A good college--visible or invisible--is composed of people who (a) know stuff, and (b) think well. The best colleges are made up of people who know different stuff, who think well in different ways, and who--most important--understand that when they listen to people who know different stuff than they do and who think well in different ways than they do, they learn.
James Poulos » In Defense of Blogger Collegiality: [W]hat has drawn this motley crew of bloggers together in such a way? Surely not a freakish felicity with constitutional law, or even a common writing style. In fact, all of the bloggers mentioned in this post share what I at least think are fairly wild mutual divergences in style and tone, as well as in content and slant. If anything, there’s a vague libertarian consensus among those identified on the right. But Ramesh is a different kind of conservative than Ross, I am a different kind of conservative than both of them, and Reihan has just identified himself succinctly as a
Rawlsekian neoconservative singulitarian meliorist humanist neoliberal infosocialist Viridian postliberalincrementalist.
Add other blog greats with whom many of us are familiar, like Andrew and Daniel, and the valences of intellectual diversity are only intensified. The main common attribute, it seems to me, is idiosyncrasy, which isn’t necessarily correlated with collegiality in any way. What looks like a nonthreatening difference of opinion to one idiosyncratic blogger might strike another as a dangerously or dumbly uncategorizable source of opposition.
No, the big conspiracy here I think is one among people who like a good conversation, and have discovered a consistent set of conversation partners whose content and style best compare and contrast with their own. Professional bloggers are paid conversationalists — or should be, at least. And the good social art of collegiality well understood is an essential part of good conversation — especially good public conversation. People sometimes fear that the blogosphere will close itself off to new talent, but, based on the dynamic I’ve just outlined, that strikes me as impossible. The ‘gold rush’ is probably over, but blogging will probably take on the generational tempo of the music world, with big acts retiring for a while to pursue real lives and then making comeback tours after a suitable hiatus — and with lots and lots of new acts competing for attention. Sometimes attention is won by mere novelty, but more often it’s won by talent. That may be somewhat boring when the talent involved is taking ‘Baba O’Reily’ and turning it into a Nickelback-style gruntfest, but may be less so when the talent involves daily attention to political, economic and cultural life.