Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reading Chomsky on Anarchism. In the first essay titled "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship," Chomsky slams what he calls "the new meritocratic elite." He is speaking about intellectuals and scholars. He writes the following about the danger he sees in  both. What is most interesting is he wrote this essay in 1969.

"Free  institutions certainly exist, but a tradition of passivity and conformism restricts their use-- the cynic might say this is why they continue to exist. The impact of professionalization is also quite clear. The "free-floating intellectual" may occupy himself with problems because of their inherent interest and importance, perhaps to little effect. The professional, however, tends to define his problems on the basis of the technique that he has mastered. and has a natural desire to apply his skills...." And later, "These various factors-- access to power, shared ideology, professionalization-- may or may not be deplorable in themselves, but there can be no doubt that they interact so as to pose a serious threat to the integrity of scholarship in fields that are struggling for intellectual content...The danger is particularly great in a society that encourages specialization and stands in awe of technical expertise. In such circumstances, the opportunities are great for the abuse of knowledge and technique..."

He feels that intellectuals, due to these things, are moving closer to the center of power. He feels that the specialists and experts have become involved in "special government undertakings" and he suggests that these intellectuals that are application oriented have access to "power, prestige and the good life." He gives lots of examples, mostly about the Vietnam war.

Again, maybe I am misreading. but I found his criticism of professionalization and specialization very interesting. Conformism, I see as an essential factor in a academia. Perhaps when one has the privilege of tenure this is less likely. Yet schools I attended and worked at in both Colorado and Texas were quite conservative in terms of conformity. The nature of these academic institutions seemed to lend to a bland conformity and an unwillingness to speak out against injustice, even so far as a desire to impose injustice on anyone who didn't fit the mold. This was often true of "creative" writers. There was a model or a "school" which needed to be followed, and if one did not fit this "school of thought" they were booted. This is dangerous for poetry. But poetry is, I hope, beyond the confines of academia. Although I would say that there is access to "power, prestige and the good life" in an academic setting. This is one reason I am skeptical of academics who speak on such issues as "labor." This position of mine for today at least, I do not believe it is anti-intellectual.


Last night I threw my knee out and I am in a great deal of pain and can barely walk. I see a doctor tomorrow. Wanted to go to the emergency room, but my medicaid was cut since I am no longer on Aid to Needy Disabled but have received social security. This is strange. Now that I've been deemed disabled, I have no health insurance. I've arranged to be in the medicaid buy-in program which is part of Obama care for the disabled from what I gather, but it doesn't start for a few months. There's a great deal of irony in the system. One does not receive medicare until two years after one has been deemed disabled. Luckily, I don't have a life-threatening disability.


1 comment:

Adrian said...

Thanks for sharing the piece from Chomsky. It does sound interesting. He is so smart that his writing can be hard to follow. It took me forever to finish Failed States, but it was fascinating. Cool!

ps. sorry about the knee.