Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Those Two Little Words

with 5 comments

If the question of the ’80s and ’90s was, “What should we be reading, and how?,” the question that dogged the opening years of our new millennium was of a vastly more dismal kind: “Why bother?”

Written by gerrycanavan

April 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

5 Responses

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  1. oh dear god, it’s so true: no one seems to be able to convincingly articulate the importance of the humanities because that ‘value’ is always presented as being consistent with or helpful to the ‘professional’ or ‘capitalist’ or ‘scientistic’ logic with which it’s ‘purportedly’ at odds. it makes it really hard to say, then, that the humanities do anything that can’t be done by, say, a cultural competency class in medicine, for example. this tactic sucks.


    April 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  2. Absolutely.


    April 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

  3. that article really made a lot of things clearer for me, thanks for posting.

    i’m not so sure the self-undermining pragmatist bent of nussbaum and menand is a tactic so much as it is a fact of institutional life. lots of different things can happen that are somehow or other related to humanities academia, but as an institution it’s inextricable from its role in commodity circulation (production and consumption of commentary, the training of consumer taste, etc.). the constant pressure to self-justify is a market pressure in addition to whatever else it might be, and a ‘court of public opinion’ dominated by market ideology is the audience (which often includes ourselves). but at the same time, the chief ideological product of humanities academia is ‘critical thought against received opinion,’ so you see the contradiction. but only IF one accepts the necessary assumptions and chooses to participate in the debate, which isn’t really ‘supposed’ to resolve — just wallow around forever in the purported contradiction between liberal ideology and market function. just like democrats vs. republicans it’s ‘damn good television’ that willfully misinterprets intensifying class war. in my opinion.


    April 15, 2011 at 6:54 pm

  4. on second thought, it’s more like liberal vs. centrist democrats.


    April 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm

  5. ps don’t know if you noticed, but the dude who wrote the review, nicholas dames, is here at the end of the month for a roundtable on reading (with the awesome anne cheng!).


    April 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

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