[Update: Obviously I wrote this post before the news of Steve Jobs’ passing hit. – TL]
1. Stanley Fish asks: Who is your Stanley Fish?
Here’s my favorite passage from the piece:
Why? Because were I ever to meet him [i.e. your “Stanley Fish”], the odds are that I would like him (the public record suggests that he is an admirable fellow) and if I liked him it would be hard for me to continue beating up on him. (Despite the proverb, familiarity does not breed contempt.) In fact I would immediately regret, and want to take back, all the nasty things I had said with such zest.
You might be surprised to know that my bugbears are not usually hard-working intellectuals. For the most part, I try to avoid bashing people who actually attempt to think through things—even when I disagree with their conclusions. I’ve found that my “long-time personal pinatas” are usually of the pseudo-intellectual variety: politicians, pundits (some left and right-leaning), popular culture figures (e.g the (former) cult of Oprah), or some mix of the three (e.g. Newt Gingrich). I dislike the passive and active anti-intellectualism of posers and poseurs.
3. More on the Consensus of the 1970s Being Really Important
My title sounds mocking, but I’m on board. I agree with Andrew Hartman’s spring 2011 USIH post on the subject, which built on one he wrote last fall. A common thread in those posts was Judith Stein’s relatively new book, Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (Yale, April 2010). I now have news that Stein’s book is going to get “the treatment” in the November 2011 issue of The Historical Society’s journal, Historically Speaking
4. Dissertations or…Peer-reviewed Journal Articles?
Michael Ruse proposes, contra Anthony Grafton, that history doctoral programs should socialize their graduates to write peer-reviewed journal articles and not dissertations (i.e. bad books). I see the point—of both. I think I’d prefer to keep the dissertation, but cap its length and require all dissertation writers to submit one chapter for publication in a journal. Perhaps a condition for graduation could be successful acceptance? I agree with Ruse that acquiring experience in article writing, submission, and publication would be highly valuable to most doctoral students in relation to the changing demands of the field (i.e. fewer t-t positions).
5. Smart Set Aside: Michael Lewis is Hot
It’s not what you think. It’s that things written by Michael Lewis are hot. Or, as New York magazine puts it: “It’s Good to be Michael Lewis.” After reading The Blind Side last year, and seeing the on-screen version of his book Moneyball this past weekend, I’m on the bandwagon. It’s a great film with a thoughtful message—i.e. a message about thinking.
6. The Political Economy of History Instruction
I think this might be the best framework, or paradigm, for looking at the academic job market in history. [Full disclosure: I’m on the job market this year, so this topic is constantly in the back of my mind.] Let me connect the post explicitly to our chosen field:
When we change the frame of reference like that, we see the context for the (post-PhD) job market includes post-BA labor of graduate assistants (either as TAs in charge of sections, or in charge of discussion groups, or as graders of essays) as well as part-time and full-time instructors with BA, MA, or PhD, and post-docs with teaching duties. To put it in a formula: the real job market for [history] teachers begins post-BA, so that PhDs are not just competing against other PhDs but also against anyone else who teaches [history], holders of the BA and MA included.
When our frame of reference is the “political economy of [history] instruction” we can explicitly talk about several factors that are only implicit in the discussion of the (post-PhD) “job market.”
First, we can see the role of university administrators, who are, after all, responsible for the shifts in employment patterns in [history] instruction. …To an administrator, [sections of US, European, and world surveys, or Western civilization] … taught by a BA or MA is a section taught, and taught at low cost. This focus on administrators enables us to connect “job market” discourse with the analyses of the “corporate university,” the “privatization of the university,” and like matters.
Second, we can see the connection to other issues in political economy, such as long-term employment trends toward precarious labor in other industries. We can also see the connection to constantly increasing health care costs in the US system in which employment has been a traditional avenue to health care insurance; precarious labor does not require the long-term commitment to offering health insurance that (current?) TT jobs do. And we also see the connection of the current (post-PhD) job market to “austerity” programs in response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
7. The History of Philosophy for 10-Year Olds
Scott McLemee reviews a new book by Nigel Warburton titled A Little History of Philosohy (Yale Press, 2011). Yes, the book is aimed at a target audience of ten-year olds. In other words, it might work for a first-year college class on the history of philosophy. 🙂 – TL