Linked from Ann Althouse is this interesting NYT article by Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet about Justice Alito. (Ann's original post, in case you can't get behind the paywall.) At first glance, it looks like yet another proof of my contention that liberalism is a social rather than intellectual phenomenon. He berates Alito for complaining even though his side has lost the culture war. Quite curious. First, how do we know who has won or lost a culture war. how do we measure that? But more importantly, who notices such things in an intellectual discussion at all? Are we not trying to figure out which ideas are correct, which are useful, which are true? What does their popularity have to do with it? Isn't this just the eye-rolling of highschool girls?
Yet thinking a level deeper, I may be overgeneralising. Entertainers have to think of who is winning a culture war, even in pre-war Germany as we learned in "Cabaret;" and journalists have likewise to keep a sharp eye on the audience to make their living as well. I tend to automatically associate professors with the life of the mind, though, and am disappointed when I see such blatantly nonintellectual considerations intrude. I generalise from them to the category "liberal thought-leaders." But what if professors are merely that category of thought leaders who like hanging around college, that most socially intense environment? It may not be only that they are constantly exposed to a population obsessed with every minor skirmish in a culture war, desiring desperately to know how wide belts should be this year, but that they chose this environment for related reasons: they are good at sussing out intellectual fashions.
Other liberals may not be like this at all, and I may be judging them unfairly. I am very familiar with social workers, psychologists, rehab specialists, mental health attorneys, and psychiatrists and they are...sort of like that, but not entirely. I have them ranked in my head, but i will hold off on that.