Hi! It’s me, Trivium, posting for the first time in a long while. I tried doing the song lyrics analysis thing here last year for a while and it was fun, but I know that mostly why people still come here is for the trenchant, often economical analysis of various topics that matter.
I’ve been wanting to do something on this for a while, since the Black Lives Matter movement exploded a year or two ago, but well, a) it seems like blogs have moved on a bit, and are now a bit 2008, and b) time, time time, which they are attempting to squeeze out of even professors now more than ever. I am resisting, but one can only resist one’s employer so much and still stay in the good books. Basically as my professional life has taken off, it’s meant so much less mental energy for blog posts. Today in fact, I should be organizing a conference and writing the intro to my latest edited volume, but…
So here’s a topic which interests me, the long-term economic historian, so much. And where I think I have a genuinely useful voice to add to the din, and perhaps help people to get over their own bigotry and prejudices, and get more into actually solving today’s most serious problems.
Ok, so the world has gone a bit crazy over ‘identity politics’ in the last year or so. This is a natural development of what has been going on in intellectual circles since about 1990, and in some ways, decades before that. It is the trend where identifiable minorities become the darling hero of progressives. So basically for progressives the more minority you are, the better. So if you’re gay, great: if you’re a gay pirate, better, if you’re a substance-abusing, sadomasochistic, gay pirate, even better~! I know a professor who got a coveted tenure job writing about these: no joke. And in progressive circles, i.e., around liberal arts departments, one can hardly get a job now unless one is a minority, or ‘at least’ a woman: a recent university of chicago ad said: we want 3 things from candidates: a list of publications, a list of teaching qualifications, and a statement of how you have contributed to campus diversity in the past. Wow. And yet, they tell you if you ask, that there is no ‘bias’ towards minority or women candidates. In fact, while women and minority progressives harp on about how they can’t get equal pay etc., in academia, the pendulum has demonstrably turned against white male new hires, at least. I know the old boy network is still white male, in many cases, but for new hires, you’re up shit’s creek without a paddle if you’re a white dude, who happens still to be the majority of applicants in topics like say, European philosophy. But if you’re black and do European history or literature, you have 10 job offers in one year, while if you’re white with a much better CV of publications, you have 1 offer in 10 years if you’re lucky. Now I exaggerate a bit, but I’ve been around and seen a lot, and this is the clear trend in academic hires.
Fine. My point is that the conservative movement does have a bit of real ammunition, when they argue that things have moved perhaps a bit towards the hysterical regarding ‘the nightmare it is to be black in America today’ as a recent slate article about a movie about black people put it. It assumes that at every moment, to be black in the US right now is to inhabit a special type of torture. And I’ve been following the police brutality thing: I am the very first to admit please note, that there are massive problems with police racism and that US cops in general are way way too aggressive: (a lot of this has to do with the fact that guns are legal and so they are always facing death: this might get people more on edge.) (more…)