U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tim’s Light Reading (1/7/2010)

1. Where is the history job market going?: Here’s Robert Townsend’s thesis. Here’s Marc Bousquet’s antithesis. Finally, this is not a Kantian synthesis, but here’s a different train of thought altogether. I’m somewhere between the Bousquet and Mondschein camps—although I accept the immediate reality of the facts in Townsend’s report.

2. Books of the Century: Berkeley graduate student Daniel Immerwahr has constructed an incredibly useful website containing lists of bestsellers and significant books from each decade of the twentieth century. Immerwahr is a PhD candidate under the direction of David Hollinger.

3. One Professor’s Top 10 List on the Past Decade: University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole takes an admittedly slanted and negative look back. I’m not a Juan Cole follower, but I think historians will be sorting out his 10 points of concern for many years to come.

4. The Fate of the Liberal Arts in Tough Economic Times: Mary B. Marcy reflects on the usefulness of, and demand for, the liberal arts. This NYT article touches on similar concerns (i.e. drop philosophy?!). John Fea responds directly to Marcy’s article and raises other questions. As a former student advisor, I especially appreciate Fea’s point about educating parents on the long and short-term needs of their college-aged children. Yes, these are perennial issues (a result of the mid-winter blues?), but all three pieces contain a number of poignant points and bits of information. I’m particularly intrigued by the UCLA/HERI data from 2008. Yes, that data predates the crisis, but it says something about student desires. That data mollifies my occasional concern, from the demand side at least, that some administrators won’t be happy until the only majors offered are business, finance, computer science, or fill-in-the-blank-professional-school prep. It is clear, however, that tough economic times do not mean that questions about the big issues—the “Great Ideas”—are permanently forgotten by students. The hopeful professional in me sees those questions as only occasionally submerged by a deluge of present needs.

5. The Return of The Baffler: This is somewhat off-topic with regard to USIH, but Thomas Frank’s thoughtful magazine is set to reappear in 2010.

3 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thanks, Tim!

    Some notes….

    1) Sounds like I more or less agree with you regarding the job market, Tim. Bousquet’s piece while raising important issues about the structure of the demand side of the market (issues that need to be raised and pushed….join AAUP now if you’re not already a member), singularly fails to address the actual numbers (indeed Bousquet admits an ignorance of the numbers in history), and dismisses supply side concerns for largely ideological reasons (and, no, worrying about the supply of PhDs has precisely nothing to do with supply side economics). I’m not sure what the solution is, but I continue to feel that the profession needs to think more about both how to preserve (or even increase) the number of tenure-track jobs and how to produce a realistically small number of PhDs.

    2) The Daniel Immerwahr site is very useful. But it needs to be proofread (e.g. Leo Strauss’s Natural Right and History is listed as Natural History and Natural Right).

    3) As a Baffler subscriber who has been waiting for the next issue for three years, I’ll consider this good news….when I actually receive the next issue. (I’m also waiting on my next issue of N+1)

  2. Ben,

    I think that a 15-20% change on both the supply (drop in PhDs) and demand (increase in t-t openings) sides would do a world of good. Those changes would help give new and qualified folks positions and slowly clear the backlog.

    I know Daniel follows our blog, so I suspect he’ll make that change accordingly.

    On Baffler, what’s the subscription cost? I wrote to ask but haven’t yet received an answer.

    – Tim

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