Hal Draper


Berkeley: The New Student Revolt


2. The Liberal Bureaucrat

To some it is a mystery that the Berkeley revolt should have broken out against the “liberal” administration of President Clark Kerr, in the state-wide university, and of Chancellor Edward Strong as chief officer of the Berkeley campus. Both are liberals, to be sure, as liberals go nowadays; but what is most clearly liberal about them is their pasts.

In his student days, indeed, Kerr was what is now sometimes called a “peacenik,” and even joined the socialist Student League for Industrial Democracy. Liberalism is the direction from which Kerr has been evolving. In his 1960 book, Industrialism and Industrial Man, Kerr intimates quite clearly that he has been going through a process of changing his “original convictions,” but this does not necessarily involve any conscious abandonment of liberalism as the framework for his rhetoric. What he has been superimposing on this framework is a newly embraced concept of bureaucratic managerialism as the social model to be accepted. The bureaucratization of Kerr’s thought has been held in balance with liberalism only in the sense that he looks forward to a Bureaucratic Society which retains adventitious aspects of liberalism in the interstices of the social system.

I do not know how long this social world view had been growing on Kerr; but its first publication occurred in an article on The Structuring of the Labor Force in Industrial Society (written in collaboration with A.J. Siegel), published in January 1955. Since his central concept is the role of the bureaucracy (for Kerr, the bureaucracy is the Vanguard of the Future in the same sense, he tells us, as the working class was for Marx), it is interesting to note that Kerr himself definitely rose into the upper ranks of the Multiversity bureaucracy in mid-1952, when he became chancellor at Berkeley, after directing the Institute of Industrial Relations since 1945. The article mentioned was written within two years after this ascension. The fuller flowering of this world view in his subsequent book came within two years after his further ascension to the presidency in 1958, when he became (in his own term) “Captain of the Bureaucracy.”

People who think of Kerr as a liberal, but who have not paid attention to his most recent societal lucubrations, tend to be incredulous when told that the new Kerr views systemic and systematic bureaucratism as the new revelation. The population living under his Multiversity, however, had to take this as seriously as does Kerr himself.

Failure to understand the theoretician of the Multiversity is one source of the myth that the student revolt burst out against a particularly liberal administration. Another source is misconception of what has happened on the Berkeley campus under Kerr’s administration.


Last updated on 27.8.2006