Marxist Educational Strongholds at the University of Virginia – A Course Guide

Karl Marx

by James C. Sherlock, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

This essay will present a survey of left-wing educational opportunities at the University of Virginia by means of a review of courses offered in its Marxist critical theory strongholds. 

It does not presume the reader favors or rejects Marxism, but provides a course roadmap for those who think Marxism is a path to the future and a cautionary tale for those who don’t.

First a brief background, and then we will offer the course guide.

The Enlightenment and the rights of man

The greatest project of Western Civilization for the last 400 years was the Enlightenment that emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries centered on defining and securing individual human rights. It included ideas centered on the sovereignty of reason, objective evidence and individual liberty. It advanced ideals such as progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state.   

Philosophers sought a society based upon objectivity, reason rather than faith, for a new civil order based on natural law, and for science based on experiments and observation. According to natural law theory, all people have inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by God, nature, or reason. Classical liberalism advocated civil liberties with an emphasis on economic freedom.

Those European developments in turn formed the basis of the American revolution and our founding documents. All of that led to the Bill of Rights in the American Constitution focused on protecting the rights of individuals from the state.  

Marxism, the primacy of class, and revolutionary overthrow of capitalism

Marx and Engels theorized that societies develop through class conflict, rejected the individual as the center of law and social organization in favor of class and pressed for the revolutionary elimination of capitalism as the primary artifact of upper class repression of the masses.

Central to Marxist theory is an explanation of social change in terms of economic factors, according to which the means of production provide the economic base, which influences or determines the political and ideological superstructure. It entirely rejected classical liberalism’s civil liberties and economic freedom.

Where the base of the capitalist economy is the focus of earlier Marxists, the Western Marxists concentrate on the problems of culture, philosophy, and law as artifacts of capitalism. Marxism requires a transformation of society. Western Marxism often emphasizes the importance of the study of culture, class consciousness and subjectivity for an adequate Marxist understanding of society.

The University of Virginia and the Marxist perspective

I have put together a short list of courses and course descriptions from University of Virginia departments/schools of Anthropology, Sociology, History, Education, English, Philosophy, Religion, Italian, Law, American Studies, Economics, and Political Philosophy to show how the cultural and political left and their beliefs have come to dominate instruction in vast swaths of the University.

The Law School offers a balance of legal theories. If the rest of the University’s schools listed here did the same there would be no reason for this essay.

I have not found a single course in any of those departments except the Law School that approaches western civilization, classical liberalism, rationalism, natural law, capitalism, individualism or Christianity from a positive perspective. Nor do they present as positive standards the rule of law, a market economy with private property, or the equal protection of civil liberties and individual rights for all people.  

There is a clear attempt in these departments to define all of these things as irrefutably immoral and thus illegitimate bases for political and cultural organization.

These courses insist the terms of economic justice cannot consider the economic interests of the more talented and productive members of society. They ignore the fact that such individuals, by their production of wealth, payment of taxes and contributions to the improvement of the human condition make the least well off better off than they otherwise would be.  

As a Democratic politician once admitted when he voted for Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, “We spent so much time passing out golden eggs that we forgot to inquire about the health of the goose.” UVa courses listed below from their course descriptions suggest they have little tolerance for such sentiments.

They deny the validity of reasonable disagreement, deny the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, despise a market economy with private property, and would deny the equal protection of civil liberties and political freedoms to those with whom they disagree.

That background of intolerance in turn is the basis upon which a large sampling of University of Virginia undergraduates reported in a scientific survey that only 43% felt free to speak their minds in offering dissenting opinions at the University.

These courses promote communal interests over individual freedom and present them in the context of an either/or choice. They present capitalism as rewarding greed and selfishness rather than as promoting creativity and initiative. They ignore the creation of wealth as a necessary pre-condition for sharing it.

I have avoided listing the courses in the Departments of African American and African Studies and of Women, Gender and Sexuality on the assumption that students joining those courses of study know that every course has a Marxist baseline.

Each course description is the University’s, not mine.

ANTHROPOLOGY

ANTH 1010 – Introduction to Anthropology

This is a broad introductory course covering race, language, and culture, both as intellectual concepts and as political realities. Topics include race and culture as explanations of human affairs, the relationship of language to thought, cultural diversity and cultural relativity, and cultural approaches to current crises.

ANTH 3155 – Anthropology of Everyday American Life

Provides an anthropological perspective of modern American society. Traces the development of individualism through American historical and institutional development, using as primary sources of data religious movements, mythology as conveyed in historical writings, novels, and the cinema, and the creation of modern American urban life. 

ANTH 2190: Desire and World Economics

This course offers an insight into the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services practiced by peoples ignored or unknown to classic Western economics. Its principle focus will open upon the obvious differences between cultural concepts of the self and the very notion of its desire. Such arguments as those which theorize on the “rationality” of the market and the “naturalness” of competition will be debunked.

ANTH 2240: Progress

An ideal of progress has motivated Westerners since the Enlightenment, and is confirmed by rapid technological innovation. Theories of social evolution also foresaw, however, the extinction of those left behind. This course addresses the ideological roots of our notion of progress, the relation between technological and social progress, and what currently threatens our confidence in the inevitability of progress.

ANTH 2250   Nationalism, Racism, Multiculturalism  

Introductory course in which the concepts of culture, multiculturalism, race, racism, and nationalism are critically examined in terms of how they are used and structure social relations in American society and, by comparison, how they are defined in other cultures throughout the world.

ANTH 2280       Medical Anthropology 

This course is an introduction to the rapidly expanding anthropological subfield of medical anthropology. It explores how social, cultural, economic, and political factors shape experiences of illness and health in a comparative and transnational manner. This course will show students how illness is understood and perceived in different socio-cultural contexts. It will address how notions of the body, practices of care, and socio-political conditions influence illness experiences and health outcomes. By considering biomedicine alongside other cultural medical systems, students will learn that there is more to health and illness than biology.

ANTH 2500: Cultures, Regions, and Civilizations: Inside Iran: Everyday Life in the Islamic Republic

This course will explore the cultural politics of kinship, Islam, and everyday life in post-revolutionary Iran. Moving beyond the sensationalist headlines, the course will use ethnographies on Iran (and elsewhere in the Middle East), films, and popular media to challenge commonly held assumptions about gender, martyrdom, and the veil the Islamic world. This course will additionally provide a very basic introduction to the anthropology of the Middle East and Islam, including concepts such as orientalism and islamaphobia.

ANTH 2560: Hierarchy and Equality

Provides an anthropological perspective on relations of inequality, subordination, and class in diverse societies, along with consideration of American ideas of egalitarianism, meritocracy, and individualism.

ANTH 2575: Migrants and Minorities

Topics to be announced prior to each semester, dealing with migration and migrants, and the experience of ethnic and racial minorities.

ANTH 2670: How Others See Us

Explores how America, the West, and the white racial mainstream are viewed by others in different parts of the world, and at home.

ANTH 2900: The Cultural Politics of American Family Values

This course provides a broad, introductory survey of the range of cultural understandings, economic structures, and political and legal constraints that shape both dominant and alternative forms of kinship and family in the United States.

ANTH 3200: Marriage, Gender, Political Economy

Cross-cultural comparison of marriage and domestic groups, analyzed as a point of intersection between cultural conceptions of gender and a larger political economy.

ANTH 3220: Economic Anthropology

Comparative analysis of different forms of production, circulation, and consumption in primitive and modern societies. Exploration of the applicability of modern economic theory developed for modern societies to primitive societies and to those societies being forced into the modern world system.

ANTH 3325 – Capitalism: Cultural Perspectives

Examines capitalist relations around the world in a variety of cultural and historical settings. Readings cover field studies of work, industrialization, “informal” economies, advertising, securities trading, “consumer culture,” corporations; anthropology of money and debt; global spread of capitalist markets; multiple capitalisms thesis; commodification; slavery and capital formation; capitalism and environmental sustainability.

ANTH 3590-02: Development and Culture in Africa

This course draws on critical theory to examine social issues and development in Africa. It explores the general contours of European colonialism, national independence, and the position of African states in today’s global economic order. The course exposes students to various theories of underdevelopment and draws on case studies (Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa) to discuss issues related to race, class, labor, gender, trade & HIV/AIDS.

SOCIOLOGY

SOC 1010 – Introductory Sociology (3)

The fundamental concepts and principles of sociology with special attention to sociological theory and research methods. Survey of the diverse substantive fields in the discipline with a primary emphasis on the institutions in contemporary American society.

SOC 2056 – The Sociology of Culture (3)

Examines the role of meaning in social life, with a focus on how different theories of culture allow analysis of the relationship of culture to exchange, authority, solidarity, and domination….The role of culture in social transformation is also considered.

SOC 2280 – Medical Sociology 

This course examines how the medical system is shaped by cultural and societal forces, analyzing unique dimensions of medicine from varying perspectives prominent in the discipline of Sociology. Topics will focus upon the interaction of social categories (e.g., socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality) upon the distribution of diseases, experiences of illness, and relationships between patients and medical professionals

SOC 2442 – Systems of Inequality

This course will examine various types of inequality (race, class, gender) in the US and abroad. We will discuss sociological theories covering various dimensions of inequality, considering key research findings and their implications. 

SOC 2900 – Economy and Society 

Markets, firms, and money are part of everyday experience. Economists insist that they should work similarly independently of their social context. The central idea of economic sociology is that economic institutions are ’embedded’ in social relations. We will study what embeddeness means, and what it implies. 

SOC 3020 Introduction to Social Theory. 

“An introduction to the major theoretical issues and traditions in sociology, especially as developed in the writings of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, Sociology majors are expected to take this course in their third year.”

SOC 3290 – Sociology of Childhood

The class introduces the “new social studies of childhood” and the idea that the experience of childhood is a social construction, not a string of biological facts.  Topics include: how caring for children varies across time & space, and considering childhood in the context of Western cultural trends – increasing inequality, unequal distribution of overwork, poverty, war, liberty, decreasing privacy, consumerism, sexualization, networked society.

SOC 3410 – Race & Ethnic Relations

“Introduces the study of race and ethnic relations, including the social and economic conditions promoting prejudice, racism, discrimination, and segregation. Examines contemporary American conditions, and historical and international materials.”

SOC 3559 – Environment, Globalization and Development

SOC 3640 – Human Society in History

“Human societies exist in time. This course will examine the historical development of a variety of societies from earliest times to the present. Its focus will be on the relation of the West to the rest of the world.”

SOC 4055 – Sociology of Law

“After a brief history of legal sociology during the past century, the course introduces and elaborates a sociological theory of legal behavior….”

The characteristics of the sociological theory of crime reject free will in favor of social environment as the cause of criminal behavior.  

People engage in criminal behavior because they do not see the benefits of adhering to conventional social values and believe that crime is a way to improve their social, financial conditions.” 

SOC 4140 – Sociology of Consumption

This course considers the nature and effects of consumer society; it explores the theories, practices, and politics of modern consumption.

SOC 4559-001 – New Course in Sociology – Hate Groups

“Hate groups are defined by their extreme antipathy towards minority groups of all types, especially racial groups. Typically, they are particularly active when dominant groups feel threatened because minority groups gain power. Hate groups exist to reassert this dominance through fear and terror.”

SOC 4750 – Racism

HISTORY

HIUS 1501: Introductory Seminar in U.S. History

Introduces the study of history intended for first-or second-year students. Seminars involve reading, discussing, and writing about different historical topics and periods, and emphasize the enhancement of critical and communication skills. 

HIAF 1501 Introductory Seminar in African History: Africa and Virginia, 1619 – Now

Depending on student interest and practicalities, it may also include some site visits to places of significance on Grounds and nearby, as well as interaction (or “fieldwork”) with fellow UVa students whose life experiences mock any notion of stark separation between “Africa” and “Virginia.” 

HIEA 4501 Seminar in East Asian History: Cultural Revolution in China

All seminar participants are expected to have had some background study of China in the post-1949 era. Those without such background will need to have read Mao’s China and After, by Maurice Meisner prior to the beginning of the course.”

From three reviews of Mao’s China and After:

“The author views China from a Marxist perspective, which has its limitations but is also makes him sensitive to the thought processes and decision-making of the Marxist leader that have shaped modern China.”

“Meisner definitely tends to the left of things and I think he strives for a balanced account of things. He tries not to fall into mainstream American narrative of China nor does he toe the official China party line. For example, with the Cultural Revolution, I think he strives to give credit towards the aims of it (end a corrupt bureaucracy, etc.) and some of the good things that came out of it (emphasis on medicine for the people, fairer access to education), while also giving fair weight to the gravity of that time period from all the physical and psychological losses. I get the sense he is disappointed with China’s abandonment of socialism to some distant future and sees democratic reforms and a proletariat uprising as the best chance for a more egalitarian change. It is scary how invested and enriched Communist Party members are in the current capitalist system.”

“In a country with barely any proletariat, or for that matter, any real capitalist class that could fire the engines of industry, the communists had to do it all themselves. This they did, to their great credit, industrializing the country and creating a unified nation state in preparation for the eventual transition to socialism. The author examines the motivation and the reasoning behind such controversial initiatives like the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution ; the latter, in fact, gets a whole section (a good one quarter of the text) to itself. The crucial point that many people forget about the early decades of Communist China, is how sincere the revolutionaries actually were ; they were sincerely attempting to both modernize China, as well as eventually transition to communism. That this utopian project was forced to take place in one of the great underdeveloped backwaters of the world (even worse than the Soviets at the time of their own revolution) makes their achievements even more remarkable….Unfortunately, after the death of Mao, the right-wing counterrevolution (led by Deng Xiaoping) took root and rolled back nearly all of the Maoist initiatives, and led a full-blown capitalist restoration; while massively successful, the author notes that the socio-economic relations of modern China resemble those of the pre-revolutionary times, with exploitation, superstition and banal cruelties rife throughout the land. ”

HILA 3051  Modern Central America

This course aims to look at Central America’s connections with the world in a much more multidirectional way: how it has connected to the Black Lives Matter movement, what particular kind of art comes out of experiences of genocide, how environmental disaster affects identity and class, how tourism affects historical knowledge and political policies, what kinds of communities are produced by deportation and how everyone of us is implicated in all of these questions.

HIME 2003 Economic History of the Islamic World 

We will explore the relationship between Islamic law and commerce, Muslim engagement with an expanding world of trade, and how the forces of global capitalism shaped (and transformed) Muslim society.

HIST 2001 Global History

This is a course that explores the dynamics of broad historical events at planetary scale. It is an entwined story of the radical encounter between “others” following Columbus’ landfall in the New World in 1492, the mental reorganization of planetary understanding, and the emergence of an economic system that has trucked in humans resources, and goods, and has treated the world as a free gift from which value could be extracted without consequence. 

HIST 7331 History of Gender and Sexuality 

The goal of the class is to introduce students to a variety of approaches to writing the history of gender and sexuality, as well as some of the foundational texts in feminist critical theory and feminist history.

HIUS 1501: Global American Capitalism

The history of global American capitalism goes beyond recording the activities of individual entrepreneurs and companies, but includes accounting for the ways cultures, including our own, deeply imbued with ideas about race, gender, religion, etc., have shaped the values and value of American capitalism.

HIUS 2053 American Slavery

HIUS 4501 Seminar in United States History: American Capitalism, American Slavery 

One of the most enduring debates among scholars of American slavery is the connection between slavery and capitalism.  In recent years, historians have explored, with renewed interest, the relationship between the profitability of slavery and the rise of capitalist development in the United States and the Atlantic World between the sixteenth to the late-nineteenth centuries.  In this course, students will not only delve into the history of these debates, but students will learn about the interconnected history of American capitalism through the lens of slavery, beginning with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and ending in Reconstruction.

HIUS 4501 Seminar in United States History: Gender History of Civil War Era

This seminar examines the construction and contestation of gender roles—definitions of womanhood and manhood—during the Civil War era (from the 1830s through the 1870s). We will explore how the gender conventions of the North and South diverged during the antebellum era, and assess how that divergence shaped sectional tensions; re-envision the Civil War as a crisis over gender roles, in which men and women in each section struggled to fulfill—and at times openly rebelled against—the prevailing definitions of women’s sacrifice and of manly heroism; and reveal the gendered dimensions of slave resistance, emancipation and the contest over citizenship during Reconstruction. 

HIST/AMST 3559: Cultures of U.S. Imperialism

Our inquiry will focus on the intersection of culture and politics as we chart U.S. imperial engagements and shifting U.S. relationship with the world from the late nineteenth century to the present. Exploring popular culture as a critical space of meaning making, we will pay particular attention to the role of race, gender, and sexuality in constructing power relations.

HIST 4501: Major Seminar: 1944. The Ideological Origins of Our Times

An intensive consideration of markets, society, and capitalism through three seminal texts, all published in 1944: Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, and Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery.

HIST/AMST 5559: Transnational Radicalism; Haymarket to Pussy Riot 2019

This course will survey a broad range of radical movements including late nineteenth century movements that sought alternatives to capitalism, racism, and sexism; mid-twentieth century anti-colonial, civil rights, peace and war-war movements; and late twentieth-century and twenty-first century movements centered on environmental justice, human rights, and economic, racial and gender equality. Broadly considering radicals as thinkers, activists, and artists who attempted to understand the “root” of injustice and inequality, and to provide alternative visions of society, we will approach these movements through a consideration of their key ideas and critiques, their visions for a better world, and the music, art, and culture of the movements.

HIST 5559: Race, Religion, and Rights in Global Perspective

Can international law check the modern spread of racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia? Or is international law itself compromised by its origins in Western imperialism and nationalism?

School of Education

It is important to note that the ex-Curry School of Education and Human Development offers few descriptions of courses within the core undergraduate teacher education curricula for majors in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education and Special Education – General Curriculum of sufficient detail to be decoded.

The most comprehensive undergraduate course descriptions are here.

A reader is left to review the courses that are described below and draw conclusions about the points of view taught to undergraduates.

EDHS 1120 – So You Want to Change the World: Foundations of Community Engagement

How can we be part of creating a more just world? In this course, we’ll aim to answer that question for ourselves by examining practices of youth and community engagement through a critical and discerning lens.

We’ll reflect on our own practice engaging with youth and their communities, examine our roles in those relationships and interactions, explore the complexities and importance of culture, and consider our own cultural influences.

EDHS 3100 – Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes and Black Adolescent Identity

This course will introduce students to developmental differences in media engagement for younger children, older children and adolescents.

Students will learn about media socialization, black racial stereotypes in the media, racial identity, racial socialization and how these variables may influence the identity processes of black adolescents.

EDIS 3500-  Contemporary Educational Issues

Students will examine contemporary issues in pre-K-12 education using a variety of lenses, including sociocultural, political, historical, economic, and personal perspectives. Students will consider the impact of current issues on various groups, including educators, students, and communities.

EDLF 3180 – Lifespan Development

In this course, we will explore the journey we all share, asking “How do individuals grow and change throughout life?” We will take a topical approach, with particular focus on biological, psychological, and social development from birth through older adulthood. We will seek to understand our own developmental processes, as well as the role of race, class, gender and culture on others,’ and question our beliefs about what it means to “grow up.”.

EDLF 3220 – What is Education For?

What is the purpose of your education? Why have you devoted so much of your life to it? This class explores opposing ideas about the aims of education. Should schooling prioritize skill-building, creativity, or reflection? Does education only reproduce social norms, or does it have the power to change society? We examine such questions in regard to our own education, philosophical texts, and efforts to promote schooling worldwide.

EDLF 3250 – Intro to Citizenship & Activism: Critical Exam of Jefferson’s University

This course examines ideas about citizenship, engagement, student activism, and social justice within the context of the University.

It will examine, through lecture, discussion, readings, and an applied action research project, the various definitions of political engagement, activism, and social change as they are relate to current issues at the University.

EDLF 3460 – Race and Identity in Youth Development

This course is designed to examine how race/ethnicity, diversity, & identity matter in the lives of youth with a focus on educational settings.

We will use theory and research to question stereotypes about youth achievement and will explore how individual, interpersonal, and structural factors help to explain associations between group membership & educational outcomes. Students should have previously taken an intro level social science course.

EDLF 4620 – International Human Rights Activism and Education

How do educators and activists spread messages about human rights? What might make them more likely to succeed? What are the ethical and political implications of using education as a tool for moral persuasion? Students will engage with these questions, as well as engage critically with debates over whether the human rights system offers an appropriate way to achieve justice in diverse contexts.

EDLF 5700 – Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity in Youth Development

This course is designed to examine race and ethnicity as social constructs and to explore how they matter in the lives of youth through a critical examination of youth development research, policy and practices.

We will identify dominant group narratives and analyze how research and policy contribute to these narratives, and how individual, interpersonal, and structural factors mediate the associations between group membership and youth outcomes.

EDLF 5711 – Globalization, Childhood, and Culture

Cultural contexts are powerful influences on child development and learning and have long been recognized as shaping the very notion of what a child is across time and place.

This course considers contemporary sociological and anthropological efforts to rethink notions of child development, learning, parenting, risk, etc. to recognize both the impact of cultural differences and to recognize the cultural agency of children.

EDLF 6020 – Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Higher Education

This course explores the dynamics of race/ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality in higher education policy, theory, and practice. Using a variety of theoretical frames and emerging research, the course will examine group differences in experience and perspective within American higher education.

ENGLISH

ENGL 2500-001 – Literary Theory and Criticism: Origins and Applications

In addition to names already mentioned, the tentative list of critics and theorists to be read includes: Pseudo-Longinus, Sir Philip Sidney, David Hume, William Wordsworth, Virginia Woolf, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Homi K. Bhabha, Judith Butler, Lauren Berlant.  

From Wikipedia:

David Hume

An opponent of philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passions rather than reason govern human behavior, famously proclaiming that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”. Hume was also a sentimentalist who held that ethics are based on emotion or sentiment rather than abstract moral principle. 

Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin 

a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism … He was associated with the Frankfurt School.

Jacques Derrida

Derrida referred to himself as a historian. He questioned assumptions of the Western philosophical tradition and also more broadly Western culture.[52] By questioning the dominant discourses, and trying to modify them, he attempted to democratize the university scene and to politicize it. Derrida called his challenge to the assumptions of Western culture “deconstruction”.[52] On some occasions, Derrida referred to deconstruction as a radicalization of a certain spirit of Marxism.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

As a black intellectual and public figure, Gates has been an outspoken critic of the Eurocentric literary canon. He has insisted that black literature must be evaluated by the aesthetic criteria of its culture of origin, not criteria imported from Western or European cultural traditions that express a “tone deafness to the black cultural voice” and result in “intellectual racism”.

Homi K. Bhabha

Bhabha has been criticized for using indecipherable jargon and dense prose. In 1998, the journal Philosophy and Literature awarded Bhabha second prize in its “Bad Writing Competition,”which “celebrates bad writing from the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles.” Bhabha was awarded the prize for a sentence in The Location of Culture (Routledge, 1994):

  • “If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.”

Professor Emeritus of English at Stanford University Marjorie Perloff said that her reaction to Bhabha’s appointment to the Harvard faculty was one of “dismay,” telling the New York Times that “He doesn’t have anything to say.” Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, remarked on Bhabha’s writing: “One could finally argue that there is no meaning there, beyond the neologisms and Latinate buzzwords. Most of the time I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

Judith Butler

Judith Pamela Butler (born February 24, 1956) is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics, and the fields of third-wave feminist, queer, and literary theory.

Lauren Berlant

She writes and teaches on issues of intimacy and belonging in popular culture, in relation to the history and fantasy of citizenship.

She writes on public spheres as affect worlds, where affect and emotion lead the way for belonging ahead of the modes of rational or deliberative thought. These attach strangers to each other and shape the terms of the state-civil society relation.

Berlant’s most recent monograph, Cruel Optimism, was published in 2011 by Duke University Press. The book works across the U.S. and Europe to assess the level of contemporary crisis as neoliberalism wears away the fantasies of upward mobility associated with the liberal state. Cruel optimism manifests as a relational dynamic in which individuals create attachment as “clusters of promises” toward desired object-ideas even when they inhibit the conditions for flourishing and fulfilling such promises. Maintaining attachments that sustain the good life fantasy, no matter how injurious or cruel these attachments may be, allows people to make it through day-to-day life when the day-to-day has become unlivable.

ENGL 2910-001 – Point of View Journalism

We will also consider the rise of “fake news”—and, since this class will coincide with the 2020 presidential election, its role in that and previous elections. A term formerly used to indicate the work of entertainers such as Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, who pilloried the news (and newsmakers) in order to interpret them, “fake news” is now an established practice of the far right, as well as a political slur used to denigrate the work of mainstream (center and left-of-center) news organizations.

ENGL 3545-001 – U.S. Literature and the Politics of Justice

ENGL 3570 – Jim Crow America

ENGL 4570-001 – Reading the Black College Campus

ENGL 4580-001 – Feminist Theory

An introduction to US feminist criticism and theory. This course pairs novels and other works by women with critical and theoretical essays in order to contrast diverse feminist approaches. The syllabus is also informed by queer and critical race theory as well as postcolonial and cultural studies. I expect to explore such themes as mobility and migration, mother-daughter relations, the “male gaze,” incarceration/escape, female masculinity, and conflicts/commonalities among women. 

ENGL 5559-003 – Literature and the Environmental Humanities

Along the way we’ll consider how environmental criticism intersects with other forms of critical scholarship, including social justice studies, critical race studies, disability studies, gender and sexuality studies. 

ENGL 5559-004 – “Master” Thinkers: Freud to Foucault

The figures we’ll be studying are fascinating in themselves, and taken together form an excellent introduction to theory. We’ll start with Freud, particularly considering his ideas about dreams, therapy, and authority. Then back to three prior figures: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ralph Waldo Emerson. From there, we’ll engage with Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex (with maybe a glance into The Coming of Age). We’ll read some Hannah Arendt on authority, democracy, and the limits of philosophy; and some W.E.B. Dubois on race. Then on to Foucault: interviews, essays, and some of Discipline and Punish. A quick glance at Derrida before Christmas?

ENGL 5900-001 – Counterpoint Seminar

…seminar members may come to this course with different levels of knowledge about and comfort with literary theory and culturally responsive pedagogy. Our seminar will enable each member to increase fluency with these critical teaching skills. We will read literary texts that are frequently taught in the high school English classroom and practice applying pedagogical strategies that reflect best practices in English education.

SCHOOL OF LAW

Unlike the other schools in the University whose courses are listed here, the Law School offers courses based on Enlightenment values and the central role of individual rights.

It also offers a concentration in Race and Law that offers critical race theory as an alternative.  The premise of critical legal theory is that law is an extension of politics and that community represents the proper unit of social, legal and political analysis.  Critical race theory is critical legal theory in action with race as the community of choice.

See 31 Law School Courses in 2020 – 2021 in the concentration “Race and Law”.

PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 2500 Environmental Ethics
An exploration of some fundamental philosophical questions in environmental ethics, including: Who or what should be regarded as “morally considerable”?  Human beings only?  All animals?  All living things?  What about species, eco-systems, or landscapes?  What environmental threats are posed by current practices of getting and spending, and what should we do to mitigate these threats?

PHIL 1000 | Introduction to Philosophy

This course will introduce you to methods and topics central to analytic philosophy. Emphasis will be placed on learning to assess arguments critically, including arguments that support your own views. We will examine arguments for a range of philosophical positions on questions such as the following:  (1) Does it matter what you believe? If so, why?  (2) What can we know, and how do we acquire knowledge? (3) What does free will consist in? And do we have free will, of the sort that would make us genuinely responsible for our actions? (4) What standard determines the right thing to do – that is, whether an action is ethically good?  (5) What sort of political arrangements does justice require?

PHIL 2650 | Free Will and Responsibility

In deciding whether someone is responsible for something they’ve done, we routinely consider whether the person freely chose to perform that action: that is, whether the decision to act was an exercise of free will. The existence and even coherence of free will has been challenged by both scientists and philosophers. According to these skeptics, genuine responsibility requires that we possess free will; but since our decisions ultimately stem from factors external to us, we do not possess free will. Other philosophers maintain that, so long as your decision to do something is suitably your own—e.g., a decision that you endorse, and that reflects your values—then you are responsible for the corresponding action. In this course, we examine the problem of free will, scientific challenges to free will, and philosophical accounts of moral responsibility. Readings will be drawn from contemporary sources.

PHIL 3640 Political Philosophy

This course will consider three central questions in political philosophy: Why do political societies exist? What kind of political society is best? And, what is the proper role of the state in the social and economic affairs of its citizens? Rather than a comprehensive overview of the subject, this course will offer a chance to carefully examine some of the most influential attempts to answer to these core questions.  How should we live together? This question is at the core of political philosophy and is the main focus of the course. This question has various components, including: Who counts as one of us? How should we make decisions? Who should be in charge? How should we use our power? How should we treat others? How can we flourish? And who gets a say in how to answer these questions? The course looks at some historical answers but focuses on contemporary democratic answers and considers to what extent our ideals have been realized in our shared life.

RELIGION

RELC 3155 Christianity and Ecology
This online seminar examines Christianity’s relationships to modern environmental problems. It engages questions about Christianity and ecology debated by scholars, churches, and activists, including: Is Christianity responsible for the “environmental crisis?” Does environmental crisis pose problems for Christian faith? How do the sciences shape Christian environmental thought and practice? How do animals figure in Christian ethics and theology? How do Christians interpret the moral and spiritual significance of nature? How does Christian theology engage ecological degradation? How do environmental issues intersect with social issues like race, class, and gender, and how do Christian environmental movements understand those connections?

RELG 4559 American Religion, Citizenship and Race
This course is a historical examination of how the creation of religious and racial identities have been intertwined throughout the history of the United States. The course moves chronologically from European colonization until the present. It particularly focuses on the relationship between Christianity and slavery, how religious identities became racialized, and the connection of religion to concepts white supremacy.

ITALIAN

ITTR 3685 Italy on Screen: Sex, Gender and Racial Identities in the Glocal Context 
This course considers representations of sex, gender and racial identities in Italian films, television, advertisements and other forms of visual culture. With a focus on the contemporary Italian context, students will explore issues of intersectionality from a global perspective. An intersectional feminist approach will frame class discussion, where, Italian society and its culture will be read through a perspective that emphasizes the interconnectedness between gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, social class and immigration status, among other layers of identity. Lectures will offer a close reading of both critically acclaimed and more mainstream works, trying to answer the following question: what can Italian cinema, television and advertising tell us about diversity and inclusion in the worldwide context?

AMERICAN STUDIES

As with a concentration on Race and Law in the law school, the list of classes in the American Studies major that reject the primary tenets of the Enlightenment is too long to reproduce here.  Go to https://americanstudies.as.virginia.edu/new-major-requirements for the long lists of courses in the American Studies major and you will see the nature of its unrelentingly negative and Marxist view of America as a repressive state needing revolutionary change.

ECONOMICS

ECON 2060/HIUS 2061  AMERICAN ECONOMIC HISTORY

This course concentrates on critical aspects of the history of American economic development.  The issues covered include the nature and consequences of the colonial relationship to Great Britain, the political economy of the Constitution, the economics of slavery, the rise of the modern bureaucratic corporation, the causes of the Great Depression, and the political economy of contemporary America.  In addressing these issues, the course considers more general questions of what forces–cultural, economic, legal, etc.–shape the pace and pattern of economic development in any society.

ECON 3430 – Economics of Sustainability and the Environment

Sustainability addresses how we manage the environment and share limited, valuable natural resources across time and space. The lens of microeconomics helps us understand why we have environmental problems and how we can solve them. Economics provides valuable tools for solving problems with pollution, over-exploitation of resources, loss of biological diversity and, of course, global warming.

ECON 4070 – Economics and Gender

This course will apply micro-economic theory and empirical methods to explore the role of gender in shaping economic outcomes, examining the inter-relationships between family formation (marriage and fertility), human capital investment, and labor market outcomes. Public policy applications will be emphasized.

ECON 4440 – Economic Inequality

Economic analysis of the growth of income and wealth inequality since 1980, in the United States and around the world. Emphasis on measuring inequality, understanding the causes of growing inequality, and possible policy responses.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

PPL 3999 – Philosophical Perspectives on Liberty

How should we understand the ideal of a ‘free society’?  This course explores a number of classic contemporary and historical answers to this question, with particular reference to the critical assessment of modern commercial society.

PPL 2010 – Morality, Law and the State

The importance of moral philosophy to the study of the legal and political institutions of the modern state. In addition to exploring the nature of morality and moral reasoning, the course deals with basic questions about the concept of law and the justification of the state. Possible topics include inalienable rights, distributive justice, civil disobedience, secession, and the priority of liberty. 

Distributive justice concerns the socially just allocation of resources.  Five types of distributive norm are defined by Donelson R. Forsyth, a professor of social psychology at the University of Richmond:

Equality: Regardless of their inputs, all group members should be given an equal share of the rewards/costs. Equality supports that someone who contributes 20% of the group’s resources should receive as much as someone who contributes 60%.

Equity: Members’ outcomes should be based upon their inputs. Therefore, an individual who has invested a large amount of input (e.g. time, money, energy) should receive more from the group than someone who has contributed very little. Members of large groups prefer to base allocations of rewards and costs on equity.

Power: Those with more authority, status, or control over the group should receive less than those in lower level positions.

Need: Those in greatest needs should be provided with resources needed to meet those needs. These individuals should be given more resources than those who already possess them, regardless of their input.

Responsibility: Group members who have the most should share their resources with those who have less.

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33 responses to “Marxist Educational Strongholds at the University of Virginia – A Course Guide

  1. Are you sure that the conclusions you are drawing from these course descriptions are accurate? I did not read them all, but as one who’s written some course descriptions, I don’t think we can depend on such sweeping conclusions from such limited information about courses.

    Further, I suspect that how accurate the analysis of the extent of the leftwardness of each is dependent upon the specific instructor, even more than the course outline or course description. Some of us try very hard to encourage students to think and to avoid telling them HOW or WHAT to think.

    All faculty are not automatically far left leaning, even in departments like included here. I don’t know any of the folks affiliated with these departments, but I find people outside universities have perceptions that are often not borne out in reality. Also, it’s the extremes that get attention and the bad apples that get so much attention that the good ones are missed.

    • First, I appreciate your critique but I do not agree with your assessment and I think you are defending instructors who would reject your help. It is not hard to ascertain the philosophy behind these courses. The authors of the course descriptions did not try to hide them. I guarantee you they would each agree with my assessments and be proud to stand behind their viewpoints.

      Second, as I stated in the preamble, it is not the fact that these courses exist in these departments, but rather that there appear to be no courses in any of these departments but the Law School that provide alternative views.

      Third, I do not contend that all faculty are left-leaning. The majority of the departments at the University are not represented in this list. Thus the title “Marxist education strongholds”.

      • Some of the courses I am sure you were correct in highlighting but vaconsumeradvocate is right, if you worked through each syllabus and talked with the professors you might be pleasantly surprised. That said you would certainly find that you missed a number of courses for your list.

        I am familiar with a number of these courses, particularly in the history department. HIUS 1501 for example is intended for students interested in majoring in history and varies considerably from year to year. This fall the course is on philanthropy rather than capitalism, I doubt it is primarily taught from a marxist perspective.

  2. yep. Where in the world does this come from: ” provides a course roadmap for those who think Marxism is a path to the future and a cautionary tale for those who don’t.

    So if a course is offered – it becomes a “roadmap” to Marxism?

    jeezey peezy

  3. Marketing 101 teaches that one needs to focus on the wants and needs of potential customers and not those of the suppliers. People want a broad educations that makes them think, not indoctrination of the instructor’s beliefs. The crash of education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will weaken the ability of educators to control education. If distance learning, most especially at the college level, is just as good as classroom work for many subjects, students and parents are not going to pay the outrageous sums of money charged by America’s institutions of higher learning.

    Of course, some of these courses listed above will appeal to some students and some bill-paying parents, but not others. They will migrate to institutions that don’t indoctrinate. Also, I expect to see a shift from a 4-year college degree for many to more specialized training and a growth in training for skilled trades that mesh traditional mechanical skills with automation and other technology.

    This is just like journalism. We have alternatives to the local newspaper, radio or TV station. Even cable & satellite TV, which forces customers to buy lots of channels they don’t want is taking big hit as customers cut the cord and use streaming services. Journalists, with exceptions, have played the I’ll tell you what I want to know reporting for years. And the jobs are fading. How many journalists have lost jobs.

    It will be the same for many Ph.Ds that decide to preach rather than teach. How many instructors are needed for online teaching?

    • I always thought Marketing 101 was about convincing someone to buy something even if they did not need it or it cost far more than it should.

      And no shortage of rubes who will buy lottery tickets, give their money to cult religions and buy all manner of pills -modern day snake oil.

      But seriously – merely offering a course is tantamount to indoctrination AND it should not be done unless an “alternative” “anti” course is offered?

      For as long as I can remember these types of courses have been offered in Colleges. Who knew they were really trying to indoctrinate innocents?

      And …there are no alternatives to higher ed and media indoctrination?

      where do you guys get this nutty stuff?

      For as long as I can remember, higher ed has offered these courses about things like Marxism.

      And the folks that say they don’t trust MSM here in BR and say they have stopped their subscriptions…. I’ll be danged – every day, they’re quoting those lying liberal rags…for fact-based reporting.

      They damn RTD then turn around and quote them in the next post!!!

      • Is there some purpose to your diatribe or did you just feel like berating someone?

      • Marketing doesn’t teach one how to sell what’s not needed or wanted. I worked with some brilliant marketing people over the years. They focused on questions such as 1) who is your customer; 2) what does your customer want; 3) how do you know that; and 4) how will you know when you have satisfied the customer?

        Indeed, I was challenged to write a product management plan for telephone numbers where I had to answer those and other questions. A great challenge to inhouse counsel.

        In both college and law school, most of my instructors were from the left side of the political spectrum. They certainly challenged the status quo but also were quick to push a student coming from the left to support his/her position. An educated student should be able to argue and support every side of an issue. I doubt that many of today’s students are capable of doing that. They’ve been cheated.

        • had jobs after high school before I finished College. One was at Phillips 66. We’d offer to check the oil. While under the hood we’d check the fan belt and air filter. We got a commission of what we sold.

          We learned to not sell fan belts to cars that were difficult to change belts on. “Need” did not enter into the equation!

          😉

      • That’s sales, sales =/= marketing.

  4. The very first section of my Anthro 101 course at W&M focused on “race,” and it was Prof. Reyna who left me convinced the whole thing was a bogus and exploited cultural construct. Methinks Sherlock might be stretching here, at least a bit. That Philosophy 101 description looks familiar, too. That little has changed in almost 50 years? “Political philosophy” is an oxymoron; no defense there….

    The real question, as “ConsumerAdvocate” states, is whether the classes are education or indoctrination. I spent a whole semester screwing with the GOP-bashing liberal teaching me “Post-War American History” but he let the class debates take off and gave me the grade if I filled the blue book with facts, dates, etc. Practice for here…..

  5. “This course investigates the social and physical constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity in the context of social inequality in America. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding how these constructs, both singly and in combination, affect American society and culture. The course examines how the social institutions of marriage and families, work and employment, education, media, and the state create and maintain inequalities. Marxian and conflict theories, Weber’s multidimensional model, and the structural-functionalism of Durkheim and Talcott Parsons are covered in depth. Application of key concepts, principles, and theories to the American military and Naval Service is a cornerstone of this course, as is the understanding of cultural diversity. Upon completion of this course, the successful student will possess a stronger and broader understanding of how social stratification affects American society, and how this stratification contrasts with stratification systems in other societies.”

    USNA course catalog. Such a Liberal Bastion

    https://www.usna.edu/Academics/Majors-and-Courses/course-description/All-Courses.php

    • The Happy Slave courses were much more popular…

    • How about religion? Is religious bigotry still OK? Old Slow Joe had the pick of multiple talented female Senators but selected one who sought to impose an unconstitutional religious test on a federal district court judge in Nebraska.

    • That’s one course at the Naval Academy, please continue. We can assume that the contrasting views are well represented there.

      You will note that I have congratulated the UVa Law School for providing courses on both sides of the debate, and that school offers 31 courses and a degree concentration in “Race and the Law”.

      It is the intolerance of dissent key bastions of the academy from and by their core theory of social organization that is unacceptable.

      • The catalog is there Boss. In fact all of the Academy catalogs are online. That was the 1st course in that catalog that a page search turned up “Marx”. The irony Capt’n is that you, who was taught from Larry’s “Happy Slave” history book, thinks he knows indoctrination.

        You spent 30 years in an environment where Marxism was literally the enemy. I think I know indoctrination when I see it, too.

        One question Capt’n; this tear you’re on, who are you trying to convince, us or you?

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Jefferson would like to posthumously request the last line sandblasted off of the tombstone.

  7. The comments are, as usual, interesting and well informed. I would ask the commenters to consider the key issue:
    “That background of intolerance in turn is the basis upon which a large sampling of University of Virginia undergraduates reported in a scientific survey that only 43% felt free to speak their minds in offering dissenting opinions at the University.”

    That is the result of the quasi-religious faith of the instructors of these courses in the critical theory dogma and some of their students. The dogma itself has no tolerance for dissent.

    The same people who dismiss Christian faith as absurd have created their own, and their own secular inquisition – the cancel culture.

    That is what is new – at least to my generation and that of my children. That is what is so threatening. I think they will lose the contest, but not without a fight, both in the academy and in the streets.

  8. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    In reality, UVA’s course offerings reach a limited audience and you pay top dollar for it. Contrast that with Prager University. Not really a university but this is how young people consume knowledge now. Millions are self educating in this way. No charge. I don’t know if this will be beneficial or harmful in the long run.

  9. This is an interesting debate. I agree with some comments that not every course listed in Jim’s list of courses looks to be ideologically loaded. But many of them do.

    What we don’t know from this survey is what percentage of the course curriculum reflects doctrinaire leftist thinking. How many courses in the same departments. not mentioned here, reflect moderate/conservative/libertarian perspectives? Do cultural Marxists teach 10% of the courses or 60% of the courses? We cannot reach a final judgment from this information alone.

    However, I would say this: When I was studying at UVa, I saw zero course descriptions like this. I had two professors who were self-avowed Marxists. One taught anthropology (nothing has changed!) and one taught economic history. The anthropology professor was definitely on a mission to convert naive undergraduates to a Marxist way of thinking, but I don’t think anyone took him very seriously. The economic history professor was charismatic and his courses were popular. But his priority was to teach us to think rigorously, not to indoctrinate us. Indeed, knowing that I was a free-market capitalist kind of guy, he recommended a book that would allow me to achieve a more sophisticated level of thinking in support of what I believed. He was a teacher first, a Marxist second.

    I consider Jim’s survey here to be a valuable first cut of analysis. More work needs to be done to definitively show systemic intellectual bias. But I hasten to add that there is ample reason to suspect that the Anthropology, Sociology, English and History departments are loaded with ideological zealots.

    • The audiences are primarily UVA President Jim Ryan, the BOV, the alumni association and the General Assembly. I have sent each including my GA members the link. All of those need to hear from the public.

      Jim, you did not include it on your list, but the department that bothers me the most by far is the education school. All of the critical theorists write that teaching is political, and should turn kids into activists. I have heard of complaints.

  10. Controlling from graves, Boys. It never works.

  11. I find this post disturbing since it seems to want to cleanse free speech with a far right perspective.

    • Read it again. No where did I suggest shutting any course down. I would like to see balance of views in each department – for which I complimented the Law school.

      It is illuminating that you consider free speech and the advances in individual rights through the Enlightenment and thereafter to be a far right perspective.

      • Having someone with a clear right perspective saying they want to see “balance” is like having someone in China government saying they want “balance”.

        I don’t think you can do that in an objective way.

        You’d need to have a criteria and a score for each and show it as a score rather than an up or down conclusion. Is it the course title? or the content? or the professor?

        Can they “fix” the problem by merely changing the course title?

        You’re preaching to the echo chamber.

  12. It is illuminating that you consider free speech and the advances in individual rights through the Enlightenment and thereafter to be a far right perspective.”

    Did I say that? That must be your interpretation.

  13. It’s perhaps valuable to note how leading New Right publications (American Affairs immediately comes to mind) have attitudes deeply inflected by Marxist thought, often of the postmodernist/Baudrillardian variety. And it’s not like the original National Review crowd (America’s “Old New Right”) were born-and-bred conservatives, either. Lasch, Burnham, and their incredibly prescient right-wing readings of 20th century American society operated on Marxian frameworks, even if their conclusions ran counter to those of their colleagues.

    My coffeepot isn’t working, so just a few more quick observations this morning:

    1) Leftist dominance of American academia is old hat; what Sherlock & Co. are specifically peeved by is the new racial discourse. Suffice it to say Marx wasn’t a racial egalitarian, and that CRT — though leveraging Marx as an analytic prism — draws its prescriptive “oomph” from the unique racial conditions of the US, Caribbean, and Latin America.

    2) This is why you get nervous laughter from nominally left-wing Euros when you bring up CRT in the context of the Roma or non-European immigration to the Continent. CRT is deeply American and deeply weird, and its penetration into European leftist thought is basically bounded by the level of cultural Americanization in any one place. The more disconnected Paris or Rome become from the imperial metropole, the less they take this stuff seriously.

    3) Perhaps a better ax for conservatives to grind is getting more outright, yknow, conservatives into prominent faculty positions, and keeping them there. It’s easier than Pol Pot’ing UVA Grounds, and it’s not like taking Marx out of the schools will return academe to some imagined default state of small-l liberalism. Bug-eyed radicals are such not because Marx is uniquely convincing, but because it’s trendy and they think their parents’ McMansions are gauche. The crazies will always find something to be crazy about.

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