • Charlie says

            They produced statesmen of the calibre of Burghley, F Walsingham William Pitt the Younger, Gladstone and Robert who both obtained double firsts in Greats and Maths; scholar soldiers such as T E Lawrence; Arabists such as Gertrude Bell, and special forces officers such as D Stirling, Jock Lewis, Ralph Bagnold and Jellicoe. In fact Maynard Keynes a Cambridge Maths graduate warned that Germany could not pay the reparations after WW1 and it would lead to war. It was knowledge of Greek which enabled scholars to identify the similarity with Persian and Sanskrit and identify the Indo Aryan Group of languages. A Toynbee , classical historian, in his A Study of History explains the rise and fall of civilisations; his comments are very relevant today.

            Without a knowledge of Greece, Rome, Dark and Middle Ages there is no knowledge of Western Civilisation. The Classics and authors such as Shakespeare provides an insight into human nature , as Zeus said ” Humans will need Gods as long as they venal, lazy and cowardly “. Humans learn by suffering – Aeschylus . Nemesis follows hubris. Nothing has changed. Academic standards have declined because people are too lazy and venal to undertake prolonged hard mental study, perhaps from the age of 7 years and endure the suffering required to master Latin and Greek and Hebrew if one is a divine.

            A true scholar may work on electronics in the day, read Greek in the evening or play a musical instrument and play sport at the weekend. Bertrand Russell wrote Principia Mathematica and a History of Western Philosophy plus was fluent in Greek and Latin. Cambridge until the 1960s required everyone to pass exams in French and Latin even to read sciences.

            Britain was not responsible for starting two world wars ; it desperately tried to keep out of them and was not responsible for totalitarianism. The common sense of the English speaking World meant neither communism or Nazism took root. The combination of understanding the workings of Athenian democracy, Republic and Imperial Rome and Anglo Saxon Common Law and traditions of consultation and consent meant tyranny, whether one call it communism or Nazism/fascism, was only attractive to a very small minority. Most Britons found Hitler and Mussolini comically absurd. If other countries had followed the English speaking World in the 1930s there would have been no totalitarianism: there was hardly any political violence.

            What has happened in universities from the time of Herbert Marcuse in1965 is repressive tolerance based on his Essay a Critique of Pure Tolerance . Repress all those who disagree with Marxism. Marcuse realised that blue collar workers did not want a revolution so he started identity politics. The 1968 demos were minimally supported by blue collar workers. Marcuse is the connection between the Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism and Post.

            When it comes to Putin he has rejected Cultural Marxism and Post Modernism and supports an Orthodox Russian State. His increase in welfare payments to the old and poor could make him a socialist. Putin has more contact and respect for blue collar workers than Obama and H Clinton- he does not call them deplorables or mock their religion. Putin is a Russian patriot.

            Geary Johansen , I hope it was yew and what was the pull weight? The strongest archers could draw a 200lb bow 24 times in 2 minutes and carry on all day.

          • Doug F says

            Centuries of brilliant minds have considered and debated the proper underpinnings of a successful society. Nothing being brought forward in the far-left dogma is new – it is just repackaging of old ideas. For example, someone with a strong historical framework can easily recognize the techniques being used by the far-left have been highlighted in the past as a signs of an emerging tyranny (control of language, education, fire-arms, creation of class struggles, etc.).

            For people that want to consider drastically changing the culture, it might be wise to review the historical debates and see if there is something to learn.

            For those that have already decide to drastically change the culture, it makes a lot of sense to diminish this exploration since so many of the concepts have been found flawed.

        • David of Kirkland says

          You mention literature in the 1920s, but fail to understand what students must know today about math, physics, biology, chemistry, computers, etc. The amount of information to know is growing exponentially, so grasping specific literature or authors from the past is why academics leaves conservatives behind. Modern pharma, space exploration, AI, green tech and such are not much improved by Shakespeare.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ David of Kirkland

            I had a friend in primary school, who was talented in Maths, but dyslexic. Ultimately, he fell behind because he began to have difficulty reading questions and explanations. By the rime he reached High School, he was in the bottom half for all subjects. Ultimately, your point might have more validity, if young people weren’t spending up to five hours a day curating their own lives for public display, reading tweets and taking pictures of their food. At least if they were learning to cook a Tuna Nicoise they might be picking up a useful skill (the trick is to use plenty of salt boiling the beans, and liberal use of kitchen roll- other than the tomatoes, water is your enemy as it dilutes the dressing- you should even pre-soak and squeeze out the capers).

            There has always been a great deal of knowledge to acquire. The real change was that up until the late 50’s education did a pretty decent job of providing a core foundation of knowledge to most school leavers that were able. This provided the bedrock for lecturers and professors to build more socially and commercially useful knowledge structures on. But education has lost its way- it’s form over substance, teaching understanding not knowledge, transferable skills and encouraging kids to work in teams, as though putting on a lab coat makes you a scientist or sitting in a circle discussing topics superficially will make you qualified to help run a company. Parents should be very wary of any school that doesn’t have all the kids desks aligned to face the teacher in rows (although a U-shaped configuration can also work).

            When I was in high school studying GCSE history, one of the subjects we dealt with was FDR. Of course, the syllabus maintained that he was a wonderful leader in almost every respect. It was only later that I learned that from the point of view of running the economy, almost everything he did, other than building dams and roads, was wrong. Initially, he had to do something to restore confidence amongst the American public, but that was no excuse for facilitating the rise of the Administrative State.

            For those concerned about climate change, it is worth noting that this top-down centrally planned approach to government, was exactly what lead to most American cities being so spread out, only negotiable by car. The American government had a direct hand in making sure that American families in cities could only ever go anywhere by car, leading to major reductions in air quality and countless premature American deaths from aggravated respiratory conditions. It was only in New York, that Jane Jacobs lead a largely successful grass-roots rebellion to stop this change to the essential character of the City, although not without setbacks.

            My point being that History, in particular, is essential for drawing attention to the ways in which we have gone wrong in the past. It is a lesson that Leftists have learned all too well, in that whilst much attention is given in schools to the dangers of Totalitarianism and Fascism, all mention of the horrors of communism and socialism are conveniently airbrushed from history, as is the fact that all the Scandavian states were forced to abandon democratic socialism to avoid economic stagnation and collapse- and instead opt for free market capitalist systems, with greater economic liberty, in order to pay for their larger social safety nets. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’- wise words indeed by George Santayana, and ones that we would do well to remember, as the modus of undermining Western civilisation, shifts from class-based resentment to a reliance on more arbitrary groups to destroy the principal of meritocracy.

          • Alan Green says

            I don’t think Shakespeare is the issue – it’s general history & economics. And it matters a great deal.

            For example, there is much criticism today (from Colin Kaepernick & many others) of the US for it’s history of slavery. But the US inherited this legacy: for thousands of years all over the world slavery was the norm, if not universal. What is unique about the US & other countries that gave birth to The Enlightenment is abolition – the elimination of slavery. Had these enlightenment ideas never emerged, Mr. Kaepernick might still be a slave today.

            As for economics, one can only observe with dismay the newfound support for Socialism. In the 20th century this system was tried in dozens of countries with dozens of variations, & the jury came back unanimous: it doesn’t work, as proven by the deaths of millions. The reasons are well-documented: the calculation problem, the dispersion of knowledge problem, etc.

            All the advances in all the sciences you allude to above collapse in the absence of a sound economic & moral system.

          • BrainFireBob says

            This is incorrect. Students don’t need all knowledge, just foundational knowledge (which has not significantly changed in extent or breadth) at a primary level and specialized knowledge at the collegiate level; this is provided at the collegiate level. Don’t mistake a proliferation of specialty fields for a proliferations of what any particular student will need to know.

            As in, you still need to learn addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, algebra/geometry/trigonometry, then calculus.

            You still need to learn to read and write intelligibly, how to do either has not changed.

            My degree is in physics. The physics student today isn’t learning different knowledge than I did. The favored formulations might be different, they’re learning to apply it using more advanced software packages than I did, but the core knowledge was when to use the Maxwell equations and Hamiltonian vs. quantum mechanics, not how. In fact, the whole reason we still need to teach physics students is that the how is what we’re not good at teaching computers to determine.

            And stoichiometry will always be the hardest part of science.

        • Klaus C. says


          “Britain was not responsible for starting two world wars”

          I didn’t suggest it was. I pointed out the simple fact that dusty old “classics” taught to a handful of upper class layabouts, whether in Britain or Europe, did nothing to prevent two world wars and the rise of totalitarianism.

          “The common sense of the English speaking World”

          If you believe in “common sense”, I suggest you might be in need of a rigorous course in logic.

          • Charlie says

            One cannot obtain a degree in Greats or Classics if one is a layabout; they are the hardest arts degrees in the World.

            The English speaking world is based upon Common Law which is based upon the common sense and the decency of the ordinary people deciding how to live together. Orwell said if socialism is to be created it will b based on the common decency of ordinary people. The Labour Party was founded by practical Christian people who wished by sensible measures improve the lives of the poor , such as Mutual Societies not by middle class Marxists pushing for class war. Many were Sunday School teachers, such as J Callaghan, the Prime Minister. Keir Hardy praised Samuel Smiles “Self Help ” as manual for socialism. The Jarrow Marchers highlighted the poverty of industrial areas and shamed people into action.

            George V met Labour Leaders and pointed out the difficulties of living on a working man’s wage: he did not call them Deplorables.

            The common sense and decency of men such as Keir Hardy and George V meant that class hatred and violence did not arise, leading to communist or Nazi/Fascist Parties. Mosely the Fascist leader was mocked by P J Wodehouse and in his books his movement was mocked as the ” Black Shorts “.

            Th logic was do unto others as you would like done to yourself, do not kick a man when he is down, it’s not cricket, fairs play, play the ball not the man, pick on someone your own size, learn to lose and win with grace. The emphasis on sports, especially boxing and rugby produced boys and men who were resilient, robust but not spiteful or vindictive the same for girls who payed hockey and lacrosse. Rugby( league or union ) is as close to mass brawl as one can get, the fine between hard and vicious play requires vast amount of self control. . The phrases ” No offence meant ” ” none taken ” tends to only occur between men confident in their physical and mental resilience and robustness . Fragile brittle types take offence easily.

            Hence the phrase football is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians and rugby is a ruffians game played by gentlemen- whether league or union. In fact rugby league players and supporters are some of the most polite people one will ever meet.

            Common sense is based upon leaning from experience and understanding human nature . The first Anglo Saxon laws date from Aethelbert in about 657 AD where the people of Kent decided to live by laws based on tribal custom and The Bible. Common Law id based upon the common sense of the people; Roman Law is used to impose the will of the will of the Divine Emperor.

            Watch Prof S Hicks on Nazis and Nietzsche on You Tube ; the largest supporters of the Nazis were elementary school teachers, the smallest were the aristocracy which was similar in Italy. Both Nazism and Communism have been supported by intellectual . Two Nobel prize winners for physics, one for literature, Spengler and Heidegger supported the Nazis and Sartre supported Mao in the late 1960s. Ordinary people endowed with common sense in the English speaking World have ignored and mocked the pretensions of the Nazis and Communists, which is why H Marcuse turned away from class war and obtaining support of blue collar workers.

        • dirk says

          @ Charlie: I really love where you cite Ibn Chaldun, the North African of centuries ago, why is he so unknown? And how could he have been so wise, so appropriate, so modern, what he said is still so valid and opportune.
          I wonder, is he stil taught in sociology and in gender studies and such?

          • Charlie says

            Thank you. Ibn Khaldun was quoted by A Toynbee and C Northcote Parkinson. There are no modern historians who have Toynbee’s and Parkinson’s broad view. Toynbee worked in the Foreign Office Intelligence Dept in WW1 and C Northcote Parkinson was a staff officer for Montgomery in N Africa.

            Ibn Khaldun in many ways had a similar life to Machiavelli, he was a diplomat and travelled extensively including having negotiations with Timur the Lame.

            I doubt he is taught outside of high level Arab history courses such as those at SOAS.

            Britain has lost the Arabic expertise we used to have, partly because of the decline in classics in schools means we are not producing well trained linguists. Sir Mark Allen ex SIS explained the time it took and problems of producing good Arab speakers.

    • Farris says

      “Conservative politicians and their allies are in a position to round up those they see as their enemies, …”

      Rounding up political enemies is not something conservatives are inclined to do. However such is an everyday reality in totalitarian regimes admired by the Left such as China, Vietnam, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, ect…. It is no wonder such an idea would occur to one who advocates on behalf of the Left.

      • Klaus C. says

        It was US conservatives who did indeed round up many hundreds of “leftists” during the McCarthy era. Many lost their jobs, many were imprisoned.

        The kind of anti-progressive rhetoric we’re hearing now is strongly suggestive of a call for a general “purge” of academia, the media, entertainment industry, tech industries etc.

        And for your information I’m a mildly left-of-centre liberal, not an advocate for the totalitarian Left (and today’s Russia is a right-wing oligarchy much admired by the Western Right).

        • Peter from Oz says

          Klaus C.
          And yet the leftists are happy to do the same to ”sexists” or ”racists’ today. Methinks that over time people shift from one side to another. Thus the kind of person who was a McCarthyite in the 1950s would probably be a rabidly woke SJW today, busily trying to get people sacked.
          Today it is the small government liberty loving side of conservatism that is prominent, whilst it is the authoirtarian, puritan side of the left that has emerged triumphant over the centre left.

        • doug deeper says

          “Instead of constantly moaning, why not pass legislation to restructure education in the conservative, right-wing mold you favour? If you don’t have enough power, grab more power, it’s the right-wing way.”

          “The kind of anti-progressive rhetoric we’re hearing now is strongly suggestive of a call for a general “purge” of academia, the media, entertainment industry, tech industries etc.”

          I love how you entreat conservatives to behave as totalitarian leftists do. Clearly you have no clue as to who we are today.
          Over the last 50 years the only purges are from the left: the purge of nearly all right of center people in academia, Hollywood, media, Silicon Valley, and virtually every other powerful institution in America and the West. The left has nearly total control of the culture.

          Trump fights a very lonely battle as nearly all power is aligned against him, except for the power of the majority of Americans. (If the elections were determined by popular vote, he would have campaigned in CA & NY and won the popular vote, only Trump understood how to win). And our founders wisely contracted to give supreme power to the people.

          When you describe conservatives it is quite clear you only know us by the caricatures of conservatives drawn by the left. Come out and meet us sometime, you may be surprised how little bigotry there is on our side today as compared to the left. That is, if minimizing bigotry matters to you.

          • Klaus C. says

            “you may be surprised how little bigotry there is on our side today”

            If you claim that conservative bigotry is now in decline, and you’re happy with that, then what’s the problem?

            What “lonely battle” is Trump fighting, and against whom?

            Why moan that “the left” now supposedly has “total control of the culture” if you agree that racism, sexism, homophobia and similar bigotry are bad things?

          • doug deeper says

            Klaus, it is only fun for a few minutes to play with a rhetorical robot. Good bye.

          • Jonny Sclerotic says

            @ doug deeper

            When you describe leftists it is quite clear you only know us by the caricatures of liberals drawn by the right. Come out and meet us sometime, you may be surprised how little bigotry there is on our side today as compared to the right. That is, if minimizing bigotry matters to you.

        • Ted Talkz says

          “It was US conservatives who did indeed round up many hundreds of “leftists” during the McCarthy era. Many lost their jobs, many were imprisoned.”

          The only ones who lost their jobs, for a short period of time, were blacklisted Hollywood screenwriters. That had nothing to do with McCarthy.

          The only ones who were imprisoned were those who aiding Moscow. Now that the Soviet archives are opened we know we didnt even lock enough up.

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ Klaus C.

          Lets try a thought experiment. Think of all the things that are said about males in today’s society, particularly white, heterosexual males. Now imagine the outcry, if those selfsame labels were applied to African Americans.

        • Emma says

          Except many of those McCarthy accused of being communist sympathizers were indeed communist sympathizers. There are FBI records that prove it.

          And the communist sympathizers were rounded up to be interrogated, not to be executed. Of course, many freely left the country.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Klaus C.

      “The idea that progressives are taking over society doesn’t square with political reality.”

      There is always more than one current in the ocean and the tide rises and falls. In the States, Trump is certainly a setback for the progressives, but it seems to me they still dominate the social agenda. Look at the hair pulling over who can use which washroom — the progressives seem to win these things every time. Mind, the very rich are still getting richer and it seems to me they’ve distracted the progressives with gender and race and sex issues. Whereas formerly the left were concerned with the interests of ordinary deplorables, now you have to be a Victim of some kind to merit attention, trannies being Victims du jour of course. So the progressives control the social agenda and the rich keep the money — a satisfactory arrangement for both.

      • Klaus C. says

        There’s plenty of criticism of the excesses and inconsistencies of identity politics coming from the left as well as the right, which is why I suspect those excesses will prove a passing fad.

        But it’s somewhat ironic that the title of this piece is “Age of Amnesia”, because Kotkin and his ilk would like us to forget that it was conservatives who opposed the civil rights movement, the expansion of women’s rights and participation, legal acceptance of gay relationships etc etc.

        They would like to rewrite history to portray conservatives, all along, as tolerant champions of equality and inclusiveness, who are now being unfairly tarnished by association with the nasty racists, imperialists, sexists and homophobes of the past, who apparently were not really conservative at all.

        • Farris says

          Now Russia is right wing? All those conservative cold warriors were fighting against their own? I suppose China is now in the right wing camp too. Maduro and Trump are secretly buddies. You honestly compare millions rounded up and killed in Laos, China and the Soviet Union with McCarthy’s Red Scare?
          Your post is the epitome of what the article is discussing. The National Socialist German Workers’ Party wasn’t really socialist. Democrat segregationists in the South were really Republicans. Russia is really allied with the former cold warriors. You can’t forget the past and then rewrite it to suit your tastes. With the Left in control of Universities, how is it exactly conservatives are able to rewrite history? Why is it whenever the Left is confronted with their own unpleasant history, they simply move it into the conservative column?
          What’s next in the Leftist history book, Lincoln was really a Democrat?

          • Klaus C. says

            “Now Russia is right wing?”

            Um, you do realise that Russia is no longer communist, and is now run by Putin, a conservative nationalist? And that Russia is funding far right groups in Western Europe, and backed Trump in the last US election?

            No, you apparently don’t.

            “The National Socialist German Workers’ Party wasn’t really socialist”

            The Nazis were fascists – i.e., far right totalitarian nationalists. There were socialists of a kind in the early Nazi Party but they were disposed of in the Night of The Long Knives. In all the history books the Nazis are recorded as far right.

            “Democrat segregationists in the South were really Republicans”

            They were conservative Democrats, like the author of this essay.

            It’s clearly you who are intent on rewriting history.

          • D.B. Cooper says

            @Klaus C.

            The Nazis were fascists – i.e., far right totalitarian nationalists.

            I’ve come across this argument, as most have, a number of times; unfortunately, more often than not the conversational interplay appears – at least to me – to be wedge issue for scoring political points rather than a good faith discussion premised on the singular goal of finding out what is shit and what is substantive. My personal view on the matter is that Nazi’s were neither wholly Right nor wholly Left wing – to the extent that I understand Right- & Left-wing paradigms, granting the deviations that will naturally (and inevitably) occur between political theory and political practice. Really though, the corruption of informational boundaries is, in my humble opinion, probably the biggest impediment to having a good faith discussion on this issues and others like it. Terms (nationalism, authoritarianism, socialism, etc.) are either poorly defined or are not universally applied, and this pretty much guarantees people will be talking past one another.

            In any case, while the discussion deserves a more nuanced treatment than this comment section will allow, I would argue that if Nazi’s are right-wing on account of their being totalitarian nationalists as you rightly point out; then so too was Stalin, Mao, and Fidel’s communist parties. Surely, we can agree that all three regimes were totalitarian: mode of gov’t prohibiting opposition parties, restriction of individual liberties, high degree of control over public/private life, etc.

            As for nationalism, if that’s the defining characteristic, a cursory inspection reveals all three (Stalin, Mao, Fidel) were nationalists by any reasonable definition of the term. Hell, Gandhi was a nationalist, and I hope we’re not going to try to define that racist pacifist as a Right-winger, are we?

            While I’m not the authoritative figure on National Socialist German Workers’ Party politics, I’m fairly sure the Nazi party had characteristics that most would recognize as staples of Right & Left-wing politics, e.g., collectivists, social programs (healthcare), pro-nativist worker, anti-establishment, anti-abortion (for nationals), anti-capitalism, etc.

            I agree with you there’s a preponderance of historians that consider Nazi’s right-wing, but there’s also a preponderance of Left-wing historians – make of that what you will. At any rate, there are books that argue the Nazi’s were Left-wing (and I think a few that argue something closer to my position). Simply put, it’s difficult to see how a dispassionate look at the material facts would lead one to hold a definitive view on the matter.

          • Ray Andrews says


            Your stawmanning goes right off the rails there Farris. Klaus didn’t say any of that nor did he imply it.

            “The National Socialist German Workers’ Party wasn’t really socialist.”

            No, it wasn’t. It was nationalist-statist-fascist — the archetype of the far right.

            “Why is it whenever the Left is confronted with their own unpleasant history, they simply move it into the conservative column?”

            For the same reason that the converse is true, as you just demonstrated.

          • Azathoth says

            “What’s next in the Leftist history book, Lincoln was really a Democrat?”

            They’ve already got a plaque up at Northwestern.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Klaus C

          I’m sorry but conservatives as a whole did oppose all the things on your list. And if we did oppose them it was not from reasons of bigotry. Most so-called bigotry is an invention of the left. Thus if Trump happens to abuse a muslim woman that is sexist oand/or racist, just because he is white and she’s not. The fact is that she is wrong politically. If she had espoused Republican talking points Trump would have praised her.
          Further, as I said above, it would seem that people really split along the puritan/cavalier axis rather than left or right. This changes over time. The person who was a presbyterian wowser back 100 years ago would now be an SJW.
          This can even change over one life time. Many people I know were quite open to the changes of the 60s and are quite happy for women. gays and minorities to have equal rights, and yet they are conservatives now.

          • Klaus C. says

            “Many people I know were quite open to the changes of the 60s and are quite happy for women. gays and minorities to have equal rights, and yet they are conservatives now.”

            And like the author of this essay, they now want to rewrite history to portray the conservatives of the past as cuddly and harmless “upholders of Western civilisation” and its proud liberal traditions of racial and sexual equality etc.

            As you seem to realise, conservatives of the past were actually enemies of such ideas, and it’s probably fair to say that the majority of today’s conservatives still share that hostility.

            If you want to portray yourself as a “conservative who is opposed to racism, sexism and homophobia” there’s an awful lot of other conservatives you’re going to have disown.

          • Peter from Oz says

            I’m sorry but conservatives as a whole did NOT oppose

          • Ray Andrews says

            @D.B. Cooper

            ” … to be wedge issue for scoring political points rather than a good faith discussion premised on the singular goal of finding out what is shit and what is substantive.”

            Folks like to play pin the tail on the donkey with political labels. As if anything changes when someone makes their post-it note with ‘Socialist’ written on it stick to Hitler. Farris just tried it. This kind of argument via guilt by association with the most extreme example of someone on your side of the tracks is just stupid. Tommy Douglas and Mao are as dissimilar as oil and water notwithstanding them both labeled as ‘left’. Eisenhower and Hitler likewise notwithstanding them both being labeled as ‘right’. Folks really should try to do better.

            But on substance:

            “if Nazi’s are right-wing on account of their being totalitarian nationalists as you rightly point out; then so too was Stalin, Mao”

            Again, not that a single dead person is un-murdered, but I disagree, because Stalin and Mao, true to the script, never stopped preaching universal brotherly love of all workers. Hitler not so much. In WWI the commies on both sides preached that enemy soldiers were just fellow slaves of the capitalists and that all soldiers on all sides should rise up and kill their officers. I understand that Stalin was at some difficulties in the early parts of WWII to explain that German soldiers were not fellow workers and must be shown no mercy.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Peter from Oz

            The important distinction is between moderates on the one hand and all fanatics on the other. So called leftist fanatics will give us hell as will so called rightist fanatics. As you say, the puritans of old and today’s SJWs are equally committed to running your life for you. Hitler and Stalin are equally likely to kill you if you voice a dissenting opinion. But LBJ and Richard Nixon differ only in the details of how to improve on white picket fence America.

          • Geary Johansen says

            @ Peter from Oz

            Good comment. My take on this is that there are too many recriminations over who was conservative and who was liberal, who was far right and who was far left. Instead lets define what the roles of conservatives and liberals are in most Western societies. For the most part, the role of the liberal is to generate new ideas, effect social progress, tear down cultural norms and represent the less successful- their weakness is that they have almost no capacity to vet the quality of their ideas. The role of the conservative is to protect society, its culture and history, to run things more efficiently and ensure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater, by vetting liberals more ill-considered ideas- their weakness is that by protecting the status quo, they can occasionally protect institutions and systems which need changing.

            The problem is that everything is out of wack, out of balance, throughout the West. In promoting the interest of a tiny percentage of trans athletes, we are denying 50% of the populations chance to compete fairly, in one of the most socially beneficial processes that the West ever developed. By denying science, in relation to the cognitive sciences and the biological differences in interest between men and women, we are forcing both boys and girls into occupations they will not enjoy. Worst of all, by denying the fact that both boys and girls suffer from the lack of a father, but most particularly boys in this respect, we have failed to recognise that some of the changes liberals/feminists championed had incredibly harmful consequences for society in general, and African Americans in particular. The research is out there- just check out Dr Raj Chetty and social mobility.

            I was watching Marianne Williamson on the Rubin Report this morning, just to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say I don’t like the idea of national atonement on principle- mostly because every country in the world would have to redistribute huge sums of money to everyone else, because the sins alluded to, in relation to reparations, are the universal historical sins of humanity. Plus, there is the problem that it has all been tried before- with LBJ’s War on Poverty, with systemic investment in African American communities, with Affirmative Action, with city hiring practices for contractors and all the rest.

            But at risk of sounding like a socialist (lets just give it one more try), why not take the $200 – 500 billion, over twenty years that Marianne Williamson is proposing, and put it towards systems that are proven to work. Better yet, why not use Andrew Yang’s proposal of a consumption tax, get rid of much of the universality to a freedom dividend and target the money towards what we know works, fathers and effective education.

            The first thing that needs to happen is to abandon the flawed methodology of the progressive education system- wherever highly structured knowledge-intensive learning, with strict enforcement of low-level discipline, has been tried, it has spectacularly outperformed it’s progressive competitor. Better yet, it churns out better citizens. Children, like dogs, are happier when they know who is in charge, what the rules are and that they will be enforced. Second, the antiquated system of paying for public education from property taxes, creates a structural barrier for the bright from humble circumstances to make the most of their natural gifts- worse still, it helps feed a narrative of inequality, which is particularly harmful to boys. You might even lower the amount spent on public education, as more parents opt to send their kids to private schools.

            But it’s with fathers, that you could create the most drastic change. The current system of welfare disincentivises fatherhood. Why not tweak the freedom dividend to incentivise families with fathers who work, even if the work is voluntary and unpaid. Because Raj Chetty’s work is quite clear on this- a child from a single parent background in a neighbourhood with a high proportion of fathers, has a better chance than a child from a two parent family living in a neighbourhood with a low proportion of fathers. Fathers have a societal benefit, that the Left in the West drastically underestimates.

            Let’s be clear on this, I am not saying that women should stay in relationships with abusive men, but they should avoid having kids on their own and leaving a loveless marriage, at the expense of their kids- because to do so is selfish and the statistics on the harm it causes, are catastrophic for society. These two principles of effective education and fathers, are the only way I can see of reparations working to reduce the structural racial disparities that are so divisive to contemporary American politics, and should be implemented in one form or another throughout the West. The liberal have have had their chance to address this issue, over and over again, and failed miserably with every try- if you start from the premise that things do need to change, why not let the conservatives have a go?

        • E. Olson says

          Klaus wrote: “But it’s somewhat ironic that the title of this piece is “Age of Amnesia”, because Kotkin and his ilk would like us to forget that it was conservatives who opposed the civil rights movement, the expansion of women’s rights and participation, legal acceptance of gay relationships etc etc.”

          Actually, Klaus you have the amnesia (or delusions) that Kotkin is talking about with regards to history. Let me correct all your false statements of “history”:

          The Republicans were the only US party of civil rights from the 1860s to the 1960s. The Democrats opposed all forms of Civil Rights until the LBJ presidency, and LBJ opposed them when he was a Senator. The Civil Rights bills that were passed in the 1960s received a higher percentage of Republican votes than Democrat.

          Republican states were the first in the nation to grant women the right to vote. Democrats were again resistant to female voting until the tide turned through Republican initiatives.

          Legal acceptance of gay relationships was not condoned by either party until the last 10 years. Bill Clinton signed the defense of marriage act, and both Obama and Hillary ran in 2008 opposed to gay marriage. Ironically, “evil” Trump and Dick Cheney supported gay marriage rights before Obama and Hillary.

          As for McCarthy rounding up “Leftists” in the 1950s – actually the opening up of Soviet archives has revealed that McCarthy was correct that Communist spies and sympathizers had infiltrated the US government under the FDR and Truman administrations, and were giving secrets and negotiating points to the Soviets. It is also important to note that McCarthy’s “attacks” were bi-partisan as the Kennedys among others were close allies, and it was ultimately the Republicans under Eisenhower who put the brakes on McCarthy’s investigation. It is also important to note that the Soviets really were the bad guys during this era as signed a collusion agreement with Hitler that started WWII, and they reneged on their promises to allow free and fair elections in eastern Europe, and in the post-war years attempted to overthrow Democratic governments around the world by providing vast financial and military support to communist insurgencies giving the world such wonderful leaders such as Mao (killer of 80 million), Kim Il Sung and family (1.6 million), Castro (15,000), Pol Pot (2 million), – Stalin was a nasty guy. In contrast, the relatively small governments of the Right rarely have the power or inclination to kill thousands or millions of their own citizens for the “good of the people”.

          Clearly Klaus you represent exactly the kind of person Kotkin is talking about – so indoctrinated in Leftist ideology that you don’t know the real history of anything.

          • Klaus C. says

            E.Olsen: you’re identifying “conservative” and “progressive” purely in line with modern party politics, which is not a meaningful historical perspective, as I’m sure the author of this essay would agree – since he identifies as a “Conservative Democrat”, representing the conservative tradition in Democrat politics that you cite.

            I’m using “conservative” to represent conservative attitudes regardless of which political party they may characterise in this or that era.

            Clearly the opposition to racism, sexism and homophobia etc was progressive in nature, in that it sought to improve society by rejecting traditional prejudices, and opposition to such change was conservative in that it sought to maintain those traditional prejudices.

            In regard to the Soviets, they were of course “bad guys”, but they like the Nazis etc are outside the scope of my discussion since I’m referring to the politics of the democratic West. McCarthyism is widely considered to be a significant lapse of democratic standards in that context.

            As for Trump, his politics, to the extent that he can be said to have any, appear to be opportunistic. His deputy, Pence, is more typical of the Christian Right that is now well entrenched on the Republican side of politics.

          • Farris says

            The world according to Klaus:
            The Nazis called themselves socialist yet they weren’t really socialist. Klaus knows better.
            William F. Buckley kicked the John Birchers out of the conservative movement. The segregationists of the South; Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, John Stennis, Ross Barnett, George Wallace and klansman Robert Byrd all died Democrats. However Klaus knows better.
            Putin had a sweetheart Uranium 1 deal with the Clintons but is really a right winger. So says Klaus.
            The author of the article and anyone else who disagrees with Klaus is rewriting history.

            Klaus stay woke bro. In 20 years you will be telling us that the SJWs were really conservative Republicans.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            That’s dishonest. Everone knows that until LBJ the Democrats were the conservatives and the Republicans were the progressives.

          • Stephanie says

            Klaus, you’re just saying that anyone, whether from a hundred years ago or last Tuesday, who doesn’t fit your stereotype of an evil conservative must actually have been a progressive.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Klaus C.

          “to portray conservatives, all along, as tolerant champions of equality and inclusiveness,”

          That’s close to fair. I’m not sure the author really supposes that conservatives have always been the good guys but perhaps the suggestion could be read between the lines. Personally I’d say the democratic left were the good guys until they gained control of the universities at which point absolute power corrupted absolutely as it always does.

          ” which is why I suspect those excesses will prove a passing fad”

          One might hope so, but their agenda has gained strength for 60 years so why would we suppose that it’s going to go away tomorrow? Perhaps the flood has indeed crested but I’m far from sure about that. You? The Democan candidates are woker than ever before. The Republicrats can’t even offer an alternative to Trump. Darkest before dawn maybe?

        • Azathoth says

          And here is the perfect illustration of the problem–

          “But it’s somewhat ironic that the title of this piece is “Age of Amnesia”, because Kotkin and his ilk would like us to forget that it was conservatives who opposed the civil rights movement, the expansion of women’s rights and participation, legal acceptance of gay relationships etc etc.”

          Klaus truly believes it was “conservatives” who did these things–and Klaus equates those “conservatives” with people on the right today.

          But the “conservatives” in question are leftist, Democrat and progressive heroes to this day. People like Wilson, FDR, Sanger.

          Klaus has absorbed a distorted ideological view of history and he revels in it.

          • Klaus C. says

            “Klaus truly believes it was “conservatives” who did these things–and Klaus equates those “conservatives” with people on the right today.”

            Yes, I truly believe that those who opposed social progress were/are conservatives – this is what such terms actually mean, you see.

            Which political party they happened to be in is neither here nor there, particularly in the USA in which for long periods, there was little difference between the two mainstream parties in regard to many important issues.

          • Azathoth says

            And again, Klaus illustrates the failings of an ideologically based grasp on history.

            He holds tightly to the term ‘conservative’ to justify himself.

            Yet cannot explain how FDR was a ‘conservative’ How the eugenicists were ‘conservatives’

            He cannot explain what, even as he hastily pastes the label ‘conservative’ over progressive heroes, these ‘conservatives’ of his were ‘conserving’

        • May want to restudy your history their Klaus. It was Republicans who pushed for civil rights, Eisenhower, hardly a progressive, who sent in federal troops to enforce desegregation. It isn’t even hard to find that LBJ, while in the Senate, filibustered the Republican sponsored civil Rights act. And even when it was finally passed under LBJ (who did it for purely political reasons) it only passed because of Republican votes. The voting rights act of 1965 was jointly sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. The main opposition to Women’s Suffrage in the early 20th century came from progressive Democrats in New York, and those who opposed prohibition (mainly Catholic and Lutheran’s) and the more conservative southern Democrats. But notice it was opposed by progressive and conservative Democrats. It should also be noted that a vast percentage of Catholic and Lutheran immigrants at the time were self avowed socialist.

        • It should also be noted Klaus that McCarthyism was initiated by an executive order by progressive president Truman. It was further the outgrowth of the HUAC formed in 1938 by progressives in Congress and supported by progressive hero FDR. Who is also the president who ordered Americans into detention centers. It was also progressives who were the main proponents of eugenics and the eugenics laws of the early 20th century in the US.

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          You have a point here. Conservatism is generally opposed to change and the changes you note were indeed opposed by many Conservatives, especially organizations.

          So, ln Western Europe when I support maintaining the 60-80 year-old tradition of single payer health insurance I too am a small-c conservative because I want keep the democratic socialist policies put in place long ago and.not expand, reduce or change them at all.

          And I’m.not being ironic.

          • Stephanie says

            I see the source of the misconception here: the belief that conservatives don’t want anything to change. That is not true, or else half the time absolutely nothing would change in government. In reality, conservatives seek the betterment of the human condition as much as progressives, but by incremental steps, after much deliberation, and in line with their society’s values. You can then see how “every man is made in the image of God” and similar proclamations in the constitution would result in conservatives spearheading civil rights.

            Progressives, on the other hand, are bolder in the change they seek, favouring transformation over slow incrementalism, and guided by personal idealism as opposed to tradition. The pursuit of the great leap forward means mistakes can more easily be made and the situation can get out of control, as we’ve seen every time communism was tried. The reliance on personal idealism also makes one susceptible to self-interest and delusion.

            Change happens under both progressives and conservatives, but the quality and the consequences I think would vary radically.

        • Doug F says

          Please check your facts. A higher percent of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats. The KKK were primarily Democrats. The re-writing of history has been by progressives, and it appears you have been taken in.

    • Ryan says

      In what way are the conservatives ensconced in government? They have the President, who may not win reelection. They have a few states, which is probably more relevant as higher education is mostly controlled by the states.

      There is, as far as I know, no good method for a politician to ensure ideological diversity. Academic freedom is too entrenched. They also know, that they won’t hold on to power forever.

      You are also, right that conservatives are rely on the credentialed elite. The Republicans have enough credentialed people to fill political positions, but non political positions are filled with left leaning technocrats.

      However, if you think this article is a politician whining about the left taking over society, you are wrong. It is an academic warning of the negative effects of the obvious and factual disparity between society and academia

    • david says

      Conservatives are small government supporters. Their party was usurped by what we’ve been calling “neocon republicans” a couple decades back. Boomers in general on both sides have thrown the country away by fervently voting only on social issues, while ignoring that both dem and repub politicians have become warm mongering, flagrant spending, globalists. Regardless, technology and capitalism have brought the cost of goods way down, and created a lot of prosperity. That in itself leads to more leftist values, because prosperity begets instant gratification. Conservative, traditional values reenforce the power of a family unit, upon which is built a strong community, and then society. Each generation however, rebels against the boring traditions of their parents, leading to the inevitable breakdown of the very disciplines which ushered in the success. Its important to note the difference between legislative law, and cultural rules. The U.S was built on small government, but big moral values. This is the essence of conservatism. Leftist movements seem to be an attempt to replace morality and even religion, with big government. Through that lens, its difficult to find any politician who is truly conservative or truly liberal anymore. The all seem to want to gain more power to silence their dissenters. I believe most CITIZENS however are a lot more moderate than the politicians they vote for.

      • Klaus C. says

        @D.B.Cooper – there’s no need for the speculation you engage in. To find out where the Nazis stood in relation to socialism, you only have to look at what they themselves believed. Although there was some degree of socialism in the early Nazi Party, Hitler soon stamped that out when he gained enough power in the Party. He and his followers saw the Nazis as being in direct opposition to the socialists and communists, whom they ruthlessly suppressed as soon as they had the means.

        Hitler formed a profitable alliance with German industrialists based explicitly on his promise to eradicate the Left, smash the unions and ultimately do away with democracy, which he argued was incompatible with business. Plenty of capitalists agreed with him and contributed funds to the Party.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Klaus C.

          It is embarrassing that you need to point any of that out. That Nazism pretended to be socialism is a triviality as to what the facts are. The most conservative political party my province ever saw called itself socialist and the second most conservative calls itself Liberal. These efforts to pin labels are entirely counter productive.

    • Stephanie says

      Klaus, electing conservatives does not change that most of the government is progressive. The bureaucracy that actually runs things doesn’t change with elections and is uniformly progressive, because those are the careers available to humanities graduates. Progressives have the proper disposition for cushy careers on the backs of taxpayers.

      Same for the academy, which has become excessively bureaucratic and now revolves more around pointless office meetings and filling out forms than either teaching or research. It’s unsurprising that conservatives have little interest in spending all their time grovelling in front of the administration and begging for money from government agencies. Add to that the hostile attitude at universities where insults against conservatives are as common as talk of the weather, it is unsurprising conservatives tend to go into industry.

      A restructuring that cuts administration at all levels and requires academics rely on industry funding is in order, but the modest efforts in that direction have so far been blocked by the courts. Conservatives are cautious and incremental by nature, so asking them to “grab more power” is asking them to become leftists. Leftist hegemony is too engrained for the measures conservatives are prepared to take, even once electing a bombastic man like Trump. Our best hope is that the insanity the left gets up to turns off enough people that the next generation rebels against the prevailing orthodoxy and social justice becomes an outdated, ridiculed fad like wearing a mullet or burning witches.

    • Just Sayin' says


      “the fact that there just aren’t many conservatives interested in academia”

      You may be right, or, here’s another possibility:

      The young college grad looks for work, but after a year or so of searching and not finding anything suitable for a person of his stature, decides to stay in academia and pursue his Masters. Upon getting his Masters, the now not-so-young person sets out to secure his position in the world, but alas, the world has still not realized his brilliance. So I guess it’s time to get a PhD, cuz, you know, “I really never wanted to work in that greedy, heartless, corporate world! I was always cut out to be a professor. I’m interested in academia!” And so, a woke, Progressive, SJW, professor is born.

      Contrast this with the college grad who looks for work, finds work, goes to work, pays the taxes to support the University. And so, a Classic Liberal, a Libertarian, or a Conservative is born.

      The first guy can tell you a million important things about how a city should be built, for example.

      The second guy can, for example, build a city.

    • Laci Rivers says

      This is legitimately delusional.

      Why don’t conservative governments try to radically change education with legislation? Because it is wrong and won’t solve anything.

      You pretty much wrote a series of hyperbolic nonsense that simply are not true. You are saying that power hoarding is the “right wing way”. No. That is literally every government who wants to stay in power.

      Rather than just repeating talking points like “conservatism is bad because it’s bad!” and clearly thinking you are superior to a large segment of the population, try to avoid writing like an elitist who just entered her first year of university and is trying to mimic an “academic style” in a poor attempt to sound intelligent when you do nothing more than throw some non-sequiturs and appeals to emotion. Anyone worth their salt can see through it and will only be compelling to those looking for some easy confirmation bias.

      This is all coming from a left wing person. I certainly know conservatives are not inherently bad like you try to suggest because I rely on facts to base my conclusions.

      • BrainFireBob says

        I put this in another thread. Klaus is showing his belief in magic. In this case, the idea that those who claim the label “progressive” must be those who believe in progress, and that those who claim the label “conservative” believe in 100% rigid retention of tradition. It’s a completely separate sense of the two terms, and it’s either an ignorant and insane belief in magic, or he’s deliberately switching argumentative sense as a very crude rhetorical device.

        The progressives historically have not fostered progress, they’ve fostered ill-conceived social engineering as often as not; to the point of horribly repellant racism and bigotry as expressed through the eugenicists and the Klan. The progressives were behind Prohibition, which saddled us with organized crime.

        Conservatives are opposed to radical, rapid reform and expansion of the government, reflexively. They also tend to be absolutist about traditional values. That doesn’t mean being Amish, that means being opposed to change without purpose and especially rapid change that can’t easily be undone.

        Traditional American values were things like equality before the law, so conservatives did in fact support equal rights legislation and civil rights. Because that’s a reflection of conservative value. Women had the right to vote, and run for office, in conservative states well before it was national law- or did you not know that the first Congresswoman was elected, as a conservative Republican, in 1916- four years before national women’s suffrage?

        The great lie sold by current higher education, that many younger leftists, like Klaus, seem to accept uncritically and force on the masses, is that there was a flip in the 1960s in America once the Civil Rights political fight was over. Nixon did pursue a Southern Strategy, because Southern conservatives otherwise were conservative but aligned with the Democrats over Jim Crow, but that doesn’t mean that the noble, pro-Civil Rights Republicans duly became Democrats to keep the numbers balanced once some of the southern racists switched sides. Yes, a number of Southern democrats became republicans- but that doesn’t mean that both parties swapped. That’s the clever lie they’re inserting by insinuation.

    • staticnoise says

      Oh man. That conservatives are now slowly making gains in government is a testament to how fed up with leftists/progressives the people have become. Not just in the U.S. either -which has been on a slow burn since 1980- the rest of the West is showing signs of waking up too. So your little dig about conservatives not being intelligent enough is a little weak.

  3. codadmin says

    Even the most dystopian thinkers are underestimating the problem the West faces.

    Every communist revolution so far has taken place in a racially homogenous society. Class has always been their vehicle of hate, because it had to be.

    The evolution of communism along with demographic change, which they have largely instigated, means that race is now their vehicle of hate.

    The West is in its 1917 moment, or its 1949 moment, but because of race, the situation is so much more dire.

    Thee will be no gulugs just extermination camps and those camps will be everywhere.

    • Klaus C. says

      So you believe that Trump will not just be putting “racial undesirables” into camps, he’ll actually be exterminating them?

      If he can do that, why can’t he round up a handful of lefties in the universities? I’d suggest it’s because unlike the obsessives who post here, he doesn’t really care about them.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Klaus C.

        “why can’t he round up a handful of lefties in the universities?”

        Because the more insane the left gets, the better. Davos is very happy with the left right now, they keep society fragmented and confused.

      • Klaus, who is the only president to put people into camps based on their race? And isn’t he considered a progressive hero?

    • Chris says

      Codadmin….I don’t understand what you mean. Who is going into these camps, and who is putting them there?

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Chris: All the racist, homophobic, misogynistic, disablist, transphobic people really and any other trait that can be added to that list when politically expedient. The government of Scotland is already laying the foundations for people to report on each other:

        No, but you’re right there are no camps, and there’s a reason for that. It’s actually more profitable to demonize people through education, media and entertainment. because people are happy to pay for these things. A whole industry has been spun around hatred of white people and their so-called privilege. I’m not too worried though. Ordinary people are waking up to this state of affairs and working to bring their countries and institutions back under their control.

        • Chris says


          That youtube link is so creepy.

          • Kencathedrus says

            @Chris: It really is. It’s like something from a dystopian sci-fi movie. The video aspires to end ‘hate speech’, but I worry that ‘hate speech’ will eventually encompass arguments against government overreach. One example of this is an affirmative action policy that is currently going on at a Dutch university. Those who are against it find themselves being called ‘misogynists’ even though plenty of women are complaining about it.


            In my cynical opinion, this is nothing more than ‘clickbait’ and virtue-signaling as a form of advertising for the university. It’s currently en vogue to demonize men and this university is capitalizing on that, and all the while it’s celebrated as ‘equal outcomes’.

            Adopting a more pragmatic view, I find that the message this sends to the rest of the world, is that the Netherlands is a country that is ideologically possessed. Countries gripped by ideological thinking tend to drive out their brightest and their best, as they emigrate to countries that offer them more opportunities.

  4. TarsTarkas says

    It isn’t an age of amnesia, it’s an age of selective amnesia. Bad things disfavored people did or said or wrote are never ever forgotten but dredged up to club them into extinction like baby seals, whereas bad things favored people did or said or wrote are ignored and confined to the memory hole.

    Kaus C: IMO the reason why Western Civilizations conservatives aren’t rounding and eliminating their political enemies, aren’t trying to legislate their morality (despite the efforts of a few) is because they aren’t mirror images of progressives. They are in fact in favor of a dispersal of power and a palette of education, in favor of freedom of speech and inquiry. Don’t believe in a rule of might, selective justice, arbitrary application of law, etc. If they were, this site wouldn’t exist and you and I would have been imprisoned or under reeducation or liquidated. See any number of really ‘conservative’ states such as the Han Empire or various Islamic despotisms to see true mirror images of progressivism.

  5. Farris says

    “Peasants and many nobles in the Medieval period usually lacked first-hand knowledge of even the Bible and Christian theology and lore. Yet they had the excuse of being illiterate during an age in which books were expensive to produce and rare.”

    Literacy not withstanding possession of a Bible translated into a language other than Latin or Greek could be punishable by death during the Middle Ages. The desire of the Catholic Church to control who could read, preach and teach the Bible led to the Protestant Reformation. Perhaps another type reformation is on the horizon.

  6. Christopher Chantrill says

    150 years ago educated youths like Marx and Engels insisted that the bourgeoisie recognize the just demands of the workers.

    Today educated youth demand that the educated and enlightened recognize that the bourgeoisie have no right of redress against the activists of the educated ruling class.

    This is what they call bending the arc of history towards justice?

    • Jonny Sclerotic says

      @ Christopher Chantrill

      Well said. The entire privilege bloodsport is played out between the privileged only. Ordinary people look on baffled.

      I remember being disappointed by the intellectual bankruptcy of the Occupy Wall Street movement and thinking, is this what the Left has come to? Empty sloganeering about the 99%?

      From this distance, I now realize it was the death rattle of socialism, the last frantic gasp of energy directed towards the only place that matters: economic inequality. I’d swap what we have now for the milquetoast activism of a decade ago, which at least was on topic.

  7. Fickle Pickle says

    Never mind of course that the trumpet-fuhrer is the perfect example of the now everywhere culturally illiterate dreadfully sane human USA citizen.

    His very presence on the world-stage invokes and empowers such cultural illiteracy. It even promotes such a know-nothing disposition as a “virtue”.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Fickle Pickle: Trump is a reality TV-star. He knows how to wind the media up. What is ‘cultural literacy’ anyway and why is this a virtue?

    • BrainFireBob says

      A commonly ignored difference between many liberals and many conservatives: To a conservative, the President is a person doing a job. To conservatives, they’re some kind of face of the nation.

      Does being happy with some or all of the work Trump’s done in any way imply a personal approval of the man? My mechanic has bad halitosis but is a good mechanic; I just don’t stand downwind.

      • BrainFireBob says

        Typing and talking. That should be “To liberals, they’re some kind of face of the nation.” As if one person could ever truly embody the virtures, or vices, in their own person of an entire people. Presidents are more Babe Ruth than the Autarch from Wolfe’s Torturer series.

  8. david says

    “written by dead white males who, as a group, are linked to such horrors as slavery, the subjugation of women, and mass poverty”. History of the Arab slave trade, african slave trade, native american life, and east asian culture would conclude whites to have participated the least in these atrocities, which is why the western world even exists.

    • TarsTarkas says

      The people of the past were seers of great vision. Slavery was started in pre-biblical times in anticipation of the need for unpaid labor to work the land in the antebellum South. And I’m sure you’d find students and scholars who would read the above sentences, and say, ‘yep, that’s true.’

  9. Pingback: “The spread of mass education may have exemplified the promise of l… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

  10. Simon says

    The cultural Revolution at play in the United States remind of 1968 France. The event of may in 1968 France was a generational confrontation driven by middle-class demographics. It opposed a Sorbonne nouvelle petty bourgeois populace, educated in mass secondary education, destined to intellectual proletariat, and intellectual clerks from rue d’Ulm, educated in the selective and elitist schools system of the 3rd and 4th French Republic.

    As a result, 1968 did not produce any theoretical breakthrough. Everything that was to be thought had already been conceptualized by 1950s and 1960s French mandarins and vanguardist ideologues. When they entered the university, this new demographics lacked the necessary cultural capital to understand their masters. They were not able to understand the existentialist undercurrent of Derrida’s writing, the ontology of Gilles Deleuze, the epistemology of Foucault. None of them had read Marx as Althusser did nor Hegel like Jean Hippolyte or Jacques Lacan did.

    They did not share the same horizon of aspiration as their professors, did not speak the same language, did not cherish theoretical life and lacked the existential depth this lifeform requires (they had not known the war and lived in commodified abundance). As a result, they acted as vandals in the holy of holies.
    Ortega Y Gasset wrote that the West was losing the very cultural preconditions of its civic and scientific breakthroughs. Hannah Arendt wrote that the philistine mob, accustomed to mass art, will no longer be able to read original works they were based one.

    The substitute to classical humanities is now theory itself. As a matter of fact, it is easier to dismay Shakespeare as a dead white male than to actually confront the oddity of its language. But, by refusing to acknowledge the degree of classicism postmodern vanguardists had to incorporate before writing their magnus opus, theory is condemning itself to sterility. As a result, academia is turning into a mechanism running idle.

    The only way out is for conservatives (ordoliberal humanists and orwellian left) to engage in an intellectual and cultural common platform. The cultural recovery of the West will require parallel secondary school networks providing an instruction which will be both secular, unlike religious private schools, and demanding, unlike state public schools. In the academia, it will require to recount the entire history of western thought, to reassert the rigorous methods of classical humanities (from philology to ethnography) while engaging with postmodern through, not as strategical shenanigans or epochal vernaculars, but as conceptual frameworks to be tested and amended, as any other scientific model.

    • Simon says

      Damn, I left so many mispellings up there.

      Anyway, looking for big analogies such as the Middle Ages/our current era is of no value. The Middle Ages were a time of faith in the power of natural reason and well-argued debates. At
      a macrostructural level, Scholastic treatises display a magnificent logical architecture while, at microstructural level, they alternate phases of tightened questions/answers and careful conclusions. The leftist mob despises logic and refuses to engage in dialogues, let alone adopt qualified conclusions. Becoming an intellectual in the Middle Ages was a selective process requiring a deep existential involvement. Modern day academia is massified and populated by dilettantes.

      As a matter of fact, I’d rather be a peasant in his church than a last man in his mall. And I’d rather be a dominican angelic scholar in his abbey than the organic intellectual of the Democratic party.

      Better reduce the breadth and focus on the actual forces involved. The closest analogy I can see is may 1968 in France, because of the sociological forces at stake (downgraded middle-class) and the institutional context (massified education fostering intellectual immaturity and the socialization of thinking instead of free thought, intellectual riguour or practical knowledge). All of this generates a law of trend increase in useless intellectual proletariat, generating youth unrest in places of learning.

      In a larger scope, I think we are witnessing the peak of the cultural crisis described by Hannah Arendt and the peak of the revolts of the masses described by Ortega Y Gasset. The theoreticism of the new elite is, in its core, a philistinism. Theory acts as a commodified substitue to actual knowledge the same way kitsch or mass art acted as a substitue to high art in the 19th and 20th. This appeal to theory – the scholastic fossilization of French Theory -, is rooted in a hatred for excellence and an aversion to intellectual efforts, linked to the mediocrity of post-industrial western societies. One only engages in humanities and social sciences with the desire to be conforted, at best, in his or her wordlview and, at worse, in his or her individual fantaisies. One only engages in these kinds of studies to critique and destruct instead of learning.

      The new intellectual elite the next era calls for must span political divisions, integrate both traditional ways of thinking and postmodern hypercriticism, and create spaces of both intellectual audacity and cultural conservation. It will not be operational until forty of fifty years. Partly because the most capable people in the conservative spectrum has been repelled from academia by those currently sabotaging the twice and a half millenial western intellectual tradition. Partly because the average contemporary schoolboy or girl will be too dumb when he or she will reach adulthood.

      • Charlie says

        Simon what of the western philosophical canon since Marx has produced any benefit to people? The only benefit I can see Western Philosophy provided post 1945 was that those who were professors had pleasant upper middle class lifestyle with the opportunity for men to sleep with women post grads as described in Malcom Bradbury’s novel ” The History Man “.

        What if Western Philosophy has run out of steam ? the Greeks produced little worth reading after 100AD.

        • Simon says

          Well first I do not think philosophy has to benefit to people. Philosophy is not a self-development manual or a feel-good soap opera. It is meant to be challenging, both from an existential level and an intellectual level.

          Second, I highly regard Christian heresiology, patrology, mystics and theology. And I do not have to be a believer of some kind to appreciate it. The christologic and trinitarian councils were matricial in shaping western thought. The debates on the humanity of Christ paved for the way for “humanity” in general as a legal concept. The Trinity, which is both relations, energies and irrational numbers, was a powerful speculative stimulant. And most of it was written by hellenized people all around the Mediterrenaen sea after 100 AD. Roman pagan literature after 100 AD has also produced beautiful yet minor works. Just because it was theology, minor literary works and doxography does not mean it is not valuable.

          Third, well, I don’t understand how someone can even think what you said. There had been an incredible amount of works in the humanities and philosophy since Marx. I’m not into name-dropping so I won’t stoop to that level. But, with all due respect, you should really update your philosophical culture.

    • Sam says

      @Simon, “opus” is a third-declension neuter noun. You will find it in any Latin dictionary under “opus, operis”, not “opus, opi*”, which is what you would expect for a second-declension masculine noun. So naturally, adjectives that modify “opus” must also be neuter. The correct phrase is “magnum opus”.

      This form does not exist.

      • Simon says

        @Sam : Thx you bro. I usually check before writing a latin phrase but I was too lazy this time. Actually, I was thinking about putting it in the plural form and accusative case. With “opus” being neutral, plural and functioning as a direct object in the context of the sentence, perhaps should I have rendered it “opera magna”.

        • Simon says

          **”magna opea” damn it’s recalcitrant
          May be it’s time for me to stop being pedantic.

  11. dirk says

    As an old man , it’s so funny to read the schoolbooks used these days for the education of the new generation. I read in these lrssons more or less the opposite of what we learned about, e.g., colonialism, other cultures, Africa (a continent with bad soils, poor habits, backward and needing our way of life, agriculture, democracy and institutions). Now, I read that Africa had rich and cultured kingdoms, which then were torn and ripped off by Western colonizers).

    However, also in our time, there was a clear and uniform narrative, with little diversity, and no different voices. It very much looks like a meandering and dialectic happening. Though, indeed, there was more interest in history, based on a very narrow nationalism.

    However, how to rewrite that history for a nation with large minorities?
    What is the new canon? The new inspiring narrative?
    What to write about the Holocaust, the crusades, the enlightenment??.

    In Holland, we obviously don’t know, the academics can’t agree about what not and what yes.

    • Barry says

      “However, how to rewrite that history for a nation with large minorities?”

      History should never be rewritten for minorities, or for anyone else either. Education should not be influenced by ideology.

      • dirk says

        Writing history without ideology, how is that? What about Tacitus’ Germania, and all the other history and geography text books that followed, how can one take up the pen without a certain ideology stimulating you?

        • Barry says

          I admit it’s hard for history to be taught in a completely ideology-free way. But educators have to at least try to be as objective as possible.

          • dirk says

            Fully agree Barry, in fact that is my ideal too, and I think the art is less and less understood, or even aspired! Que lastima!

    • Kencathedrus says

      The Dutch education system is totally hopeless, Dirk. I taught in Holland for over a decade both at secondary and post-secondary level. Education is looked down upon, even by people working in the Ministry of Education. Students are graduating college that can barely string a sentence together. When I talked to someone at the Ministry of Education about this and how the education is failing, he said it was actually a huge success because college is no longer about academic excellence, but the ability to fit into society. He made it very clear to me that the education system is not there for the individual, but for the collective or the ‘samenleving’ as they call it.

      From what I hear from older Dutch people, the education system used to be very good, but it’s been devalued over the last couple of decades.

      • dirk says

        I understand what you mean, Ken, excellence since some decades no longer is something appreciated in our school system, we no longer give special attention to the above 110 IQ’s, but focus mainly on the below 90. What will this mean for our samenleving in about another 20 years or so?? No more Nobel prize winners?

        (I still hope and think there will be some, but not thanks to, but not withstanding of the school system!!)

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ dirk

      There is a basic misconception on the Left that disparities in education are due to minorities being unable to access curricula written by or featuring white people. They are wrong. Disparities are’fixable’ by fathers, as only fathers hold out long enough with children to imbue delay gratification. They are also ‘fixable’ by moving back to a model of teaching which involves the teachers imparting as many knowledge schema over the course of primary and secondary education as possible- it is only through the acquisition of knowledge on a vast array of subjects that one acquires the ability to think cogently.

      The failures of the progressive education system are only partially remediated by a middle or upper middle-class home full of books and well-informed parents. A remedy which is sadly in decline, as fewer and fewer parents can be bothered to take the time to read. I wonder if you told every kid that there was a piece of software that runs the world, which could make you affluent, and the only way to learn it is to read a thousand books, how many of them would bother to try it? Because, its all absolutely true- you just have to find the right books.

      • dirk says

        I still remember, Geary, my parents had a special ” study room”, with 100s of books and encyclopedias (music, art, history, food, garden, atlasses, one special encyclopedium for women even), a large globe, a piano,the room was not heated in winter, only if somebody wanted to play or study there). None of my friends had such a room at home.

        The newest outcry in the NLs is, what unfair and how unjust, some children are taken by their parents to musea, educational events, concerts, art exhibitions etc and others never. So, please parents, stop these unfair events, and don’t give them that advantage.

        There was one columnist (Sylvia W.) who did not agree and called this the world upside down. She got 100s of angry letters to the editor, cuz….. equality should reign !!!!….. It’s simply to crazy to believe, but that’s how it is these days!!

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ dirk

          The only problem is the house dust. Carpets and curtains are bad enough, but unless you have glass cabinets for your books, then the dust is a complete pain. The situation in the UK is made worse by the fact that EU regulations prohibit you from buying a HEPA vacuum cleaner with sufficient power. I’m seriously thinking about adopting the Danish approach to flooring. I like their policy on sandwiches as well.

          • dirk says

            A policy on sandwiches? That sounds great! never heard of, but yes, of that great restaurant NOMA, where they serve mosses and ant eggs. And live ants even, Great again! But not enough reason for me to travel so far north!

          • Jonny Sclerotic says

            When it comes to sandwiches, Denmark has settled the ‘open or closed’ question. If only it were so easy for borders.

        • dirk says

          Guess what I read this morning in a travel book of Doris Lessing, reporting on a visit to her old homestead in Zimbabwe where her parents had a farm. She saw the place, the hills, the bush, the new constructions instead of the old home of loam and palmleaves, and compared the dwellings of then and now.

          But there was a difference, in our house we had book shelves full of books and magazines. In these new houses, no books, in the rooms no toys for the children, no pencils, notebooks, not even pictures and drawings to stimuate their phantasy-

          I wonder what that means for the new generations of Zimbabweans there, or, worldwide, for the education of different classes and identities.

      • Andras Kovacs says

        only fathers hold out long enough with children to imbue delay gratification

        A very important point.

        • dirk says

          A sandwich is, Jonny, by definition closed, even in China ( the san-ming-zhi), if open in Denmark, it’s called smorrebrod, could it be that even this is no longer adhered to? One never knows, and yes, if you allow policy to play a part, maybe it is.

          The history of smorrebrod through the ages: ever thinner ryebread, with ever more and funnier stuff, smoked eel and other scarce fishes. That’s called progress and well being.

  12. Barry says

    Great article. Regarding the universities in the US: I think students need to start boycotting them, at least in the humanities/social science fields. Not only are they clearly authoritarian and obscurantist, they’re also outrageously expensive and probably not even worth the financial outlay in terms of career opportunities afterwards. Plus, if you’re white or worse still a white man why would you pay so much money to an institution that barely conceals its contempt for you?

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Barry

      Watched a segment on Reason TV, detailing how the newest generation hitting college age are rejecting the ‘soft’ and activist courses, in favour of subjects that might actually get them jobs when they graduate. Imagine that, quite sensible really. I do think that someone like Heterodox Academy should profile a list of History courses that aren’t aimed at dismantling the West, or English Literature courses that promote a love of the English language and culture. Taken in conjunction with a graduate degree in Computer Studies, aimed at new media and publishing, I think there is a huge untapped market out there- even those in those in their twenties and thirties could be persuaded to read and watch more- if they can be shown that there really is more out there, than the postmodern drivel they’ve been force-fed.

      • Barry says

        That is good news. I’m just glad this “social justice” nonsense wasn’t as widespread when I was in college in Ireland in the early 2000s.

  13. Zanga says

    Highly recommend the article from American Affairs he cites.

  14. Wells Marvel says

    The “frantic energy to know more and more about less and less,”

    Does anyone know where this full quote comes from? Pitirim Sorokin supposedly wrote 37 books. Holy cow.

    • Citizen XY says

      It seems that many people have been quoted with saying it.
      This source traces the notion back to the early 20th century and an ultimately anonymous Scotsman:
      Not too surprising perhaps, as the expansion of knowledge in the era lead to increased specialisation.

      There is a more-encompassing version, such as this example from Konrad Lorenz:
      “Philosophers are people who know less and less about more and more, until they know nothing about everything.
      Scientists are people who know more and more about less and less, until they know everything about nothing.”

      • David of Kirkland says

        Like pretending we don’t have free will without presenting a clear “other” that controls our will. They pretend that our mind is not our own because it may be influenced by ideas and experiences, whereas most of us expect that our minds are influenced by ideas and experiences.

  15. E. Olson says

    Why do universities have amnesia? Because they are dominated by Leftists, and everything they hold dear doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, while everything they detest have been the actual forces of good and progress. The Left hates Western Culture, because almost all the world’s great technologies, art, entertainment, science, and political/business innovation have been come from the minds of white Christian/Jewish males. As a product of Western culture, the Left therefore hates Capitalism because it efficiently channels resources and riches to those in society who are the most productive, creative, and in tune with market desires, and thereby creates income inequality and is hence “unfair”. They tend to also hate Democracy because majorities of people tend to not vote for things the Left wants such as open borders, shutting down the economy to save polar bears, legalized killing of babies but not convicted killers, or letting men use the ladies room. And when Leftist are able to dupe enough of the public to vote them into office it always results in economic and political disaster – as “free” education, “free” healthcare, and “free” pensions turn out to not actually be free, and affirmative action, racial/gender quotas, and reparation payments never solve inequality problems but often create new ones.

    On the other hand, the Left loves Marxism/Socialism and “enlightened” Totalitarianism because it puts “smart” people such as themselves in charge to get things done without having to worry about pesky voter sentiment or greedy financial markets. Of course it is somewhat inconvenient that every such government in history has turned into a corrupt, bankrupt, and murderous failure, but since Leftist academics write the history books used in schools by Leftist teachers they can conveniently leave out “details” of the 100 million dead under Communism because its the good intentions that matter and/or they can shift the guilt to the “extreme” Right. Thus big government loving, capitalist/religion hating Nazis become “far Right”, and the Democrat historical legacy of the KKK and Jim Crow gets magically attributed to modern day Republicans. The Left also loves intersectionality and feminism because they provide convenient theories that blame the relative lack of positive accomplishments among people who are not white Christian/Jewish males on white Christian/Jewish males, and provide a rationale for discriminating and persecuting the productive members of society. Given the current experiences in Germany and Sweden, I highly doubt the barbarians that flood across the West’s open borders are going to be so charitable to the Leftists who opened the gates.

    • TarsTarkas says

      Too many Leftists hate political freedom and free trade because they’re convinced they’d do a better job at it due to their knowledge, education, and expertise. Not to mention that by being in charge they would acquire their ‘fair share’ of the benefits. They routinely denounce self-interest as evil while blithely ignoring that by demanding power and lucre they are engaging in it. But then self-awareness is not their strong suit.

      • E. Olson says

        TarsTarkas – but of course Leftist control of the political-economy would only be temporary until utopia is achieved and the state fades away. To say otherwise would mean that Karl Marx was wrong, which is impossible.

        • TarsTarkas says

          Mr. Olson: Karl Marx is a dead white male, and even worse, Jewish by ancestry. Doubly evil! Therefore he cannot possibly be right, in anything.

  16. Jon Stubbings says

    In the first paragraph the writer compares the present top the Middle Ages – personally I don’t think we’re quite there yet – the new religion of ‘Intersectional’/Marxist identity politics doesn’t yet have complete hegemony – although it is obviously dominant in the arts, much of the media, and large swathes of the education system.

    I often think a better comparison is with the 4th/5th centuries in the declining Roman Empire – as paganism and the classical schools of philosophy were pushed out, superseded, and finally persecuted by the emerging religion called Christianity. Christianity, according to Nietzsche, was driven by ‘slave morality’ and ‘Ressentiment’ and much the same could be said of the new unacknowledged religion which, at it’s worst and most fanatical, fetishises victimhood and seethes with resentment.

  17. lloydr56 says

    The comparison to the Middle Ages is illuminating. This period saw the founding of great universities in Paris and Oxford, but scholars became known in hindsight (after the success of modern science) as excessively dogmatic and rigid in their thinking, not open to fresh evidence. In a way the greatness of Aquinas and others was that they struggled to achieve a synthesis of religious faith and the greatest pagan thought. That such a synthesis (if is defined at all carefully) is even possible is questionable, and Aquinas clearly delivered the verdict that faith won. The achievement of the universities was likely to become calcified and in a way thoughtless, but at least it celebrated and encouraged rigorous scholarship. Now I think people lean toward a kind of third-rate Hegel approach: if you have graduated from high school in a Western country, you have already kind of synthesized “everything,” and no real intellectual work is required. Time to get on with the march of justice, naming and shaming of heretics, etc. If we know “we” are both more just and happier than all those terrible people in the past, then it is reasonable to just get on with progress.

  18. Robin says

    The problem with the universities is not the lack of Conservative faculty. It’s the injection of politics into an environment that was mean’t to be a refuge from the vagaries of the current political winds. Now the campus political activism has turned them into bastions of anti-intellectualism and promoters of a particular political lens. They have become corrosive to society at large.

    Today the suggestion that there are two genders gets you ejected. Larry Summers lost his job for having the audacity to suggest that men and women make different choices in life. Title IX, campus rape hysteria, campus kangaroo courts, etc. It’s not that there isn’t enough Conservative views there to bring ‘balance’ but rather the overt promotion of intersectional feminism has betrayed a trust. Specifically the public would support them if they could remain neutral and focused on their educational mandate.

    Grievance Studies, (Any program that has the word “studies” in it), aren’t academic at all. It’s propaganda and nonsense that serves to drive up a university’s profit margin and crank out political activists. This in turn is increasing societal tensions and tribal politics. Bret Weinstein, a heretic cast out of the Academy, had an interesting take on where intersectionality will take us:

    That all being said, the universities have betrayed the Public. Since they have felt the need to stick their faces into the public realm, it’s time the public roped them in. They need to be reminded who is funding their operations.

    • E. Olson says

      Good comment Robin – you are absolutely correct that higher education has turned into Leftist political indoctrination camp. Certainly the Leftists running the Department of Education have helped to “persuade” university administrators that they need to keep all that campus rape and discrimination in check by hiring lots of diversity and inclusion administration or risk losing federal/state education funding and grants, and it certainly is easier to comply with government edicts if the people the university hires are already on board with Leftist thinking.

      And all the “studies” programs have been developed as a way to get more of that required diversity in the faculty and student body. It seems to be impossible to find enough victims of color and/or female PhD qualified faculty in physics, engineering, computer science, finance, or any other field involving real science and math to provide the desired diversity, but much easier to find them in the “soft” areas and nothing is softer than studies programs. And as long as the student professes to believe in Leftist conceptions of social justice, even the dimmest and most affirmatively actioned will get high grades by majoring in such soft subjects, which helps to to ensure proper diversity among the student body. After all, why risk high drop out rates by forcing victims of slavery and patriarchy to actually study something useful and well paid?

      Get rid of such soft programs and the expensive diversity and inclusion administrations, and universities will start to become a lot more white/Asian and male in both faculty and students, which would be inherently unfair. Why should college be limited to only people with enough intelligence and interest to study in an area where they actually learn useful employable skills? High student debt and Leftist political indoctrination should be for everyone!!!

    • David of Kirkland says

      No, universities suffer because “everyone should go to college” is the mantra. It’s no longer an institution of academia, but just another 4 years of school.
      The more education is treated as a commodity to be purchased — well, a credential is purchased — and expected, the less value it will have.
      If everyone were expected to have a Tesla, and the government gave out trillions to ensure everyone had a Tesla, the value of a Tesla would drop and would no longer even be “of interest” to most.

  19. Fred says

    As usual for Quillette, Kotkin takes a simplistic, tendentious, and largely mythical view of the Middle Ages. That said, he is certaily correct about our loss of historu and the deleterious effects of the academic monoculture.

    • David of Kirkland says

      Ah yes, the highly diverse thought of the middle ages… Good times!

      • Well, from a certain view the middle ages brought about the conquest of much of Northern Europe, once dominated by Latin ideals by Germanic societies. The Anglo-Saxon, the Norse and later the Normans (also Norse) gave birth to the jury system, the rights of Freeman, English Common Law, the Magna Carta and eventually the Reformation, the enlightenment and the US Constitution. If you study Anglo-Saxon governance, the Kings had much less strength and power then is widely believed. They had to receive support from their Carls, who in turn were responsive to the Freedman of their districts. The Norse had their Thing and even the jarls and Kings had to listen to the Thing, a council of all. The armies that won the great battles of the 100 years war, such as Agincourt and Crecy were primarily made up of yeoman. There was actually quite a bit of ability to move oneself up in society (albeit it was usually through acts of bravery in war).
        There were actually huge advances in agriculture, stone masonry, architecture, animal husbandry and metallurgy. Though in the case of architecture and metallurgy they were in part recovering knowledge lost after the fall of the Roman Empire.

    • X. Citoyen says

      It did seem a little ironic to complain about historical ignorance and platitudes in place of historical knowledge while relying on a single 100-year-old polemic as a source for 800 years of European history.

  20. Etiamsi omnes says

    So millenials are “more sanguine about a military coup”… It’s funny because, as I am entering old age, I find myself increasingly sanguine about a military coup too. Perhaps not by the same military as those the millenials would like to see perpetrating it, though… (Yes, I have read Karl Popper, but somehow I can’t help thinking that way. I guess I’m the only one here.)

  21. Lightning Rose says

    Maybe it’s about time PARENTS reclaimed responsibility for teaching their children history, values, sexual ethics, natural science, and patriotism. The State is certainly doing a piss-poor job of it.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Lightning Rose: this exactly, and I say this as a professor of English and Education.

    • E. Olson says

      LR – your suggestion is very dangerous. What if parents don’t teach their children about the jobs of homosexual sex, or that oil and gas are toxic killers of humanity, or that the founding fathers were all white males (and some were slave owners) and hence not diverse and should be ignored or criticized for not having modern day Leftist beliefs? For the safety of our children, we therefore must leave the education of our children to the unionized experts of the State, and if they are not succeeding adequately at the job it merely means that we need to tax the rich more so we can pay teachers and educational administration as much as professional baseball players as Bernie Sanders suggests.

    • David of Kirkland says

      With all those brilliant and attentive parents out there, what could go wrong?

      • Kencathedrus says

        @David Kirkland: your comment is always used by statists to justify the educating of children by the state.

        ‘We must create out of the younger generation a generation of Communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good Communists…. We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children’s nurseries and schools. There they will grow up to be real Communists.’ ~ Communist Party Education Workers Congress

        ‘Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.’ ~ William T. Harris, US Commissioner of Education

        Did you know that when the first schools were set up in Victorian England, many children begged to be allowed to return to help their parents on the factory floor? These schools were such dreadful places, that children would rather work 10 hours a day performing life-threatening and back-breaking labor in lieu of being made to sit down for hours on end listening to a teacher droning on.

        As a college professor, I believe Education should be about helping the individual discover his or her unique strengths while being healthily integrated into wider society. Currently, Education is no longer about critical thinking or true learning (in fact this is discouraged), but about creation future activists for left-wing causes. In fact much of Education is about turning children against their parents’ world view in order to advance causes championed by the state.

        This school in the Netherlands actually celebrates the fact that it has done away with school books and academic knowledge:

        It’s in Dutch I’m afraid, but Google Translate should be able to make it legible for English readers. One phrase that really stuck out was this one:

        ‘Bij het vak economie gaat het bijvoorbeeld niet om het huishoudboekje van de leerling maar om armoede in de stad Amsterdam.’

        Basically it states, that ‘Economics will no longer teach students financial management, but instead will discuss poverty in Amsterdam’.

        For me, this symbolizes everything that is bad about Progressivism. The individual is suppressed in order to benefit the collective. Collectives always pretend to be about equality and fairness, but they never are. They’re usually about the dumbing down of the masses to support those who would rule over them. This is why history is being red-washed (and contributing to the ‘Age of Amnesia’) so as to fit the narrative of oppression that is currently being circulated. The current strain of left-wing thinking is not really about equality and social justice, but about envy and jealousy, hence the attacks on ‘white’ people and their so-called privilege. The Left doesn’t want equality, it just wants the levers to power. This why many normal people disagree the narrative of oppression that is being taught in universities, and which has now been adopted by the Democrat party. Accusations of ‘white privilege’ are usually made by those who benefitted the most from it against those who benefitted the least.

        Another aspect of the ‘amnesia’ is that the Left turned against the very people it was set up to support and protect, forcing them to turn to the likes of Donald Trump who, as awful as he is, simply doesn’t come anywhere near the levels of hypocrisy that is constantly displayed by the Democrats.

        Anyway, enough of my long-winded diatribe. I will end with one of my favorite CS Lewis quotes, and one that I use to explain Donald Trump to friends of mine who are still apoplectic about the ‘deplorables’ who elected him President.

        “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

  22. Excellent article. Quillette’s articles are almost always understood to be written by westerners, Caucasians, middle class (if that really exists) so it is very instructive on the same page to find this article and another about the genocide of the aborigines in Canada. Let’s hope that one day America will do the same as the Canadians, that the English, the Spanish, the French …

  23. Eigen Eagle says

    So, someone remind me why I should be more afraid of Trump than an illiberal regressive woke mob and the media, college administrators, and corporations that kowtow to them?

  24. Andrew says

    Peter from Oz, thank you for introducing “wowser” to my vocabulary. I will revel in use of the word. There is plenty of useful amnesia to go around on the Left and the Right.
    Part of the amnesia in the USA is convenient ignorance as to the very Anglo and Puritan roots of much of our conceptions of virtue that drive Progressives today and the collective shock and denial of the modern SJW when this is pointed out. Just like those zealots that came before, they believe they are untethered from the past and are a new being of Human.

  25. Robert Franklin says

    I disagree with the word ‘amnesia.’ Amnesia is an involuntary condition, but what’s going on now is at least semi-consciously done. It may be that human history (at least in the West) has come to oscillate between being dominated by science and dominated by religion. We may be exiting a science phase and entering a religion one. The major difference between the two modes of thought is their treatment of facts. Science is a slave to fact. Facts that contradict a hypothesis demand the abandonment or alteration of the hypothesis. By contrast, mythology/religion ignores facts inconvenient to the desired conclusion. We know that Daedalus and Icarus didn’t fashion wings and fly, but the facts aren’t the point of the myth. The point of the myth is that moderation is good and that point survives the myth’s contradiction by facts. What’s going on now, particularly in academia is the establishment of a secular religion whose tenets are by now pretty well established and known. Facts that contradict those tenets are, like those regarding Daedalus and Icarus, to be ignored, sidelined, ridiculed, etc. That is what is going on. Why it’s going on here and now is another question.

    • David of Kirkland says

      And I thought Icarus was a cautionary tale of the youth not paying attention to the wisdom of elders…fly too high and get burned. But it was just about moderation?

      • Kencathedrus says

        @David of Kirkland: Actually it was. Most people don’t know the second half of the advice Daedalus gave to his son: ‘Don’t fly so high, you burn your wings, but don’t fly so low as to get your feathers wet’.

        We are at much more risk of flying too low than too high.

  26. Pingback: Links 16/7/2019: Btrfs Gets ‘Cleaned Up’, Clonezilla Live 2.6.2-15 | Techrights

  27. Richard says

    “One college President in Canada, for example, justified efforts to tamp down on “free speech” by arguing that doing so created “better speech.””

    = Twitter/Facebook/Google/Nike and on and on and on – they need to sacrifice themselves and not everyone else.

  28. Pingback: Age of Amnesia by Joel Kotkin | RUTHFULLY YOURS

  29. MMS says

    @Spence – Your a trolling here.

    I will say one thing however…

    When I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s the message was why should anyone be judged by their immutable personal attributes (e.g. skin color, gender, etc.). You (meaning me from my perspective) should not judge people on such criteria as You (meaning me from my perspective) would not want to be judged in this way.

    Dam Right!

    Well I was I kid so I did not think “Dam” I just thought yes of course. I would not want to be judged on the color of my skin or my gender etc. so I won’t do it to anyone else. I lived and breathed this ethos as did many of the other kids growing up at that time (of course applying the same to gay folks came a bit later but it did happen in time).

    Now, as an adult, the message has changed. It has become OK in some/ many circles to judge people on their immutable (and to my mind meaningless) personal characteristics so long as you are doing so the correct way. Positively for some and Negatively for others. Negatively if the “others” are white, male. straight etc.

    This new message is deeply upsetting to me just as the old message (don’t judge anyone on such characteristics) was uplifting. I feel I was sold a bill of goods (to use an old fashioned phrase).

    Bottom Line: Judging people on characteristics was wrong then as it is wrong now. It was not trivial then. It is not trivial now…

    • Brett says

      Exactly, we (in general) have turned 180 degrees on this. Now the only things that matter are, skin color, sex, sexual orientation and race. All are focused on, not the character of the person.

  30. Cautious says

    “It has become OK in some/ many circles to judge people on their immutable (and to my mind meaningless) personal characteristics”

    Sadly, it is occasionally necessary to form an opinion as to what degree of danger you are in from someone about whom you can discern only obvious immutable characteristics. In such circumstances one can not do better than to rely on stereotypes and play the odds. Of course you could throw caution to the wind and make optimistic assumptions about the inherent goodness of your fellow homo sapiens, and it may all work out to a memorably happy experience of intriguingly different but basically decent good people, or it may not.

  31. Klaus C. says

    Getting back to reality, let’s look at Kotkin’s comments about the ratios of liberals to conservatives amongst faculty, and ask what accounts for this.

    Are we expected to believe that it’s due to some sort of screening process, and there are large numbers of conservative professors out there who simply can’t find a job these days?

    It’s far more likely that there are just fewer conservatives attracted to academic work, and intellectual careers in general. They are normally traditionalists who have little use or patience for new ideas, so conservatives of an intellectual bent tend to be dilettantes and antiquarians rather than significant “names” in active academic fields. There are of course some exceptions, but expecting numerical parity with progressive-minded intellectuals, in our rapidly changing world, is clearly unrealistic.

    Most of the academics who write for Quillette appear to be liberal left-leaning critics of the overly dogmatic ideology taking hold in some fields. One of the few genuine conservatives they regularly publish is psychologist Clay Routledge, a Bible-toting supernaturalist who can hardly be very surprised that his views are seen as anachronistic in the 21st century.

    Kotkin needs to ask: if there are few conservative intellectuals, and no significant body of recent conservative intellectual work addressing the challenges of the modern world, is it reasonable to complain that university faculties are dominated by progressives?

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Klaus C.

      “Getting back to reality, let’s look at Kotkin’s comments about the ratios of liberals to conservatives amongst faculty, and ask what accounts for this.
      Are we expected to believe that it’s due to some sort of screening process … ?

      Candidates for academic positions are indeed screened by committees of people, the majority of whom are left-wingers who are very adept at smelling out political heresy.

      I gather from your question that you have never applied for a university teaching position.

      • Klaus C. says

        Of course they are screened, but I don’t seriously think the suggestion is that this has resulted in large numbers of unemployed conservative academics.

        There just aren’t very many conservative academics.

        • Just Sayin' says


          “There just aren’t very many conservative academic”

          There also are not many conservative Welfare recipients.

          Both statements are true, and for the same reason: Conservatives are busy working to pay for the silly shit that Progressives dream up. Someone has to, you know.

    • Barry says

      “Kotkin needs to ask: if there are few conservative intellectuals, and no significant body of recent conservative intellectual work addressing the challenges of the modern world, is it reasonable to complain that university faculties are dominated by progressives?”

      If you take the issue of migration, which is most definitely one of the “challenges” facing the Western world as it represents a very real challenge to our identity and sense of who we are (especially in Europe), you’ll find there are plenty of highly intelligent conservative writers and academics willing to offer their ideas on the matter. Alas, they are often made feel like pariahs for espousing their politically incorrect views. Your view that “conservatives” are all too backward and stupid for academia reeks of condescension.

      • Klaus C. says

        “Your view that “conservatives” are all too backward and stupid for academia reeks of condescension.”

        I’m not suggesting they’re too backward and stupid (although there is a positive correlation of progressive views with higher IQ and higher educational attainment, that doesn’t mean all conservatives are dumb).

        I’m suggesting that conservatism as a cause just doesn’t have much use for intellectualism. It’s probably fair to say that most conservative-minded people would regard the intellectuals as pampered windbags, whether they’re liberal intellectuals or conservatives.

        And the conservative intellectuals (such as Kotkin and Charlie) maintain that the most important work has already been done, and that the job of today’s intellectuals should be to pass on the legacy.

        As others have pointed out, if such an attitude regained dominance it would result in a fairly inactive academia. It’s simply not possible in the sciences, technology, medicine etc, and the humanities also have a responsibility to keep track of a changing world.

        • A few studies with did show a weak correlation between the authors definition of conservatives and slightly lower IQs. Carl et Al 2014, however, found that Republicans and Republican leaning voters had a higher verbal reasoning score. It should be pointed out that in the widely quoted (be smug progressives anyhow) 2012 study based it upon how the authors felt the participants would respond to a series of questions about regulations, i.e. regulations against homosexuality, gun control, hate speech etc. The ones most opposed to regulations overall had the highest IQs. This could demonstrate that what the authors consider as conservative (i.e. opposed to homosexuality and race mixing but pro gun and against regulating hate speech) and those who favor regulating speech and guns while supporting social causes like homosexual rights and race equality are (on average) less intelligent then classical liberal/Libertarians/small government conservatives. There are several problems with these studies. The first, and largest, is they’re ripe for confirmation bias because the authors decided how to classify each group and seemed to dismiss findings they couldn’t explain. The second the binary nature of the questions also doesn’t allow for any nuance. The third is that it only was correlative but progressives have tried to argue it as causative, i.e. low IQ means you’re likely end up conservative (or at least their caricature of conservatives). These studies, and how their tenuous findings have been abused by some to further their own sense of self worth, is why many of us in more traditional sciences subconsciously place air quotes around science in the social sciences. This is also a major contributor to the rather well known repetition and group think crisis in the social sciences. Without adversarial voices, questioning their findings, homogeneous groups lead to bad science, which leads to even more bad science. Group think is never a good place to be, unfortunately, in many humanity and social science departments, the total lack (often purposeful) of any contrary voice has resulted in a lot of questionable or weak studies.

        • Barry says

          “I’m suggesting that conservatism as a cause just doesn’t have much use for intellectualism.”

          I disagree completely. Arguing that traditional attitudes aren’t all bad and that we don’t have to jump on every modern bandwagon going (be it the acceptance of “multiculturalism”, the pushing of the “diversity” agenda, etc.) is very important in order to ensure the general public receive balanced information on important social issues. There is nothing less intellectual than the “liberal” cause of political correctness.

          • Klaus C. says

            “Arguing that traditional attitudes aren’t all bad and that we don’t have to jump on every modern bandwagon going”

            But does that “serve the cause of conservatism” or actually serve the cause of progress, when criticism of the more dogmatic or distorted fashionable ideas is justified?

            I said above that many of the left-critical articles in Quillette actually come from a liberal left perspective, and these tend to be the best ones.

        • b beresford says

          Klaus, you have an incredibly cartoonish view of conservatives. Clearly you don’t know many people on the right, virtually no conservative academics, and you apparently have little idea of the breadth and depth of philosophical thought that has informed conservatism, stretching back as far as Aristotle and Cato the Elder, and including John Locke, David Hume, Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, Whittaker Chambers, Eric Hoffer, Milton Friedman, Ludvig von Mises, Friedrick Hayek, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and William Buckley Junior. To say that “conservatism as a cause just doesn’t have much use for intellectualism.” is laughable, or would be if it were not so ignorant. Poor you, you have been proving the author’s point about the abysmally poor education people have today.

    • X. Citoyen says

      Here you are lecturing us about conservatives in the academy. Yet it’s clear from your remarks that you haven’t taken five minutes to plug “ideological diversity academia” (or some such) into Google Scholar and look at the results. Researchers have been studying the progressives’ long march through the academy since the 1980s. You don’t need to speculate on the reasons for the disappearance of conservatives in the academy because the cause is already known: Academics discriminate against conservatives in hiring. For God’s sake, a third of them admit to it in surveys. The case is closed.

    • The problem Klaus is you define what you think conservatism is and then argue from that view. Others have pointed out the problem of your definition of conservatism, but you would rather rely on your definition. This makes it easy for you to justify your own personal bias while dehumanizing those whom you disagree with. If you can assign them nefarious means then any exclusion or suppression of them is justified in your opinion. They are not really human to you and it is self evident that they need to be resisted and destroyed because it is obvious that they are evil. They are responsible for every bad outcome in history and therefore their ideals only deserve to be ridiculed and erased. Many have pointed out the mistakes in your arguments, the flaw in your understanding. You, however, choose instead to ignore this and restate your belief. It is as dogmatic on your part as any religious fundamentalist. But you will certainly deny this, because like most fundamentalist, you are so convinced of your own righteousness, that you can’t conceive of the idea you might be wrong. When people like you get into power, no matter their political ideology, the outcomes are generally atrocious. Mao could not conceive of how he was wrong, nor Pol Pot, nor Stalin etc. When you fail to even attempt to understand other human beings, you lose any and all empathy for them. This is not a desirable occurrence.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      You aren’t going to win this one, Klaus. They refuse to believe anything that conflicts with their feelings on the matter. They’re oppressed and nobody loves them; you’ll never convince them otherwise.

      I will offer this: Anybody who teaches and isn’t at least sympathetic to the left is a fucking moron. The right hates higher education. The right wants to defund academia, destroy any unions, and turn teachers into loyalists to the billionaires and corporations who are privatizing education in America. Also, teachers and academics are relentlessly mocked by the right. This website a perfect example of the disgust people on the right have for academics. Given all this, why would anybody in the academy relate to the right? You guys hate us. You guys fucking think we’re Hitler.

      And then there’s this gem that has certainly stood the test of time: “Although it is not true than all conservatives are stupid people, it is true than most stupid people are conservative.”

      • Kencathedrus says

        @Nakatomi Plaza: no-one here is claiming to be oppressed as far as I can tell. I teach and I’m not left wing at all so am not sure I agree with your labelling of me as a ‘f**king moron’. However, your knee-jerk reaction is typical of what is going in large parts of academia at the moment and why I resist it. I don’t teach my students that they are victims of race, regardless of their class or creed. I don’t teach them that they are oppressed by an imaginary white patriarchy. I don’t teach them that there is a Utopia out there waiting to be realized. I don’t teach them that homosexuality is a healthy lifestyle choice; in fact I really disapprove of those who do.

        “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

        I don’t teach them that women are divine creatures placed far above men. I don’t teach them that men and women are the ‘same’, but instead that they have valuable differences. I don’t teach them that emotions are facts. I don’t teach my students that believing they are a woman when they are a man and others not confirming that means that the world is a bigoted place.

        Academia is falling into disrepute because it panders to the very worst of human nature. It pretends to act in the interests of its students, when really the only thing they care about is the revenue they bring in. If a students believes he or she was born in the wrong body – well, their dollars are as good as anyone else’s. A professor who disagrees with that is, hmm, problematic. Word might get out that the university is bigoted and revenue streams will drop.

        Left-wing ideology has been gentrified and is now very lucrative. The world hasn’t become more left-wing, capitalism itself has become more left-wing. Academia is the unholy marriage of communism and capitalism; identity politics are its sickly offspring.

        As for your last comment, it depends on what you mean by ‘conservative’. Some of the most rigid and intolerant people I know are liberals. Any questioning of their beliefs usually results in verbal abuse or worse, being reported for wrongspeak. We are at a strange time in history where the most devout Southern Baptist Evangelical is more relaxing to be around than the po-faced purple-haired ‘priests’ and ‘priestesses’ (and the other 63 genders) of the liberal religion. I’d rather live with the ‘stupidity’ of the religious conservatives than undergo the moral sermonizing of the sanctimonious left whose politics is rooted in envy of the strong and successful.

        • dirk says

          I love Nakatomi (am I the only one?) for all the time saying the exact opposite of what almost everybody here stands for (in the comments, not in the articles, that are mostly mildly left leaning, I read somewhere).

          How to react on somebody saying this exact opposite?
          How to position oneself where polarisation, and, please, no discussion on any argument, is the main, or only aim.

          I wouldn’t know, but yes, it amuses me.

      • ladyhawk says

        Nakatomi: And I thought Klaus’s view of conservatives was cartoonish. Good God you poor thing, what a miserably microscopic worldview you have to live within!

  32. mitchellporter says

    There’s amnesia, and then there’s active suppression. After her latest run-in with Jonathan Yaniv, Lindsay Shepherd has been permabanned from Twitter, and her video about it has been removed from Youtube. And Vice writes, “Oh no, one less person screaming on the internet. How will we manage?” Of course, Lindsay Shepherd does not scream at anyone, she’s an unassuming normal person who refuses to believe in the emperor’s new gender. That alone is now enough for someone to be exiled from digital public life.

    • mitchellporter says

      Her Twitter account has been restored.

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  34. GSW says

    “Clearly the opposition to racism, sexism and homophobia etc was progressive in nature, in that it sought to improve society by rejecting traditional prejudices, and opposition to such change was conservative in that it sought to maintain those traditional prejudices.” @Klaus C.

    The superficiality of this statement, and several other like claims made by this author, declares loudly that he is uneducated in the actual outlines of classical liberal and conservative political thought. Do some reading – begin with Locke, Madison, Burke and John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” – before posting more nonsense.

    “I gather from your question that you (Klaus C.) have never applied for a university teaching position.” @Morgan Foster


    “Kotkin takes a simplistic, tendentious, and largely mythical view of the Middle Ages.” @Fred


    “It did seem a little ironic to complain about historical ignorance and platitudes in place of historical knowledge while relying on a single 100-year-old polemic as a source for 800 years of European history.” @X. Citoyen


  35. Bill says

    As seemingly noone has said it already:
    “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past,” from:1984, G. Orwell
    This is an orchestrated attempt to mass-control the population. Without a reference point in the past and/or books from great thinkers (all of them old white males and therefor haram) the population cannot detect and reject moves into dictatorship.
    I wouldn’t say it’s a SPECTRE-like organisation behind it, sitting in a dim-lit conference room deciding about the world’s domination, but more like a hive mind-set that slowly but efficiently, in an evolutionary development, crawls to its goal.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      No, go ahead and say it’s a SPECTRE-like organization. You may as well go all the way with your bizarre and completely ridiculous conception of how the world works. Yea, academics are like movie super-villains sitting around plotting to take over the world.

      You nailed it.

  36. Jim C says

    Interesting. Higher quotient of light/heat than most areas of the net. My two cents. There are 2 groups of people who battled and are battling to reform Western Culture in areas of gender, racial, and sexual equality. They are aligned, but emotionally and intellectually opposed at the same time.

    One group, label them liberals if you like or something else, intended to graft discriminated peoples into our civilization. They conceived an endpoint where what mattered was the content of character not the color of skin.

    The second group, labeling them is tricky and whatever label you choose is likely to embody references that cause heartburn, saw an endpoint where skin color, gender, and sexual orientation would perpetually remain in conflict, acceptance was undesirable, and whose bitterness fueled their feverish activities to basically switch the ups with the downs. The Snopes family essentially. Barn burning, calling someone a racist, striving. Plowing new fields of discrimination to maintain conflict for conflict’s sake (or for tenure or self-promotion).

  37. GeorgeQTyrebyter says

    Numerous surveys of political opinion show that administrators in colleges are far more liberal even than faculty.

  38. Kevin W says

    Given the bent of universities today, it’s probably better to have students opt out of degrees in History and Western Civilization, rather than have them learn the hard-left version of them.

    • dirk says

      In my time, Kevin, professors were stimulating youngsters where they came with a different vision or theory. For example, I preached as an angry young man that monoculture (as usual in Europe and US) was not the answer for Africa, better grow crops in mixed cropping, as done for ages there. The professor said to me, that’s a nice alternative, let’s try it out, you are free to do so, we assist with pots, glasshouse space, and finances.
      For a long time, I thought, that’s the normal way in universities, that’s why they are named as such. But is that still so?? I wonder very much!!

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  40. Cheryl says

    “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” Golda Meir

  41. A Prof says

    This article is wrecked by a complete misunderstanding of the Middle Ages, which were nothing like today. The reliance on J. B Bury, known for promoting the progressive (and aggressively anti-Catholic) myth that the Middle Ages was a period of ignorance and suppression, to be saved by Enlightenment rationality, says a lot.

    Today’s problems are distinctly modern in character, with roots in aspects of Enlightenment rationality and how it spins out under particular circumstances. If Mr. Kotkin came to an understanding of this he would be better able to analyze them.

    • GSW says

      “a complete misunderstanding of the Middle Ages… Today’s problems are distinctly modern in character, with roots in aspects of Enlightenment rationality…” @A Prof

      Yes and yes – exactly.

      Grade: C-/C
      Comment: More research required.

      • BrainFireBob says

        I’d disagree a bit- but the timeline’s wrong. Today’s issues resemble nothing so much as the veneration of the Patristics over the classics and attempt to replace all learning thereof therein. The “de-colonial” movement in academia, in particular, bears striking resemblance to the veneration of the Patristics as a “more valid, alternate” education

  42. Steve Bowden says

    Great article. In education diversity is important. The most important diversity is diversity of thought. Students should be taught how to think not what to think, and we I impoverish our students when we allow them only one way of looking at the world.

  43. Ken says

    I want to thank you for yet again exposing how ignorant you are, Kotkin.

  44. Claudia Brown says

    This would be a more useful commentary if only your characterization of the Middle Ages were not the perfect example of historical amnesia….. First they came for Middle Ages, and made a complete, anti-religious hash out of them; then they came for the “Enlightenment” and the French Revolution, and made a pretentious silk purse out of a blood-caked, anti-intellectual pig’s ear; then they came for the Holocaust and said it didn’t happen, and now they come for 9/11 and say “some people did something…; and on and on. We’ve been here before, but it started much earlier than you care to admit.

  45. Kevin W says

    A big part of the reason that students don’t choose history and the classics anymore is summed up by the comments here. You’re tearing each other apart over issues that simply don’t appeal to most people, who now rightly see a college degree as the minimum requirement to get a good career in a competitive economy.

    Most of us tire quickly of career academics arguing over which philosopher was right or wrong about this or that, or the most important military battles of the 12th century, or the origins of certain words in use today. There is basically zero relevance of any of that to a kid who needs to get through Accounting Theory or C++.

    If I gathered 20 physicists together and asked them to put together a list of the most important developments in physics in the past century, they would argue and bicker for awhile and come up with a list of 10 things or so that they could all agree on. Do that for 20 historians–even if they’re all liberals or all conservatives–and they would shoot each other (metaphorically) and not come up with anything. And if I can get that just from reading some books at the library or on Real Clear History, isn’t that the better way, than by borrowing $450 per credit hour and cramming for essays and exams for the privilege of learning some professor’s point of view of what’s important, and which won’t matter at all when I’m on the job?

    Yes, it is. If you guys think it’s important for kids to study history–I assume the version you like, instead of the liberal professors you’re complaining about–you need to do a better job than what this comment thread is showing me so far. For most readers, we just assume that if you can’t figure out what good history is, no need for me to pay to learn it either.

    • BrainFireBob says

      Last paragraph @Kevin W., sounds like there’s a gap in communication.

      Whenever you want to try something new, the very first thing you should do is look for historic models to determined what did and did not work. That’s what people are upset about. There’s a deliberate attempt to turn history into a Hegellian narrative that allows glossing over “unfortunate” facts about how certain things just never work.

      It’s harder for politicians to lie if you actually understand rhetoric, rhetorical devices, and historic precedent.

      New Jersey spiked its tax rate on millionaires to cover a budget shortfall. So many used the free money they had to up and leave that New Jersey ended up with an even larger budget shortfall than they were trying to cover in the first place.

      Historically important when there’s a budget shortfall and the situation is then under consideration:

      1) Will it trigger them same effect?
      2) Is the situation sufficiently similar?

      If the Feds spiked taxes, probably not so much of an impact- leaving a nation being harder than state to state migration. But if you’re Vermont, you can take the New Jersey situation to heart.

      Further problematic: Most people make up their minds assuming they have enough information up front, and then accept or reject further information based on confirmation bias. If they received the information before they considered the question, you’ve short-circuited this effect.

  46. Nakatomi Plaza says

    “Across the world, most notably in the West, we are discarding the knowledge and insights passed down over millennia and replacing it with politically correct bromides cooked up in the media and the academy.”

    Nope. This is just a ridiculous, unsupportable argument. No serious writer or thinker would even dream about pursuing a thesis so broad and politically treacherous.

    Fox News for the college educated. That’s all this place really amounts to.

    • Kencathedrus says

      @Nakatomi Plaza: “Across the world, most notably in the West, we are discarding the knowledge and insights passed down over millennia and replacing it with politically correct bromides cooked up in the media and the academy.”

      Men can be women. White men are privileged. Gender is a social construct. Black people are oppressed. Science is an invention of the patriarchy. The police are Storm Troopers. Masculinity is a disorder. Transgenderism is perfectly natural. Everyone who disagrees is a hateful bigot etc. etc. I could go on forever like this.

      I understand your anger and fear, however. This belief system that worked so well for you has now run out of credit with the general populace. As a ‘progressive’, surely you can appreciate that values and culture change over time? I for one am curious to see how the US will evolve and advance itself over time.

      • BrainFireBob says

        Nakatomi is too consistently only emotive and neatly avoids engaging constantly if encountering reasoned opposition. There’s not a PM system on this site I’m aware of, but I’m reasonably confident this account is a paid troll looking to turn things into a cesspit to bring down the rep of the site.

        If not, NP is this vitriolic as a form of ego defense to resolve a crisis of ego brought on by the commentators here, and is resorting to dehumanizing them to maintain their sanity. Hence the need to engage.

  47. Pierre Pendre says

    It’s unsurprising that young Europeans are dubious about the nature of contemporary democracy and the superiority of democracy as a system.

    In the UK, they have witnessed a clear repudiation of democracy in the rejection by power-holding elites of the vote to leave the EU. The politico-media complex has openly portrayed their fight against Brexit as one between the educated and enlightened minority versus the uneducated, racist opponents of progress and the inevitable supranationalist future.

    In Europe, the EU has long behaved like an unaccountable force that overrides national sovereignty with the complicity of a transnational political class which is united in its allegiance to European federalism and the neutralisation if not abolition of the nation state. The main political parties in all the EU countries are pro-EU and all means, political and legal are used to frustrate anti-EU parties.

    The influence of the EU is so overwhelming that an outsider would never guess that support for a hegemonic Brussels bureaucracy is no more than 50/50 across Europe; France itself rejected the European constitution and Macron said he would never hold a Frexit referendum because he would expect to lose it.

    If you think that democracy – admittedly so diverse as to be difficult to define – is a vehicle to express the will of the people via elections and a consensual acceptance of their result, it’s easy to conclude that it’s not what you get in Europe. The EU, while still having some of the trappings of traditional democracy – such as its fake parliament -, is gradually ceasing to be the representative system that most voters expect it to be.

    True democracy is lateral whereas EU democracy, in the European catholic tradition in which it was constructed, is vertical. Young Europeans probably do not spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of democracy, it’s origins and ideals, but they will be aware even if only subconsciously that the present system deliberately shuts them out while pretending the opposite.

    Even so, I doubt that even someone so ignorant, because of inexperience, as a millennial would be sanguine about military coups. They may feel rather than think but one thing they have been taught by their inadequate education systems is contempt for the military.

  48. Etiamsi omnes says

    « Le meilleur gouvernement est une tyrannie bienveillante tempérée par un assassinat occasionnel. » VOLTAIRE

    “The best form of government is a benevolent tyranny checked by an occasional assassination.”

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  51. Richard Morgan says

    good read- well written. Books certainly are the food for man’s mind. Thanks, guys. You always serve up the best appetizers. When the masses start lining up at your doorstep to get in we’ll know the word is finally getting out. And truthfully, who among us ever gave a s**t about the food critics.

    The past, for me at least, is best digested as I filter this mind’s-fare from a broad literature-menu prepared medium rare in a classical, western world view manner. Modest portions, obviously, as gluttony in any form is a debasement. (Also, got to leave room for the relationship-dessert and love-aperitif at every meal, and one should never dine alone.)

    A debate about the superiority or frailty of the western technique in today’s culinary mind world would make for interesting conversation across all cultures and self-appointed sub-groups; assuming one could find a knowledgable chef from another kitchen. Alas, progressive agendas do not allow for hypothesis-test-measure recipes made up of natural rights ingredients and heavily spiced with reason and footnotes. These guys have not historically tolerated a good old fashioned cook-off.

    Power and consumption is the Left’s gruel of the day, undercooked from wilted, moldy ingredients in old and filthy kitchens, accompanied by all you can eat portions of tasteless materialism potatoes on the side. Might fill a man’s belly and give the cable news cafes a reason to open their doors, but not a lot of nourishment or flavor in this diet, I am afraid. As we say down here in Texas, “you a’int had real barbecue ’til you been to Austin”. These guys just don’t know what they’re missing.

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  54. Bernard Heise says

    There’s a lot of romanticizing in this piece. As far as I’m concerned, a “healthy appreciation” of the past includes recognizing the degree to which the history of Europe and Western Civilization has been that of a train wreck. One needs engage in a fair amount of mythological thinking to avoid that conclusion, in which case a little bit of historical analysis that focuses on race, gender, and class might be exactly what one needs to obtain a little enlightenment. It also isn’t such a good idea to identify with and remain beholden to the past (especially if you’re a historian) — and the author clearly regrets that this is no longer the case. I’m fully on board with criticizing the intolerance of PC culture, etc. But moving from the critique of such intolerance to this sort of romanticizing lament about how we are “cut off from our own culture” is a sleight of hand.

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  59. mort main says

    The “I” doesn’t exist either. I is a grammatical fiction.

  60. indie wifey says

    Ive long said: They who know the least think they know the most
    All we have for the “in this day n age” info-era factor is that the levels of assumptions + presumptions, that toxic recipe of anger and ignorance, exist as never before. Retribution and restitution talk 24-7 only stirs the pot, won’t solve a thing – Man is not yet noble enough to handle it well.
    Erasure truly worries me, has for some time, as yep we are doomed by logical conclusion to repeat past mistakes. Damn shame.

  61. Indie Wifey says

    As for middle age invocation, note ubiquitous image use to convey info/manipulate choice, from menus to cell phone addiction to two-second click-based Matrix sound byte society.
    Serfs in cathedrals were similarly coached.

  62. Great article, but I believe we disempower ourselves by using passive voice to describe what is happening to our civilization and whom is doing this to us. There are actual people, hell bent on destroying the legacies of western civilization in order to reinvent western civilization without the white people who built her. These anti-white intellectuals are in corporations, governments, universities, media, think tanks, and nonprofit corporations. We know their names. They are supported by foot soldiers from ANTIFA and all of the various Leftist agitator groups on the ground, each of them substantially funded by George Soros and hundreds of other Leftist revolutionary leaders. Instead of lamenting the demise of our civilization, why not identify these people by name and do all we can legally to stop this white genocide?

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