Doris, we’re in (with Paul Krugman)!


When my sister Jessica and I were younger, we used to invoke this line from Fame—”Doris, we’re in!”—whenever we got some little piece of recognition for something (watch the first 45 seconds or so from this clip). Couldn’t help but think of it when I got a shout-out this morning from Paul Krugman:

There’s a strand of thought — I identify it especially with Corey Robin, although he’s not alone — that says that conservatism isn’t really about the things it claims to be about. It isn’t really about free markets and moral values; it’s about authority — the authority of bosses over workers, of men over women, of whites over Those People.

Score one on the morality front: Pat Robertson, stern moral lecturer, says that it wasn’t Petraeus’s fault because “he’s a man”.


  1. jigje November 14, 2012 at 11:17 am | #

    All of us who align ourselves with this notion of conservatism, i.e., it’s really about authority over others, can only be pleased that someone like Krugman, a widely respected intellectual whose ideas are founded on considerable researched evidence, not to mention his breadth of knowledge and gravitas, has not only thrown his weight behind it, but is helping propagate it to a wider audience.

  2. Aaron November 14, 2012 at 11:17 am | #

    I’m trying to relate all of this in my mind with Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory ( So Pat Robertson is showing that Authority is more important than Fairness and Care.Where I see a disconnect in the modern conservative movement to its historical roots, and here I disagree with you Corey on how clean the ideological succession is on the Right, is that Fairness is being weakened below historical norms, and Authority is strengthened above them. There seemed to be a theme in Jeff Sharlet’s books that those in powerful roles are essentially above morality in the Evangelical Right’s eyes, since they were selected by God. I really think that there have been unique historical conservative movements that were primarily about the proportionality that falls under MFT’s Fairness category married with exaggerated Authority adherence, and drastically reduced concern with Care. That’s to me what makes these movements, such as the Fascists, ultimately right wing, but still aberrations from historic conservative norms. It’s also what makes these features cropping up in modern groups particularly disturbing.

    But what do I know, I score high on the liberal morals.

    • Chip Daniels November 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm | #

      I agree with this assessmen, as I am working my way throughHaidt’s work.
      I see this in the adamant defense offered for the Catholic Church’s sex scandals, where the deference to Authority trumps Harm.

      • Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 15, 2012 at 1:50 am | #

        In , Haidt claims “Libertarians, true to their name, value liberty more than anyone else, and they value it far more than any other foundation.” But it’s pretty obvious that libertarians limit their concerns to a form of liberty that is ontologically identical to the authority of property owners. (Logically, it seems more like their concept of liberty is derived from their concept of authority than vice-versa). Moreover, the libertarian concept of fairness is also bound up in their theory of liberty-authority. (Libertarian fairness is ambiguously defined as whatever results from the exercise of valid authority by property owners.)

        To me this raises some serious questions about Haidt’s research. Is he just looking at how people talk about their beliefs, rather than the true structure of those beliefs? As this one case shows, a single moral principle can be expressed in terms of multiple of these “foundations.” And of course a single foundation can be applied in multiple opposite ways (e.g., libertarians’ procedural definition of fairness vs. what he describes as conservatives’ karmic notion of fairness.) It might be much more illuminating to look at how a given ideology defines each one of these foundational conflicts (including the structural derivation of one from another — suggesting they are not always truly foundational), rather than to rank them in relative importance.

        Perhaps it is a general principle that the left would derive a theory of authority from principles of fairness, while the right derives principles of fairness from a theory of authority. So what we are looking at is not a relative weighting, but a structural inversion.

      • Aaron November 15, 2012 at 9:10 am | #

        @Chip That’s another good example. I also wanted to add that I’m not saying Conservatives don’t always value authority, just that there seem to be historical periods where they become primarily 2 moral foundation thinkers.

        @Blinkenlights Certainly Haidt’s work should be scrutinized, but I do think he does try to get at the true structure of beliefs, and not just how people talk about them. I didn’t read your link, but from what he’s discussed in his book, his experiments often were about eliciting moral reactions where people couldn’t provide reasoning, typically taboo situations where people “felt” were wrong, but didn’t have a clear moral principle to describe why. His work is contra what he would call rationalists, since he believes the rational systems are built up to explain human intuitions (obviously a gross oversimplification). I think that you can still get at what you’re describing using his system, since he underscores the importance of group norms over formal systems. To me, that puts the focus on what people are actually doing, instead of getting caught up in debates about what people say they are doing.

        As to fairness, in Haidt’s revised definition, it is more about proportionality (e.g. law of karma), than equality. I think this tension is unsolved in his current formulation, since he says conservatives are more concerned with proportionality and liberal are more concerned with equality (From Haidt’s Moral Foundations website: “Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives”). If you’re talking about simple systems where everyone in a group knows how hard each member worked, then sure, I can see how proportionality would be the best descriptor of fairness. When you have a large, complicated economy, where people have very different sets of opportunities, I don’t think proportionality continues to be a meaningful concept. Haidt will chide the Left for wanting equality of outcomes, but obviously there’s plenty of room to scrutinize the Right for allowing proportionality to become static and turn into ongoing Authority for a select group, all the while limiting equality of opportunities, and equality in non-commercial environments.

  3. Bart November 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm | #

    Let’s hope your book moves up in the rankings.

  4. Jessica Robin November 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm | #


    Sent from my iPhone

  5. troy grant November 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm | #

    Paul Krugman hit the nail on the head. Conservatives are little dictators.

  6. Jonathan Keller November 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm | #

    Right on!

  7. Mark Erickson November 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm | #

    Nice! I happened to stumble on this last night – oh, the 80’s – will I ever forget you? 80’s TV show theme song snippets:

  8. Blinkenlights der Gutenberg November 15, 2012 at 12:27 am | #

    Corey, I just wanted to let you know (in case you missed it) that Rick Perlstein in The Nation just called The Reactionary Mind “Corey Robin’s 2011 classic work of political theory.”

  9. Taryn Hart November 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm | #

    Straight man quotes Fame – don’t see that every day.

  10. Bill November 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm | #

    Corey, I think your gmail account has been hacked. It’s been sending out weird spam.

  11. Kathleen Geier November 16, 2012 at 11:48 pm | #

    Sweet! A while back Krugman linked to something I wrote for the Washington Monthly. I was verklempt! What was also awesome was that various people I hadn’t heard from in a while emailed me and offered congrats. Even my right-wing Krugman-hating dad (he doesn’t read Krugman but my brother told him about it) said he was proud of me!

    To change the subject a bit, it’s cool that you and your sister share catch phrases, pop culture references, and the like. One of my brothers and I are like that. We share a whole host of obscure references, inside jokes, etc., that no one else in the world would get. I can’t help but feel sorry for people like my bf, who’s an only child, who miss out on those kinds of sibling bonds.

  12. Scott Preston November 18, 2012 at 9:26 am | #

    “We’re in” is the what the rebel humans say, also, when they enter the Matrix, or what we might call “the Mainstream”.

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