academic ghettos

October 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

Society is necessarily a division of labor, and like any division of labor, it requires the specialization of the individual participants in order to function.  This makes all those participants dependent on one another, since the jack of all trades is the master of none.  It’s “collectivism,” sorry.  I don’t know what to tell you, ancap crusader.

So, since thinking is a specialization like any other, if nobody specializes in thinking and comes up with shit that is useful to the rest of society, you get a dumber society that is less able to understand itself or anything else since nobody will be willing or able to do much thinking themselves if they have other shit to do.  It’s not that complicated, is it?

Research and teaching are specializations like any other, so just as a mechanic becomes a mechanic by spending all his time learning or applying his trade so that you don’t have to, a researcher who specializes in this or that spends all his time studying and thinking about that one thing so that the rest of us don’t have to.  Their job is to think about and study shit all day while your job is to do whatever the fuck it is you do all day.  He’s not better than you, you’re not better than him, and both of you need each other, so put the chip on your shoulder away already.

If all goes well, we can make use of that knowledge they come up with.  It’s knowledge which we wouldn’t ordinarily have if nobody specialized in studying it because we all would have spent our time doing something else.   If we never invest in producing that knowledge, it’s an “opportunity cost,” as the economists say.  If nobody is studying things, we will never know the things they would have discovered since we were all too busy repairing cars, filling teeth, working cash registers, paving roads, and so on, and so we will lose whatever potential value it may have had. All of this should go without saying.  It should also go without saying that we can’t know the value of knowledge if we don’t yet have that knowledge, and we will never have the fucking knowledge in the first place if we don’t allow people to research shit by investing in that research.

But what about academic feminism and gender studies?  Clearly that’s bullshit, right?  What value could that possibly have?

The problem with gender studies isn’t that it’s academic and needs market discipline, as if the magical market and tough guy work ethic bullshit is going to solve this and every other problem under the sun, or as if there could be no practical use for a better understanding of gender.  The problem with gender studies is the pussy pass, or the fact that we all defer to women or else risk being branded evil doers, rapists, embittered creeps, blah blah ad nauseam.

Everybody has ignored gender studies stupidity for a generation now for the same reason that husbands have been tuning their droning and nagging wives out while murmuring “yes, Dear” since time immemorial.  For this reason, feminism has been isolated in an academic ghetto for 40 years where it has fed on its own dogma and veered further and further from reality with nobody there to put the brakes on it.  It’s like a backwoods Baptist church with little contact with the rest of the world which has utterly devolved into blubbering, speaking in tongues, dancing with snakes, and waiting for the rapture.  They’re completely oblivious to how batshit insane they sound to the rest of us at this point because there is nobody there to tell them any different and to anchor them in reality.  As a society, we’ve tuned them out and collectively said “yes, Dear” for decades.  That’s the real origin of Gamergate. The evolution of social media has progressed to the point where feminism and its oblivious appeasers in the media finally careened at top speed into reality for the first time.  These are the results.

This is a problem for women generally.  I mean, browse women’s Okcupid profiles for a bit and consider that the girl who goes on for three incoherent paragraphs about how she like cats and Game of Thrones still gets messages and offers for dates.  That’s how low the bar is for women.  Can you imagine if the roles were reversed?  It’s not like she ever has to learn to write effective English or even suspect that nobody gives a ripe fuck about her cats or what television shows she likes in order to have a perfectly respectable career on Okcupid or social life generally.  It may never even occur to her at all because there will always be some attention-starved and supplicating sucker who will take the time to message and pander to her regardless if her inability to write makes her sound like a fucking schizophrenic.

Women incentivize douchebaggary and sociopathy among men, but men incentivize female mediocrity.  Plenty of women go through life like this without ever developing a personality or character precisely because social rewards are handed to them on a silver platter without any introspection or work required.  They’re like child stars.  There’s nobody there to tell the empress that she isn’t wearing any clothes because they were all too busy trying to get her phone number. You could even argue that it’s not even their fault, it’s ours.

So feminism is no different.  It’s as isolated and ghettoized as that girl on Okcupid who seems like something out of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?  It’s a ghetto that wouldn’t have developed had it not been so taboo to engage with their ideas as critically as we would in any other area of social science.  Everybody knows gender studies is really women’s studies and criticizing women is like hitting a girl.  To criticize feminist orthodoxy is to risk being protested, earning contempt and disgust, turning oneself into a pariah, being regarded as a crank, bigot, hater of women, raper of goats, and eater of children.  The problem with feminist academia isn’t too much academic freedom, but the complete lack of it.

The answer isn’t to do away with academia or the humanities or turn universities into Walmart, as if making academics beholden to the market will better enable them to tell us what’s true.  Very often, what’s true isn’t what we want to hear or what will earn the academic a fat bonus.  Truth isn’t a commodity.  Money can’t compel good research or creative thinking, only curiosity, academic freedom, and the resources to chase inspiration can.

Financial incentives and disincentives do not produce the truth, but professional shills, sophists, and lawyers for ideas who will argue whatever their paymasters want to hear and make, as the ancient Greeks used to say, “the weaker argument seem as if it is the stronger.”  Look at the economist Glenn Hubbard.  He’s never been right about anything but he says what people who can promote his career want to hear, so he can bank on research grants, having his “research” published, or being invited to serve as an economic adviser in the cabinets of potential presidential candidates like Mitt Romney.  This was the whole point of tenure in the first place, to insulate academia from financial or career pressure which would silence unpopular conclusions and produce paid shills, monied echo chambers, or researchers who only studied what appeared to be financially profitable.  And get real, anybody at the top of their field in whatever discipline is rarely there because they care about or even think about money. They are there for love of what they’re studying and would go on studying it long after you’d paid them so much that they never had to worry about money again.

So no, the answer is not to treat research universities as if they are trade schools and to do away with the gender studies or the humanities.  The answer to the problem of feminist ideological quackery in gender studies is to introduce new theories into the discipline and challenge their assumptions, not to retreat into a new dark age or turn universities into legal practices for whoever has enough money to hire them.

For all the certainty among intellectually insecure and embittered libertarians and right wingers generally about the fundamental impracticality of gender studies, it seems pretty obvious that such a discipline could probably tell us quite a bit about political economy, how and why power structures develop, or how communities evolve.  I don’t think it requires that much imagination to see its potential practical value.  Do I really need to belabor the point?

Unfortunately most critics of feminism are coming from the right and they end up buying into a lot of questionable right wing anti-intellectual biases that actually serve to undermine their criticism for anyone who isn’t already on the right themselves.  Quite frankly, you sound like fucking idiots.  Those biases have as much to do with intellectual cowardice, laziness, and confused and often imaginary class-related grievances than they do anything else, and that’s painfully obvious to everybody outside of your own echo chamber.

It’s this kind of bullshit which actually dooms criticisms of feminism to its own ghetto.  Stop worrying about if people think you’re a postmodern hipster or if people with an education think they’re better than you and worry more about what is true.  Truth != your feelz.



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