Academic Questions, the quarterly journal of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), includes in its fall, 2018 issue a lively exchange between Canadian sociologist J. Scott Kenney; Robert Paquette, executive director of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI); and Elizabeth Corey, lecturer in the Great Texts Department and Interdisciplinary Core Program at Baylor University.
In “Can We Talk: Life under Frankfurt Rules,” Professor Kenney explores the reasons for the collapse of the teaching of the Western canon on college campuses as well as the related, intensifying intolerance of the campus left. “[F]ree speech and inquiry,” Kenney observes, “have come under attack by the very institutions that should protect them.” In trying to explain this phenomenon, Kenney singles out of the idea of “repressive tolerance” in the work of the German cultural Marxist Herbert Marcuse, who became an academic celebrity in the United States during the 1960s.
Academic Questions invited Paquette and Corey to respond to Kenney, who offers a rejoinder at the end of the conversation. Although Paquette finds Kenney’s recitation of many of the causes of higher education’s current malaise compelling, he contends that Marcuse’s contemporary, the economist Joseph Schumpeter is a far better source of wisdom on what is behind the closing of the Western mind.