Conservatives on campus

Henry Farrel:

However, as the book’s publication date suggests, this shift began to take hold years before the Great Awokening. And Binder and Wood provided persuasive evidence that the shift had far less to do with what was happening on college campuses than changes in the broader conservative movement. There was money – and lots of it – for organizations that were willing to take the culture war to America’s universities, creating an entire political economy.

The later consequences are described in The Channels of Student Activism, a more recent academic book, published by Binder and Jeff Kidder last year. While Binder and Kidder are sympathetic to Haidt’s broad program of reform, they push back with evidence against his causal argument. People like George Lukianoff and Haidt “point fingers at the supposed shortcomings of Generation Z,” blaming the purported psychological frailty of an entire generation. Binder and Kidder find that the evidence points towards organizations as the key factors of change. Students “are channeled not coddled,” provided with incentives, identities and even entire career paths by political organizations.

Binder and Kidder identify very different organizational political economies for conservative and liberal/left students. Right leaning students are “encouraged by organizations external to their schools to adopt a discourse hostile to the academic enterprise,” “targeting a liberal campus culture, which plays into a larger Republican game plan.”

As they describe it (on the basis of interviews with students and figures within the relevant organizations):