By Theory Possessed
Tolson, Jay, The Wilson Quarterly
My father offered few words on the state of the world, but the few he volunteered were usually shrewd. I remember, in particular, what he used to say about college tuitions - "The more you pay, the less you seem to go."
Alas, my father didn't know the half of it. It was not merely that steeper tuitions bought less time. They also bought less content. A grossly oversimplified history may help explain.
Beginning in the mid-1960s or thereabouts, a revolution occurred in the liberal arts curricula of many of America's elite universities. This revolution consisted of a gradual but ineluctable movement away from substance toward theory, away from the empirical data of a field of studies (whether facts of history or works of literature or philosophy) toward ideological readings of the data. The theory of choice during these tumultuous years was a variety of neo-Marxism, usually served up with a dose of psychoanalytic theory, a la Herbert Marcuse. It was bracing stuff, and made a young sophomore feel pretty damn smart about the world. It was also one of the things that made so many members of the baby boom generation close to insufferable.
Some conservatives look back on this academic vogue as part of a vast left-wing, or even communist, conspiracy, but it wasn't that at all, unless the communists were even clumsier than we now know them to have been. No, this early flowering of the theory craze was far too incoherent and dreamy to serve any purposefully subversive political end. What it really represented was an attempt to forge a humanist countercultural religion on the ruins - or what were perceived to be the ruins - of …
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Publication information: Article title: By Theory Possessed. Contributors: Tolson, Jay - Author. Magazine title: The Wilson Quarterly. Volume: 18. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 1994. Page number: 4+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.