She writes in the LARB
The humanities have offered colleges and universities a way to be perceived as genuinely distinct from corporations and banks, even as they become more influenced by and dependent on those bodies.This is very true. I went into the LSE to cash a check. The porter said 'We are a College, not a Bank'. I said 'but you don't have a Humanities Dept. Hence you are not genuinely distinct from a corporation or a bank.' Sadly, the porter came to the conclusion that I was inebriated and chased me out.
I'm sure the same thing happens to Imperial College and the various Medical Colleges and Business Schools and Law Colleges around the globe. They are perceived as genuinely identical with corporations and banks because they lack a Humanities Dept.
A university and a corporation’s organization of scientific research are different but relatable entities; but no corporation has anything like the “priceless” form of value that a Comparative Literature department offers.Nonsense! Many publishing companies employ far better poets and writers than any Comp Lit. shithole Dept. of Grievance Studies.
This odd alliance, wherein the humanities both sustains and is undercut by financial schemes within the university, produces a discourse of serial crisis.There is no such alliance. Humanities were taught even in Communist countries. They may cease to be taught in Capitalist countries if this author is a typical example of the sort of pedagogue our Universities produce. Why? Because nobody will pay for it.
Shitting yourself while screaming hysterically is an example of a 'discourse of serial crisis'. Why pay to be inculcated in its protocols?
How did we get here, and what effect will “the death of the humanities” narrative have this time around?The Humanities turned into sub-Humanities and its professors stopped being able to write cogently or form a coherent argument. Some pretended this was because they were actually Marxists and Marxism wasn't shite. Nobody believed them. They were just stupid tossers is all. Still, if one were a cretin, one may as well get a sheepskin in cretinism just in case it meant one could get tenure for teaching other cretins. In other words, if the Ponzi scheme could find new suckers then it made sense to play along.
The Quantitative Easing of the HumanitiesThe GI Bill marked a pivotal moment in higher education. But such a bill should be seen as more broadly reflective of the country’s Keynesian moment: roughly, the late 1940s through the early 1970s, in which art, public culture, and, yes, education, were funded directly by both state and federal governments.Nonsense! The GI Bill reflected the vast wartime expansion in the Public Sector. America's commitment to Higher Education should be seen as a direct consequence of the Cold War. Both sides were talent spotting bright kids and getting them into arcane fields of research. There was also 'soft power' competition in the Humanities which had a more or less explicit ideological purpose.
In the 1950s and ’60s, as Sharon Zukin notes, public expenditure in arts through universities “opened art as a second career for people who had not yet been integrated into the labor market” so much so that by the end of that decade “more than a million adults in America had identified their occupation as in some way connected with the creative arts.” The quote is from Zukin's 1982 classic, 'Loft Living'. She speaks of 'college educated, middle class women' being attracted to the Arts & Craft movement and reclassifying themselves as 'artists'. But that was back in the Eighties when lofts were still cool.
Why did the American tax-payer permit 'public expenditure' on 'arts through universities'? The answer is that American tax-payers thought they themselves would benefit by it. Once affirmative action took hold, tax-payers revolted. They believed that darkies and commies would disproportionately benefit.
Indeed, as millions more students and dollars entered colleges and universities, the number of colleges and universities increased. And as they expanded by population served and subject areas taught, universities became more radical places, particularly in relation to their own funding.However, it was protests against the Vietnam War which had greater salience.
Students in New York and Massachusetts began to demand wages for attending college — the “Wages for Students” campaign. From 1969 to 1975, after intense student and community protests and strikes, the City University of New York announced a program of “open admissions,” which included accessible and free remedial education, Spanish-language instruction, and a tuition-free university.CUNY was free but meritocratic from its inception in 1847. It started charging tuition in 1976, six years after it embraced 'open admissions'. Predictably, standards fell. In 1999, CUNY got rid of remedial classes. Its ranking rose.
Of course, there were always dissenters from the Keynesian order, and they too laid their eyes on the expanding university.Nixon was the only President to say he was a Keynesian. Everybody else pretended to be a 'Balance the Books' budget hawk.
American neoliberal economists like Milton Friedman took note of this expansion. As Melinda Cooper laconically notes, they “began to suspect there was a connection between free and low tuition and the militancy of the student movement.”In 1955, Friedman wrote a paper advocating 'Income Share Agreements' whereby Universities fund students in return for a small share of their earnings. If Colleges are subsidized by the State, they will literally recruit bums to put more 'bums on seats'. The bums will get drunk and become very militant till given more booze and their belligerence subsides into incontinence.
The extension of their concerns into policy prescriptions — fewer grants, more loans — was aided by the coming contraction of the US economy. By the mid-1970s, the Keynesian curtain had begun to draw to a close.Why? Because Nixon's price & wage freeze had failed. The Workers weren't going to curtail their disposable income so students could get stoned and run amok. Keynesianism died because the worker's lost their 'money illusion'. It was at this time that Liberals lost any illusions they may have had that horny handed proles wanted their kids to be taught Gramscian grammatology or Bakhtinian basket-weaving at some fancy shmancy Collidge wot their own tax dollars paid for.
The reasons for its denouement were legion: the emerging productive output of a newly rebuilt Western Europe and Japan,which had already emerged a decade previously
the spending on and loss of the Vietnam War,That was a one time monetary shock fully offset by ending Bretton Woods. It was cost-push factors which kept stagflation on the road. But that was entirely because workers refused to finance the Liberal State.
the reaching of a limit of productive/consumptive capacity in many domestic industries,there were no such limits.
the rise of an offshore financial system and dollar market.Which had happened a decade previously.
By 1979, inflation topped out at 13 percent a year, and by the early ’80s this particular act was indeed over.Thanks to Reagan who was voted back despite record unemployment. It was clear that workers didn't care about unemployment. They just didn't want to finance 'the L-word'.
Yet the role of higher educational institutions had come to play in cultivating and professionalizing the arts and humanities would not, of course, be ended at the speed with which Ronald Reagan quelled the air traffic controllers’ strike.Nonsense! The Humanities had already turned into sub-Humanities featuring paranoid gesture politics of a cretinous kind. Alan Bloom's 'The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students' sold a half million in hardback in 1987.
As Howard Singerman and Mark McGurl have recounted in their complementary studies of the cultural and administrative success of MFA programs, the Keynesian moment had sutured arts, literature, and the university closely together and rendered them mutually dependent.There was no Keynesian moment. What obtained was the Cold War. Americans was the hegemon of half the world and it made sense for some of its lower middle class people to learn a little French and German and I-talian and whatever jibber-jabber it is them spicks and chinks and dot-heads and sand-nigger use to communicate.
On the one hand, there were and are some very good Creative Writing courses which enable talented young people to find lucrative markets. But, these aren't necessarily housed in a University. On the other, there were plenty of crap MFA courses which can't instill a talent most of us- and I say this feelingly- entirely lack.
Now, in a new era of inflation, wage stagnation, and a diversified institutional financial sector hungry for fee-based transactions and safe places to park assets, the budgets of colleges and universities — and with them support for arts and humanities — would undergo a structural change.What caused the inflation? The American worker's refusal to accept cuts in real wages. What caused 'wage stagnation'? The American Corporation's refusal to accept negative real returns on equity. Why did the institutional financial sector diversify? Because savers would not accept negative real interest rates. The 'safe place to park assets' was gold and gilts and blue chip investments. The place to earn fees and do arbitrage was junk bonds.
Smart people who understood STEM subjects could go in for high yielding Venture Capital funds which, more often than not, were directly tied in to University led R&D. The Humanities, sadly, had already turned to shit and thus weren't 'safe places to park assets'. Could they be 'cash cows'?- i.e. cross-subsidize STEM subjects?
They would no longer be places to fund but to invest in; a path was laid in which federal money that went into colleges and universities would return from them to private entities.Federal money which went to colleges came back to the Government in the shape of the higher taxes graduates paid.
In the sciences, publicly funded research could now be privatized under the auspices of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980: grants to students became interest-bearing loans to them.The Bayh-Dole Act meant that the people who made the discovery could benefit from the discovery even if federal funds were used. Previously, the Federal Govt. had accumulated patents while, 95 % of the time, not bothering to do anything with them. The situation was like the final scene in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'- the Govt. takes control of the discovery and simply loses it in some cavernous warehouse. Bayh-Dole is generally considered a good thing- however, in a 'tragedy of the anti-commons' type situation, some amendment may be desirable.
Pell grants only came into existence in 1965. Previously and going forward, Student Loans funded much of Higher Education. It is difficult to understand what, if anything, the author is getting at.
This is also the moment when government revenue streams shift from tax-based to bond-based, or when we move from the “tax state” to the “debt state” in Wolfgang Streeck’s words.Utter nonsense! The Second World War was when this happened. Wolfgang Streeck is a Sociologist! Fuck would he know about Fiscal policy? We're lucky if he doesn't eat his own shit in public.
Instead of taxing high-earning Americans and corporations, the US government would sell them interest-bearing bonds — treasury bills.But high-earning Americans are smart. They won't buy bonds which don't correspond to an income stream. For a Corporate bond, this is Gross Profit. For a Government bond, this is Tax income.
The fact that since the 1980s, the United States’s government debt has grown exponentially is itself a measure of this transition.The proportion of debt to GDP has doubled with most of that growth occurring under Obama. Still, it is linear, not exponential growth. It may be that the author thinks Obama & Biden &crooked Hilary and so one were evil Capitalist bastards who transitioned the economy into a Ponzi scheme. But, in that case, she should have joined the Tea Party.
As Sandy Brian Hager notes, from 1944 to 1979, such bonds averaged a one percent loss; from 1980 to 2015, the average return on US treasuries was 5.5 percent.Why? The War economy used Keynesian 'money illusion'. There was 'forced saving'. Gold could not be owned from the Thirties through to 1974. This meant savers got a raw deal. But, the 'grey vote' became of increasing importance. Thus, along with Obama, the author should blame the elderly for the end of her 'Keynesian moment'.
It’s not only that a financial class is bankrupting public infrastructure, but that we are paying them to do it.Clearly this lady is overpaid and thus her tax dollars are supporting the financial class. I would urge her to quit her job. That way the financial class will itself be bankrupted. Also her students might learn how to write a decent English sentence.
Government “debt” is of course a toxic political subject, but it sustains many financial industries both in the United States and abroad, and it allows for both a continuous supply of safe assets as well as a benchmark against which risk may be assessed.Financial industries would exist even if no Government debt existed. Indeed, Financial Services exist even where there is no Government.
The tax-state to debt-state transition quickly and forcefully shrank direct transfers from states to public universities.There was no such transition. In real terms, state funding for public universities doubled between 1974 and 2000. Since then, more particularly between 2007 and 2017, real per capita funding has fallen by a few percentage points. However, 'Baumol cost-disease' means that the burden on students has risen by about fifteen percent. This has nothing to do with Obama's borrowing binge. He could have pursued more egalitarian priorities. But, it was his call to make and any praise or blame attaches to him alone- not some mythical transition to a 'debt-state'.
But that did not mean there was less money in circulation — indeed there was more. Only now, that money needed to circulate profitably without going into well-known sinkholes like rising wages or social welfare programs — both of which could challenge the social relations of the emerging austerity program.So Obama was a cruel bastard. He could have raised wages or improved social welfare programs but, like crooked Hilary, he was only concerned with lining the pockets of his billionaire buddies.
Tuition at both private and public schools began its alpine ascent at this moment, as well. Rising tuition meant that available money could be channeled through student loans, which became (1976 for public loans; 1984 for private loans; both strengthened in 2005) impossible to discharge through bankruptcy.Impossible? This lady is a Professor. Why is she telling her students it is impossible for them to discharge their student loans through bankruptcy? It isn't true. There is a 'Brunner test' which allows people to do so by showing
The fact is non-performing student loans have to be written off. You can't get blood from a stone.
Soon after, the US government began guaranteeing private loans to students under the FFEL program and did so until 2010.Obama scrapped FFEL but the interest rate on Direct Loans is still too high.
Still, as of 2014, more than 75 percent of student loans were secured by US Treasury obligations. That Obama sure was a spend-thrift! If only Friedman had been listened to back in '55. Universities would have had an interest in turning out students with useful work-skills who could earn well and thus give more back to their alma mater through the Income Sharing Agreement. They would also have had an incentive for sacking bad teachers and dissolving worthless Departments.
Instead they had to pretend to be doing 'diversity' based social-engineering. But, they did it in a nakedly racist manner.
Finally, public and private colleges and universities increasingly turned to bond markets to fund construction and infrastructure. These bonds would be secured by rising tuition, discounted by the state, and, as The Economist has noted, offer institutional as well as wealthy individual investors another safe harbor: they are low risk and tax free.Quite true. Obama and his pals created a world safe for the super-rich.
In each scenario, universities produce much needed liquidity for financial markets and allow for the private capture of public wealth — this is the trick of post-’70s finance.Universities don't produce liquidity. The Central Bank does. What the author means is that non-profits can produce fungible assets which soak up excess liquidity and which have a safe, non zero, real return. If the author doesn't like the manner in which Obama & Co. produced liquidity and took over the down side risk for the financial sector, she should praise the Tea Party and vote for fiscal hawks.
One effect of this influx of money has been to erase many of the distinctions between public and private universities, indeed to reconfigure what public education means. The federal government guarantees some of the money that flows into private colleges and private universities through loans and research funding, while flagship public schools have essentially become private in their funding since they increasingly have less direct state support to draw on. Likewise, consortiums such as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities have been crucial in lobbying for continued and increased access to public funding for private institutions. Humanists, for their part, have been slow to view the public financing of private education at the university level with the same degree of abhorrence they view the voucher system in secondary education.So, Humanists are stoooopid. Who knew?
Yet even as the public versus private distinction lessens in higher education, the profit versus nonprofit distinction, one which even a few years ago seemed tentative, looks for now to have endured. Indeed, The New York Times recently reported that “some owners of private colleges turn a tidy profit by going non-profit.”Obama failed to crack down on these shady for-profit Colleges whose students fail the 'gainful employment' test- i.e. can't get a salary bump sufficient to service their student loans. The Education Dept. which ought to stop this type of fraud, appear to be asleep at the wheel.
Freidman's 'Income Share Agreements' would have prevented any such pathology developing in the first place.
Nonprofits pay little to no real estate taxes and may be donated to for a tax deduction. The tax breaks allotted to nonprofits enable private schools to “build up” rather than “spend down” their endowments. Endowments make more capital investment possible. This pressures public schools to strive for similar endowments, through private fundraising and tuition increases. And only nonprofit entities may float municipal bonds, themselves tax-exempt.Non profits can float bonds, but not municipal bonds, which, though tax-exempt, carry a higher risk premium.
The humanities may seem to be an outlier in this scheme, but, ideologically, their role is crucial.No. Their role is cretinous.
They provide the nonprofit character that, above and beyond the legal status, sustains this operation.Keiser College had courses in pastry making not Victorian poetry. Why? It is targeting people who like pastries but have little interest in poetry. Anyway, knowing how to make pastry could get you a job. Everyone knows Victorian poetry is about throwing away the textbook and standing on your desk and then either getting gay with the Professor or committing suicide or both.
The truth is nobody gives a shit about the Humanities. We think it destroys, not adds, value and leaves its victims less able to flip burgers in a hygienic manner because they are habituated to deconstructing their own poo in the belief that this will get them a higher grade.
As we saw with the TARP bailout of investment banks in 2008–’09, public subsidy of banks and corporations is not a popular policy prescription.But it went ahead anyway because we need Banks. We don't need English Professors coz we alridy knowz how to spick English gud.
But universities appear to be of a different sort. Even with ever-decreasing state backing, “education” remains, along with health care, one of the most supported and sought-after state services. Unlike Big Ten football or university-based public-private partnerships, the humanities offer the semblance of a genuinely non-transactional space.Fuck off! The Humanities demand not just money in fees but also that we write real stoopid essays and like read fancy shmancy books and listen to NPR and other such godlessness. How is that not a transaction? What's more everybody knows you gotta give head to get ahead. You can't tell me Shakespeare didn't have to suck a lot of cock to get his sonnets published. As for John Milton, I personally saw him bend over for Oliver Cromwell. Me? My poetry must rise or fall upon its own merits. Still, it would have been nice to be asked.
What is so distinct about the humanities, of course, is that they cannot be valued or priced by any consistent metric.Sure they can. Graduate earnings are the way to go.
They are a form of conceptual elaboration that has as their structure a refusal of a predetermined outcome.Every conceptual elaboration has this structure. Otherwise it is either not conceptual or not an elaboration.
This open reflexivity contrasts quite sharply with the ends-oriented logic of profit.Profit only exists if there is uncertainty- i.e. outcomes aren't predetermined. Logic tells us that if there no Knightian uncertainty then only Rents obtain.
Once institutionalized in American universities, humanistic reflexivity was perfectly suited to both a life of erudition and to the patrician “gentleman’s C.”Humanism was never institutionalized in American universities. Research, in general of a highly utile type, was. That's why American universities weren't shite.
Corralled under its sign was an institutional space of latitude that ranged from critical inquiry to luxury purposelessness; one could explore existentialism or one could simply do nothing.This may have been true of the Fellows of an old fashioned Oxbridge College- like Tom Sharpe's 'Porterhouse'. It corresponds very little with the American 'publish or perish' academic culture satirized by David Lodge in 'Changing Places'.
It’s enough to remember George W. Bush’s commencement address to Yale in 2001, when he reminisced about his days in the Sterling Library. Bush, who had been a history major at Yale, and a friend, he recounted, “had a mutual understanding: [he] wouldn’t read aloud, and I wouldn’t snore.” Bush then continued: “And to the C students — I say, you, too, can be president of the United States.”But Bush got a Harvard M.B.A. He was only pretending to be a dumb frat boy.
But in the 1980s, like consumer goods and tuition prices, the gentleman’s C became subject to an inflationary spiral.Inflation peaked in the Seventies and came down in the Eighties. Baumol 'cost disease' affected tuition prices- but amenities for students were improving.
The humanities led the charge. The whole point of the gentleman’s C was that the gentleman didn’t need it; it cost him little intellectually or monetarily.Getting a C in a crap subject like History did not matter because everyone understood that this was no reflection on your intellect. Crashing and burning while doing an MBA or at Law School was a different matter. It showed you genuinely were a cretin. You could be as gentlemanly as you liked, nobody would trust you with their money or their law suit.
But pump enough money into the humanities market, and, like housing and equities, its stated value will rise.But Humanities have slumped. There was a time when a Prof. of English at Ivy League spoke better English than the average man. Spivak and Bhabha speak worse English than the average Indian C.A or M.B.A. They are more not less ignorant of Literature and Philosophy.
Indeed, the humanities have been operating under the same kind of quantitative easing plan that has sustained the US economy, post-2008: loose government money wards off inflation or depression by boosting asset prices.How does loose government money ward off inflation? If asset prices rise there is a 'wealth effect' which causes Aggregate Demand to rise. You can't ward off both inflation and depression at the same time. Either there is a liquidity trap, or there isn't. The author is wholly illiterate in Economics. What is her contention re. the Humanities? Is it that they have been selling bogus degrees to illiterate people? If so, how is this Obama's fault?
And yet, the ability of the humanities to signify multiple, contradictory positions within the university persists even in the face of their simultaneous inflation and diminution.A sign is only useful if it signifies one thing unambiguously. Suppose you use the same sign for both the gents' and the ladies' toilets. That sign would signify multiple, contradictory, things. It would also cause a great deal of annoyance and embarrassment to your customers.
Is that the purpose of the Humanities dept?
The humanities function — rhetorically — as both the worst choice a student could make — for the price — and the site of insistence that the university won’t capitulate to an overly econometric logic simply by the fact that they continue to offer the humanities.'Econometric logic'? Does the author mean a structural causal model of the economy? If so, what she is saying is- 'there is empirical evidence that students who choose to study the Humanities are cretins who will become yet more cretinous as a result of studying that garbage. Universities know this. Yet, they deliberately maintain a Humanities Dept. because they want to show that they hate their students and, furthermore, ensure that at least a portion of their graduates will be more cretinous as a result of their having paid good money to study Humanities in a Department only kept open for a cruel and inhumane purpose.'
Why do Universities not go a step further and chop off the arms of crippled students whom they admit only for that reason? That way they can show that they won't capitulate to an overly bourgeois utilitarian calculus which considers it wrong to harm disabled people.
But why stop there? Why don't Universities periodically decapitate and sodomize the eye-sockets of a portion of their students? That would send an even clearer message that Universities won't capitulate to the demands of Society.
They are perceived as a mark of indulgence and despair even while, as Christopher Newfield has been tirelessly demonstrating for years, they actually make money for the university because they cost so little to administer. However, Law & Business Studies are even better at 'cross-subsidizing' STEM subjects. The trouble with Humanities students is that they stink up the place and, moreover, soon become as ignorant and stupid as their teachers.
The humanities organize academic obsolescence as well as offer a space of critique of the institution itself, and these properties truly do distinguish a college or university from a corporation.How do the humanities 'organize academic obsolescence'? Consider this author's own pseudo-economistic drivel. It revives the ghost of a long dead research program in political economy. Itself wholly obsolete, it feeds vulture fashion on fallacies slain in long ago methodenstreits.
Where else can you find an English department?Corporations trading with English speaking countries often have an in-house Translation and Facilitation Department. Language Schools are not Universities and there are several which have Departments of English and French and so forth. Some countries, have a Department within the Ministry of Education specially tasked with promoting the teaching of English in schools. Publishing Houses may have members of staff greatly superior at English to Academicians in that country. When I first visited Italy, there were some elderly professors of English who could not speak the language. By contrast, everyone who worked in Publishing was wholly fluent in English and could discourse learnedly on Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis and so forth.
Newfield’s point that the humanities subsidize the sciences has been widely cited and corroborated. Why doesn’t it then stick, or resonate more powerfully, both within and beyond humanist circles?I've already provided the answer. Law & Business Studies & various other Professional courses are an even better alternative.
Here I’d like to add to his wonderful research. The humanities play a dual role: they both make money and ground a discourse of losing it.Why ground a discourse of pissing money against the wall? The thing is too easily done.
They can always be cut more, but they will not be cut completely as long as the nonprofit organization of higher education remains in place.Yet Keiser University has courses in pastry making but nothing which corresponds to a Humanities program. The market has already spoken.
And humanities scholars have been as attached to this discursive bind as anyone else.Discursive binds don't exist. Only stupidity does.
Rather like Foucault’s Victorian doctor, who declares the horrors of homosexuality unspeakable before he undertakes a careful cataloging of them, humanities scholars have joined the funeral dirge for their own disciplines. But in the face of a seeming market correction, we need to ask: Is this funeral for the wrong corpse?Foucault literally 'died of ignorance' endangering others by his own stupidity and recklessness. His Victorian Doctor did not say that there was anything about the body which could not be spoken about. Rather, there were things which were so evil they should not be spoken of as if they were natural or ethically neutral.
A good teacher can improve the mind of her student regardless of the topic of instruction. The Humanities once attracted good teachers and thus retained good students. Those days are long gone. The Commies and their 'useful idiot' fellow-travelers began a 'long march through the institutions' which ended in idiocy of a wholly noisome type. Still, there are top law firms who will recruit Eng Lit or History grads from certain Schools. Journalism and the Bureaucracy will always have a need for cretins of a certain stripe as will the Tory leadership.
Our author thinks there has been a 'market correction' for the Humanities- i.e. the present value of a Credential of that sort had been inflated and has now fallen to its natural level. I was under the impression that the thing had happened long ago. Our author also asks if the funeral of the Humanities involves the wrong corpse. This seems reasonable. Her own prose has the stench of decomposition. Clearly, whatever it was that the Humanities buried, it was not its own rotting cadaver.
Nothing that is of the mind truly dies- so says the Sage Sanath Kumar in the Mahabharata- save by confusion or inattention. This author- though a Professor of English- refuses to learn the meaning of English words and collocations with the result that her thoughts are still-born and require immediate interment.
Clearly, she has seen the word 'Haircut'- meaning that bondholders are paid only a portion of the face value of the securities they own- and decided that it applies to a 'shakeout'- i.e. a contraction of supply because of adverse market conditions.
Time for a Humanities Haircut?After a series of college closings and near-bankruptcies, in January 2019, such lamentation intensified when an idiosyncratic liberal arts school, one whose reputation supersedes its endowment, Hampshire College, announced that it too would be closing.'Supersedes' is wrong. She means 'one whose reputation exceeds its endowment'- i.e. it is more famous than wealthy. If its reputation supplanted its endowment, it could raise more money purely on the basis of its 'goodwill'.
(“Seeking to partner” with another institution was the choice idiom.)  Because of Hampshire’s roster of distinguished alumni along with its national profile, it became a kind of anchor in a long-simmering discussion: is this how the liberal arts–based humanities will end, not with a bang but a merger?This seems reasonable. Cerullo's words might well get some billionaire with fond memories of her college days to write a check to save the place. Our author, however, takes a more censorious view-
Writing in The Nation, Hampshire Professor Margaret Cerullo offered this assessment: 'As small colleges nationwide find themselves under siege, Hampshire may be the demonstration case. If [Hampshire] college can be destroyed — [even though it was] founded as an alternative by powerful institutions in western Massachusetts (Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass Amherst) […] — then the arts and the liberal arts as inspiration to lives of critical inquiry and social engagement will have been dealt another serious blow.'
Such sentiments are less a description of the problem the humanities face than they are a symptom of it.So Cerullo is afflicted with a disease and the sentiment he, not inelegantly, expresses, is a symptom of that disease, the nature of which, like Foucault's Victorian doctor, our author considers unspeakable.
First, they reinscribe the false dichotomy between the economy’s instrumentality and the humanities’ abstraction by isolating the latter from the former.How very naughty of Cerullo! He had no business reinscribing any such thing. Just think of all the billions of terrorized women and children who have been beaten, raped, sodomized and subjected to haircuts by neoliberalism all because that false dichotomy! The economy's instrumentality is univocal with the humanity's abstraction! Please don't isolate the latter from the former! Think of all the women and little kiddies who will suffer if you commit a crime so heinous!
Since the early 1980s this hasn’t been an either/or situation — it’s been a both/and. The humanities’ abstract character has precisely enabled their economic instrumentation in colleges and universities, which has enabled the humanities to expand and seemingly democratize.Everything taught at a University- as opposed to a Trade School- has an abstract character. Theoretical Physics has a more abstract character than Mathematical Economics. Algebraic Topology is more abstract than Physics. However, my own specialty, forgetful functors in Socio-proctological spaces- is even more abstract. Sadly, it is utterly useless. That is why there is no demand for it. There was a demand for Humanities because it was thought they'd make you a better, smarter, human being. The supply side was adversely selective because pseudo-leftists were long marching through the institutions fucking things up for everybody while claiming to be third wave eco-feminists or some such shite.
Hampshire College — and many other small, private schools—could not have prospered for as long as they did without this pairing. The actual democratization of access to liberal arts schools was possible only under highly leveraged conditions.Hampshire College, set up in 1970 with generous grants from the likes of the Ford Foundation, did well when it had good teachers and was in tune with the zeitgeist. People got some value for money. But the Humanities turned to shit and so good teachers couldn't be had for love or money. Hampshire started off with a lot of money. Thus, there was no 'leveraging'. The author is pretending to know about finance. But she is as ignorant of it as she is of her own subject. Why? It's coz she studied it after it had turned to shit.
These colleges are less “under siege” than they are confronting the end of the same quantitative easing that ballooned the number of institutions, their longevity, and their rosters.For demographic reasons, there would have been a 'shake-out'- i.e. a contraction in supply. Students need to look at not just availability of credit but also the opportunity cost of taking a particular course or attending a particular college. Unlike financial assets which are highly fungible and thus gross substitutes for each other, investment in education involves massive hysteresis effects. Thus an increase in Knightian Uncertainty has a bigger impact.
Doing so had the further effect of conflating “critical inquiry” and “critical thought” with a kind of institutional liberal arts.What is the author saying? I suppose, she thinks that Liberal Arts Colleges swindled their students by pretending to teach 'critical thought'. The whole thing was a Ponzi scheme. Now the money has run out and these Madoffs are being driven out of business. Since she herself studied 'Liberal Arts' and has clearly been rendered utterly cretinous in consequence, we must allow her to voice her grievance in such illiterate terms as she can command.
Yet that has necessarily been a conflation with institutional finance, too.Why necessarily? It is because, in the poor addled brain of our author, if one conflation takes place another can't be far behind. And 'institutional finance' sounds like the sort of thing that will turn up and conflate with everything else like crazy.
Consider my own pet peeve re. the neighbor's cat which suns itself upon the roof of a garden shed which overlooks my study window. After a few shots of Bacardi, the realization dawns on me that the neighbor's cat has been conflated with the Nicaraguan horcrux of the neo-Gramscian nomenklatura. But why? The answer is that the cat observed me doing something which voided the warranty on my Dyson vacuum cleaner. However, I returned it to John Lewis without mentioning the incident. Since the real reason elderly men bought that particular model was well known to the staff, they darted at me many a dirty look and put on rubber gloves before disposing of the machine in a hygienic manner. The losses John Lewis made as a result, caused the workers to lose their bonuses (John Lewis being a worker's co-operative). This was clearly in the interests of institutional finance. Thus the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat had been conflated not just with the neo-Gramscian nomenklatura (who probably incited me to a lewd action against the Dyson) but also Neoliberal Institutional Finance!
There is nothing which can't be conflated with something else and then conflated with the Rothschilds or the Lizard People from Planet X.
Now it seems, without the student population to absorb the money, to recycle the funds not going to public infrastructure or wages under the auspices of the debt state, the private liberal arts school itself may undergo a market correction. Thus producing a new crisis in the humanities.Very true! Now that Dyson can't rely on John Lewis taking back machines which have been nutted in, they have had to move to Singapore! Capitalism really does destroy itself! Ironically, the garden shed too has been knocked down so the Nicaraguan horcrux of my neighbor's cat can no longer occultly incite me to lewd actions against vacuum cleaners. This has produced not a crisis, but a lysis, in the Socio-proctological Sciences.
In New England today, one can hardly drive five miles without seeing another precarious private college or university admitting whoever it can find and offering them a “financial aid package” that means they’ll be paying off their debt for the next 30 years. And where do their graduates go? Many head down the road, to take up jobs as assistant managers, service workers, and so on. Should these students have the time and space to develop a sense of humanistic reflection? Absolutely. Should that be done in a private liberal arts school? The more these schools have become imbricated in institutional finance, the harder it is to make that case.Imbrication refers to 'overlapping tiles'. Schools are not the shingles on the roof top of Institutional finance. Spivak's English was not that of a native speaker. She genuinely may have confused the term for something else. No doubt, as an undergraduate, she had professors who mumbled about the 'imbrication' and 'exbrication'. As part of the Sub-Humanities, she has foisted a nonsensical 'term of art' upon an entirely parodic type of gesture political pedantry.
What point is our author trying to make? Is it not that Schools which are connected in some way to the Financial Sector are unworthy of our respect? Even if they do something we approve of, it is hard to justify their existence.
Suppose these Schools were kept at arms length from FinanzKapital by generous grants from the tax payer, would their moral position be altered? Would it not still be the case that their students had been swindled out of the opportunity to study something more remunerative or, at least, socially useful or well regarded?
In fact, it’s not “the humanities” that will suffer, but certainly many individual colleges and universities will, and the ones serving already marginalized populations will go first.If a 'liberal arts' college closes, the liberal arts can be said to suffer. More especially, if people say 'liberal arts colleges are shit, only cretins teach it and only cretin study it,' then it is the case that 'the humanities' have suffered a considerable decline in prestige.
Indeed, what is unique about Hampshire is that its decline transpires alongside its alternative yet blue-blood heritage.Did Hampshire's decline begin in 1970? If not, this author's abominable English is also utterly mendacious.
Regardless, some aspects of institutional liberal arts will be forced to take a “haircut,” bond-industry lexicon for a write-down of value.She means 'bond-industry jargon'. There is a 'lexicon' for the industry which features a number of precise legal terms under that rubric .
There is no 'write-down of value' here. There is a 'shake out'. It is not the case that Hamilton degrees yield their possessors a lower return. Rather, it may be, Hamilton ceases to award degrees as its accreditation is revoked.
Yet since the humanities are not equally distributed across such schools, and each relates to institutional finance through its own endowment and state-funding structure, “the humanities” itself is the wrong site of critique and attachment. Indeed, it is too humanistic.So everything this author has written here was wrong-headed. But it wasn't 'humanistic' at all. It was brutal.
Humanists might use this moment to rethink the imaginary of the humanities, along with the private liberal arts school and the reality of what the quantitative easing of the humanities has promised and what it has delivered.What would be the point? This author has used this moment to write garbage. Why should any of her colleagues be able to do a better job? Is it really the case that this author was the runt of the litter ceaselessly teased for her stupidity and ignorance by her class-mates all through her academic career?
Both have long had the effect of making “the humanities” less a site to understand the political economy of colleges and universities than one to obfuscate it. Perhaps a market correction in the humanities will open a space for a new conversation — new analysis and new demands. That doesn’t mean the fallout won’t be real, and painful. But humanities scholars would benefit from being less sentimental about the reasons for the Keynesian state’s success, as Annie McClanahan has explored, and more sanguine about realities of its disappearance. The 'Keynesian state's success' had to do with winning wars. But America lost the Vietnam war. It also became apparent that Public spending would disproportionately help non-WASPs. The specter of the 'Welfare Queen' brought Reagan to power. The campus became a safe space for the hippie and the commie and other such detritus from a '68 when History reached a turning point but failed to turn.
What would it mean to have a genuinely public humanities, one which has existed and could exist in places as diverse as union schools, community centers and continuing-education initiatives, community colleges, and so on? What would it mean to have a genuinely public college or university, one free from both the debt state and its perverse double, philanthropy? Mourning the loss of private liberal arts schools will not lead to such conversations. Understanding the arc of their recent trajectories might.We all already have genuinely public humanities. Indeed, before Plato's Academy or Aristotle's Lyceum, there was the Agora where the likes of Simon the shoe-maker held forth. Consider my own narrow peregrinations in search of enlightenment. When I hit upon a difficult passage in Bedil, I go down the street to consult the kasai at the Halal shop. If it is a mathematical proof I need help with, I post a question on the Stack Exchange. For more humanistic symposia, I can choose from a range of pubs and wine-bars.
We know now where that arc has led. Perhaps, as humanists, it is now time to ask ourselves the very question that has greeted newly minted humanities graduates, standing with degree in hand on the day of their graduation, wide-eyed if daunted, and maybe a little hung-over: “Well … what are you going to do with that?”The answer is 'I will write ultracrepidarian shite for the LARB or some other such pseudo-Leftie rag.'