After years of parsing through incredibly stupid garbage that Chronicle of Higher Ed is famous for, I have finally been compensated with a good essay:
The midcentury ideal — of literature as an aesthetically and philosophically complex activity, and of criticism as its engaged and admiring decoding — is gone. In its place stands the idea that our capacity to shape our protean selves is the capacity most worth exercising, the thing to be defended at all costs, and the good that a literary inclination best serves.
The consequences of our disavowal of expertise are becoming clear. The liquidation of literary authority partakes of a climate in which all expertise has been liquidated. In such a climate, nothing stands against demagoguery. What could?
And the best part:
For going on 50 years, professors in the humanities have striven to play a political role in the American project. Almost without exception, this has involved attacking the establishment. As harmful as institutionalized power can be, as imperfect as even the most just foundations inevitably appear, they are, as it turns out, all we’ve got.
There are no professors of literature without strong institutions of a secure and stable nation-state. As Zygmunt Bauman, pointed out, raging against the establishment had a purpose 50 years ago. But that battle has been won, and we are the useful idiots who stand to lose.