As your king, I’m sure you’re wondering where I stand on the Grafton-Lemisch history job market controversy which Tenured Radical explained so eloquently for us yesterday. I think they’re both right! I believe that everyone who gets a Ph.D. should get a job that puts the skills acquired during that long, difficult journey to best use. Whether that job is at an academic institution or some other place that’s interested in history really shouldn’t matter as long as it pays a living wage. I also agree, as Lemisch suggests, that “an acceptance of things as they are” would be a terrible, terrible thing.
My problem with this whole discussion though is that the AHA is probably not the best place to be having it. That’s because the crisis in question isn’t discipline specific, it’s…wait for it…systematic.
I hate to sound like a broken record here, but there isn’t a shortage of tenure track jobs in the humanities or elsewhere. The problem is a longstanding, systematic restructuring of academic work that devalues the contributions of individual instructors, both on the tenure track and off. When those on the tenure track catch cold, adjuncts get pneumonia. Recently, some of this problem has become technological, but it’s mostly a logical outgrowth of the systematic starvation of academics in favor of spending on things like sports and unnecessary new buildings at public and private universities alike.
My fear is that the more time we spend arguing with one another about the best way to approach this decades-old problem that we can’t solve by ourselves, we’ll forget about the common enemy. No, not the Judean People’s Front! I’m talking about the Romans!!! I realize I’m mixing my Python movie analogies, but you know who the Romans are here, right?
There I go bringing class into it again. I really would make a lousy king. My heart is with the bloody peasants even though I’m only moderately repressed.