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On Academics, Jobs, and Nantucket Nectars


In June, I’ll be getting my Masters degree in philosophy, and soon after I will enter the workforce. Some things I’m considering:

Marxist philosophy brings out how well a capitalist system alienates workers from their true interests and activities. Rather than doing work for survival or for authentic satisfaction—like harvesting wheat or milking cows or churning butter next to a lovely golden lass—workers are fitted into the great techno-capitalist system like a cog in a machine.

To give an obvious example of this: we all know how it feels to sit in an office cubicle and do a prescribed task like fill in data. Our creativity and expertise isn’t exercised. A company just needs a body in the chair. This is one reason why job interviews for entry level positions are kind of funny. You dress up and act professional and show that you are intelligent. And then the instructions for the job are given: Pick up file. Open drawer. Put file in drawer.

The difficulty, Marx and others have shown, is that one can’t simply withdraw from the system. You can’t say, “Screw this; I’m fighting against the Man.” Or else it’s almost guaranteed your life will suck.

For example, I just got on Facebook last summer after abstaining for the first couple years. Facebook has not improved my life and I wish it didn’t exist. But, since everyone is on it, and parties and other events are organized via Facebook, my social life would be severely impaired if I didn’t get on board. There’s a bloke in my Masters program who doesn’t have a computer, isn’t on Facebook, and doesn’t have a cell phone. Literally, no-one hangs out with this kid because you can’t get a hold of him.

I used to think that a university culture offered an authentic lifestyle, with the free exchange of ideas being the main thing universities “do." But my post-grad time at the University of Chicago has suggested that this is not the case. I have dealt with as much bureaucracy here as in most jobs. As far as I can tell, academics have to spend much of their time getting their name out via publishing, conforming their studies heavily to what jobs are available, and navigating the internal politics of the University in order to get tenure. (“Tenure” is basically a permanent job contract with the university, granted after six or seven years.)

Actually, most of my professors have freely admitted this to me. They don’t like it, either. They hate dealing with the bureaucracy, too. It’s no one’s “fault” that things are like this. It’s just the way limited jobs and lack of funding for the humanities has rendered things.

The problem, Marx has shown, is that the system is self-perpetuating. I can either withdraw from the techno-capitalist system and live in the woods, in which case my life will suck unless I am mad cool and eccentric and derive inspiration via a personal connection with Nature. In which case, I won’t get any women and my kids won’t have provisions. Or, I can enter the techno-capitalist system and all the bureaucracy that goes with it, and perpetuate it.

Anyway, these are thoughts on my mind as I consider what to do with my degree in Philosophy.

Two completely unrelated notes:

1) Spring-time on college campuses is always fun because beauties start busting out all over the place. Tanned skin, tank tops, long legs, etc. It’s like new students have suddenly arrived. My buddy Rager and I call this the “spring time phenomenon,” and it always occurs, just like gravity.

2) Is there anything more boring than the “fact” underneath a Nantucket Nectar’s cap? I’ve been analyzing this question for a while, and I think the answer is no. Here’s the fact from my latest purchase:

Nantucket is home to the Nantucket Film Festival, an annual event.

On the other hand, “Snapple Facts” beneath the cap are sweet. Like this one I just read:

Elephants can swim up to 20 miles per day.

Aren’t you happy you know that?

Anyway, in a weird inversion, I actually really look forward to looking under the caps of Nectars, because it’s exciting to see just how boring it will be. It’s so boring!

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