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Friday, May 21, 2010

More thesis 



I have previously posted about the relative uselessness of taking excerpts from a decades-old Princeton senior thesis, as a means of gaining insight into the mind of a middle-aged Princeton graduate today.

To Ron Radosh's credit, he has taken the time to read and review Elena Kagan's entire senior thesis, over at PajamasMedia. (The thesis in .pdf format is available here). He liked it:
As a historian who has read widely in socialist and communist history, and written about the topic, I found her thesis to be academically first rate, based on a wide-ranging use of primary and secondary source material, with a thoughtful analysis and sound conclusions that derive from the evidence.
Radosh continues and concludes:
Her thesis — written from the perspective of an anti-communist scholar who was not in sync with the pro-communist leftism of what by then was a declining New Left — does not reveal that she was an advocate of radical social change. It does reveal an individual who, like the socialists and unionists she was writing about, also wanted to “change America.” It is clear that she found their struggles inspirational and that she empathized with their fight. If she has not changed her views on these issues, it puts her right in the mainstream of what is today’s left-of -center Democratic Party. Her views, however, were far removed from those Obama appointments like the short-lived one of Van Jones, who openly espoused communist and revolutionary ideas, which once exposed, forced him to offer his resignation.

Some may disagree with the political sympathies that led her to write on this topic, but I believe the thesis itself should serve as no grounds to deny her appointment to the Supreme Court.
Several observations:

1) It is by reading the whole document that Radosh arrives at his thoughtful conclusion.

2) History was and is a popular department at Princeton, and submitting a "first rate" thesis is not an easy task. One of my roommates was in that department, and I remember the effort he put into his thesis (also on an aspect of 20th Century American history), and he was quite happy that it was well received. He has gone on to have a very successful career in finance.

3) I seriously doubt that a reading of my thesis, submitted the same year to a different department, would hold up as well by an equally well-versed reviewer.

6 Comments:

By Blogger Retriever, at Fri May 21, 08:29:00 PM:

Not to mention the fact that quite a few of us were once significantly more leftist than we are now. That old remark attributed to Churchill is apparently actually by Francois Guisot (1787-1874): "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." It was revived by French Premier Georges
Clemenceau (1841-1929): "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of
want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."

My own US history thesis, submitted to Moscow on the Charles would be cringeworthy to read now...  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Fri May 21, 09:42:00 PM:

The fact that you wingnuts are even discussing this is sad. I guess the first obsession was Michelle's...then Sotomayor's. Nobody bothered with Alito's. Hell mine could be construed as too pro Arab-Islamic-Terrorist, merely because I chided the Brits, France and Israel for attacking Egypt in 1956. Then again, I praised Dulles (who pretty much caused the problem) for spanking all three countries. Years later, I'm sure there's fodder for all sorts of hateful loons.

Look, I don't like this lady because I actually WAS in a few classes with her (when I was a junior in the department), and found her to be uptight and patronizing. Then and now (and even according to Thurgood Marshall, who referred to her as "Shorty") she is a technocrat like the man who appointed her--taking more pleasure in analyzing the puzzle pieces and how they fit, rather than trying to see the bigger picture.

Then again, I guess this entails an irony that wingnuts can't seem to parse (perhaps due in part to derangement syndrome?). Neither Kagan or Obama are as scary as you think, because they are happy with their puzzle pieces and NOT the big picture. I saw that in her in Wilentz's class and Challener's almost 30 years ago. It had nothing to do with ideology or adherence to jingoistic orthodoxy.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Fri May 21, 10:01:00 PM:

Christopher - We can always count on you to piss on us, even when you agree with the point we're tryng to make. That's a real talent!

My sense is that I knew Elena a bit better than you did (outside of the classroom), and while I did not know her well, and have not stayed in touch since school, I found her to be a very nice person and whip smart, as I blogged when her nomination was announced.

I am sure Justice Marshall used the nickname "Shorty" as a term of endearment. Everything I have ever read about the man suggests that he was a fine gentleman. He was even civil toward elected officials with a history of supporting segregation, showing them the serious error of their ways through his intelligence, charm and personality.

And why do you use the term "technocrat" to describe President Obama? Do you think he's a younger version of Michael Dukakis (the man I happen to think of when I hear that term)?  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sat May 22, 01:57:00 AM:

"Look, I don't like this lady because I actually WAS in a few classes with her (when I was a junior in the department), and found her to be uptight and patronizing."

And Jewish. You can always count on sissy chrissy.  

By Blogger gs, at Sun May 23, 12:56:00 AM:

3) I seriously doubt that a reading of my thesis, submitted the same year to a different department, would hold up as well by an equally well-versed reviewer.

Post the thesis! Why live with doubt? ;-)  

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