If you read enough leftist writing, you won’t have to wait too long before you find a writer using the word “hegemony” or its variants. Leftists are always complaining about the hegemony of this and the hegemony of that, but they never acknowledge those domains in which the hegemony is run by leftists and not conservatives.
This post (together with the author’s comments) is typical in that respect. The author makes various complaints about the way philosophy departments are run and how they ought to be run better. For example, the departments are dominated by white males, and they haven’t yet engaged with “questions of race, nation, empire, colonialism, violence, etc.” After all, the other humanities disciplines have managed to do this, so why is philosophy lagging behind?
All the remarks are done from the standpoint of Sixties leftism, and the author seems unaware that Sixties leftism now dominates most of academia (and so counts as hegemonic). But Sixties leftism has been around long enough that by now everyone should know what its weaknesses are (even though those who are part of it don’t seem able to see them):
1. Obfuscatory language that liberates no one. I’m not talking about people like Noam Chomsky or Martha Nussbaum, but rather the postmodernists, who often win bad-writing contests. The people in the other humanities disciplines just seem unable to avoid that nonsense, even though outsiders make fun of it.
2. The disappearance of class as an issue. Take the claim that white males dominate philosophy departments. Does the author believe that those white males come from a diverse set of economic backgrounds? Because almost certainly they don’t. Boys growing up with coal miner fathers in West Virginia just aren’t likely to be there. These are upper-class white males, but somehow the left just can’t bring itself to use the expression “rich white males.” Likewise, there is frequent talk these days about white privilege, but none about class privilege.
3. The failure to notice their own betrayal of poor whites during the last fifty years. Back in the 1960s, the left betrayed poor whites by favoring poor blacks over them. The left didn’t listen when poor whites complained about crime, about how the annoyances of busing were falling on them and not richer whites, about how their schools were being ruined, about how college tuition was rising too rapidly, and so on.
4. The failure to notice their own betrayal of Third-World liberals and leftists during the same period. At some point in the 1960s (or possibly the 1970s), the left simply abandoned any support for Third World liberals and leftists. They began favoring Third World conservatives instead. This is obviously very puzzling, but it has been exhibited in many ways, such as the tepid support for Salman Rushdie in the face of many death threats following the fatwa against him. The reason seems to come down to this: to support liberals and leftists from the Third World would mean hearing a lot about home-grown oppression in the Third World, and that would ruin the left’s message about how awful and oppressive the West is towards people in that part of the world. After all, if those countries are themselves oppressive, then why be so upset about the West's oppression?
5. The failure to notice the clash of their causes. Which is more important for the left, helping the environment or helping the poor? Not many leftists have figured out that they prefer to help the environment rather than the poor. They want the cost of gas and electricity to go up in price, for example, and they never seem to notice that the poor will be the obvious victims of such policies. Similarly, race seems more important than gender, as was shown by the recent disclosures of sexual abuse at Rotherham. People who knew about the abuse didn’t want to say anything because they were afraid of being called racists.
6. Reflexive and unthinking name-calling. At the link, the author keeps calling Brian Leiter a misogynist, apparently because recently Leiter happened to be targeting a number of women. The impression given is that he is a conservative, and one would never know from what the author says that conservatives despise him and that they themselves have been the targets of Leiter’s ire down through the years. Nor would one know that he has come out in favor of the professor (Steven Salaita) whose tweets against Israel caused him to lose out on a job at the University of Illinois. It is generally leftists who have come out in his support. Is it really fair to call someone a misogynist simply because, over a lifetime of foul-mouthed attacks on a variety of people, he has happened to pick on some women lately? Another example of this was that of Ann Cryer, a Labour politician who was a Member of Parliament. Back in 2002 she pointed out that Asian men were sexually abusing white teenaged girls in her district, but she got called racist for it. It is very unlikely that a member of the Labour party these days would be a racist, and anyway she was calling people’s attention to a disturbing problem. There just was no need to attack a fellow liberal or leftist in that way.
7. The failure to notice their own hegemony. Take, for example, the author’s claim that the other humanities disciplines have engaged with questions of race, etc, but that philosophy hadn’t done so. Why doesn’t this situation describe a hegemony, one in which the other departments represent a hegemon over philosophy? Another example is art history, which is dominated by white females. Does their dominance count as a hegemony, in the same way that the dominance of white males in philosophy does? If not, why not?
These are some of the weaknesses in the current hegemon of academia: Sixties leftists.