Academia, like the political Left generally, views the government labor unions – whose uncompromising greed has dealt a long series of crippling blows to the American economy – as indispensable bulwarks against capitalism’s depredations. The University Press of Colorado, for instance, tells us that its newly published Anthropology of Labor Unions documents how “union-organized workplaces consistently afford workers higher wages and better pensions, benefits, and health coverage than their nonunion counterparts,” and how “women and minorities who belong to unions are more likely to receive higher wages and benefits than their nonunion peers.” In a similar vein, Cornell University Press’s A New New Deal offers “a bold new plan to revitalize American labor activism and build a sense of common purpose between labor and community organizations.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praises this book for its “compelling vision of a new kind of labor movement.” SEIU official Keith Kelleher calls it “a welcome addition to the scholarship on this growing movement” between labor and community organizing.
Joining the anti-capitalist chorus of academic authors is Richard Posner, whose A Failure of Capitalism (published by Harvard University Press) contends that in order to avoid a recurrence of “the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008,” America’s “financial markets need to be more heavily regulated.” Another Harvard production, Commonwealth, completes an anti-capitalist trilogy by the revolutionary Marxist co-authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Not to be outdone, Princeton University Press’s Fault Lines, by economist Raghuram Rajan, condemns America’s “growing inequality,” its “thin social safety net,” and its people’s “unequal access to education and health care.”
Another of Princeton Press’s contributions to the world of ideas is The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History, which mocks “the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to ‘take back America.’” This book asserts “that the far right has embraced a narrative about America’s founding that is not only a fable but is also … a variety of fundamentalism – anti-intellectual, antihistorical, and dangerously antipluralist.” These themes have found a receptive audience with such academic luminaries as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who has demonstrated his own unique talent for feeling the proverbial pea of racism under a thousand mattresses, and Columbia University professor Eric Foner, an unabashed apologist for communism.
One of conservatism’s most objectionable hallmarks, says the academic Left, is its tendency to deal with crime by punitive measures rather than by the purportedly more enlightened “therapeutic” approach that led to the catastrophic, skyrocketing violent-crime rates of the 1960s and 70s. Not the least bit averse to resurrecting the ghosts of failed and discredited ideas, Harvard University Press’s Rethinking Juvenile Justice calls for a softer strategy by courts and law-enforcement. Most notably, the book opposes the practice of sentencing juveniles to adult prison terms for even the most heinous crimes, explaining that “juvenile justice should be grounded in the best available psychological science,” which shows that “although adolescents are not children, they are also not fully responsible adults” either.
Yale University Press, meanwhile, has just released Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America, wherein author Anne-Marie Cusac laments that “since 1973, America’s imprisonment rate has multiplied over five times to become the highest in the world” – a fact which prompts Cusac to ask, with melancholy: “What does this say about our attitudes toward criminals and punishment? What does it say about us?” Most notably, the author contends that “the dramatic rise in the use of torture and restraint, corporal and capital punishment, and punitive physical pain” is an outgrowth of “changes in dominant religious beliefs, child-rearing practices, politics, television shows, movies, and more.” “America now punishes harder and longer and with methods we would have rejected as cruel and unusual not long ago,” says Cusac.
Just as America, according to academic visionaries, is unjust in its treatment of criminals, so does it relegate homosexuals to second-class status. This core belief has given rise to a significant body of literature rebelling against our nation’s “homophobia.” One of the more impenetrable texts of this genre is Reading Chican@ Like a Queer: The De-Mastery of Desire, authored by women’s studies professor Sandra Soto and published by the University of Texas Press. Soto “replaces” the “race-based oppositional paradigm” that “has informed Chicano studies since its emergence,” with “a less didactic, more flexible framework geared for a queer analysis of the discursive relationship between racialization and sexuality.” Moreover, she “demonstrates that representations of racialization actually depend on the sexual and that a racialized sexuality is a heretofore unrecognized organizing principle of Chican@ literature, even in the most unlikely texts.” It is not unreasonable to assume that the people of Texas, whose tax dollars support the university and its publishing house, would be horrified to learn that their hard-earned money is being used to finance the production of garbage like this.
The University of Arkansas Press, meanwhile, has published The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South, “a one-of-a-kind study of gay and lesbian life in Arkansas in the twentieth century.” The author, Brock Thompson, “analyzes the meaning of rural drag shows, including a compelling description of a 1930s seasonal beauty pageant in Wilson, Arkansas, where white men in drag shared the stage with other white men in blackface, a suggestive mingling that went to the core of both racial transgression and sexual disobedience.” Georgetown University Press, for its part, offers us Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation – “the first systematic analysis of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political representation.”
America’s Historical Sins
As we watch academic presses disparage America for so many perceived sins – its maltreatment of homosexuals, its inequitable criminal-justice system, its reckless environmental practices, its unreasonable immigration restrictions, its noxious economic structure, and its intolerance toward the practitioners of minority religious faiths – we cannot be surprised by the appearance of Harvard University Press’s America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity, which aims to discredit entirely the U.S. government’s efforts to contain Soviet aggression during the tense decades that followed World War II. In particular, this book derides the “apocalyptic anti-communism” that fueled the Cold War which not only claimed “trillions of dollars in defense spending and the lives of nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers,” but also saw “American actions overseas” that “led to the death of millions of innocent civilians and destabilized dozens of nations that posed no threat to the United States.”
Another Harvard book, Invisible War, charges that, by way of “the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq from 1990 to 2003,” the United States “brought about the near collapse of Iraq’s infrastructure and profoundly compromised basic conditions necessary to sustain life.” By “prevent[ing] critical humanitarian goods from entering Iraq,” says author Joy Gordon, “the deliberate policies of the United States ensured the continuation of Iraq’s catastrophic condition.”
But academia is quick to remind us, of course, that U.S. malfeasance is by no means limited to modern times; indeed, all of American history is presented as a virtually uninterrupted narrative of oppression and exploitation. The University of North Carolina Press’s latest contribution to this genre is From Chicaza to Chickasaw: The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540-1715, which “examines the European invasion and the collapse of the pre-contact Mississippian world and the restructuring of discrete chiefdoms into coalescent Native societies in a colonial world.”
If America is the object of academia’s scorn, so, by logical extension, is America’s close ally Israel. In The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb – published by Columbia University Press – author Avner Cohen contends that the Jewish state’s unspoken yet widely recognized possession of a nuclear arsenal “is incompatible with the norms and values of a liberal democracy” because it “relies on secrecy, violates the public right to know, and undermines the norm of public accountability and oversight.” Meanwhile, the University Press of Florida has seen fit to publish Palestinian Women and Politics in Israel, which laments what it views as the allegedly low status of women in the tiny democratic oasis tucked amidst the largest collection of misogynistic autocracies anywhere on the planet. Author Suheir Abu Oksa Daoud, through the lens of “feminist theory and theories of colonial domination,” examines the “culture of political oppression” that has resulted in an underrepresentation of women – “especially … Palestinian women” – in Israeli politics.
Pacifism also ranks high among the values of the academic presses. Abilene Christian University Press in Texas has produced Radical Ecumenicity, which examines the work of the late theologian John Howard Yoder, a radical Christian pacifist who called on the faithful to reject militarism in all forms and in all circumstances, even in the defense of self or of innocent victims of aggression elsewhere in the world. “By refusing to extend the chain of vengeance,” said Yoder, we can gain the perspective necessary to recognize the evils “of economic exploitation, of military and imperial domination, and of westernization.”
In the final analysis, university presses reflect academia’s dominant worldviews in every way – promoting the tenets of doctrinaire leftism as it pertains to such topics as environmental policy, immigration, criminal justice, economics, gay rights, pacifism, Western culture, and many more. While the sales of these books may be small in number, their influence, as noted earlier, can be very significant. That influence inevitably will serve to push, however incrementally, societal opinions and mores further to the left along the ideological spectrum. Like the overwhelming majority of professors in American higher education, the university presses fail miserably at the task of exposing their audiences to “both sides of the story.” But then, that was never a task to which they had any genuine commitment.
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