I think it’s advisable for society to give scholars the security to go deeply into their area without having to show short-term results. Researchers into Arab youth culture would probably have been cut under what you propose if the decision had been made on September 10th 2001. If we cut Russian departments because of lack of student enrolment, what do we do when theres a military coup in Moscow?…

[T]here seems to be an air of self-denunciation among the gloomy (ex)academic bloggers, aimed at “bourgeois specialists” who dont obey the Market.

So writes Gabriel, in a comment to my last post. I’ll answer these in reverse order.

I think most post-academic bloggers try not to sound gloomy either about the life of the mind, or about not being academics. Certainly I don’t mean to be: I’ve found that my academic training has been very useful in my work as a futurist, and that being outside the academic world has given me access to people and problems I wouldn’t have known about were I a professor. We’re talking about difficult choices, though, which we’ve often made after years of hard and reluctant deliberation; so sometimes we’re going to sound serious.

I don’t think scholars be denied “the security to go deeply into their area without having to show short-term results,” if that means doing something like completely eliminating tenure. More corporatization of the scholarly job market, I suspect, wouldn’t produce a better or more equitable system than the perfect storm of self-interest and penury that’s led to the academy’s current addiction to adjuncts. The question is not whether university faculties ought to reflect the wider world, and in so doing support both work that has an apparent immediate relevance and work whose larger value is indeterminate; the question is what formula you use to determine the mix.

It’s also worth noting that arguments for relevance and short-term results aren’t automatically associated with advocacy of corporatization. Politically progressive academic programs, like women’s studies and science studies, have been very comfortable using a language of relevance to justify their existence.