Friday, March 16, 2007

Intellectual Opposition to the Military

James Holmes updates Robert Nozick's decade-old essay "Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?" by asking if--and why--they oppose the military. Good question:

Do intellectuals' attitudes even matter, given their predilection for the abstract over the concrete and for ideas over action? Yes, says Nozick. While wordsmiths cannot dictate the outcome of national discourse, they do set the terms of debate.
"They shape our ideas and images of society; they state the policy alternatives bureaucracies consider. From treatises to slogans, they give us the sentences to express ourselves. Their opposition matters, especially in a society that depends increasingly on the explicit formulation and dissemination of information."
Nozick left his inquiry open-ended, commending it to the study of social scientists, and so will I. Some enterprising social scientist ought to examine these matters in a sustained, rigorous manner. If wordsmith intellectuals indeed frame debates on affairs of state-in particular war and peace-then their views and prejudices must be taken into account in public discourse. Our system of civil-military relations could depend on it.

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