Did the Times Higher Education Plagiarize from Wikipedia?

I was reading The Times Higher Education‘s Book of the Week feature, which happened to review “Democracy Incorporated” by Sheldon Wolin this week. When I got to the “About the Author” section in the review, I noticed something curious: there are several instances of word-by-word quoting of the Wiki page (permanent link to the version that I’m talking about) on Sheldon Wolin without citation or any kind of reference.

I’m now going to document every instance of what is possibly plagiarism.

1) From the THE article:

“Sheldon S. Wolin is often described as representing the hard Left, owing to his views that the US has turned into an oxymoronic “superpower democracy” and that neoconservative policymakers are turning North America into an “inverted totalitarian” state.”

From Wikipedia:

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

Notice the word-for-word copying of the Wiki article, with the exception of the last parenthetical clause.

2) From the THE article:

“Within his work, Wolin defends a radical account of democracy. He views it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment that needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal “mega-state”.”

From Wikipedia:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

Again, with some very minor word changes, an almost exact replica of the Wikipedia article on Wolin.

Before someone gets smart on me, yes, I realize that the THE article came out on July 8th, 2008, and the Wiki page I cite is last modified on July 26th, 2008. So there is a possibility that whoever edited the Wiki page last copied from the THE article instead.

I have not dismissed that point, so in doing a little bit of digging, I found the following evidence.

1) From the July 8th, 2008 edit of the Wiki page:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

2) From the May 22, 2008 edit of the Wiki page:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

3) From the January 8, 2008 edit of the Wiki page:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

4) From the December 21, 2007 edit of the Wiki page:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

5) From the June 25, 2007 edit of the Wiki page:

“Wolin defended a radical account of democracy. He took it not as a form of government, but as a form of political judgment which needs to be wrested away from its close association with the liberal megastate.”

“Wolin is often described as representing the hard-Left in his views that the United States has turned into the oxymoronic entity of ‘superpower democracy’ and that neo-conservative policy makers are turning the United States into an ‘inverted totalitarian’ state (with all of the fascist implications).”

I think the evidence is pretty compelling.

Of course, someone might also raise the objection that the whoever contributed to the “about the author” section in the THE article was also the one who originally wrote the Wiki article on Wolin that happens to include the language that I have quoted. Of course this is possible, but even granting this assumption (which seems unlikely, because the last several edits I’ve linked to are made by several different contributors), THE should still have cited Wikipedia.

I submitted my comments to the THE editors, and hopefully this is nothing but an innocent mistake. But I find it ironic that a paper explicitly about higher education should be in danger of committing one of its cardinal sins.

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