California Leavin’?

by Brian on October 10, 2003

Brian Leiter suggests that philosophers will start fleeing California now that Arnie! has become governor.

Already the “buzz” among philosophers is that the election of the absurd Schwarzenegger, in a state already facing enormous problems, is going to lead philosophers in California, especially at UC system campuses, to start thinking about leaving. We’ll see whether Schwarzenegger can pull a “Thatcher.”

That’s not the buzz I’ve been hearing, but I’m a long way from California. Do any readers who are closer to the action want to leave any impressions?

I should say that given the relative unimportance of the governor’s office in state politics, especially when the governor is comprehensively outvoted in both houses, it seems a little absurd to leave California on this account. If there’s about to be a flood of west coast philosophy positions open up I predict there’s lots of un(der)employed philosophers from the rest of the world who will be more than happy to take them. Maybe Arnie! can be good for philosophy, even for California philosophy, after all.



Kieran Healy 10.10.03 at 5:28 am

Brian [Leiter] didn’t flee UT-Austin when Dubya was elected governor. I’d be surprised to see UC philosophers get up and leave.


m 10.10.03 at 5:33 am

Did Dubya drive em out of Texas?


andrew 10.10.03 at 7:17 am

I agree that state governors are pretty impotent. Like much in politics, I think what’s interesting about Arnie’s election is in the realm of symbols and identity.

– what do we think is appropriate (experience, accusations/evidence, sexual behavior)?
– what kind of personalities do we have confidence in, want to watch, identify with/wish to emulate?
– who do we want to blame/which culprit is easiest to sell (politicians, immigrants, parties, criminals, businessmen)?

When I hear, for instance, the news say that dissatisfaction with Davis was due to the budget crisis in CA, it sounds like a joke. Who believes that?

Identity politics is so much easier and useful: resonates more powerfully in our tribal natures, keeps the eyes of the demos away from the serious business of distributing the money, and gives a means of divide and conquer to groups with small natural constituencies.

Hmmm. To try and put this on topic: the reason that lefties find an Arnie win so distasteful (though surely not enough to move across the country) is because he’s not what we’re about. And we can’t believe so many CA voters seem to think he is. He won’t do much – governors usually can’t. But politics has little to do with policies, unless there’s an *us vs.them* hook.


Brian Leiter 10.10.03 at 1:36 pm

Dubya was less heinous when he was governor (I think he was already governor, too, when I got here). Since he’s gone, the Texas Taliban have been in ascendancy in this state, so we’ll see…I might even go to California!


Ahnold 10.10.03 at 2:17 pm

Mein zuerst act as Governor vill be to change my name to Dionysius. Then I vill rule my state as a true philosopher-king!


arthur 10.10.03 at 2:45 pm

This should have been a camapign issue. “A vote against recall is a vote for philosophers.” Or maybe not.


baa 10.10.03 at 2:55 pm

John Searle has already pledged to join Alec Baldwin in France.


MIchael C 10.10.03 at 3:37 pm

I teach philosophy at a Cal State, and I’ve not heard any such news about a Cali exodus. The only people who might have anything to worry about are pre-tenure faculty. The salaries, etc., of senior faculty are contractually guaranteed. On top of that, with the still glorious job market, getting out is easier said than done. On the bright side: The future looks great for adjuncts in California!


rea 10.10.03 at 3:59 pm

“the absurd Schwarzenegger”

Sounds like a perfect environment for existentialists, anyway . . .


jimbo 10.10.03 at 7:45 pm

If this was known ahead of time, Arnie might have picked up a few percentage points…


a different chris 10.10.03 at 11:44 pm

Move? MOVE??

What philosopher worth his salt wouldn’t kill to be on the Left Coast!

Maybe my one course in college misled me, but I though philosophy was all about posing questions and exploring paradoxes?

And no place on Earth presents as many mind-blowing questions and harbors as many “perfect 10” paradoxes as the Golden State. The Recall does nothing but emphasize that fact.


neil 10.12.03 at 8:11 am

What everyone seems to be forgetting about the election of the Gubernator is that nothing has really changed. This is the same California it was last year; it was equally willing to elect a jock action hero as governor before, even if the theory went untested. Anyone with enough of an obsession with politics to consider relocating over it surely realizes this.

So if nothing has changed, why didn’t Arnold run in the last real election? Maybe he wanted to squeeze a few more movies in (would people have refused to vote for him if they realized it would mean no T3?). Maybe he knew he wouldn’t be able to win a Republican primary, or a one-on-one race against Davis, so he waited a year to run in the recall election (which was surely already in the works a year ago).


phil 10.12.03 at 7:35 pm

Well, if philosophers do decide to bail out of California it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, philosophers have never really been big fans of democracy and have managed to promote and cohabitate with every form of tyranny human beings have come up with. Like religious fundamentalists, many people on the Left seem to have a hard time dealing with the fact that people disagree with them.


Brandonimac 10.12.03 at 8:42 pm

I hope that’s an impersonator and not really Brian Leiter posting above.

Of course Bush was less heinous as govenor — the Texas governorship is particularly impotent (as is the case in most ex-confederate states). I think this is much less true of California. In my own home state of Kentucky, the govenorship is very powerful. But nothing compares, of course, to the presidency.

(Also, check out Molly Ivin’s work to see how heinous Bush actually was even in the relatively powerless position of Texas govenor)

And what’s this about “I think he was already govenor, too, when I got here”? One hardly has to be a political junkie to know the GWB was Texas govenor from 1994-2000, and I can scarcely imagine how that fact would escape the attention of someone teaching at Austin.

I’m left with the conclusion that either (a) the “brian leiter” above is an imposter, or (b) Brian Leiter has little interest in politics — and hence that he’s just passing along academic gossip re: the California situation (which doesn’t mean it’s not true, of course).


Brian Weatherson 10.12.03 at 8:52 pm

Phil’s evidence that ‘philosophers have never been big fans of democracy’ is pretty impressive. In fact, as far as I can tell it’s non-existent. A few philosophers have had some fairly appalling political views, but in my experience the vast bulk are fairly run-of-the-mill social democrats.

‘Bad apples’ reasoning is always fun. One could run through all the types of murderer we’ve seen in America and conclude that Americans have always been big fans of murder. It’d be about as plausible as concluding that philosophers don’t like democracy on the basis of, I’m guessing, not much more than Plato’s anti-democratic leanings, Heidegger’s Nazi sympathies and Sartre’s softness for Stalinism.

I’m guessing Phil is uncomfortable with the fact that people disagree with him and have better reasons for their views than he has for his.


Matt McIrvin 10.13.03 at 1:32 pm

The buzz I’ve been hearing is all about the tremendous significance Schwarzenegger’s election has to the 2004 presidential campaign. Either it means California is now mysteriously “in play” in a way that it was not a week ago, or it means that Republican conquest of everything is inevitable again, or it means that voters are now fed up with all incumbents and will kick the bastards out in ’04 (I heard the last one straight from the Dean campaign).

As far as I can tell, it means exactly none of those things. Nobody liked Gray Davis and a movie star ran in the recall.


Luka Yovetich 10.14.03 at 6:48 am

I’m getting my MA in philosophy at a Cal State and haven’t heard anyone there talk about leaving the state. Isn’t Arnie just barely conservative? Would any philosopher really think to move because of him? I understand that many philosophers probably opposed the recall on principle and would feel bad about it going through. But is Arnie really much worse than Gray Davis in terms of what most philosophers support politically?


Tulsa 01.23.04 at 9:36 pm

Arnold is Interesting. But do you think he deserves to be governor ?


Tulsa 01.23.04 at 9:36 pm

Arnold is Interesting. But do you think he deserves to be governor ?

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