Barbara Kay: How progressives perverted the study of history
Barbara Kay | August 30, 2016 1:42 PM ET
Pulitzer-prize winning historian Barbara Tuchman had neither a PhD nor an academic title. ”It’s what saved me,” she said. ”If I had taken a doctoral degree, it would have stifled any writing capacity.”
Tuchman’s illustrious career reminds us that history, although a discipline, does not require professional accreditation to explore. Beyond writing, research and organizational competence, one requires only a passion for knowledge about human nature and a sharp eye for the patterns to which it has given rise throughout the ages.
Thomas Carlyle considered history writing the first example of man’s creative thought: “There is no tribe so rude that it has not attempted history.” The ancient Greeks thought so highly of history that they accorded it its own muse — Clio, one of Memory’s seven daughters.
Sociology cannot boast so old or distinguished a lineage. Although philosophers have studied man in society for thousands of years, it was only in the 19th century that it emerged as a “science” (in quotation marks because almost from the beginning, it shed the objectivity and disinterestedness that is supposed to govern scientific inquiry).
From the 1960s forward, when the New Left started calling themselves “progressives,” sociology was subsumed into the Marxist agenda as an activist tool for social engineering. As one textbook defines sociology’s mission today, it is “to alleviate human suffering and make society a better place to live.”
This is political activism, not truth-seeking. Like many humanities’ disciplines — gender studies springs immediately to mind — sociology quickly became what high-ranking sociologist Stanislav Andreski called “a sloppy pseudo-science.” And pseudo-sciences are to pure intellectual inquiry as astrology is to astronomy.