“A Tsunami of Instrumental Rationality”: Henry Giroux Interview Pt. 2


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I mean, even someone like Allan Bloom, who I despise, made a case for a sort of intellectual culture.

    Dude’s been dead for 23 years.

    That’s one hell of a grudge.

    When faculty no longer have control over the productions of knowledge, then we begin to see something dreadful happening. Those courses that don’t translate immediately into markets simply don’t matter anymore. Whole fields are thrown out the window.

    To be honest, I can’t help but see this as a function of the price of college going up. When colleges were cheap enough that people could pay off their debts within a couple of years of getting their first real job, it was easy to include courses that didn’t translate immediately into markets. The “gut course” was something that pretty much everybody took one of a semester because, hey, you had a handful of credits that you just needed and you needed to do three hours of organic homework a night… why not lighten the burden a bit by taking a course on Underwater Basket Weaving?

    Now? You’ve got to get 120 credits and 1.5 credits of PE and you’d better get them in 4 years and it’s going to cost you the price of a house.

    You’d better not be wasting any of that on Underwater Basket Weaving.

    And if no one is wasting any of that on Underwater Basket Weaving anymore… do we really need an Underwater Basket Department?

    When college cost as much as a car, college, somehow, had room for Underwater Baskets.

    For me, I look at places like Spain and Greece and these new political formations that are emerging among young people, among workers, and they’re not union-based. They’re organizing and integrating social movements and until people can get both social movements and unions and say Okay, what kind of political formation do we want to be a part of now that doesn’t mimic the two-party system or, here, the three party system.

    I honestly suspect that Spain and Greece will be overcome by events in the next year or so. Unions will be the last of their worries.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I think that’s definitely the issue. The question is why the cost is increasing so much faster than the rate of inflation (although maybe not grade inflation!). Most universities say it’s because the states don’t fund like they used to and so they have no money. I’m skeptical given how they spend on things they want to spend money on.Report

  2. Avatar InMD says:

    That’s part of its ideology. It makes an appeal to rationality but it really reproduces an enormous amount of irrationality. This is the way in which it deforms language. It talks about freedom as something that is utterly reduced to freedom from, into individual responsibility; as opposed to being able to translate how private issues get transformed into or can be understood in terms of larger public systemic considerations. That’s a deformation.

    I think the issue he’s identifying here is that, outside of what is considered the fringes, our political discourse no longer contains values (with a small ‘v,’ as opposed to Family Values) when it comes to what might broadly be called economic policy. From the Paul Ryan right to the Ezra Klein left our political arguments are cloaked in the language of technocratic government that don’t acknowledge that there are value judgments being made. Often left out of these conversations seems to be whether or not the commodification of everything is good for democracy or makes for a well functioning society.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Yes, I think that’s exactly what he’s getting at. It also makes it difficult to have a conversation on the topic without being accused of irrationality whenever you oppose one of these value judgments.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    For an intellectual, he really doesn’t have a good analysis or even a good gut feel of where John The Mustache Bolton actually fits into the hierarchy of Republican party as it has existed since his ambassadorship was rejected.Report

  4. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Unless part 3 has some new revelations (or the book does) I’m deeply unconvinced that curriculum (vice funding decisions) are made anywhere but at the department level among tenured faculty and subject dean.

    You can certainly shape a college students education by funding and defunding certain departments and instructional staff that then in turn dictates what courses can and cannot be offered but that’s distinct from ‘curriculum’ decisions in the common parlance.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      But that’s just from knowing personally some college professors (one tenured one adjunct) which is something I’m told has very little value in determining truth.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      I could ask, but I think what he’s talking about is defunding or even abolishing certain departments and pumping up others through funding, which tends to have a greater impact, as far as I can tell, than what the departments can do. My sense of it, from back when I was in grad school, was that most departments would have fairly broad curricula, were they given the funding they’d like, but few are.Report

  5. are people trying to create alternative academic spaces?

    Yes, they’re called “think tanks”, and unlike universities, they’re not constrained by an appearance of impartiality, and their funding comes from people who’ll only pay for the right kinds of knowledge.Report