Ted Striphas posts the below clip from what seems to be a fantastic documentary by Adam Curtis called The Trap. Curtis brilliantly problematises the recent socio-political conceptions of ‘freedom’ by investigating the ‘science’ and theories behind the model of human nature upon which it is based.
I am seriously contemplating a major change away from an academic career path towards another industry. There are a number of reasons for this. First, due to not-so-unforeseen issues with my living arrangements I am going to have to move. Second, I have a contract for this semester and have organised work over summer, but have not actually signed anything yet. Beyond the summer session my future is much less secure. Third, I am tired, both physically and in terms of exhausted patience. Fourth, universities are difficult (ok, fucked) places to work and I often feel sick when witnessing good people in difficult circumstances. There is not enough investment in maintaining basic literacy standards and the like and too much of a focus on cash cow courses.
So where would I go?
Well the shift would be rather radical and back to more of a manual job, basically working as a TA in the resource industry. Due to family connections securing an entry level job (that currently pays near $100k pa) should not be too difficult. I worked on the mines a decade ago. The CFMEU will probably want me to pay some dues, lol.
I have not given up on academic career completely. To get a job means, in part, basically getting a book published, but I am finding it difficult to convince bourgie publishers to even look at a book on some facet of ‘bogon’ culture. (For overseas readers: Similar to rednecks or lumpen proletariat in culture, but now rather affluent due to resource boom, etc. So working class in neo-Marxist cultural materialism sense, middle-class in Weberian selling-skills-on-market sense.) There are a few more hospital passes that I can throw before I exhaust every possibility and this mainly involves printing off a set of submissions to give to publisher reps at book launches at work!. The academic areas that are primarily the focus of ‘cultural enterprise’ research are organised around museum studies and the like. My book is not targeted at academics, however. The book will sell as there is a definite market and nothing like it has existed before. It will also be quite radical for the car scene, as the scene is relativley conservative and my sort of book would shake things up a bit.
I would actually treat book selling as a second job and travel to car festivals and events with a mobile book stall. Anyway, I would basically use the mining gig to fund the follow up research I’d need to do to finish my book. I can write in the evenings as I used to do when I was 19. Being a member of the fluro-collar classes certainly won’t harm sales either.
One thing I have learnt this year, and had not really experienced since I shifted from a state primary school in a traditional working class suburb to an elite private high school in a highly affluent suburb, is that university is heavily structured around class. It really is the domain of the professional middle classes. I always imagined that I would not have to comport myself to ‘fit in’. Am I not a ‘bourgie’? How could I possibly not be a bourgie after existing in this social space for a decade? I don’t know, but I feel like an oddity when mixing with most academics. Maybe it is because I have a conception of bourgie as ‘other’? That is, I can feel the difference in the way people speak, what they make jokes about, and what they are interested in. It is a weird feeling, because on some levels I am right there with the capacity to mix and relate to people, but on other levels I feel alienated. I think that is why I am (and have been) very good friends with other phd students and academics that have a homologically similar cultural background. We seem to group together. I think it has something to do with dignity, which is the subject of another blog post long in the works. Dignity really is a problematic concept for me.
I am not bitter or feeling resentment towards anything or anyone; it is not a situation of me taking my bat and ball and going home. I have learnt many things this year about myself and the profession of university teaching. Rather, I feel exhausted and feel that the situation has exhausted itself. I was always going to give the academic career path two years to see what happens and what I could begin as it seems most friends and colleagues have taken a minimum of about two years of solid work to land a solid job. Yet, I have the capacity to be mobile in a radical sense (following Negri) and shift industries, and the way I look at it I am very lucky in that regard. There are many people in similar positions to me without this mobile capacity to redirect their labour in different directions. Some have supportive partners that carry some of the burden and stress, and I’ve had my folks, family and friends to help me in times of distress. So for me it is a question of being worthy of the situation. Perhaps I am better suited to be being a hyper-educated quasi-bogon?
Anyway, that is kind of where I am at the moment. Before I make any decisions I’ll let a few other things currently in the works play out to see what happens. Plus, for those readers feeling concerned, there is no need to be worried about me. 😉