[OPE] Gone and Being Forgotten (Freud, Marx, Hegel]

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Tue Jul 22 2008 - 17:19:28 EDT

via Mike L:

The Chronicle of Higher Education The Chronicle


>From the issue dated July 25, 2008 
and Being Forgotten 

Why are some of the greatest thinkers
being expelled from their disciplines? 


How is it that Freud is not taught in psychology departments, Marx
not taught in economics, and Hegel is hardly taught in
Instead these masters of Western thought are taught in
fields far from 
their own. Nowadays Freud is found in literature
departments, Marx in 
film studies, and Hegel in German. But have
they migrated, or have they 
been expelled? Perhaps the home fields
of Freud, Marx, and Hegel have 
turned arid. Perhaps those
disciplines have come to prize a scientistic 
ethos that drives away
unruly thinkers. Or maybe they simply progress by 
sloughing off the

A completely unscientific survey of three randomly
chosen universities 
confirms the exodus. A search through the
philosophy-course descriptions 
at the University of Kansas yields a
single 19th-century-survey lecture 
that mentions Hegel. Marx
receives a passing citation in an economics 
class on income
inequality. Freud scores zero in psychology. At the 
University of
Arizona, Hegel again pops up in a survey course on 
philosophy; Marx is shut out of economics; and, as usual, 
Freud has
disappeared. And at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 
does not appear in philosophy courses, Marx does not turn up in 
economics, and Freud is bypassed in psychology. 

The divorce
between informed opinion and academic wisdom could not be 
pointed. If educated individuals were asked to name leading 
historical thinkers in psychology, philosophy, and economics, surely 
Freud, Hegel, and Marx would figure high on the list. Yet they have 
vanished from their home disciplines. How can this be? 

single proposition can hardly explain the fate of several thinkers 
across several fields. However, general trends can inform separate 
disciplines. For starters, the ruthlessly anti- or nonhistorical 
orientation that informs contemporary academe encourages shelving past

geniuses. This mind-set evidently affects psychology. The American

Psychological Association's own task force on "learning
goals" for 
undergraduate majors makes a nod toward teaching the
history of 
psychology, but it relegates the subject to an optional
equivalent to "group dynamics." "We are not
advocating that separate 
courses in the history of psychology or
group dynamics must be included 
in the undergraduate
curriculum," the savants counsel, "but leave it to 
ingenuity of departments to determine contexts in which students can 
learn those relevant skills and perspectives." The ingenious
apparently have dumped Freud as antiquated. A study by
the American 
Psychoanalytic Association of "teaching about
psychoanalytic ideas in 
the undergraduate curricula of 150 highly
ranked colleges and 
universities" concludes that Freudian ideas
thrive outside of psychology 

The same
antihistorical imperatives operate effectively, if with less 
in economics and philosophy. Again, generalizations can be made 
with qualifications, but economics departments, like psychology 
departments, tend to be fiercely present-minded. Their basic fare 
consists of principles of economics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, 
finance, game theory, and statistics. To be sure, often the departments

offer lecture classes on the history of economic thought, which
economic thinking from the Greeks to the present. But in this
through the past, Marx shows up as little more than a blur.
At the 
University of California at Los Angeles, for instance,
students devote 
less than a week to Marx in a course on the history
of economic 
theories. One scholar of Marx estimates that in more
than 2,000 
economics departments in the United States, only four
offer even one 
class on the German revolutionary. In 1936, Wassily
Leontief, who later 
won a Nobel in economic science, gave a seminar
on Marx in Harvard's 
economics department. No such seminar is given

Compared with economics, philosophy prizes the study of
its past and 
generally offers courses on Greek, medieval, and modern
Frequently, however, those classes close with Kant, in the
18th century, 
and do not pick up again until the 20th century. The
troubling 19th 
century, featuring Hegel (and Kierkegaard and
Nietzsche), is omitted or 
glossed over. General catalogs sometimes
list a Hegel course in 
philosophy, but it is rarely offered. Very
few philosophy departments at 
major universities teach Hegel or
Hegelian thought. 

Philosophy stands at the opposite pole from
psychology in at least one 
respect. In most colleges and
universities, it is one of the smaller 
majors, while psychology is
one of the largest. Yet, much like 
psychology, philosophy has proved
unwelcoming for thinkers paddling 
against the mainstream. Not only
did sharp critics like Richard Rorty, 
frustrated by its narrowness,
quit philosophy for comparative 
literature, but a whole series of
professors have departed for other 
fields, leaving philosophy itself
intellectually parched. 

That is the argument of John McCumber,
a scholar of Hegel and Heidegger 
who himself decamped from
philosophy to German. His book Time in the 
Ditch: American
Philosophy and the McCarthy Era (Northwestern University 
2001) savages the contemporary American philosophical profession 
its flight from history. He notes, for instance, that 10 years after 
the 1987 "breakthrough anthology" Feminism as Critique, not
one of its 
contributors, from Seyla Benhabib to Iris Marion Young,
still taught in 
a philosophy department. The pressures that force
— or tempt — big names 
such as Rorty and Martha Nussbaum
to quit philosophy, McCumber observes, 
exert equal force on those
outside the public eye. He charges, for 
instance, that senior
editors dispense with peer review and run the 
major philosophy
journals like private fiefdoms, and that a few 
professors select papers for the discipline's annual 
The authoritarianism and cronyism drive out mavericks. 

Psychology without Freud, economics without Marx, philosophy without 
Hegel: For disciplinary cheerleaders, this confirms intellectual 
progress. The cloudy old thinkers have made way for new scientific 
researchers. But at what cost? The past innovators shared a fealty to

history. "We are what we are through history," stated
Hegel; and Freud, 
for all his biological determinism, believed that
one must master the 
past to master the present. Yet today we lack
the patience to dig too 
far, or perhaps we lack the patience to
unravel the implications of 
discoveries into the past. We want to
find the exact pill or the exact 
gene that provides an instant
solution. Psychology transmutes into 
biology. To the degree that a
chemical imbalance results in depression, 
or a gene gives rise to
obesity, the effort to restore health by drugs 
or surgery cannot be
faulted. Yet an individual's own history may play a 
decisive role in
those disharmonies. We triumphantly treat the effect as 
the cause.
As a practical measure, that approach can be justified, but 
avoids a deeper search. 

The flight from history marks
economics and philosophy as well. 
Economics looks more and more like
mathematics, in which the past 
vanishes. Sometimes it even looks
like biopsychology. A recent issue of 
the American Economic Review
includes numerous papers under the rubrics 
of "Neuroscientific
Foundations of Economic Decision-Making" and 
Neuroscientific Foundations of Economic Behavior." But can we 
really figure out today's economic problems without considering whence

they came? Philosophy nods toward its past, but its devotion to
analysis and logic-chopping pushes aside as murky its great
thinkers. Polishing philosophical eyeglasses proves
futile if they are 
rarely used to see. 

No doubt there
has been progress in those fields, but is it possible to 
without any idea of where one has been? Without a guide to the 
the scholar, like the traveler, might move in circles. Moreover, 
should the giants of the past be dispatched so coolly and mechanically?

Culture is not like an automobile that should be junked when old and

decrepit. I don't see how we can be educated — or consider
educators — if we consign to the dustbin, say,
Freud's exchange with 
Einstein on war, Marx's description of
"the cheap price of commodities" 
that batters down
national boundaries, or Hegel's notion of the 
relationship. Those ideas should be addressed, not parried; 
not dismissed. 

To be sure, other fields adopt the thinkers
that psychology, philosophy, 
and economics have sent packing. Yet
that itself is a problem. Instead 
of confronting recalcitrant
thinkers on their own terms, the new 
disciplines slice them up.
Freud turns into an interpreter of texts, 
Hegel into a philosopher
of art, and Marx into a cinema theorist. That 
saves them from
oblivion, but at the price of domestication. Freud no 
excavates civilization and its discontents but merely unpacks 
Hegel no longer tracks the dialectic of freedom but consoles with 
the beautiful. Marx no longer outlines the movements of capital but only

deconstructs the mass spectator. 

Driven out of their
original domains because they are too ungainly or 
too out of date,
Hegel, Marx, and Freud succumb to an academic makeover. 
In the mall
of education, they gain an afterlife as boutique thinkers. 

Russell Jacoby is a professor in residence in the history department at

the University of California at Los Angeles. He is author, most 
recently, of Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age.

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