The real danger in today’s universities is not external censorship but self-censorship, and it’s so extreme that even Karl Marx himself would be careful what he said on campus.
John Gray writes in The Times Literary Supplement that the patron saint of professors and their millennial minions expressed views that would get him shouted down or targeted with a boycott petition (much like Bruce Gilley at Portland State) to prevent him from publishing or teaching:
While student bodies have dedicated themselves to removing relics of the colonial era from public places, sections of the faculty have ganged up to denounce anyone who suggests that the legacy of empire is not one of unmitigated criminality. If he was alive today one of these dissident figures would be Marx himself, who in his writings on India maintained that the impact of British imperialism was in some ways positive.
Such unutterable sentiments included Marx’s view that Indian villages “restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it within traditional rules,” and that England was the “unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution” of fulfilling humanity’s destiny.
Of course, Marx may have been mistaken in this judgement. Along with most progressive thinkers of his day, he assumed that India and other colonized countries would replicate a Western model of development. But like other progressive thinkers at the time, he also took for granted that this was a question that could and should be debated. He never believed that colonialism was self-evidently damaging in all of its effects.
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