The Liberalism of Jewish Academics
Discussion of the sources of divisions in academic politics has thus far been restricted to factors intrinsic to scholarly life itself—variations related to experiences in the discipline and to the roles and culture associated with intellectuality. Numerous external elements also normally differentiate political behavior among the general public. Among them are class, religious and ethnic background, sex, age, and generational experiences. Some of these intrude upon academic politics.
One of the sharpest breaks in faculty political opinion separates persons of Jewish and Christian background; it is especially interesting because it appears to result from an intersection of intellectuality and social background. The Carnegie data, as well as those from other surveys, show Jews, nearly one-tenth of the American professoriate, to be highly predisposed to a left-of-center politics. And Jewish faculty are disproportionately liberal, it seems, both as a group response to historic discrimination and as a result of cultural experiences which commit them heavily to the role and values associated with the intellectual. The former element seems to be a "direct" consequence of social background; the latter results from background through a process in a sense "once removed." There is a link between Jewishness and intellectuality and, as we have seen, between intellectuality and political liberalism. Jewish academics, then, belong to two groups which have been more liberal or leftist politically than other strata or ethnic-religious collectivities.
Over fifty years ago, Thorstein Veblen ( 1934, pp. 221, 223-224) addressed himself to the issue of the "intellectual pre-eminence of the Jews," describing their contribution, which he linked to discontent, in highly laudatory terms: