Posted on April 13, 2023

The Paradox of Academic Oikophobia

Robert Weissberg, Minding the Campus, April 3, 2023

Paradoxes are excellent pedagogical exercises, and any professor worth his salt knows at least a few. To this storehouse of familiar examples, let me add a new paradox that is especially relevant to today’s academy: oikophobia, a term elucidated by Benedict Beckeld in his recently published Western Self-Contempt: Oikophobia in the Decline of Civilizations.

As employed by Beckeld, oikophobia refers to the hatred of one’s own country, including its traditions and values. Such self-loathing, as we all know too well, is commonplace in today’s academy, where one hears endless condemnations of America and Western civilization. We are guilty of racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, economic inequality, rampant police brutality, mass incarceration, ravaging the environment, and on and on, while we never mention the flaws of our enemies. Even public speakers who recount the latest accomplishment of Western science might begin apologetically by noting the sins of slavery, colonialism, and white cis-heteropatriarchy. It’s a far cry from the cliché high school valedictorian speech, which thanks everyone imaginable for making the wondrous day possible.

What makes oikophobia paradoxical is that those who are most infected by this pathology are the greatest beneficiaries of national largesse. In other words, they bite the hand that feeds them, and they bite it the hardest.

To understand the oikophobia paradox, let’s rank all academic departments in terms of their faculty’s ability to survive economically without a university appointment. What would happen to faculty if universities went bankrupt overnight? Least dependent on academic funding would be those in the physical sciences, engineering, computer science, agriculture, mathematics, business (especially finance), medicine, and law. {snip}

Further down this ladder of dependency are faculty in the social sciences and humanities. Finding non-academic employment might initially prove difficult, but the private sector, government, philanthropies, and think-tanks will have jobs for smart people with a record of intellectual accomplishment.

Last in this hierarchy are those in today’s politically trendy fields, such as gender studies, media studies, and various grievance-based fields such as black and Chicano/a studies. Put bluntly, the likely average cognitive ability and technical skills associated with these positions have minimal economic value outside of the university. {snip}

From the perspective of American society in general, the cost/benefit ratio of employing those in grievance-based fields is conspicuous consumption. Their tenured positions are an indicator of a society that is so incredibly wealthy that it can afford to hire professors whose economic contributions are zero. {snip}

This conspicuous consumption is paradoxical because these “luxury” academics are, of all the faculty, the most dependent on the United States remaining a prosperous, politically stable First World nation. Only a thriving, successful nation could afford to pay handsome salaries to those who spend countless hours pontificating on why America is pure evil. {snip}


{snip} In a nutshell, all academic disciplines follow trends to varying extents, and in today’s academy, the pressure to be au courant virtually defines woke departments. Denouncing traditional Christianity is so last century, so the ambitious must be ever on the lookout for new evils to condemn. Creativity is rewarded, such as showing how English grammar is racist, why highways destroy black neighborhoods, why classical music perpetuates toxic masculinity, and on and on. Absent a long and honored intellectual tradition to guide scholarship, woke academic departments, like mall boutiques catering to fashion-obsessed teenagers, must invent bizarre novelties. This is an environment in which discovering alleged bias in standardized testing is seen as a major scientific breakthrough. No wonder the catalogue of America’s evils grows by the year—how else can a young assistant professor build a career other than finding some new, previously unnoticed evil?