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Morse Peckham on Corporations & Cultural Incoherence

Morse Peckham

826 words

Morse Peckham (1914-1993) was a literary critic and cultural historian who was very well-known during his lifetime but who has been largely forgotten today. He had all the qualities that make him anathema in today’s academia: Besides being white, brilliant, and a writer of enormous clarity and precision, Peckham was also a careful and insightful editor of nineteenth-century literary texts, a Darwinist, and a prescient observer of the decline of the American university.

Nowhere is Peckham’s prescience seen to greater effect than in his 1971 essay “The Corporation’s Role in Today’s Crisis of Cultural Incoherence.”[1] Peckham begins the essay by remarking that the corporation is primarily an institution of social management that is transcending the political and social importance of the nation-state in much the same way that the nation-state earlier transcended the Church. Already in 1971, Peckham perceived the university to be little more than an appendage of the corporation, existing primarily “to provide the corporation with replacement parts for worn-out or otherwise discarded personnel . . .” (266)

For Peckham, the university no longer attracts the best and brightest individuals, who are now more often drawn to the greater rewards and challenges of corporate careers. Interestingly, Peckham views the one institutional strength of the university to be the gathering and processing of information. The corporation’s single-minded focus on profit is, according to him, responsible for its weakness in collecting and collating information; the university, on the other hand, with its multiplicity of disciplinary interests, is a better instrument of proto-information technology. Of course, this statement was made in the era before the ubiquity of computing and the advent of big data.

What was true in Peckham’s day has seen a complete reversal in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Corporations are now seemingly less interested in maximizing profits than in enforcing adherence to a rigid Leftist ideology. Today’s universities are notable not for their catholicity of interests, but in a narrow set of gender and racial dogmas. Universities are now primarily focused on profitability, whereas corporations are more concerned with collecting information, controlling human behavior, and advancing ideologically-based narratives.

Peckham also correctly identifies the role that government and corporate elites play in controlling narratives. For him, the very words “government” and “corporation” are mere rhetorical terms. They are not entities, but collections of verbal and non-verbal signs by which elites control society. In fact, Peckham remarks that corporations pay more attention to rhetoric than governments and are much better at using it. As such, the corporation is a “kind of synthesis of government and church.” (265)

Never were truer words ever written. Today’s corporations seek control of human behavior to a degree unimaginable to the most repressive dictators of the past century. And neither Cotton Mather nor Torquemada ever exhibited the murderous religious zeal of a five hundred-pound, blue-haired, gender-fluid, anti-white SJW employee of Google or Facebook.

For Peckham, the solution to higher education’s dilemma is a return to producing individuals educated in the aristocratic traditions of high culture:

Since the complexity of modern society, the incoherence of the current cultural crisis, and the increasing domination of the corporation require far more people inculcated with these values of high culture than the universities are currently producing or seem able to produce, the question arises as to whether or not it can be done. I believe the answer is that it is indeed possible. (278)

Ever prescient, Peckham hedges his bet and states at the end of the essay:

Perhaps it would be better for the corporation to allow the university to go its declining way and instead to start new academic institutions for the sole purpose of preserving and inculcating those values of high culture so essential to the corporation’s survival. (284)

Unfortunately, the type of academic and corporate reform that was still possible in 1971 no longer obtains in 2019. It is almost quaint to think today of high culture being essential to the survival of the corporation. The university and the corporation are inimical to freedom, destructive to society, and adamantly opposed to the interests of the white race, Western civilization, and every institution that has proved beneficial to a well-established and ordered polity.

Morse Peckham’s insights into the corruption of the corporate world and the cultural incoherence of the university have the makings of a blueprint for the recovery of our race and civilization. Peckham saw that the corporation was at its essence an ephemeral entity, more rhetoric than substance. And any entity that exists by rhetoric can be “deconstructed” rhetorically.

It is a shame that Morse Peckham’s observations were not given greater credence in 1971, but prophecies are seldom heeded in the era in which they are made. It is therefore up to us to utilize his insights as we dismantle the anti-white institutions of the postmodern world one rhetorical brick at a time.


[1] Morse Peckham, “The Corporation’s Role in Today’s Crisis of Cultural Incoherence,” Romanticism and Behavior: Collected Essays II (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1976), pp. 263-284.

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  1. Muhammad Aryan
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Great piece !!!

    I believe strong nuclear families remain the only mechanism to repel these destructive societal pressures.

    The White Western State/Ruling Establishment has appropriated the training of youth through universities and corporations. The future is being held hostage. Fatherlessness coupled with the insanity of ‘single-motherhood’ augur a harrowing age more diabolical than this.

    Furthermore, these tendencies have also begun to seep into non-Western societies. Fortunately, time and again, our stronger ties of blood have neutralised these harmful accretions. There are some fools amongst us who deem insistence on rigid family hierarchy as ‘backward’ and ‘medieval’, however, the State doesn’t back them and has hitherto wisely continued to favour a healthy family life.

    What business does a State have in coming between a father and his progeny? He is Augustus on his own property and it is his prerogative how he governs this piece of land.

    Democracy snatches children from their fathers in the name of ‘Rights of Man’ to integrate them in a horizontal existence.

  2. Jud Jackson
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink


    I never heard of the man before. Thanks for drawing him to my attention.

    But, I am thinking where would it be possible these days to get a real Liberal Arts Education. I can think of only 3 possibilities and I don’t have a lot of confidence in these 3 either. They are St. Johns University in Annapolis, St. Johns University in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michicagan.

    • Quintilian
      Posted October 8, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      I think the best thing to do is to avoid the university system entirely except to get a professional degree. Or maybe learn a skilled trade. Then just read the great books unencumbered by the “professors.”

  3. Stephen Phillips
    Posted October 8, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    ‘Perhaps it would be better for the corporation to allow the university to go its declining way and instead to start new academic institutions for the sole purpose of preserving and inculcating those values of high culture so essential to the corporation’s survival.’ (284)

    I think this is happening, especially in my field of interest of classical drawing and painting. The teaching of visual art in universities is dreadful, not to mention a waste of time and money for the student. The re-introduction of Art Ateliers for students seeking a solid founding in drawing and painting applying centuries old methods is making a resurgence. Students are generally required to spend 30-40 hours a week in the studio for a period of 3 or 4 years. Generally speaking, these programs are not available for student loans, as I believe the universities see them as too much competition and wish to push government debt for a sub-standard art education. …

    Posted October 8, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink
    I think the best thing to do is to avoid the university system entirely except to get a professional degree. Or maybe learn a skilled trade. Then just read the great books unencumbered by the “professors.”

    Totally agree !

    • Alexandra O
      Posted October 8, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I think people of our affiliation should avoid all public schools in the U.S. (and probably Europe), and go straight to ‘Home Schooling’ for our children of all ages. This will require immense sacrifices on our part, and especially on women who — poor things! — will have to give up corporate ladder-climbing for the first 20 years of their adult life in order to help save what little is left of civilization in this country. Most will not even have any idea what we are talking about. We have a lot of work to do, and it does not require guns and revolution in the streets, but in our nitty-gritty everyday lives. My humble sacrifice at my (elderly) age is to save books being thrown out of libraries and schools as being ‘irrelevant’ to current ideas. They’ll be left to home-schooling groups when I kick off, if not before. We need to get together in local groups and discuss this.

  4. Sartor
    Posted February 14, 2020 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Apologies for a very belated note of thanks.
    Delighted that Morse Peckham has been rediscovered. Thanks also for introducing me to this essay. Must check it out.
    Beyond the Tragic Vision was a milestone in my academic life and inspired me to go on to Penn for graduate studies. Alas I missed Peckham by a couple of years but colleagues who had studied under him were passionate admirers. His weekend graduate soirees were legendary and regarded as the most valuable part of the graduate syllabus.
    His Variorum edition of The Origin of the Species is still a landmark and a joy to consult. All done in small bites in the Rare Book Room. His productivity was phenomenal and all in addition to supervising some major dissertations. When browsing the stacks I often discovered work supervised by him and it was always outstanding. Incredibly high standards under his tutelage.

    “Art and Disorder ” in his Triumph of Romanticism is still worth checking out as are all the other essays. He did some great work on Carlyle and was unusual in being an enthusiastic critic of Carlyle’s History of Frederick the Great but I can’t recall the particular essays. Time to revisit an old friend from the golden age of American academe.

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