Is my university a particularly leftist bubble?
December 15, 2019 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm constantly confused. I go to university. I study Anthropology and History. I'm not the best student, but I try and do my readings. I'm constantly told in some nominally progressive places online that I'm living in some sort of leftist alternate reality, that doesn't reflect the consensus on a range of issues. Well, Marx is in the syllabus, and Hayek isn't. Is that unusual?

I know that an awful lot of people are never going to, whether because of interest or class or a whole range of reasons, be able to do an arts degree. I may not be able to finish one myself. Nonetheless, it seems weird that I'm constantly being told that whatever my lecturers show me is a fringe leftist position.

Anth 1001 taught us the labour theory of value. A week where we don't read at least one perspective on an issue which is inclusive of Marxian perspectives would be an odd one. Class is never to be ignored, but always considered as part of a holistic approach to understanding anything. Nonetheless, only a couple of lecturers identify openly as Marxists. Certainly idealism is rampant throughout the discipline.

History units are slightly less leftist, but if only because we spend more time on issues like empire, colony and race than class. Nonetheless, it certainly seems like it'd be difficult to get through a history degree without being exposed to a number of arguments about the nature of history, and whether class conflict is a dominant force.

Are my lecturers bizarrely Marxist? I can link my uni and faculty pages to anyone who could offer specific advice, but I'm relucatant to advertise.

It just has always seemed confusing. At one point I sort of assumed that people who'd experienced similar things might have a similar understanding of the world. This was a mistake. So what is the default level of Marxism in an arts degree?

The conservative line is that arts students are all filthy commies, so when I got to uni and there seemed to be a core of truth, I assumed that it was true everywhere. Well.

I tend to be more of a commie than my professors, but they also don't seem to be critical of that tendency in me. If anything, they seem happy to have radical leftists in their classes. A lot are signed on to BDS pledges and are union members, but I'd not call most comrade.

So, is it unusual for an arts degree to provide an introduction into Marxist theories and left-wing perspectives? Is cultural anthropology dominated by left-wing theorists? Is the study of history elsewhere not done in such a manner as to consider class relevant? Why am I constantly feeling like I'm bringing up wild conspiracy theories when I'm barely doing more than rephrase what my lecturers tell me?
posted by Acid Communist to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t think your school sounds unusual. Remember, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

I’m more familiar with the sciences at state universities, but even in that scene, faculty and staff tend to lean left.

It’s fairly widely acknowledged that highly educated people are more liberal, and growing moreso.

Then there’s the problem that right wing folks are becoming increasingly anti-education and anti-intellectual, with many now believing that colleges and universities are harmful to society. And in a way they are correct, because education undermines class (and race, sex, religious) oppression that they think should be a big part of society.

All this adds up to the fact that you’re not going to find many right leaning anthro or history departments in the USA, and hence your experience seems typical to me.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:09 AM on December 15, 2019 [15 favorites]

Noting that I see you're in Australia, while I'm in the US and things Can Be Different.

So, is it unusual for an arts degree to provide an introduction into Marxist theories and left-wing perspectives?

Assuming "arts" means just "not science" and not "fine arts," that seems very normal.

Is cultural anthropology dominated by left-wing theorists?

It would be fair to say it's dominated by people that a randomly-selected person would be likely to call left-wing.

Is the study of history elsewhere not done in such a manner as to consider class relevant?

I'm not sure what you're asking here. Are you thinking that the "leftist bubble" talk is about your program in particular as opposed to other programs? I think you should be thinking of it as "cultural anthro and history programs are leftist bubbles compared to society at large" or "...compared to the academy at large," since that includes a bunch of science, engineering, and social science types who trend at least less to the left.

Why am I constantly feeling like I'm bringing up wild conspiracy theories when I'm barely doing more than rephrase what my lecturers tell me?

Cultural anthro profs offer fringe positions because they're legitimately a fringe insofar as they're rare on the ground. How many are there in Australia, a couple hundred? They're gathered together with similar, shared interests, trained in a relatively few similar programs, and offer positions that come from that training. They offer positions and theories that don't include input from the array of bogans who vastly outnumber them.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

What you're encountering is the anti-intellectualism prevalent in mainstream culture in the Western world. These are not "fringe" theories, but solidly Left of center. Artists think outside the box, so generally lean Left (though not all). You're learning about theories that have shaped contemporary thought in the arts and humanities. Right-wing philosophies have had little to no impact in shaping serious artistic theory and production. They tend to ignore humanitarian issues in favor of economic progress. I have an anthro degree and am a historian (though in the US) and it's the same here. The Right is deeply suspicious of cultures outside of its own. The diversity of experience, cultural norms and religions that we learn about in anthropology scares them, because to them, being Western and mainstream (and Christian) is the only legitimate way of existing. It's a scarcity mentality that says "if others are given equal treatment then something is taken from me." Or maybe it makes them question their value system and threaten to leave them with no "truth" to hold onto in a scary world. You can look at Western culture through the eyes of an anthropologist and interrogate its norms and values just as you would any culture. Xenophobia is deeply ingrained in the culture of the Right.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:18 AM on December 15, 2019 [34 favorites]

Here’s the thing: Marxism was such a powerful force in 20th century historiography that any History program that doesn’t provide a detailed overview of Marxist thought would be committing professional malpractice. There’s simply no way for you to understand what many historians are saying with knowing Marxist historiography. The same is true of other ideologies in other times. You just can’t make sense of much of the Victorian histories of the Middle Ages without understanding the Reformation, for example.

It’s true that many of your professors are probably liberal-to-leftist. What critics don’t understand is that they can usually separate their personal politics from the curriculum. I had always pegged one of my favorite professors as a bit conservative - he was older, wore a tie every day, insisted on proper grammar even in discussions, etc. - until I went to his office and it was covered in radical paraphernalia. (Turns out he was gay, too. I had no idea.) Not everyone can do this; I had another professor, supposedly of English composition, who just showed “Roger and Me” and stuff like that and then let us “write about it”. But most can.

Certain perspectives come up more in certain areas than others. You will certainly read more Marxist historiography about Latin America than you would for, say, the Byzantine Empire. And some of that is selection bias: a lot of people who study Latin American history started doing so because of things like the Pinochet coup or the Contras.

All that said, there’s more ideological diversity in academia than people realize. It makes sense, if you think about it. These are people who think for a living. They’re unlikely to obediently follow a party line, whether that party is the Democrats/Labour or the Communist Party. There are thousands of idiosyncratic micro-ideologies flourishing on campuses. Not for nothing are Libertarians more prominent on college campuses than in the “real world”. And despite what you may hear, there are conservatives, even in the humanities - increasingly so as classically liberal education is a part of the traditionalist movement.

The point of a liberal education is to provide enough background that you can evaluate competing theories on your own and decide for yourself. Although that is actually somewhat of a political statement itself...
posted by kevinbelt at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2019 [26 favorites]

There's nothing weird about it at all. Marx isn't some boogeyman; he's one of the pre-eminent theorists of history and economics in the 19th century, and his method of analysis hugely influences all scholarship afterwards.

You should probably be reading some Hayek too, though.
posted by Nelson at 7:37 AM on December 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

I think there are a couple of ways to answer this.

Part of what is going on is that since the Cold War, it's been hard for leftist ideas to get traction in most mainstream institutions in the English-speaking world, because people with power considered those ideas to be dangerous and worked to exclude them. Academia has been a partial exception to that: because of norms about academic freedom, there was more space in the academy for true leftism than there has been in, say, government or the mainstream media. I don't know about Australia, but in the US, leftists were purged from labor unions, so that hasn't been the source of leftist thought that it could have been. So in that sense, academia is outside the mainstream, but mostly because leftism has been excluded from other powerful social institutions.

But because there's been more space for leftism in academia than elsewhere, leftists have been drawn to academia. That means that they're overrepresented in academia and also that they've had some power to promote their own ideas and exclude other perspectives. There also may be some things that make academia unappealing to modern conservatives and to some extent liberals, who have access to better sources of money, status, and power. So you're probably not hearing about major intellectual currents which are primarily developed outside of the academy (and particularly the humanities and social sciences side of the academy), unless you're seeking those currents out yourself, which I suspect you're not.

So I guess that I would say that the issue is partly that you live in a bubble, and it's partly that you're exposed to valid and important ideas that other people aren't exposed to, because they live in another, much bigger bubble. And I think it would probably behoove you to engage seriously with conservative and liberal ideas, because they're out there and they're shaping our world, but you can probably do just fine in school without doing that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:44 AM on December 15, 2019 [10 favorites]

You are in a bubble in the sense that right now, you are surrounded by people who know a ton about history and ways of thinking about history as patterns, and this is not the norm outside of university or a few other select professions. Thinking of all the people we encounter in life, only a sliver have spent extensive time learning history and studying patterns of thought or philosophy about history. The vast majority of that sliver will have subscribed to others’ theories about it rather than come up with their own, which is how we have schools of thought and the like. Maybe your professors have similar (even broadly similar) backgrounds and that explains why some things keep coming up in your courses and other things don’t.

Because 99% of people don’t have the knowledge, time, or interest to explore theories of history (let alone facts about history), the arguments you might make to them probably do kind of seem like conspiracy theories—what are conspiracy theories if not wrong and overwrought attempts to force history into a pattern (“it’s all connected!”)? Your (valid) arguments would sound similar to someone without knowledge of the subject.

You are in a bubble, but it’s a good bubble to be in—one I wish more people could experience. You can stay in and try to help expand that bubble by making history or philosophy your profession, or leave and do something else but put work in to keep up with developments, or (like most of us) slowly start forgetting but retain the broad outlines as your brain gets crammed with other (and more banal) things.
posted by sallybrown at 7:47 AM on December 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

I tend to be more of a commie than my professors, but they also don't seem to be critical of that tendency in me. If anything, they seem happy to have radical leftists in their classes.
I mean, you're someone who engages seriously with ideas and thinks that the things you're studying really matter. I assume pretty much any professor in the world is going to consider you a gift from on high. It's a whole lot more fun to teach students who give a shit than those who are looking for an excuse to party for a few years or who need a credential, and most professors would rather teach a zealot than a box-ticker, assuming that you're not scary or obnoxious, which it doesn't sound like you are.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:17 AM on December 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

I would suggest that you are unlikely to get a good answer to your question on this site.

Political and moral assumptions are kind of like air: they are such a fundamental part of our experience of the world that it's hard to even notice them except as a normal feature of our reality. For anyone who shares the assumptions of your professors (which is 99% of the commenters here), those assumptions will simply seem true, or like the natural way that any intelligent person experiences the world. So you get responses like "Nope, reality is just that way" or "The only bubble you're in is the bubble of correctness and intelligence!"

(These responses are, by the way, exactly the same answers you'd get if you asked a medieval theology professor whether their university had a Christian bias.)

If you are interested in exploring the extent to which the current opinions of academics in your field are indeed the inevitable result of being well-read and intelligent, or are instead influenced by fashion, politics, power-reward structures, or other features, I'd recommend digging more into the history of your field.

Skim some anthropology journals from the 1940s, the 1910s, or the 1880s. See if you can track down a meta-history of debates over some set of research methods or theoretical frameworks in your field. Chances are you will notice (a) that the scholars in these eras were also extremely smart, well-read and committed to high-quality research; (b) that they held with perfect conviction some (to a 2019 person) very surprising beliefs; and (c) that some debates that seemed urgently important at the time have simply faded out of relevance. Then you can ask yourself whether the changes in beliefs over time were produced by any new access of empirical data, or instead merely reflected shifts in social norms and values secondary to wider changes in the culture outside the academy.

This exercise is great for giving you a sense of the ways in which intelligent, well-read, highly cultured, reality-oriented people can indeed hold different fundamental assumptions in different eras and cultural contexts. At that point, you may be better positioned to evaluate which parts of your professors' viewpoints are "biased," and in what ways.
posted by yersinia at 8:32 AM on December 15, 2019 [17 favorites]

IME contemporary cultural anthro is a pretty left-leaning discipline, at least in the Anglophone/Western European context. Whether that's a "bubble" or not really depends on how much exposure you have to other ways of thinking.

Marx's main field of study sort of headed rightward while anthro was veering left - if you took Political Science or Economics you would almost certainly run into a lot more Hayek (and Ricardo and Veblen and etc.).


is it unusual for an arts degree to provide an introduction into Marxist theories and left-wing perspectives?
Is cultural anthropology dominated by left-wing theorists?
Is the study of history elsewhere not done in such a manner as to consider class relevant?
Depends. "History" is a big tent.
Why am I constantly feeling like I'm bringing up wild conspiracy theories when I'm barely doing more than rephrase what my lecturers tell me?
Probably a combination of things. But ever since Henry George (at least) there has been a pretty widespread attempt to paint certain perspectives on class and labor as fringe/wingnut views.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Let me play devils advocate. “Nonsense” is something that can be explored and studied. The recognition that nonsense is nonsense offers very little material.

I’m not saying I believe this applies (I’m more agnostic, myself). I’m just throwing it in there.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:43 AM on December 15, 2019

I'll say this. In my experience, "Marxist" readings in a college humanities course doesn't mean "encouraging adherence to a Marxist political program," something few professors and even fewer students are on board with, but "using Marxist styles of analysis," which means "when you think about an artwork or a political or social phenomenon, one good question to ask is who spent money to cause that thing to be created and maintained, and what their economic interest was in spending money that way." That kind of analysis is actually pretty common among people with both left and right politics, and has always seemed like common sense to me. Of course it can go wrong when one starts seeing artworks and social phenomena as merely economic products downstream from class interests, but most professors love nuance and don't fall into this trap.
posted by escabeche at 9:47 AM on December 15, 2019 [20 favorites]

Certain academic departments, at the graduate level, in many disciplines, are known for being "the Marxist place", and this filters down into the undergraduate courses. For example UMass Amherst is known for having a Marx-leaning economics department. It's an academic specialty, in the same sense as "oh that biology department is really big in genomics" or whatever. You might be at one of these places in whatever your department is.

I think the reality is, most of academia ranges from progressive to various kinds of radical left, but actual orthodox Marxist thinking is pretty rare nowadays so you might be in an unusual environment.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:59 AM on December 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

You sound like an earnest, self-critical, and conscientious young person, so I'm going to give you a piece of advice that might have aided e, s-c, & c me back in the day: start working on learning when a criticism is being made in bad faith. The next time someone tells you you're in a bubble, ask them, "So what major arguments/models do you feel are simply being ignored in my classes? Which body of facts is being overlooked? And what are the institutional mechanisms creating this 'bubble'?" A modest number of them will have serious, detailed answers, and you can investigate and see whether you believe them. (Remember, the real question is whether you're getting exposed to arguments to a degree proportional to their apparent merit.) Many, many of them won't, or they'll be citing one mass-market book or something. Then ask yourself, about both groups, how they benefit from claiming not merely that your professors are wrong--as yersinia points out, the academic consensus has certainly been wrong many times over--but that you are "in a bubble"--which is a separate argument designed to delegitimize the institution and academia generally. Cui bono?

It will take some time, but you will learn to distinguish by their rhetoric between people who have real arguments about underconsidered academic positions, people who aren't that smart and just have hobbyhorses, and people whose main goal is to destroy learning and any power center even semi-independent of capitalism (which is often not inconsistent with taking a check from a university). Then you'll know who might be worth engaging with, and who you can tell to crawl back to the abyss from which they came.
posted by praemunire at 10:30 AM on December 15, 2019 [23 favorites]

"using Marxist styles of analysis,"

Yeah, this is a good way to put it. Marx via Walter Benjamin rather than say, Mao, or even Piketty. Hence the term "Marxian," which was pretty common among my left-leaning but not radical history MA cohort.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

In case you are interested in an answer from outside of the Anglosphere from someone who grew up in a former communist dictatorship – oh boy, is there a bubble! Though from my observations I would say that the bubble is not so much your university as the whole of a solid slice of western leftism – the closer to Marxism they are, the more uninterested in bursting that bubble. Here is my experience as a non-westerner of the western academic space in the humanities (and beyond):

To me, the first few answers you’ve gotten are perfect embodiments of this bubble. The sheer fact that it is implicitly assumed that not being willing part of it makes you right-wing…

I did my undergrad in my home country, which was a bubble all of its own in ways that are uninteresting for this conversation, and looked forward to do my post-grad in the west (at a university you have heard about), hoping for proper scholarship – as opposed to the severely biased and limited approach I knew from my own country (which had gone out of its way to root out explicitly Marxist overtones, but had plenty left simmering underground – 50 years of indoctrination are not easy to do away with).

What I found instead in my humanities discipline (not history or anthropology) was an admittedly high degree of erudition, almost exclusively in the service of what someone above called Marxist styles of analysis – every other school of thought we dealt with was dispatched in one lecture, while the only acceptable approach for our own ‘original’ work was to be held in Marxist style (though never explicitly Marxist!), wedded to a very particular discipline-specific model. There was great insistence on this (even though my department was far from being called ‘Marxist literary theory’ or some such), and this is what put me off finishing my PhD. I’m also not the only one from my part of the world who left in disgust. Please note that the issue wasn’t the fact that a Marxist approach was one of many, but that a Marxist-coloured melange was the ONLY framework deemed acceptable (though the exact ingredients differed between the various arts/ social sciences/ humanities).

During my years of study, I lived in college, and had some contact with dozens if not hundreds of colleagues from other humanities departments; the Anglo contingent (but not the others, with the exception of a couple of French colleagues) were proud Marxists themselves and were writing Marxist-style works (mostly essays and masters’ theses, a handfull of PhDs). I even edited some of them!

There I’ve seen first-hand the refusal to engage closely with the realities of what they were discussing in their papers: even though the college was filled with Eastern Europeans plus even more people from other communist and/ or communism-adjacent countries from around the world, not one single Anglo person amongst dozens sought to interview us (even though we ALL offered! Or to facilitate discussions/ interviews with any number of people from back home! Those of us who were not exiles – a few of us came from still-communist dictatorships and didn’t have that option). I remember a guy I was editing; in support of his argument he was using a text referencing another text referencing another text (all by western authors, of course), etc – and nowhere in that chain had anyone spoken to actual human beings!

None of these western lefties had the slight interest in talking to the literally dozens of people from the kind of country they thought themselves expert on – even though we were drinking together every single night! For years! Correction though – it wasn’t that they claimed to be experts on our countries alone, it was that they knew the secret of how our countries had botched the purity of communism – either because we didn’t know to do the historical analysis properly or else because we had not understood the solutions properly, or because we had implemented them badly. And this brings me to another reason that you may well not find the same kind of dedication to Marxism in non-western places: because there is an inevitable contempt against former communist countries implicit in how a lot of these discussions are handled. We can either be safely swept under the carpet as beneath notice, or we can be treated with contempt and condescension – because we are, of course, hardly better than barbarians who could not be expected to dealt with Marxism appropriately.

This is actually not unique to left-leaning people; before I did my postgrad I worked for a few years as a journalist and translator in my home country and had quite a few contacts from the western world (journalists, academics), some left, some right-wing, who I accompanied to interviews - not a single one treated their sources with respect, all of them denatured what the interviewees had told them to more closely fit their favoured theories.

As an aside, this is an experience I’ve had in other western leftist spaces, including this website – I myself have been repeatedly told off and berated for my input, but not one of the various Metafilter leftists (and you yourself an anthropologist!) has once tried to contact me for even a casual question about my experience, though I've declared my 'origins' several times (admittedly my country of provenance was clearer in my previous profile).

My experience is not singular (my current social circle in my home countries includes several historians; strikingly, those who do ancient or medieval speak warmly about their western counterparts, those doing modern not so much – you should hear a symposium of contemporary historians with only the token westie, mostly from Germany – ouch!), and TBH I am mostly no longer interested in bursting this particular bubble (with the occasional exceptions, such as this comment!).

Why? Actually, for reasons similar to those that have reduced my participation on this site to a trickle:

1. Because it treats leftism and Marxism-style approaches as though there is complete overlap between the two. Not so.
2. Because, where the above is not the case, there seem to be two options only: either completely dump on everything Marx said (or implied), or, from the other side, treat non-Marxist leftists as ditzy airheads lacking in insight and earnestness. As a lefty from a former communist dictatorship who thinks there is a lot to be gained from (cautiously) pondering Marx’s (though not always Marxist) thinking, this is rather painful, whichever way the conversation shakes out.
3. Because always, always, always, with less then a handful of exceptions during hundreds of debates in class, in the college common room, amongst colleagues, friends, incidental western lefties, any input that is not completely aligned with whoever emerges as top lefty in the respective situation(usually the prof in the classroom or one of the more eloquent students, mostly male) is disregarded or sneered at, albeit often in a relatively mannered fashion (or maybe the manners are just because this was in the UK, I don’t know). For the life of me I don’t understand why being on the left means you cannot do complexity other than of the hair-splitting type, why different experiences, different reads, different frameworks can not at least be tolerated.
4. Because I realized that there is hardly any interest in figuring out realistic solutions to problems; rather, the overwhelming interest is in figuring out strong ideological positions, possibly with a side of ego boosting.
5. Because I realized that there is absolutely no bridge to be built between western lefties and the rest of the world.
6. Because my voice and that of others like me will always be silenced (and given that I am a woman and the overwhelming majority of those holding these positions dear were men… well).
7. Because I think of the millions of people tortured in communist prisons, of the hundreds of thousands who died, of my own stay in a prison, beaten into a pulp, at 14, and little by little it started to feel like I was betraying all of that whenever I tried, yet again, to argue that maybe those people also matter, only to have my intervention ignored or belittled.

So to answer this question:

So, is it unusual for an arts degree to provide an introduction into Marxist theories and left-wing perspectives?

No, from what I have seen (which is by necessity limited), it is not unusual for Marxist-style theories to underpin at least some arts degrees, though I would absolutely balk at equalling Marxist-style with general leftist. For example, in the places I experienced, the misogyny amongst those more inclined toward Marxism was incomparably greater than the general background hum, as was the xenophobia, chauvinism, racism, all more or less explicit, though, strangely not so much homophobia – that tended to be more hidden, but was still there. In fact, given my experience, I was genuinely surprised when, in a post on the blue, you suggested that only this kind of leftism could counter racism and chauvinism – for me, that is the only kind of leftism where I experienced aggressive misogyny and xenophobia.

As for bubbles – honestly, I do think that all enterprises of the mind that seek to build systems of thought are bubble-prone, almost by definition. In order to not ossify in a bubble I think your best bet is to try out other bubbles, as a mental exercise if nothing else, with honesty and dedication, to listen way more than you are talking (virtually non-existent in academic spaces), and to regularly interrogate your own assumptions/ those of your preferred framework or ideology.

The risk, of course, is that you are left entirely bubble-less, which can be an utterly wretched feeling if you are not a total curmudgeon.
posted by doggod at 2:10 PM on December 15, 2019 [28 favorites]

I think this series by John Ralston Saul indirectly answers some of your questions (just one of the many things he touches on), even though it's from 1995.
posted by doggod at 3:18 PM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Based on your description, it's hard to tell if your department is just providing a foundation suitable for going on to read post-Marxist theory of the 70s and after. Something like Baudrillard's The Mirror of Production [PDF], which I had to read as a grad student in anthropology, isn't going to make a lot of sense without a pretty solid understanding of Marxism: the critique remains very close to the source, but it's helpful to understand it to see what's really going on in his later texts, much more distant from Marx.

More or less the same goes for things like re-interpreting economic determinism as something very different (Raymond Williams) or disentangling Marx from the labor theory of value (David Harvey)--even people who're still basically Marxists typically carve out readings you might not anticipate from an introduction or from some paper selected more for its particular focus than for its theoretical insight.

I think in most cases the situation is sort of analogous to the reality that people studying English literature are still trained first of all to do something like New Criticism: i.e. identify symbols and themes in short papers about the text itself. There's a basic skill to master before you can do something more interesting, only in this case the skill is taking a non-obvious perspective in which large-scale social processes are presumed to matter. But if that's not all that's going on in your department, then maybe it's sort of hardline.
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:02 PM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

From your question, it looks like you're doing some critical thinking. This is good.

Univeristy Liberal Arts often use the writings of Marx as a reference point. This doesn't mean that you should Luv it or buy into everything that he says. It means (I think) that Marx is an interesction between many concepts in Modern Western Thought, and that many of the 20th century ideas about philosophy, economics, sociology, politics, & etc, all react to his 19th century ideas: reacting positive, negative, otherwise.

(I'm not a Marxist, and I don't think he was quite correct about all things, but I don't think he was quite all wrong either, (He was right about Aristocrats being jerks))

Rich People (Aristocrats) finance various corporate Think Tanks, and they own various Media Corporations. They pay large amounts of money for pundits and theorists to produce amounts of right wing propaganda (sometimes with a slightly elegant intellectual veneer) to support their interests. So when you see some articles & essays in popular media criticizing Marxism in Universities, that's just because that's what their pundits are paid to do.

Any Ideology can turn into a mire, just keep your critical thinking skills sharpened.

(Hayek, like any economist (like Marx, haha) is not quite as good nor bad as it might seem when you start looking at his concepts more closely. As long as you don't start marching and shouting his name)
posted by ovvl at 6:36 PM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

You've gotten some great answers. MeMail me if you want to compare notes with my Aussie husband, who double majored in English and Honours History (modern Chinese History) in Australia. Based on what I've heard, this seems totally normal.

I'm American, and as an outsider can certainly offer some comparisons and commentary that may be relevant. Memail me if youe.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:48 PM on December 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

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