Academic careerism

Academic careerism is the tendency of academics ( professors SPECIFICALLY Generally and intellectuals) to Pursue Their Own enrichment and self-advancement at the expense of honest inquiry, unbiased research and dissemination of truth to Their students and society. Such careerism has been criticized by thinkers from Socrates in Ancient Athens to Russell Jacoby in the present.

Socrates’ criticism of the Sophists

In Xenophon’s Memorabilia , Socrates draws a comparison between the proper and honorable way to bestow beauty and the proper way to bestow wisdom. Those who offer beauty for sale on the market are called prostitutes, and are held in disrepute by the Athenians. Those who offer wisdom for sale, on the other hand, are highly respected. Socrates believes this is an error. The Sophists should be seen for what they are, prostitutors of wisdom.

When we see a woman bartering beauty as a prostitute; But she is the only one who does not care about her. It is the very same with philosophy: he who sets it for public sale, to be disposed of to the highest bidder, is a sophist, a public prostitute. [1]

In Plato’s Protagoras , Socrates draws an analogy between peddlers of unhealthy food and peddlers of false and deceptive wisdom. Food peddlers are the only ones who have the right to make their own claims. Peddlers of knowledge try to persuade impressionable young minds what they teach is salutary and true, again without offering solid arguments to back up their claims. They mislead young minds on paths not conducive to intellectual flourishing.

Knowledge is the food of the soul; And we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; For they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful. [2]

Schopenhauer’s criticism of university philosophy

Nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer contrasts the genuine philosopher, who earnestly pursues truth and offers its fruits to all who will listen, to the “businessmen of the flesh”, the academics of his day who have debased the pursuit of knowledge into a means Of livelihood no more dignified than the practice of business or law. The motto of the academic opportunists is ” primum vivere, deinde philosophari ” -first live, afterwards philosophize. The bourgeois feeling that someone who earns his living by a profession must know something about what makes the academic chairs immune from criticism. They make their living from philosophy, the public reasons, so they must know philosophy. The philosophy taught in the universities, Schopenhauer claims,

We should judge university philosophy … the junior barristers, solicitors, doctors, probationers, and pedagogues of the future should maintain, even in their innermost conviction, the same line of thought in keeping With the intentions and intentions that the State. [3]

Julien Benda’s Treason of the Intellectuals

French scholar Julien Benda (1867-1956) observes that in the past intellectuals have adopted two poses toward politics. The first was Plato’s doctrine that morality must decide politics. The second was Machiavelli’s , which said that politics had nothing to do with morality. Benda accuses the generation of intellectuals influential in France in the 1920s of adopting a third, far more pernicious, pose: that politics must be allowed to decide morality. The causes of this “divinizing of politics” is que la intellectuals (French clerics ) de son era-have abandoned the ideal of disinterestedness, and Now Consider Themselves to be ordinary citoyens, subject to the Sami incentives as ordinary citoyens.

The true clerc is Vauvenargues , Lamarck , Fresnel , Spinoza , Schiller , Baudelaire , César Franck , who were never diverted from single-hearted adoration of the beautiful and the divine by the necessity of their daily bread. But such clercs are inevitably rare. … The rule is that the living creature condemned to struggle for life turns to practical passions, and thence to the sanctifying of those passions. [4]

The pursuit of personal advantage by purveying knowledge, Benda explains, has been held in disrepute since antiquity. But in his generation, this view of intellectual work has begun to seem obsolete, replaced by a kind of institutionalized career in which intellectuals were driven by the same petty desires for personal advantage as businessmen and lawyers.

Since the Greeks the predominant attitude of thinkers towards intellectual activity it was to glorify it insofar as (like aesthetic activity) it finds its satisfaction in itself, Most thinkers Would Have Agreed with … Renan’sverdict que le man who loves science for ict fruit commits the worst of Blasphemies contre That divinity. … The modern clercs have violently torn up this charter. They proclaim the intellectual functions are only respectable to the extent that they are bound up with the pursuit of concrete advantage. [5]

Russell Jacoby’s criticisms of contemporary academia

Historian Russell Jacoby , writing in the 1970s, observes that intellectual production has succumbed to the same pattern of planned obsolescence used for their products.

The application of planned obsolescence to the self is as applied to consumer goods; The new is not only shoddier than the old, it fuels an obsolete social system that staves off its replacement by manufacturing the illusion that is perpetually new. [6]

Jacoby laments the demise of the radical theory of the previous generation, which sought to understand and articulate the inherent contradictions in bourgeois and liberal democratic ideologies. The new generation of theories, in contrast, seek to allow the contradictory elements of the ideology to coexist by isolating them, assigning them to separate departments in the university. This division of intellectual labor in the service of the prevailing ideology, Jacoby says, “severs the life nerve of dialectical thought.” [7]

Jacoby ends his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals on a despairing note, observing that even radical Marxist intellectuals are not immune to the pressure to achieve tenure, and have begun to alter their research methods in conformity to pressure from university administrators. [8]

Edward Said’s description of the career of critical theory in the 1980s

Literature Professor Edward Said , in his 1983 book The World, the Text, and the Critic , accuses literary theorists of his generation of succumbing to the free-market ideology of the Reaganera. The previous generation of critical theorists, Said explains, did not allow itself to be constrained by the conventional separation of academic fiefdoms. It maintained an insurrectionary relationship with the society in which it lived. The generation of critical influential theorists in the 1980s, however, began to betray these ideals, and timorously succumbed to the prevailing societal ethic of specialization and professionalism.

The intellectual origins of literary theory in Europe were, I think it is accurate to say, insurrectionary. The traditional university, the hegemony of determinism and positivism, the reification of ideological bourgeois “humanism,” the rigid barriers between academic specialties: it was powerful responses to all those that linked together such influential progenitors of today’s literary theorist as Saussure , Lukács , Bataille , Levi-Strauss , Freud , Nietzsche , and Marx . Theory as a synthesis overriding the petty fiefdoms within the world of intellectual production, and it was manifestly to be hoped as a result that all the domains of human activity could be seen, And lived, as a unity. … Literary theory, whether of the Left or the Right, has turned its back on these things. This can be considered, I think, the triumph of the ethic of professionalism. It is not possible to describe this phenomenon in terms of the reciprocity of the phenomenon . [9]

Camille Paglia’s characterization of the “junk bond” in academia

Writing in 1991, “dissident feminist” scholar Camille Paglia finds in David Halperin’s work prototypical example of rampant careerism in the humanities. Paglia observes that Halperin’s generation of academics is prone to a “contemporary parochialism” that eagerly cites hot-off-the-press articles without attempting to critically assess their objective merit in the intellectual tradition. Paglia accuses Halperin of assembling a pastiche of the latest faddish opinions and marketing it as a book, not for the sake of advancing the cause of truth, but with no other love than advancement advancement. She compares such scholarship to junk bonds , a highly volatile investment.

Never in my career have I seen a scholarly book of such naked worldly ambition, such lack of scruple about its methods or its claims to knowledge. It is exquisitely emblematic of its time. [10]

Paglia characterizes contemporary academic discourse by Jacques Lacan , Jacques Derrida , and Michel Foucault as the academic equivalent of name brand consumerism. “Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault,” she says, “are the academic equivalents of BMW, Rolex, and Cuisinart.” [11] Under the inspiration of the latest academic fashions, academics manufacture insipid prose with no objective merit for the same reason fashion designers come out with new fashions each season. Academics peddle the latest fashionable theories to replacing perfectly good older theories, made obsolete not by genuine progress, but only by incessant changes in fashion, Changes deliberately contrived to create consumer demand in a credulous public. Paglia, a symptomatic of an era, is a self-examination of the latest generation of scholars. She takes Halperin’s try “Why is Diatoma a Woman?” As one example, calling it “one of the great junk bonds of the fast-track academic era, whose unbridled greed for fame and power was intimately in sync with parallel developments on Wall Street.” [12] She takes Halperin’s try “Why is Diatoma a Woman?” As one example, calling it “one of the great junk bonds of the fast-track academic era, whose unbridled greed for fame and power was intimately in sync with parallel developments on Wall Street.” [12] She takes Halperin’s try “Why is Diatoma a Woman?” As one example, calling it “one of the great junk bonds of the fast-track academic era, whose unbridled greed for fame and power was intimately in sync with parallel developments on Wall Street.” [12]

As a remedy for rampant careerism in academia, Paglia prescribes a return to the ancient ascetic roots of the academic tradition.

Academe needs deprofessionalization and deyuppification. It has to recover its clerical or spiritual roots. Scholarship is an ideal and a calling, not merely a trade or living. Every year at the beginning, we put on medieval dresses that connect us to a great monastic past. [13]

Paglia advises the graduate students of the next generation to return to the gentlemanly and ascetic traditions of past academics, avoiding faddish subjects or methods of interpretation, refusing to seek material reward from their work, and pursuing instead a lofty ideal of scholarship in which “Its own organic rhythm” rather than chasing the latest trends to win approval from contemporaries.

See also

  • Forced ranking
  • Extreme careerism
  • Least publishable unit
  • Publish or perish


  1. Jump up^ Xenophon,Memorabilia, 1.6.11, T. Stanley, trans., P. 535
  2. Jump up^ Plato, Protagoras 313c, Benjamin Jowett, trans.
  3. Jump up^ Schopenhauer, “On Philosophy in the Universities,”Parerga and Paralipomena, E. Payne, trans. (1974) Vol. 1, p. 146.
  4. Jump up^ Julien Benda,Treason of the Intellectuals(1927), R. Aldington, trans. (2007) p. 159.
  5. Jump up^ Benda 1927, pp. 151-152.
  6. Jump up^ Russell Jacoby,Social Amnesia(1975), p. xvii.
  7. Jump up^ Jacoby 1975, p. 74.
  8. Jump up^ Russell Jacoby,The Last Intellectuals(1987), pp. 158-159.
  9. Jump up^ Edward Said,The World, the Text, and the Critic(1983), p. 3-4.
  10. Jump up^ Camille Paglia, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf,”Arion, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), p. 160.
  11. Jump up^ Paglia 1991, p. 186.
  12. Jump up^ Paglia 1991, p. 158.
  13. Jump up^ Paglia 1991, p. 200.

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