Monday, October 20, 2008

The State of Intellectual Play

Drawn back to the economic model of Adam Smith, and the dawn of the capitalist economic system, neoliberalism has become the core of North American rightwing politics in this schizophrenic state of post-911 revanchism, contrasting the socialist model of the left. The former perspective values deregulation, supporting free trade, and allowing the free market to speak to and influence our practices and policies, as though this model represents some kind of universal consensus.
Unfortunately, we are all bound to the modern economic system, requiring our humble servitude, relegating our agency to choices serving fiscal consciousness. Academics are often met with the challenge of meeting a societal need; however such needs are being spelled out as the need to increase profit margins, create jobs, and keep the ball rolling, maintain the status quo. The bureaucratization of universities also enables this capitalist position with the increase of managerial style administration. In effect, universities are research factories; teaching students is often relegated to a latent function, mostly a way of harvesting future producers of knowledge commodities.
In my experience, observing the administrative system of the university, often curriculum decisions are made to meet external and internal economic needs. One directive is to construct programs which meet the needs of some industry or another; for example, a need for more physicians, or nurses. The other is to meet the fiscal needs of the program itself, such as internalizing a course to avoid paying another department for teaching it. This order is problematic. It avoids pedagogical considerations. It positions capitalism above scholarship as the impetus for academic change. Also, creates a precedent for future like actions.
Kurasawa is right in projecting a vision of subversion by disseminating knowledge power to the internal and external populous. However, this freedom comes at a price. One must be so entrenched in the system, that expulsion for ones politics would be difficult. However, even so, such radicalism must be subtly dispersed as to not espouse strong reactions. In an extreme example, one couldn’t simply denounce ones own university, I believe such utterances could cost one their job. However, not all is lost, for example, Sears teaches from the left, not by articulating a socialist political perspective, rather by building a critical framework in the minds of students, to question everything, and to see relationships in their entirety, to understand systems as being driven by structure and conflict. Such a model of teaching encourages vigilance of the nature of things, thereby allowing for visibility of every facet of neo-liberalism.
What happened to the love of knowledge? Why then do academics earn PhDs, doctor of philosophy? Why has careerism taken the place of intellectualism? Where are the philosopher kings? One encouraging way to consider this state of things is that the academic capitalists will surely create, in their intellectual vacuum, an oppositional voice; a field of true scholars emerge from the margins as harbingers of thought. However, stock in scientific research, forces producers of knowledge to apply for grants in order to produce the evidence required for their assertions. The granters will likely not have the love of knowledge in such regard as scholars; they are likely interested in the utilitarian needs of society, and in neo-liberal capitalist democracies this means economic progress.
In short, there ought to be an overhaul of scholarship. How those so aware of the system and its workings, find themselves helplessly entrenched in it? Let us overcome this false consciousness. Long live the love of knowledge. Question everything. Question yourself.

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