Labor Reports is a column which explores why academic philosophy, as an institution, is going under. Unfortunately, I frequently see news reports of philosophy departments closing down, funding being diverted away from conceptual thought, and increasing numbers of unemployed PhD recipients on the job market.
Of course, there are already some broad suggestions as to why this is the case which give explanations by way of historical and cultural forces. One such explanation, for example, cites the privatization of the modern University into a consumer-based institution, whereby students are conceived of as customers and not curious individuals who are eager to learn. On this view, the humanities broadly are witnessing a decline in funding and autonomy largely because they don’t serve the needs of most of the customers in higher education. Most ‘students’ come to the University to acquire training in a set of technical skills which will make them employable on the job market.
Another related explanation appeals to the growing tendency toward globalization in academia, whereby University budget decisions are determined largely by considering what will contribute to the institution’s competitive rankings in the global market. As it turns out, on this view, the humanities aren’t particularly important for putting a University on the global map.
This column will explore various explanations of this sort. While it is written with an eye toward academic philosophy, it will also talk about the more general decline of the arts and letters at institutions for higher education in the United States. To that end, this column will interview individuals who witnessed their own department get shut down or downsized by their administration, and report on the events that transpired. It will also discuss any local political events which have to do with the humanities in Universities, whether they be town hall meetings or event on the campus itself.