Thursday, March 01, 2007


Despite David Horowitz's obsession with liberal academia, the fact is that there are pretty strong disincentives in academia, especially pre-tenure, for people to participate in the public sphere in anyway. Mark Schmitt:

Obviously, there's no factory for creating new Schlesingers or Galbraiths (although those two families do pretty well) but anything that can be done to change the system of incentives for young academics or would-be academics so that there are rewards to making relevant contributions to public life, rather than incrementally advancing some narrow question within their field, would be good.

And needless to say, creating those rewards for a certain kind of academic is one thing the right has done quite well. People don't suddenly wake up one day and become Paul Krugman. They need networks, encouragement, and places to publish. Like, for example, this magazine.

It varies from field to field and institution to institution, but in general doing anything to be a "public intellectual" is frowned upon if for no other reason (and there are others) than that it takes time away from "serious work."

And when academic experts, for example, go on NPR or whatever to discuss a particular issue, they're generally inclined to stick very narrowly to their area of expertise and not consider the wider political environment in which the particular issue exists (whatever the politics of the particular academic). This feeds into our side's "hack gap" problem, as they're often matched up with conservative think tankers whose job it is to understand very well the political contours of whatever debate they're engaged in.