Academic Social Science and the Group
William H. Young writes in the NAS:
At its outset in the late-nineteenth century, American academic social science began a left turn away from our founding principles to theories from Europe—away from the individual to the identity group as the primary element of American society. Those theories included the economic determinism of Karl Marx, for whom social class was paramount, and the autonomy of group culture over the individual in the sociology of Emile Durkheim. The “superorganic” or group mind, instead of the individual mind, became a basic tenet of academic social science. Communal sharing by group replaced individual responsibility and reciprocity.
In the late-twentieth century, academic social science turned further left—to embracing the European theory of cultural Marxism—which seeks to transfer power from privileged to disadvantaged or oppressed identity groups, based, interestingly, on racial or ethnic categories rather than economic status. The traditional family was supplanted by new collective group forms. “Diversity” by group became the academic ideal, replacing the unity of individuals as Americans.
In currently prevalent academic theories of governance, identity-group power, exercised through democratic will and bureaucratic fiat, supersedes majority rule, unleashing the very factions (groups) that the Founders sought to control. The divisiveness and polarizing tendencies unfortunately bear witness to James Madison’s admonitions in Federalist No. 10 and corrode the body politic.
Beginning in the late 1960s, public education began to incorporate “social justice” for designated identity groups into the curriculum, while simultaneously adopting dubious new teaching approaches such as “constructivism” and “critical pedagogy.” Equality by group entitlement replaced excellence of the individual as the purpose of education, leading to mediocre outcomes. In higher education, racial and ethnic preferences in admissions and hiring policies similarly treat individuals as members of identity groups, rather than according to their singular merits or achievements.
This shift of the manner in which academic social science views foundations of society has had profound and pernicious effects on American culture, politics, governance, and public and higher education.