23 March 2010

The War against the "Intellectual"

Do you remember when Bill Kristol (a horrible man who is influential of other horrible men and women) condemned the Obama administration for lying (about something or other) while at the same time being a ideological foot soldier for the political elite being obligated to tell expedient lies to the commoners? If you don't, Greenwald has it all here.

Now, I had a conversation with a friend yesterday (let's call him el hombre del Invierno) wherein we were trying to think about the "big picture" aspects of climate change and capitalism and so on and so on. I said, why don't all the major academic research institutions really clamp down on this agenda? Why are all the "great minds" focused on such, well, fairly useless inquiry? (Argue usefulness all day--this is crisis and crisis doesn't need an academic to parse the philosophy and grammar of this or that rhetoric...or whatever.)

Today, as "fate" would have it, I stumble upon this talk by David Harvey on the Youtubes where he says basically the same damn thing. (It's about 14 minutes in.)

So, on the heels of this I've re-assessed the "anti-intellectual" movement in this country (this is a "top down" idea, by the way) as a "conflation" of "intellectual" with "elite". In other words...the elites (political and economic) tell us NOT to trust the "intellectuals" (code words for Commies, Socialists and any other "not us" group you can think of).

I've decided that this is why governments fund so many "specializations"--why there actually is arts funding to study so many disparate things. I'm not saying I don't think there's a place for this, but frankly I'd like all of our "research" money to be funneled into Climate Catastrophe and Social and Ecological Inequalities.

So, Ronald and George and Rush and Glenn don't want you to trust Academics (cuz they're gay!)--they're not "salt of the earth"--they want to tell you what to do/be/think. But they do want you to trust the Billionaires in charge of monetary policy.

Why do you think that is?

What's your take?


  1. now you're hitting the hammer on the head. i just saw a study by a conservative group (can't remember which) about how many academics consider themselves liberal vs. conservative. the point was to make clear to this group's base that liberals pervade our institutions of higher ed. why is that? they didn't ask, because generally education involves opening of the mind.

  2. What leaped to mind was that "liberals" want to be "out of the game" of markets. Now, as you are likely aware the academic environment is no Sunday walk--highly political, highly stratified, and highly ambitious. However, the motivations are all PERSONAL and tied to one's sense of "self-output". You are not a cog--you are making an intellectual difference. If you are your mind and not just your labor (of if your labor is your mind) then this kind of work must be more "me" satisfying.

    Maybe liberals and academics are just more "me" centric--not self-centered so much--but there is an urge to make a difference and not be a number. That is vain of course and can be a real criticism of the liberal mind.

    But maybe that's the way out--maybe there's less disenfranchisement in the university--maybe there's a sense of community there. Maybe there are OTHER reasons besides money to encourage your drive to "more". Maybe profit here is good works for the community of thinkers.

    This is likely trying to idealize the university as a community that cares.

    But I don't think it's much different than saying autoworkers are a community that cares. There's a common goal and a common purpose and it happens in a common space be it quad or factory.