So the fall semester is finally in sufficient order that I can return to blogging. I don’t imagine that I was particularly missed. But I’ll proceed on the assumption that at least some readers liked to alternate their reflections on the very serious matters we usually discuss with one of my effusions.
The subject for today is an old chestnut, thrust again into the fire by Mark Lilla: the place of conservatism in the American university. Not, that is, the role of conservative politics. But rather the place of conservative ideas as objects of academic study. Like Peter Berkowitz a few months ago, Lilla laments the absence of the classics of conservatism from syllabi on political theory. We must, he suggests (meaning “we scholars”), start “taking the right seriously”.
Well, who you calling “we”? Before the newshole closes entirely, I want to make it known that I take the right so seriously that I’m teaching a whole seminar on conservative political thought. So far, reaction from students and faculty has been exclusively positive and encouraging.
Of course, I’m not a very important person, just a lowly ABD. But I see very little evidence of the hostility to the study of conservatism that Lilla and Berkowitz detect in faculty lounges from Berkeley to, well, Cambridge. Is it possible that conservative thought isn’t often taught because few try to do it in a serious, unpolemical way? I guess I’ll find out.
But here’s the game I’d like to play. You tell me what you think should go on the syllabus. After I’ve received some responses, I may reveal what I’ve decided–and perhaps try to defend some of my choices. This isn’t a reality show: conservatives shouldn’t be too concerned with immediate popular sentiment, and I’m pretty happy with the reading list I’ve put together. However, I’m sincerely interested to know what books others think are unjustly (or justly) neglected.
Also, since Peter has outed me as a former punk, I hereby announce that until further notice, I’m going to follow the example of my old comrade Spencer Ackerman and title all my posts with lyrics from hardcore songs. Extra points for anyone who can identify the source. Don’t cheat and use Google. Believe me, I’ll know.
[An addendum: Daniel McCarthy offers his own list here.]