Liberal Bias in Academia: The role of Jewish academics in the creation and maintenance of academic liberalism

A study to be published in September in Current Directions in Psychological Science, prominent peer-reviewed academic journal, goes beyond the well-known fact that the vast majority of social psychologists are on the left (“Survey shocker: Liberal profs admit they’d discriminate against conservatives in hiring, advancement“).

Psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, based at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, surveyed a roughly representative sample of academics and scholars in social psychology and found that “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists admit that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues.” …

More than a third of the respondents said they would discriminate against the conservative candidate. One respondent wrote in that if department members “could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them.” …

Generally speaking, the more liberal the respondent, the more willingness to discriminate and, paradoxically, the higher the assumption that conservatives do not face a hostile climate in the academy. …

A 2007 report by sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons found that 80 percent of psychology professors at elite and non-elite universities are Democrats. Other studies reveal that 5 percent to 7 percent of faculty openly identify as Republicans. By contrast, about 20 percent of the general population are liberal and 40 percent are conservative. …

[While much larger percentages of faculty are economic conservatives,] the widest divide occurs on social issues, the contested terrain in the culture wars shaking the academy. On these contentious issues, 90 percent identified as liberal and only 4 percent as conservative.

Of course, social psychologists by definition perform research on social issues—precisely the areas where they are overwhelmingly liberal. Don’t expect any race realist research on criminality or ethnic differences in aggressiveness to come out of mainstream social psychology.

The authors originally questioned Jonathan Haidt’s finding that such a large percentage of social psychologists were liberal, but in the end they extended Haidt’s findings (see here and here). Haidt emphasizes that social psychology has become a tribal moral community in which those who publicly eschew liberal attitudes are seen as morally defective and therefore appropriate targets of shunning. As a result and as noted by Inbar and Lammers, because they are necessarily a silent minority, the very small numbers of conservative social psychologists cannot possibly act as a check on the liberal attitudes of their colleagues.

I have an article arguing that the liberal bent of the social sciences is the result of displacement of previously dominant WASP elite by Jews with a decidedly left of center perspective (Why are Professors Liberals? — A Corroboration of The Culture of Critique. The Occidental Quarterly, 10(2), Summer 2010). The article is essentially a commentary on a paper by two academic sociologists, Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse. It emphasizes Jewish issues and my own experience as a heretic from the liberal attitudes that are mainstream among academics. The main points are:

  • Because of the prestige of science in general, the social sciences are a critical force in shaping how we view ourselves. Social psychology, which deals with issues like discrimination and attitudes between races, is right at the center of forming elite opinion on critical issues related to race, ethnicity, immigration, etc.
  • Because leftist world views are entrenched in academia, liberals self-select to become professors, while conservatives come to realize that they will have to hide their opinions to remain a viable academic. IQ is not important.
  • Universities were relatively liberal even before the 1930s, but there was a pronounced shift to the left with the ascendancy of Jewish academics. This was particularly pronounced in the 1960s, although, e.g., Boasian anthropology, prepared the way by dominating anthropology by the 1920s.
  • The academic world is hierarchical, with top-down influence. Elite institutions are able to dominate the image of ideal professors (political liberalism is a criterion of being ideal), and they are able to police the academic world to ensure that non-liberal attitudes are excluded or at least marginalized. The work of Inbar and Lammers on discrimination by liberals clearly supports the latter proposition. As a result, elite academics are of particular concern to the liberal establishment. Hence the outrage over figures like E. O. Wilson, John Mearsheimer and Stephan Walt, and John Watson).
  • Jews are strongly overrepresented among academics, especially in the social sciences and especially at elite institutions. As a result they have wielded disproportionate power in creating the image of ideal academic attitudes and behavior.
  • The attitudes of Jewish academics are well to the left of Americans in general but are entirely in line with the mainstream Jewish community. As Inbar and Lammers note, around 40% of Americans label themselves conservative compared to well under 10% of academics. In the 2008 election, 80% of Jews voted for Obama, compared to around 40% of European-Americans. The Jewish identification with the left originated in the early 19th century and has remained consistent in the Western diaspora. At least through the formative decade of the 1960s, political radicalism was entirely mainstream within the Jewish community and had a strong effect on the intellectual climate of elite college campuses at that time (see here). The Jewish community, including professors, continues to be well left of White Americans on social issues.
  • The role of Jews in changing academic culture is consistent with other scholars. For example, intellectual historian David Hollinger

    calls attention to “a secular, increasingly Jewish, decidedly left-of-center intelligentsia based largely but not exclusively in the disciplinary communities of philosophy and the social sciences.” He notes “the transformation of the ethnoreligious demography of American academic life by Jews” (p. 4) in the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, as well as the Jewish influence on trends toward the secularization of American society and in advancing an ideal of cosmopolitanism.

  • Gross and Fosse subscribe to a conflict theory of cultural change (as do I; see Evolution, Psychology, and a Conflict Theory of Culture. Evolutionary Psychology, 7(2). 208–233 (2009)); They provide three characteristics of successful intellectual movements: (1) Those involved in the movement have a complaint. (2) They are able to form cohesive, effective networks; (3) They have access to the most prestigious academic institutions.
  • The body of the paper then shows that all of these themes are prominent in The Culture of Critique . Jews indeed had complaints (the long history of anti-Jewish attitudes and a sense of exclusion in homogeneously White, Christian America). They were able to form cohesive, effective networks, typically by citing and promoting each other. Reflecting the importance of elite institutions for successful intellectual movements, Jews had access to the most prestigious academic institutions.
  • Finally, the paper points to a parallel development in the academic world and beyond where Jews have made alliances with non-Whites and with Whites who also have complaints against the system (homosexuals, radical feminists). In the wider world, the Jewish alliance with non-Whites has meant that Jewish organizations were the predominant force in creating a White minority America and their involvement in promoting Blacks and other minorities. In the  academic world, the rise of the new Jewish elite was quickly followed by the establishment of departments and scholarly disciplines focused on minority and sexual grievance (e.g.., Black Studies; queer studies). Collectively, these departments now wield a great deal of power within universities; they are reliable proponents of the leftist, multicultural world view. 
  • The ability of the left to discriminate in hiring and promotion means that there is a very great inertia in the system.

A further point that is not in my paper is that the academic world is international. Because of the vastly greater numbers of researchers and resources committed to research, American social science has had a leadership role throughout the world. Open any textbook in the social sciences, whether in America or elsewhere in the West, and you will find that the great majority of the research cited is by American professors, with British professors a distant second.

Attitudes at elite academic institutions in the U.S. therefore become the ideal for the social sciences throughout the West. Liberal academics from other countries are welcomed in academic societies. But if, for example, a Norwegian academic society began to promote research and teaching with strong overtones of ethnonationalism, it would be expelled from international academic societies and excluded from having a presence at academic societies in the U.S. The hierarchical structure and international scope of academic societies make them particularly valuable resources in  ethnic competition. Jews understood this and have made the most of it.

The result is that the university as a very prestigious, elite institution has become a central manifestation of the hostile elite that is now dominant in the U.S. and throughout the West. 

149 replies

Comments are closed.