In his classic Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), the economist Joseph A. Schumpeter sketched in a brilliant "Sociology of the Intellectual." Things have not changed much in sixty odd years. The intellectuals he has in mind are distinguished by "active hostility to the social order." Their job, as they see it, is "to work up and organize resentment, to nurse it, to voice it and to lead it." Not everyone who receives a university schooling ends up an intellectual, but a university schooling is nearly universal among intellectuals. The common training provides a common cause. Or, as Schumpeter phrases it, "the fact that their minds are all similarly furnished facilitates understanding between them and constitutes a bond."
That is why, on the academic Left, "read Foucault" passes for a refutation. It is not merely that all university-trained intellectuals share the same references and citations, but what is more important, they accept the same auctores. Their lives have been changed by the same books. Small wonder that they progress rapidly "from the criticism of the text to the criticism of society," for as Schumpeter observes, "the way is shorter than it seems." It is shorter especially for those who read their favorite authors, not as literary critics nor as critics of the philosophical tradition, but as social critics.
Schumpeter traces the history of the intellectual from the monastery, where he was born, to the rise of capitalism, which "let him loose and presented him with the printing press." Similarly, the patron slowly gave way in the last quarter of the eighteenth century to that "collective patron, the bourgeois public." Although the intellectual conceived his role to ‚pater the public, he found, much to his delight, that flabbergasting sells; the public would pay for his "nuisance value."
The major change in the twentieth century was the expansion of the university-the emergence of Clark Kerr's multiversity. The trend only accelerated in the years following the first edition of Schumpeter's book. From 1930 to 1957 college enrollments in the U.S. more than doubled, and between 1960 and 1969 they doubled again, rising to over seven million. The faculty expanded along with enrollment.
The trouble is, as Schumpeter notes, the enormous expansion of the university created the conditions of what would now be called underemployment. "The man who has gone through a college or university," he writes, "easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work." What is such a man to do? He "drift[s] into the vocations in which standards are least definite," like journalism, literature, or scholarship, thus "swell[ing] the host of intellectuals. . . ."
The economic conditions breed discontent-the intellectual feels underappreciated and underpaid-and discontent breeds resentment toward the social order which does not recognize the intellectual's genius and unique value. Add to this the fact that the system of emoluments seems capricious, rewarding some who are no more talented or accomplished than those who are deprived. Fern Kupfer, a four-book novelist who teaches at Iowa State University, fully understands the precariousness of her position:
When one of the graduate students in my [writing] program-looking longingly at my office, my piles of books, the few office hours posted on my door-confessed, "When I graduate, I want to do what you do," I wanted to tell him: "You can't. Because I'm already doing it."
Not "You can, through hard work and literary achievement", but rather, "Back off, boychik, I got here first". What are the chances that such an attitude, such a reality, will breed resentment in the longing student? ...
So too with the modern university intellectual's pose of social hostility. It does not arise from a rational analysis of the American order, but as a distortion of one's own personal circumstances. I should make better money; I should get the social recognition of a doctor or lawyer (my education is equal to or greater than theirs). To conceal the neurosis of this resentment from myself, I generalize it, transforming it into a social ideal. Why should a businessman make more than a teacher? (If a plumber thinks he can earn $250,000, however, he's a joke.)
Thus personal resentment and feelings of superiority are translated into an idealized image of social concern and responsibility. The humanities or social science professor, hating society, sees himself as the better man. And only wishes to associate with those who share his ideals-that is, those with equally idealized images of themselves.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here