Friday, November 23, 2007

The Right Musters Its Academic Shock Troops Against the Foe-Du-Jour

While R. Neal is pointing to a report attacking social work in universities by the right-wing National Association of Scholars as both alarming and hypocritical, I would like to suggest that this is simply the opening salvo by the neo-cons to move their minions to elect a candidate of their own liking to the White House in 2008.

The right-wing always needs to find demons in the academic community to match the ones it says are prancing around society at large in order to maintain control of government. It is part of their fear-agenda to create unease among the voters about what is going on in colleges and universities. So, the NAS is doing what groups like it always does in the run-up to elections.

Their Board of Advisers is organizationally incestuous, relying almost exclusively on the neo-con American Enterprise Institute (which brought you the occupation of Iraq and which might bring you soon the occupation of Iran). All of the politically correct names are there: Kristol, Himmelfarb, Sommers, etc. This time they target social workers. Next election it will be some other academicians.

Social work is larger than what NAS makes of it. It is checkered with diverse ideological persuasions and inner tensions, as Robert Fisher points out, between social welfare, service delivery, and questioning the structural causes that necessitate welfare and service delivery. The scholars of the right-wing would be more comfortable with social workers limiting themselves to welfare and not questioning (how "rational" is that?), but this skirmish has nothing to do with what the scholars might actually want. It has to do with electing a President and a Congress and solidifying the Supreme Court's hard right trajectory.

Free-thought opponent David Horowitz's recent campaign on university campuses failed miserably, so the NAS is merely stepping into the breach in order to demonize a discipline and mobilize its troops.

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