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David Thompson
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February 09, 2010

Comments

SG

An envious arrogant leftwing academic. Shocker. Anyway stop bitching and hand over your money. He deserves it more than you.

Tom

Right on dude.

Karen M

Surber: "There's no secret that the liberal arts are the lowest-compensated sector of academe,"

Yes it’s a real outrage that surgeons earn more than professors of gender studies.

David

“Yes it’s a real outrage that surgeons earn more than professors of gender studies.”

Quite. But that does seem to be Surber’s thinking, and presumably the thinking of many of his peers. Perhaps he imagines that he, or someone equally clever, could impose on us a more virtuous economic system whereby people are paid in accord with the value they assign to themselves based on their estimated cleverness, and irrespective of what the customer is willing to pay.

“Look, you savages, I’m thinking about the human condition in nuanced and complex ways. Where’s my fur coat?”

Chris S.

Why are we being so harsh on these academics? They work in this profession even though they know they'll be compensated less. In the pursuit of truth, they are willing to be (financial) martyrs. And it's about time you knuckledraggers acknowlege this. They're BETTER than you, and they are paid less, which they accept with dignity, which also makes them BETTER than you. Anyone sensing a theme here?

I love the tired Sarah Palin references at the end. If only she'd been a liberal academic she would have....? Would have what? Seen the light? Been a proper elite? Known her place? What?

Sam

"Who, after all, would want to preserve a situation in which others who are equivalently educated and experienced - doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, colleagues in other areas, and, yes, chief executives - receive vastly more compensation?"

Ha. He doesn't get it. Doctors, engineers, CEOs and scientists are more USEFUL than a professor of philosophy. Even lawyers are.

Spiny Norman

Is passive-aggressive behavior part of training themselves "to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition", or do people with this sort of emotional disorder naturally gravitate towards the Liberal Arts?

Chris S.

Was thinking about the CEO, Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer vs liberal academic. I like to think of a jobs utility by whether or not it fits in the following statement:

"Oh no, I've got a problem with X, I'd better call a Y".
Where X is a real-life day to day situation and not simply a scenario. And where Y is some sort of profession. If there is no X where you NEED a Y, then Y's value to society is deemed less than a Y where there exist multiple X's.

Lets play a fun game. Say Y is a Gender Studies Professor, or Philosphy major. See if you can come up with a real day to day situation where you NEED them.

Karen M

But gender studies is the fourth emergency service.

David

What’s funny, sort of, is that Surber is both condescending and parochial, as if a mental life was for His Tribe Only. Despite telling us at some length just how clever he is, and how clever leftist academics are (compared with Sarah Palin), Surber doesn’t actually provide much of an argument. He just tells us, repeatedly, that his tribe has the only view worthy of respect.

As one of the commenters (#36) notes in reply, “As a partisan matter, it doesn’t make sense for liberals to go out of their way to rehabilitate and explore conservative ideas, but as an academic matter it’s quite a different question... There are serious conservative ideas and ways of thinking about politics and society, but the academy, in its general culture, acts as if there aren’t... That’s partisan, not academic behaviour.”

You could, I think, add “classical liberal” and “libertarian” to “conservative” in the sentence above. And the more politicised and partisan the humanities become - the more territorial they are - the less incentive there is to engage in good faith with contesting ideas. It’s much easier to pretend that rival viewpoints have no serious intellectual or moral basis.

Note Surber’s sole contribution to the discussion following his article, in which he depicts his numerous and varied critics (from across the political spectrum) as “those who merely want to posture, pontificate, ‘conserve’ the status quo, turn back the clock to some imagined ‘better time’ - or whatever other aims fuel their obvious passion.”

The framing of his critics (whether ‘conservative’ or not) as “want[ing] to turn back the clock” is simply evasive and disingenuous. It’s a tribal cartoon – one that undermines his own claims of “complexity” and “nuance.” And this is Surber’s very first manoeuvre, one he repeats several times, and on which he hangs his credibility. Also disingenuous is the reference to his critics’ “obvious passion,” which implies, sneerily and dishonestly, that no serious and rational points were awaiting his reply.

Surber’s dismissive comment and failure to engage with criticism suggests he’s unable to step outside of his own conceits, even when pressed repeatedly, which isn’t an ideal trait for a professor of philosophy. Instead, he resorts to dishonesty, evasion, straw men and more tribal condescension. Note Surber’s tone and compare it with that of his more articulate critics (whose points Surber takes care to ignore, possibly because they jar with his ‘conservative’ caricature). Instead, he acknowledges only the most asinine replies, thus conjuring an image of himself as both besieged and validated.

Does it sound like the professor is arguing in good faith?

dicentra

"It’s real simple: Those who have less and want more will tend to support social changes that promise to accomplish that"

Either that or they'll find a way to GET more through honest means, rather than asking Big Daddy Gubmint to take it from others to give it to you.

Or they'll thank God every day that they have anything at all (especially in the industrialized West) and be contented with having WAY more than is needed to survive, even if the neighbors have WAY WAY more.

clazy

'we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways'

Complex, nuanced -- sure, I can accept those. As you point out, David, academics esteem those characteristics most highly. But there's something pathetic about the inclusion of 'productive'. It's certainly true that academics produce extraordinary quantities of verbiage, and in that sense, they may be productive, but it is another question entirely whether their output is actually useful. (I'm not speaking of faculties of science and engineering....)

rxc

I think this fits in with the way that "social studies" has morphed into the "social sciences". There is a need to compete(!) with the hard sciences, which became quite popular in the 1800s and early 1900s, to the detriment of the liberal arts, and the way to compete is to show that you are doing hard work, even if it doesn't amount to anything than a few words on a page.

I am reading Hemmingway's Moveable Feast right now, and I am taken by the way that he talks about all the "work" he does each day, writing in the cafe. I like his writing style, and appreciate that writing can actually be a profession, but to make it sound like people who dig ditches for a living is a bit much...

CIngram

I suspect both Kant and Aquinas, to pick a couple almost at random, had a far superior intellect to the good professor, a more complete education, a vastly greater understanding of how to think about the world, and, naturally, a much more valuable body of work. Despite all this, they failed to achieve that oneness with fashionable liberalism that Prof Surber seems to the think is the natural resting place of great thinkers.

In the 20thC, how many truly great minds belonged to people that way? Chomsky would include himself among them, I imagine, but I don't. And Nietzsche just wasn't bright enough, I suppose.

'Yes it’s a real outrage that surgeons earn more than professors of gender studies.'

He genuinely seems to believe this, which is quite staggering.

tessa

Didn't these dolts used to find a rich, old woman to support them, ie: John Kerry?

Mondo Frazier

Excellent takedown of Surber's obvious high regard for himself and his ideas. To JP Surber, it's not the marketplace that should determine the price his work and ideas are worth, it's his having them in the first place.

Nice work if you can get it.

RMM

Their intellect will be rewarded in heaven. Oops, liberals do not believe in God and besides coveting your neighbors property is one of those commandments the statist just cannot get around. Sucks to be them.

Spade

As somebody with a BA in History who started out in engineering I find this: "It is because we liberal-arts professors... have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition that so many of us are liberals." to be hilarious.

Nothing in the liberal arts is complex or productive. Maybe nuanced. God I miss those days of being a history major. I could do nothing, write total crap, and still get A's.

Jim

The lowest of those entering post high school education can get a doctorate in philosophy. I know, I watched several of them agonize through their studies, spending countless hours lifting those 12-oz dumbells for endless days.

Allen

I can't help but notice the parallels between what liberals think of themselves vs. what they think of conservatives and that scene in the Princess Bride with Vizzini and The Dread Pirate Roberts.

Jukin

Humanity has shifted to a Utopian view due to state indoctrination. Thus, our children learn from people that have ZERO real world experience and not their parents steeped in the real world. Lenin knew it.

Every time that a collectivist society has been forced (or fooled) on to humanity it has been a failure. Some large where 100s of millions die, some small where the populace is merely hungry, re-educated, and shorter than they should be. One constant is there will always be fear and misery. Yet, the left always works to bring this inevitable result to pass. I believe this is the classic definition of insanity.

ECW

Anyone who was subjected to Critical Literary Theory in the 90's (like myself) knows what a wondrous pile of wasteful bullsh*t it all is. It's an exercise in mental masturbation for masturbations sake; not for stroking the intellect, but for generating a bizarre, incestuous way of collective thinking that produces, literally, nothing of substance, worth or value. There is no sincere heft to it. Where else can you spend a full 45 minutes arguing over the correct pronunciation of Nietzsche? (It’s actually “NEE-CHA”, by the way.) The humanities are mostly for barmy susceptible chicks and the guys who want to screw them: for people who too often fear their hands or fear being exposed at some pretentious mixer. Sure, the screwing part was wonderful, but there was little challenge in it. Memorize three trivial poems or cite some obscure feminist author (the name “Aphra Behn WILL get you laid on campus) and it’s fish in a barrel time. Reading some bent treatise and finding it “deep” and telling others “it’s deep” requires little skill. It’s kinda like the guitar – anyone can do it. Humanities types, and I know many, insist their scholarship promotes critical thinking, but find no irony that they all come to think basically the same way – especially politically. Studying the humanities (of which I embarrassingly have two degrees) did less for me in four years than a three month course in car repair at the local tech school a few summers back. The kids under the hood were more real, sincere, genuine, capable, no BS people than 98% of the fey hipsters I studied with. Being able to fix a woman’s car is a hell of a lot sexier than reciting Rimbaud poems to her; or playing guitar for that matter.

roger rainey

shooting fish in a barrel...

Pat

David @ 16:05 wrote:

"Perhaps he imagines that he ... could impose on us a more virtuous economic system whereby people are paid in accord with the value they assign to themselves based on their estimated cleverness ..."

That very economic system has already been imposed by an entertainment-media complex that demands its highly untalented actors, entertainers and performers to be compensated millions for their mere fifteen minutes of fame on stage or screen.

Jim

If I could buy them for what they are worth and sell them for what they think they are worth, I could retire tomorrow.

Ed Smith

Perhaps the reason that liberals trend to the fields of study that pay less is that they have a personality that makes them complacent in receiving lower pay? Maybe conservatives have more drive to be better off financially and not willing to settle for not being compensated according to their level of education?

In all honesty, this all comes down to economics. It is all about supply and demand. The demand for the services of liberal arts professors is low and their pay is reflective of that demand.

neyney

Who is this guy, Chauncy Gardner? Look how erudite I am, I use big words to prove to the great unwashed how superior my way of thinking is. He sounds a lot like his messiah BHO. Funny, I was just telling my 17 year old daughter that I'll help her through college as long as she doesn't take the equivalent of "basket weaving 101" in other words I'm not paying for a degree in "Liberal Arts". I'd rather she have a useful degree, you know something that helps her to get an actual job not just another Liberal Professorship at a liberal college.

Neo

It was said that Baise Pascal invented differential equations so he could amuse himself with a form of mathematics that was useless. Of course, differential equations are now at the core of engineering and science.
A liberal arts education in the humanities should be so lucky.

pt591

"In many arts subjects... there's often pressure to avoid the obvious and prosaic, even when the obvious and prosaic is true... Consider, for instance, Duke's professor miriam cooke, who... claims that the oppression and misogyny found in the Islamic world is actually the fault of globalisation and Western colonialism, despite the effects predating their alleged causes by several centuries."

Spot on.

Jim

Concerning Neyney's comment, We who pay those tuitions while they require the students to take these almost useless classes (to keep the liberal arts majors employed) should rise up and say ENOUGH. Many of these technical graduates are better than those who were required (forced) to take the philosophy classes. Their only purpose is to keep them in a paycheck. We all know it even though it is complicated.

Robert

To paraphrase Robert Nozick, why then do contemporary intellectual elitists feel entitled to the highest rewards their society has to offer and resentful when they do not receive this? Intellectual elitists feel they are the most valuable people, the ones with the highest merit, and that society should reward people in accordance with their value and merit. The answer of course is ironic, but only to them. Being that there are so many liberal intellectual elitists in our free market society, their wages are, rightfully so, hopelessly depressed. It's too bad for them especially considering the number of liberal intellectual elite clones matriculating from colleges and universities each and every year. The ever increasing the pool of liberal intellectual elites is sure to keep their wages suppressed for generations to come.

Kim

If left wing ideology is so complex and sophisticated why are so many of its adherents as dense as they are?

Jeff

I would like to see this goof solve a coupled set of partial differential equations of four variables (e.g. Navier-Stokes) and apply it to a real life problem. Then he would realize how stupid he is to think liberal arts are even close to engineering and the hard sciences.

randian

There’s no secret that the liberal arts are the lowest-compensated sector of academe, despite substantially more advanced study than business instructors and the equivalent of those in the natural sciences

Liberals arts PhDs have "substantially more advanced study" than physics or math PhDs? Since when?

Who, after all, would want to preserve a situation in which others who are equivalently educated and experienced ... receive vastly more compensation

You would think somebody who claims to think "in complex, nuanced, and productive ways" wouldn't push the credentialism fallacy.

Diana

From Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton to the brain dead of Hollywood, the intellectual superiority of the left never fails to assert itself

dicentra

"If left wing ideology is so complex and sophisticated why are so many of its adherents as dense as they are?"

They're not dense; they're *substantive*.

fred

maybe he'd get paid more for his "intellectual thoerizing" if it wasn't so provably erroneous. i.e. left leaning. its not that he's ignorant; it's just that he knows so much that isn't so. and doc, i'm a cpa, and YOU ain't underpaid. TRUST me. i know how much everybody makes. i do taxes for 10 of each of them, everyone. all of you people. engineers, professors, professional sports athletes, lawyers, single mother daycare moms, plumbers, cia officers, hvac repairmen, congressional aides, doctors, dentists, speach writers, truck drivers, salesmen, small business owners, lobbyists, primary school teachers, active duty mil, retired people, poor people, rich people, dead people. everybody. i know what you make. and they make. and i know how much all of you work, and them. YOU AINT UNDERPAID. you piece of merda. (thats latin pal)

Jim

Fred,

You don't know what I make.

CtheP

As a college professor myself (Information Systems), I've long noticed that there is a much higher conservative to liberal ratio in the hard sciences and business disciplines than in the humanities. The business schools are anathema to so many libs because they essentially teach capitalism, which liberals abhor. The hard sciences (e.g., physics) are avoided because they seek objectively right and wrong answers based upon evidence and logic, which liberals abhor.

I guess it's a heckuva lot easier to be a professor in a field where nobody can check your work (What do you mean there is no such thing as a "male lesbian?") and there is no consequence for being wrong even if it could be checked.

T

I am a former Proessor of the history of art (I think that qualifies me in the humanities and liberal arts). As such, my response to Prof. Surber is : "What tripe this is!"

Liberal arts professors are more nuanced than engineers who must take into account the dynamic load on every bolt in the bridge they design?

Give me a break!

Liberals have found sanctuary in the libreal arts because liberals deal primarily in theory which cannot be proven (i.e., opinion). Thus they are free to theorize and when nothing works, the justification is that the theory is not wrong, it was not implemented correctly (or not explained fully). There is no hard and fast proof to hold their feet to the fire; they can be as philosophically sloppy as they care to be as long as they can cover well.

Imagine, by contrast, an engineer justifying a deck collapse because Americans are just too overweight; if they would loose weight the deck would not collapse.

Furthermore, a politically liberal academia is a very recent phenomenon. Throughout most of academic history, since the founding of the first university in the 11th century (Bologna, Italy) academic faculty have been overwhelmingly conservative. Prof. Surber, let's see how you nuance your opinion away from that pesky fact.

frosty

And all this time I thought Liberal Arts was invented so people could go to college with out any math skills

T

A further comment on some of the opinions above regarding the liberal arts in general.

Don't denigrate liberal arts disciplines just because you find some morons leading classroom discussions.

I treasure my under graduate and graduate work in art history. It exposed me to an incredible amount of information in many many disciplines, but more importantly, it taught me how to think critically. Even more importantly, it trained me to be able to use that critical thinking process in other fields and endeavors.

To say that a univeristy degree should simply produce the possibility of a good job is to reduce university education to that of a trade school. Those who would do that are the antithetical extreme of Prof. Surber; both points of view are equally invalid.

PackerBronco

The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning while those other subjects merely require scholarship.”
Robert A. Heinlein quotes (American science-fiction Writer, 1907-1988)

Captain Obvious

The professor may have inadvertently hit on something...

How many Right thinking professionals would be satisfied with a low paying career stuffing envelopes for 20+ years?

Now, how many of those same professionals would LEAP at the chance to work with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN for the same abysmal pay?

Enjoyment of your career is an overarching factor in the decision to pursue it, and compensation is merely one component thereof. However a larger part of enjoyment comes from challenge and stimulation.

So the professor is right... Leftists dominate the fields of Liberal Arts because those fields ARE "nuanced, complicated, and advanced" ... for those who are hobbled with the critical thinking abilities of leftists.

Complexity is relative... I apologize if that's not "unobvious" enough, but it comes with the moniker.

R. Sherman

I'll be a witness to the fact that studying the "nuances" of literature and history for six years can be fun. But there comes a point, where you gotta make a living, and then it's off to the sophistry of business or law school. Succinctly, I don't regret the German lit degrees and I don't regret the law license, either.

Regards.

Stork

I received an email from my Students Union not too long ago in which the author started by blithely asserting his horror and lack of understanding that anyone could vote for the BNP or UKIP. There was no reference to the SWP though, who recruit heavily on campus. It is no surprise that many of my compatriots (post Pants Bomber) defended freedom of speech in the University Islamic Society but only months before had felt more than comfortable demanding that Nick Griffin be refused the right to speak anywhere.

Now, that isn't to say I agree with the BNP, UKIP or Nick Griffin but this intolerance, this immovable world view, is endemic in universities and actively harms academia. An open mind might be like a fortress with its gate unbarred but too often what I see around me are lonely ivory towers, isolated from any challenge or change by unconscious prejudice.

Horace Dunn

David said:

“Perhaps he imagines that he, or someone equally clever, could impose on us a more virtuous economic system whereby people are paid in accord with the value they assign to themselves based on their estimated cleverness, and irrespective of what the customer is willing to pay.”

Well, perhaps he does. But then, since he, as a liberal-arts professor, has “studied large-scale historical processes and complex cultural dynamics", one can only assume that he understands only too well how kindly the great command economy states of the 20th century treated intellectual free thinkers, not to mention how well they treated the less important members of their societies.

dicentra

"It exposed me to an incredible amount of information in many many disciplines, but more importantly, it taught me how to think critically. Even more importantly, it trained me to be able to use that critical thinking process in other fields and endeavors."

I value my education in Spanish Lit, too, but I really can't remember when I was *forced* to think critically. I don't remember a professor saying, "now, that's a logical fallacy," or of really smacking me upside the head for lazy thinking. Yeah, I got some comments on this or that paragraph in a paper, but it hardly constituted RIGOR, because I was never forced to redo it.

Linguistics? That's different. It's the closest thing to real science the Humanities has, because you have to work with observable phenomena, map it out, and be very rigorous in your classifications. Take a look at a map that shows where a particular phoneme varies geographically sometime and tell me there isn't rigor involved.

Slartibartfast

"right side of history"

I wonder if Prof. Surber thinks that the French Revolutionaries were on the right side of history. Was Napoleon on the "right side of history"? Was the Reign of Terror the right side, or the wrong side? If we resurrected all of those disembodied heads, wouldn't they tend to disagree with the resurrected peasantry. Was Robespierre on the right side of history when he advocated razor-edged justice, and was he on the right side of history when he experienced it a bit later?

I have a feeling only Prof. Surber, with his simplistic bifurcation of history along some (necessarily) subjective right/wrong axis, can give us an answer that he'd agree with.

Science!

Pretty much all I see of Prof. Surber's diatribe is self-justifying rationalization. Unsurprising, really, and indicative of at best superficial self-awareness.

Slartibartfast

Oh. Bifurcation of history, in the same comment as some references to the guillotine. If only I'd done that on purpose.

T

dicentra,

My undergrad degrees were in art/arch history AND German lit. I am inclined to agree with you regarding the lit degree, but the art/arch history studies were another thing entirely.

Not only did we study how and why things work (arch) but processes (e.g., different printmaking techniques and their results) and the evolution of imagery (both its meaning--iconography, and its style).

Unlike literature which relies on a great deal of opinion, the tracing of stylistic influences relies on visual proofs which oftentimes are apparent and supported by historic circumstances not just conjecture. My work required a conversant knowledge of several languages, mechanical and construction processes and other information from many fields as well as an in-depth knowledge of history.

This required critical thinking processes in many different areas and it was my job to distill those to focus on a particular research problem. It even gave me the ability to understand math better than I ever could as a younger satudent.

I have been out of the discipline for 20 years but still believe that it is an unsung, grossly underappreciated and largely ignored in our educational system.

Spiny Norman

Slartibartfast,

"I have a feeling only Prof. Surber, with his simplistic bifurcation of history along some (necessarily) subjective right/wrong axis, can give us an answer that he'd agree with."

I find it more than a little ironic that someone who claims to be so "complex" and "nuanced" would accept such a rigidly Marxist interpretation of history.

Ayrdale

For "classic liberal" may we also assume "green" ?

Perhaps rather a long bow, but I've been reading how green "activists" have become part of the scientific review process, and in so doing exhibit all the arrogance that the good Prof. Sturber typifies. From Jerome ravetz...

"...To have a political effect, the ‘extended peers’ of science have traditionally needed to operate largely by means of activist pressure-groups using the media to create public alarm. In this case, since the global warmers had captured the moral high ground, criticism has remained scattered and ineffective, except on the blogosphere. The position of Green activists is especially difficult, even tragic; they have been ‘extended peers’ who were co-opted into the ruling paradigm, which in retrospect can be seen as a decoy or diversion from the real, complex issues of sustainability, as shown by Mike Hulme. Now they must do some very serious re-thinking about their position and their role..."

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/09/climategate-plausibility-and-the-blogosphere-in-the-post-normal-age/#more-16262

Ed Piman

"Who, after all, would want to preserve a situation in which others who are equivalently educated and experienced - doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists,..."

Equivalently educated? In your dreams.

Keith

Schumpeter worked these people out years ago.

Keith

"It exposed me to an incredible amount of information in many many disciplines, but more importantly, it taught me how to think critically."
Translation : I read a book last year, and I expect to read another next year.

T

Keith,

Other than gratuitous sarcasm, your point is . . .?

Spiny Norman

Oh, I suppose that his point is that Surber's "information in many many disciplines" is a mile wide and an inch deep... and, based on his missive that is the subject of David's post, viewed through a very narrow lens.

T

Spiny Norman,

Except Surber didn't write that. I did (see 23:06 above).

Spiny Norman

My mistake. I thought the discussion was still about Surber.

newbie

"In short, if you haven't reached a similarly leftwing conclusion, you haven't achieved sufficient complexity and nuance in your thinking, you peasant."

Nice one, David. But does Professor Surber deserve this shabby treatment...?

CIngram

Stork

From what you say I imagine you're a UCL man. Did you use that same nic back in the mid-80's? If you did, I think we used to play together on the cricket team. If not, feel free to ignore me.

(With apologies to our host for using his site as a more erudite version of facebook.)

bobchild

"Who, after all, would want to preserve a situation in which others who are equivalently educated and experienced - doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists, colleagues in other areas, and, yes, chief executives - receive vastly more compensation?"

I feel like this is actually a pretty common liberal thought, although I've never seen it stated this explicitly before; Your compensation should be based on the amount of money/effort you've put- or at least that you think you've put- into your own education, irregardless of the actual usefulness of the study. Pretty common amongst the sorts who've dedicated 5 years/140k to their Film Study Majors.

I also like how he ignores the economic value of tenure(stability) and his undoubtedly excellent benefit package. Something tells me economics didn't make it into the list of acceptable social sciences for "nuanced" thinking.

David

Newbie,

“But does Professor Surber deserve this shabby treatment...?”

I think the shabby treatment is mostly his own doing. His article positively glows with parochial self-regard. It invites ridicule.

Surber disdains markets because they jar with his estimation of how clever and valuable he is and where he should be in the social hierarchy. (Not that he would approve of social hierarchies, being as he is so nuanced and enlightened.) It irks him that doctors and engineers may earn more than he does, and goddammit he’s at least as important and deserving, and almost certainly more so. He then goes on to cast doubt on that claim by portraying the sweep of history as a simplistic, quasi-Marxist validation of his own simplistic, quasi-Marxist political preferences, and indeed his ego. He has fathomed all of history and it validates him.

It’s almost as if Surber were trying to satirise his own position. How clever and deserving he must be.

CIngram,

“With apologies to our host for using his site as a more erudite version of facebook.”

It’s been used for much worse. But if anyone scores a date I charge a handling fee. As it were.

CIngram

David

'if anyone scores a date I charge a handling fee. As it were.'

But you have a doctorate, don't you? You deserve more than I can afford to pay.

Back on topic, I was already thinking, and I don't suppose I was the only one, that Marx was the ultimate Liberal Arts professor.

Surber's article is full of absolute gems:

'But if you actually take the time to look at history and culture, certain conclusions about human nature, society, and economics tend to force themselves on you. History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor.'

They do indeed force themselves on you and me, but evidently not on Prof Surber, who only sees what he wants to see.

'There is a "right side of history," Obama said­—the side of those who would overcome prejudice, question unearned privilege, and resist oppression in favor of a more just condition.'

No there isn't. There are past events which agree with our sense of what is right, and you don't have to be left-wing to feel glad that they happened (Lincoln was a Republican, f'rinstance). But the only 'right side of history', as an academic discipline, is the truth.

David

CIngram,

“But you have a doctorate, don't you?”

I’m the Chief Grand Wizard of Moon Pins. See my badge, see how it catches the light.

“You deserve more than I can afford to pay.”

I know. I’m a great guy. I’ll even throw in some music.

http://www.ignatz.plus.com/stickyfingers.mp3

Stork

*Erudite Facebook on*

CIngram,

I'm afraid I'm not a UCL man (close though), and I'm doing my UG now (Gawd 'elp me) rather than in the 80's! I do play cricket though.

*Erudite Facebook off*

phantom menace

Surber: "It is because we liberal-arts professors... have carefully studied the actual dynamics of history and culture; and we have trained ourselves to think in complex, nuanced, and productive ways about the human condition that so many of us are liberals."

He's basically saying 'the debate's over, we won. THIS is what you SHOULD think about tax, abortion, welfare etc. Anything else isn't respectable.'

David

Phantom Menace,

Pretty much. As Jeff at PW noted, Surber apparently sees his politics as some kind of intellectual endpoint – a final perspective that all students should come to share, provided they think with sufficient nuance. Though I’m not sure how this belief would explain people whose politics change significantly with age and experience – say, from the in-group theorising and bluster of student politics to a more worldly understanding.

Blake

T,

The purpose of college is to raise your market value.

Period.

If you prefer some other euphemism, fine, go for it.

Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking college is anything other than an advanced trade school, as it were.

Chris S.

"History has a trajectory, driven in large part by the desires of underprivileged or oppressed groups to attain parity with the privileged or the oppressor."

Sounds like someone read Zinn. And then stopped reading history.

KRW/WTP

Do you suppose Surber is has studied the "complex cultural dynamics" of Botulism, as has "noted" Frenchy philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/world/europe/10levy.html

T

Blake (15:49 above),

This is where you and I disagree. You say it's a market value issue, I believe that it's a quality of life issue. Market value may be a component of that quality of life, and even an important component, but it is not the be-all end-all of a college education. For those who think it is, perhaps they would be better served in a trade school.

Better to be an excellent plumber than a below-average English teacher.

Bullfrog

Ahh, yes: *complexity*. Soooo complex, these theories are. Except... they're all Marxism. "Feminst theory" is Marxism plus estrogen. "Critical race theory" is Marxism via Benetton ads. "Cultural studies" is Marxism in comic books. "Literary theory" is either reader-centered Marxism ("reader-response criticism, which is "how oppressed do you feel when reading this?"), or critic-centered Marxism (Derrida: "the text is what I say it is, which is Marxism"). History simply assumes that Marx got everything right, then tries to explain why obviously non-Marxist things are in fact Marxist (see, for example, American "labor" historians, who have spent the last 75 years blithely ignoring the fact that "the workers" simply don't see themselves as "the workers," tout court).

Want a PhD (at least in America?) Grab "The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory" and use it to fill in the following: Marx was right about ____ because ______.

Spruance

This article (http://mises.org/etexts/hayekintellectuals.pdf) might throw a light on the reasons for intellectuals leaning so heavily left.

Jonathan

Surber says: "It’s real simple: Those who have less and want more will tend to support social changes that promise to accomplish that...". So he's admitting that leftists act out of self-interest and greed? Another one of my illusions shattered. I thought they were all pure-hearted altruists, not like us mere mortals.

T

Jonathan,

An astute observation.

Hoist. Petard.

AC1

The mental condition called Marxism has 3 components.
1. Narcissism.
2. Envy.
3. Freudian Projection.
(and a dash of Dunning Kruger syndrome thrown in for good measure).

The Market economy prices in SHORTAGE, by doing this it tends to prevent shortages.

It's important to remember that
Price = Demand/Supply

Price is a signal that attracts people into supplying a social need/desire.
So a rising price tends to increase supply, and this then tends to suppress the Price.
A falling price also tends to increase demand (it's more affordable).
It's a very stable (dynamic equilibrium) system (with a supply lag).

WRT Wages they can be seen as a Price.
Imagine the demand for Doctors and Cleaners is the same.
If C is the number of people who could be a cleaner and D is the number of people who could be a Doctor
The the relative wages are
C/(C+D) v D/(C+D)

If Less people can be doctors than Cleaners then Doctors will earn relatively more.

Mess with this and you create a shortage.
Mess with this enough to lower the productivity below the maintenance rate and you have a communist style collapse.

steve

"we have trained ourselves"

And you should see the exams we set ourselves at the end of it!

Jonathan

great article...no doubt the issue with the intellectuals hangs on the meaning of merit and value. capitalism seems to imply that if merit and value are to exist and be relevant in society, then it is the dynamics of demand, from whatever their source, that will define what merit and value mean. This makes capitalism quintesentially populist, for good and ill.I suppose the intellectual retort to this would be that there must be (or rather there needs to be, in their opinion, that is) some plane or realm of reality that can accord to the meaning of 'merit' or 'value' something other (presumably deeper and more substantial) than can be accorded to these concepts by populist capitalist concumerism (demagoguery). Its funny of course that they presume that they themselves know better than John and jane doe what this depth and substance are; but maybe they are on to something about their potentially being such a great depth and substance. What do you think. maybe its just the way they self-refer to themselves as the answer that is the problem.

Jonathan

Apologies for the typos btw!

Jamie

It shouldn't be surprising that many academics are left wingers.
After all, an all powerful bureaucracy that takes care of them from cradle to grave, is the only world most of them have known. Kind of like the institutionalised convicts in the Shawshank redemption.

Should my son start flirting with socialism, I'd point out the disproportionate number of teachers in most left wing organisations, then ask him to imagine a world run the way most schools are.

jjbiggs

"How can it be that doctors and engineers are thought more valuable more than him, a professor of philosophy?"

He isn't making a good case for a pay raise. I don't think he gets the whole economics thing. Maybe it wasn't nuanced enough for him...

Ralph

The profile of Miriam Cooke at DIW is hysterical.

"Several Group sympathizers implied that only specialists in the relevant field could even *describe* the academic work of Group members. cooke has taken this approach one step further, implying that only specialists in the relevant field *who agree with the Group's approach* can review Group members' work."

That must be the nuance.

David

“That must be the nuance.”

Yes, it is a tad damning. I suppose what’s most damning is that her behaviour is so common among her colleagues at Duke. If you read the other faculty profiles, you’ll see a similar pattern. The disregard for evidence, the repeated distortions, the intolerance of criticism (even corrections by those on whose behalf she presumes to speak), and the claims of being victimised by expectations of rigour and basic probity. Facts don’t appear to concern her, nor it seems does logic, even cause and effect. She is, however, “interested in discourse.”

As Kay Hymowitz points out, “The irony couldn’t be darker: the very people protesting the imperialist exploitation of the ‘Other’ endorse that Other’s repressive customs as a means of promoting their own uniquely Western agenda - subverting the heterosexual patriarchy.”

http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_1_why_feminism.html

In this respect, and those above, cooke is not at all unusual. And that’s the real joke.

AC1

* Name: Amy Bishop
* School: University of Alabama Huntsville
* Location: Huntsville, AL
* Department: Biology


http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=392617&page=1

".And she is a socialist but she only talks about it after class."

KRW/WTP

AC1, did you notice she got better ratings from 6 years ago until about 2008 and the comments about how "hot" she was? Turning 40 must have been traumatic for her. Much comments even years about how "scatterbrained" she was. I also liked "She might have graduated from Harvard, but she has very little common sense".

Though, I take it she's out of the running for that Nobel Prize the commenter back on 6/14/04 said she would surely get. Perhaps her anger was misdirected from Algore?

AC1

http://afamilyofshepherds.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-accused-murderer-dr-amy-bishop.html

Is Accused Murderer Dr. Amy Bishop An Academic Fraud, Delusional or Both?

rjmadden

"Professor Surber's piece is really fascinating. Now that he mentions it, of course it seems perfectly obvious: Unfair wage disparity causes humanities professors to support abortion, gay marriage, exploitation of human embryos for research, criminalization of offensive speech, decriminalization of marijuana, explicit sex instruction for grade-schoolers, suppression of guns and religion, and racial/gender discrimination against white males. Yes, that all makes perfect sense now. Thank heavens we have intelligent philosophers to explain these things to us."

http://chronicle.com/article/Parsing-the-Liberal-in/64460/

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