Scholarship and politics (was Re: Proyect v Woods)

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Sun May 20 12:47:34 MDT 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Greg Schofield" <gschofield at>

> ...I consider pre-judging a work by the politics of the author is not a good
guide to
> much at all.

For an example of this deadly trap, take the experience of my professor, Norman
Finkelstein, in contesting Daniel Goldhagen's scholarship in "Hitler's Willing
Executioners," All that his critics felt they needed to say was that he was an
anti-Zionist, that his article was first published in a "fringe" publication,
New Left Review, and that he was not recognized as a "Holocaust scholar"
(although his co-author is the leading authority on the German archives
Goldhagen cited in his work) as they sought to marginalize him and demanded that
his publisher drop his book. When they failed, they kept on trying to trash
Finkelstein's work by pointing to his politics. The campaign to silence and
ignore him is guided by the principle that only those with acceptable political
commitments need to be heard from. The content of his work and the validity of
his evidence was entirely irrelevant. To attempt to silence or marginalize
intellectual opposition in matters of history, including by appeals to the
political incorrectness of the scholar, is deadly to the search for truth and
meaning in the past. It is a tactic of the ruling class that we on the left
should oppose, not emulate.

I regret to add that CUNY Hunter College has dropped Finkelstein an adjunct
professor of political theory after ten years (he was previously booted from
Brooklyn College); I can't say for sure this is related to his controversial
work. He is highly admired by students for the quality of his teaching, but I
haven't heard about other schools ringing his phone off the hook to offer him

stuartwl at

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