Hey guys, for those of you who don’t yet know, I’m excited to say that I have a piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine on the real source of campus restrictions on free expression: not coddled students, but corporatism. You can get it in print in the Sunday edition of the paper, or you can read it online here.
This is a great thrill for me. It’s an immense audience in a place of real influence. I’m getting so much engagement and praise, it’s really gratifying. And the fee I’ll be paid is almost enough to cover my rent for a year. I need to thank the Times, and in particular Will Staley, who shepherded the piece through the editing processing. There are some more big pieces coming from me fairly soon. I’ve long had opportunities for writing in more prominent places, but in the past year I’ve gotten more than ever and I’ve taken advantage of them more than ever. I will confess that part of the appeal of writing in big places is that so many people have told me I couldn’t do it.
At some point, I’ll try to flesh some thoughts out about the themes running through the piece. Both the strength and drawback of print publishing is the concision it inspires. For now, I’ll just say that the corporatism I’m describing is a kind of right-wing collectivism. In contrast to left-wing collectivism like socialism, corporatism redistributes up, with individual needs being subservient not to the lower classes and the amelioration of human suffering, but towards those already empowered in the institution, or to the institution itself. The aesthetic conformity I talk about in the article is a physical manifestation of the way that these institutions are asking individuals, departments, and other subsidiary units to collapse into a single, totalizing vision of the institution. In the business world, corporatism results in the well-being of workers being sacrificed for the good of the shareholders. In the university, the self-determination and freedom of the individuals within the schools are rendered subservient to the alumni, the Boards, the regents, and the institutions themselves. It’s the logic of collectivism without the outcome of greater equality and justice.
There’s one thing I’ll say that is the same about this piece as everything I write. This piece comes from a left-wing perspective. It absolves left-wing activists from a long series of complaints and criticisms of them. More importantly, it identifies a structural, economic reason for a social change, rather than a moral, cultural, or personality-driven reason. That is an inherently left-wing perspective. Accordingly, here’s been the response from my regular critics, who insist that I’m not really a leftist, that I’m a closet reactionary, or whatever: nothing. I’ve gotten tons of engagement, lots of praise, and a little snark from media types. But nothing from the people who insist I’m not left-wing. But then, they never talk about my writing that has clear left-wing ideas or conclusions. Indeed, to the extent that their criticism means anything at all, it means this: deBoer never writes any left-wing stuff, if you ignore all the left-wing stuff he writes. Remember, the very last thing your more ardent critics want is for you to change. Then they can’t complain anymore.
I’m just so thrilled by how the piece turned out and its reception. And I’m thrilled to think of all the people who will read it in the Sunday paper. It’s a privilege.