[lbo-talk] A public square

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Tue May 22 07:40:53 PDT 2007


Why doesn't the professoriate radicalize and organize against the low salaries, job insecurity, terrible working conditions? Well, why doesn't any group of workers do that? But factors playing into academics' apathy include, it seems to me the highly individualistic conditions of work and criteria for success and failure, where the (self-)perception is that it a matter of individual merit, the virtually complete historical absence of unionization, the mobility of the national market, the extreme emphasis on productivity, and the perceived need to be a team player and not to rock the boat. I would not expect the professoriate to organize unless other sectors of the work force were already doing so in large numbers.

[WS:] "Radicalize" is but meaningless mumbo jumbo that does not mean anything other than intent to piss parents and authority figures off. AFAICT, the professoriate as a group is far more progressive and better organized than the rest of society, including the student body. It is already organized in various professional associations that wield more influence than an average labor union - but do not employ bombastic rhetoric that unions often do. Moreover, professors have a greater degree of self-management, especially at the departmental level, than knowledge workers in the government or the business sector.

The main reason behind low wages is not the lack or organization or managerial conspiracy, by the supply factor - our universities produce a far greater number of PhD's that they can effectively employ. There is very little market for PhD's outside the academia - most non-academic jobs not only do not require a PhD, but perceive them as being overqualified - which is a far worse offense than being underqualified. An underqualified employee can easily be trained, however an overqualified poses a risk of being resentful about his/her job and either leaving at the earliest opportune moment or becoming a trouble maker.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list