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Future Search

Updated: 2018-03-06T04:55:23.396-08:00


Good news and bad news on the academic front


The good news is that while I was in Ireland, getting acquainted with my other country, the one with 95 percent fewer swastikas, a blogger with the charmingly self-deprecating nym of Gabriel Conroy posted a long, thoughtful, seriously engaging review essay (3000+ words!) of the book I wrote with Jennifer Ruth, The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom: Three Necessary Arguments. Jennifer and I were kind of flabbergasted, all the more so when Mr. Conroy emailed us to let us know about the review. Remarkably, he even pasted it into the email as text just in case we didn’t want to click on a link in an unsolicited email. We thought: This is a scrupulous person we are dealing with.Jennifer and I proceeded to have a productive exchange with Mr. Conroy by email, acknowledging his critique of the “Wal-Mart gambit” but pushing back a bit on his skepticism about tenure--and especially his suggestion that his own position (as a non-tenure-track faculty member in an academic library) might not require academic freedom. Jennifer, especially, pressed our case about professionalism v. cronyism, arguing (as she is wont to do, because she is right about this) that crony and patronage hires are far easier to pull off when the decision-maker is one person than when a legitimate search committee is conducting an open search, and that professional procedures and practices are valuable partly because they reduce (though cannot eliminate entirely) the degree of arbitrary caprice in a system.As they used to say on blogs, read the whole thing. As Jennifer said to Mr. Conroy, it’s the most sustained discussion of our book we’ve seen so far.But if you do read the whole thing, and you read the comments (I know, I know--you should certainly stop before the deranged racist shows up deep in the sub-sub-basement), you will get to the bad news, though of course it is bad news only for me.Deep in the thread, one “Tmesis” shows up to inform Mr. Conroy that I am an “ass and a bully,” and that I am abusive to adjuncts in comment threads. (You will want to know how I manage to determine that pseudonymous commenters are adjuncts. The answer is that I have internets X-ray vision and can determine the employment status of all commenters on higher-ed threads.) Tmesis also claims that the plan Jennifer and I propose for converting contingent faculty to a tenure track “would involve cutting research out of the professional vocation of the majority of college teachers.”As Berube et. al. who are on the upper end were blessed with charmed genes and a natural status above all others that endows them with “research” abilities. They seem to believe this – or argue for it at any rate.Mr. Conroy, intrigued, asks for links. Tmesis promptly supplies them. And this is where things get seriously weird.One of the links Tmesis provides is Jennifer’s and my essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which we say,Some people oppose our plan on the grounds that it would somehow prevent contingent faculty members from doing research. This is a serious misunderstanding. We are trying to move contingent faculty members onto a tenure track without requiring research from them.(This is a tipoff that Tmesis doesn’t read all the words, or has significant difficulties understanding some of them. As for the bit about “charmed genes,” what can I say? Anyone who knows my work on intellectual disability knows that I believe in innate genetic hierarchies, and that I am on the top of them.)Mr. Conroy, being of sound mind, reads through the links and replies, “I didn’t find Berube’s engagement as bullyish or trollish as you did.” This bit of equanimity totally enrages Tmesis, who proceeds to let loose with both barrels:It’s hard to see in the way the comments are listed, but Berube stopped responding to Jemina. But then he answers the exact same questions when posed by someone else. That’s on purpose, and the purpose is to demean Jemina. And he will discuss working conditions for adjuncts but can clam up when asked about his own [...]

Proof positive


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Not Again!


Jeez, you'll fall for this old "read the whole thing" trick every time, won't you? No, there is no transcript of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck debating this call on Wittgensteinian grounds. Really, there isn't. I made it all up.

Why? Because I'm in St. Louis and recovering from a nasty cold and I had nothing better to do.

Blogging in the Future!


See, I told you it was possible!

My, everything is so clear now that it's April 27, 2022. I'm glad all that nonsense from back in 2007 got straightened out!

Harriet Miers in Retrospect


Greetings, my friends, we are all interested in the future, because that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, future events such as these will affect you in the future!

In other future news


Welcome, all you readers looking for future news not related to Harriet Miers!

The South American populist revolution of the late 20th and early 21st century finally took root in the United States in 2020, abolishing the Electoral College, establishing proportional-representation voting for all nonexecutive electoral contests, and bringing agrarian reform to California.

You can learn more about agrarian reform in the United States by Future-Googling Secretary of the Interior Christopher Clarke.

Inexpensive champagne shipped directly to your home!


Thanks to the heroic efforts of President John Edwards and Vice-President Tucker Carlson, who, not content with the nationalizing of the United States' energy industry and the de-nationalizing of Fox News, signed legislation in early 2026 enabling every American to order Freixenet and Korbel online.

Edwards' and Carlson's landslide 77-23 defeat of Jenna and Barbara Bush in 2028 was widely credited to their catchy campaign slogan, "Re-Elect Edwards/ Carlson -- It's Smooth Sailing Now."

Nicodeman Ethics


Yes, yes, I know there's no such thing as the Nicodeman Ethics and the twelve kinds of wrongness. It's the Nicomachean Ethics and twelve types of virtue. But I got it wrong, see? That's the joke! Ha ha ha ha.

All right, I'm going away now.

Campaign to Prevent Massive Linkdumping


You're kidding me, right? Tell me you didn't click on this link.

The Whole Thing


Aha! You've come to read the whole thing! Now I've got you!That's right, I've finally succeeded in tricking people into reading Marx's Grundrisse. Here's "Production, Consumption, Distribution, Exchange (Circulation)." And yes, this will be on the final.(1) PRODUCTIONIndependent Individuals. Eighteenth-century Ideas.The object before us, to begin with, material production.Individuals producing in Society—hence socially determined individual production—is, of course, the point of departure. The individual and isolated hunter and fisherman, with whom Smith and Ricardo begin, belongs among the unimaginative conceits of the eighteenth-century Robinsonades, [1] which in no way express merely a reaction against over-sophistication and a return to a misunderstood natural life, as cultural historians imagine. As little as Rousseau's contrat social, which brings naturally independent, autonomous subjects into relation and connection by contract, rests on such naturalism. This is the semblance, the merely aesthetic semblance, of the Robinsonades, great and small. It is, rather, the anticipation of 'civil society', in preparation since the sixteenth century and making giant strides towards maturity in the eighteenth. In this society of free competition, the individual appears detached from the natural bonds etc. which in earlier historical periods make him the accessory of a definite and limited human conglomerate. Smith and Ricardo still stand with both feet on the shoulders of the eighteenth-century prophets, in whose imaginations this eighteenth-century individual—the product on one side of the dissolution of the feudal forms of society, on the other side of the new forces of production developed since the sixteenth century—appears as an ideal, whose existence they project into the past. Not as a historic result but as history's point of departure. As the Natural Individual appropriate to their notion of human nature, not arising historically, but posited by nature. This illusion has been common to each new epoch to this day. Steuart [2] avoided this simple-mindedness because as an aristocrat and in antithesis to the eighteenth century, he had in some respects a more historical footing.The more deeply we go back into history, the more does the individual, and hence also the producing individual, appear as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole: in a still quite natural way in the family and in the family expanded into the clan [Stamm]; then later in the various forms of communal society arising out of the antitheses and fusions of the clan. Only in the eighteenth century, in 'civil society', do the various forms of social connectedness confront the individual as a mere means towards his private purposes, as external necessity. But the epoch which produces this standpoint, that of the isolated individual, is also precisely that of the hitherto most developed social (from this standpoint, general) relations. The human being is in the most literal sense a Zwon politikon[3] not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. Production by an isolated individual outside society—a rare exception which may well occur when a civilized person in whom the social forces are already dynamically present is cast by accident into the wilderness—is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other. There is no point in dwelling on this any longer. The point could go entirely unmentioned if this twaddle, which had sense and reason for the eighteenth-century characters, had not been earnestly pulled back into the centre of the most modern economics by Bastiat, [4] Carey, [5] Proudhon etc. Of course it is a convenience for Proudhon et al. to be able to give a histor[...]