David's politics blog

The hazards of studying conservatism

4 July 2020

Seeking Giant Shoulders to Stand On

by David

I was underwhelmed and often disappointed by much of what I read about conservatism in general and Harper in particular.

I don’t know if other people writing their theses have the luxury of quoting somebody thoughtful, of standing on the shoulders of giants. A lot of the work I was quoting was work from 1933 or 1955 about Romanticism or Charles Taylor talking about something else entirely.

About Harper, folks were in such a rush to denounce him, and for good reason, but even a lot of academics wrote a bunch of fuzzy, not particularly rigorous articles about his justice policies, stuff that was so useless I could barely even quote it.

For instance, a number of academics, after admitting that Harper is super ideological, argue he’s just advancing these conservative tough-on-crime policies for the votes, without any evidence of electoral advantage. I’m sitting here as a master’s student unable to quote several academics on the subject, except to say “Prof. A, B, and C make the same obviously inadequate argument in articles X, Y, and Z.”

That’s just the low rigor of the majority of the writing and thinking about this stuff.

The best research was a couple of master’s theses and a doctoral dissertation. Similarly, I tried to write all of my term papers in class about conservatism and got average marks because there is so little quality out there.

To this day, I’m still looking for Giant Shoulders to stand on.

tags: UQAM, masters, thesis, conservatism