Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!


Friday, July 04, 2003

 
A Solution To The Adjunct Problem

OK people, it's Friday evening, and I'm having problems with "Big Post Error", so I'm going to keep this short and sweet and say what I think. Our problem, outlined below, was that the adjuncts are trapped in a situation in which their existing jobs are crap, but they can't bear to leave the academy because they consistently have an unrealistic hope (possibly one inculcated in them by ruthless professors, possibly one to which they are temperamentally inclined anyway) of getting a fantastic job as a proper professor. My solution to it is simple and rather than build up to it, I'm just going to say it.

If tenured professorships are such great things and recently graduated PhDs want them so much, they are presumably willing to pay for them. Universities should sell their professorships, at whatever price the market will bear.

Hear me out. This isn't a piece of hypothetical neoliberal Panglossian market-boosterism, despite appearances, it's a very well thought-out proposal to return to a system that has already been thoroughly tested and worked very well. Commissions to be an officer in the British Army used to be bought and sold in the nineteenth century, and so did "livings" for parish priests. There was even considerable price discrimination; smarter regiments and more agreeable parishes sold for higher prices. Commissions had to be bought from the regiment, but livings for priests were advertised in the classified columns of the Times. Trollope wrote about little else but the buying and selling of these positions in society. I presume that the defence of the realm and the cure of souls are no less important than the "sacred guild of scholars", so I will not be taking any objections on the grounds that there is something fundamentally immoral about taking money for an academic post rather than awarding it to the man or woman who has most enthusastically brown-nosed prominent co-authors on journal papers.

Note that I'm not proposing a free market free-for-all here. Just as one had to actually be an ordained priest to purchase a living, and had to actually commit to taking the risk of being shot to be an officer, colleges should only be allowed to sell tenured jobs to people who can actually put "Professor of Humanities" on their business cards without raising a laugh. But if you think about it, as well as providing a natty source of funds which could be used to better the condition of adjuncts1, the introduction of a market in tenureships would have a number of highly desirable side-effects.

First, it would massively lessen the psychic pain of PhDs who don't get tenure. As Michael Young wrote in "Triumph of the Meritocracy", the burden of failure is particularly painful in situations where the social arrangements puport to be judging people on their intrinsic worth as human beings. I don't believe for one minute that the current tenure-track system actually does this, of course, but it certainly acts like it does, and it is powerfully difficult to remind yourself that it doesn't. If, on the other hand, not getting a professorship was simply a matter of not having been able to afford one, then presumably people would feel about as bad about it as they do about not being able to afford other expensive luxuries ie not very much at all.

Second, it would most likely encourage PhDs into the non-academic workplace. If the career structure for a humanities scholar went graduate school - job - save money- buy professorship, rather than graduate school -- adjunct -- horrible worrying and brownnosing -- maybe get awarded professorship, then we'd most likely get more well-rounded, experienced and worldly-wise professors of poetry, which would probably compensate for the dreadful rich kids who would also benefit from a market in tenured jobs. Equally importantly, because not everyone would bother to get back into the academy, we'd have more accountants, shopkeepers and management consultants with PhDs in poetry, which surely to Christ has got to be good for society. An embarrassing amount of the best work in most fields has been done by people not attached to a university.

Third, a lot of the problem of adjunctry as far as I can tell is the dearth of decent information for someone when they enter graduate school about what kind of job prospects they actually have. You can bet your life that if these things changed hands for money, there would be a whole cottage industry in telling you about them. One of my neighbours is the publisher of "What MBA" magazine and he drives a better car than I do. I daresay he'd be happy to start publishing "What Humanities Professorship" if the market was there. People would also take the academic career decision a lot less lightly if they knew about this major hurdle, rather than just assuming that getting to the top in academia is just a matter of continuing to come top of the class.

If anyone really thinks that there would be a terrible problem of impoverished geniuses being excluded, then I daresay that people like the MacArthur Foundation could buy up a few professorships every year to distribute among the needy. I'm frankly not in the mood to bugger about with the details. The only downside I can see to my plan is that it would mean that most likely the academic world would be dominated by fiftysomething white males. To which I can only reply "and that differs in which way from what we have now?" It's perfect.




1I said could.

0 comments this item posted by the management 7/04/2003 09:58:00 AM


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?




Links:

Bitch : Lab
Aaronovitch Watch
Balkanalysis
Perfect.co.uk
Maxspeak
Brad Delong
The Robert Vienneau blog

Political and philosophical heroes

Subcomandante Marcos
Will Rogers
Boris Vian
The English Svejk

RSS Feed:
This seems to matter to a lot of people

If you liked this "Daniel Davies" website, you might be interested in

"Danux", the web developer
The martial artist (and fan of extremely annoying Flash intros) from Blackburn
The Welsh political journalist
A Scouse computer programmer who collects Soviet cameras
"Danimal", the heavy metal drummer
Canada's finest recorder of radio jingles
More of the same, at the Guardian
A tailor's in Lampeter where Jimmy Carter once bought a hat
An advertising man who has written a novel about dogging (I think we sometimes get each other's email)
An award-winning facilities manager in Dubai
The son of the guitarist from the Kinks Update: he is apparently "balls-out motherfucking shit-dicked exxxstatic" to be included on a Kerrang magazine giveaway CD of Iron Maiden covers, which is nice.
"Fritz Gretel" from the Ramones film "Rock 'n' Roll High School"
The former presenter of the leading politics talk radio show on the Isle of Man, now a business change manager in the Manx government secretary's office
An aquarium curator in Sussex who keeps on scoring home runs like this (this is the first stable link I've found, but he is constantly kicking ass in acquarial terms)

If you didn't like this "Daniel Davies" website, then don't give up on the Daniel Davies industry completely!

An American "Christian Political Analyst" who has the same name as me
A student at Patrick Henry College
these two might be the same guy ...
"Scatter", the deceased Liberian gangster
A naked man stuck in a chimney in Wigan
A thug in Barrow



This blog has been going downhill since ...

August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
November 2003
December 2003
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
August 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
February 2013
April 2013
June 2013
July 2013
August 2013
March 2014
April 2014
August 2014
October 2015