The Prevalence of Marxism in Academia
By Bryan Caplan
As the Iron Curtain crumbled, people often joked, “Marxism is dead everywhere – except American universities.” The stereotype of the Marxist professor runs deep. But is this stereotype grounded in statistical fact? Here are the results from a 2006 nationally representative survey of American professors. The survey asked if the professor considered himself “radical,” “political activist,” or “Marxist.” Survey says:
Overall, Marxism is a tiny minority faith. Just 3% of professors accept the label. The share rises to 5% in the humanities. The shocker, though, is that as recently as 2006, about 18% of social scientists self-identified as Marxists.
Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, the authors of the study, hasten to say, “Move along, nothing to see here.”
[S]elf-identified Marxists are rare in academe today. The highest proportion of Marxist academics can be found in the social sciences, and there they represent less than 18 percent of all professors (among the social science fields for which we can issue discipline-specific estimates, sociology contains the most Marxists, at 25.5 percent).
In contrast, I urge you to rubberneck. If 18% of biologists believed in creationism, that would be a big deal. Why? Because creationism is nonsense. Similarly, if 18% of social scientists believe in Marxism, that too is a big deal. Why? Because Marxism is nonsense. Furthermore, if 18% of a discipline fully embrace a body of nonsense, there is also probably a large bloc of nonsense sympathizers – people who won’t swallow the nonsense whole, but nevertheless see great value in it. Suppose, plausibly, that there is one fellow traveler for every true believer. That would bring the share of abject intellectual corruption to fully 35% – and 51% in sociology.
I suspect that Marxists’ share has fallen since 2006. But it makes me wonder: When precisely did American academia hit “peak Marxism” – and how high was the peak?