Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Academic Job Market (Commonplace Book)

A guilty pleasure of mine is the pessimistic rhetoric -- occasionally bordering on the apocalyptic or revolutionary -- surrounding the famously dismal academic job market. Once on the right wavelength, it can be as fun to read as any pulp novel. Here is a choice quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education this week:

Essentially, as Bousquet explained, the "job market" is a fiction that coerces us into competition with each other instead of asking questions about the constructed nature of the academic workplace. The primary purpose of graduate programs, he argued, was not to produce degree-holders but to provide cheap, non-degreed teaching labor for the universities. The predicted job crisis had been solved by an influx of graduate students encouraged by the prospect of future job opportunities. That was the new job system, and it was working perfectly well. As a result, the completion of a doctorate in the humanities now marked the logical end of one's academic career rather than the beginning of it. We were waste products who needed to be flushed from the system to make way for the next serving of exploited "apprentices." Higher education -- which I had always assumed to have my best interests at heart -- had become a kind of pyramid scheme with us at the bottom, the new academic proletariat.


neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: Did you get this off of my departmental listserv?

But now I sound dismissive and just a bit mocking of my colleagues, and that's unfair - there's certainly nothing substantively wrong with anything I'm reading here, and the job market does indeed suck the life out of you. (Even as a grad student who has yet to wade into the deep waters of post-doc life, I've heard too many stories, seen too many people who look utterly lost.)

But you're absolutely right to point out just how hyperbolic and revolutionary it all sounds. I can imagine a short film with someone like Morgan Freeman speaking these words in a grim tone, apocalyptic images filling the screen.

scott s said...

Geoff- out of curiosity, what's your plan? Are you looking for a tenure track job? Do you want to write screenplays? Become a public intellectual?

Douglas Wolk did a panel at Wondercon this year, and he's getting the "comic expert" nytimes and new republic book reviews. Do you avoid this stuff because you're not as interested in independent comics?

Have you seen this in the London Review of Books? I've blogged about the ridiculousness . I feel like she should be your phd arch-nemesis. The Isaac Bab-El /Kal-El connection kills me

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: CHE should hire Freeman.

Scott -- your first question is too complicated a question to answer right now, but try me again on it later. You are right that my lack of interest in independent comics hampers me there. And that article does look awful. I will put her on the bad guys list.