The Divided Academy: Professors and Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

5. Class, Intellectuality, and
Academic Politics

Since the emergence of the university as a base from which radical critics of social policy have pressed their views, there has been considerable discussion of the internal dynamics of university politics, relating differences to status variations. Two diametrically opposed theories regarding academic status have been advanced. Some radical critics have applied an economic self-interest or "class" theory to account for the views of the relatively conservative portion of academe. They have contended that those who consult for government and business, who receive large research grants, who hold tenured and high-salaried positions, who publish extensively, and who dominate the professional activities of their disciplines have been co-opted into "the system." Successful academics, along with other members of society's "establishment," have the most to lose from any significant change and uphold a conservative stance.

Another body of sociological analysis, which can be traced back to the French Revolution, has contended that the posture of academics as social critics derives in some large part from the nature of the intellectual role, from its emphasis on innovation, on creativity, on rejection of the traditional and the established within given fields of inquiry. 1 The argument that intellectuals, including academic scholars, are rewarded for being original suggests that the "achievers" within the academy will be more socially critical than those who are less involved in, or less successful at, research and scholarly tasks. Evidence in assorted studies of academe is relevant to evaluating both sets of interpretations.


THE CLASS THEORY OF INTELLECTUAL RADICALISM

Conservative polemicists have frequently explained the anti-Establishment or radical politics of certain intellectuals as a product of frustra

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1
Parts of this larger argument were discussed in Chapter 1, especially pp. 9-14.

-125-

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