Awareness

Also, one would hope that a Humanities scholar, of all things, would be more aware of how neoliberal mentality manufactures human alienation and promotes the belief that everybody is your enemy, everybody is out to hurt you, nobody can be trusted, we are all isolated individuals who have to look out for themselves because community is dead. Maybe a good way to resist this mentality is not to assume that the colleagues who are interested in your career path are racist dipshits and to be a little more open to the possibility that they are simply being curious.

Yet the reality is that it’s precisely the Humanities folks who are eager to push the narrative that everybody is an evildoer on the lookout to sabotage you.

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6 thoughts on “Awareness”

  1. There is no such thing as a neoliberal. Do you know anyone who has ever self-identified as one? Furthermore, do you know anyone who would even claim that your description accurately describes what they believe? I readily grant that a serious challenge to anyone pursuing classical liberal or libertarian lines of thinking is what happens to communities and ultimately what happens to individuals once communities fall. There is a literature out there of people struggling with this issue and I can make recommendations.
    Once we accept that neoliberalism is essentially the invention of your humanities scholars as a strawman argument, your point makes a lot of sense. Of course, these scholars would see reality as a war between individuals, what they accuse neoliberals of doing. This is simply your classic take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of someone else’s. What we accuse other people of doing usualy says much more of our failings than anyone else’s.

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    1. We can call it by any other name, if this one doesn’t work. I like “fluidity” or “liquid capital.” We all exist in the era when capital recognizes fewer borders and constraints on its movement. So in this sense, we are all equally neoliberal. I’d expect people whose job is to generate ideas to be a little more aware of how this mentality works but this professor is clearly not one of them.

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      1. And yes, absolutely, I’m sure she’ll rant a lot about evil libertarians while being infinitely worse on the issue. I’m not sure if it’s hypocrisy of ignorance.

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  2. May be, ironically, to become a Humanities scholar one often needs to turn into an isolated individual without community. I still remember how a lit prof told during a meeting with MA students “if you want a career and be a prof, be ready to leave Israel and go for work to China, for instance.” Fluidity and mobility rely on accepting certain isolation, and academics are in one of the most fluid professions.

    As for the belief in “everybody is out to hurt you,” I think many academics are more aware than laypeople of the new emerging order and thus are in certain ways more anxious than some Trump voters about their professions being endangered by destruction of national educational systems and even the concept of national literature itself.

    // There is a literature out there of people struggling with this issue and I can make recommendations.

    What are your favorite books?

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    1. A good place to start is the “other” book that Adam Smith wrote, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Here we see Smith offer a very different theory of human nature where people are not out for themselves and care deeply for other people. Think of Smith as operating within a dialectic between rational egotism and social cooperation. We can next go to Alexi de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, which is a defense of strong local government. For Tocqueville, this is a solution to the problem of how you can have liberty without turning into anarchic license. In a similar vein, Friedrich Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty explores creating legal systems from the bottom up as opposed to some ruling class forcing their values on everyone else. The story that Charles Murray tells in Coming Apart is how modern social failures are harming rural whites in similar ways as urban blacks. I will finish with Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Virtues, which argues that modernity became possible because of a capitalist version of virtue ethics replacing the older aristocratic one. I am not saying that you should agree with any of these writers. My point is that all of them are a lot more complicated than “greed is good.”

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      1. Let me also throw in Daron Acemoglu’s Why Nation’s Fail. This is a bit of a combination of Tocqueville and Hayek. Political/social institutions matter for economic progress. Politicians are limited by the institutions they inherit and are not in a position to refashion countries even with the best on paper policies.

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