Being and consciousness in academe

Dr. George Snedeker snedeker at
Sun Dec 17 11:51:01 MST 2000

    we are petty  bourgeois intellectuals. we are also often confused by our
role in the university.are we workers or managers?  we hold some power over
students. we even help oppress them
  I would also make the distinction between adjuncts, tenured assistant,
associate and full professors. it also matters what kind of college we work
at. Columbia is not SUNY/Old Westbury. there are ways of rebelling against
our own alienation from species being, not to mention social alienation. our
being in the world does produce our consciousness. these are also not the
best of times to be a propagandist. the best we can do in the class room is
to present alternative ways of thinking and information to students.
----- Original Message -----
From: Lou Paulsen <wwchi at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Sunday, December 17, 2000 2:31 AM
Subject: Being and consciousness in academe

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dr. George Snedeker <snedeker at>
> >this is true enough, but how does it all work?  we come up for
> >reappointment, tenure or promotion and our fellow teachers and the
> >administration look at our personnel file for signs of "professional
> >development." they look for team players. the rewards are not great.
> >(etc.)
> It's worth looking at how it all works for a second, I think.  Yoshie was
> right to say that "mental laborers" are not all of one class.
> college and university professors in the US, however, are of a stratum
> is intermediate between the working class and the bourgeoisie; essentially
> they have managerial responsibility, and while they are not EXACTLY small
> capitalists, still they are more petit-bourgeois than anything else.  THIS
> IS NOT AN INSULT.  I am not accusing any individual people of having
> "petit-bourgeois ideas" in an insulting way.  But it IS true that the
> of the work that one does is petit-bourgeois, and it is also true that
> affects consciousness, although there are other aspects of one's being
> also have affects.
> [I don't know if the above paragraph is controversial at all, but if it
> here are some of the relevant features of the tenure track: (a)
> individualistic publication; the importance of individual reputation;
> competition with other academics for available rewards (b) managerial
> responsibilities over students; responsibility for punishing misdeeds
> (non-attendance, not finishing assignments, plagiarism, cheating) (c)
> responsibility for carrying out the process of stratification (you can't
> just give everyone an 'A') (d) ideological responsibilities (this applies
> mainly to the social sciences) (e) relatively high prestige (f) managerial
> authority over graduate students, teaching/research assistants, and
> departmental staff.]
> All of this makes it very difficult, all other things being equal, to be a
> working Marxist activist within the tenure track.  I don't say it's
> impossible, or that such responsibilities are incompatible with being a
> Marxist.  But I do say that it's difficult.  It's bad enough for
> in 'ideologically neutral' fields, like mathematics or chemistry, but I
> known people who have done it, usually by leading the same kind of
> dissociated life that other Marxists do who can't be open about their
> politics on the job.  But in the social sciences you really ARE in enemy
> territory.  The function of the institution is to convey lies about the
> things that Marxists have to tell the truth about.
> In the social sciences, the pressure to conform is intense.  I'm referring
> not only to the 'negative' pressure, that is, that if you're known as a
> radical you may lose your job, not get hired, not get tenure, not get
> permission to teach the courses you want, etc.  (This happens to
> activists of oppressed nationalities, etc., as well as to Marxists, of
> course.)  I'm referring also to the 'positive' inducements to conform: the
> respect and acceptance that you get for doing and saying and publishing
> things which are in conformity with the milieu, which you LOSE if you are
> caught engaging in "vulgar" "extremist" socialist agitation.  Respect and
> admiration are addictive drugs.  These are the WAYS that being affects
> consciousness, and I'm telling you from personal experience, it has an
> effect.  If you aren't careful, you get to the point where you won't put
> socialist leaflets in the university where you work - not only because you
> might suffer materially, etc., but also because you will feel EMBARRASSED
> ASHAMED if some of your colleagues catch you doing it.   Little 'academic'
> subroutines start working in your mind and affect not only your thoughts
> even your emotional reactions.
> Nevertheless I have known some very dedicated revolutionaries who, by
> strength of will, have worked under these difficult circumstances; scorned
> by their colleges and their departments, but appreciated by at least some
> their students.  But I never knew these people to be quick to jump to the
> defense of "academe" when they heard it being criticized.  Indeed, they
> the most aware of the shortcomings of "academe".
> Lou Paulsen

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