Saturday Sermon: Lewis Lapham on the Culture Wars

I’m working my through Lewis Lapham’s Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration. Here’s what he has to say about the culture wars:

So many saviors of the republic were raising the alarm of culture war in the middle eighties that I now can’t remember whether it was Bob Bartley writing in the Wall Street Journal or William Bennett speaking from his podium at the National Endowment for the Humanities who said that at Yale University the students were wallowing in the joys of sex, drugs, and Karl Marx, disporting themselves on the New Haven green in the reckless manner of nymphs and satyrs on a Grecian urn. I do remember that at one of the highend policy institutes in Manhattan I heard the tale told by Norman Podhoretz, then the editor at Commentary, the author of several contentious books (Making It and Why We Were in Vietnam), and a rabid propagandist for all things anti-liberal. What he had to say about Yale was absurd, which I happened to know because that same season I was teaching a seminar at the college. More than half the number of that year’s graduating seniors had applied for work at the First Boston Corporation, and most of the students whom I’d had the chance to meet were so busy finding their way around the Monopoly board of the standard American success (figuring the angles of approach to business school, adding to the network of contacts in their Filofaxes) that they didn’t have the time to waste on sexual digressions either literal or figurative. When I attempted to explain the circumstance to Podhoretz, he wouldn’t hear of it. Not only was I misinformed, I was a liberal and therefore both a liar and a fool. He hadn’t been in New Haven in twenty years, but he’d read William F. Buckley’s book (God and Man at Yale, published in 1951), and he knew (because the judgment had been confirmed by something he’d been told by Donald Kagan in 1978) that the college was a sinkhole of depraved sophism. He knew it for a fact, knew it in the same way that Jerry Falwell knew that it was Satan who taught Barbra Streisand how to sing.

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2 Responses to Saturday Sermon: Lewis Lapham on the Culture Wars

  1. KeithB says:

    Keep that man way from Tom Wolfe!

  2. KeithB says:

    Keep that man way from Tom Wolfe!

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