It’s not a cult, its the Mob!

A really interesting, in-depth and very honest and frank essay about one woman feeling like she is being eaten alive by her academic self and the world that self lives in. And I thought *I* was Feeling All The Feelings!

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5 thoughts on “It’s not a cult, its the Mob!

  1. Hey Rebecca,

    Was struck by the passage in the post you linked to wherein the author writes about detachment as useful to successful adjuncting, with the specific reference to sociopathy (as a form of detachment; the ultimate form, actually). It resonated for me as I’d already been thinking about how sociopaths flourish in the academy (given my own experience with at least one, it not several), and the ways in which the academy–especially the neoliberal corporate university–is encouraging sociopathic behavior.

    Just think about it: the lack of empathy * actively encouraged* by the academy’s actual practices and investment in hierarchy/domination/inequality, with the concomitant sense of smug entitlement and contempt, the easy acceptance of massive and unjust structural inequalities so long as one is benefitting from them, the perpetual justification of abuse rooted in hierarchical power asymmetries, the unself-critical lack of compassion (i.e. I don’t care what happens to those ‘losers’ since I’m a ‘winner’ and was ‘smart’ enough to get a TT job).

    The ‘benefits’ of sociopathy are for me most clearly seen around how universities always and intentionally cover up sexual abuse and harassment on their campuses: from Jerry Sandusy and Penn State to Gloria Allred’s suit against Berkeley-Dartmouth-Swarthmore-USC for covering up sexual assaults and hostile sexual climate complaints (the very behavior I spoke up about and have been viciously retaliated against for so doing). So much of ascending the academic ladder is actually predicated on embracing sociopathic behavior, especially the higher up the ranks of university administration one goes. It literally becomes a matter of covering up criminal activity, legal/civil rights violations–by any means necessary. So the mafia comparison is more apt than many people are willing to acknowledge (including employing shady lawyers/convicted felons to silence and intimidate people).

    But even at lower levels of the academic hierarchy, sociopathic detachment is being encouraged–and taught to students: just think about yourself and your own career advancement, no matter how unethical your behavior (cheating, stealing others’ ideas and work, abusing others and/or staying silent when you see others being abused): just don’t get caught! Yes, the larger ethos of our current neoliberal moment–especially as displayed by our politicians and the financial services industry. Bigger picture, then.

    Anyway, I wish people would think more about–or just start to think about–why ‘detachment’ is such a helpful characteristic for academic ‘success’. And why on earth is this a quality we should want to encourage–or encourage students, either undergraduate or graduate/professional, to embrace? We need to think of the consequences of encouraging such ‘detachment’. Especially as sociopathy is characterized not only by detachment as a lack of empathy, but a feeling of entitlement to hurt others so as to get one’s way, and narcissism and megalomania. So like I said previously, if this is what it takes to be an academic winner–and especially an academic ‘superstar’–then I am happy to be an academic ‘loser’. Because yes, I’ll take treating people decently. Every mothafucking time.

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    1. Oh for sure. Perlstein’s article was so incredibly honest, and in my experience so true. There is no way I could have gotten happily and healthily married in the way I just did if I were still trying to be that person.

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