The Three Stooges: How David Horowitz, Stanley Fish, and Cary Nelson Turned Academic Freedom into Right-Wing Slapstick

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This chapter traces the stories of three figures, each of whom had careers tied to leftism, left theory, Marxism, and/or postmodernism only to make radical shifts to the right later in their careers. Each story is quite different, yet they interestingly all have the common denominator of being outspoken critics of academic freedom and academic engagement in left politics. Tracing the story of David Horowitz’s turn from the New Left to the New Right, Stanley Fish’s move from relativism to neoliberalism, and Cary Nelson’s shift from Marxist champion of academic freedom to unapologetic institutional censor of academic free speech, this essay analyzes three critical cases of an intellectual move from left to right. The cases here are less about the use of left-leaning ideas for alt-right agendas but rather are more squarely about the lessons that can be learned by three different routes to the same alt-right attitudes about the politics of the university, the free speech rights of faculty, and the idea of education as a common good.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLeft Theory and the Alt-Right
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781000927627
ISBN (Print)9781032544878
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences

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