Re: [xmca] University & Conformity

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Thu May 22 2008 - 13:48:35 PDT

All this seems very recognizable to me and it is a topic of discussion among
my close
colleagues here at UCSD.

In what context have you posted these ideas here?

On Thu, May 22, 2008 at 7:33 AM, E. Knutsson <> wrote:

> Contemporary universities unfortunately often appear to be dysfunctional -
> haunted by hypocrisy, conformism and careerism. According to
> Thorstein Veblen, an institution is "a prevalent habit of thought, and as
> such
> it is subject to the conditions and limitations that surround any change in
> the
> habitual frame of mind prevalent in the community." Veblen portrayed the
> American university as "encouraging publications largely for the sake of
> institutional prestige, rewarding mediocrity as often as merit, and
> exerting
> enormous pressure on dissident faculty to conform". In the spirit of
> Veblen,
> Michael Taves observes: "Universities are deadly to serious intellectual
> work.
> The university ethos fosters mediocrity, boredom, and gutlessness. It has
> become a haven for conformist intellectuals who value patronage and status
> over
> intellectual quality and challenge"
> ( ).
> Most of you are probably familiar with Pierre Bourdieu's "Homo Academicus"
> and
> Frank Furedi's "Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? Confronting 21st
> Century
> Philistinism" (London & New York: Continuum, 2004). In Furedi's book, there
> are
> some telling subtitles such as "From meritocracy to mediocracy", "The
> conformist intellectual" etc.:
> "There has never been a period since the beginning of modernity when people
> working with ideas were so complacent about their role. This atmosphere of
> conformism is particularly evident among professional academics" (p. 47).
> The academic field is to some extent determined by what could be termed
> the "academic habitus", the "feel for the game", the principle of
> hierarchization, maximization of specific symbolic or social profits.
> Agents
> involved in the "game" within a social field do not necessarily perceive it
> as
> a game. They believe in it; they take it seriously. The strategies and
> systems
> of values within a field may appear illusory to anyone outside of the
> field.
> For Bourdieu, intellectuals (or scientists or academics) have
> "disinterested
> interests" or an "interest in disinterestedness" (Bourdieu 1993).
> "What is experienced as obvious in illusio appears as an illusion to those
> who
> do not participate in the obviousness because they do not participate in
> the
> game . . . Agents well-adjusted to the game are possessed by the game and
> doubtless all the more so the better they master it. For example, one of
> the
> privileges associated with the fact of being born in the game is that one
> can
> avoid cynicism since one has a feel for the game; like a good tennis
> player,
> one positions oneself not where the ball is but where it will be; one
> invests
> oneself not where the profit is, but where it will be" (Bourdieu quoted in
> Lucas, Lisa. Research Game in Academic Life. Buckingham: Open University
> Press,
> 2006, 63)
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Received on Thu May 22 13:50 PDT 2008

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