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Critique of Pure Academicism
When Academic Institutions and Their Members ‘Gaslight’ the Public
In my invited article for the upcoming Encyclopedia on Heroism Studies, I go to great lengths to distinguish between true power and “guise of power.” This distinction is important in a time of authoritarianism, when true authority is replaced by “guise of authority.” The same holds for true academia. The difference between rigorous academia and pretenses of it is increasingly blurred with the corruption and compromise of the Academy, which go hand-in-hand with the dramatic “dumbing down” of the public to render it more docile and easier to dominate.
This was my objection to Yale, since, even though I had returned after turning down a faculty position at Harvard for its “mediocrity”—looking back, what I was witnessing was compromises with the non-academic world—and was buoyed in the beginning at the prospect of teaching excellent students at Yale Law School, a rift was inevitable. The Law School increasingly withdrew from its previous emphasis on public interest law—what attracted me to the School—to become another “pipeline to the Supreme Court.” And the compromises I thought I had escaped in leaving Harvard were now catching up at Yale with accelerated speed.
As happens when leadership diminishes in competence, requirements for faculty promotion also kept stacking up, and I chose to leave the track altogether, as it seemed designed for people who had nothing else to do—and no inner direction! When some senior faculty who saw my publications asked why I was not a full professor, I gave an honest answer: I wished more to mingle with “true” leaders of my field than with those who merely fought for and occupied administrative positions (and who in my view increasingly squandered, rather than added to, the institution’s renown). These were the very administrators who finally terminated me from Yale based on my public speech, even though my student and faculty evaluations remained to the end not only satisfactory but top-caliber.
Hence is the Zeitgeist of our times: the public rarely interfaces with the quality, prolific, and creative scholarship that abounds in this country, because administrators gatekeep positions and other corrupt institutions such as the American Psychiatric Association shut down public discourse when it is likely to expose its own hypocrisy and mediocrity. The net result is that true academia is replaced with its “guise”, which brings me to an exchange I have had with a government and law professor from another English-speaking country:
Dear Dr. Lee:
[As an academic who reads and writes on psychoanalysis-informed political science,] I think you might understand why I am drawn to your work, particularly in relation to Trump and his catalytic influence on the behaviour of a large minority of the U.S. population….
While I am [a supporter—nay, even a fan—]good academic practice leads me to seek out critiques of your work, which I am happy to say are very positive. However, I came across what I think is a negative one by Bruce Gilley back in 2021 accusing you of “minjung millenarianism.” Further investigation of Dr. Gilley leaves me doubting his values and credibility and even more so when he suggests you move towards an endgame beyond:
just the small matter of replacing democracy with spiritual-cum-psychoanalytic experts, to “restore societal mental health by removing threats to public health and safety.” The longer game is nothing short of a People’s Republic of Total Consciousness.
My reading of you on the subject is more akin to wanting a bus driver to have to take a bus driving test before driving a school bus, rather than a desire to take over the whole transport system. Nevertheless, I am writing to ask whether you have responded to this somewhere and briefly what your response would be.
His brilliant analogy is also informative (better than how I could have explained it!). I responded:
Dear Prof. C.:
I have not responded to the “minjung millenarianism,” but I wonder if I should, because there is a dangerous trend of primary processes entering into academia—that is, “reasoning” based on an emotional compulsion of wishing that something were true, rather than on logical inference. Nowhere is this demonstrated more than in his statement in another article:
After my article was published, Lee wrote to the journal demanding that the article be removed and threatening a lawsuit. The editors demurred but invited her to submit a letter or a response article. She declined, saying the article was not worthy of a response. She then said she was part of a group of academics planning a class-action suit against conservative publications that criticize the behavior of academics like herself. We have heard nothing since.
This borders on being delusional! What actually happened was, I wrote to the journal requesting an opportunity to write a rebuttal to his error-filled article. It refused, and I was unhappy but left it at that, as it would not be the first time; far more prestigious publications declined or even refused to publish my pieces that editors and even a chief editor (as at the New York Times) had already accepted, but on no occasion did I demand that anything be taken down or threaten to sue. The audacity to lie so blatantly!
What is your opinion as to the usefulness of a response?
That said, I am not as concerned about Gilley’s antics, as much as a trend of “guise of academia” arising. If we responded to every one of these, where does it stop—with climate science? Covid responses? “False memory syndrome”? More serious is the problem of academia abandoning its obligations as a source of knowledge, to act as a “rubber stamping” of desired political views or even corruption—for then the very value of the Academy is called into question. Much like Psychiatry under the Soviet Union, or the American Psychiatric Association under Donald Trump, would its very existence become not only useless but harmful?