Thursday, August 9, 2018

Help Wanted: Professor of Resistance Studies


The following article appeared in Powerline on August 7th

By Steven Hayward

I know the job market is red hot right now, and even universities are hiring! Several job ads for tenure-track positions in political science have come my way, and they all have one thing in common. I’ll bet you can guess what it is.

Let’s start with the University of Minnesota/Twin Cities department of political science, which wants to hire two professors in political theory. The wanted ad begins with the usual description of the ideal candidate being someone who is “deeply conversant in the history of Western political theory, and can teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels that draw upon this canon.”

So far, so good. But then in the very next paragraph you get to the real qualification to be hired:

Further, we seek candidates who will advance the substantive commitment of the department’s strategic plan: to investigate “democracy under threat” across its multiple dimensions.  We are most interested in work that, in a sustained manner, draws upon global historical knowledge to understand contemporary threats to democracy (such as resurgent authoritarianism, legitimation crises of contemporary liberal democratic institutions, crises of political economy and/or late capitalism, racialized politics and inequalities, etc.).  Such candidates will also be committed to addressing issues of political theory as they present themselves as problems that arise in contemporary global settings.  Scholars using approaches such as feminist theory, queer theory, critical race theory, and/or who focus on such issues as justice and injustice, inequality, or global migration are of special interest.

We also seek candidates who share the department’s ongoing commitment to study the intersection of power, equity, and diversity and its effect on social science inquiry.  Finally, we value candidates who actively place their research in dialogue with other subfields in political science, the social sciences and humanities, and with the broader university community and public.

I can save them some words here by shortening down the job to its essence: “Wanted: Professor of ‘Resistance’ Studies. Conservatives Need Not Apply.”

Next up is William & Mary in Virginia, whose political science department wants to hire an “Americanist,” though it quickly becomes clear that what it really wants is an anti-Americanist. From the ad:

Position summary: The Department of Government at William & Mary seeks applications for a tenure track position at the Assistant Professor level in American politics with specialty in political behavior. We are especially interested in candidates with interests in racial or ethnic politics, or the politics of inclusion. . . Preferred qualifications: Demonstrated interest or previous experience teaching racial or ethnic politics, the politics of inclusion. . . William & Mary values diversity and invites applications from underrepresented groups who will enrich the research, teaching and service missions of the university.

I wonder how a member of the most “underrepresented group” on faculties today (Republicans) will fare if ze applies for this position. Actually I don’t wonder at all.

Finally, The New School in New York is also looking to hire a political theorist. Once again, the ad starts out reasonably enough: “We seek candidates with a strong background in the history of political thought and with promise of excellence in research as well as teaching.”

But once again you quickly find the real qualifications:

While we expect a strong background in the history of political thought, we are especially interested in candidates whose primary focus is on theoretical approaches and questions linked to contemporary political problems–. . .

What “contemporary problems” might these be? Let’s continue:

for example, race, indigeneity, colonialism, imperialism/capitalism, domination, intersectionality, borders, globalization, transnationalism, international law; and environmental issues.

This is the faculty position at the New School once held by Leo Strauss. Who obviously could not be hired at The New School today. Let that sink in for a while.

Political science, while overwhelmingly liberal, has been the one social science outside of economics that has been relatively less politicized than other social sciences and the humanities (I stress the “relatively” modifier here), but these job announcements are a sign that political science, too, is slipping away into the politicized abyss.

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