U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tim’s Light Reading (10/24/2013)

1. A Short History of the Heritage Foundation

Check out Jason Stahl’s short, polemical, and empirical history of the Heritage Foundation at Salon. Here’s his provocative thesis:

Closer inspection of the history of Heritage reveals much more continuity between past and present: Today’s Heritage Foundation is what the think tank’s founders had in mind when they incorporated it in 1973. Heritage’s founders and caretakers have always prized the speed of policy production over rigor, and seen their institution as aligned with both conservative elites and the grass roots. Heritage has always sought to push the Republican Party to the maximal right-wing position, even if that meant disagreeing with Republicans in public. The commitment to this original project, developed and reworked over the past four decades, has led to the political ascendency of Heritage. Those who “wish it was the Heritage of old” are pining for something that never existed.

Check out the rest of Stahl’s piece. You may not agree with his argument, but you can’t say it isn’t rooted in facts and specifics—and no doubt many primary sources.

2. The Medium is the Message

I ran across the June 1979 recording of America’s favorite Canadian intellectual, Marshall McLuhan, talking about his most famous argument. Here’s part one of three total. McLuhan died the next year, December 31, 1980.

3. Ayn Rand on Reagan, Religion, and Abortion

I had never seen a moving picture of Ayn Rand until watching this 1981 clip. I didn’t realize she disliked Reagan—though it’s not clear she really understood him based on this short excerpt. It’s clear, however, that she was no fan of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (or religion in general).

4. The Idea of the City in Late-Twentieth-Century America

This 1961 documentary about Chicago, titled The City of Necessity, and produced and directed by Robert Newman, seems to tackle the idea of the city in the context of late twentieth-century problems, especially poverty, race, and class. Newman’s work describes the 1950s and 1960s Chicago that I came to know in Nelson Algren’s works, especially The Man With a Golden Arm–though drug addiction is avoided in the documentary. Anyway, historians who operate in the tradition of Lewis Mumford would be proud of this 22-minute slice of the early urban 1960s.

5. Quitting the Academy

I found this essay earlier today, courtesy of Ben Alpers. The main focus of the article is the departure of a philosophy professor, Zachary Ernst, from the University of Missouri (whose first-hand account of leaving is here). Ernst three (or four reasons) for leaving his tenured position center on interdisciplinarity (or the shallowness of it in the academy), how scholars measure the “impact” of their work (via subjective consensus about the relative prominence of journals), and the ongoing corporatization of the university. I just gave you three topics, but a fourth, as indicated at the top of Ernst’s account, seems to have also been spousal treatment. Not every institution is the same, and people leave good non-tenure jobs too, but I think Ernst’s essay touches on some of the deep-seated problems of higher education today. – TL

2 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thank you for the timely reference to City of Necessity. My students will be dipping into Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities for the next two weeks, and I am hoping that this film’s take on Jacobs’ concerns will spark some discussion.

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