So let's go into that last post a bit, the one about my dislike for a particular social scientist, Haidt. I have a much larger critique in mind. But let's begin with an examination of his breathless, uncritical cheerleading for an article that can only be described as having been published in an academic journal and therefore existing.
I am not a mainstream USA social scientist. Longtime readers -- and this blog was of course started in 1874 -- know that I'm an Irish Studies scholar, with a particular emphasis upon literary censorship from 1927-1967. So this isn't exactly my field. But it is some of yours, mes amis -- so I axe you, most sincerely:
Is this shit really mainstream American social science?
I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.
Indizzle. In American history, the turn of the 18th century to the 19th marked a profound transformation of honor culture to dignity culture. Evidence abounds. According to a transcript of a conversation between one Georgia slave to another in 1801:
Slave 1: Hey, I think we just jumped from an honor culture to a dignity culture.
Slave 2: Fuck yeah!
Slave 1: Good news about that no more dueling shit.
Slave 2: Absolutely! Dueling is clearly the most salient feature of American culture during this particular historical epoch.
Slave 1: These moral issues are so easy to demarcate! What a boon to future sociologists!
Slave 2: We can only pray that this shit helps to elucidate the behavior of American undergraduates two centuries hence.
Slave 1: If at any point in the 21st century any of our descendants get into any sort of scrapes involving busted chifforobes, they will be able to go straight to the courts or administrative bodies, because nothing will scream Jim Crow more than "culture of dignity."
Slave 2: Fuck.
Fast forwarding to the future:
Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.
This thesis is extremely persuasive, accepting, arguendo, that history, rape, and racism ended in America sometime around, oh, 1963.
Getting annoyed now; I'll return to the evisceration later --
But is this article really publishable as good social science? It's utterly terrible at every level.