In case you are just joining in:
My post “Any of This Could Be Argued” discussed the connection between intellectual authority and intellectual progress.
My post “The Grackle Syndrome” discussed what happens when intellectual authority is rejected. Alexis de Tocqueville got this partly right and partly wrong. He grasped that when this happens, the motor driving movements of opinion is the urge to conform to others, and he grasped that these movements are unstable. However, he failed to distinguish between the individual’s conformity to the majority and his conformity to people like himself. I think that if conformity to the majority were the motor, we should expect not instability of opinion, but monolithic blocs of opinion which are resistant to change. But if conformity to people like myself is the motor, then we should expect chaotic movements of opinion, like the kaleidoscopic shifting, dividing, rejoining, and redividing that we see in large masses of airborne grackles, in which each bird imitates its near neighbors. And this is closer to the truth.
Obviously the Grackle Syndrome couldn’t be the whole story, because public opinion is not quite that chaotic. Beginning with “Why Intellectuals Are So Conformist” and “Why Intellectuals Lean Left,” I’ve tried to show that the urge to conform is not the only motive in operation. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Grackle Syndrome; it means that additional patterns are superimposed on it. Intellectuals in our kind of social system are motivated to favor technocratic political arrangements which preserve and increase their own influence. So although opinion among intellectuals is still rather chaotic and faddish, its chaotic movements are confined mostly to the left.
In Monday’s post, “The Flocking Behavior of Journalists,” I’ll offer another example of how patterns can be superimposed on the Grackle Syndrome.