The Idea of the Marketplace, Continued

grafton on distinguishing the humanities from the marketplace.

Anthony Grafton weighs in on Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas:

But thinking about the academy only, or mainly, as a market is another matter. As Menand unwittingly shows, it narrows the field of vision. The humanities need reform because their traditions are confining and their job market is a catastrophe, but reform cannot mean surrender, or dilution. It means finding out how to do what the scientists have already done: how to combine the rigor of tradition with experiment and innovation–but without replacing hordes of underpaid adjuncts with hordes of underpaid post-docs, as the scientists have. More generally, it means finding creative ways to make life instructively hard, for a few years, for the broadest range of talented people of all sorts and conditions whom we can educate and then employ productively and decently. What makes reform urgent is the passion, the erudition, and the intelligence of those whom the academy is now failing–the sheer destruction of talent and love and energy, of the traditions of deep learning, over which we humanists are presiding. The masters of the next generation are still knocking on our doors, but most of them find themselves too busy speeding down the freeway to their next campus, grading stacks of papers, and worrying about their debts to learn as they wish to learn and as we need them to learn. They are missing from Menand’s cool, lucid, and limited book, as they are from so much of what is thought and written about us humanists in these bad days.

From “Humanities and Inhumanities,” New Republic.

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