Old Revolutionaries, New Dictators: The Politicization of Scholarship in the Modern Law School

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Legal scholarship, legal philosophy, ethics


The effect of ideology and propagandistic techniques on intellectual freedom, independence and strategic choice of language is a central theme of this article. Interest groups of all persuasions are engaging in exchanges based on propaganda and stereotypes - and scholars, who are skilled at using words as weapons, are central participants in the conflict. Daniel Bell reminds us: Ideology is the conversion of ideas into social levers. He adds: Max Lerner once entitled a book Ideas Are Weapons. This is the language of ideology. It is more. It is the commitment to the consequences of ideas. . . . For the ideologue, truth arises in action, and meaning is given to experience by the transforming moment. He comes alive not in contemplation, but in 'the deed.' This explains why the new political collectives have relatively little interest in the traditions of truth and honest inquiry - even to the point of rejecting either the possibility of truth or seeing claims to truth and reason as devices by which a male-dominated or Western system perpetuates its dominance and superiority.

Because the university culture proved to be more receptive to the values of politicized-collectives than other powerful institutions it became the preferred base of operations for the previously subordinated interests of race, gender, ethnicity, and advocates of Leftist political ideology for which most of the rest of the culture still remains inhospitable or at least uncertain. The law schools and universities became the primary locus of expanded access, opportunity, money and power available to the emergent interests that have now gained effective control of the academy and politicized the culture.

The mutation of old revolutionaries into controllers and dictators has taken place because it is one thing to attack power, quite another to possess it. Although my purpose is not to defend the older academic and political orthodoxies against their own undeniable record of abuses and hypocrisy or to ignore their self-serving and discriminatory oversights, the situation we face is akin to that of the fiery Latin American revolutionaries who struggle mightily to overthrow an undeniably unjust dictator but on gaining power - become the dictator. In that same way, once they have obtained a strong power base in law schools and other university disciplines the honest revolutionaries of race, gender and other minority interests metamorphose from moral beacons railing against injustice against those specific interests with which they most closely identify into new dictators who have instinctively created a culture that elevates their interests while inhibiting those of whom they disapprove. Lord Acton would feel most vindicated.