Category Archive 'The Gramscian Long March'

12 Jan 2024

The Gramscian Long March Has Completed Passing Through Yale’s Ancient Eight

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The portraits have apparently come down in this room inside a building on High Street in New Haven.

The revolution of the oppressed underclass population belonging to the nuclear center of America’s national elite is busy these days purging its predecessors and putting Replacement Theory into action, reports the Atlantic.

Yale’s Eulogia Society, better known as “Skull and Bones,” was founded by General William Huntington Russell, Y 1833, who was himself a radical abolitionist and friend and supporter of the madman and murderous terrorist John Brown. What can one say, other than noting that the Revolution has a notorious habit of devouring its own?

Secret societies have long been the purest distillation of what makes Yale Yale. They are famous for their mysterious rituals, their arcane symbols, and the imprint they’ve left on the broader culture. Skull and Bones shows up, variously, in The Great Gatsby (the 2013 film version), Gossip Girl, and The Simpsons. It is among the wealthiest, most exclusive, most well-connected groups at one of the wealthiest, most exclusive, most well-connected universities in the country. Contemplating their own rarefied status, members of Yale’s secret societies aren’t entirely sure what to do with it. They face the question roiling America’s elite campuses taken to its logical extreme: whether the modern social-justice politics advanced by college students can coexist with the staggering selectivity and privilege that benefit those same students.

Skull and Bones, the oldest of Yale’s senior societies, was formed in 1832. The other groups, composed mainly of Bones rejects, followed soon after. The Ancient Eight societies each own private buildings, known as tombs, where members meet twice weekly for dinner, debate, and “bios”—a ritual in which members share their life histories. Membership is for seniors only. Every spring, the current members “tap” a group of Yale juniors to take their place the following fall. The clubs were originally intended to prepare Yale men for leadership beyond the university. At this, they have found extraordinary success, producing a stream of C-suite executives, diplomats, and politicos. The reputation of society alumni as kingmakers and masters of the universe guaranteed that students would always be hungry to join.

Until they weren’t. In the 1960s, secret societies were criticized for elitism and discrimination. They faced pressure to disband. Instead, they adapted. Skull and Bones admitted its first Black member in 1965, and in 1975 tapped the head of Yale’s recently founded gay-student organization. The pattern repeated two decades later, as the societies feared they were becoming irrelevant by clinging to their all-male identity. In 1991, the Bonesmen tapped their first Boneswomen. (Alumni who didn’t want women in their secret society retaliated by changing the locks on the tomb.)

Today, many of the societies continue to resist students’ most progressive demands. When the Bones class of 2019 took down the portraits, some of their predecessors were aghast. It was “bad manners,” a former member of the Bones alumni board who graduated from Yale in the 1960s told me. (I interviewed 12 current or recent members for this article, along with several members from earlier generations; many of them requested anonymity, citing confidentiality agreements.) Given that the society’s former members were overwhelmingly white, he argued, it didn’t make sense to criticize Skull and Bones for accurately portraying its own legacy. “Their historical protest was silly,” he said. Still, the Bones board tried to appease students by putting up photographs of nonwhite alumni alongside the portraits. This year, the former board member told me, the board will unveil the society’s first portrait of a Black alumnus. Similarly, Berzelius agreed to rename the Colony Foundation. Elihu, however, is keeping its name.

Reports of alumni-student schisms within Yale’s secret societies are nearly as old as the societies themselves. Every decade or so, especially when a member of the Bush family runs for president (George H. W. Bush was also a member), opinion writers argue that left-wing students have trampled the values that sustained societies. That makes it easy to miss a much more significant shift within these groups. Picture a member of Skull and Bones, or any of the other Ancient Eight secret societies, and you’ll probably conjure a preppy white guy who summers on the Cape. In fact, in recent years, the demographics of Yale’s most elite organizations have been utterly transformed. In 2020, Skull and Bones had its first entirely nonwhite class. (Every year, the society admits around 15 rising seniors; selections must be unanimous, and members have final say.) Many of the societies now have only one or two students each year who aren’t from historically marginalized groups.

Today, the idea of Skull and Bones selecting someone whose dad was a Republican president seems inconceivable. The so-called tap lines—the tradition guaranteeing that the football captain and the student-body president would end up in Bones—are long gone, and few descendants of alumni members get in. Instead, the secret societies affirmatively select for students who are the first in their family to attend college, who come from a low-income background, or who are part of a minority group. This has created something of a diversity arms race. “People are, intentionally or not, thinking, ‘Does this cohort have too many white people?’” said Ale Canales, a member of the Berzelius class of 2020.


28 Mar 2018

A New Kenneth Clark Biography and the Subsequent Decline of the West

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Remember Kenneth Clark’s magisterial tour d’horizon of Western Art, the thirteen-part Civilization documentary television series that appeared on the BBC in 1969 and in America on PBS in 1970?

The New York Review of Books is reviewing the 2016 James Stourton biography, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation, just being released now in the U.S.

Kenneth Clark is an interesting biographical subject, a talented and fortunate fellow who lived a rich and glamorous life devoted to the appreciation and explication of the Fine Arts. But I was even more struck by the reviewer’s, Richard Dorment, a former Art Critic for the British Telegraph, bald opening discussion of just how far contemporary academic fashion has left behind Kenneth Clark and the Civilization he so brilliantly described.

Once the most celebrated art historian in the world, Kenneth Clark’s star began to fade in the 1980s when a new generation of scholars rejected the object-based scholarship he epitomized and began to study works of art using Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. When Clark placed a painting or a building in its historical setting it was to understand more fully how and why it was made, and what it meant to those who first saw it.

Theory-based art history takes the opposite approach: broadly speaking, the scholar is interested in the work of art not as an end in itself but for what its making might tell us about the society that created it, particularly its attitudes toward subjects like race, gender, and social inequality. This kind of art history is taught in most universities on both sides of the Atlantic today. The scholarship Clark represented survives mainly in some museums and exhibition catalogs. Whereas his books were once required reading in undergraduate courses, many are now out of print. Civilization, the television show that introduced millions of people around the world to art history and lit the spark that led to the mass popularity museums and galleries enjoy today, is largely forgotten.


One shudders in horror to realize that it has come to this, that it is our fate to live in such a time, when the enemy of Civilization is not only within the gates, but occupying all the leading academic chairs and in control of all the leading museums, cultural institutions, and even the book reviews.

Kenneth Clark would shake his noble head in annoyance, then smile ruefully and say: “Oh well, after all, this, too, shall pass!”

11 Feb 2018

The Problem With American Education in a Nutshell

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It’s a foolish society that chooses for its teachers and storytellers people who hate that society.

All too often our children are being taught by people who have no experience of our society and no success within it. Their indoctrination at collectivist “education” schools has made them openly (and ignorantly) hostile to America.

What if one of the requirements to teach K-12 was that you be at _least_ 50 years old, with proven success in the society (in business, a trade, parenthood)? You needn’t have made a million or be a top-level executive–so long as you have functioned effectively within American society.

Ned Young

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