Crichton’s State of Fear

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Michael Crichton: State of Fear, on universities

email to Catfarmer (& bkMarcus
Crichton’s State of Fear passages with the “thought ecologist” are cool. He analyzes modern society as controlled by the PLM, politico-legal-media complex, keep the public in fear, always finding new fears. “dedicated to promoting fear in the population — under the guise of promoting safety.”
paperback p 500 ff

then he gets to universities:
The world has changed in the last fifty years. We now live in the knowledge society, the information society, whatever you want to call it. And it has had enormous impact on our universities. Fifty years ago, if you wanted to lead what was then called ‘the life of the mind,’ meaning to be an intellectual, to live by your wits, you had to work in a university. The society at large had no place for you. A few newspaper reporters, a few magazine journalists could be considered as living by their wits, but that was about it. Universities attracted those who willingly gave up worldly goods to live a cloistered intellectual life, teaching timeless values to the younger generation. Intellectual work was the exclusive province of the university. But today, whole sectors of society live the life of the mind. Our entire economy is based on intellectual work now. [2016 09 21 I’m “correcting” typos: in a “quote” that’s tricky.] Thirty-six percent of workers are knowledge workers. That’s more than are employed in manufacturing. And when professors decided they would no longer teach young people, but leave that task to their graduate students who knew much less than they did and spoke English poorly — when that happened, the universities were thrown into crisis. What good were they anymore? They had lost their exclusive hold on the life of the mind. They no longer taught the young. Only so many theoretical texts on the semiotics of Foucault could be published in any single year. What was to become of our universities? What relevance did they have in the modern era? … What happened … is the universities transformed themselves in the 1980s. Formerly bastions of intellectual freedom in a world of Babbittry, formerly the locus of sexual freedom and experimentation, they now became the most restrictive environments in modern society. Because they had a new role to play. They became the creators of new fears for the PLM. Universities today are factories of fear. They invent all the new terrors and all the social anxieties. All the new restrictive codes. Words you can’t say. Thoughts you can’t think. They produce a steady stream of new anxieties, dangers, and social terrors to be used by politicians, lawyers, and reporters. Foods that are bad for you. Behaviors that are unacceptable. Can’t smoke, can’t swear, can’t screw, can’t think. These institutions have been stood on their heads in a generation.

It is really quite extraordinary.

The modern State of Fear could never exist without universities feeding it. There is a peculiar neo-Stalinist mode of thought that is required to support all this, and it can thrive only in a restrictive setting, behind closed doors, without due process. In our society, only universities have created that — so far. The notion that these institutions are liberal is a cruel joke. They are fascist to the core …

(I’ve omitted words, rearranged lines …)
He’s got his dates wrong: it was well underway way before the ’80s. My own History of Universities has it going on for centuries, forever, but escalating since early post WWII: as fed $ poured into universities. What used to be essentially the faculty and their knowledge became administration-driven. It wasn’t the faculty that called the cops at Berkeley or at Columbia in the late 60s. Wasn’t the “students” either.

The protests were out of hand, but why should they have been in hand?

How did “hands” get into universities?

Because they have always been hierarchical. Elder faculty have always been able to set aside new ideas, administer what doesn’t get propagated.

K. Symbols: Fort5

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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