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The Forum > Article Comments > The humanities in Australian universities > Comments

The humanities in Australian universities : Comments

By Chris Lewis, published 27/2/2014

The ideological preferences of many staff make it impossible to pursue truth for its own sake in Australian unis today.

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Hi Chris; Enjoyed reading your article - though a few responses.

There may be a 'broadly left' bias in some Humanities departments - but I believe much if that would comprise of post-modernists, identity politics advocates; and a good number of small 'l' liberals and 'Third Way' advocates etc. (and the 'Third Way' is pretty well Centrist in many respects anyway) So Marxism, critical theory, radical (let's say Rawlsian) social liberalism - all need representation too.

I also think that pluralism needs to be meaningful and authentic at all levels of the public sphere. So for instance the Left - including the radical Left - needs more exposure in print media and talkback radio. And perhaps Conservatives need a reasonable level of representation in Humanities departments?

Basically all historically important schools of thought should be taught; and arguably conservatives should assist in the teaching of conservatism - and socialists in the teaching of the range of Left thought. But the other way also: so students are exposed to truly critical perspectives from each side. And no-one should have to fear poor marks just because their tutors/examiners etc don't agree with what they have to say...

Further: Bolt seems to think Marxists are 'over-represented'; But how many departments teach Marxism these days? And 'cultural Marxism' is a furphy as Marx's central arguments are economical... And post-modernists celebrate the 'margins' whereas orthodox Marxists seek root and branch change. So the post-structuralists, post-Marxists - are not Marxist in the usual sense - if at all...
Posted by Tristan Ewins, Thursday, 27 February 2014 8:30:23 AM
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Thanks Tristan.

Agree with what you say about the need for a variety of views in the press. Would doubt any sane person would disagree with that.

But, not sure whether the diversity that exists in the humanities in Australia, at least from experience, is good enough.

Sure, many are successful at producing lots of articles, but I have met few that appear capable of putting all the pieces together in the way I would expect from a top class humanities scholar.

To be honest, I don't either, but the difference is I admit it.

In fact, I think the whole model for funding the research of humanities is a bit of a joke from both a self-interested and public perspective. Could be my next article for OLO down the track.
Posted by Chris Lewis, Thursday, 27 February 2014 9:08:07 AM
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It's funny, isn't it, that even among those who genuinely hunger for knowledge and certainty, there is more evidence of argument and division than there is of consensus.

Surely, if we we humans were following a rational, logical progression of thought (about any matter) we would, if our processes were without flaws, end up at the same position and reach the same conclusions!

Alas, this is not the case.

In many fields, psychology, philosophy,etc. we find devotees that follow this school of thought or that or borrow a bit here and a bit there.

Of course the human brain is a treacherous thing. It pulls us this way, then that, until all that's left is confusion or madness!
Posted by David G, Thursday, 27 February 2014 9:15:04 AM
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Tristan
"So Marxism, critical theory, radical (let's say Rawlsian) social liberalism - all need representation too."

Something that's untrue does not "need representation" in university faculties, and we have just established that Marxism is untrue, that you cannot defend it, and that you are guilty of intellectual evasion in what you are arguing, as are all socialists.

Notice how no-one who claims Marx's contribution was "economic" will dare to defend that blatantly stupid claim from total demolition?
http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=16050&page=0

Furthermore Marx's influence reaches throughout the humanities because all of the schools of thought you mention share the *assumptions* which you share, based on Marx's garbled economics, that individual freedom and private ownership - capitalism - are intrinsically exploitative and unstable and unfair, and the worst thing in the history of the world; and that the state has the responsibility to fix it up. Rawls' theory of justice is nothing but an ex post facto rationalisation of this marxoid premise.

Indeed Marx's influence in the humanities was so profound that many people considered conservative or favourable to capitalism, hold to key assumptions in Marx's orthodoxy, such as Keynes's view that the business cycle originates in unregulated capitalism - (conveniently ignoring government's monopoly of money and credit) - and Milton Friedman's idea that government has some kind of presumptive competence to economize the supply of money!

These trace straight back to your religion of blind state-worship based in Marx.

The true class analysis of government funding of universities is that the state, being built on a legal monoply of force and fraud, has need of the services of intellectuals to justify its existence, otherwise the exploitation and slavery that you advocate, would be all too obvious to its victims.

Even in Marx's own terms, government funding of humanities cannot be anything but propaganda for exploitation.

It is unjustifiable and should be abolished.
Posted by Jardine K. Jardine, Thursday, 27 February 2014 9:26:03 AM
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Chris, surely you understand that your piece reflects your own bias. Just where is that centre line? Iím sure there where many students who thought the professors you thought were lefties, they thought were right wingers.
The fact that most people who study the humanities and science in general tend to lean to the left reflects, probably reflects the general injustice and selfishness of our culture.
Posted by Cobber the hound, Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:03:26 AM
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Is it really surprising that people who believe the government should redistribute wealth to support the less productive tend to work in government-funded institutions, with no clear economic goals or any means of measuring their productivity? I think self-selection is going on here.

For my part, I selected myself out of the public service thirty years ago, after I returned from an overseas holiday and discovered that everything I had worked on in the six months preceding my departure had been shelved. Given the resources required to prepare that material, that put my productivity well into negative figures. It was either resign, or bury my self-esteem.

But as long as the taxpayer can be tricked into supporting them, there will be people who are happy to take others' money for doing little or nothing of value, and institutions that allow them to do so.
Posted by Jon J, Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:03:28 AM
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