There is a neocon eulogy of the recently deceased Prof. Seymour Martin Lipset here. Despite the usual adjuration de mortuis nil nisi bonum, I feel that I should say a few words to set the record straight. Lipset was a very popular sociologist and political scientist but that which is popularly believed often turns out to be wrong in the long run and I believe that the positive view of Lipset’s contribution is formed by his Leftist origins rather than by the lasting value of his ideas. He started out as a Trotskyite, as did the neocons.

I should perhaps declare a personal interest before going on. Despite the effusions about Lipset’s good character, my own encounter with him was unimpressive, to say the least. He agreed to mark my Ph.D. dissertation and then not only failed to do so after many reminders but also failed to return his copy of the dissertation when requested to do so. This created such delays that my Ph.D. was not awarded until 1974, even though the dissertation was handed in in 1970. And why did he behave so badly? I guess it wouldn’t be because the dissertation reported research results which undermined ideas that he was identified with, would it? Rather than use new data to develop his views — as a real scientist would — he resorted to the old Leftist strategy of denial, just as other Leftists for decades denied the evils of the Soviet State.

The central findings of the large and international program of resarch that I undertook to test a popular Lipset idea — that working-class people are “authoritaraian” — were finally published in Sociology and Social Research in 1983. Lipset had used selected public opinion poll data to test his ideas but I used much more closely targeted psychometric methods. I found that there was some tendency for the workers to be conservative on some social issues but NO evidence of them being “authoritarian”. See here

Lipset’s idea that America was saved from its “bad side” by great men is a typical example of selective Leftist attention to group differences. Leftists will trumpet how blacks have been damaged by slavery or how homosexuals need to be protected from discrimination but acknowledging that another group — Americans of British and Northern European origin — have particular strengths and virtues is absolutely taboo.

One only has to look at one of the “great” men that Lipset believed “saved” America — Frankin Delano Roosevelt, the Fascist sympathizer who turned a normal cyclic depression into the Great Depression by his attacks on business and then delivered whole nations into the hands of the Soviets at Yalta. For some of the less-publicized facts about FDR see here and here and here. The truth of the matter is that America’s prosperity and pre-eminence is the product of many millions of decent and hard-working individuals. To be even more precise, the success of America comes from the respect for the individual and for the rule of law which America’s immigrants from Britain and Northern Europe brought with them and which they enshrined in America’s way of life and institutions. But it is “racist” to say that, of course.

And Lipset’s saying that “The United States is the only Protestant sectarian country in the world” is also absurd. “Sectarian” implies severe intolerance and discrimination towards people holding to other belief systems. In fact, America would have to be one of the countries with greatest freedom of religion. It is even safe to be a real conservative in America — though not in American universities, of course.

I could go on to say more about Lipset’s twisted ideas but I have no taste for cleaning out Augean stables.

 

(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Page. Email me (John Ray) here.)

 

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