"It's a tough knot to untangle, I think. There are obviously obstacles to a deep understanding of a minority perspective, as you point out. This is DuBois's veil - to bring it back to racial questions that inspired the discussion.I think about these issues with the Murphy/Krugman debate a lot. Krugman unambiguously has the better arguments - absolutely no question. That was clear in the 1930s before either of them were born. But it's equally clear to me that Bob knows Krugman's arguments far better than Krugman knows Bob's arguments, to the extent that Bob could plausibly get the better of him in a debate.
But there's a compounding problem here that minority positions on intellectual questions are often (not always, but often is plenty good enough for these purposes) minority positions because they are simply not defensible positions. A prior evaluation that a position is indefensible then leads to a situation where majority proponents are ill-equipped to argue with the minority position.
There is a difference, in other words, between an opposition being ill-equipped to engage a minority position and the determination that the minority position ought to be given a seat at the table.
Take Marxian economics instead of Goldwater so that there's no particular bias in evaluating the case (and not people who think Marx had some good points and sympathies - I'm meaning the actual architecture of Marxian economics). I think it's reasonable to say that non-Marxian economists are very poorly equipped to dispute Marxian arguments and that in a debate the Marxian could very well run circles around them. This might not have been the case 100 years ago, particularly in certain countries or schools.
But is this a reason to make sure every economics department is well stocked with Marxians? I don't personally think so. We have Marxians in sociology and not in economics for a very good reason today: Marxian economics was concluded to be largely indefensible and Marxian sociology was determined to have much more to it.
Presumably in academia what we want is not a diversity of ideas per se, nor even a collection of the most talented proponents of diverse ideas. What we want is a collection of the most talented proponents of the available set of defensible ideas.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Posted by dkuehn at 4:16 PM
David has a stimulating post here. Here's my response (apologies to my Marxian friends, but it has to be said. A guy in my department that likes Marx a lot and borrows from him knows that the theory doesn't work - I think you all can too):