by W. S. Simmons
This book’s thesis, not unlike that of Pierre Bourdieu in The State Nobility (1996), is that Harvard University serves the interests of wealth and power and reproduces social inequality by empowering elites. The author asks why shouldn’t “the ultimate goal of higher education be creating a civil society in which more people live equally and happily?” Filmmaker Eun-jung (d. 2012) abundantly documents how Harvard falls short of this goal in nine chapters with titles that include “The Harvard Tradition: Rich, White, and Male,” “Pentagon University,” and “Harvard’s Role in Russian Economic ‘Reform.’” The author locates Harvard’s hidden materialism and power seeking in the 17th century but is most attentive to the postwar presidencies of James Bryant Conant, Derek Bok, and Lawrence Summers. She begins her epilogue with a passage from Karl Marx that brackets conventional faith in admission practices encouraging social mobility: “The more a ruling class is able to assimilate the foremost minds of a ruled class, the more stable and dangerous becomes its rule.” Would this book alarm Henry Dunster, John Winthrop, and Thomas Shepard? They would surely recognize it as a jeremiad. For the adult general public and, particularly, faculty and those interested in contemporary critiques of higher education.