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Table of contents :
Notes
Acknowledgments
Contents
About the Author
1 Introduction
Classroom Catastrophes
Catastrophic Trades
Of Shame and Sycophants
Catastrophic Resistance
Conclusion
2 Education and Catastrophe
World Teacher
World Political Animals
Education and World Peace
Conclusion
3 Little Blue Books
Books for Everyone
Little Blue Philosophy
The Problem of Humanized Knowledge
Conclusion
4 All Publishers Are Equal
The Underworld of Publishing
A Growing Giant
The Publishing Machine
The Future of the Past
Conclusion
5 Academic Privilege
Rank, Prestige, and Privilege
Conclusion
6 The End of Morality
The Debt Catastrophe
Forget Morality
Neoliberal Man
Conclusion
7 Post-literature America
The Birth and Death of American Literature
Made in America
Conclusion
8 A Century of Antitheory
The Products of Theory
The Ends of Antitheory
Conclusion
9 Catastrophic Theory
The Aesthetic View
Stale Objects
Actors and Texts
Conclusion
10 Pessimistic Education
Pessimism and the Dignity of Critique
Educational Pessimism
Resistance and Hope
Pessimism into Theory
Conclusion
11 Coda
Bibliography
Index
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PALGRAVE STUDIES ON GLOBAL POLICY AND CRITICAL FUTURES IN EDUCATION

Catastrophe and Higher Education Neoliberalism, Theory, and the Future of the Humanities

Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education

Series Editors Michael Thomas University of Central Lancashire Preston, UK Jeffrey R. Di Leo University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX, USA

This transdisciplinary series investigates developments in the field of education in the age of neoliberalism, interrogating arguments and evidence for and against it as well as envisioning alternative educational futures. While much has been written about neoliberalism a key aim of the series is to explore and develop critical perspectives on how neoliberal and corporatist approaches have changed and impacted on educational institutions across all sectors, from schools to higher education, across the globe. The series engages with academics, researchers, curriculum developers, teachers, students and policy makers and provokes them to consider how neoliberal trends and values are affecting the direction of our educational institutions. Comparative studies with the US in particular as well as other prominent national and international contexts that have promoted these values will be encouraged alongside the UK, Australia and EU to identify the implications of recent policies, strategies and values on teaching, learning and research. Posing important questions and developing a critique around the need for evidence lies at the center of the series, which invites responses from advocates and proponents alike in order to shape an agenda which looks forward to making an impact on policy making. The series brings together a critical mass of evidence and aims to foster critical understanding and to understand the influence of neoliberal thinking on education in order to articulate alternative futures at this crucial moment when many professionals are deeply concerned about the developments taking place. To submit a proposal, please contact the editors or commissioning editor: Michael Thomas: [email protected] and Jeffrey R. Di Leo: [email protected] Milana Vernikova: Commissioning Editor, [email protected]

More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/16341

Jeffrey R. Di Leo

Catastrophe and Higher Education Neoliberalism, Theory, and the Future of the Humanities

Jeffrey R. Di Leo University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX, USA

Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education ISBN 978-3-030-62478-1 ISBN 978-3-030-62479-8 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Mark Heine/500Px Plus/getty images This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. —H. G. Wells1 There is a need for educators who are themselves educated. —Friedrich Nietzsche2

Notes 1. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind, Third Edition (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1921), 1100. 2. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophise with the Hammer [1889] in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Volume 16, ed. Dr. Oscar Levy, trans. Anthony M. Ludovici (Edinburgh and London: T. N. Foulis, 1911), 55.

Acknowledgments

My primary debt of gratitude goes out to Henry Giroux whose courageous writing in dark times continues to inspire me. He is a fearless leader in the fight against the many destructive effects of neoliberalism in our world whose work is a model of engaged and committed scholarship. I humbly and deeply appreciate his support and mentorship over the years. I would also like to thank Michael Thomas, my colleague from across the pond and co-editor with me of the new series in which this book appears, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education. I am excited to be co-editing it with him and appreciate his support of my work. Special thanks also to Milana Vernikova of Palgrave Macmillan for her support of this project. I would also like to single out a number of colleagues whose timely suggestions and insightful conversations have challenged and inspired the work in this volume in various ways: Charles Altieri, Emily Apter, Jonathan Arac, Frida Beckman, Michael Bérubé, Jacob Blevins, Christopher Breu, Robert Caserio, Andrew Cole, Tom Eyers, Irving Goh, Robin Truth Goodman, Peter Hitchcock, Aaron Jaffe, Charles Johnson, Anna Kornbluh, Vincent Leitch, Annie McClanahan, John McGowan, Sophia McClennen, Tracy McNulty, John Michael, Walter Benn Michaels, Paul Allen Miller, Christian Moraru, John Mowitt, Jeffrey Nealon, Sharon O’Dair, Daniel T. O’Hara, Brian O’Keeffe, Donald E. Pease, Jean-Michel Rabaté, Herman Rapaport, Kenneth Saltman, Nicole Simek, Alan Singer,

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Henry Sussman, Joseph Tabbi, Robert Tally Jr., Liane Tanguay, Steve Tomasula, Harold Aram Veeser, Jeffrey J. Williams, and Zahi Zalloua. A special note of appreciation goes out to Keri Ruiz for her editorial assistance and to Vikki Fitzpatrick for her administrative support, especially in securing materials used for the development of this book. Both also must be recognized for their exemplary efforts in organizing the annual Winter Theory Institute of the Society for Critical Exchange, where many of the ideas in this volume have been discussed and debated. I am also grateful to the late Bruce W. Wilshire of Rutgers University, who I had the good fortune to have as my academic advisor as an undergraduate philosophy major, and whose philosophically rebellious spirit and unbridled passion for American philosophy, particularly the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James, left a deep and lasting impression on me. And finally, I would like to thank my wife, Nina, for her unfailing encouragement, support, and patience.

Contents

1

Introduction Classroom Catastrophes Catastrophic Trades Of Shame and Sycophants Catastrophic Resistance Conclusion

1 5 10 14 17 23

2

Education and Catastrophe World Teacher World Political Animals Education and World Peace Conclusion

31 34 37 45 52

3

Little Blue Books Books for Everyone Little Blue Philosophy The Problem of Humanized Knowledge Conclusion

59 60 63 67 74

4

All Publishers Are Equal The Underworld of Publishing A Growing Giant

83 84 90

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CONTENTS

The Publishing Machine The Future of the Past Conclusion

94 99 102

5

Academic Privilege Rank, Prestige, and Privilege Conclusion

107 111 115

6

The End of Morality The Debt Catastrophe Forget Morality Neoliberal Man Conclusion

119 123 127 132 135

7

Post-literature America The Birth and Death of American Literature Made in America Conclusion

143 148 153 159

8

A Century of Antitheory The Products of Theory The Ends of Antitheory Conclusion

165 167 170 176

9

Catastrophic Theory The Aesthetic View Stale Objects Actors and Texts Conclusion

185 187 192 198 203

10

Pessimistic Education Pessimism and the Dignity of Critique Educational Pessimism Resistance and Hope Pessimism into Theory Conclusion

209 212 216 221 224 228

CONTENTS

11

Coda

xi

235

Bibliography

243

Index

259

About the Author

Jeffrey R. Di Leo is Professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Houston-Victoria. He is editor and founder of the critical theory journal symplok¯e, editor and publisher of the American Book Review, and Executive Director of the Society for Critical Exchange and its Winter Theory Institute. His books include Morality Matters: Race, Class and Gender in Applied Ethics (2002), Affiliations: Identity in Academic Culture (2003), On Anthologies: Politics and Pedagogy (2004), If Classrooms Matter: Progressive Visions of Educational Environments (2004, with W. Jacobs), From Socrates to Cinema: An Introduction to Philosophy (2007), Fiction’s Present: Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation (2008, with R. M. Berry), Federman’s Fictions: Innovation, Theory, and the Holocaust (2010), Academe Degree Zero: Reconsidering the Politics of Higher Education (2012), Neoliberalism, Education, and Terrorism: Contemporary Dialogues (2013, with H. Giroux, K. Saltman, and S. McClennen), Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (2013), Turning the Page: Book Culture in the Digital Age (2014), Criticism after Critique: Aesthetics, Literature, and the Political (2014), The New Public Intellectual: Politics, Theory, and the Public Sphere (2016, with P. Hitchcock), Dead Theory: Death, Derrida, and the Afterlife of Theory (2016), Higher Education under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct and the Neoliberal Condition (2017), American Literature as World Literature (2017), The Debt Age (2018, with P. Hitchcock and S. McClennen), Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and

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Cultural Theory (2018), The End of American Literature: Essays from the Late Age of Print (2019), Biotheory: Life and Death under Capitalism (2020, with P. Hitchcock), What’s Wrong with Antitheory? (2020), Philosophy as World Literature (2020), and Vinyl Theory (2020).

CHAPTER 1

Introduction

A catastrophe has led to the closure of classrooms across the country. Students are told that face-to-face instruction is no longer being offered by institutions of higher education. All classes will be conducted online until further notice. Faculty who began the semester with face-to-face courses are required now to convert all of them to online within a week. This event forever alters the future of higher education in the age of neoliberalism. A catastrophe has led to the closure of online education across the country. Students are told that online instruction is no longer being offered by institutions of higher education. All classes will be conducted face-to-face until further notice. Faculty who began the semester with online courses are required now to convert all of them to face-to-face within a week. This event forever alters the future of higher education in the age of neoliberalism.

Two educational catastrophes. One grounded in reality and the other in fiction. For some, the elimination of face-to-face instruction would be greeted with great joy; for others, that emotion would be reserved only for the end of online instruction. One event pushes higher education backward into its history; the other propels it forward into its future. Not only do both scenarios provide us the opportunity to think about education from the perspective of catastrophe, but because we have had to deal recently with one of them, we might now have a different perspective on the other. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_1

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When the Coronavirus pandemic closed all institutions of higher education in the United States, online education was called upon to rescue it from complete shutdown. Faculty across the country were required to convert immediately their face-to-face courses to online ones so that students could continue, if not also finish, their semester. As this catastrophe occurred around spring break, most students had already completed about half of their semester. Online conversion of a face-toface course under these conditions could then be viewed as affording faculty and students the opportunity to finish what they had started— albeit in a different, and for some faculty, an unfamiliar and abhorrent modality. In 2017, there were just over 20 million students pursuing higher education in the United States. Over two-thirds of those students were not enrolled in any online courses. The onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic therefore meant that around 13.5 million students of higher education became online students overnight. The magnitude of this catastrophe though might be tempered because without the option to conduct classes online, higher education in America would have been entirely closed for business. Online education offered students the opportunity to continue their education in a time of international health crisis—an option that would have been at lot more difficult if a catastrophe entirely wiped out online education. Prior to the advent of the Internet and online education, an educational crisis of these proportions would have been dealt with very differently. One option would have been to continue coursework by correspondence. This would have involved students receiving instruction through printed textbooks and assignments through workbooks or learning guides. Once an assignment was completed, the student would then mail it back to the instructor, who upon grading it, would then mail the assignment back to the student. Same with tests, which of course would ideally be proctored. The history of correspondence education in the United States was mainstream as far back as the 1890s, and by 1906, International Correspondence Schools, which is now Penn Foster, had 900,000 students and a sales force of 1200.1 Correspondence education was so well established at the turn of the century that the American philosopher, Charles Peirce, who had a notoriously bad relationship with institutions of higher education, even tried to get into the business of correspondence education.2 By the middle of the twentieth century, the leaders in correspondence

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education were the University of Wisconsin Extension and the University of Maryland University College.3 If this all sounds really old-fashioned, consider that as late as 2002, I was teaching students through this method for Indiana University’s Independent Study Program. The courses were ones that were regularly offered on the Bloomington campus: Comparative Literature 255—Modern Literature and the Other Arts; Philosophy 100—Introduction to Philosophy; and Philosophy 120—Elementary Ethics. I started teaching for the Independent Study Program in 1988 and would later write or co-write the learning guides for each of these courses.4 These courses were continuous enrollment and students had up to two years to complete them. Some of the students were traditional ones who also concurrently took courses on campus, but far more were not. They came from all over the country and some were even residing in far off places such as Iran and Germany. They were also from many different walks and stages of life including some incarcerated students, the most infamous of which was a Beverly Hills murderer, who took my ethics course from prison.5 But short of credit-bearing correspondence courses, there would be other options for students to continue their education in times of catastrophe albeit informally. In Chapter 3, “Little Blue Books,” for example, I discuss the publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, who became the socalled greatest-publisher-in-the-world by leveraging the potential of the United States and international postal system. Haldeman-Julius published small, cheap books on every subject imaginable and distributed them to a national and international audience exclusively by mail. These books were especially popular during the economic catastrophe known as the Great Depression, and during the Second World War, where soldiers could easily carry them in their pockets. But whereas correspondence courses and cheap books were the main options for alternative education in times catastrophe a century ago—and perhaps as late as the turn of the twentieth century—the new millennium offers some new alternatives for education at a distance. We now live in a digital age where communication, information, and education conducted online are as normal as the U.S. Postal Service was for those same things a century ago. According to the latest figures, before the Coronavirus catastrophe, about 3.5 million students were enrolled in at least some online courses and 3.1 million were only enrolled in online courses. The Coronavirus pandemic of course changed all of these figures, but prior to it, less than 18% of students pursued some higher education online, and less than 16%

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only pursued online education. While it is impossible to determine what percentage of the 3.5 million partially online students and the 3.1 million fully online students would not have been able to get to a classroom to complete their catastrophic semester face-to-face, it would have been far fewer that the 13.5 million students who went online overnight as a consequence of the Coronavirus. It is going to take years to work through the ironies brought out by this higher educational catastrophe. First and foremost among them is that online instruction, higher education’s “dark horse,” bailed out faceto-face instruction in a time of catastrophe. This was something that was recognized within hours of the announcement that instruction would be online as a result of the pandemic. For example, the same day that it was first announced that some prestigious private universities were going online, late-night comedians started to satirize them for this decision. Here is how one put it: “Get this guys, Harvard just announced that they are sending all of their students home until further notice, and they will take classes online. Now if you meet someone who says they went to Harvard, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, that online school!’”6 The impact though of this catastrophe was not only to the reputations of prestigious private non-profit institutions of higher education, but also to non-profit public institutions. Compared to for-profit institutions of higher education, non-profit institutions enroll far fewer students per capita online. In 2017, 11.3% of students at non-profit public institutions were exclusively online compared to 19.12% at private non-profit institutions, whereas 20.68% of students at non-profit public institutions were enrolled in some online courses compared to 9.53% at private non-profit institutions. Moreover, the vast majority of students at non-profit institutions did not enroll in any online courses before the Coronavirus catastrophe with non-profit private institutions (71.35%) slightly outpacing public institutions (68.01%) in this regard. However, compared to for-profit institutions, these pre-Coronavirus catastrophe online percentages for the non-profits are relatively low. In 2017, 49.05% of for-profit institution students were enrolled exclusively online, 9.35% enrolled in some online courses, and 41.6% did not enroll in any online courses. Overall, the 2017 percentages only tell part of the story of online education prior to the Coronavirus catastrophe because the total number of non-profit education students far exceeded the number of for profit education students: 9,977,334 non-profit public and 2,941,931 non-profit private education students were not enrolled in any online

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courses compared to 558,434 for-profit education students. In short, the Coronavirus affected the no-completely-online-student reputations of both public and private non-profit institutions, and in terms of sheer numbers, the public institutions suffered a much greater reputational blow.7 But why is this important? Because reputation is closely connected to institutional ranking and prestige: two of the major markers of success in neoliberal academe.8 And this educational catastrophe may have just significantly deconstructed the validity of both rank and prestige relative to online instruction by bringing all higher education in America—at least for a time—to the same instructional level.9 Educational catastrophe has significantly diminished the value of one of neoliberal academe’s main measures of success, namely the difference in reputational capital between online and non-online institutions of higher education.

Classroom Catastrophes Tens of millions of students who do not take any online courses forced almost overnight into them was a catastrophic event for higher education. But in some alternate universe, the opposite as well is happening: millions of online-only students are being told by their institution that online instruction is no longer being offered. The contagion here is not a biological one but rather computational: a computer virus has shut down online education in America. Whereas the Coronavirus resulted in all faceto-face courses needing to be put online, the computer virus resulted in all online courses needing to be made face-to-face. If we regard the Coronavirus as resulting in a higher education catastrophe, how should we regard the fictional computer virus? A catastrophe for higher education on the scale of the Coronavirus? Or a miracle on the order of restoring academe to the chalkboard only classrooms of its past? Or something else entirely? For context, consider that prior to the 1960s, there was no such thing as an online course. Distance education included those correspondence courses noted earlier or courses offered off-campus. My personal favorite of the latter genre of instruction was an introduction to philosophy I taught at a mall in Indianapolis in the late 1980s. It was held in the staff training room of a Sears department store on Saturday mornings, where the smell of freshly baked “Cinnabon” cinnamon rolls made concentrating on Bertrand Russell more difficult than usual. However, distance education by that time was already slowly beginning to change

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through the development of computer systems that could be utilized for instructional purposes. In 1960, the University of Illinois launched Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO), the first computer-assisted instruction system in the world. PLATO was an intranet where students could access course materials and listen to recorded lectures. It grew to more than 1000 terminals worldwide in the 1970s and came to offer computer-assisted instruction to University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign students, local schools, and more than a dozen universities in four different decades. Then, in 1983, the Electronic University Network was developed by TeleLearning Systems, Inc. Its aim was to create a highly accessible online educational network. By September 1985, it was reported “Close to 15,000 students are now taking classes and seminars in subjects ranging from economics to the subtleties of California wines. And the number of colleges and universities participating in The Electronic University has topped 1700—all of which offer credit courses through EU.”10 Participating institutions included Cornell University, Boston University, the State University of New York, the California State University system, and Virginia Tech. To get a sense of what was being offered at the time, consider that in January of 1986, Linda Harasim and Dorothy Smith of the University of Toronto co-taught fully online “Women and Computers in Education.” It dealt with gender issues and educational computing, specifically “gender bias and lack of interest by girl students and women teachers in educational computing.” Harasim goes as far as to claim that this 1986 course was the first fully online course.11 Broadly speaking, distance education, that is, courses that were not offered by correspondence, but “primarily delivered using live, interactive audio or videoconferencing, pre-recorded instructional videos, webcasts, CD-ROM or DVD, or computer-based systems delivered over the Internet,” increased rapidly in the new millennium. From 2000 to 2008, undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education course increased from 8 to 20%, and those in a distance education degree program increased from 2 to 4%.12 During this period, many non-profit and for-profit institutions came to offer online education courses, programs, and degrees. Some were prestigious institutions such as Stanford and Harvard Universities (which makes the comedian’s joke above only funny to those who believe that prestigious universities do not engage in online education), whereas others

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were not and were regarded by some as little more than “diploma mills.” In the case of Stanford, for example, in 2006, it was possible for students from anywhere in the world to earn a master’s degree in engineering online. Of this online master’s, a student pursuing it from China says, “It was my dream to study in the best engineering school in the world.” “It is a much more prestigious degree than any schools in China,” she concludes.13 As of 2020, Stanford now offers eleven Master’s degrees fully online. As for Harvard, they have an Extension School, which offers online courses. In 2013, 13,000 students were enrolled in the Harvard Extension School, with 2000 of them pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. However, it has been reported that since its inception, the Harvard Extension School has only graduated less than one-fifth of one percent of its students.14 Today, roughly one-third of students of higher education engage in at least some online coursework. While only time will tell for certain if the recent Coronavirus catastrophe will push that number higher in the coming years, it is not much of a reach to speculate that it will. But what is the best balance for a university between face-to-face instruction versus online is not easy to determine particularly outside of catastrophic need. My own university is a good example in this regard. In 2005, about half of the seats in courses in our School of Arts and Sciences were face-to-face and the other half of our seats were online (with face-to-face outpacing online seats by less than 100 seats). However, by the fall of 2019, though our school enrollments had greatly risen (going from about 2500 seats in 2005 to 7000 seats in 2019), the face-to-face versus online enrollment spread in our school remained exactly the same as it was in 2005.15 Still, in spite of these fifteen-year enrollment figures, a major concern for our university administration in the opening months of 2020 was how to entice more of our students to take their courses faceto-face rather than online. And then the Coronavirus hit us in mid-March, where we, like most every other university in the United States, put all of our face-to-face courses online. So much then for the immediate plan to increase our face-to-face offerings. The only silver lining here was that most of the faculty were experienced at online instruction so the transition to an all-online curriculum almost overnight was not as catastrophic an event as it would be for a faculty that had en mass never taught online. Moreover, as half of our seats were already online, the effects on students too were not as catastrophic as they might be for students at institutions that do not offer any online courses.16

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In 2000, I speculated that there would be increasing pressure on faculty by administrators to incorporate computer and information technology into their teaching. I also noted that many faculty at that time feared that the “intervention of computer and information technology in higher education [would] radically change, if not destroy, higher education as we know it though [they disagreed] on whether this [would be] a good thing.”17 Sadly enough, twenty years later the same situation obtains: there is deep division in higher education today whether online instruction is the future of higher education or something that must be overcome. The question today is will a catastrophe change our beliefs in this regard? Twenty years ago, it would have been pure academic fiction to predict that a bio-catastrophe would force all face-to-face higher education to be put online. But not only did this occur, but most all higher education faculty in America were required by their administrations to use computer and information technology to teach the university out of a catastrophe. It would be naïve to believe that this catastrophe has not radically altered the fate of online instruction in the university. The joke that Harvard University is now an “online university” might as well be generalized to all higher education in America. All who taught in higher education during this bio-catastrophe are now as a consequence online faculty and all have now worked at an online university. What is even more remarkable is that a mere thirty-some years after the Electronic University Network started to widen the reach of computermediated instruction and the first full-online courses were being offered for credit by major universities like the University of Toronto—and at a time when it was still normal for courses to be taught by correspondence and on weekends at the mall—the possibility of bricks-and-mortar classrooms becoming the exception rather than the norm in higher education became a reality. While it may have taken a bio-catastrophe to actualize this, it nevertheless occurred—and there is no turning back to the future of bricks-and-mortar as the existential foundation of university instruction. A catastrophe changed it all and has precariously and precipitously pushed us forward into of higher education’s digitally mediated future. Nevertheless, as someone who has closely followed the demise of both bricks-and-mortar bookstores and the analog book in the new millennium, the recent online reconfiguration of higher education feels like it is a “day late, dollar short.” Since the celebrated 2007 launch of the Kindle Reader and the concurrent rise of Amazon as a major book distributor

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(and now publisher), walking into a bookstore to purchase a book or producing one without the aid of digital software or communication is the exception rather the norm in the book business. It is only fitting that it might be a bio-catastrophe that finally pushes higher education into the digital universe that by and large destroyed the bricks-and-mortar world of books. We now live in a world where catastrophe is the category we would use to describe a computer virus that puts a stop to all online coursework as well as online shopping, online books, online editing, online movies, online banking, online social media, etc. However, twenty years ago this would not have been the case. Sure some folks would have been inconvenienced and many institutions would have been damaged, but few if any would have been destroyed. Today, however, a computer virus is as threatening to our welfare as a contagion like the Coronavirus. If the local brick-and-mortar bookstore or university is shut down, it feels normal to push the functions served in these buildings online. However, if online book shopping is shut down, there are far fewer bricks-and-mortar bookstores than twenty-years ago to serve us in our time of need. Moreover, if online education were to be shut down, even though it currently only serves about one-third of students of higher education, the vast majority of these students do not have the option of going to a bricks-and-mortar building for classes. Why? Because this was one of the primary reasons they took online courses in the first place: educational convenience. Online education today provides many students the opportunity to pursue higher education and balance other aspects of their life such as work, family, and livelihood. Face-to-face education is not an option for many of them even in catastrophic times. The reverse, however, is not true. Online education serves as a perfect backup plan in times of crisis and catastrophe. Fire, flood, and bio-hazard cannot stop the pursuit of higher education online the way it can bring bricks-and-mortar higher education to a grinding halt. Therefore, today, fiction became reality, and reality became fiction when it comes to catastrophic education: online is a reliable backup to higher education in times of catastrophe, whereas bricks and mortar education is not a very reliable alternative to online education in catastrophic times. What is most amazing is how the character of catastrophic education has changed over the past twenty years, whereas the general feelings about bricks-and-mortar versus online education have not changed much over the same period of time. In short, while online education is a legitimate

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and valuable backup to bricks-and-mortar education, bricks-and-mortar education is not a legitimate and valuable backup to online education. And just think: it only took a catastrophe for us to recognize this.

Catastrophic Trades Educational catastrophe though is not just about biological and computational contagion. It is also about the economic contagion of neoliberalism in higher education. Unlike biological and computational contagions, which result in catastrophes that are immediately felt—e.g., classes are now going to be online or the network is down so we cannot do our work—the impact of the neoliberal contagion in higher education does not always have an immediate impact. Rather, it works at a more leisurely though no less destructive pace. Neoliberal academe is a slow catastrophe. And it is no secret now that it has eroded just about every aspect of academic life. Like Rob Nixon’s “slow violence,” which is the unseen and unheard violence that happens on a temporal scale that is beyond the capacities of our senses, the slow catastrophe of neoliberal academe more often than not occurs silently and out of sight. Moreover, while Nixon associates slow violence with “climate change, the thawing cryosphere, toxic drift, biomagnifications, deforestation, the radioactive aftermath of war, acidifying oceans, and a host of other slowly unfolding environmental catastrophes,” it is also possible to think of the speed of the catastrophe of neoliberalism in the academy in a similar way.18 Borrowing from Nixon, the slow catastrophe of neoliberal academe might be described as a “delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space,” an “attritional” catastrophe that typically would not be regarded as a type of catastrophe.19 Nevertheless, higher education under neoliberalism is catastrophic education par excellence. One way to view its devastating effects on higher education is through the trade-offs that are made by students and professors in order to try to survive in neoliberal academe. For students, this ranges from taking on increasing levels of debt and choosing majors based on their earning potential to feeling compelled to trade in a higher education for some lower version of it. The higher educational environment under neoliberalism at its worst abhors academic exploration and intellectual self-development as ends in themselves. Rather, the acquisition of knowledge in itself is pushed aside in favor of training of students to be entrepreneurs who can leverage a

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minimal skill set into a maximal income. Moreover, neoliberalism creates an environment where the financial costs of higher education are always measured against their earning rather than their educational potential. This leads some to a pernicious form of anti-intellectual and antiuniversity thinking. According to this neoliberal educational thinking, if a certificate without a bachelor’s degree will earn you as much income in the workplace as a bachelor’s degree, then one should pursue the certification training and forego the pursuit of a college education. The slow catastrophe of students trading off a higher education for a lower one such as certification training though is only one aspect of the devastating effects of neoliberalism on the academy. For those of us who value literature, one of its greatest catastrophes is the slow violence of neoliberal thinking to its future. This has led many in the humanities to become sincerely worried about the future of literature. It is a nagging worry that only seems to worsen over time. This worry comes not from those who can’t tell the difference between Dante and Dostoevsky. For them, literature is neither an object of affection nor a window to the world. It is a door within the house of knowledge that they cannot bring themselves to open. Rather, the worry mainly comes from those most familiar with literature. For scholars and admirers of literature who have explored its long history dating back thirty-three centuries to the Gilgamesh epic. For them, a most fatal concern has arisen of late: the real possibility of the emergence of a post-literature era. The worry is not that there will be some massive catastrophe like the fire in ancient Alexandria where vast amounts of literature were lost forever. Future generations will have even greater access to the literature of the world that has been passed down through the millennia. Nor is the worry that there will not be a coterie of scholars who will continue to study it for many years to come. Even the most ardent proponents of a decreased role for literature in the university do not believe that its study will or should disappear entirely. Rather, the worry is that what will happen to the study of literature is what happened to the study of Greek and Latin in the academy. Whereas a century ago, the study of classical languages was the mark of an educated person and a sign of a complete university education, today it is regarded as a non-essential, educational “luxury” item. Just as the study of Greek and Latin in the twentieth century was an expiring holdover from the nineteenth century, the study of literature might be viewed in the twenty-first century as an expiring holdover

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from the twentieth century. Whether it is because literature is linked to an outmoded technology or because there is less sustained reading attention or whatever, there is a strong feeling that literature is being traded out today for something different. We might disagree about the specifics of these trades, but the fact that they are being made with increasing frequency seems obvious to most scholars and admirers of literature. While some contend that declining interest in the book compared to other technologies of communication such as television, film, and the Internet is linked to the declining future of literature,20 there are others who lay the blame entirely within the academy. These folks believe that fifty or so years ago the academy began the process of trading literature for theory. Supposedly, there was a time before the linguistic turn when professors and students studied literature, not the structure of language. The legacies of structuralism and poststructuralism brought about a turning away from literature, and replaced it with literary and cultural theory.21 Last gasp efforts to purge theory from the university and recuperate literature in its wake such as postcritique and surface reading, which are taken up in Chapter 9, “Catastrophic Theory,” only serve to exacerbate our worries about literature lost rather than quell them.22 Moreover, finding a new theory to recuperate literature in the academy after it has been effectively marginalized leads some to wrongly assume that theory was the principle cause of the declining value of literature in the academy—and not something else. It is highly unlikely that “the hermeneutics of suspicion”23 led students to not want to study literature for nine out ten don’t even know what it is. Students learn about theory through the study of literature and learn about literature through the study of theory. If anything, theory kept literature in the university on life-support for longer than it would have been without it. Rather, academics began the process of trading literature when the university aimed to become a vocational training center.24 What we traded literature for were all of those other areas of study that allegedly make students better prepared for their vocation and the workforce. Business majors had no business studying Beckett, and Montaigne and Marlow were traded for management and marketing courses. In short, the study of world literature was traded for workforce learning. Thus, for today’s average student, studying comparative literature is comparable only to seeking the most efficient means of underemployment. And in spite of the impassioned manifestos by earnest and learned

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literature professors that the study of literature will get you a better job upon graduation than those who don’t study literature, this is a type of argument that is always born to lose in the neoliberal academy. The rising cost of education is indeed both monetary and intellectual. Students have traded the study of literature for the pursuit of a better future through vocational training. The balance of trade regarding literature has resulted in a vicious circle where literature is increasingly diminished with each trade-off. Students don’t want to study literature because they believe it is not going to provide them with a secure financial future, and professors don’t want to teach literature because their students don’t want to study it. Few things are more painful for faculty than trying to convince students that their time and money is not being wasted through the study of topics they regard as superfluous. The rise of the neoliberal vision of the university has decimated its academic ideals and replaced them with the protocols of debt culture and market economics.25 While it was possible once to make the utilitarian case that studying literature provides the skills needed to be successful in your life and career, this can no longer be achieved. The professional training model of higher education which places a high value on curricular efficiency and educational instrumentality now runs deep in the veins of the public imagination. To be sure, a trade imbalance regarding literature exists in the university today. It has come about because far too many students, faculty, and administrators have chosen to trade literature and the higher aims of education away. Similar shameful trade-offs too have been made in other areas of the humanities such as philosophy and rhetoric. To trade away work that has been a central part of the academy since its origins in ancient Greece, and literature that dates back even earlier, is ultimately to trade away higher education for a much lower and inferior version. Perhaps the only way to hide our shame in trading literature for vocational training is to cover it with the fig leaf of post-literature. But what does this mean? Doing so allows us to lay the blame for trading literature in the academy not on neoliberal academe, but rather on the advancements in technology that have resulted in a decrease in the sustained readerly-attention that literature has traditionally demanded. The postliterature world is one where reading attention is not required for the new forms of writing that are emerging in the wake of traditional forms of literature.

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The novelist, Robert Coover, describes this post-literature world as one where we “will continue, in whatever medium and with whatever tools, to tell stories, explore paradox, strive for meaning and beauty (those sweet old illusions), pursue self-understanding, seek out the hidden content of the tribal life, and so on—in short, all the grand endeavors we associate with literature, even if what they make may not be literature, any more than film is literature or nature a poem.”26 This post-literature world is the mirror image of the post-university world, or what we now commonly refer to as the neoliberal academy. The type of educational environment in this neoliberal academy is best described as a catastrophic one. If the post-literature world is one where we traded literature for something else that nonetheless allows us to continue “all the grand endeavors we associate with literature,” then the neoliberal academy is one where we traded education for something else that nonetheless allows us to continue “all the grand endeavors we associate with education.” Though this is a dark mirror image, it is a fitting one for dark times. More importantly, while it leaves our worries about the future of literature intact, it is a dark mirror image that mitigates at least some of our responsibility as literature professors for the catastrophic educational consequences of trading away our livelihood.

Of Shame and Sycophants But there is still another meaning to covering our shame in trading literature for vocational training by covering it with the fig leaf of postliterature. It is a meaning that does not mitigate our responsibility for the catastrophic educational consequences of this tradeoff and others done under the cover of neoliberal academe. Instead, it places responsibility squarely upon our shoulders as willing participants in the curricular trade economy of neoliberal higher education. This meaning can be traced back to David Hume’s essay “Of the Balance of Trade,” which was first published in 1752. In it, he writes in support of free trade among nations and warns against prohibitions to exporting certain commodities. “It is very usual, in nations ignorant of the nature of commerce,” writes Hume, “to prohibit the exportation of commodities, and to preserve among themselves whatever they think valuable and useful.”27 “They do not consider, that, in the prohibition, they act directly contrary to their intention; and that the more is exported of any commodity, the more will

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be raised at home, of which they themselves will always have the first offer.”28 To illustrate the dangers of prohibiting trade, Hume uses the example of ancient Greek law that prohibited the exportation of figs: It is well known to the learned, that the ancient laws of Athens rendered the exportation of figs criminal; that being supposed a species of fruit so excellent in Attica, that the Athenians deemed it too delicious for the palate of any foreigner.29

But the prohibition on fig exportation is only half of the story. The other half concerns the economy and politics of informing on those who exported figs. The Greeks had a specific term for such informers, “sycophant.” Again, Hume: And in this ridiculous prohibition they were so much in earnest that informers were thence called sycophants among them, from two Greek words, which signify figs and discoverer.30

Whereas now the term “sycophant” generally refers to a servile selfseeking flatterer, in ancient Greece, the term generally refers to a “public informer”—the Greek counterpart of the Roman “delator.” While it is a combination of the Greek words for “fig” and “to show,” there is much debate as to the meaning of “sycophant.” For some, the word simply refers to those who inform against others for stealing the fruit of the “sacred” fig tree or exporting it. But for others, because taxes and fines were at one time in ancient Greece paid in wine, oil, and figs, the word “sycophant” refers to those who those who handed over fines and taxes to the state. Another meaning attributed to the term is as an “obscene gesture of phallic significance” called “showing the fig” directed toward another for some frivolous or trivial reason. On this meaning, the sycophant is the person who initiates the insult. There is also a meaning of the term that connects it to the ancient Greek cult of the Phytalidae, wherein a “sycophant” was an official connected with the cult. Phytalus, the namesake of the cult, was rewarded a fig tree by Demeter in return for the hospitality he provided to the wanderer. The darkest meaning though from antiquity links the term to those who blackmail others over their “figs” (or money). In this sense, a sycophant is someone who threatens to bring criminal charges against a rich

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person, that is, someone with a wealth of figs, unless they pay off the sycophant not to press the criminal charges. In Athens, any citizen could at any time accuse another of a public offense. As those in positions of power and wealth were looked upon with suspicion by the Athenian citizens, many were willing to believe most any charge brought against the rich and powerful. This made wealthy individuals vulnerable to blackmail by sycophants.31 What is interesting is that despite the potential for sycophants to blackmail the rich and the powerful or even to bring false charges against them, they were nonetheless regarded as an essential part of Athenian democracy. Moreover, the profession of sycophant was not regarded as a dishonorable one. The practice of encouraging citizens to help in the detection of crimes against the state was important even if some abused the opportunity for personal gain. Hume does us a service by reminding us of the historical connection between prohibitions to free trade and sycophants—even if he is critical of such prohibitions calling them “ridiculous” and “errors, one may say, [that are] gross and palpable.”32 The fig-leaf of post-literature that we took earlier as one of “shame” for trading literature for vocational training comes to mean through the perspective of Hume on free trade and the Greeks on sycophancy something quite different. It is a meaning that is much darker than “shame” and may be directly linked to the catastrophic consequences of the political economy of neoliberalism. As participants in the neoliberal university who are concerned about the future of the humanities, we are encouraged to be sycophants in the classical sense. When the university veers from its vocational telos, we are encouraged to report though curricular assessment the deviation. For those who are passionate advocates of literature but cannot link the teaching of literature to the vocational ends of the university, it can be difficult to become a “literature informer” for the neoliberal university. But what else can we do? Our prohibited goods are not figs but the fruits of the humanities such as literature. The humanities would like to keep them all for themselves and resist exporting them to the professional sides and ends of the academic house. As I’ve argued before, this is not a healthy practice for the economy of the humanities in the age of neoliberal academe.33 Students with vocational aspirations who are careerists are radically altering humanities education in America—and the humanities

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curriculum is slowly giving way to their vocational and corporate interests. How then do we meet the demands of these vocationally-motivated students while at the same time resist trading away literature and humanities instruction in our curriculum? This of course is one of the central challenges facing the future of the humanities in the neoliberal university. To be sure, we cannot and should not ignore or denigrate the desires of our vocationally-directed students. Rather, we need to engage them in a progressive form of dialogue with and through the humanities courses that we do offer. “Vocationalizing” or “corporatizing” humanities courses however does not mean that we ignore the historical and political dimensions of the works that we are teaching, rather it means that we need to be careful not to assume that our students prima facia care about the critical foundations of texts or even the fruits of the humanities such as literature and philosophy. Teaching literature courses in this context requires a more complex dialogue between teacher and students in order to respect mutual desires. In the end, however, this respect of different desires may be one of the only ways to prevent the eventual extinction of large swaths of the liberal arts curriculum—especially if our corporate liberal arts courses bring about a greater knowledge of and appreciation for the liberal arts. The curriculum of the university is a political economy. Prohibiting the free exchange of ideas within the university by prohibiting—or at least discouraging—instruction in key areas human knowledge such as literature, philosophy, and rhetoric will result in catastrophic consequences for the university and the society to which it aims to benefit. Hume’s warning about the Greeks and their figs is analogous to the situation today of the university and literature. Shame turns to fear when the fig leaf is now hiding the decimation of not just the literature but also the catastrophic destruction of the university too. On this bleaker reading of the postliterature world, when we traded literature for vocational training, we did far more than hide our shame with the fig leaf of post-literature. We also became sycophants in the classical sense: namely, literature “informers” in the darkest senses of the classical term. The sycophants of the humanities are a catastrophic consequence of higher education under neoliberalism.

Catastrophic Resistance Catastrophes continuously temper higher education. They can come from outside of academe like the Coronavirus and the various hurricanes that

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have closed our universities for varying periods of time. But they can also come from within academe like the catastrophes inflicted upon higher education by mass shootings, privilege, and debt. This book is primarily concerned with catastrophes internal to higher education though the lines between educational catastrophes externally- and internally-induced are fluid as one of their major sources is the international rise of economic and political neoliberalism.34 As an economic and political project, the history of neoliberalism begins in the period between 1978 and 1980, which David Harvey calls “a revolutionary turning-point in the world’s social and economic history.”35 In terms of publicly funded institutions of higher education, the internal impact of neoliberalism on the university is concurrent with these historical origins. Nevertheless, neoliberalism in higher education intensified greatly after the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and came to include private institutions of higher education whose endowments were decimated by the financial crisis. Under these economic and political conditions, the notion of education as a public good that is supported by the state gave way to the practice of higher education being primarily driven by debt and market mechanisms. As a consequence, student debt has reached epidemic proportions in this neoliberal, or, if you will, “post welfare-state”36 environment, where there has been decreasing state support for public education and increasing privatization through industry. In short, higher education under neoliberalism has become progressively desperate in its search for alternative sources of revenue and has gained a reputation for pursuing just about anything that will bring in revenue. “Under neoliberalism,” writes Henry Giroux, one of its most established critics, “everything either is for sale or is plundered for profit.”37 Naomi Klein adds that this fundamentalist form of capitalism “was written in shocks” because it “has consistently been midwifed by brutal forms of coercion, inflicted on the collective body politic as well as on countless individual bodies.”38 Neoliberalism has become a catastrophe for higher education and the rise of the debt economy has only made this situation worse. How we deal with these ongoing catastrophes in higher education is important, but so too is our preparedness for future educational catastrophes. While the topic of education and catastrophe does not have as extensive a body of philosophical speculation as say education and democracy, there has nonetheless been some significant work in this area. The locus

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classicus of this topic is the subject of Chapter 2, “Education and Catastrophe.” It concerns the efforts of the celebrated science fiction writer H. G. Wells to try to literally “save the world” from catastrophe through the publication of a textbook. The textbook, The Outline of History (1919–1920), was his catastrophic educational response to the First World War. For Wells, the guiding thought behind this project is a beautiful one although it is buried 1100 pages into the volume: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”39 To a large degree, Catastrophe and Higher Education is inspired by the work of Wells even though a century later we are left asking whether higher education is itself a catastrophe, particularly as it manifests itself in neoliberal academe. Nevertheless, from Wells, the idea that we can use our position as teachers and scholars to turn the tables on social, political, economic, and environmental catastrophe takes root in twentieth-century public imagination. Education, in particular, the publication of works that aim to raise the knowledge level of the general population on topics such as history, philosophy, and science has the potential to save the world from catastrophes like another world war, climate change, and the rise of fascism. Wells though was a writer, not a publisher, so was fairly limited in his ability to encourage other writers to his cause. However, his efforts inspired others to the cause of catastrophic education. One was the publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, who is the subject of Chapter 3, “Little Blue Books.” In the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Haldeman-Julius built a publishing empire through the sale of “Little Blue Books” that came to be distributed and read all over the world. Haldeman-Julius regarded his mission in life was to educate the masses through the publication of cheap classics as well as books on just about every subject imaginable. Not only would these “Little Blue Books” revolutionize the publishing industry, because he sold 500 million copies of them, he is regarded as the greatest publisher in world history. Among the many authors he published were Bertrand Russell and Will Durant, whose works together did more in the twentieth century to introduce philosophy to a mass audience than any other authors in the twentieth century. Wells, along with Haldeman-Julius, Russell, and Durant, shared the common belief that education is our best defense against catastrophe. Haldeman-Julius recognized that not only must work that appeals to the general population in key areas of knowledge such as history, literature, philosophy, and science

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be published, but it must be available at a cost that will not prohibit its purchase by a mass audience of varying economic means. Chapter 4, “All Publishers are Equal,” provides a millennial twist on the catastrophic educational dreams of Wells and Haldeman-Julius. Whereas in the twentieth century, publishers were still regarded as the gatekeepers of knowledge because publishing decisions were relative to their interests, in the twenty-first century, the rise of self-publishing has radically reduced the role of gatekeepers in the publishing world. Moreover, because self-publishing now dwarfs traditional publishing in terms of numbers of individual works published yearly, we might ask now whether the role of publishing with regard to catastrophe has also changed. Is the rise of self-publishing an opportunity for education to wage a more effective fight against catastrophe? Or is self-publishing itself an educational catastrophe because the loss of gatekeepers entails the loss of product control? While self-publishing offers the prospect of equal access to the publishing process in the name of the public good, something that Wells and Haldeman-Julius surely would have championed, it at the same time deconstructs the notion of privilege in publishing. In terms of higher education, this has the effect of creating a false positive though regarding changes in the role of privilege in the academy. Chapter 5, “Academic Privilege,” examines the role of privilege in higher education. Like the doors of the publishing world, which are clearly marked in terms of privilege, the doors of higher education are also marked by privilege. The difference, however, is that while the publishing world is making strides to be a place where privilege and over-privilege are not produced and reproduced, higher education is not. The structural condition of higher education under neoliberalism objectifies prestige, and prestige in higher education is tantamount to privilege. Privilege is an educational catastrophe that continues to reproduce itself under neoliberalism in spite of the desire of many in the academy to eliminate it. Educational catastrophes like academic privilege that are structurally reproduced over generations are further intensified when coupled with neoliberalism. This is most explicitly seen in relation to the dramatic rise in student debt in the new millennium, which was already noted. Of all of the catastrophes that have impacted higher education, student debt is the one that most clearly reveals the destructive connection between public policy influenced by neoliberal economics and student moral life. Chapter 6, “The End of Morality,” shows how one of the cornerstones of

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Western morality, the principle that we all must repay our debts, threatens to be obviated by student debt resistance. The educational catastrophe of student debt places its victims in a difficult moral position: reject Western morality through debt refusal or risk being straddled for the rest of your life with student debt. Educational catastrophe here doubles when students are asked to choose between two evils, namely, catastrophic debt or ending morality. Whereas academic privilege and student debt are both urgent catastrophes facing higher education today, neither was precipitated by anything like the events of September 11, 2001 when planes struck the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. While the new millennium brought much fear that there would be a massive computer crash that would bring down the global economic market, there was as little concern that a computer failure would bring down online education across the country as their was that an act of terrorism would bring down the Twin Towers. Consequently, the catastrophe of the events of September 11, 2001 was intensified by both their immediacy and unexpectedness. In Chapter 7, “Post-Literature America,” it is argued that the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001 led the United States into a new literary age characterized by fear and capital driving our social, political, and intellectual agendas. But the consequences of this new literary age are not just in relation to the future of literature in America. They are also in relation to the hopes of Wells and Haldeman-Julius that ignorance can be battled through education. Ralph Waldo Emerson though, who said that “Fear always springs from ignorance,” perhaps is a better guide to post9/11 America than the dreams and hopes of Wells and Haldeman-Julius. The new millennium has become an age characterized by ignorance and capital where higher education might turn out to be one of our greatest catastrophes. Many of course recognize that the university is in peril and that the future of the humanities is uncertain. However, there is much debate as to how to deal with the dual-catastrophes of higher education and the humanities. My own argument has been that neoliberalism in higher education is a bad thing and that unless we move beyond extreme free market capitalism as the determinate of higher education policy, the future of both higher education and the humanities are in serious jeopardy.40 But recent events within the humanities have led me to an even darker conclusion. Namely, that in the process of trying to cope with the neoliberal assault on higher education, a number of humanities scholars have

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come to argue against the most effective means we have at our disposal to fight back against and resist neoliberalism: critique. In Chapters 8, 9, and 10, the internal assault by humanities scholars against the very weapons that can be used to battle neoliberal academe are examined. Chapter 8, “A Century of Antitheory,” looks back for context on our current situation to the late philosophy of William James, which vehemently fought for philosophy and theory amid fierce scientific opposition to it. Drawing upon the work of James, it is argued that the best way to destroy the humanities and the academy is to become an antitheorist who categorically rejects theory. This is shown to be a counter-narrative to contemporary antitheorists who claim that they are doing the very opposite, that is, by rejecting theory they are saving both the humanities and the academy. By contrast, Chapter 9, “Catastrophic Theory,” takes a much shorterview by closely examining three recent versions of antitheory: radical aestheticism, object-oriented ontology, and postcritique. It is argued that whereas the last quarter of the twentieth century was one of the most vibrant periods in the history of the humanities, the first quarter of the twenty-first is increasingly becoming one of its most reactionary. The reactionary nature of radical aestheticism, speculative realism, and postcritique is most obvious in its strong affiliations with aspects of the New Criticism, which dominated mid-twentieth century literature studies. Together, Chapters 8 and 9 reveal that the greatest threats to the future of the humanities may come from within its ranks, rather than from without. To describe these threats as the actions of sycophants seems only appropriate given our earlier discussion of Hume. In short, antitheory is itself catastrophic in its aim to diminish theory, particularly theory that is used in the fight against neoliberalism. Finally, in Chapter 10, “Pessimistic Education,” postcritique is presented as a life-denying approach to the humanities in particular, and the university in general. A case is made for this by calling upon the philosophical and critical work of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, both of whom were philosophical pessimists. Critique, and along with it theory, provides us with the best chance of both resisting neoliberal academe and saving the humanities from demise. Moreover, as critique is a life-affirming, optimistic approach to both the humanities and the university, it is preferable to the life-denying and pessimistic alternative provided by postcritique.

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Conclusion Education is no less immune to catastrophe than any other area of life. A student who fails all of their courses because they are grieving the loss of a loved one, and another who drops out of school because they are in love, are both educational catastrophes. So too is a teacher who becomes obsessed with their research and as a result neglects their students, friends, and family. And, to be sure, schools that fail to educate their students or that have a large proportion of them drop out are also educational catastrophes. There are of course many other examples of educational catastrophes like the ones described above. Sudden educational calamities through accident, sickness, misfortune, and misbehavior are commonplace in education. Some are small and common like failing to turn in an assignment because one forgot to do it. Others are large and less common like dropping out of school because one needs to get a job to provide for ones family. On these terms, then, catastrophe is a regular, if not everyday, element of the world of education. Disaster takes many different forms in individual student and teacher life, and “sudden calamities” are a part of the everyday world of education from grade school through the university. To examine education through the lens of catastrophes both small and great is to see one of the ways in which education “fails.” Students failing courses, teachers failing to teach, and schools failing to educate are all subspecies of the general term, “educational catastrophe.” To be sure, there is no doubt that the daily pursuit of education is fraught with catastrophe. But, is education also subject to the kind of catastrophes usually only reserved for the earth such as earthquakes, eruptions, and floods? The question here is less one of the possibility that catastrophe is a component of education than one of the upper limits of its degree or scale. On a micro-scale, educational catastrophes are commonplace, but on a macro-scale what does “educational catastrophe” mean? The international Coronavirus, which hopefully will be as common as 1000 year floods, has given the world a sense of the upper limits of catastrophe in higher education. But given what Klein calls the “shock doctrine” of disaster capitalism, more large-scale catastrophes are surely on tap in higher education’s future. Catastrophe and Higher Education asks what it means to live in a higher educational world continuously tempered by catastrophe. Are

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there opportunities for education to fight back against catastrophe? Or is a catastrophic educational world essentially one without hope for resistance? Catastrophe and Higher Education argues that many of the resources for response and resistance such as publishing, philosophy, and theory have long been identified by thinkers ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James to H. G. Wells and Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. Catastrophe and Higher Education shows that both hope and resistance are possible if we are willing to not succumb to a form of pessimism that always already appears to be drawing us into its arms. From the natural threats of biological and ecological catastrophes to the institutional fears instilled by terrorism and neoliberalism, higher education faces catastrophe now on a regular basis. The fate of the academy may very well be in the hands of humanities scholars who are tasked with either rejecting theory and philosophy in times of catastrophe—or embracing it. The future of the humanities is tied to the fate of theory as a form of resistance to neoliberalism in higher education. Higher education will truly be a catastrophe if we reject theory. However, there is still hope for higher education against catastrophe if only we allow critique to continue to be utilized in the fight against neoliberal academe.

Notes 1. The University of London’s “External Programme,” which began in 1859 and continues to this day (https://London.ac.uk/ways-study/distancelearning), is widely credited as the first university in the world to offer full degrees through distance learning. In the United States, “The Society to Encourage Studies at Home” was founded in 1873 by Anna Eliot Ticknor. It was the first correspondence school in the United States. See, The Ticknor Society (ticknor.org) for information on Ticknor and her contributions to distance education. 2. On January 4, 1887, Peirce wrote to Henry Cabot Lodge: I have quite a reputation for my knowledge of the logic and methods of science. I have worked out a long series of practical exercises to teach the whole art of reason from beginning to end. There are throughout the country thousands of young men and women to whom these lessons would be of more real service than almost anything they could study. The question is, first, how many of them I could teach? Now I have planned a system which I won’t trouble you with, with

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passages written out answering every conceivable difficulty in the whole course, type-writers and assistants … by which I can write say 500 letters a day, or take charge of 1500 students. I propose to charge $30 in advance for 30 lessons, the entire course being about 200.

3.

4.

5.

6. 7.

8.

Peirce was asking Lodge for support money for this correspondence teaching venture, which ultimately only resulted in a handful of students. Lodge’s letter is cited by Joseph Brent in Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 183. Ryan Craig, “A Brief History (and Future) of Online Degrees,” Forbes, June 23, 2015. www.forbes.com/sites/ryancraig/2015/06/23/a-briefhistory-and-future-of-online-degrees/#ac1556048d9a. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Modern Literature and the Other Arts: A Learning Guide (Bloomington: Indiana University Independent Study Program, 1995); Jeffrey R. Di Leo and John Musselman, Introduction to Philosophy: A Learning Guide Guide (Bloomington: Indiana University Independent Study Program, 1996; revised ed., 1999); and Jeffrey R. Di Leo and John Musselman, Elementary Ethics: A Learning Guide (Bloomington: Indiana University Independent Study Program, 1997; revised ed., 1999). For some time, however, I did not know that the student whose work I was grading was in prison or that it was the same person as the murderer. The address on the correspondence I received was an apartment in Hollywood, California. However, I read in a popular magazine that this Beverly Hills murderer was taking correspondence courses, and quickly figured out that this was my student. Many conversations with my colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I was teaching at the time, followed this disclosure, which helped me to process the uniqueness of this pedagogical situation. Jimmy Fallon, “Opening Monlogue,” The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Season 7, Episode 99, March 10, 2020. These numbers come from Doug Lederman, “Online Education Ascends,” Inside Higher Ed., November 7, 2018. www.insidehig hered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/11/07/new-data-online-enroll ments-grow-and-share-overall-enrollment. For the importance of rank and prestige in neoliberal academe, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 71–88.

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9. It will be very interesting to check back on this topic in a few years. However, right now, there is just not enough information to speculate on the long-term consequences of the “online leveling of higher education.” 10. Sharon Darling, Compute, September 1985. Reported by Cait Etherington, “What Happened to the Electronic University Network?,” January 9, 2018. https://news.elearninginside.com/what-happened-to-the-electr onic-university-network/. 11. Nevertheless, Harasim acknowledges, “It’s always dangerous to be the first in anything,” and welcomes feedback from others on early pioneering online courses. She also notes that Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff at New Jersey Institute of Technology had run blended courses since the early 1970s. Harasim’s comments are found at “Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the First Fully Online Course,” January 17, 2016. www.tonybates.ca/2016/01/17/celebrating-the-30th-anniversaryof-the-first-fully-online-course/. See also Linda Harasim, Learning Theory and Online Technologies (New York and London: Routledge, 2012). 12. Alexandria Walton Radford, “Learning at a Distance: Undergraduate Enrollment in Distance Education Courses and Degree Programs,” U.S. Department of Education, October 2011. NCES 2012-154. https:// nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012154.pdf. 13. Lisa M. Krieger, “Get a Master’s at Stanford, Without Going to the Farm,” San Jose Mercury News, November 21, 2006. The student who is quoted is Bing Ma, a finance director at a Beijing-based U.S. company. 14. Theodore R. Johnson, “Did I Really Go to Harvard If I Got My Degree Taking Online Classes,” The Atlantic, September 16, 2013. 15. The consistency rate of this spread was not the product of academic “planning,” but rather the result of responding to student demand regarding desired mode of instruction. 16. Regardless of the quality of these converted courses, some students feel that as consumers of an educational “product,” they were “shortchanged” by the conversion of face-to-face courses. They are saying that they purchased face-to-face instruction, not online, so therefore want a “refund” for these courses. The question of the “return policy” on education is a fair topic for the age of neoliberal academe where courses are viewed as commodities that are sold to students. In such a setting, “defective” education can be returned for a full

1

17.

18. 19. 20.

21.

22.

23.

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refund. See Greta Anderson, “Feeling Shortchanged,” Inside Higher Ed, April 13, 2020. www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/13/studentssay-online-classes-arent-what-they-paid. Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “New Technology and the Dilemmas of the Posttheory Generation: On the Use and Abuse of Computer and Information Technology in Higher Education Today,” in Day Late, Dollar Short: The Next Generation and the New Academy, ed. Peter C. Herman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), 130. Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 2. Ibid., 2. See Robert Coover, “The End of Literature,” in Experimental Literature: A Collection of Statements, eds. Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Warren Motte (Aurora, IL: JEF Books/Depth Charge Publishing, 2018). A good source for variations on the position that the rise of theory in the academy is to blame for the decreasing position of literature in the academy is Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral, eds., Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). For a variety of responses to this position, see my edited collection, What’s Wrong with Antitheory? (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2019). For a development of postcritique, see Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), and for surface reading, see Stephen Best and Sharon Marcus, “Surface Reading: An Introduction,” Representations 108 (2009): 1–21. For statements about how these positions exacerbate our worries about literature lost rather than quell them, again, see my edited collection, What’s Wrong with Antitheory? In his book, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), Paul Ricouer proposed two general directions for interpretation. One direction seeks to “purify discourse of its excrescences, liquidate the idols, go from drunkenness to sobriety, realize our state of poverty once and for all” (27). The other direction “use[s] the most ‘nihilistic,’ destructive, iconoclastic movement so as to let speak what once, what each time, was said, when meaning appeared anew, when meaning was its fullest” (27). For Ricouer, all textual interpretation is “animated by this double motivation: willingness to suspect, willingness to listen; vow of rigor, vow of obedience,” a “tension” and “extreme polarity” that is the “truest expression of our ‘modernity’” (27). One direction he calls the “school of reminiscence” and the other the “school of suspicion” (32). If the aim of the school of reminiscence is the restoration of meaning, then the aim of its opposite, the school of suspicion, is the demystification of meaning. For Ricouer, the three “masters” that dominate the school of suspicion are Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud (32). Though their lines of thought are “seemingly mutually exclusive,”

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24.

25.

26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31.

32. 33. 34.

35. 36.

“[a]ll three begin with suspicion concerning the illusions of consciousness, and then proceed to employ the stratagem of deciphering” (34). Thus, for Ricouer, “the Genealogy of Morals in Nietzsche’s sense, the theory of ideologies in the Marxist sense, and the theory of ideals and illusions in Freud’s sense represent three convergent procedures of demystification” (34). See Chapter 9, “Catastrophic Theory,” for a discussion of postcritique’s challenge to the hermeneutics of suspicion. On the neoliberal crusade in higher education to reduce the pursuit of knowledge in favor of an increase in vocational training, see my Corporate Humanities. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities; Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Higher Education Under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct, and the Neoliberal Condition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017); and Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Peter Hitchcock and Sophia McClennen, eds., The Debt Age (New York: Routledge, 2018). Robert Coover, “The End of Literature,” 257. David Hume, “Of the Balance of Trade,” in Essays: Literary, Moral, and Political (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd, 1894), 184. Ibid., 184. Ibid., 184. Ibid., 184. Hume cites Plutarch’s De Curiositate (On Being a Busybody) as his source here on figs and sycophants in ancient Greece. The best source for the various meaning of “sycophant” is the entry on the term in the eleventh edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, and General Information Literature, and General Information (1911). David Hume, “Of the Balance of Trade,” 184. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities, 1–12. As an economic and political project, the history of neoliberalism begins in the period between 1978 and 1980, which David Harvey calls “a revolutionary turning-point in the world’s social and economic history” (A Brief History of Neoliberalism [New York: Oxford University Press, 2005], 1). In terms of publicly funded institutions of higher education, the internal impact of neoliberalism on the university is concurrent with these historical origins. Nevertheless, neoliberalism in higher education intensified greatly after the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and came to include private institutions of higher education whose endowments were decimated by the financial crisis. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1. The phrase “post welfare-state” was introduced by Jeffrey J. Williams in his review essay, “The Post-Welfare State University,” American Literary History 18.1 (Spring 2006): 190–216.

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37. Henry Giroux, The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy (Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2004), xii. 38. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 18–19. Of the term “neoliberalism,” Klein notes that while it is used and recognized worldwide, the terms “free trade” and “globalization” are often used interchangeably with it (14). Her thesis and evidence that extreme neoliberal policies often follow collective shocks is powerful testimony to the pattern of its destructive power. For disaster capitalism in public education, see, for example, Kenneth J. Saltman, Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2007). 39. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind, 3rd ed. (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1921), 1100. 40. This argument is made most explicitly and forcefully in Corporate Humanities in Higher Education.

CHAPTER 2

Education and Catastrophe

Catastrophe is said to be the origin of the modern world. The archeology journalist David Keys has pointed out that starting in 535 A.D., there was “a strange, dusky haze” that “robbed much of the earth of normal sunlight.” “It blotted out much of the light and heat of the sun for eighteen months, and the climate of the entire planet began to spin out of control,” writes Keys.1 “The result, direct or indirect, was climate chaos, famine, migration, war, and massive political change on virtually every continent.”2 As a result of this global weather change, bubonic plague spread from Africa to Europe, crops in Asia and the Middle East failed, and flood and drought led to the collapse of ancient cultures. The one-hundred-year period of history it opened, the so-called Dark Ages, writes Keys, was a painful and often violent interface between the ancient and protomodern worlds. That period witnessed the final end of the supercities of the ancient world; the end of ancient Persia; the transmutation of the Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire; the end of ancient South Arabian civilization; the end of Catholicism’s greatest rival, Arian Christianity; the collapse of the greatest ancient civilization in the New World, the metropolis state of Teotihuacan; the fall from power of the great Maya city of Tikal; and the fall of the enigmatic Nasca civilization of South America.3

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_2

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But this period also had its beginnings. They include the birth or conception “of Islam, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the power of the Turks.”4 Add to this “a united China and the first great South American empires” and you have a climate catastrophe that literally, according to Keys “resynchronized world history.”5 I point out the 535 A.D. claim of Keys not because I necessarily want to defend his thesis that the eighteen months of “darkness” reported by the sixth-century historian and church leader, John of Ephesus, and others determined or altered the course of world history. But rather because I want to point to the scale of his speculations about catastrophe. Thinking catastrophe can and should be done on both a small and large scale. On a small scale, it is always a possibility to connect the dots between individual events and to say “this event determined or caused that event” with some degree of certainty or persuasiveness. But small thinking yields small results and this is really not the place where catastrophic thinking or theory must start. Rather, it is in the wide expanses of world or global thinking such as that of Keys. The Greek origins of the word “catastrophe” are kata, which means “down,” and streiphein, which means “turn.” Taken together catastrophe etymologically means “to turn downward.” Its earliest use in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1579, where it referred to “the change or revolution which produces the conclusion or final event of a dramatic piece; the dénouement.”6 Its second meaning occurred first in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well (1601), “On the catastrophe and heel of pastime,”7 where its meaning is “A final event; a conclusion generally unhappy; a disastrous end, finish-up, conclusion, upshot; overthrow, ruin, calamitous fate.”8 Its third and fourth senses though, first appearing in English much later, increased the depth and range of the term. Its third sense, “An event producing a subversion of the order or system of things,” first appeared in 1696, and then first appeared in geology in 1832 as “A sudden and violent change in the physical order of things, such as a sudden upheaval, depression, or convulsion affecting the earth’s surface, and the living beings upon it, by which some have supposed that the successive geological periods were suddenly brought to an end.”9 Finally, its fourth sense,

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A sudden disaster, wide-spread, very fatal, or signal. (In the application of exaggerated language to misfortunes it is used very loosely.)10

first appeared in English in 1748. As such, the small-scale use of the term “catastrophe” might be linked to its earliest usage to describe drama or events in the lives of humans, whereas the later uses of the term, especially its appearance in geology in the nineteenth century, get at its large-scale use. While both scales of the term are still used today, the most significant contemporary theoretical usage is linked to the large-scale uses of the term in climatology and mathematics. So what in general is this theory? The literary critic, J. Hillis Miller defines “catastrophe theory” as follows: This is the theory that a tiny change in one part of a dynamic system, for example, in a famous version, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Guatemala, can, through a series of relays, produce a sudden wholesale rupture, a gigantic and ‘catastrophic’ change in the whole system. The butterfly’s wing-flap triggers a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico that devastates the U.S. Gulf Coast. The butterfly’s wing-flapping tips the balance, as we say, in a system that is precariously poised. Mathematicians have mapped the ways this happens.11

While Miller’s aim is to show how Jacques Derrida’s theory of decision is catastrophic in this sense, our aim will be to show how education is also catastrophic in a similar sense. John of Ephesus wrote in the sixth century “there was a sign from the sun, the like of which had never been seen and reported before.”12 He and four other historical sources, the Roman historian Procopius, Zacharias of Mytilene, John the Lydian, and Cassiodorus Senator, each provided Keys his “butterfly flap.” The exact day in 535 A.D. when the sun turned dark is unknown. What is known though is that a climate disaster occurred that year which catastrophe theory on steroids a la Keys proposes changed the course of world history. “The sun became dark and its darkness lasted for eighteen months,” continues John of Ephesus. “Each day, it shone for about four hours, and still this light was only a feeble shadow.” “Everyone,” he concludes, “declared that the sun would never recover its full light again.”13 In this chapter, I’d like to apply this type of catastrophic speculation to education. While there is no world history that links a climatological event

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like the one in 535 A.D. to an educational catastrophe, there is perhaps the next best thing: a famous historian of the world who warned that if education around the world did not take another course, then catastrophe would be our fate. Writing arguably the first ever “world” history just after the closing days of the Great War, H. G. Wells speculated on the relationship between education and catastrophe—and engaged in public education as a way to avoid catastrophe. While in his fiction “catastrophe” was more like the fourth sense noted above (“A sudden disaster, widespread, very fatal, or signal”), in his non-fiction, as we shall see, it was more like the third sense (“An event producing a subversion of the order or system of things”). This chapter unpacks these speculations by Wells as a warning from the past to the present about the geopolitical role of education to our future. My own claim, something that I have written about on several occasions, is that education globally became “dark” in 2008 when the economic bubble burst.14 It is a darkness that continues through the present moment. Catastrophe gives us a way to see how the neoliberal educational failures of the present generation can and will impact the world for generations to come. Whereas Wells aimed to save the world from catastrophe through education, the present generation may not have the same opportunities. From the position of the Anthropocene, education may be too little too late to change the course of catastrophe—it may be that we just need to learn how live with catastrophe.15 But barring our biopolitical future as death drive, this chapter aims to be a journey with Wells through catastrophic education: past, present, and future.

World Teacher H. G. Wells lived to be nearly 80 years old. Upon his death on 13 August 1946, the New York Times concluded his obituary with the claim that he was the greatest public teacher of his time.16 The author of over one hundred books, Herbert George Wells, lived through both the First World War and the Second World War. He was a committed socialist, who wrote in many different genres, including novel, politics, history, textbook, and social commentary. Widely-known and admired for his fiction, particularly early science fiction works such as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), and The First Men in the Moon (1901), Wells saw his novels as a way to further his political views. However, for Wells, this

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was not enough. He needed to reach, or better yet, teach more people. “The novels were useful,” writes one of his biographers, “at least for Wells as a means of working out his ideas, but they did not reach a wide enough audience.”17 Also, while one of the early advocates of a League of Nations with whom he helped pen a draft covenant during the First World War, he became, says Arthur Salter, “profoundly disappointed in the actual League, which was based upon the inter-state principle and recognized and preserved national sovereignty.”18 Though he followed the birth of the League of Nations closely, he turned and rent on it, “as he had so often turned and rent other institutions which had first roused his hopes and then disappointed him.”19 Still, in spite of his misgivings about the League itself, his political writings have been highly influential, most explicitly on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations, the post-war successor to the League of Nations. The need to teach the public, particularly in the wake of the First World War, became a priority for Wells. Earlier in his career, he had been a teacher and in fact his first books were textbooks, one on biology and another co-authored one on physiography, both in 1893.20 It has even been claimed, “Wells never stopped thinking of himself as a teacher.” “His earliest work [as a teacher],” states David Smith, “and his formal training [as a teacher] continued to manifest itself in all of his writing.”21 The need though to become a public educator and to espouse a philosophy of education became acute after he stepped away from the League of Nations. In short, Wells wanted to produce textbooks as way to prevent war—or more directly, to save the world. He and his friends on the League of Nations committee had discussed textbooks and methods of education, as a way of preventing further wars, but time did not permit them to produce their own. Wells apparently asked members of the committee, especially Alfred Zimmern, Gilbert Murray, and Ernest Barker, to work on a new world history to replace the older nationalistic and narrow treatments. They refused, on the grounds of lack of time, lack of formal preparation, and unwillingness to give the effort. Wells decided that he must do it himself.22

So, around Christmas 1918, Wells and his second wife, Jane, began work on what was to become The Outline of History, “one of the more significant and widely read books of our century.”23

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It should be noted that in spite of having already written and published over fifty books, including many that we now consider classics of science fiction, Wells’s income from these books would only carry him through 1919. His expenses included two children who were in school, another (Anthony West24 ) that he had out of wedlock, and various homes he and his wife owned and maintained. So, on the surface, writing a history textbook was not a great career move for the established novelist. But thus began the second phase of his writing career, one aimed at him becoming a public educator. “He would devote the years left to him,” comments Smith, “to a campaign to educate the world—through textbooks, through speaking, through writing, through travel and through propaganda—in fact, through the very life he lived.”25 The first edition of Outline was researched and composed in late 1918 through late 1919 with the first signatures of the twenty-four part serialized edition of the work appearing in November of 1919. The first edition was reprinted as two volumes in the UK in 1920 and then again in 1921 in the United States. For the next thirty years, Wells did many revisions of the book to incorporate new knowledge and to account for criticisms of it—and there were many.26 Though Wells was an established writer, he was not an historian—a fact he openly acknowledged in the book. “The writer is not in any professional sense an historian, but he has been making out his own private Outline from the beginnings of his career,” wrote Wells in the “Introduction” to the book. “He has always been preoccupied with history as one whole and with the general forces that make history,” he continued. “It is the twist of his mind.”27 In addition to his wife, Jane, Wells primarily enlisted the help of five others: J. F. Horrabin, an artist; the extraordinary classical scholar, Gilbert Murray; the director of the Museum of Natural History, Sir E. Ray Lankester; the explorer and cultural anthropologist, Sir Henry H. Johnston; and the political scientist and historian, Ernest Barker. These principals as well as a cast of others read and commented on drafts of the Outline through its first publication. Ultimately, though Wells incorporated much of the commentary and criticism he received from others, the book remained and remains the work of an amateur historian, viz., a non-professional historian. Outline of History though made H. G. Wells a wealthy man. He did not have to worry about income the rest of his life as a result of its publication and was free to (and did) write whatever he wanted to

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write without financial consideration. The serialized edition and first two volume editions alone sold over half a million copies, and would come to be translated into many languages. He was even later asked to do two more outlines: one on biology, and another one on sociology, economics, and education.28 He also negotiated for some time with Hollywood to produce a film version of Outline. The plan was scrapped though when Wells refused to add to the Outline screenplay a “continuing love interest; a pair of lovers [that] must be miraculously reincarnated in each age and renew their romance.”29 In Wells and his Outline of History, we find a high profile effort to confront and heal the despair and abandon of a world torn apart by war through the production of a textbook: a textbook aimed at saving the world. According to Wells, “the war was an educational breakdown … and in education lay whatever hope there was for mankind.”30 “He had tried politics; he had tried to reach men’s minds through the metaphors of fiction; he had sought to sway public opinion by journalism,” write Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, co-authors of a biography of Wells.31 “The last hope lay in what had been the first of his occupations,” they continue.32 “He must again become a teacher, but a teacher-at-large to the human race, driven by the immensity and urgency of his new task.”33 In spite of the historical quality and other infelicities of the Outline, there is something very noble about this project. Wells clearly did not write this textbook for the money (even though it did make him rich). He also did not write it as an act of despair (his real despair about the world would only come years later, particularly in his last work, Mind at the End of its Tether [1945]) or as a mere report to the academy on a world gone wrong (even though he believed the world as a whole was heading in the wrong direction, the book was written for a popular audience). He wrote Outline of History because he seemed to truly believe in the power of education, and specifically textbooks, to change the attitudes and beliefs of people, if not also change the world. Indeed, as we shall see later, he believed that life after the Great War had become a race between education and catastrophe. Writing this textbook was one of the ways he hoped to sway the outcome toward the former rather than the latter.

World Political Animals The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind by H. G. Wells is both a dialogue on history as a whole and a radical manifesto

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on the role of education in altering the course of history. While the former is the more traditional topic of interest regarding Outline, the latter is our topic. Few thinkers in the twentieth century were more outspoken and public advocates for education than H. G. Wells. Sadly, however, nearly a century after its original composition, many of the problems that prompted Wells to become a public advocate for education remain—and perhaps seem even more intractable. Our interest is both to review his thoughts on education as espoused most energetically and enthusiastically in Outline, and to ask what if any purchase they have today. Most specifically, is education, as Wells proposed, our only recourse from catastrophe? Or are we too late? Has the possibility of education as an antidote to catastrophe passed us by? Though originally written with the advice and editorial help of Ernest Barker, Sir H. H. Johnson, Sir E. Ray Lankester, and Gilbert Murray, and noting this fact on its title page in part to give it intellectual weight for the common reader and in part to discourage its immediate dismissal by the academy, the original text of Outline remarkably included both the dissent of his advisors and his replies to them. To be sure, this is something you would never see in a world history textbook today. In short, in conception and original publication, the Outline was a truly dialogical work. Michael Draper accurately describes it as both a work “designed to be open to criticism” and “a provisional patterning of events intended to challenge dangerous nationalist or class ideologies.”34 In fact, Draper says that “Wells assumes that the work of professional historians will sooner or later refine our understanding sufficiently to render his own statement of man’s history obsolete.”35 “Its more scholarly successors,” continues Draper, “have striven for greater objectivity, but since there is no really objective way of selecting and organizing material for such a colossal enterprise the only sensible option is the one Wells took, to create an inspirational story—in the positive sense, a myth—recounting where we have come from and suggesting where we ought to be headed.”36 Wells believes that we ought to be heading toward a “world state” as well as increasing levels of education for the masses. The audience for his 1000 plus page “myth” of history is not the scholar or the academic, but rather everyone who does not fit under one or both of these terms. “It has been written primarily to show that history as one whole is amenable to a more broad and comprehensive handling than is the history of special nations and periods,” writes Wells in the introduction, “a broader

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handling that will bring it within the normal limitations of time and energy set to the reading and education of an ordinary citizen.”37 So, in part, Outline was written as an alternative to historical writing that is limited to nations and periods—works that Wells does not think serve the educational interests of the “ordinary citizen” because they fail to provide them with the big picture of history, that is, world history. In addition, Outline is arguably the first work that takes on “history as a whole” and the one that launched numerous other twentieth century works on “world history.” Moreover, while the book is long, it is not overly long, especially considering its topic. This was by design: Wells wanted it to be read by the “ordinary citizen.” It was not to be (though for many it became) an object that was merely acquired and displayed in ones home to give the appearance of “education.” “The need for a common knowledge of the general facts of human history throughout the world has become very evident during the tragic happenings of the last few years,” wrote Wells.38 There can be no peace now, we realize, but a common peace in all the world; no prosperity but a general prosperity. But there can be no common peace and prosperity without common historical ideas. Without such ideas to hold them together in harmonious co-operation, with nothing but narrow, selfish, and conflicting nationalist traditions, races and peoples are bound to drift towards conflict and destruction. This truth, which was apparent to the great philosopher Kant a century or more ago—it is the gist of his tract upon universal peace—is not plain to the man in the street.39

Outline is indeed interdisciplinary in its research, global in its focus, and future-oriented in its aim. Harold Laski called it “the greatest public service the universities have been rendered in a generation.”40 To be sure, there is no doubt it was a pioneering work. But there is also no doubt that it has long been taken for granted and that its aim has been forgotten by most over the course of the ensuing century since its publication.41 Aldous Huxley though long ago speculated as to why the latter might be the case: if Wells had aimed it toward an academic or scholarly audience, the work’s influence might have been sustained. Rather because it reached the wrong people, Huxley thought that it was doomed to not be influential to our thinking over the long-run.42 Though Huxley has a point here, he may be wrong. It is not just that the Outline was influential with the wrong people; it may also be that

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the political message of Outline just did not resonate with enough of those people. W. Warren Wagar, a distinguished Wells scholar and historian, said the “central conviction” of H. G. Wells was that “civilization would collapse unless the right sort of people got hold of it and replaced the system of sovereign nation-states with a secular and socialist world polity.”43 He argues, “the principle flaw in Well’s prophetic vision was his philosophy of education.”44 “He stressed education not only because he wanted to encourage freedom of thought and inquiry but because he was certain of the power of a proper ‘scientific’ education to transform all men and women everywhere into servants of the emerging racial [or collective] mind.”45 “Wellsian education,” concludes Wagar, “led to a kind of enlightened despotism, analogous to the Western Republic of Comte (ruled by sociology) and the technological utopia of Edward Bellamy.”46 Though Wells was not a classical liberal, says Wagar, he was also not a Fascist or a Stalinist (though he met Stalin in 1934). Education for Wells, comments Wagar, “meant the diffusion of the scientific method, leading to the emergence of a collective [or racial] mind that would abolish politics, sweep away the greater part of human diversity, and create a unitary world civilization.”47 And he continues: In this higher sense, education was not only something of immense power: it took the place of class struggle and revolution, it took the place of government, it took the place of religion, and it became the chief of Homo sapiens. But because in any educational system some people know more than others, and knowledge in Wells’s system was power, his philosophy of education entrained, in future reality if not in future theory, a technocratic model for the management of human affairs.48

Oddly enough, if Wagar is right, and Wells’s ultimate vision of education involves “a technocratic model for the management of human affairs,” then the neoliberal education world of the twenty-first century might be considered a partial fulfillment of his vision. To be sure, Wells’s politics of education is far from uncontroversial even though its aim of world peace is not a controversial one. However, his general commitment to bring about a more politically engaged and critically aware world population must be lauded. It is a commitment that is built upon a critique of the way in which “ordinary human beings” approach politics, particularly in the wake of the Great War. It begins with his disagreement with Aristotle over the political nature of man:

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Aristotle said that man is a political animal, but in our modern sense of the word politics, which now covers world-politics, he is nothing of the sort. He has still the instincts of the family tribe, and beyond that he has a disposition to attach himself and his family to something larger, to a tribe, a city, a nation, or a state. But that disposition, left to itself, is a vague and very uncritical position. If anything, he is inclined to fear and dislike criticism of this something larger that encloses his life and to which he has given himself, and to avoid such criticism. Perhaps he has a subconscious fear of the isolation that may ensue if the system is broken or discredited. He takes the milieu in which he finds himself for granted; he accepts his city or his government, just as he accepts the nose or the digestion which fortune has bestowed upon him. But men’s loyalties, the sides they take in political things, are not innate, they are educational results. For most men their education in these matters is the silent, continuous education of things about them. Men find themselves a part of Merry England or Holy Russia; they grow up into these devotions; they accept them as part of their nature.49

According to Wells, humans are not by nature world-political animals. Rather, they need to learn to overcome their instinctual interest in their tribe, city, nation, and state through education. For Wells, education is the only way to produce the modern political animal, which is now for him a world-political animal. Wellsian world-political animals are human beings who do not simply acquiesce to institutions or governments, but rather think critically about them, particularly in the wake of catastrophe. Wells believes that humans only reluctantly think about politics, and that fewer still think critically about politics. This is why he believes it is so important that through education world-political animals are produced: It is only slowly that the world is beginning to realize how profoundly the tacit education of circumstances can be supplemented, modified, or corrected by positive teaching, by literature, discussion, and properly criticized experience. The real life of the ordinary man is his everyday life, his little circle of affections, fears, hungers, lusts, and imaginative impulses. It is only when his attention is directed to political affairs as something vitally affecting his personal circle that he brings his reluctant mind to bear upon them. It is scarcely too much to say that the ordinary man thinks as little about political matters as he can, and stops thinking about them as soon as possible. It is still only very curious and exceptional minds, or minds that have by example or good education acquired the scientific habit of wanting to know why, or minds shocked and distressed by some

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public catastrophe and roused to wide apprehensions of danger, that will not accept governments and institutions, however preposterous, that do not directly annoy them, as satisfactory. The ordinary human being, until he is so aroused, will acquiesce in any collective activities that are going on in this world in which he finds himself, and any phrasing of symbolization that meets his vague need for something greater to which his personal affairs, his individual circle, can be anchored.50

For Wells, trite as it may sound, good education is the key to making good political decisions regarding governments and institutions. Without this education, political critique wanes and people tend to rely on “affections, fears, hungers, lusts, and imaginative impulses,” that is to say, on instinctual inclinations, when it comes to considering political matters. These instinctual inclinations are limitations, says Wells, which will most likely lead them to take the wrong side when it comes to world political matters. To be sure, Wells has a low opinion of the ability of “ordinary” minds (or human beings) to see beyond their own self-interest, which is not the case though for “very curious and exceptional minds.”51 For a time though, according to Wells’s history of the world, religion provided the necessary and requisite education to bring humans to an understanding and appreciation of things beyond their tribe, city, nation, and state. However, for Wells, this ceased to be the case at dawn of the age of doubt, disbelief, and the nation-state. If we keep these manifest limitations of our nature in mind, it no longer becomes a mystery how, as the idea of Christianity as a world brotherhood of men sank into discredit because of its fatal entanglement with priestcraft and the Papacy on the one hand and with the authority of princes on the other, and the age of faith passed into our present age of doubt and disbelief, men shifted the reference of their lives from the kingdom of God and the brotherhood of mankind to these apparently more living realities, France and England, Holy Russia, Spain, Prussia, which were at least embodied in active courts, which maintained laws, exerted power through armies and navies, waved flags with compelling solemnity, and were selfassertive and insatiably greedy in an entirely human and understandable fashion.52

Throughout both The Outline of History (1919–1920)53 and Experiment in Autobiography (1934), both late career works, Wells is highly critical

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of the Church’s role in and negative influence on our social, political, and intellectual development. In his view, religion must be replaced by education. While criticism of the Church in particular, and religion in general, in these works coupled with Wells’s professed non-belief encouraged the scorn and criticism of many, it did not stop him from proposing on the ashes of the Church that the ideal community is not one of faith and obedience, but rather one of knowledge and will: The Catholic Church provided what the Roman Republic had lacked, a system of popular teaching, a number of universities and methods of intellectual inter-communication. By this achievement it opened the way to the new possibilities of human government that now become apparent in this Outline, possibilities that are still being apprehended and worked out in the world in which we are living. Hitherto the government of states had been either authoritative, under some uncriticized and unchallenged combination of priest and monarch, or it had been a democracy, uneducated and uninformed, degenerating with any considerable increase of size, as Rome and Athens did, into a mere rule by mob and politician. By the thirteenth century the first intimations had already dawned of an ideal government which is still making its way to realization, the modern ideal, the ideal of a world-wide educational government, in which the ordinary man is neither the slave of an absolute monarch nor of a demagogue-ruled state, but an informed, inspired, and consulted part of his community. It is upon the word educational that stress must be laid, and upon the idea that information must precede consultation. It is in the practical realization of this idea that education is a collective function and not a private affair that one essential distinction of the “modern state” from any of its precursors lies. The modern citizen, men are coming to realize, must be informed first then consulted. Before he can vote he must hear the evidence; before he can decide he must know. It is not by setting up polling booths, but by setting up schools and making literature and knowledge and news universally accessible that the way is opened from servitude and confusion to that willingly co-operative state which is the modern ideal. Votes in themselves are worthless things. Men had votes in Italy in the time of the Gracchi. Their votes did not help. Until a man has education, a vote is a useless and dangerous thing for him to possess. The ideal community towards which we move is not a community of will simply; it is a community of knowledge and will, replacing a community of faith and obedience. Education is the adapter which will make the nomadic spirit of freedom and

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self-reliance compatible with the co-operations and wealth and security of civilization.54

Quoting these words one-hundred years later, during the US presidency of Donald J. Trump, reveals the prescience of Wells. For how many of critical mind today would not agree with Wells “Until a man has education, a vote is a useless and dangerous thing for him to possess”? Though as citizens now of a “demagogue-ruled state” in the United States, we may be far from his ideal of a worldwide “educational government,” the hope for an electorate that is “informed, inspired, and consulted” is not far from the political concerns of our day. Even one-hundred years ago, the reputation of the United States was that of a country with a high level of common education—a reputation of which Wells was well aware. But as if staring at us straight in the eye today from beyond the grave, Wells gives the United States and its education system the gut punch it still needs today: Since the American constitution was planned, our conception of history and our knowledge of collective psychology has undergone very considerable development. We are beginning to see many things in the problem of government to which the men of the eighteenth century were blind; and, courageous as their constructive disposition was in relation to whatever political creation had gone before, it fell far short of the boldness which we in these days realize to be needful if this great human problem of establishing a civilized community of will in the earth is to be solved. They took many things for granted that now we know need to be made the subject of the most exacting scientific study and the most careful adjustment. They thought it was only necessary to set up schools and colleges, with a grant of land for maintenance, and that they might then be left to themselves. But education is not a weed that will grow lustily in any soil, it is a necessary and delicate crop that may easily wilt and degenerate. We learn nowadays that the under-development of universities and educational machinery is like some under-development of the brain and nerves, which hampers the whole growth of the social body. By European standards, by the standard of any state that has existed hitherto, the level of the common education of America is high; but by the standard of what it might be, America is an uneducated country.55

This passage coupled with the previous one perfectly situates our own predicament today in the United States regarding education and democracy. Namely, because we have allowed our “educational machinery” to

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deteriorate, the social body as whole has become hampered. One-hundred years later, America is still an uneducated country—and the cost for our educational degeneration is a demagogue-ruled state.

Education and World Peace Sparing many historical details and side-roads, one can get a strong sense from the foregoing as to the tone and direction of Wells’ Outline regarding the role of education in politics: on the one side, good education yields good politics; on the other side, bad education produces bad politics.56 Humans are not by nature world political animals, thus education is necessary for them to critically and intelligently take part in global politics. Catastrophe, as we shall see below, is for Wells the consequence of both a lack of education and a lack of political engagement among the ordinary citizenry. The penultimate chapter of Outline, Chapter 39, entitled “The Catastrophe of 1914,” is entirely devoted to the Great War. From the title of and discussion in the chapter, there should be no mystery as to Wells’s conception of catastrophe: world war. For him, The terrible experiences of the Great War have made very many men who once took political things lightly take them now very gravely. To a certain small number of men and women the attainment of a world peace has become the supreme work in life, has become a religious self-devotion.57

For Wells, the Great War was a call to political action on behalf of world peace. It was a “catastrophe” in the third sense of the OED definition, that is, “An event producing a subversion of the order or system of things.” It is this subversion of the order of things, or more particularly, subversion of “human progress” toward world peace, that Wells seeks to remedy in the final chapter. In Chapter 40, entitled “The Next Stage of History,” Wells looks into the future as he did in the many works of fiction that preceded Outline. It is a chapter full of hope and firmly against fear mongering: The world-wide outbreak of faith and hope in President Wilson, before he began to wilt and fail us, was a very significant thing indeed for the future of mankind. Set against these motives of unity are other motives entirely antagonistic, the fear and hatred of strange things and peoples,

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love of and trust in the old traditional thing, patriotisms, race prejudices, suspicions, distrusts—and the elements of spite, scoundrelism, and utter selfishness that are so strong still in every human soul.58

Might not the same be said of our own day? Replace President Wilson with President Obama and you will catch a glimpse of history repeating itself. President Obama’s “hope” had been replaced by President Trump’s “fear,” that is, in the words of Wells, “the fear and hatred of strange things and peoples, love of and trust in the old traditional thing, patriotisms, race prejudices, suspicions, distrusts.” Wells believed that catastrophe could be avoided in as little as a generation if people were open to institutional reform and exercised their powers of reason and goodwill. How far will modern men lay hold upon and identify themselves with this necessity and set themselves to revise their ideas, remake their institutions, and educate the coming generations to this final extension of citizenship? How far will they remain dark, obdurate, habitual, and traditional, resisting the convergent forces that offer them either unity or misery? Sooner or later that unity must come or else plainly men must perish by their own inventions. We, because we believe in the power of reason and the increasing good will in men, find ourselves compelled to reject the latter possibility. But the way to the former may be very long and tedious, very tragic and wearisome, a martyrdom of many generations, or it may be traveled over almost swiftly in the course of a generation or so. That depends upon forces whose nature we understand to some extent now, but not their power. There has to be a great process of education, by precept and by information and by experience, but there are as yet no quantitative measures of education to tell us how much has to be learnt or how soon that learning can be done.59

The last sentence here though will give us pause as we have seen today the destruction that can be wrought by the instrumentalization of education. In many ways, neoliberal education with its emphasis on educational measurement is the realization of a key part of Wells’s “great process of education.” Difference being, however, Wells dreamt of education as a way to prevent war; whereas contemporary neoliberal education dreams merely of ways to make education more efficient in the service of the market. Or, in short, if the Wellsian educational ideal was “peace,” then the contemporary neoliberal ideal is “profit.”

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It should be noted that while the 1920/1921 edition included four sections in the final chapter, the revised edition of 1949 that is “Brought up to the End of the Second World War by Raymond Postgate,” eliminated the first three sections of this chapter and only includes a revised version of the final section of the original chapter. This is important to note because it is in this final section of the last chapter of Outline that Wells makes his famous comment, noted in our epigraph, about the relationship of education to catastrophe. In place of the first three sections, Postgate provides in the revised edition of 1949 a pedestrian one-section summary of the Second World War, viz., of another catastrophe—a catastrophe the likes of which Outline was written to avoid in the first place. We know that well before the Second World War, Wells was already losing some of his optimism about the power of education to overcome catastrophe. In his book World Brain from 1938 he wrote “in the race between education and catastrophe, catastrophe is winning.”60 Twenty years of history had passed since the writing of Outline and Wells thoughts about our future were growing dark. However, the darkest hour came in his final book, Mind at the End of Its Tether from 1945, which has been described as “the most pessimistic single utterance in modern literature.”61 In this final work, Wells writes, “Our universe is not merely bankrupt; there remains no dividend at all; it has not simply liquidated; it is going clean out of existence, leaving not a wrack behind.”62 And he continues: The writer sees the world as a jaded world devoid of recuperative power. In the past he has liked to think that man could pull out of his entanglements and start a creative phase of human living. In the face of our universal inadequacy, that optimism has given place to a stoical cynicism …. Ordinary man is at the end of his tether. Only a small, highly adaptable minority of the species can possibly survive ….63

Twenty-five years earlier though Wells’s optimism about the promise of education was overflowing, particularly in the omitted sections of Outline, which are among the most interesting in the book. In these sections, Wells maps out in turn the following: “The Possible Unification of Men’s Wills in Political Matters” (Section 1),64 “How a Federal World Government may Come About” (Section 2),65 and “Some Fundamental Characteristics of a Modern World State” (Section 3).66 Given their positive take on

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the power of education to heal the world, it is worth taking a look at each of these sections. He begins the final chapter of Outline by noting that the Treaty of Versailles after the Great War merely marked “the end of the war and not the establishment of a new order in the world.”67 His “brief conclusion”68 in this chapter is aimed at establishing the outlines of the state that he believes must emerge out of the ashes of the Great War in order for the world to be saved from destruction. Our true State, this state that is already beginning, this state to which every man owes his utmost political effort, must be now this nascent Federal World State to which human necessities point.69

And though critical of the Church and organized religion throughout his Outline, Wells puts God and religion at the center of this nascent World State: Our true God now is the God of all men. Nationalism as a God must follow the tribal gods to limbo. Our true nationality is mankind.70

He also puts the religious “intention and spirit” at the center of education: education must become again in intention and spirit religious, and that the impulse to devotion, to universal service and to a complete escape from self, which has been the common underlying force in all the great religions of the last five and twenty centuries, an impulse which ebbed so perceptibly during the prosperity, laxity, disillusionment, and skepticism of the past seventy or eighty years, will reappear again, stripped and plain, as the recognized fundamental structural impulse in human society.71

And further: Education is the preparation of the individual for the community, and his religious training is the core of that preparation. With the great intellectual restatements and expansions of the nineteenth century, an educational break-up, a confusion and loss of aim in education, was inevitable. We can no longer prepare the individual for a community when our ideas of a community are shattered and undergoing reconstruction. The old loyalties, the old too limited and narrow political and social assumptions, the old too elaborate religious formulae, have lost their power of conviction,

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and the greater ideas of a world state and of an economic commonweal have been winning their way only very slowly to recognition.72

The penultimate section of the Outline is beyond any doubt one of the most optimistic and utopian agendas for a new state aimed at universal peace ever formulated. The eight fundamentals of it are outlined by Wells in this section. Each fundamental is clear and leaves no doubt as to the character of the world state to come. They are as follows: i. It will be based on a common world religion, very much simplified and universalized and better understood. This will not be Christianity nor Islam nor Buddhism nor any such specialized form of religion, but religion pure and undefiled; the Eightfold Way, the Kingdom of Heaven, brotherhood, creative service, and selfforgetfulness. Throughout the world men’s thoughts and motives will be turned by education, example, and the circle of ideas about them, from the obsession of self to the cheerful service of human knowledge, human power, and human unity. ii. And this world state will be sustained by a universal education, organized on a scale and of a penetration and quality beyond all present experience. The whole race, and not simply classes and peoples, will be educated. Most parents will have a technical knowledge of teaching. Quite apart from the duties of parentage, perhaps ten percent or more of the adult population will, at some time or other in their lives, be workers in the world’s educational organization. And education, as the new age will conceive it, will go on throughout life; it will not cease at any particular age. Men and women will simply become self-educators and individual students and student teachers as they grow older. iii. There will be no armies, no navies, and classes of unemployed people either wealthy or poor. iv. The world state’s organization of scientific research and record compared with that of to-day will be like an ocean liner beside the dug-out canoe of some early heliolithic wanderer. v. There will be a vast free literature of criticism and discussion. vi. The world’s political organization will be democratic, that is to say, the government and direction of affairs will be in immediate touch

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with and responsive to the general thought of the educated whole population. vii. Its economic organization will be an exploitation of all natural wealth and every fresh possibility science reveals, by the agents and servants of the common government for the common good. Private enterprise will be the servant—a useful, valued, and well-regarded servant—and no longer the robber master of the commonweal. viii. And this implies two achievements that seem very difficult to us to-day. They are matters of mechanism, but they are as essential to the world’s well-being as it is to a soldier’s, no matter how brave he may be, that his machine gun should not jam, and to an aeronaut’s that this steering-gear should not fail him in mid-air. Political well-being demands that electoral methods shall be used, safeguarded or proof against the contrivances and manipulations of clever, dishonest men.73 What is missing from the account of the Wellsian world-state is not a lack of idealism. It overflows with idealism. What is missing is how one gets from the nation state and its war machines to a world without governments, nations, religions, and war. The process to secure international peace and social justice begins with education, and it apparently ends with education. Wells is not calling for an “educational revolution” nor is he suggesting that there be a classstruggle. Nevertheless, the process of change will need some “collective effort”: But one of the hardest, most impossible tasks a writer can set himself, is to picture the life of people better educated, happier in their circumstances, more free and more healthy than he is himself. We know enough to-day to know that there is infinite room for betterment in every human concern. Nothing is needed but collective effort.74

The final sections of Outline appear to be written so that one will after reading them close the book, reject God and country—and then through collective efforts overthrow the world order and in its place establish a world educational government. Again, education for Wells held immense power. As noted earlier, it took the place of class struggle, revolution,

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government, and religion. But as the chief of Homo sapiens, how education is to lead us into the new World State is ultimately unclear. Especially since it seems like the military and capitalist interests will not just roll over and welcome their downfall: We want to get rid of the militarist not simply because he hurts and kills, but because he is an intolerable thick-voiced blockhead who stands hectoring and blustering in our way to achievement. We want to abolish many extravagances of private ownership just as we should want to abolish some idiot guardian who refused us admission to a studio in which there were fine things to do.75

It is at this point, after laying out the progressive possibilities of the future in the coming world state, that he makes his famous pronouncement about catastrophe and education: One cannot foretell the surprises or disappointments the future has in store. Before this chapter of the World State can begin fairly in our histories, other chapters as yet unsuspected may still need to be written, as long and as full of conflict as our account of the growth and rivalries of the Great Powers.76 There may be tragic economic struggles, grim grappling’s of race with race and class with class. It may be that ‘private enterprise’ will refuse to learn the lesson of service without some quite catastrophic revolution, and that a phase of confiscation and amateurish socialistic government lies before us. We do not know; we cannot tell. There are unnecessary disasters, but they may be unavoidable disasters. Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. Against the unifying effort of Christendom and against the unifying influence of the mechanical revolution, catastrophe won—at least to the extent of achieving the Great War. We cannot tell yet how much of the winnings of catastrophe still remain to be gathered in. New falsities may arise and hold men in some unrighteous and fated scheme of order for a time, before they collapse amidst the misery and slaughter of generations.77

For Wells, world progress entails the eventual establishment of world peace and the world state. In the second decade of the twentieth century, he is confident that it is only a matter of time before it comes about. He was only too eager to remind the world that rationality, goodwill, and education could steer us away from catastrophe to a new world order. “Yet, clumsily or smoothly, the world, it seems, progresses and will progress,” wrote Wells at close of Outline.78

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Today, however, “progress” feels more like a nineteenth-century concept than a twenty-first century one. But if in the twenty-first century the world is still “progressing,” it is definitely not in the direction of world peace or a world state—but rather in the direction of a stronger free market. And herein lies the ultimate fate of Well’s so-called progressivism: it has been transferred in the twenty-first century to economics from its nineteenth-century roots in biology. Today, we have economic Darwinism, or more fashionably, neoliberalism, whereas with Wells, we had historical Darwinism, or the notion that historical progress stems from biological evolution. If Well’s progressivism led him to believe that social organizations become more efficient and complex over time, then neoliberal progressivism believes in the ascent of the market as the regulator of public value, social justice—and the world. Arguably then, we still have Darwinian progressivism albeit with a neoliberal face—and little hope for social justice and world peace.

Conclusion The speculative nature of these three sections and the fact that thirty years after his completion of Outline the future state projected by him did not come to fruition were legitimate reasons to omit them from the 1948 edition of the book, especially if one wants to market Outline as merely a book on world history—and not a textbook aimed at saving the world. However, the failure of a world state to materialize is not a reason to not consider Outline as a philosophical treatise on the future of the state and education in the wake of catastrophe. In 1919, Wells was optimistic about the righteousness and intelligence of people to avoid future catastrophe by simply heeding the lessons of history and moving toward a world state. “If we suppose a sufficient righteousness and intelligence in men to produce presently, from the tremendous lessons of history, an effective will for world peace—that is to say, an effective will for a world law under a world government —for in no other fashion is a secure world peace conceivable—in what manner may we expect things to move towards this end?”79 Wells tells us that each country will move differently toward this end with some, like the United States and Switzerland, with little to “impede their coalescence” “with equally civilized considerations,”80 whereas others like the Turkish Empire as it “was before the Great War, seem to require something in

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the nature of a breaking up before they can be adapted to a federal world system.”81 He continues: Any state obsessed by traditions of an aggressive foreign policy will be difficult to assimilate into a world combination. But though here the government may be helpful, and here dark and hostile, the essential task of men of goodwill in all states and countries remains the same, it is an educational task, and its very essence is to bring to the minds of all men everywhere, as a necessary basis for world co-operation, a new telling and interpretation, a common interpretation of history.82

For literature scholars and literary theorists, the notion that stories and hermeneutics will or can save the world and lead to world peace is a captivating one. Knowing the background to Outline and its omitted sections gives one a newfound respect for Wells’ project, particularly at time when the topic of world, worlding, and worldliness are taking on increasing importance in theory across the disciplines.83 This emerging direction in theory is useful in the context of the work of Wells as it assures that our cultural attention be focused on the world and related concepts, rather than gravitating toward the hegemony of the West. Still, Wells’ distrust of institutions and governments, especially the League of Nations which was “created by the covenant of 1919”84 leaves no obvious international locus of organization for his “world government.” He dismisses the League because it is “a mere partial league of governments and states” that “emphasizes nationality” and “defers to sovereignty.”85 “What the world needs is no such league of nations as this nor even a mere league of peoples, but a world league of men,” writes Wells.86 The world perishes unless sovereignty is merged and nationality subordinated. And for that the minds of men must first be prepared by experience and knowledge and thought. The supreme task before men at the present time is political education.87

For Wells, the League of Nations “does not even seem to know how to talk to common men”88 and sees universal education as the only way to world peace. The reasons he thinks we are moving toward a controlling World State are fivefold: (1) the “increasing destructiveness and intolerableness of war”; (2) the need to fuse “the world’s economic affairs into one system”

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with “some common control of currency” and the need for world control of communications and the “free movement of goods and people by sea and land throughout the world”; (3) the need for world health controls because of “the increasing mobility of peoples”; (4) the need for a worldwide “equalization of labour conditions,” and minimum standards of life and education; and (5) the need for “world control of the air-ways.”89 “The necessity and logic of such diverse considerations as these push the mind irresistibly,” concludes Wells, “towards the belief that a conscious struggle to establish or prevent a political world community will be the next stage of human history.”90 Looking back a century after Wells argued for the world state and universal education as a way to avoid catastrophe, we still have many of the same problems in the world, that is, war, poverty, sickness, illiteracy, and labor exploitation—but no clear path to eliminating them universally. And rather than being a solution to global economic problems, the World Bank founded in 1944 brought with it a whole new type of economic problem: neoliberalism. Many of us still believe like Wells that the research and writing we do as literary scholars and critical theorists is helping to make the world a better place for everyone. But if it is, its effects on mitigating the global catastrophes of war, poverty, education, and sickness are difficult to see. This is why we need catastrophe theory today: it gives committed teachers and scholars the hope that the “butterfly effect” of their teaching, scholarship, and activism will bring about an end to war and suffering. Reminding ourselves about the way Wells tried to save the world through a textbook instills in us the hope that one day our own work may achieve what his did not. Acts of education, small and large, are our only hope of staving off catastrophe—or bringing about a new world order. The butterfly effect notion of catastrophe teaches us that the roots of violent changes in the physical order of things are anything but sudden. It also contends “complex systems … always contain catastrophe as a necessary corollary.”91 “The question, then,” asks Rebekah Sheldon, a proponent of this notion of catastrophe, “is not how to live in catastrophe as if it were a landscape awaiting us in the future but how to live with catastrophic causalities without attempting to reseal them behind the containment walls of management systems and predictive models—how to live, in other words, without the demand for safety and the pleading child that is its warrant.”92 But didn’t the Wells of Mind at the End of its Tether already show us how to live without the demand for safety?

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Isn’t pessimism and nihilism our fate in a world where catastrophe is a condition of life? We’ll discuss this question later with respect to education in Chapter 10. For now, I’d like to think that it is still possible for acts of education to fend off catastrophe and bring about something like universal peace. Otherwise, stoical cynicism may be in our biopolitical future too. Catastrophic education is about using our position as teachers and scholars to turn the tables on social, political, economic, and environmental catastrophe. Education still has the potential to save the world. When we stop believing this, we need to stop being educators.

Notes 1. David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999), 3. 2. Ibid., 3. 3. Ibid., 3. 4. Ibid., 4. 5. Ibid., 4. 6. “Catastrophe,” in Oxford English Dictionary: The Compact Edition, 2 volumes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2: 354. 7. Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well (1.ii.57). 8. “Catastrophe,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 2: 354. 9. Ibid., 2: 354. 10. Ibid., 2: 354. 11. J. Hillis Miller, “Who or What Decides, for Derrida: A Catastrophic Theory of Decision,” in ed. J. Hillis Miller, For Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009), 10. 12. David Keys, Catastrophe, 281. 13. Ibid., 281. Original source is John of Ephesus, Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, 9.296. 14. See, principally, Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013) and Higher Education under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct and the Neoliberal Condition (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017). 15. See Rebekah Sheldon, The Child to Come: Life After the Human Catastrophe (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 23–53. 16. Arthur Salter, “Apostle of a World Society,” in H. G. Wells: Interviews and Recollections, ed. J. R. Hammond (Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble Books, 1980), 70.

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17. David C. Smith, H. G. Wells: Desperately Mortal (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), 249. 18. Arthur Salter, “Apostle of a World Society,” 74. 19. Ibid., 74. 20. Norman MacKenzie and Jeanne MacKenzie, H. G. Wells: A Biography (New York: Touchstone, 1973), 469, H. G. Wells, Text Book of Biology, 2 volumes (London: W. B. Clive & Co., 1893), and R. A. Gregory and H. G. Wells, Honours Physiography (London: Hughes, 1893). 21. David C. Smith, H. G. Wells, 245. 22. Ibid., 249. 23. Ibid., 249. 24. West wrote a book about his father. See, Anthony West, H. G. Wells: Aspects of a Life (New York: Random House, 1984). 25. Ibid., 249. 26. Ibid., 251. 27. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind, Revised and Brought up to the End of the Second World War by Raymond Postgate (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc., 1949), 2. 28. David C. Smith, H. G. Wells, 259. They were published respectively as The Science of Life: A Summary of Contemporary Knowledge About Life and Its Possibilities (London: Amalgamated Press, 1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (London: Heinemann, 1932). 29. Arthur Salter, “Apostle of a World Society,” 74. 30. Norman MacKenzie and Jeanne MacKenzie, H. G. Wells, 317. 31. Ibid., 317. 32. Ibid., 317–318. 33. Ibid., 318. 34. Michael Draper, H. G. Wells (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988), 109. 35. Ibid., 109. 36. Ibid., 109–111. 37. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), vi. 38. Ibid., vi. 39. Ibid., vi. 40. Richard Hauer Costa, H. G. Wells, rev. ed. (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985), 119. 41. Michael Draper, H. G. Wells, 111. 42. Richard Hauer Costa, H. G. Wells, 119. 43. W. Warren Wagar, “Science and the World State: Education as Utopia in the Prophetic Vision of H. G. Wells,” in H. G. Wells under Revision, eds. Patrick Parrinder and Christopher Rolfe (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1990), 41. 44. Ibid., 44.

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52. 53.

54. 55. 56.

57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63.

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Ibid., 44. Ibid., 44. Ibid., 49–50. Ibid., 50. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 795. Ibid., 795–796. Lest anyone believe that Wells had an inflated sense of his own mental capabilities, he subtitled his 1934 autobiography, Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 796. Again, the first edition of Outline was first published in a twenty-four part serialized edition with the first signatures appearing in November of 1919. The first edition was reprinted as two volumes in the UK in 1920 and then again in 1921 in the United States. Ibid., 706–707. Ibid., 848. See A. Wolf, Higher Education in Nazi Germany, Or Education for World Conquest (London: Metheun & Co., 1944), for an excellent account “of the way in which the universities and technical schools in Germany have aided and abetted the cultivation of barbarity from 1918 onwards” (v). For Wolf, Nazi education is “the supreme example of the worst kind of education” (102). “At its worst,” argues Wolf, Nazi education “cultivates a contempt for both knowledge and wisdom” and “glorifies deliberate falsehoods and criminal follies” (102). “Mankind,” writes Wolf, “cannot afford the risk of giving Germany, or any other fascist country, another chance to wreck civilization” (103). There are many lessons for our own time regarding the rise of fascism through education in Wolf’s study. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 1088. Ibid., 1088. Ibid., 1087. H. G. Wells, World Brain (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1938), 134. Colin Wilson, The Outsider (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1956), 18. H. G. Wells, Mind at the End of Its Tether (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1945), 17. Ibid., 17. Wells of course was not alone in his fear and despair in 1945. The year he published Mind at the End of its Tether was the same year that the physicists who created the atomic bomb founded the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to promote international cooperation to avoid a nuclear war and to warn people about the dangers of nuclear weapons. In May of 1945, Albert Einstein said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” See Lawrence M. Krauss, “Deafness at

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64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76.

77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83.

84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91. 92.

Doomsday,” The New York Times, January 15, 2013. http://www.nyt imes.com/2013/01/16/opinion/deafness-at-doomsday.html H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 1086–1089. Ibid., 1090–1092. Ibid., 1092–1094. Ibid., 1086. Ibid., 1087. Ibid., 1087. Ibid., 1087. Ibid., 1089. Ibid., 1089. Ibid., 1093–1094. Ibid., 1099. Ibid., 1096. “And the insurrection of gangster totalitarianism” was added to the 1949 edition at the end of this sentence to account for the Second World War. See H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1949), 1198. H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 1100. Ibid., 1100. Ibid., 1090. Ibid., 1090. Ibid., 1090. Ibid., 1090. For a survey of the impact of world, worlding, and worldliness across a wide range of disciplines, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Christian Moraru, eds., The Bloomsbury Handbook of World Theory (New York and London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming). H. G. Wells, The Outline of History (1921), 1090. Ibid., 1091. Ibid., 1091. Ibid., 1091. Ibid., 1090. Ibid., 1092. Ibid., 1092. Rebekah Sheldon, The Child to Come, 52; my emphasis. Ibid., 53.

CHAPTER 3

Little Blue Books

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. —George Santayana

In the aftermath of the First World War of 1914–1918, there was a concerted effort for education to win its race with catastrophe. The fear that humankind would destroy itself if there were to be another great war motivated a number of writers and publishers to contribute to what came to be regarded as the “humanization” of knowledge. This meant that it was not enough to just write about say history, philosophy, and science, but to do so in a way that had the potential to reach an audience much greater than just a coterie of scholars in the field. Mass education of this kind aimed to arm humankind against the prospect of further catastrophe, and it required both a capacity for mass publishing and experts willing to write in a style that would appeal to a general audience. This chapter concerns a leading effort in this regard: the ubiquitous publication, dissemination, and legacy of what are known as the “Little Blue Books.” It is about their publisher, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, and one of their major authors, the philosopher and historian, William James Durant. Along with Wells, both should be regarded as leading figures in the race between education and catastrophe in the wake of “the war to end all wars.” However, given that their major contributions to catastrophic education occurred nearly a century ago, they may not be as © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_3

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familiar to most as they should be. Given that the new millennium deals with its own versions of catastrophe and inhumanity, I offer that we might look to work done by Haldeman-Julius and Durant almost a century ago for guidance and insight.

Books for Everyone In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the international center of the literary and publishing world was surprisingly not located in New York City or even Chicago. Rather, this publishing Mecca was in the small town of Girard located in the tri-state region of southeastern Kansas. For it was at this unlikely location that the remarkable publisher, Emanuel HaldemanJulius, built a publishing empire that produced the “Little Blue Books” that came to be distributed and read all over the world.1 Haldeman-Julius’s parents, David Zolajefski and Elizabeth Zamustin were “poor Russian immigrants who were part of the great Jewish migration to the land of opportunity in the late nineteenth century.”2 David, his father, was a bookbinder by trade, and when he arrived in the states from Russia, found a job in Baltimore but soon thereafter relocated to Philadelphia where “bookbinders were more respected.”3 When Emanuel was born in 1889, he was given the “American name” “Julius” rather than the hard to pronounce name “Zolajefski.”4 He grew up very poor and though a precocious boy, dropped out of school after the seventh grade to take a job in a toy factory to help support his family. An early recollection about his impoverished childhood was “seeing a book I could not afford to buy was worse than being hungry and looking at a bun in the bakery window.”5 In his early years, while working a series of odd jobs, he read voraciously and began writing his own short essays for publications like the New York Call , a socialist daily, and the International Socialist Review. Writers for the Call included the “leading figures in the eastern wing of the Socialist Party” such as George R. Kirkpatrick, John Spargo, Charles Edward Russell, Morris Hillquit, and John Wanhope.6 His first story for the Call appeared in June of 1911. It was on the “infamous” Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. Later he wrote Sunday features on art and sketches of everyday people for the Call.7 Given the fierce competition among the established writers at this socialist daily, Emanuel left his New York job at the Call for a position at a new newspaper, the Milwaukee Leader.8 It was started by Victor L.

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Berger, the first socialist elected to the US House of Representatives. At the Milwaukee Leader, Emanuel wrote “five to seven columns daily” for $18 a week.9 The poet Carl Sandburg, still unknown and in his thirties, worked at the desk next to Emanuel. From there, Emanuel moved on to work in turn for the socialist newspapers, the Chicago World and the Los Angeles Citizen. Then, he became editor of the Social Democrat and the Western Democrat , but soon left both to return in early August 1914 to New York to work again for the Call. His journalistic odyssey around the country would end when Louis Kopelin, the editor who first hired him to work for the Call, who was now in Washington, D.C. as national correspondent for the National Socialist Press, invited him in October of 1915 to become assistant editor for the Appeal to Reason, the world’s largest socialist newspaper with a circulation of over 750,000, which was located in Girard, Kansas. In Girard, he met Marcet Haldeman, the daughter of a prominent local banker. Marcet, who was very independent and progressive, and regarded Jane Addams as her “aunt,” got on well with Emanuel, and they married in July of 1916. Marcet had left Girard, but returned about the same time that Emanuel had arrived because her parent’s will stipulated that upon their death, she was required to move back to Girard and live there for one year if she wished to receive her inheritance. At the end of the First World War, subscriptions to the New Appeal started to go down. So, as a measure to increase publishing revenue, Emanuel published the first two numbers of the New Appeal ’s “Pocket Series” in February of 1919. By some accounts, the 1920s would be first time in US history where nearly the entire population could read and write, so the New Appeal ’s series took off in part because of both a greatly expanding readership base and its relatively low price. “I thought it might be possible to put books in the reach of everyone rich or poor, though mostly poor—books that they would want, and which they could choose for the sake of the books alone,” said Emanuel. “By that I mean that I dreamed of publishing in such quantities that I could sell them at a price which would put all books at the same cost level.”10 He regarded his mission in life now to be educating the masses through cheap classics. After he had published over two hundred titles, he changed the name from the “Appeal Pocket Series” to “Little Blue Books.” Sixtyfour pages or so in length with a trim size of 3 ½ inches by 5 inches, they were printed on poor quality, thin wove paper, which was stapled twice in the center to a soft blue paper cover with black print.

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According to R. Alton Lee, these Little Blue Books would come to “revolutionize the book-publishing industry.”11 Moreover, Lee contends that Haldeman-Julius “became the greatest publisher in world history” because he sold 500 million copies of the 2580 titles that his press published.12 According to Lee, this “was second only to the U.S. Government Printing Office” in terms of quantity of publications.13 In addition to the Little Blue Books, Emanuel also published at different points in his publishing career in Girard a weekly, a quarterly, and a monthly, and often used them to raise funds for his little books. In 1923, he was already looking to print 80,000 books per day in his southeastern Kansas facilities, and relished being called “The Henry Ford of Literature.”14 The books, which sold for as little as a nickel, were aimed at “Mr. Average Man.” While some were simply reprints of the shorter classics of world literature including the plays of Shakespeare, many others, as was said of one of Emanuel’s most famous authors, Bertrand Russell, were considered by some to be a “violation of the public health, safety, and the morals of the people.”15 By 1929, the following titles were already in print and had sold very well: Women’s Sexual Life (97,000 copies sold), Homosexual Life (54,500), Modern Aspects of Birth Control (73,000 copies sold in spite of the fact that it was illegal to publish or distribute contraceptive material), Catholicism and Sex (65,000), Prostitution in the Modern World (129,500), Why I Believe in Companionate Marriage (64,000 copies and written by Emanuel’s wife, Marcet Haldeman-Julius), Facts about Venereal Disease (41,500), Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (46,000), and Sex Obsessions of Saints and Mystics (35,000).16 But in addition to the sex, religion, marriage, and love books, there were also “How to” Little Blue Books on just about anything one could imagine, e.g., How to Play Golf (17,000), How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself (43,000), and How to Write Book Reviews (8000), as well as titles on many areas of common knowledge, e.g., Facts about Music (37,000), Latin Self -Taught (10,500), and Facts about Cancer (15,000). And many of these sold well too. But as the titles of some of these books indicate, there is another way too to measure the impact of these Little Blue Books aside from sales figures. Namely, the commitment of Haldeman-Julius’s publishing company to the publication of progressive, provocative, and controversial writing. One good example of this is his commitment to the publication of the writings of Bertrand Russell, particularly his more socially and politically controversial work such as What Can a Free Man Worship?

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(Little Blue Book, No. 677, 1925) and Why I Am Not a Christian (Little Blue Book, No. 1372, 1929).17 Of the former title, a decade after its publication in his series, Haldeman-Julius said, It’s one of the finest things I’ve ever read. This short masterpiece is an intellectual adventure that every intelligent person should want to experience by reading and studying it. I was so pleased with it when I first came on it some 10 years ago that I decided to give it a place in my library of Little Blue Books, where it has held an honored place ever since. It hasn’t been a very popular number, but that doesn’t hinder me from keeping the essay in print. Such a great, beautiful, profound study should always be available for minds capable of assimilating liberating ideas.18

But, in spite of his admiration for his writing style, it was not Russell, one of the most progressive and well-known philosophers in the world that Haldeman-Julius asked to pen a series of introductions to the some of the classic philosophers in the Western tradition.19 Rather, it was a relatively unknown young philosopher just a few years out of graduate school: William James Durant.20

Little Blue Philosophy Before he completed his doctorate in philosophy at Columbia University in 1917 and published it as his first book the same year, Durant attended seminary and taught at the Modern School in New York and lectured at other Modern Schools. After his PhD, he also taught extension courses at Columbia University, and became Director of the Labor Temple School in New York City. In his doctoral dissertation, entitled Philosophy and the Social Problem, Durant argued that philosophy had not grown because it avoided the actual problems of society. Durant describes its thesis as double-edged: (1) “Philosophy was ailing, and had forfeited public influence, because it had lost itself in the esoteric abstractions of logic and epistemology, and had turned, fainthearted, away from those problems of origin and destiny, nature and civilization, morality and government, religion and death” that had occupied philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche; (2) “the social problem—of narrowing the gap between our moral ideals of humanity and justice and the biological realities of human nature, economic greed, political corruption, and aggressive war—had elicited only superficial or

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impracticable proposals because it had been approached without a scientific study of needs and means, and without a philosophical grasp and reconciliation of desires and ends.”21 Comments on the book were described by Durant as generally “merciful,” but there were also those like M. C. Otto who described it as a “get-rich-quick-philosophy” and Felix Adler who said of Durant, “This young man thinks he has discovered everything.”22 The book sold only one-hundred copies and the remaining nine-hundred were given back to Durant by the publisher. Needless to say, it was not his first book that caught the attention of Haldeman-Julius, but rather his public lectures in a New York City church. The first time Emanuel Haldeman-Julius heard Will Durant lecture was in 1922. Durant’s wife, Ariel, knew Haldeman-Julius from Greenwich Village, when he was “an impoverished, ambitious, book-loving youth called Emanuel Julius,” and had spoken with him at some point about Durant’s lectures at the Labor Temple.23 The Labor Temple was a Presbyterian church at Fourteenth Street and Second Avenue on the East Side of New York. In 1910, the church lost most of its congregation to immigration, and as a result became a community church “theoretically dedicated to converting the immigrants to Presbyterian Christianity, but actually serving as a social and educational center for the pullulating neighborhood.”24 In the fall of 1913, Durant was asked by Dr. Jonathan C. Day to give his first lecture at the Labor Temple. The topic he chose was the philosophy of Spinoza. His audience consisted of “five hundred new Americans plus a handful of surviving Presbyterian church members.”25 When he finished the lecture, a man in the audience complained to Dr. Day saying, “What do you mean by letting this young radical preach an anti-Christian philosophy in this Christian church?” Dr. Day replied “that as long as he remained in charge of Labor Temple it would be open for the study of any philosophy that did not preach violence against the government of the United States.”26 The following year, Durant gave twelve lectures at Labor Temple from January 3 to March 21, 1914, “on the history of philosophy from Socrates to Bergson.”27 Thus began his lecture career at the Labor Temple, where from the fall of 1914 to February of 1927, Durant gave lectures on thirty or forty Sundays and Wednesdays a season “on almost every major subject: forty lectures on biology, forty on psychology, forty on the history of art, forty on music in the nineteenth century, forty on the history of science, forty on sociology, and probably 160 on political and economic

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history.”28 During the 1917–1918 season, for example, he delivered eighty lectures: forty on “Supermen: An Interpretation of History” and forty on psychology.29 All of these lectures were designed by Durant to be “intelligible” to audiences of four- to seven-hundred people, mostly immigrants, “with little formal education.” 30 Having heard about Durant’s lectures from his old neighborhood friend, Ariel, and seeing a sign for an imminent lecture on Plato at the Labor Temple one Sunday afternoon in 1922, Haldeman-Julius dropped in to listen. He liked what he heard and was impressed by the size and composition of the audience, but had to “hurry away without making himself known.”31 Instead, he wrote Durant a letter offering to publish his lecture on Plato. Durant responded that his schedule was too busy for him to write up the lecture for publication. Haldeman-Julius responded to Durant’s refusal by sending him a check for $150 as prepayment for the lecture, and by the close of 1922 his lecture was published as Little Blue Book No. 159. Then, in May of 1923, Haldeman-Julius heard that Durant would be in Kansas City,32 so decided to drive there from his home in Girard, Kansas to meet up with him. Haldeman-Julius liked Durant’s book on Plato and non-technical approach to philosophy, which he knew as a publisher would appeal to his audience, so traveled to Kansas City intent on signing the philosopher to write for the Haldeman-Julius Weekly. It was a progressive newspaper he had just launched on December 9, 1922 with a blistering attack on the Ku Klux Klan, which he described as “something slimy which had crept out of the gutter. It represents organized hatred, bigotry, maliciousness, jealousy, and cruelty. It is living proof that America is not a civilized country.”33 Haldeman-Julius prevailed, and Durant went on for the next three years to write a series of essays on philosophy for the progressive publisher located in America’s heartland.34 These essays were published by Haldeman-Julius as Little Blue Books. They found in Durant an author that sold surprisingly well: as of 1928, Durant’s Little Blue Book on the philosophy of Henri Bergson had sold 8000 copies; Herbert Spencer, 19,000 copies; Voltaire, 24,000; Immanuel Kant, 24,000; Francis Bacon, 25,500; Arthur Schopenhauer, 26,500; Aristotle, 27,000, and Plato, 39,000. The best-selling one though was his essay on Nietzsche, which as of 1928, had sold 45,000 copies.35 In July of 1925, Haldeman-Julius was in New York City for a vacation with his wife, Marcet. While there he met with M. Lincoln Schuster of

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the publishing house, Simon and Schuster. Like Haldeman-Julius, who became notorious and successful for publishing books on topics such as sex, birth control, prostitution, and freethinking, Schuster too gained notoriety and success in the early 1920s albeit for taking advantage of the country’s cross-word puzzle craze by founding a company in 1924 with Richard Simon to publish them.36 Over lunch, Schuster told Haldeman-Julius that unlike the publisher of the Little Blue Books, he was not interested in the mass production of books. Rather, Schuster just wanted to produce a few quality books and picked Haldeman-Julius’s brain for book ideas. “How about a good, wellwritten history of philosophy,” suggested Haldeman-Julius. “But who would write it?” asked Schuster. “There are not many Will Durant’s,” responded Haldeman-Julius.37 The more he thought about Schuster’s question the more he became convinced that Will Durant should be the author. So he pitched the idea of publishing Durant’s fifteen Little Blue Books on philosophy in one volume. Schuster thought this was a good idea, and a year later, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers (1926) came out. Initially though Durant was hesitant to publish his book with Simon and Schuster. Earlier, just after the publication Durant’s final Little Blue Book on the history of philosophy, Haldeman-Julius told Durant “he intended to buy a large press and a bindery, and to issue clothbound books of which one would be The Story of Philosophy.”38 But Haldeman-Julius abandoned the idea and said that they should both “seek a publisher, and divide the royalty.”39 While Durant was talking with Simon and Schuster, he had worked out a deal to publish the book with The Macmillan Company, who had published his dissertation some years earlier.40 When Haldeman-Julius suggested publishing with Simon and Schuster, Durant balked, saying “who were Simon and Schuster?” Continues Durant, I had heard of them, but only in connection with crossword-puzzle books. Why shouldn’t I enjoy the prestigious imprint of the most highly regarded publishing firm in America, perhaps in the world?41

To that, Haldeman-Julius, sagely countered, but that “was just the rub: it was an old firm, grown cautious and stodgy; our book would be lost in the hundreds or so volumes Macmillan would issue in 1926.”42 Simon

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and Schuster, continued Haldeman-Julius, “constituted a young enterprising duo; [the] volume would be their first serious publication; their own fortune would in some measure be bound up with [yours]; they would push the book with a youthful initiative and energy that could not be expected of an established firm.”43 And he was right. The Story of Philosophy proved to be both a ground-breaking and bestselling book that made Durant financially independent.44 This allowed him to leave teaching and lecturing to focus on writing the eleven-volume work, The Story of Civilization (1935–1975),45 of which the first six volumes would carry only his name, while the final five would carry the name of his wife, Ariel, as co-author. The writing on this multivolume project would go on for the next four decades. The tenth volume, Rousseau and Revolution (1967), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and the Durant’s received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 from US President Gerald Ford for their work on the multivolume series. Durant later expressed his appreciation to both Simon and Schuster (“Happy the day they came into our lives”46 ), and Haldeman-Julius, writing to the latter, “I owe you two great debts: first, you took the initial chance on me and had the unprecedented courage of putting philosophy into a magazine and into your booklets and second that you secured Simon and Schuster as publishers.”47 Moreover, if Haldeman-Julius had not introduced Durant to Schuster, who knows if either of these beloved “stories” would have ever been published: one that helped to popularize philosophy in the United States, and the other that became the most successful historiographical series in history—and put Simon and Schuster on the publishing map.48 In fact, Ariel Durant said “Will had no intention of writing a Story of Philosophy; indeed, such a book would be only another example of what he was to call ‘shredded history,’ treating a single strand of the complex web called civilization.”49 But he did—and it opened the door that allowed him to explore in print the “complex web” of civilization for the next forty years.

The Problem of Humanized Knowledge Unlike Philosophy and the Social Problem, which only sold one-hundred copies and was not well advertised by The Macmillan Company, The Story of Philosophy was an immediate best-seller largely through heavy advertising. Publishing in May of 1926, by November it “was heading

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best-seller lists of non-fiction throughout the country from Boston to Los Angeles.”50 “My book,” says Durant, “became a social necessity; every proper family felt obliged to display it on the table or the shelf.”51 By October of 1927, the New York Times reported that The Story of Philosophy had sold close to 200,000 copies. But it also took a jab at Durant reporting that though Bertrand Russell’s Principia Mathematica had probably sold about one-hundred and twenty copies since its publication in the early 1910s, “Mr. Russell believes in the common people and Mr. Durant does not.”52 And so too did many others in many different ways take jabs at the book. In fact, in spite of their financial success, neither Durant “story” is without its critics and controversies. And Durant was well aware of this from the beginning. He entitled both of these projects “stories” to differentiate them from the work published by specialists in philosophy and history, but it was not enough to spare him from their wrath and scorn. In his opening address, “To the Reader,” in the 1926 edition of The Story of Philosophy, Durant acknowledges the idiosyncratic nature of his project: “This book is not a complete history of philosophy. It is an attempt to humanize knowledge by centering the story of speculative thought around certain dominant personalities.”53 The philosophers he focuses on are Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, and Dewey—albeit the latter six in much less detail than the others. He continues: Certain lesser figures have been omitted in order that those selected might have the space required to make them live. Hence the inadequate treatment of the half-legendary pre-Socratics, the Stoics and Epicureans, the Scholastics, and the epistemologists. The author believes that epistemology has kidnapped modern philosophy, and well nigh ruined it; he hopes for the time when the study of the knowledge-process will be recognized as the business of the science of psychology, and when philosophy will again be understood as the synthetic interpretation of all experience rather than the analytic description of the mode and process of experience itself.54

Another reason for some of the omissions is that Durant does not regard them as thinkers in the history of philosophy. So, for example, he says that Karl Marx is not in the book because Durant sees him as belonging to the history of economics and politics; Christ is not in the volume because

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he belongs to the history of religion; and the Scholastics are not in the volume because they belong to the history of theology.55 Moreover, Durant continues in his opening address his assault on analytic and professional philosophy by refusing to acknowledge the importance of the “parts of philosophy” to its study.56 For him the practice of philosophy as logic, aesthetics, ethics, social and political philosophy, and metaphysics (which includes ontology, philosophical psychology, and epistemology) “dismembered it” and led it to lose “its beauty and its joy.”57 “We shall seek it,” continues Durant, “not in its shrivelled [sic] abstractness and formality, but clothed in the living form of genius; we shall study not merely philosophies, but philosophers; we shall spend our time with the saints and martyrs of thought, letting their radiant spirit play about us until perhaps we too, in some measure, shall partake of what Leonardo called ‘the noblest pleasure, the joy of understanding.’”58 In short, Durant summarizes the four major criticisms of The Story of Philosophy as follows: that the book had unforgivable omissions, that it paid too little attention to metaphysics and epistemology, … that its effect would be to make the reader think that he had now sufficient acquaintance with the philosophers. … [and that] [i]t was disgracefully and unforgivably popular.59

Many of these criticisms came from established professional philosophers such as Paul Weiss and Morris Cohen. Even John Dewey, who is well covered in Durant’s volume and overall praises it, still attempts to “forgive” its popular aspects: While the book is one of popularization, it is also much more than that as popularization is usually conceived. The work is thoroughly scholarly. Dr. Durant has gone to the original writings and not to second-hand sources. He has selected the thinkers who are expounded with good judgment; his expositions are accurate as well as clear; his personal comments are always intelligent and useful. He has shown remarkable skill in selecting quotations that are typical, that give the flavor of the author, and that are readable. In fine he has humanized rather than merely popularized the story of philosophy.60

Of this last line, Dewey seems to propose that it is more acceptable to “humanize” the story of philosophy than it is to merely “popularize” it.

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The distinction is an interesting one though probably would not stand up well to closer scrutiny. But Dewey’s point is clear and well taken: we need to be suspicious of popular philosophy. When I first encountered Durant’s “story” about philosophy, it was as someone who had never taken a college course in philosophy but had read works from a number of the philosophers discussed in his book. His style of writing was engaging and his outlines of the opinions of these philosophers were clear and easy to understand. So aside from the sin of omission, what was not to like about it? Over the years, as I came to take more and more university courses in philosophy, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, Durant’s “story” became an increasingly inadequate one. I cannot recall any of my philosophy professors at any level speaking-well of this book. In fact, I learned that it is best to dismiss it as mere “popular” philosophy that pales compared to the work of specialists in the various areas of philosophy. Recently, a friend of mine, who had just “discovered” Durant’s book, shared his excitement about it to me and asked me my opinion of it. While I gave him the obligatory professional philosopher dismissal of it, I found myself dissatisfied with the response. It was not that the book had changed in terms of its content (the version found in every Barnes & Noble philosophy section in America is still basically the same text as found in the first edition and the Little Blue Books). But rather it was that the market for “popular” philosophy has changed. Whereas in 1926, philosophy in America had not yet become “popularized,” today it is. Academic and trade publishers alike now have many options available for learning about philosophy short of plowing through primary philosophical writings. They include a wide variety of dictionaries, handbooks, glossaries, textbooks, and anthologies. Major philosophy publishers like Oxford University Press and Routledge now even put out book series’ of “very short” introductions to major philosophers and ideas in philosophy, some of which like Peter Singer’s Hegel : A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001) are written by major contemporary philosophers. There are also a variety of “illustrated” introductions to philosophy such as Introducing Hegel —A Graphic Guide (Icon Books, 2012) written by Lloyd Spenser and illustrated by Andrzej Krauze, a book that was formally published under the title, Hegel for Beginners (Icon Books, 1992). Think too of books like Star Trek and Philosophy (Open Court, 2008) where twenty-one professional philosophers address philosophical

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issues in the television and movie series.61 There is even another book called The Story of Philosophy that is now in its second edition (DK 2016) written by Bryan Magee who has taught philosophy at Oxford University (though even today, it does not sell as well as Durant’s original). The list here is endless as is the market for these books. And many of these books like the ones above are written by professional philosophers—folks from the same group that today still sneers at Durant’s “story.” Given the plethora of options for “popular” philosophy today, it seems untimely to dismiss summarily Durant’s story—even if one is a professional philosopher. Why? Because to take it down is also to take down the immense market for and range of popular philosophy books today. Many of which, like my own book, From Socrates to Cinema (McGraw-Hill, 2007), are aimed at college students and general readers who are interested in philosophy but find many of its primary texts too daunting and much of its contemporary professional writing completely inaccessible. In From Socrates to Cinema, I address this challenge directly by using both short stories and films in conjunction with more traditional philosophical writing, to introduce the reader to philosophy.62 In 1953, over twenty-five years after the publication of the first edition of The Story of Philosophy, the 68-year-old Durant was asked by his publishers to write a new preface to the second edition. Taking his title from John Henry Newman’s famous defense of his religious opinions, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Defense of One’s Own Life, 1864), Durant defended his philosophical opinions with the tongue-in-cheek title, “Apologia Pro Libro Suo,” which literally means “a defense of one’s own book.” He begins by reminding us that in the first quarter of the twentieth century, “outlines” like his were all the rage.63 “Human knowledge had become unmanageably vast; every science had begotten a dozen more, each subtler than the rest,” and “millions of voices called for” help from writers and publishers to navigate it.64 Durant ridicules “specialists” in science and philosophy saying “the scientific specialist [was one] who knew ‘more and more about less and less,’ and the philosophical speculator [was one] who knew less and less about more and more.” “The specialist,” snarks Durant, “put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose.”65 Much like today, where understanding science and philosophy involves mastery of a discipline-specific vocabulary, Durant bemoaned that in the mid-1920s, “Every science, and every branch of philosophy, developed

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a technical terminology intelligible only to its exclusive devotees.”66 He saw a situation in science and philosophy where people educated in these areas “found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their educated fellow-men what it was that they had learned.”67 For Durant, the problem with this communication gap between specialists and non-specialists is a political one. Without teachers to bridge this gap, he feared a rise of authoritarianism. Writes Durant, “if knowledge became too great for communication, it would degenerate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of authority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worshipping at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated far and wide, would be left precariously based upon technical erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class monastically isolated from the world by the high birth rate of terminology.”68 In a way, his project in The Story of Philosophy is much like the one Wells set out to achieve in The Outline of History (1919–1920), which was written (as we say in the previous chapter) to educate the masses about history in order to avoid catastrophe—or more simply put, to save the world. Also, Durant rightly sees his own book as comparable to Well’s book, which he says was criticized for its “errors” and which historians “did not quite know what to do with.” “History became popular” with the publication of The Outline of History writes Durant, “and historians became alarmed.” “Now it would be necessary for them to write as interestingly as H. G. Wells.”69 Durant points out that his book was written at a time when there was a “flood” of “story” and “outline” books: “Outline followed outline, ‘story’ followed ‘story’; science and art, religion and law, had their storiographers.”70 But the market for these “story” and “outline” books was soon saturated, and the public appetite was quickly satiated; critics and professors complained of superficiality and haste, and an undertow of resentment set in, which reached every outline [and story] from the last to the first. As quickly as it had come, the fashion changed; no one dared any longer say a word for the humanization of knowledge; the denunciation of outlines was now the easy road to critical repute; it became the style to speak with a delicate superiority of any non-fiction book that could be understood. The snob movement in literature began.71

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Twenty-five years after the publication of his book, Durant does not shy away from the conditions of its production, nor does he deny that many of the criticisms of it are warranted. “The worst sin of all—though the critics do not seem to have noticed it—was the omission of Chinese and Hindu philosophy,” or what we today might call “world” philosophy. “Even a ‘story’ of philosophy that begins with Socrates, and has nothing to say about Lao-tze and Confucius, Mencius and Chwang-tze, Buddha and Shankara, is provincially incomplete,” he continues. He claims that his attempt to atone for the omission of Eastern philosophy was the publication in 1935 of Our Oriental Heritage, the first volume of his The Story of Civilization.72 “As for the word ‘Story,’ which has since been so abused with use,” writes Durant, “it was chosen partly to indicate that the record would concern itself chiefly with the more vital philosophers, partly to convey the sense that the development of thought was a romance as stirring as any in history.”73 But in spite of all its flaws and critics, the book allegedly raised interest in the philosophical classics. According to Durant, “sales of the philosophical classics increased some two hundred per cent. [sic] after the publication of the Story.” He continues: Many publishers have issued new editions, particularly of Plato, Spinoza, Voltaire, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. A high official of the New York Public Library, who asked to be unnamed, reports that: ever since the publication of The Story of Philosophy we have had a wide and increasing demand from the public for the philosophical classics, and our stock of them in branch libraries has been gradually increased … Formerly, current books about philosophy were purchased in small quantities for the system; but in the last two or three years a readable new book about philosophy is purchased very generally at the outset, in anticipation of a demand which eventually does develop, and quickly at that.74

Durant adds too that as of 1953, the book was already translated into German, French, Swedish, Danish, Jugo-Slavian, Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian. Today, many other languages have been added to the list, and it still has a global readership. One can easily find, for example, online comments about it from enthusiastic lay readers from across the world in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and a host of other languages.

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Conclusion In 1925, Durant published Little Blue Book No. 813, “Contemporary American Philosophers: Santayana, James, and Dewey.” Of Santayana, Durant writes, “he represents an older and foreign school; and the subtlety of his thought, and the fragrance of his style, are like perfume that lingers in a room from which the flowers have been taken away.”75 This kind of statement is typical of Durant’s romantic style. For those who have read Santayana and know his philosophical style, it is hard to argue with Durant’s characterization, but few would express it in these words to an audience of professional philosophers. “We shall have, very probably,” concludes Durant, “no more Santayanas; for hereafter it is America, not Europe, that will write America’s philosophies.”76 While Durant’s latter claim is debatable, as all of the major American philosophical movements after the death of Santayana arguably have strong roots in European philosophy,77 he was correct that America would not see another Santayana though in ways he could not have known for certain in 1925. Santayana retired from the Harvard University philosophy department in 1912 at the age of forty-eight and moved back to Europe, where he was born. However, he never worked again for the academy despite many offers by major universities in America and Europe. He continued to write philosophy, poetry, and literary and cultural criticism up until his death in 1952. One of the most famous lines he gave us was written in 1905 and speaks well to our theme of catastrophic education. Fifteen years before Wells composed An Outline of History, Santayana famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”78 This line would become a standard refrain in reference to the importance of educating oneself in history after the catastrophe of the First World War of 1914–1918. Santayana, like Wells, was an advocate of “human progress,” but saw it more in Platonic terms rather than Darwinian ones. “Progress,” wrote Santayana, “is relative to an ideal which reflection creates.” For Santayana, who was a colleague of William James at Harvard, progress was the topic of a five-volume study, the Life of Reason, or The Phases of Human Progress . Each volume of his “biography of the human intellect”79 took up in turn one particular aspect of the life of reason: reason in common sense, society, religion, art, and science. His famous line about the importance of remembering the past comes from the end of the first volume in the context of a discussion of progress.

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However, while everyone remembers his line about the danger of forgetting the past, what precedes this line is just as important. “Progress,” writes Santayana, “far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.”80 I take him to mean by this that progress requires us to not just learn about the past, but also to retain this knowledge. It is here that a memorable style becomes important to retention. In the preface to the second edition of The Life of Reason, published in 1922, almost twenty years later, Santayana speaks about being “branded by a great war.” Like Wells, Santayana was on the continent during the Great War. He makes the remarkable statement in this preface that he can no longer now “take every phase of art or religion or philosophy seriously, simply because it takes itself so.”81 In 1922, “these things seem to me less tragic than they did [in 1905], and more comic,” writes Santayana. “When our architecture is too pretentious, before we have set the cross on the spire, the foundations are apt to give way.”82 These warnings about self-importance and pretentiousness are a fitting given the kind of approach to philosophical writing and publishing championed by Haldeman-Julius and Durant. Durant reminds us that we should not be “ashamed of teaching the people” even if we are “imperfect” at it by some standards. “We are all imperfect teachers, but we may be forgiven if we have advanced the matter a little, and have done our best.”83 He did his best spending eleven years researching the material in his book, and three years writing it first as a series of Little Blue Books aimed at lay readers, and then publishing it as one volume at the request of M. Lincoln Schuster. Like his estimation of Santayana, there will very probably never be another Durant. Today, close to one-hundred years after Durant offered us a “story” about philosophy complete with humor, and colorful language and characters, the book continues to be widely-read by non-specialists—and disparaged by specialists. However, the story of philosophy today does not end with Santayana, and if anything, philosophy has become even more specialized and complex over the past century. Moreover, if the “humanization” of knowledge was already suspect in the 1950s as noted by Durant above, then twenty-first-century posthumanism presents a whole new set of challenges for the general dissemination of knowledge. But the world today is not unlike the world of Wells and Durant in that it flirts daily with catastrophe and has seen a rise in authoritarianism. This has been particularly apparent in the wake of the global Coronavirus and our response to it. Educated opinion seems to be in short supply, and the

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world stage is now open to bullies, tyrants, and dictators. In brief, our inhumanity is threatening to eliminate its opposite, humanity. In fact, one of the most popular philosophers on the planet today, Slavoj Žižek, is even arguing that we must reject humanism and embrace our inhumanity.84 Moreover, in spite of the plethora of popular options to learn about philosophy, its popularity seems to be waning. Philosophy departments are being closed and the major struggles to attract students compared to vocational ones such as business, nursing, and engineering. Some might find it naïve today to believe, along with Durant, Wells, and Haldeman-Julius, that the publication of accessible and popular books aimed at a mass audience can keep us from moving down the path of catastrophe and inhumanity. However, I am not one of them. Philosophy needs a “story” now more than ever. Durant’s “enduring” “romance” served its audience well, but it is time for a new one—a story that transitions philosophy from the twentieth century to the twenty-first, and not the nineteenth century to the twentieth like the original. Why not hope too that it is a “story” or a series of “short stories” that saves academic philosophy from obsolescence in the age of authoritarianism and vocational training? This would be an ironic and bittersweet victory for Durant after a century of dismissal of his own “story” by academic philosophers. As for Haldeman-Julius, who died a year before Santayana, his Little Blue Books were published under the management of his son, Henry J. Haldeman, until the plant that produced them was destroyed by fire in 1978. In the next chapter, his publishing revolution and legacy with be connected to a more recent and radical one: self-publishing.

Notes 1. R. Alton Lee, Publisher for the Masses, Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), xi. 2. Ibid., 1. 3. Ibid., 5. 4. Ibid., 5. 5. Ibid., 6. 6. Ibid., 41. 7. Ibid., 41. 8. Ibid., 41. 9. Ibid., 42. 10. Ibid., 96.

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16. 17.

18. 19.

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Ibid., 200. Ibid., 202. Ibid., 203. Ibid., 111. These are the words of New York Supreme Court Justice McGeehan, who revoked Lord Russell’s appointment to the City University of New York in 1940. McGeehan described Russell’s appointment to CUNY as “an insult to the people of the City of New York” (Paul Edwards, “Appendix: How Bertrand Russell Was Prevented from Teaching at the College of the City of New York,” in Bertrand Russell: Why I Am Not a Christian, ed. Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], 221). According to him, the CUNY Board “in effect established a chair of indecency,” and “acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and in direct violation of the public health, safety, and the morals of the people and of the petitioner’s rights” (ibid., 221). Russell’s appointment to CUNY was announced on February 24, 1940 and Judge McGeehan’s ruling revoking it was made on March 30, 1940. R. Alton Lee, Publisher for the Masses, 205–220. For an excellent survey of Russell’s publishing relationship with Haldeman-Julius, see William F. Ryan, “Bertrand Russell and HaldemanJulius: Making Readers Rational,” Russell (original series) 29–32 (1978). Emanuel Haldeman-Julius, Questions and Answers, 6th series (Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Company, 1936), 93. Eventually, Russell would write a history of philosophy, but it would not be until after the revocation of his appointment from CUNY in 1940. Written during the Second World War, History of Western Philosophy: And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day was published in 1945 in the United States by Simon and Schuster and in the United Kingdom in 1946 by George Allen & Unwin. It began as a series of lectures he gave at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia during 1941 and 1942. He received a 3000 advance from his publishers and wrote the book between 1943 and 1944 while living at Bryn Mawr College. Like H. G. Wells and Will Durant before him, his survey would provide him with financial security for the rest of his life. Also, when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, the Nobel committee cited it as one of the books that helped him win the award. Still, in spite of its popularity, it has been highly criticized in academic circles for its errors and overgeneralization. According to Durant, who was born in 1885, there was no connection between his name and William James, who was a member of the Harvard University faculty from 1872 to 1907, and who upon his death in 1910, was pronounced in his The New York Times obituary as “America’s foremost philosophical writer” (The New York Times, August 27, 1910). As if

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21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36. 37.

to prove the lack of connection between America’s foremost philosopher and his own name, Durant writes that his father “received no schooling, and never learned to read or write.” “His education,” continues Durant, “was almost entirely of character and by experience” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977], 28). For more on James, see Chapter 8, “A Century of Antitheory.” Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 72. Ibid., 73. Ibid., 95. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 58–59. Ibid., 78. Ibid., 58. Ibid., 95. Ibid., 109. In February of 1923, Durant took a leave of absence from the Labor Temple to help set up the “Kansas City Academy,” which he hoped would be a “prelude to a university.” “In the thirty-four days between February 15 and March 20 Will,” writes Ariel Durant, “gave forty lectures for the academy, on history, literature, philosophy, economics, and politics. On top of this, in Kansas City, he faced Clarence Darrow in another debate on “Is Life Worth Living?” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 96). Darrow would write in a letter to Samuel D. Schwartz on August 12, 1925, “Dr. Will Durant is one of the ablest debaters I ever met” (In the Clutches of the Law: Clarence Darrow’s Letters, ed. Randall Tietjen [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013], 309). Debates by prominent public figures as a way to promote philosophical ideas as well as profit from them have a long history that is an important aspect of the popularization of philosophy. Recently, for example, Slavoj Žižek had a sold out debate with the psychologist Jordan Peterson on the topic of happiness that was dubbed the “duel of the century” (Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek, “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism,” YouTube Video, 2:37:47, April 20, 2019. https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT1vutd4Gnk). It would be interesting on another occasion to explore the role of public debates on philosophical topics in the popularization of philosophy in the United States. Quoted in R. Alton Lee, Publisher for the Masses, 108. R. Alton Lee, Publisher for the Masses, 109. Ibid., 219. Ibid., 122. Ibid., 122.

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38. Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 101. 39. Ibid., 101. 40. Macmillan published Durant’s thesis only on the condition that he could guarantee the sale of a thousand copies. It only sold 100 copies, and Macmillan “burdened with nine hundred unsold copies, appealed to [Durant] to come take them away,” which he did, “stack[ing] them imposingly on a projecting cornice that ran around our living room” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 73). Durant seems to believe that the lack of sales were not because of the content of the book, but rather because of poor advertising on the part of the publisher. Writes Durant, it only “received a brief listing among Macmillan’s spring publications for 1917” (72). 41. Ibid., 101. 42. Ibid., 101. 43. Ibid., 101. At the time of deal, Max Schuster was twenty-eight, and Richard Schuster was twenty-six. 44. The book was published in May of 1926. The contract with Simon and Schuster granted Durant half of the twelve-and-one-half percent royalty, and Haldeman-Julius, the other half. Schuster suggested to Durant that he offer Haldeman-Julius five-hundred dollars for his share, and HaldemanJulius accepted. When the book became a financial success, Durant reports that Haldeman-Julius “never complained of this somewhat selfish transaction,” but rather “rejoiced in the success of the book which owed its existence to him, and he entertained me with fraternal hospitality when, a year later [1927], my wandering lectures took me near his home in Girard, Kansas” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 103). 45. A Brooklyn newspaper interview with Durant from May 27, 1922, reveals that well before he was financially successful with Haldeman-Julius, Durant longed for the financial independence to write The Story of Civilization: “It is his ambition … to lay aside enough money so that when he reaches the age of forty he may dispense with giving lectures, … and go on extended trips to France and England to engage in research work in preparation for a book that would show the interdependence, in history, of politics, economics, art, literature, and science. ‘These subjects,’ Dr. Durant said, ‘have been written separately. My ambition is to write a complete history of the world, showing all these factors working in harmony, and giving as a result the kind of world we know” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 95). 46. Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 101. 47. Ibid., 122. 48. Durant says that Macmillan seemed “relieved” to not have to publish the book (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 101). 49. Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 95.

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50. Ibid., 103. 51. Ibid., 103. 52. Ibid., 119. To which Durant responded, “I believe in the equal right of common people to access to the education that may make them uncommonly fit for uncommon tasks” (119). 53. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926), xiii. 54. Ibid., xiii. 55. Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 103. It should be noted that the government publishing office of Soviet Russia rejected The Story of Philosophy because there was no chapter on Marx (103). 56. Analytic philosophy found in the conceptual analysis of G. E. Moore and logical atomism (and logical-analytic pluralism) of Bertrand Russell a methodology that could mirror the exactitude and certainty of the sciences. Logical empiricism rejected metaphysics as unverifiable and focused instead on perfecting conceptual analysis. Moreover, analytic philosophers had a “linguistic turn” that involved logical empiricism in addition to American pragmatism and ordinary language philosophy. Durant’s work set itself in opposition to this approach to philosophy. Nevertheless, Durant also says “I doubt philosophy when it is metaphysics” (Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 404), describing his own philosophical position to be “agnostic, with pantheistic overtones” (403) as well as “socialist, but some cautions” (402). 57. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 1st ed., 4. 58. Ibid., 4. 59. Will and Ariel Durant, A Dual Autobiography, 103. 60. Ibid., 102. 61. This title appears in the Open Court series “Popular Culture and Philosophy.” As of 2019, it has published 125 titles, the latest of which are Rick and Morty and Philosophy, eds. Lester C Abesamis and Wayne Yuen (2019), The Handmaid’s Tale and Philosophy, ed. Rachel Robison-Greene (2019), and Tom Petty and Philosophy, eds. Randall E. Auxier and Megan Volpert (2019). The series began in 2000. 62. I do something similar in Morality Matters: Race, Class and Gender in Applied Ethics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002) albeit for applied ethics. 63. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers, 2nd ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953), v. 64. Ibid., v. 65. Ibid., v. 66. Ibid., vi. 67. Ibid., vi. 68. Ibid., vi. 69. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 2nd ed., vii.

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78.

79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84.

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Ibid., vii. Ibid., vii–viii, my emphasis. Ibid., viii. Ibid., viii. Ibid., x. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 1st ed., 531. Ibid., 531. This is in part because of the failure of American philosophy to fully embrace pragmatism, let alone “Native-American” philosophy. See, for example, Cornell West’s The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), which argues that American philosophers while “mindful of the dead ends of [European] analytical modes of philosophizing … yet unwilling to move into the frightening wilderness of [American] pragmatism and historicism with the concomitant concerns in social theory, cultural criticism, and historiography” (3). See also, Bruce Wilshire, The Primal Roots of American Philosophy: Pragmatism, Phenomenology, and Native American Thought (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2000). However, for a work that supports the idea that there is a robust distinctively “American” philosophy today, see Carlin Romano’s America the Philosophical (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), which argues that America is the land of many native philosophers including Hugh Hefner (272–280). George Santayana, The Life of Reason, or the Phases of Human Progress: Introduction and Reason in Common Sense [1922], 2nd ed. with a new preface (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929), 284. Ibid., vii. Ibid., 284, my emphasis. Ibid., vi. Ibid., vi. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 2nd ed., x. In In Defense of Lost Causes (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), Žižek argues that we must formulate an “‘inhuman’ ethics, an ethics addressing an inhuman subject” (16). This direction for ethics is part of his critique of the “humanist” ethics of the Western philosophical tradition predicated on its use of “Man” and “human person,” which for Žižek “is a mask that conceals the pure subjectivity of the Neighbor” (16). So, Žižek’s anti-ethics, which also serves as a base for his rejection of happiness and its pursuit, is a rejection of humanism and the majority of Western ethics dating back to the Greeks.

CHAPTER 4

All Publishers Are Equal

Haldeman-Julius sold half a billion books. While some of them were written by authors such as Russell and Durant whose thoughts endure into the new millennium, most of them are now long forgotten. They were authors who were responding to the educational needs of their time at the charge of a progressive publisher who believed like Wells that educating the masses in all areas of knowledge was one of our best defenses against catastrophe. Still, in spite of the massive quantities of publications produced in Girard, Kansas, many of which were emblazoned on their back cover with the words “A University in Print / Read the World Over” accompanied by the image of an anthropomorphic globe with eye-glasses reading a book entitled “Little Blue Books,” these were then—and now—non-traditional publications. For one thing, they were all really short books. Little Blue Book No. 630, for example, is Upton Sinclair’s “The Second-Story Man,” which comes in at 32 pages of about 150 words each. On the longer side, there is, for example, Little Blue Book No. 772, Dr. Will Durant’s “The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer,” which comes in at 64 pages of about 300 words each. By comparison, the traditional publication of Will Durant’s Little Blue Books in The Story of Philosophy includes fifteen of them, of which the Spencer chapter came in at 54 pages of about 360 words each. The other difference between Haldeman-Julius’s and Simon and Schuster’s editions of Durant, is that the former are stapled and that © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_4

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the latter is bound. While this is an artificial boundary between a traditional publication and a non-traditional one, as you will see below, it is one that is frequently utilized and fairly important.1 So, if Haldeman-Julius’s Little Blue Books are indeed “books,” they are best described as non-traditional ones. To the average person though they just look like small pamphlets that one might carry around in a coat pocket rather than something that would be shelved in a library or bookstore. But, regardless of their non-traditional publication nature, they filled a huge public demand for knowledge, of which the more didactic titles such as Durant’s could amply serve in lieu of a university course as a short introduction to a particular topic or person. But a century later, while the demand and need for accessible and affordable sources of knowledge has not quelled, the publishing world has radically changed. In short, non-traditional publication through self-publication has come to be the fastest-growing and now most dominant form of publication. Given this change and the example of Haldeman-Julius utilizing non-traditional publication as a means to fight against catastrophe, might the rise of non-traditional publishing today offer education an even better opportunity to wage a war against catastrophe? Perhaps but first we will need to overcome our fears about both self- and non-traditional publishing.

The Underworld of Publishing Most writers and scholars are afraid of self-publishing. Perceptions about it move in the opposite direction of those associated with traditional publishing. If the latter is generally associated with publishing success, then self-publishing is associated with failure. How many successful writing careers have been launched through self-publication? How many have been maintained? And if you are in academe, then forget about it: self-publication is akin to career suicide. Self-publication is frowned upon in higher education as it is assumed that the published work has not been the subject of peer review. Traditional publication is favored in academe because of the peer review process associated with it. However, the assumptions and politics here are complex, especially when it appears that the onus of evaluation of work is being displaced from the university or department to the press or publisher.2 But now that the technology for self-publication has greatly improved and the cost is enticingly low, will our perceptions about it change too? Will writers now opt to self-publish given the choice between working

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with an established publishing house or doing it themself? To be sure, the latter proposition still evokes more fear among writers than the former, particularly those who publish in order to advance their reputation. Self-publishing has always been the underworld of book culture: a haven for esoterica, wild ideas, and half-baked prose. It exists just below the imaginary border between books whose publication is paid by others—and those whose publication is paid by the author. For many, this border delimits the break between legitimate publishing and its opposite. Just as journals that charge publication fees for articles are often met with suspicion (especially when other journals in the same field do not), so too are books whose publication is fully underwritten by the author, particularly when there are plenty of publishers in the same area that publish books without being paid by their authors—and many of whom even offer them generous advances against their royalties. More on a par with vanity publishing, self-publishing has long existed as the last stop for authors bent on sharing with the world writing that has been spurned by traditional publishers. For most authors, the decision to self-publish does not involve a choice. Rather, it is a decision of last resort and their only way into the world of published writers. Until fairly recently, self-publishing was more the exception than the norm in the publishing world. Not everyone has the financial means or the moral will to pay to have their writing published. And historically, even if one had the desire to self-publish, it has always been prohibitively expensive. But the cost of self-publishing has dropped dramatically. Today, it is almost possible to self-publish a book at no cost provided one has access to a computer and the appropriate software. This is final fulfillment of one of the more egalitarian promises of the digital revolution: equal access to publication. For a little more, one can improve the quality of a self-published book by purchasing various degrees of support. For a slightly higher price, a deluxe self-publishing package complete with marketing plans and publicity materials may be purchased. Exactly how much though does all of this cost? While some self-publishing packages can run in excess of $10,000, many are significantly less. For example, for basic ebook formatting and distribution, BookLocker charges authors $675—and only $475 if the author supplies the book’s cover. Ebook formatting, conversion, and distribution in this basic package includes the mobi (for Amazon’s Kindle) and epub (for Apple’s iPad, iPod, and iPhone; Barnes and Noble’s Nook; and Kobo) platforms. Also, this basic self-publishing package demands no

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extra charge to include graphics, tables, or footnotes in printed books— and returning authors are only charged $199 for print setup on their subsequent books (without cover design).3 While BookLocker seems to be the lowest priced of the self-publishing companies, many others offer prices that are not far behind. For similar services, Infinity Publishing charges $1,047, Lulu: $1,089, CreateSpace: $1,151, Llumina Publishing: $1,338, Trafford: $1,424, iUniverse: $1,449, Outskirts Press: $1,595, Xlibris: $1,673, AuthorHouse: $1,799, Dog Ear Publishing: $1,998, and Xulon Press: $2,396. These baseline self-publishing packages include a 200-page book with black-and-white interior print formatting, up to 25 interior photos, original color cover design, print proof, an ISBN for all editions, barcode, a listing on the publisher’s website, distribution by Ingram, basic ebook formatting and distribution, and if a cover is submitted, then the self-publisher will provide the author with some feedback on it. Some also set up an Espresso edition of the book and even provide the author with a couple free print copies.4 Self-publishing production time is usually within six weeks, but if the author is in an extra-hurry, for $999 BookLocker, will get the book out in two weeks. For comparison, consider that a traditional publisher can take anywhere from nine months to two years to publish a book. And just negotiating a book contract can take two weeks or more. So, on the low end of the cost spectrum, self-published authors should look to spend in the neighborhood of $600 to $1,200 on a basic print package; up to another $100 for an ebook package; up to $150 for a basic cover design and anywhere from $200 to $1,800 for an advanced cover design. But the costs options do not end here. If a hardcover edition of the book is desired, then add about $2,000. For a basic marketing package, add anywhere from $100 to $360. For a press release and author conference appearances, add $1,200 to $3,200. And for the financially secure self-published author, a book promotional video can be had for $5,000.5 Thus, with prices like these, and considering that traditionally published authors do not pay anything for the publication of their books—with many even expecting upfront advances on sales for their books—it might be surprising for some to learn that self-publishing is very popular. In 2013, just accounting for the self-publishing presses listed above, Llumina Publishing published 17 total print and ebooks, BookLocker published 301, Infinity Publishing 365, Dog Ear Publishing 511, Outskirts Press 1,931, Salem Publishing Solutions (formerly Xulon

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Press) 2,544, Trafford 4,000, iUniverse 4,640, AuthorHouse 11,835, and Xlibris 13,990. However, far outpacing the others in this group are Lulu, which published 74,787 titles in 2013, and CreateSpace, which published a jaw-dropping 186,926 titles.6 To be sure, authors are taking advantage of self-publishing services at unprecedented rates. In fact, self-publishing has become the fasting-growing dimension of the publishing world to the point where the number of self-published books now dwarfs traditionally published books. In 2007, the year the first Kindle Readers were released by Amazon and the first Espresso Book Machine was introduced at BookExpo America, there were 74,997 self-published books published in the United States (or roughly the same number published solely by Lulu in 2013). Of this total, 66,732 were print books, whereas 8,265 were ebooks.7 By comparison, in the same year it was reported that there were 407,646 print books published by all publishers including self-publishers. This number is a fairly robust one though as it includes all forms of print books including ones that are stapled and laminated. The previous year, when these types of print books were not included, namely, stapled and laminated ones, the figure was 292,353—over 100,000 fewer. These publication figures are interesting for at least several reasons: first, a broader notion of what is (and is not) a book reveals a significantly higher book output in the United States; and second, even as far back as 2007, the dawn of the ebook age, a very high percentage of all books published in the United States were self-published. Through 2006, figures were not kept on these titles by bibliographic information provider Bowker, the major source for book publishing data. Bowker’s data on book output—traditional and non-traditional—is based on ISBN information only. This means that if one does not purchase an ISBN, the book is not included as part of the overall book output data in the United States for that year. There are probably many more books published each year than our standard data set reports. The shift to a new methodology for Bowker to report annual title output statistics in 2006 is telling—and further confirmation that book culture changed in a very fundamental way in 2007. Not only did the question of what is and is not a book change with the rise of the ebook format around this time, but it also led to a wider accounting of books of all types. In many ways, new mainstream technologies of the book, such as the introduction of the Kindle and the Espresso, opened the door to a new age of the book. Not only were new forms of publishing becoming

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mainstream (viz., the ebook), but so too were new forms of printing technology (viz., the Espresso). Now, more than at any time in history, was entry to book publishing more open. But nothing busted open the floodgates of book culture in America more significantly than the rise of self-publishing since 2007. The year the Kindle and the Espresso were introduced, just about one out of five books published was self-published. However, by 2013, the number would increase by over 600%. In 2013, the number of self-published books published in the United States was reported to be 458,564—an ascent that makes the selfpublishing industry arguably the most dynamic and fastest-growing dimension of the publishing industry. It is something that the five largest publishing houses in the United States, as we shall see, quickly learned how to manipulate for their own gain. Consider now the rise: in 2007 there were about 75,000 self-published titles and in 2008 that number rose by about 10,000. However, in 2009 the number of self-published books increased by over 25,000 titles coming in at 111,359 and in 2010 it increased again by over 41,500 titles over the preceding year. But these figures pale compared to the 2011 data, which reports 246,912 selfpublished titles—and the 2012 data, which reports a whopping 393,421. In 2013, data also revealed that self-publishing continued to be on the rise with a record 458,564 self-published produced. To get a context on the self-publishing numbers, consider that in 2012, the number of “traditional” books published was only 309,957—a figure significantly less than the 393,421 self-published titles of the same year. But the post-2007 selfpublishing revolution is only a taste of the more general non-traditional publishing explosion over the same time period. While the traditional publishing numbers since the launch of the Kindle and Espresso have remained relatively constant, moving from 284,370 titles in 2007 to 309,957 titles in 2012 (a 9% increase), the nontraditional numbers have been off the charts. In 2012, it was reported that 2,042,840 non-traditional titles were published. In addition to stapled and laminated books, these numbers also include reprints (which are often public domain), print-on-demand titles, and wiki-based material. They represent a mind-boggling 1,557% increase over the numbers in the same category in 2007. But what is most impressive here is that this increase is not even the high point of the non-traditional area. In 2008, there were 561,580 non-traditional titles published, but by 2009 this number had bloated to 1,335,474 titles. However, 2010 was the absolute high

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point for in this year it was reported that there were 308,628 traditional titles published as compared to 3,844,278 non-traditional titles published. Finally, it was widely reported in 2018 that the number of self-published books in the United States surpassed the one million mark for the first time in publishing history.8 According to Bowker, in 2017 there were 1,009,188 ISBN numbers assigned to self-published books. The previous year, the number was 786,935. This was a one-year increase of 28 percent. In fact, since 2012, when the number of self-published books was a “whopping” 394,132 titles, the number of self-published books has not only increased annually, but over just this six-year period it has risen 156 percent. Given that the number of traditionally published books has remained relatively consistent during this same six-year period, or, alternately, has not come anywhere close to 156% growth, it seems fair and safe to say that self -publishing is now the major book production force in the U.S. Even though these self-published books might not appear from the academic or industry perspective equivalent to “traditionally published” ones, book publishing in the United States has radically changed in the new millennium. Any way the numbers are cut, traditional publishing is no longer an effective gatekeeper in the publishing world, nor does it represent the majority of books published today. There are many more books published today that may look and feel like products of the traditional publishing world, but are not. Most self-published books are published with little or no editorial oversight, and at best a modicum of publicity and marketing support. Though they may fulfill the individual publishing dreams and needs of their authors, their chances of having an impact on the world of literature and ideas—let alone making a profit— are about as likely as their author winning the lottery. Problem is, many self-published authors do not know this. The underworld of self-published books, which now dwarfs the traditional publishing world in terms of titles produced, presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for book culture in the age of neoliberalism. Strange as it may sound, the underworld of self-publishing is no longer in the shadows of traditional publishing, but is on its way to becoming a serious competitor. The growing giant of non-traditional publishing has become more than just a refuge for bad books, and may very well alter the course of traditional publishing in America.

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A Growing Giant The self-publishing revolution radically alters the world of publishing. For one thing, it is the end of gatekeepers warning that a manuscript is not publishable. It is also the end of editors demanding revisions and rewrites. Finally, it is the end of marketing specialists twisting and bending copy to lure in readers and sell books. The self-publishing revolution is equal opportunity and maximally diverse. All voices are afforded a stage; all authors are welcome. While many pay big money for the opportunity to self-publish a book, any and all can join the revolution with little to no financial obligation. Moreover, there are many entry points into the world of self-publishing differentiated only by the cost and the size of the dream promised. Yet, even compared to the smallest of small presses, that is, those with a handful of annual releases and a limited or nonexistent marketing presence, most self-publishing is marginal. Its low production value, small audience, and minimal impact are common characteristics, tolerated only by those with no other choices. Even at their most afflicted, the majority of small presses have an editorial backbone and an aesthetic or ideological raison d’etre. The same cannot be said of the self-publishing industry, which exists to produce a profit and to prey on the vulnerability of those who desperately want to be published and are willing to do so by any means necessary. At its worst, the self-publishing revolution is a predatory practice—a financial extension of the neoliberal publishing industry. At its best, it is a revolutionary force that affords a greater diversity of writers and writing to populate the book world. What then should we make of this revolution in publishing? Should we view it with joy or dismay? Pity or pride? Optimism or pessimism? In terms of catastrophic education, does it offer hope or just more despair? From the perspective of the thousands of well-run small presses, the self-publishing revolution occurs outside of the gates legitimate publishing. Why? Because at a minimum, a press requires an aesthetic or ideological aim that is guided and promoted by an editor. This minimal condition is a sufficient one to deem some works worthy of the press’s catalog and others unworthy. Without this condition, there is no quality control and there really is no press —only publishing. Publishing work without consideration of its content is nothing more than mindless duplication. Without an editor’s eye, self-publishing is more akin to a mechanical act than an intentional one.

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There is something troubling about publishing anything and everything submitted to a publishing house. Perhaps it lies in the very notion of “publishing” itself, a notion that seems to require the interaction of two individuals at minimum: the author and the editor. In a sense, selfpublishing is an oxymoron, as it implies a reduction of the author-editor relationship to one of identity rather than difference. Even more radically, one could argue that self-publishing as a practice deconstructs the very notion of publishing by allowing anyone and everyone to reproduce their writing without review. As the hierarchy of publications shifts and expands to contain everything from peer-reviewed, refereed journals to Wikipedia entries, it becomes increasingly important to trace the source of published materials and the journey they have taken to reach the reader. The responsibility of the reader to understand the provenance of published media grows as the methods of publication expand. The book traditionally has an aura of authority, but the rise in self-published work puts this assumption into question. The self-publishing industry has become dominant in the publishing world by creating the perception that all publishing is equal —and that all publishers are equal. It plays on the notion that “to publish” is to make one’s work available to the “public.” While this may be semantically true, it reduces the question of whether or not a piece is for public consumption to a non-issue, when the answer is always “yes.” From the perspective of readers, the self-publishing revolution is either a nightmare or a dream. It is a nightmare if as a reader you do not have the time, energy or will to sort through the million-plus self-published books coming out each year to choose how to spend your precious and limited reading time. The self-publishing revolution transforms the reading public into editors, as they are forced to sort through works as an editor might. Without the quality control of a press—large or small—the task of the reader in selecting newly published books to read becomes daunting. Some may relish the opportunity to sift through a million-plus books to find a gem. Others turn to curators and advisors from other sources, such as online reviewers or book clubs. But the process is not unlike rummaging through thrift shops in the hopes of acquiring a Picasso or a First Folio. The saddest aspect of the self-publishing revolution is not the mountains of junk that are published—presses big and small also contribute to the production of literary waste. Rather, it is the predatory self-publishers who sell authors the dream that publishing with them is hitting the

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Big Time, promising success on the level of Stephen King and Anne Rice. The most unscrupulous of the self-publishing services trade on the power and prestige of their parent companies to lure in authors and take their money—and often, a lot of it. Simon and Schuster has a selfpublishing subsidiary called “Archway Publishing.” Established through a partnership with self-publishing giant Author Solutions Inc., Archway Publishing gives their authors a piece of the prestigious publishing house of Simon and Schuster through a number of different packages. The Children’s package will cost the self-published Archway author anywhere from $1,599 to $8,499; the Fiction and Non-fiction packages range from $1,999 to $14,999; and the package for Business writers starts at $2,199 and tops out at $24,999.9 Operations like this one have all the markers of vanity publishing including the sliding price scale for Business authors—who presumably can pay more than Children’s authors—to self-publish their books. How else can the price differential be explained? Even Harlequin has traded on its name, again through Author Solutions, to form a self-publishing imprint called “Harlequin Horizons.” Budding romance writers can now become self-published “Harlequin…” authors albeit for a price. The company promises to include “special services aimed at the romance market, including unique marketing and distribution services.”10 The biggest controversy in self-publishing though is not the shameless selling of publishing brand imprints. Rather it is publishing houses guarding profits in the case a self-published book actually makes it. Though it is as rare as becoming a lottery winner, it can and does happen. For most self-publishers, once the book is in print, there is no additional financial commitment to the publisher. In other words, if you hit the lottery and sell a lot of copies of your book, then the profits are all yours. But one company decided to do something different. Launched in April of 2011, Book Country is a self-publishing subsidiary of Penguin. Like the other self-publishers, Book Country charges authors a fee. There are three packages that initially ranged from $99 to $549. The idea is that for a price, authors could upload their self-published work to Amazon through one of three Book Country packages. In turn, the author would have a book listed on Amazon published through a subsidiary of Penguin. While there were complaints about the price of the packages, the real complaints were about the cut Penguin via Book Country would make on Amazon sales. Normally, Amazon receives

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a 70% royalty on the sale of books directly loaded to their website by authors. While these are loan shark rates, they are the only option for most self-published authors who want to make their book available for sale to a wide audience. Book Country, however, also took a 30% cut of the 30% percent cut afforded Amazon to their authors. This mob payment mentality did not go over very well and Book Country has since altered its royalty and payment structure to be fairer to authors for which they have played virtually no role in their success—yet still profit from it. Packages now range from free to $399 dollars, and authors can get 100% royalty if they purchase the premium package ($399) and their book is sold through the Book Country retail channel.11 They report that since 2011, eight Book Country members have sold their books to traditional publishers. Along with the Penguin imprimatur, Book Country is sold to authors as an online writing community. Its policy is that only after one has read and reviewed the work of another member can you then share your work with others. With more than 8,300 active members, they report that each workshopped manuscript receives an average of six reviews.12 But this of course is not the dream that self-published authors were sold. Even if we generously view Book Country’s eight authors selling their books to “traditional” publishers as success, how then do we regard the thousands of others whose self-published books languish in biblio-oblivion? The self-publishing revolution is in full swing not because most of its authors believe that their work will be unread, unsuccessful, low-fidelity productions. Quite the opposite. It is booming because most of its authors tend to believe that there is no difference between publishing a novel with FSG and iUniverse. But how can that be? Strange as it may sound, for many, the difference between FSG and iUniverse is similar to the difference between Heinz baked beans and the store brand. Though the labels may be different, the products—baked beans—are essentially the same. Both come in cans and both contain beans. From this perspective, quality is a secondary matter to a more primary material logic: just as all beans are beans, so too are all books. Or, if there is a difference between FSG and iUniverse, it is that one will agree to publish your novel and that the other will not; that one sees something in your work and that the other does not. But do people really believe this? Do they really believe that all publishers are equal? Do they believe that a self-publisher who has not read your book really sees something in it? Given the rapid ascent of self-publishing, it appears so.

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Self-delusion is a powerful force. But those whose life and livelihood is the printed word know better. For some, the self-publishing revolution is a victory for the Everyman Author—self-publishing’s counterweight to Haldeman-Julius’s Everyman Reader. For centuries, the door to publication has been heavily protected by those whose financial interests and professional reputation could be compromised by publishing not ready for prime time work. The bouncers at the major publishing houses were kept busy because for every book that they publish, hundreds, if not thousands, were rejected. But is publishing all of these rejected titles (and more) really a proud and revolutionary chapter in the publishing world? To be sure times have changed in the publishing world, but are they for the better? We now live in the Age of Acceptance, an age that began around 2007 when the number of self-published titles began to rise significantly each year. With over one million self-published titles coming out in 2018 alone—a number that again represents the highest annual number of self-published titles in the history of publishing—one can and should fully expect the numbers to continue to rise. This is more than merely a problem of quality control—it is also one of ethics. While some of the self-publishers sell only the opportunity to publish one’s book—with no promise or implication of sales—others take matters a step further. These publishers have come to be known as “hybrid publishers,” that is, publishers who straddle the line between traditional publishing and self-publishing. And it is upon them that the highest scorn should be placed. Hybrid publishing trades on the prestige of brand recognition and the privilege associated in publishing with a major publisher to bamboozle authors into thinking that by paying to publish their work with say a Penguin affiliate, they are publishing their book with Penguin. In other words, that they are a Penguin author. This is the metonymic fallacy of neoliberal publishing. Though this fallacy is not limited to the publishing world, using brands and branding to lure in desperate authors so that the neoliberal publishers can make a few more bucks is one of its lowest and most predatory instantiations.

The Publishing Machine The rise of neoliberalism in publishing in the latter half of the twentieth century turned the writer’s life from an aesthetic endeavor to a market-driven one. This was particularly true of the largest and most

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powerful global publishing corporations—companies like Random House and Hachette, each with more subsidiary presses than books published annually by the overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of small presses in America. Entering the machine of the neoliberal global publishing industry in the twentieth century became less about the dreams of writers than the drone of accountants. It is a machine that has continuously been refined ever since the day Random House sold to RCA. Now that Random House and Penguin have merged—and one in four books sold worldwide is the product of their joint operation— few companies worldwide have a higher global market-share for their product.13 Corporate publishing is big business and growing every year. To enter into it as a new author or aspiring writer is both an honor and a horror. The honor comes with knowing that your writing is part of a lineage that goes back to the great writers of your press. Publishing with Random House, for example, places you in the prestigious company of Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Truman Capote, John O’Hara, and James Joyce. The honor of being part of an illustrious lineage though quickly gives way to horror if the sales of your first book are poor. Don’t expect the corporate publisher to wait around five to ten years to see how your book fares over an extended period of time, let alone give you a second chance to publish another with them. Not only are books that don’t sell well taken out of print quickly by the big publishing corporations, the new emphasis on “pre-sales” as determining the success or failure of your book makes the task even more daunting for the first time author. The corporate publishing machine is geared toward low risk and high sales. The handmaiden to corporate publishing is not the perfumed hand of aesthetics or the golden arm of literature, rather it is the calculating brain of the marketing and accounting departments. Big data drawn not only from sales figures and market analysis, but now also individual digital reading habits and social media activity are the key predictors of whether your book will succeed—and when it will fail. The publishing industry today is about providing immediate and maximal gratification to its consumers not testing the limits of literary taste or aesthetic innovation. The story of the corporate publishing machine is not a new one. Most writers today know the conditions for entry into the market and are aware at how these conditions have intensified as the machine has grown in

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size and power. Publishing for Penguin Random House is first and foremost about selling books and making a profit for the global publishing corporation, not about the longevity of literature. Who has time to evaluate an author or book’s contributions to culture or impact on broader social discussion? Rather, the global publishing machine privileges the immediacy of fiction—a world judged solely by balance sheets and units moved. The safehouse for literature is not the global publishing machine, especially not the literature that was produced since the last quarter of the twentieth century. Take, for example, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, William Gaddis. His first novel, The Recognitions was published by Harcourt, Brace in 1955, and his second, J R, was published in 1975 by Alfred A. Knopf. In 1993, Penguin (now Penguin Random House), reprinted both. However, since 2012, both Gaddis books are now in the hands of Dalkey Archive Press, a small press that will never put them (or any of its catalog) out-of-print. But how many Gaddises and Gasses (Dalkey Archive reprinted The Tunnel , which was only first published by the global publishing machine in 1995) will be saved from the “out-of-print” death of the machine? And where is the rage against the machine when it comes to its role in the death of literature? The global corporate publishing machine has the same role McDonald’s has in our culture. Everyone complains about its ubiquitous global presence, the way it has put many mom-and-pop restaurants out of business, and diminished our palate—but still billions of burgers are served. And the one in four books served by the penguin company is far greater market penetration than the billions of burgers served by the clown company. But the global corporate publishing machine taking the likes of Gaddis and Gass off the menu is an especially bad omen for literature today. So where can we look now for a reprieve from the machinations of the global corporate publishing machine? Oddly enough, it may be the very technologies that have opened up book production to the masses, namely, ebook and POD technologies. If the previous millennium closed with the corporate publishing machine at the apex of its power and control of the global book market, then the new millennium is quickly being defined by the potential of wresting much of this power and control from the accountants—and giving it back to the authors. The unprecedented opportunity today for authors to self-publish their writing provides them with the ability to have absolute control over the products of and profits from their artistry. The

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down-side of self-publishing is both that too many bad authors are using it as a vehicle to bring to light works that should remain in the dark, and that too few great writers are using it—an act with the potential to weaken, if not to bring down, the corporate publishing machine. What if Thomas Pynchon, for example, decided to self-publish his novels rather than publish them with Penguin? What would be the effect of high profile acts of independence from and defiance to corporate publishing? Would such actions spur other great contemporary writers like Don DeLillo to do the same? While I am not sure that Pynchon’s corporate publishing independence day would be widely celebrated by other high-profile and high-profit authors, it is certain that actions like this would be noticed by young and aspiring writers. His assertion of independence from the corporate machine would be a clarion call to the next generation of writers that the future of publishing is with the self-publishing revolution—not the world of corporate publishing. In the hands of worthy authors, self-publishing can be seen as an act of defiance against the neoliberal corporate world—a world centering upon branding and prestige, not writers and literature. Thomas Pynchon needs the prestige of publishing with Penguin to validate his literary worth about as much as Joyce would need Random House today. Now the financial part of the equation is another matter. To date, few in the self-publishing arena have been able to produce the kind of profits of publication enjoyed by the big authors at the big houses. Sure there are writers that have done well self-publishing their work but not along the lines of being able to command six- and seven-figure advances for their work. In the corporate publishing world, solid pre-sales predictions equate to solid advances against sales. In the world of self-publishing, pre-sales figures are about as valuable to authors as play money. The publishing machine in the new millennium is very different than that of the old millennium. In the previous millennium, the machine of publishing was an industry created around maximally profiting from artistic production. As the industry has evolved, it has come to be dominated by fewer and fewer companies with increasing levels of power, control, and capital. In the new millennium, however, the machine of publishing is quickly becoming a literal one. Technologies are now available to the public where for a small price, individuals can produce and reproduce on-demand print volumes of the same quality as corporate

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publishing. Machines like the Espresso Book Machine open up the potential for manuscripts to sit indefinitely in digital purgatory awaiting an audience to find them and print them out. No more relying solely on presses to delimit inventories of titles. Similarly, digital books are a technology that also allows individuals to produce volumes that need never materialize as paper products or warehouse stock. Machines like the Kindle or the iPad open up the potential for ebooks to be downloaded and enjoyed by readers in greater numbers than were ever previously seen by a generation that carted around books in a knapsack. Since 2007, the year in which the Kindle and the Espresso Book Machines were introduced, the publishing world has enjoyed the rise of a new form of mechanistic existence. In addition, most new and aspiring writers are savvier about opportunities for utilizing these machines for their writerly endeavors than they are with those of the corporate publishing machine. Still, the lure of publishing prestige weighs heavily upon authors. It is seen most exploitatively, as noted above, in the efforts of so-called hybrid publishing, which draws on the prestige of publishing houses to charge authors a few extra dollars to self-publish their work. In the new millennium, traditional publishing means something much different to new and aspiring writers than what it meant in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The cold soul of capitalism has finally run the publishing industry into a place that looks more like a dead end than the road to the future. Gone are most of the bookstores and the print review venues that were in the pockets of the publishing industry. What remains is a digital expanse that offers anyone and everyone the opportunity to not only self-publish reviews, but also to easily and affordably self-publish books. Within this brave new digital world of publishing is the opportunity to rage against the machine of corporate publishing by embracing technologies for book production and reproduction that are outside of their control. The question is whether writers will use this opportunity to produce and disseminate important, innovative, and aesthetically challenging literary work or whether it will be more of the same. Hybrid publishing is a step back to the future of corporate publishing; selfpublishing though is a step into a future where writers are in full-control of their work and any benefits that they may produce. My hope is that our welcome to the new machines of publishing is one where the aesthetic, social, and political dreams of writers are provided with absolute freedom and autonomy from corporate censure

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and control. Welcoming new and aspiring writers to the machine is to welcome them to the opportunity to find an audience for their work. Corporate publishing aimed to manufacture the needs of its audiences, whereas self-publishing gives the power of aesthetic choice back to the reader. If some of the great writers from our generation were to embrace the opportunity to self-publish their work, there is even more reason to believe that the publishing world of the future will be more progressive and democratic than the publishing world of the past.

The Future of the Past One place to find a new hope for self-publishing in the new millennium is the story of perhaps the greatest self-published writer of the twentieth century, James Joyce. Outlawed either officially or unofficially in nearly every English-speaking country, Joyce’s Ulysses was confiscated, burned, pirated, and smuggled for many years. Those who printed it, sold it, and distributed it risked going to prison. Even those who carried it through customs could face a five thousand dollar fine or up to ten years in prison. Yet in spite of these and other risks, many brave individuals contributed to the dissemination of this book.14 When no publisher would accept it for fear of fine or prison, the owner of a small bookstore in Paris took up the task. Sylvia Beach met Joyce at a party in July of 1920. Though Beach’s bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, had just opened in November of 1919, it quickly became a center and community for literati.15 The party, hosted by the French poet André Spire, was held to welcome Joyce to Paris, which would become his home for the next twenty years. Beach had not been invited, but was brought to the party by a friend. Their encounter was fortuitous. The next day, Joyce stopped by Beach’s bookstore and began to forge a relationship that would result in her offer in 1921 to publish Ulysses . Earlier that year, the “Nausicaa” chapter of Ulysses , which had appeared in The Little Review, a small journal edited in the states by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, was found in violation of New York state law against obscenity. This meant the prospect of publishing the entire novel in the United States was slim. Marked by an obscenity conviction and no viable option for publishing the novel in either the United States or Britain, Joyce vented to Beach. “My book will never come out now,” said Joyce. Her reply was simple

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and direct, “Would you like me to publish Ulysses ?”16 The process was far from easy. The plan was to produce a private edition of the novel sold directly to customers by mail order. Purchasers included Hart Crane, W. B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Winston Churchill. Direct shipping through the mail was illegal, making delivery difficult, but Shakespeare and Company managed to sell twenty-four thousand copies of the book in nine years. By comparison, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby sold nearly that many copies in its first year of publication. Beach’s printer, Maurice Darantière of Dijon, did not use a linotype machine to cast the lines of Joyce’s six-hundred-page novel. Rather, they were set one letter at a time. Making matters even more difficult was that Joyce was not finished writing the novel even after the manuscript was sent to the printer. He continued to write through the galleys and page proofs and is said to have gone through as many as four galleys and five page proofs for every page of Ulysses . Resetting pages of tiny metal blocks was time-consuming and expensive. Fortunately, Beach, with financial support from Miss Weaver, Joyce’s patron, allowed him to work with the printer until he was satisfied with each page. However, it would not be until over ten years later that Joyce’s selfpublished masterpiece would be picked up by a US publishing house. On December 7, 1933, Judge Woolsey famously ruled that the book “may, therefore, be admitted into the United States.”17 It was a victory for Joyce and modern literature, but an even bigger one for corporate publishing. Recall that the reason that Ulysses was put on trial was the consequence of a young publisher making sure a copy of it was seized by authorities. Bennett Cerf, the heir to a tobacco fortune, inherited $125,000 at the age of sixteen. After graduating from Columbia University, he became a successful Wall Street stockbroker and added to his fortune. At twentyfour years of age, he became vice president of the publishing house Boni & Liveright (an achievement facilitated by a $25,000 loan). It was the year after Ulysses was first published by Shakespeare and Company and Cerf now worked for the press that launched the Modern Library in 1917. Horace Liveright tried to acquire Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for the Modern Library, but John Quinn said it was too “modern” for the Modern Library. For Quinn, to be in the Modern Library was “a declension into the sunset preceding the dark night of literary extinction.”18

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Nevertheless, Cerf coveted the Modern Library and wanted to own it for himself. In May of 1925, he had his opportunity. Liveright’s father-inlaw was pushing Horace for payment of monies owed to him. Liveright said to Cerf, “Oh, how I’d like to pay him off and get rid of him.”19 Cerf suggested that an easy way to do this was to sell him the Modern Library. They agreed to two hundred thousand dollars, what was to be “the highest price every paid for a reprint series.”20 In order to secure the balance of the funds to purchase the Modern Library, Cerf went to his Columbia friend, Donald Klopfer. The publishing house that resulted from their collaboration was named “Random House” because they aimed to publish a few books on the side at “random” in addition to the Modern Library backlist titles. Needless to say, Random House became one of the most powerful publishing houses in the world. In 1965, it was sold for forty million dollars. While the Modern Library was the cash cow of the press, according to Cerf, its “first really important trade publication” was their publication of the first legal edition of Ulysses .21 Only six years old, the company was looking for a book that would take their press to the next level of success. So, they decided to import a single copy of Ulysses from Paris and make sure that the government seized it as a violation of the Tariff Act, which banned the importation of obscenity. Funny enough, the book was not seized at customs and arrived safely at the offices of Random House. Morris Ernst, the lawyer who would defend the book against obscenity charges, took it back to the New York customs office and insisted that they inspect it. When the customs agents saw it was a book that “everybody brings in” and which they don’t pay attention to, Ernst demanded that the book be seized.22 Judge Woolsey was the perfect judge to try the case. And even though it wasn’t an easy case to decide, he believed that “things ought to take their chances in the marketplace.”23 Woolsey’s decision opened the door for Cerf’s Random House to prosper as the marketplace for Ulysses proved substantial. It sold more copies in three months as a Random House publication than it had sold in the preceding twelve years. And after ninety years in print, it sells roughly one hundred thousand copies a year and has been translated into twenty languages. From the perspective of an age where anything can be self-published with ease and sent electronically without fear of prosecution, Joyce’s selfpublishing saga is a vivid reminder of how far the publishing world has come in such a short time. Less than a century ago, a literary giant could

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not find a publisher and was the subject of government-sanctioned book burnings. Today, finding a publisher for one’s work is an option, not a necessity. Most anything can be self-published cheaply and easily without fear of governmental reprisal or editorial intrusion. If self-publishing is the future of publishing, then why not make Joyce its patron saint? Or, perhaps, even Walt Whitman, who self-published many editions of Leaves of Grass including the first edition in 1855? Why not step back in literary history to gain a perspective on self-publishing that is fearless ? If the greatest novel of the twentieth century was sown in the garden of self-publishing, might we not also look forward to the greatest achievement of the next century to come from similar grounds? In fact, maybe we should also expect it. To do so is to not only to embrace self-publishing as an aesthetic opportunity, but also to recognize the formidable limits corporate publishing places on literary innovation.

Conclusion Though Haldeman-Julius published non-traditional books with a staple, his editorial hand and social and political view of the world was never far removed from their content and purpose. The cover of every Little Blue Book reminds us of this by including the words “Edited by E. HaldemanJulius” directly above the title and the author of the book, and he credits himself as the editor of all of the books in his catalog. Moreover, he self-published many of his own books including: Fun I Get Out of Life: Autobiography; Culture and Its Modern Aspects ; Snapshots of Modern Life; Clippings from Editor’s Scrap Book; Sensible Views of Life: Is Sex Sinful?; Studies in Rationalism; Confession of a Debunker; Persons and Personalities ; Bunk Box; Free Speech and Free Thought in U.S.; An Agnostic Looks at Life; Myths and Myth-Makers ; Tyranny of Bunk; Is Theism a Logical Philosophy?; Iconoclastic Reactions ; What’s Wrong with Schools ?; What Can a Free Man Believe?; and, How to Become a Writer.24 He also published books written by his wife, Marcet Haldeman-Julius. Still, the type of catastrophic education Haldeman-Julius envisioned for the world through his self- and non-traditional publishing is vastly different from the one taking form in the new millennium. In the first half of the twentieth century, Haldeman-Julius delivered these books to the world through the U.S. Postal Service. They fulfilled a huge global demand for information in a world reeling and recovering from the catastrophic devastation of not just one, but two world wars. But

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in the digital age, especially post-2007, our needs when it comes to selfand non-traditional publication are vastly different. Today, general and specific information about every topic under the sun can be readily found on the Internet. As such, self-publishing in the digital age has become a much more self-absorbed endeavor. Authors are less concerned about saving the world through the furtherance of education with their selfpublished books than fulfilling their own individual needs. In this regard, the self-publishing revolution squares well with the extreme individualism of neoliberal economics. If the paradigmatic neoliberal man possesses an “egoism” that rivals that of Steve Jobs,25 then the self-publishing revolution provides him another opportunity to exhibit it through the production of purely self-aggrandizing products. What other explanation can there be for over one million self-published titles in just one year? Surely the self-publishing market is not dominated by authors like Wells trying to save the world by educating fellow humans to avoid another catastrophe. Neoliberal socialism is not the socialism of Wells or of old. Rather, neoliberal socialism views the social as merely “an instrument for one’s own medical, emotional, or monetary gain.”26 The vast majority of individuals who self-publish in the new millennium do not have a social agenda, but rather an individual one. They measure their gains in individual terms rather than in collective social or political ones. In short, the fastest growing and now most dominant form of publication mirrors the growth and resiliency of neoliberalism. In the late twentieth century, neoliberalism radically changed the landscape of traditional publishing, with many mergers and acquisitions resulting in fewer presses controlling far more of the industry. After the rise of corporate publishing, the next stage of the neoliberal publishing world is the ascent of self-publishing, which allows individuals to be both publishing entrepreneurs as well as agents of their own egoistic desires. While selfpublishing offers writers an aesthetic opportunity to publish work that defies the formidable limits corporate publishing places on literary innovation, this still does not explain the existence of over one million self-published books in just one year. The twentieth century did not produce a whole lot of literary innovators on the level of James Joyce. So why would we expect anything different in the new millennium? Nevertheless, it must be noted here that self-publishing is but a part of non-traditional publishing. In addition to self-published books, non-traditional book data that is available include reprints (often public

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domain), other titles printed on-demand, and wiki-based material. If all of these forms of non-traditional publication are tallied along with selfpublished books, there were over 2 million non-traditionally published books in 2012 alone. This number, coupled with the 309,957 traditionally published books in 2012, brings the total book production for that year to over 2.3 million titles.27 Considering that Haldeman-Julius, the greatest non-traditional publisher in the twentieth century, had a catalog of books that only amounted to a few thousand titles, we can see how non-traditional publishing has become a major force in terms of volume of books produced in the new millennium. Given the numbers of individuals engaging in self- and non-traditional publishing, it appears that much of the fear surrounding it has subsided. The question remains though how the power of non-traditional publishing can be harnessed in the age of neoliberalism toward the social aims of catastrophic education, rather than just serving the corporate and individual ones of catastrophic late-capitalism.

Notes 1. Durant’s Little Blue Books can still be found in some used bookstores but not on the shelves by area with other books. They are usually located in a drawer with materials such as pamphlets and postcards. 2. For a discussion of this, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Academe Degree Zero: Reconsidering the Politics of Higher Education (New York: Routledge, 2016), 55–62 and 78–88. 3. “Print on Demand Price Comparison (Updated 2/26/2015),” Writers Weekly. http://www.writersweekly.com/pod-price-comparison.php. 4. Ibid. 5. Michael Hicks, “‘Traditional’ Self-Publishing: Smart Business Model, Deceptive Service, or Impossible Promise,” conference presentation, November 8, 2014, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts. 6. “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2008–2013: Print and Ebook,” Prepared by Bowker, 2014. http://www.bowker.com/assets/downloads/ products/bowker_selfpublishing_report2013.pdf. 7. Ibid. 8. Bowker, “New Record: More Than 1 Million Books Self-Published in 2017: Annual Bowker Report Shows Sustained Growth in Print Self-Publishing,” Bowker, October 10, 2018. http://www.bowker.com/ news/2018/New-Record-More-than-1-Million-Books-Self-Published-in2017.html.

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9. “Simon and Schuster Creates Self-Publishing Unit, Archway Publishing,” Publisher’s Weekly, November 27, 2012. https://www.publishersweekly. com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/industry-deals/article/54883-simonschuster-creates-self-publishing-unit-archway-publishing.html. 10. Jim Milliot, “Harlequin, Author Solutions Form Self-Publishing Imprint Harlequin Horizons,” Publisher’s Weekly, November 17, 2009. https:// www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publishernews/article/26993-harlequin-author-solutions-form-self-publishingimprint-harlequin-horizons.html. 11. Calvin Reid, “Penguin Revamps Book Country, Adds Services, Reduces Cost to Authors,” Publishers Weekly, January 17, 2013. 12. Clare Swanson, “Book Country Launches Revamped Site,” Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2013. 13. For an account of the ascent of neoliberalism in publishing, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 105–120. 14. Kevin Birmingham, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses (New York: The Penguin Press, 2014), 261. The general information about Joyce’s publishing saga with Ulysses is primarily drawn from Birmingham’s authoritative study. 15. Ibid., 148. 16. Ibid., 202. 17. Ibid., 329. 18. Ibid., 269. 19. Ibid., 269. 20. Ibid., 270. 21. Ibid., 301. 22. Ibid., 306. 23. Ibid., 324. 24. These are all what Haldeman-Julius calls “Larger Books,” measuring 5 ½ × 8 ½ inches and stapled, but not Little Blue Books. See “Catalogue of 735 Larger Books,” Haldeman-Julius Publications, for a listing of these and other titles. 25. William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being (New York: Verso, 2015), 161. 26. Ibid., 212. 27. Current numbers for book production in the United States are difficult to obtain. The primary source here is Bowker, which releases self-published book numbers within a year, but not traditionally published and nontraditionally published numbers. The numbers provided here are the most current available. See Bowker, “Print ISBN counts, USA pubdate 2002– 2013,” Media.bowker.com/documents/isbn_output_2002_2013.pdf.

CHAPTER 5

Academic Privilege

Your early education at a prestigious private boarding school founded in the early 1890s with a 7 to 1 student to teacher ratio prepares you well for an undergraduate degree from a prestigious private college and a masters and a doctorate from a prestigious private university, which was established in the first part of the seventeenth century and has today a nearly 35 billion dollar endowment. Your early education at an average public high school built in early 1970s with a 22 to 1 student to teacher ratio prepares you well for an undergraduate degree from an average state college and a masters and a doctorate from an average state university, which was established as a normal school and has today a 96 million dollar endowment.1

One of these is a door to academic privilege. The other is not. For those who have traveled the educational path from secondary to doctoral education in the United States, the two doors look very different. For those who did not, they can appear the same—a situation with parallels to the writer discussed earlier who does not know the difference between publishing their novel with FSG and iUniverse. Seeing the difference between these doors is a major element in coming to an understanding of academic privilege, but so too is listening to accounts of the unearned advantages one door affords its beneficiaries and the disadvantages the other door bestows upon others. Many of these accounts have become © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_5

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part of the common folklore of higher education. Evidence of academic privilege is all around us—even if many cannot see it or do not want to see it. Unlike white privilege or male privilege, there are no high profile individuals or groups raising awareness of academic privilege. There is no NAACP fighting for the rights of the academically disadvantaged, and thereby rallying the underprivileged academics. There is no Colin Kaepernick taking a knee in opposition to academic privilege, and thereby raising nationwide attention to it.2 And there is no movement within higher education to eliminate the oppression of academic privilege. If anything, the special rights and advantages of academic privilege are the higher education “knapsack” that no one wants to talk about, “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.”3 Not even those who have chronicled the various trials and travails of the “culture” and “PC” wars in higher education, which provided a platform for reinvigorated debates about privilege in America. The Reagan eighties were said to be the cauldron where animosity toward “political correctness” stewed for many years. This simmer reached best-seller status in 1987 with the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind.4 This book “attacked the faculty for ‘political correctness’”5 and raised public awareness of and interest in the “culture wars” of the late 1980s to an unprecedented level and fever pitch by selling nearly half a million copies in hardback alone and becoming the number one best-selling work of non-fiction on the New York Times list for four months.6 I point to this period because it was one of the high points of public awareness of “political correctness” in the United States. Works like Bloom’s were asking those within higher education to take a stand on whether “dead white European males” would continue to dominate the higher education curriculum or whether the broadening of the canon was needed to bring about more awareness of diversity in our society and a less culturally homogeneous curriculum. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were two doors to higher education but not the ones mentioned above: one involved political correctness, diversity, and the recognition of male, white, and European privilege in the academy; and the other championed moral correctness, the classics, and Eurocentrism, which conveniently comprised a canon of primarily “dead white males.” Amid all of this commotion about political correctness and debate about “dead white males,” a working paper was circulated in 1988 about

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the live ones and their privilege. It proved to be ground-breaking because of its frankness about the “unearned advantage” of its author, Peggy McIntosh. Entitled “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies,” McIntosh’s controversial article put privilege on the academic map by identifying forty-six ways in which “white privilege” had effected her life.7 She contended, “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.”8 The composition of her extremely personal and subjective list of unearned privileges she was afforded as a white person was motivated by often observing her male colleagues’ “unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged.”9 Her list was a call to others for openness, transparency, and dialogue regarding the ways in which privilege functions in their own lives. McIntosh’s work in this essay was pioneering and has been highly influential in the way we still talk today about privilege, and its unearned and often under-acknowledged dimensions. It is perhaps more influential not because of what is says about privilege (Does anyone really need to remember all 46 examples on her list?), but how it approaches its subject. “After frustration with men who would not recognize male privilege,” comments McIntosh, “I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life.”10 By “working on herself,” McIntosh produces a self-described “crude” but highly persuasive via positiva demonstration of “white privilege,” and via negativa demonstration of “male privilege.” Via positiva in that her list of 46 examples is more than sufficient as evidence of white privilege; via negativa in that if 46 examples of white privilege can be generated by a white woman then surely at least as many can be generated by a white male living in a patriarchal society. But she is also aware and acknowledges that “race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work,”11 pointing out that “we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.”12 The context for this remark is a suggestion from another professor to her of the “many ways the list [she] made also applies to heterosexual privilege.”13 “This [that is, heterosexual privilege],” comments McIntosh, “is a still more taboo subject than race and privilege; the daily ways in which heterosexual privilege makes married persons

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comfortable and powerful, providing supports, assets, approvals, and rewards to those who live or expect to live in heterosexual pairs.”14 For McIntosh, “owing to the deeper imbeddedness of heterosexual advantage and dominance, and stricter taboos surrounding these,” it is more difficult to “unpack” heterosexual privilege than it is to unpack white and male privilege.15 Nevertheless, the conclusion of her essay is clear and persuasive: white heterosexual males are the recipients of by and large far too many unearned advantages in our society—and by and large unwilling to acknowledge that they are not just privileged, but over-privileged. In 2014, she was asked by a reporter from The New Yorker whether attitudes about privilege in American society had changed much over the ensuing twenty-five years since the publication of her essay. In general, her response was “No” with one exception: “universities.”16 “The truth is,” comments McIntosh to her interviewer, Joshua Rothman, that it hasn’t changed much, except in the universities. The colleges and the universities are the places where you get a hearing. They’re where you learn to see both individually and systematically. In order to understand the way privilege works, you have to be able to see patterns and systems of social life, but you also have to care about individual experiences. I think one’s own individual experience is sacred. Testifying to it is very important—but so is seeing that it is set within a framework of one’s personal experience that is much bigger, and has repetitive statistical patterns in it.17

For McIntosh, universities are one of the only places in American society where you are expected to “Check your privilege” at the door. For her this is important because even as early as 1988, she was maintaining that though we need to be “explicit about the particular effects [of privilege] in particular contexts,” the “effects of ‘privilege’ systems” are universal.18 And while both are “our chief task[s],”19 the university holds more promise for changing the privilege systems in America than any other component of society. Thus, when Tal Fortgang was told by his university to “Check [his] privilege,” “it infuriated him,” comments McIntosh, “because he didn’t want to see himself systematically.”20 And she continues: everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in life. Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and

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spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background. We’re all put ahead and behind by the circumstances of our birth. We all have a combination of both. And it changes minute by minute, depending on where we are, who we’re seeing, or what we’re required to do.21

What seems clear to me from McIntosh’s comments both in 1988 and 2014 is that there has been and is a major blindspot in her analysis of privilege in America. Namely, it is one concerning academic privilege. It is one that is revealed by both what she does not say about it in her 1988 article as well as by what says about it in 2014. In short, while McIntosh acknowledges many of the dimensions of privilege in society (and foregrounds one of its most undeniable aspects, namely white, male, heterosexual privilege), she noticeably avoids one of its most pernicious enablers: academe.

Rank, Prestige, and Privilege They stand before you with nothing more than a Ph.D. in hand. They are neither white nor non-white; they are neither male nor non-male; they are neither heterosexual nor non-heterosexual. Both are seeking to convince you that you should hire them. One holds a degree from a prestigious Ivy League school; the other from a public technological university in the Midwest. Should it matter to you that that one of these two universities has a top-ranked program while the other has a lowly ranked program? Or that one of these two universities has a 35 billion dollar endowment and the other a 96 million dollar endowment? Do I need to even say which endowment is which? If you have a doctorate, you surely know. You fight the urge to not be swayed by the doctoral affiliations of the two candidates but a voice in your head keeps whispering “All Ph.D.s are not created equal,” urging you to give an “unearned advantage” to one of these Ph.D. candidates over the other. And while you don’t want to believe that better ranked and more prestigious programs produce better candidates, it is difficult to dispel the privileging of one candidate over the other. If you owned a restaurant and were hiring a new chef, would you rather hire one from one of the most prestigious, wealthy, and highest ranked culinary institutes in the country or hire one from the least prestigious,

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lowest ranked, and underfunded? Would you be willing to base your decision on a blind taste test of dishes from a graduate from the number two ranked institute side by side with dishes from a graduate from the one hundred and thirty-fourth ranked institute? Sad as it may sound the culinary world is probably less privilege- and prestige-oriented in their hiring practices than the academic world. At least you can imagine a blind taste-test driving a highly ranked restaurant hiring decision. A great chef is a great chef regardless of their pedigree. The same though cannot be said in academe. It is difficult to even imagine a recommendation from the hiring committee of a prestigious program to their chair or dean to hire a candidate from a lowly regarded program. And even if you could, it would need to be qualified with a statement something like, “Just read the work in the dossier, and you will see that this candidate is the best choice in spite of their pedigree.” Still, potential in these cases is always trumped by pedigree. Or, more accurately, prestigious pedigree multiplies the potential of candidates, whereas lack of pedigree divides it. Even if on some imagined objective scale the potential of both candidates were equal, prestige of pedigree would be the deciding factor. To be sure, there is no chance that a graduate from the lowest ranked Ph.D. program in the country is going to get placed at a prestigious institution fresh out of graduate school. The Ph.D. placement process is not blind to pedigree. The privilege system with regard to pedigree is one of the most undisputed aspects of academic privilege. For those in higher education, the foregoing exercise in demonstrating this point is about as necessary as demonstrating “male privilege” or “white privilege” in America. But for the same reasons that Peggy McIntosh thought that such a demonstration was necessary in 1988, I would argue that such a demonstration of academic privilege is still necessary more than three decades later. Why? Because like McIntosh noticing in her work “to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum” that men were often unwilling “to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged,” I have noticed in my efforts to bring about awareness of the materials from metaprofessional studies of the academy, or simply, critical university studies, that graduates from prestigious universities are often unwilling to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that graduates from unprestigious universities are disadvantaged.

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Studies are beginning to appear that demonstrate that a small number of Ph.D. programs produce a high number of placements. One recent study that tracked “nearly 19,000 tenure or tenure-track faculty members in history, business, and computer-science departments found that just 25 percent of institutions produced 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty.”22 Moreover, the study demonstrated that the “top 10 institutions produced 1.6 to 3.0 times more faculty than the second 10.”23 This means that 75% of these Ph.D. producing institutions only contributed 29 to 14% of tenure-track faculty hires in their respective areas. Another recent study showed that the top five political science Ph.D. programs comprise 20% of all faculty positions at research-intensive universities.24 While this situation is not new to higher education or its hiring practices, the unapologetic pursuit of prestige and status in neoliberal academe has only exacerbated it. In the old days, that is, those before the rise of the neoliberal university, hiring was almost done purely on the basis of bias and prestige. So and so was the student of a well-regarded professor at a prestigious university. One letter or phone call from them to a department chair looking to hire someone was often enough to make a hiring decision. Prestige may bias, but it does not lie. In the age of neoliberal academe, letters and phone calls have given way to ranking, the surrogate of prestige and the enabler of one form of privilege. High program ranking is often regarded as a far less elitist form of bias compared to prestige. This holds until one finds out that program rankings are often based on nothing more than the perceived prestige of programs and institutions. Consequently, prestige begets privilege. The U.S. News and World Report rankings of Ph.D. programs are a good example. Rankings of doctoral programs in the humanities are based solely on the results of peer assessment surveys. Each school offering a doctoral program is sent two surveys per discipline. The questionnaires ask respondents to rate the academic quality of the programs at other institutions on a 5-point scale: outstanding (5), strong (4), good (3), adequate (2) or marginal (1). Individuals who are unfamiliar with a particular school’s program are asked to select “don’t know.” Scores for each school are determined by computing a trimmed mean—eliminating the two highest and two lowest responses—of the ratings of all respondents. Average scores are then sorted in descending order. Questionnaires are sent to department heads and directors of graduate studies, or, alternatively, to a senior faculty member who teaches graduate students

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at schools that have granted a total of five or more doctorates in the discipline during a five-year period. The response rate from these programs is usually quite low. In the case of the 2013 U.S. News & World Report ranking of English programs, it was a measly 21%. So of the 156 graduate English programs surveyed, just over 30 responded. Perhaps as a response to the low response rate, in 2012, U.S. News and World Report decided to average the results from fall 2008 with those from fall 2012 to compute their scores. This was the first time they did this. If programs received a score of less than 2.0, their rank was listed as Rank Not Published. For all others however, the peer assessment numbers are published next to the program rank. To say that the data used to produce this well-known ranking of Ph.D. programs in English is weak is just another way of saying that this particular program ranking is nothing more than a means to objectify prestige. On what basis other than perceived prestige or reputation is one to base their responses when faced with a survey with no supplementary information asking them to rate on a scale from one to five 156 Ph.D. programs? Surveys like this one only confirm that prestige is more difficult to lose than it is to earn. It plays into a feedback loop that becomes part of the operational system of higher education. Prestige, affiliation, and rank often become major sources of decision-making and hiring practices. To complicate or challenge their rationale or merit is to challenge the very foundations of academe. Apparently, the story here only gets worse as we move from “hiring” to “publishing” practices. A recent study has shown that “there is a strongly unequal distribution of Ph.D.-granting institutions represented in the publication data” of four of the “leading journals in the humanities”: New Literary History, PMLA, Critical Inquiry, and Representations . According to this study, “[t]he top 25 percent of institutions account for 89 percent of the articles, while the top 10 (Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Chicago, Cornell, Stanford, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Cambridge), which represent less than 3 percent of the total number of Ph.D.-granting institutions in [their] data set, account for just over half of all articles published.”25 Moreover, two of these institutions, Harvard and Yale, accounted for one-fifth of all of the articles published by these three “leading” journals.26 Neoliberal academe has taken these bad tendencies of higher education to their logical extremes. Rank and prestige is everything in a world where branding and market domination has become academe’s modus operandi.

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How then to break this form of academic privilege? But, more importantly, and in the context of thinking about privilege in American society more broadly, isn’t academic privilege complicit in the exacerbation of privilege more generally in American society? To wit, if American society is by and large controlled by those who have been the beneficiaries of academic privilege, why then would we expect them to combat privilege in all of its forms, let alone, white, male, and heterosexual privilege?

Conclusion The doors to academic privilege are clearly marked in America. Rank is the way in which neoliberal higher education objectifies prestige—and prestige in higher education is tantamount to privilege. The circle of academic privilege must not be broken and billions of dollars of endowment money ensure that it is not. McIntosh rightly encourages us to identify privilege in all of its forms and to “testify to it.” While academic privilege next to “white privilege” or “male privilege” may seem small or trivial, its size increases and triviality turns to seriousness when one considers how many of these privileged institutions are led by white, male, heterosexuals. If the center of privilege in America gravitates around these three forms of privilege, then what does it say about higher education if its leadership does the same? Or, more particularly, what does it say about academe if its most prestigious and highest ranked institutions are led by “over-privileged” individuals? Higher education in America should be a place where privilege and over-privilege are not produced and reproduced, but unfortunately it is not. The situation here is structural, and no amount of “checking ones privilege” at the door is going to change it. Billions of dollars of endowment money and a system of prestige ensures that privilege in higher education and society is not only preserved but also reproduced. The illusion that we are outing it by having the over-privileged testify or admit to their over-privilege does nothing to alter an education system built to reproduce privilege. It is perhaps no coincidence that McIntosh’s major blindspot in her analysis of privilege in America is the privilege located in the academy. Why? Because she was the beneficiary of academic privilege from a very young age. Like the beneficiary of “male privilege” who will not “grant that they are over-privileged,” none of McIntosh’s comments in 1988 or 2014 indicate that she sees there is any privilege in academe

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associated with attending a prestigious boarding school and prestigious private college, or receiving a doctorate from a prestigious private university.27 But these are the epicenters of academic privilege in America—and without educational sites like them, it is a lot more difficult to maintain the machinery of prestige and the “objectivity” of rank. I would be a lot more hesitant to call McIntosh out about her privileged education if it were not for the fact that she is highly critical herself about her “schooling” and what she was “taught.” “My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture,” claims McIntosh.28 And she continues: At school, we were not taught about slavery in any depth; we were not taught to see slaveholders as damaged people. Slaves were seen as the only group at risk of being dehumanized. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow “them” to be more like “us.”29

If white, male, heterosexuals must “testify” to their privilege, then so too must the academically privileged because the two are connected. But while the former have and continue to testify to their privilege, the latter have yet to be heard. If there is something like over-privilege in America, then it must be something that is at least shared with the academically privileged. For its conditions of possibility lie in an educational system built to produce and reproduce this excess of privilege. Academe is a world of affiliational dependence. All Ph.D.s are not created equal is the self-evident truth of academe’s declaration of dependence. To think otherwise is to put your academic life, liberty, and happiness at risk. Doing away with privilege in America requires stripping higher education itself of it. But this is about easy as eliminating white, male privilege from American society. Higher education in American is a privilege system. And in spite of it often being said “education is a right, not a privilege,” this does not hold for Ph.D.s from prestigious programs where academic privilege is their right. Academic privilege is an educational catastrophe of the highest order, particularly its resiliency in higher education under neoliberalism.

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Notes 1. In 1970, the number of pupils per teacher was 22.3 to 1. See Thomas D. Snyder, Cristobal de Brey, and Sally A. Dillow, Digest of Education Statistics 2015 (NCES 2016-014) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, 2016). 2. See Eric Reid, “Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee,” The New York Times, September 25, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/ 2017/09/25/opinion/colin-kaepernick-football-protests.html. 3. This is a reference to the “knapsack” Peggy McIntosh uses as a metaphor for “white privilege” in her essay “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies,” in Re-visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice, 2nd ed., eds. Monica McGoldrick, Kenneth V. Hardy, Monica McGoldrick, and Kenneth V. Hardy (New York and London: Guilford Press, 2008), 239. It is used here in the context of a different privilege. 4. Jeffrey J. Williams, PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy (New York: Routledge, 2013), 11. 5. Z. F. Gamson, “The Stratification of the Academy,” Academic Labor 51 (1997): 67–73. 6. William Goldstein, “The Story Behind the Best Seller: Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind,” Publisher’s Weekly, July 3, 1987, 25. 7. The original version of this paper was a 1988 “working paper” circulated by the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. All page references to it are from a 2008 reprint of this “working paper.” 8. Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege,” 239. 9. Ibid., 238. 10. Ibid., 240, my emphasis. 11. Ibid., 247. 12. Ibid., 247. 13. Ibid., 247. 14. Ibid., 247. 15. Ibid., 247. 16. Joshua Rothman, “The Origins of ‘Privilege,’” The New Yorker, May 12, 2014. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-originsof-privilege. 17. Ibid. 18. Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege,” 247. 19. Ibid., 247. 20. Joshua Rothman, “The Origins of ‘Privilege,’” n.p. 21. Ibid.

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22. Andrew Piper and Chad Wellmon, “How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 21, 2017, B7. See also Andrew Piper and Chad Wellmon, “Publication, Power, and Patronage: On Inequality and Academic Publishing,” Critical Inquiry, October 13, 2017. http://criticalinquiry.uchicago.edu/publication_power_and_ patronage_on_inequality_and_academic_publishing/ for an expanded presentation of their data. 23. Andrew Piper and Chad Wellmon, “How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself,” B7. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. Though McIntosh was spent some time in public school, she completed her secondary education at the prestigious George School in Newton, Pennsylvania. A private Quaker boarding and day high school, the George School was founded in 1891, and currently has a 7 to 1 student to teach ratio. She has a Bachelors from Radcliffe College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, a private university with a 35 billion dollar endowment. 28. Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege and Male Privilege,” 240. 29. Ibid., 240.

CHAPTER 6

The End of Morality

When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end. He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said (they were his last words)—he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth. —Plato1

A debt was owed to Asclepius. Socrates used his last words to ask that this debt be repaid after his death. But it was not just any debt. Rather, it was a debt owed to a god with the power to cure humans. As Michel Foucault points out, the last words of Socrates have “always been a sort of a blind spot, an enigmatic point, at any rate a small gap in the history of philosophy.”2 Foucault devotes the entire second hour of his lecture at the Collège de France on February 15, 1984 to this line.3 The upshot of his lecture is that Socrates is expressing his final wish here, which is, for his friends and children to “take care of themselves.”4 For Foucault, the debt here is one that is shared by Crito and Socrates, and perhaps others.5 It is a debt that we owe, not just Socrates or Crito. Others though have interpreted the debt as just Socrates’s.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_6

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Regardless of to whom this debt is owed, it is a debt to be repaid in all of the various interpretations of it—some more far-fetched than others. Moreover, the scope of the debt referred to by Socrates is really a secondary concern to a more primary principle: we all must repay our debts. This is one of the fundamental principles of Western morality that dates back at least as far as ancient Athens, wherein the father of moral philosophy, condemned to death by the state expends his last words in its application. And, as fate would have it, the subject of debt repayment would also be one of last meaningful things that Friedrich Nietzsche— whose work on debt we will turn to later in this chapter—ever wrote. In early January of 1889, Nietzsche collapsed with his arms around a horse that he had rushed to when he saw it being flogged by a coachman. When he regaining consciousness after being carried home, he composed and mailed a number of letters.6 One of them was to his friend Franz Overbeck and his wife. In it he wrote, “Although you have so far demonstrated little faith in my ability to pay, I yet hope to demonstrate that I am somebody who pays his debts—for example, to you.”7 That two of the most influential moral philosophers of the West would expend their final words to debt repayment attests to the import of this principle. Though Nietzsche because of deteriorating health was never able to demonstrate to his friend that he was someone who “pays his debts,” Crito was able to reassure Socrates that the debt would be paid. After which, no further words are said by Socrates before the poison reaches his heart, and he dies a few moments later. The image of a dying Socrates imploring Crito to repay his debt to another comes at the same moment as the birth of philosophy as a practice. As such, to practice philosophy begins with the repayment of our debts.8 Or, at the very least, this is how a world today strangled by spiraling debt might revisit the words of the dying philosopher. The question though if the practice of philosophy ends with a Nietzsche gone mad speaking of debt repayment is one we might also consider, especially given the catastrophic levels of debt that today are crippling our world. It is in this philosophical spirit that we might consider, what if, instead of a cock, Socrates had substantial housing or healthcare debt at the time of his death? Would he have taken this debt to his grave or asked Crito to repay it for him? What if it were an outstanding auto or student loan, would he have felt the same need to ask his friend to repay these debts too? Socrates’s commitment to the state was so strong that rather than leave Athens and face ostracism, he accepted his sentence by the state and

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committed suicide. But what if Athens were a runaway debt state as the United States is today, would he have felt the same way about repaying his debts and accepting a death sentence from it? More importantly, would he have felt as strongly that the essence of morality involves repaying ones debts? Thought exercises such as this one are important because they pressure us to revisit moral principles forged in social, political, and economic conditions very different than those today. It is one thing to ground morality on the repayment of debt when it is not a major source of oppression and domination over others; it is quite another thing to do so at a time when it is a major source of oppression and domination. To be sure, one of the major sources of debt resistance today comes from those who find it to be exploitative and oppressive. This resistance has resulted in a serious challenge to the feasibility of a key moral principle and along with it traditions of morality dating back to Socrates. One of the major philosophical questions of the day is what becomes of morality if one is not obligated to repay their debts? This question is of interest to both those who study our moral customs as well as those who think about their meaning and implications. Socrates is an important figure to recall here not just because his last words were about debt, but also because ever since his time moral philosophy has been viewed as distinct from morality. Morality refers to the particular practices, precepts, and customs of people and cultures. In this context, the repayment of debt has been viewed as central to Western morality. To illustrate this point, note that it is difficult if not impossible to locate, let alone imagine, a mainstream version of Western morality that does not incorporate some version of the moral importance of debt repayment. This moral impact is also reflected in the legal system wherein over the course of Western history nonpayment of debt has been enforced by varying degrees of punishment including, most notoriously, debtor’s prisons. But though debtor’s prisons have gone away, punishment for debt has not. A life of debt with no prospect of repayment is a form of punishment or oppression that for many carries a lifetime sentence. One must live with the moral “shame” of debt, or alleviate the shame by rationalizing it away through a moral philosophy that allows for the non-payment of debts. But what moral philosophy advocates the non-payment of debt? And what would keep that same moral philosophy from advocating related acts such as lying and stealing?

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Moral philosophy is not the same thing as morality. Rather, it is theoretical or philosophical reflection on morality itself. Its aim is to help us better understand the meaning and implications of moral concepts such as right and wrong, and good and bad, both in themselves and as they contribute to moral practices. It also strives to justify moral principles and theories while always looking out for principles of right behavior that might serve as guides for those who want to do the right thing. In the final analysis, the end of moral philosophy is not to espouse pieties that are not beneficial to individuals and society, but rather to examine values and virtues with an eye toward those that are most beneficial to individuals and societies.9 It is in the context of moral philosophy that debt has been somewhat shielded from the scrutiny placed on other moral concepts. Moral philosophy has explored many times over, for example, what is justice, virtue, and happiness, but has largely ignored debt in spite of its central role in morality. Debt is a relational and generative concept in moral theory that has functioned uncritically for most of the history of Western moral theory. Moreover, when one starts to examine its meaning and implications, one finds themselves entangled in issues of money and morality, or economic thinking and moral philosophy, as the concept of debt, like that of “value,” is often viewed as simultaneously serving two different masters. Thus, the ability to separate “morality” from “moral philosophy” is helpful because it affords us the opportunity to both describe moral practices concerning debt as well as reflect on their implications and beneficence to individuals and society. While the distinction between “morality” and “moral philosophy” is often rendered moot under the term “ethics,” that is, some think that “ethics” comprises both the domains of morality and moral philosophy, it is useful to maintain a distinction between them when trying to make sense of debt. Why? Because it allows us to assume that “we all must repay our debts” is the essence of “morality,” while at the same time working to critique “debt” through “moral philosophy.” This balancing act is kind of like doing a heart transplant. If one takes the heart out without maintaining a normal blood-flow, the patient dies before the new heart can be transplanted. Same with debt. If one rejects debt in toto without maintaining some semblance of morality, then individuals and society will suffer greatly before an alternative to debt as the essence of morality is established. “Suffer” meaning experience moral chaos. While we must be critical of what has become of

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“debt” today, at the same time, we need to do so knowing that to reject “debt” in toto is also to reject morality in toto. Morality without a sense of debt is nothing less than moral nihilism. These metaphilosophical considerations are important to acknowledge at the outset of any philosophical speculation on debt because without them one could unwittingly kill the patient (“the everyday morality of man”) while trying to provide them with a new “heart” (i.e., with a new “essence” for morality). Another way, which is perhaps more direct, to consider these metaphilosophical considerations is through Henri Lefebvre’s distinction between “everyday man” and “philosophical man.” “Everyday man, nonphilosophical man,” writes Lefebvre, “is opposed to philosophical man and the philosophical project of man.” “It is from their contradiction, their confrontation, that the mutation of both will emerge.”10 It is in this “mutation” that Lefebvre locates one of his senses of “metaphilosophy.” In a way, Lefevebre’s metaphilosophical “confrontation” is akin to the one between the “everyday” morality of man which accumulates debt uncritically, and the project of moral philosophy which aims at a critique of debt. In short, if the heart of morality is debt, then the heart of resistance to debt is metaphilosophy.

The Debt Catastrophe The level of debt worldwide is higher now than at any time in history. In the United States alone over three-quarters of Americans have some type of debt11 and total household debt has just reached record figures. So, given these staggering numbers, if the heart of morality is debt, then the United States is by and large a very moral society—and the everyday man is, by and large, also the indebted man. According to recent figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, the total household debt in the United States stood at $12.73 trillion as of March 31, 2017. This total household debt figure marks a 1.2% increase from the previous quarter. It also puts overall house debt $50 billion above its previous peak set in the third quarter of 2008 and 14.1% above the trough set in the second quarter of 2013. Also as of March 31, 2017, mortgage balances reached $8.63 trillion and had risen $147 billion from the preceding quarter. This housing debt comprises 68% of all household debt and is by far the largest component of household debt.12

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The second largest component is student loans, which, as of the first quarter of 2017, comprise 11% of all household debt and increased $34 billion from the preceding quarter. Along with student debt, the other major components of non-housing debt are auto loans, which comprise 9% of all household debt and rose $10 billion from the preceding quarter, and credit card balances, which comprise 6% of all household debt, but dropped $15 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2017.13 These brute numbers on household debt are grim, but the more specific data on student debt paint an even darker picture. In its 2016 Student Loan Update, the Center for Microeconomic Data sets the number of student loan borrowers at 44,179,100 as of the fourth quarter of 2015. This is an increase of 836,000 student loan borrowers from the previous year. 14 If all of the Americans with student debt were a state, they would be the largest state in the country, exceeding the population of California by one million15 ; if they were a country, they would be the 33rd most populous country in the world, displacing Algeria for the honor, and exceeding the total population of countries such as Poland and Canada.16 Overall, in a country of 320 million, one person in eight has student debt—12.5% of our population. But there is more. The average student borrower in 2014 is carrying four student loans. This is an increase from 2008, the year of the economic collapse, when the average student borrower carried less than three loans. In addition, the average student loan balance has increased from $23,000 in 2008 to $29,000 in 2014.17 Overall, it is estimated that the nationwide total student debt in 2017 is $1.34 trillion. This is a 131% increase since 2008—and the highest sum total in American economic history.18 As a point of comparison, car loans too in the United States are at a record high, but still only totaled $1.16 trillion in 2017—$177 billion less than student loans.19 Moreover, it was only fairly recently—the first quarter of 2010—that total student loan debt exceeded total car loan debt. And since then total student loan debt has not looked back.20 Of those student borrowers, just over 29 million owed $25,000 or less, 11.67 million owed $25,000 to $75,000, and 2.46 million owed $75,000 to $150,000. Finally, half a million individuals have student debts of $150,000 to $200,000, and there were 415,400 individuals in the final quarter of 2015 with student debt in excess of $200,000.21

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Moreover, since 2004, the number of individuals with student loans has doubled going from 22.8 million to 44.16 million borrowers in 2015.22 Of the latter group, 17.3 million are under 30 years of age and have a combined debt of 376.3 billion dollars, 12.1 million are 30–39 with a combined debt of 408.4 billion dollars, 6.8 million are 40–49 with a combined debt of 229.6 billion dollars, and 8 million are over 50 years of age with a combined debt of 216.4 billion dollars. Any way you cut these numbers, the conclusion is the same: households in the United States are awash in debt. More and more do not have the financial means to afford the kind of housing, education, transportation, and health care they desire without going into debt. If the phrase “living within one’s means” is reserved for those that are able to avoid debt, then only a fraction of the US population lives within its means. This is because less than 25% do not have any kind of debt. However, if the phrase “living within one’s means” is reserved for those that are both able to avoid debt and those who repay their debt in a timely manner, then a different conclusion can be reached. Currently, 95.2% of household debt balances are “current,” meaning that there is no level of delinquency in payment. This means that less than 5% of household debt is either 30, 60, 90, or 120 + days late or “severely derogatory.” Of the last category, this number has hovered just under 2% for six straight quarters (2015, Q4 to 2017, Q1), whereas before that it was below 3% for eleven straight quarters (2012, Q4 to 2015, Q3). And though it was at 3% or above for fourteen out of fifteen quarters from 2009, Q1 to 2012, Q3, it only peaked at 3.8% (2011, Q1). Moreover, the last time it was under 2% prior to 2015 was 2007, Q4. From 2003, Q1 to 2007, Q3 it fluctuated between 1.1 and 1.6%.23 So, in spite of the fact that overall debt is rising rapidly, two things are clear: (1) people are staying current with their debt payments, and (2) the “currency” percentages and the “severely superogatory” percentages are basically the same today as they were in the first quarter of 2003 (95.1% current in 2003 versus 95.2% current today; 1.5% severely superogatory in 2003 versus 1.5% today). What I take away from these figures is that while it is increasingly difficult to avoid debt, the vast majority of debtors repay their debts in a timely manner. The conclusion here has to be that the majority of Americans are living within their means in spite of being unable to avoid debt. They stay current on their debt payments even though some will take their debt to their grave.

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The fact that the vast majority of Americans have some form of debt does not imply that these people are “living outside of their means.” Debt is the means in the debt age. The question still remains though what type of moral identity and conduct results from this “debt-ridden” economic behavior? Whereas a generation or two ago when the mountain of total household debt today was a molehill, “living within one’s means” meant living without debt.24 However, for households in the age of debt such everyday living is nearly impossible. Therefore, the moral line between living outside of ones means and living within it has shifted from avoidance of debt to repaying ones debts. This, in turn, takes us back to Socrates’ cock. If repaying one’s debts is the essence of morality, then because Americans still repay their debts at an impressively high rate, they have maintained the traditional core of morality in spite of dire economic times. One might argue, however, that the banking world is taking advantage of the morality of Americans by using the fact that they repay their debts to profit off of this “morality”—and a strong argument might be made here. Andrew Ross uses the term “creditocracy” for a society wherein “the goal is to keep debtors on the hook for as long as possible, wrapping debt around every possible asset and income stream to generate profit.”25 For Ross, “[f]iguring out which debts we can legitimately refuse may turn out to be the only way of salvaging popular democracy.”26 Like Ross, I too believe that “creditocracy” is destroying American society, but would add that creditocracy is effective because of the moral fiber of Americans. Still, rejecting debt payment on moral grounds is difficult, if one maintains that debt payment is the essence of morality. An extreme version of the debt refusal argument is that we have no moral obligations to repay debt owed to major banks or credit agencies because of their “false” financial status. Because they do not “have” the money they are loaning us, we have no moral obligation to repay it. This holds for all debt including housing, auto, health, and education debt.27 In fact, according to this logic, one can and should accrue debt of this type without any intention to repay it. If more and more individuals treat debt in this way, then the “crooked” banks and credit agencies, if not capitalism itself, will eventually fail. Though this anarchist argument is logical and has a noble end, namely, the end of economic domination and oppression, it is not moral as the same logic can be used to justify lying to, stealing from, and violence against these self-same economic institutions. Resisting debt by dragging out payment, seeking loopholes to get out of

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it, and looking for ways to avoid it is very different from debt “refusal,” that is, making a moral decision to not repay a debt. As Dostoevsky taught us in Crime and Punishment , while the world with one less pawnbroker might be a better world, a world with one more murderer as a result is not. Debt refusal when done by a minority of individuals is merely a crime committed under the aegis of economic or social rebellion; however, when the same act is done en mass say by the 95% plus individuals who heretofore stayed current on their debt payment, it should be viewed as both an economic and moral revolution. 28 The reason the debt revolution has not occurred to date has probably less to do with our satisfaction with living in debt than our unwillingness to commit a moral revolution and do away entirely with repaying our debts.

Forget Morality A few years ago, in spite of all of the evidence pointing to the fact that most believe that repaying our debts is the essence of morality, an American anthropologist teaching at the London School of Economics attempted the impossible. Namely, to refute this long-standing principle of moral philosophy. In his fascinating and controversial book, Debt : The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber argues “paying one’s debts is not the essence of morality.”29 He builds his case for this conclusion by examining many of the “originary stories” concerning debt, money, and barter. Invariably (and unsurprisingly) when pressed, he finds that these originary “myths” begin to fall apart. For example, in the case of the myth of barter, he writes, Anthropologists have been complaining about the Myth of Barter for almost a century. Occasionally, economists point out with slight exasperation that there’s a fairly simple reason why they’re still telling the same story despite all the evidence against it: anthropologists have never come up with a better one. This is an understandable objection, but there’s a simple answer to it. The reasons why anthropologists haven’t been able to come up with a simple, compelling story for the origins of money is because there’s no reason to believe there could be one. Money was no more ever “invented” than music or mathematics or jewelry.30

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Therefore, for Graeber, demythologizing the origins of debt relieves us of any moral obligation to it. Though his argument is much more complex and his mythological examples of debt, money, and barter extensive, his conclusion is clear: the essence of morality is not repaying our debts. But even if for the sake of argument we grant him this conclusion, one might ask what is the essence of morality? Unfortunately, Graeber’s study offers few if any concrete proposals either for dealing with the problem of runaway debt or new alternatives for the “essence of morality.” Graeber seems content to be a “gadfly” regarding debt, rather than a provider of solutions to the problem. Nevertheless, he closes his study with a big one. “It seems to me that we are long overdue for some kind of Biblical-style Jubilee: one that would affect both international debt and consumer debt,” writes Graeber. “It would be salutary not just because it would relieve so much genuine suffering,” continues Graeber, “but also because it would be our way of reminding ourselves that money is not ineffable, that paying one’s debts is not the essence of morality, that all these things are human arrangements and that if democracy is to mean anything, it is the ability to all agree to arrange things in a different way.”31 But isn’t this proposal more about “morality” than “democracy”? If so, can we say “if morality is to mean anything, it is the ability to all agree to arrange things in a different way”? Perhaps, but usually, at least in the Kantian sense, such agreement rests on the possibility of willing that a particular maxim become a universal law. Would we all will then that the maxim “One must not repay their debts” become a universal law? I don’t think so—and one look no further than Kant for the rationale. Nevertheless, for Graeber, the “great imperial states have almost invariably resisted this kind of politics,” with Athens and Rome establishing the “paradigm”: “even when confronted with continual debt crises, they insisted on legislating around the edges, softening the impact, eliminating obvious abuses like debt slavery, using the spoils of empire to throw all sorts of extra benefits at their poorer citizens (who, after all, provided the rank and file of their armies), so as to keep them more or less afloat—but all in such a way as never to allow a challenge to the principle of debt itself.”32 But unlike the great imperial states such as Athens, Rome, and America who use the moral force of this principle to increase their political power, one of the main points of Graeber’s study is to “expose” the principle of repaying our debts as a “flagrant lie”33 and thereby bring an end to what might be called “imperial state morality.” “As it turns out,” says

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Graeber, “we don’t ‘all’ have to pay our debts.” “Only some of us do,” that is, those who do not run late capitalism’s “giant debt machine.”34 In short, bankers are the pawnbrokers of the debt age. Graeber’s “Biblical-style Jubilee” would not only wipe the international debt slate clean, but “mark a break with our accustomed morality,” and allow us to “start again.”35 But even assuming the unlikely happens, that is, there is a “Biblical-style Jubilee,” what is to keep the post-Jubilee world from falling back into its traditional patterns regarding money and markets, and the creditor-debtor relationship, which is arguably one of the key sources of Western morality? In the words of the immortal Billy Idol, it may be “a nice day to start again,” but is a “white wedding” for debt and morality even conceivable? Not even Graeber seems to think so. “What is a debt, anyway?,” asks Graeber. A debt is just the perversion of a promise. It is a promise corrupted by both math and violence. If freedom (real freedom) is the ability to make friends, then it is also, necessarily, the ability to make real promises. What sorts of promises might genuinely free men and women make to one another? At this point, we can’t even say.36

Graeber’s vision of “starting again” almost has a Wittgensteinian ring to it. He is looking for what is in store for morality once we move “beyond” the principle of debt as its cornerstone. Even a philosopher as heterodox regarding morality as Nietzsche is taken to task by Graeber because he has “nothing to say to anything that lies beyond it,”37 that is, the bourgeois debtor-creditor relationship. Wittgenstein famously wrote at the end of his Tractatus, “My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)”38 In true Wittgensteinian-style, Graeber is suggesting that we will “see the world rightly”39 if only we see it without the principle of debt. And because such a conception of the world has no propositional analogue, there is nothing to say about it. Hence, Graeber’s silence on the moral composition of a debtless world. “Whereof one cannot speak,” wrote Wittgenstein, “thereof one must be silent.”40 But is it even possible to climb up through debt in this way? To look back at the history of five millennia of debt as senseless? Even if it were possible to relieve the world of its debts with one fell swoop, would this

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be tantamount to pulling up the ladder of debt? Or is morality without money, markets, and debt more like climbing up the ladder to leave this world, both in a figurative and literal sense? Graeber’s quarrel with Nietzsche is that he speculates that “buying and selling itself, precede any other form of human relationship.”41 In On the Genealogy of Morals , Nietzsche says the following: the feeling of guilt, of personal obligation, had its origin, as we saw, in the oldest and most primitive personal relationship, that between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor: it was here that one person first encountered another person, that one person first measured himself against another. No grade of civilization, however low, has yet been discovered in which something of this relationship has not been noticeable. Setting prices, determining values, contriving equivalences, exchanging—these preoccupied the earliest thinking of man to so great an extent that in a certain sense they constitute thinking as such; here it was that the oldest kind of astuteness developed; here likewise, we may suppose, did human pride, the feeling of superiority in relation to other animals, have its first beginnings. Perhaps our word “man” (manas ) still expresses something of precisely this feeling of self-satisfaction: man designating himself as the creature that measures values, evaluates and measures, as the “valuating animal as such.”42

In short, Graeber’s problem with Nietzsche’s genealogy of the morals of the “valuating animal” is that he bases them on “ordinary bourgeois assumptions” about man. Nietzsche’s “game” according to Graeber is then to take these assumptions “to a place where they can only shock a bourgeois audience.”43 “It’s a worthy game,” says Graeber, “but it’s a game played entirely with the boundaries of bourgeois thought.”44 But Graeber does not stop here with his critique of Nietzsche’s account of homo economicus : The remarkable thing here is that so many have managed to convince themselves that in all this, Nietzsche is providing a radical alternative to bourgeois ideology, even to the logic of exchange. Deleuze and Guattari, most embarrassingly, insist [in Anti-Oedipus ] that “the great book of modern ethnology is not so much Mauss’s The Gift as Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals . At least it should be,” since they say, Nietzsche succeeds in interpreting “primitive society” in terms of debt, where Mauss still hesitates to break with the logic of exchange.45

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And, along with Deleuze and Guattari, many others including George Bataille in The Accursed Share have been duped into believing that Nietzsche is providing a radical alternative to bourgeois ideology. A more recent victim of this deceit is Nathalie Sarthou-Lajous who in L’ethique de la dette assumes that she has written “a philosophy of debt as an alternative to bourgeois ideologies of exchange, that, she claims, assume the prior autonomy of the person.”46 But Graeber dismisses her too and all who are foolish enough to follow the genealogy of debt laid out by Nietzsche: Of course what Nietzsche proposes is not an alternative at all. It’s another aspect of the same thing. All this is a vivid reminder of how easy it is to mistake radicalized form of our own bourgeois tradition as alternatives to it.47

My problem with Graeber’s dismissal of Nietzsche is that he is being criticized for something that Graeber himself does not even attempt to do, namely, provide proposals for an alternative to bourgeois ideologies of exchange. Telling us to pull up the ladder on them is not the same as providing us with them. Moreover, undervaluing Nietzsche’s remarkable contributions to understanding homo economicus leaves a serious vacuum in the history of philosophies of debt. Though Nietzsche’s economic thought was not a topic where he made major contributions (unlike say Adam Smith, who Graeber praises over Nietzsche for recognizing that “you could have a world where all such [creditor-debtor] transactions immediately cancel out”48 ), Nietzsche did have “deep insights into why and how man can be a homo oeconomicus.”49 In particular, in On the Genealogy of Morals , the text quoted earlier and also used by Graeber, where Nietzsche connects man’s ability to keep promises with economic progress. One commentator, who is much more sympathetic to Nietzsche’s economic work in Genealogy than Graeber, summarizes it as follows: Man is defined as that animal which can make and keep promises. He sees this as the basic and most important moral achievement attained by mankind, an achievement that is even more surprising in that man also has a strong tendency to forget. This insight is at the heart of the concept of cognitive dissonance. By being able to make believable promises, man is creating a link between the present and the future through a process of the division of labour. The promise entails an exchange which is not

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constrained to take place simultaneously and at the same time; this form of barter we can also observe in animal societies. Instead, the promise allows for an exchange of goods or services in the present in return for equivalent goods or services in the future. This is the basis for such economic activities as saving, investment, credit and bequest. If any one of these institutions is lacking, economic progress can hardly take place.50

Indeed, emphasizing the link between the present and the future in Nietzsche’s philosophy of debt as well as our ability or capacity to keep promises is grounded in an ideology of exchange, but there cannot be a notion of debt without establishing a link between the present and the future. Same goes for “guilt,” which in German means the same thing as “debt,” something which Nietzsche plays on in his economic thought. In his desperate attempt to sever debt from morality, Graeber only succeeds in severing his argument from the everyday world of man, a world where keeping promises has a central role in moral conduct and personal identity.

Neoliberal Man The world according to anthropology is filled with many myths regarding practices, customs, and precepts that otherwise defy origin. To debunk the role of debt repayment in morality by undermining these myths is like saying there are no heroes today because Achilles never lived. Graeber’s point though that debt has become a man-made tool of oppression and domination though the ages, especially of late under capitalism, is well taken. The rise of unprecedented levels financialization that include new ways of utilizing hedge funds, derivatives, and algorithmic trading as well as class warfare from the top and novel forms of expropriation have all compounded and complicated the debt catastrophe under neoliberalism.51 Still taking Nietzsche to task for not providing a radical enough vision of morality and economics misses the power of his work in this area to ground new thinking about the origins and limits of late capitalism and its associated morality. I have argued elsewhere that Nietzsche’s economic thought provides the philosophical backdrop for the now classic contemporary tale of debt in the age of neoliberalism, Breaking Bad.52 Walter White too makes a promise that creates a link between the present and the future when he

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makes the decision to exchange goods and services now (meth production and distribution) for equivalent goods and services in the future (his family’s financial future after his death). After all, he is adamant for most of the series that he is cooking meth only to provide a future for his family. It is only when they all reject this form of economic progress that he admits that all of his actions were about him (moral egoism)—not his family’s future (moral altruism). This ultimately becomes his undoing. Breaking Bad is a major source of philosophical inquiry. It is an exemplary critique of and source of resistance to the terrors of neoliberalism in America. But it also does a fine job of revealing the despair it brings not only to the indebted man, but also to the entrepreneurial man, that is, if we wish to follow Maurizio Lazzarato in making a distinction here. According to Lazzarato, the promise or illusion of neoliberalism is that it would allow everyone the opportunity to be a shareholder, an owner, or an entrepreneur. The rise of the information and knowledge society over the past 40 years afforded the United States an unprecedented vantage point within this new economy. But this new economy quickly faded away and was replaced by a much more vicious one: the debt economy. Like its predecessor, the knowledge economy, the debt economy is a derivation of neoliberal policies.53 The “indebted man” that emerges out of the intensification of neoliberalism is a docile subject.54 Think Walter White strapped with lung cancer and no way to pay for its treatment—let alone provide for the financial future of his family. But the power of the neoliberal vision of Breaking Bad is that it provides a commentary on both the fortunes of the “indebted man” (Walter White) and the “entrepreneurial man” (Heisenberg). Walt is able to break out of or “resist” the world of neoliberalism’s indebted man by becoming again an entrepreneurial one. However, as the knowledge economy is long gone, and the world is strapped with the debt of an economy gone sour, the re-emergence of neoliberalism’s entrepreneurial man is far from a noble one. Pre-2008 images of the entrepreneurial man were of a creative visionary and an independent worker who was proud of being his own boss and aggressively participating in the marketplace of ideas. This illusion ended when the dot.com bubble burst in 2000, and officially gave way to the debt economy with the financial collapse of 2008. The entrepreneurial man’s re-emergence as “Heisenberg” is also one of a creative visionary and an independent worker who is proud of being his own boss and aggressively participating in the marketplace, albeit not of ideas, rather one of drugs and violence.

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Breaking Bad provides an epic account of the moral implications of the debt economy and resistance to it. It stages on the one hand, the moral plight of the indebted man, and on the other, the immorality of the entrepreneurial man. The indebted man is a docile subject who accepts their indebtedness and oppressive economic condition with moral uprightness; the entrepreneurial man is one who resists their indebtedness by creating a new or alternate morality. If Graeber is right and paying our debts is not the essence of morality, then why not look to Heisenberg as exemplary of the kind of morality that results from casting off an indebted existence? Perhaps this is the more elegant route to reaching the conclusion that under neoliberalism we have failed to make both economic progress and moral progress— and that it is time to move beyond our current economic model and its associated morality? To what extremes of identity shift and conduct depravity do we need to go before post-capitalism becomes a reality? Walter White may not be a hero like Achilles, but his mythology today perhaps helps us to better imagine the neoliberal condition and the fate of identity and conduct under its influence than any of the Greek or Roman myths. It is a mythology that is connected to the American philosophical and literary tradition through his namesake, Walt Whitman. Walter White though takes the democratic ideals of individuality and selfrealization espoused by Whitman and reveals their moral shortcomings within a neoliberal ideology.55 By turning these American ideals on their head in “a grotesque magnification of the American ethos of self actualization,”56 Breaking Bad is also breaking a mythology about America and its literature—one that we will turn to in the next chapter. In short, neoliberal economics changes identity and conduct—albeit not for the better. Rather than attack the foundations of morality in debt repayment, we should be looking to ways of resisting debt that are wellfounded in morality. The existence of the everyday man as the indebted man may not be heroic, but it is an existence that at least in the United States one shares with over three-quarters of the population. Graeber is right that if we en mass get tired of living this way, we can make a difference and demand a new type of existence. But calling for solidarity among the indebted is quite different than becoming a philosopher who rejects philosophy by rejecting the origins of its practice in debt. To do so is nothing less than philosophical suicide, which is of course quite different than Socrates giving birth to philosophy through suicide.

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Conclusion The problem of debt as I see it is not one with the idea of debt, but rather one with the immoral use of debt to oppress and dominate others. I agree with critics who have observed that our current economic system is at the root of runaway debt, but disagree that the solution to this problem is to do away with debt as a concept and a practice. There is nothing inherently wrong with making promises regarding debt repayment that one has the capacity to fulfill at some time in the future. There is something wrong with an economic system that compels some to make promises via the accrual of debt that cannot ever reasonably be fulfilled. Its moral opprobrium is more on the level of loaning a suicidal person a gun than loaning a bright student the means to a good education—even though rising levels of student debt are beginning to make the moral difference with the gun loan less and less distinct. What I would like to see as a response to the problem of debt is a principled debt resistance that both leaves repaying debt as the essence of morality, but works to undermine those who would use debt as a means of exploiting others. Fortunately, there are already a variety of international initiatives of “resistance” of this type. One of them is Strike Debt, an initiative that “emerged in New York City as an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in the wake of May Day 2012.”57 As Strike Debt puts it, “debt binds us all—though it binds some people (people of color, queer or trans people, women, people with disabilities, and the poor) more tightly than others.”58 The aim of Strike Debt and other organizations associated with the international debt resistance movement “is not just to cancel debts but to fight the conditions and values that got us into debt in the first place.”59 This involves the creation of “new institutions” that will provide for the needs of all people, but especially those subject to the greatest degrees of oppression and domination, namely, people of color, queer or trans people, women, people with disabilities, and the poor. The international debt resistance movement is less asking for something than collectively creating new institutions that will provide for their needs without oppression or domination. While the international debt resistance movement realizes that the “system” that they are seeking to overthrow has “been built to keep money flowing from our pockets into those of Wall Street, corporations, and creditors,” they also believe that it works because the “system” is betting “that we won’t do anything about it.”60 “We are not looking for debt ‘forgiveness’ because we didn’t do anything wrong,” write the

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anonymous authors from Strike Debt. “We seek the abolition of debt profiteering, the creation of a new financial system, a new economy, and a new way of life based on justice, self-determination, and a concern for the common good.”61 In short, the problem for the debt resistance movement is not the principle of debt, but rather the way in which the financial system that manages debt has become increasingly unjust in its practices. The debt resistance movement is founded upon both the establishment of concrete ways to resist or deal with individual debt as well as the creation of an economy that does not profit from it. As such, it is an international movement for the most part based on standard-fare Western notions of morality. As such, it is a fine example of principled debt resistance, perhaps even the kind that would have sat well with the father of moral philosophy. Recalling though the example of Socrates allows us to see that it is not shameful to die in debt, a historical fact that should not be lost on those today subject to predatory levels of debt. What is shameful though is using debt to oppress and dominate others. Those who run the debt machine do so without shame or regard for the well-being of others, and are the real reason that debt has become an international catastrophe. Severing the link between morality and debt might hasten the end of the debt catastrophe, but it will also hasten the end of morality. Sadly, educational catastrophe doubles, when students feel that they must choose between two evils, namely, catastrophic debt or ending morality. Moreover, it triples for those bound by debt that are not subject to privilege, viz. people of color, queer or trans people, women, people with disabilities, and the poor. Question is, which is the greater of the two evils? Catastrophic debt, even for those bound more tightly by debt? Or ending morality? I know what Socrates would say. However, given Graeber’s quarrel with Nietzsche, the closing image of this philosopher gone mad writing a letter that promises a friend that he is still a person who pays his debts is perhaps the response to which we should give the most attention.

Notes 1. Plato, Phaedo, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1875), 118a. 2. Michel Foucault, The Courage of Truth (The Government of Self and Others II): Lectures at the Collège de France, 1983–1984, ed. Frédéric Gros, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 96. 3. See, ibid., 95–116. 4. Ibid., 112.

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5. Foucault here is following Georges Dumézil, Le Moyne noir en gris dedans Varennes (Paris: Gallimard, 1984). 6. Walter Kaufmann, “Editor’s Note,” The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Viking Press, 1966), 684. 7. Friedrich Nietzsche, “Letter to Overbeck and Wife, January 6, 1889,” in The Portable Nietzsche, 687. 8. Simon Critchley, however, places the birth of philosophy in Socrates’s suicide, not the repayment of debt. He writes, “To Practice Philosophy, Then, Begins with Suicide,” Notes on Suicide (London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2016), 19. 9. I discuss the relationship between morality and moral philosophy in more depth in Morality Matters: Race, Class, and Gender in Applied Ethics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), 11–15. 10. Henri Lefebvre, Metaphilosophy, ed. Stuart Elden, trans. David Fernbach (London and New York: Verso, 2016), 113. 11. Strike Debt, The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2014), 2. 12. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Total Debt Balance and Its Composition, Q1 2003 to Q1 2017,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyor kfed.org. 13. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Total Debt Balance and Its Composition, Q1 2003 to Q1 2017,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyor kfed.org. 14. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “2016 Student Loan Update: Distribution of Student Loan Borrowers by Balance in 2014, Q4 and 2015, Q4,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyorkfed.org. 15. United States Census Bureau, “U.S. and World Population Clock,” January 30, 2015. http://www.census.gov/popclock/. 16. United States Census Bureau, “International Programs,” January 30, 2015. http://www.census.gov/population/international/data/cou ntryrank/rank.php. 17. Blake Ellis, “40 Million Americans Now Have Student Loan Debt,” CNN Money, September 3, 2014. http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/10/pf/ college/student-loans/. 18. In Quarter 1 of 2008, the total student debt was 0.579 trillion dollars, whereas in Quarter 1 of 2017, it had risen to 1.34 trillion dollars. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, Q2 2010 to Date,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyorkfe d.org. 19. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Total Debt Balance and Its Composition, Q1 2003 to Q1 2017,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyor kfed.org.

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20. In Quarter 4 of 2009, total student loan debt was 721 billion dollars, and total car loan debt was 722 billion. The next quarter student loan debt rose to 758 billion, but car loan debt went down to 705 billion. For comparison, consider that in second quarter of 2004, student loan debt was 263 billion, and car loan debt was 743 billion. By the third quarter of 2013, car loan debt had risen to 845 billion (an increase of 102 billion since 2004) but student loan debt had risen to 1.02 trillion (an increase of 764 billion dollars ). Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Total Debt Balance and Its Composition, Q1 2003 to Q1 2017,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyorkfed.org. 21. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Distribution of Student Loan Borrowers by Balance in 2005 and 2015,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyorkfed.org. 22. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Number of Student Loan Borrowers by Age Group,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyorkfed.org. 23. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, “Total Balance by Delinquency Status, 2003, Q1 Through 2017, Q1,” Center for Microeconomic Data. newyor kfed.org. 24. I defend the notion of “living within ones means” as the avoidance of debt in Higher Education Under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct and the Neoliberal Condition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 93–108. However, life in the debt age has changed this from avoidance of debt to repaying ones debts. While this change can be traced back as far as the first phase of neoliberalism in the Thatcher/Reagan 1980s, I’d like to suggest here it that it be dated to the first quarter of 2010, the quarter that total student loan debt first exceeded total car loan debt. I’ll leave this argument though for another occasion. 25. Andrew Ross, “Payback’s a Bitch,” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2014, B5. See also, Andrew Ross, Creditocracy: And the Case for Debt Refusal (New York and London: OR Books, 2013). 26. Andrew Ross, “Payback’s a Bitch.” 27. Lest one believe that this is merely a theoretical position, rest assured that there are increasing numbers of individuals who practice debt refusal on these grounds. 28. I’m thinking here of rebellion within the context of moral theory. Therefore, consider, if you will, Immanuel Kant’s argument against rebellion in his late essay, “To Perpetual Peace” (1795). He asks, “May a people rightfully use rebellion to overthrow the oppressive power of a so-called tyrant (nontitulo, sed exercitio talis )?” (136). Kant begins by noting that in this situation, “there is no doubt” that the “rights of the people are injured, and no injustice comes to him (the tyrant) who is deposed” (136). However, “it remains wrong in the highest degree for subjects to pursue their rights in this way, and they can in no way complain of

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injustice if they are defeated in this conflict and must subsequently suffer the harshest punishment for it” (136). But why? Here is Kant’s response: According to this principle, before establishing their social contract, the people have to ask whether it dare make known the maxim of intention to revolt in some circumstances. One can readily see, first that if one were to make revolt a condition of the establishment of a nation’s constitution that force might then in certain circumstances be used against the ruler and, second, that the people must in such an instance claim some rightful power over the ruler. In that case, he would not be ruler; or if as a condition of establishing the nation, both the people and the ruler were given power, there would be no possibility whatsoever of doing what it was the people’s intention to do. The wrongness of revolt revealed by the fact that the maxim through which one publicly declares it renders one’s own intention impossible. One must therefore necessarily keep it secret. (136)

29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41.

As such, announcing a revolt of the people against the ruler fails the transcendental test of “publicity.” In short, as there are no provisions in the civil constitution for revolt, any effort to publicize a maxim regarding revolt of the people against a tyrant would need to be done secretly, if it were to have any chance at being successful. But it is the secrecy regarding the maxim that ultimately determines that it is not in the interests of justice and the rights of man. See, Immanuel Kant, “To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,” Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, trans. Ted Humphrey (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988), 107–143. David Graeber Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Brooklyn and London: Melville House, 2011), 390. Ibid., 52. Ibid., 390. Ibid., 390–391. Ibid., 391. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 79. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1922), 189; 6.54. Ibid., 189; 6.54. Ibid., 189; 7. David Graeber, Debt, 76.

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42. Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale in Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, ed. with commentary, Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1969), 70; Second Essay, Section 8. 43. David Graeber, Debt, 79. 44. Ibid., 79. 45. Ibid., 402n8. 46. Ibid. 47. Ibid. 48. Ibid., 77. 49. Jürgen G. Backhaus, “The Word of Honour,” in Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900): Economy and Society, eds. Jürgen G. Backhaus and Wolfgang Drechsler (New York: Springer, 2006), 87. 50. Ibid., 88. 51. See, for example, François Chesnais, Finance Capital Today: Corporations and Banks in the Lasting Global Slump (Boston: Brill, 2016), Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), Peter Hitchcock, “Accumulating Fictions,” Representations 126 (2014): 135–160; Maurizio Lazzarato, Governed by Debt, trans. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2015), and Christian Marazzi, The Violence of Financial Capitalism, New Edition, trans. Kristina Lebedeva and Jason Francis McGimsey (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2011). 52. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Higher Education under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct, and the Neoliberal Condition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 139–163. 53. Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, trans. Joshua David Jordan (Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2012), 9. 54. The notion of the docile subjects of neoliberalism is established in some depth in the context of higher education in my book, Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). The two major theses of the book are (1) neoliberalism threatens to turn academics into docile subjects (xvii–xviii) and (2) docile academic subjects are a bad thing (xviii–xix). 55. See Miguel E. H. Santos-Neves, “Our ‘word … is half someone else’s’: Walt and the Literary Echoes of Whitman,” in The Methods of Breaking Bad: Essays on Narrative, Character and Ethics, ed. Jacob Blevins and Dafydd Wood (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2015), 62– 77. 56. Brett Martin, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad (New York: Penguin, 2013), 268.

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Strike Debt, The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual, 12. Ibid., 12. Ibid., 211. Ibid., 207. Ibid., 208; my emphasis.

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CHAPTER 7

Post-literature America

The specter of catastrophe cast its long dark shadow over the dawn of the new millennium. Many thought the world was going to end when the clock struck midnight. Others expected a catastrophic computer crash that would bring down the stock and global markets. But nothing even remotely close occurred—at least not on or about January 2000. Still, the opening of the twenty-first century has come to distinguish itself like few centuries in history. First, terror, terrorism, and events took on an entirely new global character when planes struck the Pentagon and the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. “It gave flesh to the heretofore abstract idea of global interdependence and the wholeness of the globe,” said Zygmunt Bauman, a year after the event.1 It showed us, continues Bauman, “how global events can truly be.”2 In addition, “9/11 forced us,” writes Brad Evans, “to confront the dangerous uncertainty of an unequal world that was increasingly closing in upon itself without a political framework for dealing with the problems such shrinkage necessarily created.”3 In short, 9/11 was a “catastrophe” in the third sense of the OED definition noted earlier, that is, an event producing a subversion of the order of things. For many, given the fact that the United States had been immune to foreign terrorist attacks of this scale, the events of September 11 were a clear shot across the bow of American exceptionalism. Some, such as © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_7

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Donald Pease, called it the origin of a “new American exceptionalism.”4 Others, such as William Spanos, saw it “as the liminal point of the development of the exceptionalist logic that had its origins in the American Puritans’ belief that they had been chosen by God to fulfill His ‘errand in the wilderness’ of the New World.”5 Differences of genealogy notwithstanding, the response of the Bush administration, in the wake of this event, through authoritarian and unilateral political policy, put American exceptionalism in the limelight. Not only were media mentions of it on the rise, with two noted in 1880 and 2580 reported in 2011, but public opinion in the wake of the events of September 11 has been highly favorable regarding America’s exceptionalism. A Gallup poll from 2010 reported that 80% of Americans agree that “because of the United States’ history and the Constitution—the United States has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” Of these, there was 73% agreement on this among Democrats, and a whopping 91% agreement among Republicans.6 Nonetheless, twenty years after 9/11, we can reasonably say that in the eyes of the world, the United States has a much more difficult time defending its claim to greatness.7 Giovanna Borradori, in her interview with Jacques Derrida just a few weeks after the event said, “September 11 [le 11 septembre] gave us the impression of being a major event, one of the most important historical events we will witness in our lifetime, especially for those of us who never lived through a world war.”8 Derrida, after a rather lengthy philosophical commentary on what a “major event” is and is not, finally says, “A major event should be so unforeseeable and irruptive that it disturbs even the horizon of the concept or essence on the basis of which we believe we recognize an event as such.”9 Borradori’s interview with Derrida was published in 2003, a year before the French philosopher passed away. While there were other opportunities for him to reflect on September 11, we have been robbed of the opportunity for him to look back twenty years on how this event changed the world—and how it changed us. Still, his thoughts on the role of this event in philosophy are important to recall. In his conversation with Borradori, Derrida says of September 11: Such an “event” surely calls for a philosophical response. Better, a response that calls into question, at their most fundamental level, the most deepseated conceptual presuppositions in philosophical discourse. The concepts

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with which this “event” has most often been described, named, categorized, are the products of a “dogmatic slumber” from which only a new philosophical reflection can awaken us, a reflection on philosophy, most notably on political philosophy and its heritage. The prevailing discourse, that of the media and of the official rhetoric, relies too readily on received concepts like “war” or “terrorism” (national or international).10

Derrida was correct in his assertion that this event called for a “new philosophical reflection.” To be sure, prior to September 11, 2001, critical theory and philosophy was in a sort of “dogmatic slumber,” caught in a quagmire between the emergent field of cultural studies and prognostications of the end of theory. September 11 not only reawakened “reflection on philosophy,” one of the strengths of theory, it has also reawakened reflection on just what are or should be our priorities as scholars, particularly scholars who call the United States home. Subsequent acts of domestic and foreign terrorism such as public school and university massacres and bombings of theaters and markets only further call the question of the capacity of the prevailing discourse to handle these catastrophes, if not also whether and how the world changed on September 11. But the second way that the twenty-first century has come to distinguish itself like few centuries in history is no less significant. It is the rise of neoliberalism in America and abroad. Unlike the attacks on New York City and Washington or even those in Paris and other places around the globe, which come with a time and date stamp, the rise of neoliberalism does not. While the economic crash of 2008 was the most visible sign, economic policy changes often go unnoticed until their unfortunate and unforeseen effects occur. The war on terror started by the administration of George W. Bush in the aftermath of September 11 and their 2003 invasion of Iraq resulted in a sharp decline in global public opinion and a loss of respect for the United States from 2003 to 2007. His reelection in 2004 only exacerbated the problem. For example, a survey conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2005 found that 62% of Britons said their view of the United States was less favorable after the reelection of George W. Bush. The numbers though were higher in other countries: 74% of the French, 75% of Canadians, and a whopping 77% of Germans at the time indicated

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a less than favorable view of the United States. In short, the “hubrisdriven unilateralism” of the Bush administration resulted in loss of favor for the United States abroad.11 But things were not rosy on the home front either. By 2007, the year before the economic collapse, a Gallup poll found 61% of respondents describing themselves as dissatisfied with the position of the United States in the world. Also, whereas the German Marshall found that in 2005, 52% of Americans thought that the United States should promote democracy around the world, by 2007 this was down to 37%.12 Moreover, the 2007 Strategic Survey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported the following: “The U.S. has suffered a significant loss of power and prestige around the world in the years since George W. Bush came to power, limiting its ability to influence international crises.” The same report though suggested that “the fading of American prestige began earlier, largely to its failings in Iraq.”13 Other polls at the time further confirm that in 2007, the United States had lost a considerable amount of international clout and prestige.14 It was in the midst of this decline in American international prestige and rise in unilateralism that the United States experienced its most severe financial crisis since the 1930s. The credit bubble, over two decades in the making, finally burst in 2008, and in autumn, the federal government stepped in to bail out the failing banks.15 By the end of 2008, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 71% of Americans disapproved of how the federal government was handling the financial crisis.16 To add insult to injury, Osama Bin Laden publicly gloated in 2004 “Al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the 11 September attacks, while America lost more than $500 billion, at the lowest estimate, in the event and its aftermath.” He continued his cost–benefit analysis of the 9/11 attacks, stating: That makes a million American dollars for every al-Qaeda dollar, by the grace of Gold Almighty. This is in addition to the fact that it lost an enormous number of jobs—and as for the federal deficit, it made record losses, estimated over a trillion dollars. Still more serious for Americans was the fact that the mujahideen forced Bush to resort to an emergency budget in order to continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. This shows the success of our plan to bleed America to the point of bankruptcy, with God’s will.17

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Though Bin Laden was bragging about how Al-Qaeda’s actions were hastening an economic crisis in the United States, the seeds of this economic collapse, as David Harvey and others have noted, date back to the Reaganomics and Thatcherism of the 1980s (so-called first-wave neoliberalism) and Clinton’s market globalism and Blair’s “third way” in the 1990s (so-called second-wave neoliberalism). And, to be sure, the roots of neoliberal social, political, and economic thinking can be further traced back through Milton Friedman and the emergence of the Chicago School of economics in the 1960s. Still others trace it back to the work of Friedrich Hayek and Lionel Robbins and the London School of Economics during the 1930s. But ultimately, at least according to William Davies, the emergence of neoliberalism is rooted in the social and political theory of the eighteenth-century social and political philosopher, Jeremy Bentham.18 Notwithstanding these deep historical roots, the crises of neoliberalism in the new millennium, in part, arguably hastened by the attacks of September 11, and reaching a fever pitch in the economic collapse of 2008, were in fact the consequences of multiple waves of bad economic policy by multiple national governments in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. “By early 2009,” report Manfred Stegner and Ravi Roy, “economic experts around the world agreed that the global economy was in the midst of a recession that threatened to snowball into another Great Depression.”19 Twenty years or so have passed now since the events of September 11, and we are still living in a catastrophic era tempered by terrorism and neoliberalism. The Paris attacks in 2016 and the current political rhetoric of current US President Donald J. Trump are all the evidence one needs that terrorism and neoliberalism still define our catastrophic times. They also indicate a transfiguration of our sensibility regarding our position in the world as citizens of the United States. One of modernism’s great writers famously found herself in a similar position, namely, one of looking back to a recent past and feeling that something had changed which helped explain her then current position. Writing in 1924, in her essay, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” Virginia Woolf said “on or about December, 1910, human character changed.”20 Daniel Bell reminds us that Woolf was “referring to the changes in the position of one’s cook or of the partners in marriage,” that is, a change in human character, not human nature, as many, like Irving Howe mistook her comment.21 Continued Woolf in her essay, “I am not saying that one

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went out, as one might into a garden, and there saw that a rose had flowered, or that a hen had laid an egg. The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless; and, since one must be arbitrary, let us date it about the year 1910.”22 Many modernist ships have been launched on or around Woolf’s date, which sits about four years before the start of the First World War, that is, July 28, 1914. Though one may argue that the build up to the First World War is not similar to the build up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now, potentially, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, and that the social, political, and aesthetic shifts in Britain during the first part of the twentieth century are very different than the ones today, there still is an eerie feeling that that horrific day in September of 2001 has a special relationship to December of 1910 for us today. Might we not then say of our own time, in the spirit of Woolf, “on or about September 2001, human character changed, again”? Is not that ultimately what our conversations post-9/11 indicate? Maybe we became post-human? Maybe post-capital? Maybe post-neoliberal? Maybe even post-American? Or maybe human character finally became worldly? There definitely was a change, but precisely what it was and to what effect has become one of the central issues of our time.

The Birth and Death of American Literature “It was not a street anymore but a world …” This is the opening line of Don DeLillo’s 2007 novel, Falling Man, but it could also be the opening line of the new millennium.23 Bruce Robbins says this sentence can be read as a description of “lower Manhattan in the chaotic minutes after the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.” But so too, he continues, can it “also be read as a description of Falling Man itself, and perhaps of the contemporary American novel in general.”24 “So read,” continues Robbins, “the sentence would suggest that the American novel has recently become more worldly, whether because of 9/11 or in response to larger causes that 9/11 stands in for.” While Robbins calls this proposition “gently self-congratulatory, hence open to doubt,” still he says “there are also reasons for taking it seriously.” And Robbins, and many other critics of late have taken this proposition very seriously. So seriously in fact that some contend that “American literature” would be more accurately phrased “American world literature.”

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Christian Moraru, for example, argues that the phrase, “American world literature,” “calls on us to listen carefully, in the phrase itself, for the rustle and rumors of worldliness in the U.S. and vice versa.” “Should we do so,” says Moraru, “we might further wonder: Is this literature a worldly thematics, literature ‘about the world’ rather than about ‘us’ (‘US’), about the ‘American world’? Or, is American literature becoming a subset of world literature?”25 While seeing the world on the street of lower Manhattan amidst the chaos of the World Trade Center attacks, and finding the world or “worldliness” in greater degrees in post-9/11 American fiction is one way to read the phrase “American world literature,” it would not be the kind of change that occurred “on or about September 2001.” This change is not merely a shift to a more “worldly” (or global, international, cosmopolitan, transnational, and so on) thematics in American fiction, as each of these can be convincingly traced back to various works and authors in the history of the American novel, if not back to its very “invention.”26 The change that occurred “on or about September 2001” is more substantial and the break with the past potentially more radical. To view this change and see better its break with the past, one needs to go back not to New York City on September 11, 2001, but rather to Cambridge, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1837. For it was on this date that Ralph Waldo Emerson “made his entry onto the stage of American life,”27 declaring “[t]he world is nothing, the man is all.”28 It was an entry that arguably set American literature on its non-worldly course. Much like 2001, 1837 was not just any year in American history. Rather, it was, by some accounts, “the worst year the United States of America had ever experienced.”29 “Society,” writes Emerson in his journals in 1837, “has played out its last stake; it is checkmated. Young men have no hope. Adults stand like daylaborers idle in the streets. None calleth us to labor. The old wear no crown of warm light on their grey hairs. The present generation is bankrupt of principles & hope, as of property.”30 This leaves Emerson to wonder aloud, “Is the world sick? Bankruptcy in England & America; Tardy rainy season; snow in France; plague in Asia & Africa; these are the morning’s news.”31 Though Emerson here has not yet reached the world despair of the late in Wells in Mind at the End of Its Tether, he is very close also to concluding that the world is bankrupt.32 By August of 1837, the month Emerson steps onto the stage of American life, “the price of cotton had fallen by almost one half; mobs had

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demonstrated repeatedly in the streets of New York and, in response to the inflated prices of food and fuel, had looted the city’s flour warehouses; the major banks had suspended specie payments; and the sale of public lands in the West had fallen by some 82 percent.”33 Add to this the fact that since 1790, the first year of the US census, the number of people in the United States subject to slavery was increasing by approximately 30% per year, with approximately 2 million slaves in 1830 and 2.5 million by 1840, the United States was in pretty rough shape in August of 1837,34 compelling Emerson to conclude in his journal, “The world has failed”35 —a conclusion as dark and despairing as the one reached over a century later by Wells in Mind at the End of Its Tether. With slavery in full swing and American morale in ruins as a result of the panic of 1837, Emerson was asked to give the annual Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard University the day following commencement. But he was not the first choice, and was asked only after the Reverend Dr. Wainwright had been invited by Cornelius Felton, a professor of Greek at Harvard, but declined. Emerson, Felton’s second choice, was an underwhelming one, to say the least. Not only was Emerson merely an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, he was also not even the second choice for class poet.36 And though he had anonymously published at his own expense his first book, Nature, the previous year, it was on the whole unenthusiastically received. Nevertheless, the thirty-four-year-old Emerson had lofty expectations for his oration, writing in his journals before the event, “Let me begin anew. Let me teach the finite to know its Master. Let me ascend above my fate and work down upon my world.”37 Though he believes the world in which he lives is “sick” and has “failed,” he nonetheless looks forward to addressing this sickness and failure. “The black times have a great scientific value,” writes Emerson in his journal. “It is an epoch so critical a philosopher would not miss.”38 The theme of his oration, “The American Scholar,” was a conventional one for the annual Phi Beta Kappa address since Emerson was a boy, and it does not appear that he struggled much in writing it.39 Nevertheless, in spite of its conventional theme, what Emerson said was far from conventional. Delivered a little more than sixty years after the United States declared its political independence, it was a call for the United States to forge its own literary traditions and history. Emerson’s oration was regarded by observers at the time as our declaration of intellectual independence—one that resonates with us to this day.

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“Events, actions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves,” said Emerson. “Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the polestar for a thousand years.”40 He reminds his audience that the commencement of their “literary year” is long on “hope” but short on “labor.” “We do not meet for games of strength or skill, for the recitation of histories, tragedies, and odes, like the ancient Greeks; for parliaments of love and poesy, like the Troubadours; nor for the advancement of science, like our contemporaries in the British and European capitals,” comments Emerson. Thus far, our holiday has been simply a friendly sign of the survival of the love of letters amongst a people too busy to give to letters any more … Perhaps the time is already come when it ought to be, and will be, something else; when the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, draws to a close. The millions that around us are rushing into life, cannot always be fed on the sere remains of foreign harvests.41

Though Emerson was not waiving the flag on August 31, 1837, he was imploring the audience for the formation of a unique and distinct national literature. “We have,” said Emerson, “listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe.”42 But he was not the first. Literary journals going back twenty-five years were sprinkled with similar pleas.43 Still, the distinguished audience of the Phi Beta Kappa Society was not expecting it. Emerson was merely speaking on the traditional topic of the conference, and was by far not the most prominent person to date to speak on it. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of his oration, James Russell Lowell said it was “an event without any former parallel in our literary annals,” and Oliver Wendell Holmes called it “our Intellectual Declaration of Independence.”44 Emerson continued to voice his revolt against his times from 1837 to 1844 in a series of occasional addresses to writers, scholars, and the clergy at meetings of library associations, convocations of literary societies, commencement ceremonies, and sponsored evening lectures at public halls. In these addresses, he was clear and defiant, and his intent was to

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shock his audience. “Amidst a planet peopled with conservatives,” said Emerson, “one Reformer may yet be born.”45 It is important to recall Emerson’s call for a unique and distinct national literature amidst a sick and failing world because today we sit on the cusp of calling for its opposite, namely, a nonnational literature. Is this not what we mean when we employ the phrase “American world literature”? But as Stanley Cavell so brilliantly notes, Emerson was not simply advocating that we turn our backs on Europe and the world, but rather addressing the poverty of American philosophy. “Others take Emerson to advise America to ignore Europe,” writes Cavell, but “to me his practice means that part of the task of discovering philosophy in America is discovering terms in which it is given to us to inherit the philosophy of Europe.” “Its legacy may hardly look like philosophy at all,” continues Cavell, “but perhaps rather like an odd development of literature.”46 But did not we on or around September 2001 discover just the opposite: namely, that the tables are now reversed? That instead of the issue of how much America should inherit from Europe (and the rest of the world) and on what terms, the issue is now one of how much Europe (and the rest of the world) should inherit from America—and on what terms. Is not this the logical conclusion of America’s rise to global power and prestige? Cavell sets the condition of American philosophy not as one of seeking independence from Europe, so much as one of being in a condition of poverty. “Poverty as a condition of philosophy is hardly a new idea,” comments Cavell. “Emerson deploys it as an idea specifically of America’s deprivations, its bleakness and distance from Europe’s achievements, as constituting America’s necessity, and its opportunity, for finding itself.”47 When the towers fell and we realized our streets are “a world,” Americans could no longer claim poverty as the condition of their philosophy. One-percent wealth and the neoliberal pursuit of it now is the condition of American philosophy—something which gives a whole new turn to Durant’s claim that post-Santayana “hereafter it is America, not Europe, that will write America’s philosophies.”48 Emerson, as Cavell reminds us, implored us to hold hard to our poverty. “The poverty that,” writes Cavell, “morally speaking, is pleasing to the God and affords us access to the humanity of others—it is its poverty, not its riches, that constitutes America’s claim upon others— is, philosophically speaking, our access to necessity, our route out of privacy.”49 No longer though can the United States, the wealthiest

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country on earth, claim poverty as its access to the humanity of others. The tables are now turned: on or about September 2001, the riches of America, not its poverty, constitute its claim on others—or, perhaps, their claim on us. Osama Bin Laden positions himself on the side of an impoverished world and taunts us with our new God, “Gold Almighty,” while claiming for his group, terrorists, what is pleasing to the God. On or about September 11, 2001, American literature ended as catastrophically as it began. We lost our independence from the world when the towers came crashing down; we also lost national literature to a world now occupying our streets. In retrospect, our philosophical and literary independence has been squandered in the pursuit of increasingly destructive forms of capitalism. An act of terrorism brought to the fore that our wealth and prosperity may be denying us access to the humanity of others. The world stood at the footsteps of neoliberal America and demanded change—economic and humanitarian change that now twenty years later we are still struggling and fighting to realize.

Made in America Historical events that define a generation or multiple generations are few and far between—and fewer still become the central focus of the philosophical or theoretical energies of its scholars. For example, while the war in Vietnam occupied our attention for most of the 1960s and early 1970s, and defined a generation, it is still difficult to argue that the war became the central focus of our theoretical energies during this same period. In American philosophy, conceptual analysis and analytic methodology dominated the Vietnam era, whereas, during the same period, the New Criticism was in vogue in progressive English departments (and, as we will see later, appears to be resurfacing albeit in a new guise), with structuralism and semiotics just beginning to become more mainstream within the humanities. Given then the dominant theoretical climate of this period, it seems a stretch to maintain that the roots of the New Criticism or analytic philosophy were grounded or determined by the major historical events of the 1960s and early 1970s. While events like Vietnam, Watergate and the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King defined a generation, they did not become the central focus of our theoretical attention nor did they dominate the scholarly critical agenda.

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In fact, only a handful of events across history even seem to qualify for the kind of impact being described, which is namely, the ability of an historical event to configure—or even reconfigure—theoretical discourse around or through it. The French Revolution immediately comes to mind as a good example of the kind of impact a major event can have on theoretical discourse as well as the two world wars of the last century. With these thoughts in mind, the uniqueness of the theoretical situation brought about by the events of September 11, 2001 should stand out. Even a cursory survey of contemporary scholarship will reveal the extraordinary degree of critical and theoretical attention that has been afforded the theoretical axes of this event, terrorism and neoliberalism, over the last twenty years. Consequently, it seems reasonable to at least postulate that the foreign terrorist attacks of the United States on September 11, 2001 qualify as both defining a generation and occupying the center of our theoretical energies. But one might go still one step further. Why not postulate that the events of September 11, 2001 did more than just reconfigure philosophical thinking, they also refigured our literary past, or perhaps even changed the very way we think about literary history. The former, refiguring our literary past, is a mere generational event—the exercise of adding and subtracting works from the canon to reflect the times. The latter, changing the way we think about history, is of a different order and magnitude. In its current form, it produces a form of literary history without history or literature. It is most visible in the works we produce ostensibly aimed at reporting the state or states of literary history. To see this change in the very way we think about literary history, it is helpful to look back a couple of generations to post-War America’s response to literary history. “Each generation should produce at least one history of the United States,” wrote Robert Spiller and the other editors of one of the more well-known American literary histories, Literary History of the United States .50 First published in 1947, the book was viewed as a necessary response to the events of the Second World War. The editors, eight of them in all, said “each generation must define the past in its own terms.”51 The scholars who produced the Cambridge History of American Literature responded to that generational need during the First World War, but the Second World War called for another redefinition. “It is now needed again,” wrote the editors, “and it will be needed still again.”52

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From the deeply humanist world of post-War America came the belief that American literature was needed—a belief that arguably can be traced back to Emerson’s declaration of intellectual independence in 1837. And not just any history of American literature, but rather one that would help us “escape self-destruction.”53 “We must know and understand better the recorders of our experience,” wrote the editors. “Scholars can no longer be content to write for scholars; they must make their knowledge meaningful and applicable to humanity.”54 Flash-forward now to post-humanist America in the new millennium. We continue to totter on the brink of self-destruction, but who among us still believes that we need American literature to avoid self-destruction? Or, even more directly, that we just need American literature? If so, who needs it? Scholars? The public? The world? The fifty-seven scholars who worked together to compose the Literary History of the United States believed that they were more than merely completing an academic exercise. A world torn apart by war needed a unified, authoritative account of American literature. Somehow, this account of the rise of American literature was supposed to inspire the American public, and show the world the exemplary literary foundations of American democracy. Over half a century later, in the shadows of American neoliberalism and unilateralism, the need for American literature is fading, if not already gone. If Emerson was right, and our poverty moved American writers and scholars to bring about a new age, then our wealth is beckoning us to bring it to a close. American publishing—as we saw earlier—is now largely controlled by multinational corporations that focus on publishing books that satisfy the demands of the global market rather than intellectual or aesthetic ones. The literature of America that circulates through the corridors of the corporate publishing world—or better, “machine,” as it was previously characterized55 —is about as distinctly American as any other multinational product. It shares more in common with the Toyotas built in San Antonio and the Fords built in Europe56 than with the non-worldly and independent course set by Emerson for American literature. Ironically, the best hope for an “American” literature may be the independent and small publishers in the United States that have little or no impact on or accountability to the global economy. Or, stranger still, it may reside with Americans who for personal or political reasons publish

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their work anonymously or under a pseudonym, or who choose to selfpublish their work rather than publish it with corporate, and small and independent publishers.57 The irony doubles here if we recall that the history of American literature is replete with important writers who either at one time or another did not put their name on their works or chose to self-publish them, writers like Emerson, Whitman,58 and Melville.59 The “world” that it is bifurcating “American” and “literature” in the phrase “American world literature” is both a function of the “worlding” of literature and the world of global neoliberalism, that is, late capitalism. It is a “world” that strips or separates “America” from “literature” both as a reaction to our wealth and power as much as a response to the fact that human character changed, again, on or about September 11, 2001. But the bifurcation of “American” and “literature” with the term “world” is also seen in our most recent and progressive “histories” of “American” “literature,” works that both question and complicate America’s role on the global stage as well as put under erasure the terms “American” and “literature.” In 2009, Cambridge, Massachusetts again became the site of American literature calling for its independence, albeit its independence from “literature” less than “America.” A New Literary History of America, published by Harvard University Press, rocked American literary history to its foundations by expanding the notion of “literature” and “literary” to one that the semioticians of the 1970s might have appreciated, namely, a literary history that includes almost everything produced in words, images, and sounds in America: “poems, novels, plays, and essays, but also maps, histories, and travel diaries, sermons and religious tracts, public speeches and private letters, political polemics, addresses, and debates, Supreme Court decisions, literary histories and criticism, folk songs, magazines, dramatic performances, the blues, philosophy, paintings and monuments, jazz, war memorials, museums, book clubs, photographs, comic strips and comic books, country music, films, radio, rock and roll, cartoons, musicals, and hip-hop: ‘Made in America.’”60 The editors, the music journalist and cultural critic, Greil Marcus, and the Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, Werner Sollors, call it a “‘kaleidoscopic view’ of what ‘Made in America’ means,”61 which is doubly fitting as not only do few phrases speak to and for the wealth of America than “Made in America,” but we also must recall that British prime minister, Tony

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Blair, in response to the events of 9/11 famously said, “[t]he kaleidoscope has been shaken.” “The pieces are in flux,” he continues. “Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.”62 Which is precisely what Marcus and Sollors do in their literary history, namely, reorder the literary world of America. This new literary history of America “makes no attempt to give every name its due, to visit every state or the era of every presidency, only the hope that the essays gathered here might be so suggestive as to invite the reader to think of countless other moments in the American story that could be addressed as this book tries to speak to its subject.”63 A New Literary History of America is comprised of more than two hundred essays that each “map their own territory and stake out their own ground, generating unexpected threads of information and startling claims that move the story on—forward, and doubling back, the twentieth century longing for the ideals of the seventeenth, the past plotting its revenge on the corruptions of the future.”64 “From the first appearance of the word ‘America’ on a map to Jimi Hendrix’s rewrite of the national anthem, from Anne Bradstreet to Maya Lin, from Samuel Sewall to Saul Bellow, from Father Marquette to Jelly Roll Morton, from Sequoyah to Susan B. Anthony, from Margaret Fuller to Charlie Parker, from ‘Yankee Doodle’ to Yusef Komunyakaa,” write the editors, “A New Literary History of America take the reader through the matrix of American culture.”65 And indeed, perusing this volume gives the reader the feeling of reading literary history while being caught in the matrix, albeit the one dreamed up by the Wachowski brothers, and inspired by the philosophies of René Descartes and Jean Baudrillard.66 Unlike, for example, the 1947 Literary History of the United States discussed above, the 2009 A New Literary History of America makes no effort to provide a seamless narrative of American literary history through the individual essays collected in the book. In fact, “[t]he contributors were asked for their own arguments, their own points of view, their own embraces and dissents: to surprise not only their editors, or their readers, but themselves.”67 Indeed, if there was ever a literary history of America aimed to “shock and awe” the reader, this is it. But aside from seeing the psychedelic (or, as below, psychological) beauty of American literary history through a kaleidoscope, what does this book say about “American literary history” in general other than that it has no one history—or that histories of American literature are not just generational anymore, but are rather highly individualized. They

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are produced by putting all “speech” “Made in America” into a kaleidoscope and turning it. Or better yet, to borrow a metaphor from William James, who will be the topic of the next chapter, perhaps it is a “kaleidoscope revolving at a uniform rate” wherein “the figures are always rearranging themselves.” For James, this is a metaphor for how the brain functions. Sure there will be “instants during which the transformation seems minute and interstitial and almost absent,” but by and large, the rearrangement, which in our case here refers to histories of American literature, will be continuous.68 Such a history of American literature takes us full circle back to Emerson’s vision of the scholar as “Man Thinking.” “In this distribution of the functions the scholar is delegated intellect,” writes Emerson in his 1837 oration. In the right state he is Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.69

There is definitely not a lot of parroting “of other men’s thinking” in this 2009 American literary history, but then again, given that “[t]he contributors were asked for their own arguments, their own points of view, their own embraces and dissents: to surprise not only their editors, or their readers, but themselves,” one is not sure if it is not “mere thinking.” But again, back to Emerson’s “poverty” of philosophy. “The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time,” writes Emerson in 1837. It is a great stride. It is a sign—is it not?—of new vigor when the extremities are made active, when currents of warm life run into the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Provencal minstrelsy; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low.70

In spite of the fact that Marcus and Sollor’s volume launches with its contributed essays hundreds of individual histories of American literature—and many more as it is read and used—its embrace of the common and the low in American culture may be yet another repositioning of Emerson, one for the new millennium.

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Conclusion Literature currently “made in America” is necessarily more worldly now than ever. The issue of whether books produced in the United States are now more than ever preoccupied with worldly issues, be they global, international, cosmopolitan, or geopolitical is important to this consideration but not essential. The story of American literature back to its beginnings has always involved transnational considerations even if its declaration of independence appeared to push in the opposite direction. Current concern with the “worlding” of American literature is less about its tendency to bring the world overtly to bear between its covers than the ways in which “America” itself has become indistinguishable outside of the geopolitical order. The catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, for better or worse, led the United States into a new age, but not one where poetry or prose is indicative of our intellectual independence. Rather, an age characterized by fear and capital driving our social, political, and intellectual agendas. Or, if we follow Emerson and contend “Fear always springs from ignorance,”71 then it is perhaps an age characterized by ignorance and capital. Emerson’s philosophy of poverty has given way to late capitalism’s philosophy of extreme wealth, Bernie Madoff-style. The wait for the “sluggard intellect of this continent [to] look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectations of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill” came to a close when the towers fell. More to the point, “American literature” came to a close. Not because “America” has ended. And not because “literature” has ended. But rather because no one needs either outside of or separate from “a world.” Just as it is no longer possible to think “America” without “world,” so too is it not possible to think “literature” without the world. For better or worse, we live in the age of “worlded” literature. Not the world literature of nations and nationalities considered from most powerful and wealthy to the least. And not the world literature found with a map. Rather, the worlded literature of individuals crossing borders, mixing stories, and speaking in dialect. Where translation struggles to be effective and background is itself another story. The worlded literature of the multinational corporate publishing industry where the global market is all. The phrase “American world literature” signifies the “worlded” literature “Made in America” but connected and reconnected through global

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networks of increasing complexity and precarity. American literary history, or what is left of it, is more like what Marcus and Sollors present than what Spiller and company produced. “History” are the connections and reconnections we individually make under the terms “literature” and “America,” both of which are radically contingent and relative, if not also post-literature and post-America. Under such conditions, what it means to be an “American scholar” in the new millennium is as complicated (or simple) as what it means to be an “American.” Our charge as scholars is less to be “authorities” on literature and to produce “authoritative” histories of it than to suggest the many worlds each open up for readers and in readings. As such, those of us who consider ourselves scholars have a huge task ahead of us, namely, what it means when the world comes between American and scholar just as it did with literature. This task is further complicated by the ignorance and capital that are becoming the defining characteristics of the new millennium. In many ways, these characteristics reawaken the worst fears of Wells regarding education and catastrophe. On or about September 2001, human character changed, again. So too did American literature—and the need for it. Let’s now turn our own kaleidoscope from the need for American literature in the age of catastrophic education to the need for theory—a topic that will take up the remaining chapters of this book.

Notes 1. Zygmunt Bauman, Society Under Siege (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), 87. 2. Ibid., 87. 3. Brad Evans, Liberal Terror (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 25. 4. Donald Pease, The New American Exceptionalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009). 5. William V. Spanos, “American Exceptionalism in the Post-9/11 Era,” symplok¯e 21.1–2 (2013): 294n3. 6. Jerome Karabel, “American Exceptionalism and the Battle for the Presidency,” Huffington Post. December 22, 2011. http://www.huffingto npost.com/jerome-karabel/american-exceptionalism-obama-gingrich_b_1 161800.html. Cited by William V. Spanos, “American Exceptionalism,” 294. 7. Also, one cannot today speak of the declining “greatness” of America without also recalling Donald Trump’s utilization of the phrase “Make America Great Again” in the 2016 US presidential campaign and thereafter.

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8. Giovanna Borradori, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003), 85. 9. Ibid., 90. 10. Ibid., 100. 11. Kevin Phillips, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 237. 12. Ibid., 237. 13. Ibid., 238. 14. Ibid., 238–240. 15. Kevin Phillips, Bad Money, is an excellent survey of the growth of the credit bubble, the panic of 2008, and the subsequent financial meltdown. 16. Ibid., xi. 17. Osama Bin Laden, “The Towers of Lebanon” (October 29, 2004), in Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, ed. Bruce Lawrence, trans. James Howarth (London: Verso, 2005), 242. Cited by Manfred B. Stegner and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 122–123. 18. See, William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being (New York: Verso, 2015). 19. Manfred B. Stegner and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism, 131. 20. Virginia Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” in Essentials of the Theory of Fiction, 2nd edn., eds. Michael J. Hoffman and Patrick D. Murphy (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 24. This essay was originally read before The Heretics Club of Cambridge, England, on May 18, 1924. 21. Daniel Bell, “Modernism Mummified,” American Quarterly 39.1 (1987): 122. 22. Virginia Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” 24. 23. Don DeLillo, Falling Man (New York: Scribner, 2007), 3. The entire line is as follows: “It was not a street anymore but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night.” 24. Bruce Robbins, “The Worlding of the American Novel,” in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 1096. 25. Christian Moraru, “American Literature Unlimited—Toward a Geoliterary Order,” American Book Review 36.5 (2015): 4. 26. See, Paul Giles, “Transatlantic Currents and the Invention of the American Novel,” in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, eds. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby, and Benjamin Reiss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 22–36. 27. Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy: The Declaration of Cultural Independence in America (New York: Viking Press, 1981), 18.

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28. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar,” in The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 59. 29. Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy, 18. 30. Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vols. I–XIV, eds. William H. Gillman, Alfred R. Ferguson, George P. Clark, Merrell R. Davis, Harrison Hayford, Ralph Orth, J. E. Parsons, Merton M. Sealts, and A. W. Plumstead (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960–78), V: 331. May 20, 1837. 31. Ibid., V: 331. May 21, 1837. 32. For Wells on the bankruptcy of the world, see Chapter 2, “Education and Catastrophe.” 33. Larzer Ziff, Literary Democracy, 18. 34. W. S. Rossiter, A Century of Population Growth, from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–1900, Chapter xiv, “Statistics of Slaves” (United States Government, 1909), 132. http://www2.census. gov/prod2/decennial/documents/00165897ch14.pdf. 35. Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, V: 333. May 22, 1837. 36. Gay Wilson Allen, Waldo Emerson (New York: Penguin Books, 1981), 298. 37. Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, V: 332. May 21, 1837. 38. Ibid., V: 332. May 22, 1837. 39. Gay Wilson Allen, Waldo Emerson, 298. 40. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar,” 43. 41. Ibid., 43. 42. Ibid., 59. 43. Robert Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby, and Richard M. Ludwig, Literary History of the United States: History, 3rd edn., rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1963), 372. 44. Ibid., 372. 45. Ibid. 46. Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures After Emerson After Wittgenstein (Albuquerque, NM: Living Batch Press, 1989), 70. 47. Ibid., 70. 48. See Chapter 3, “Little Blue Books.” 49. Ibid., 70. 50. Robert Spiller et al., “Preface [1947],” in Literary History of the United States, vii. The preface was composed by the editors, Robert E. Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, Henry Seidel Canby, Richard M. Ludwig, and the editorial associates, Howard Mumford Jones, Dixon Wecter, and Stanley T. Williams.

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58.

59.

60.

61. 62.

63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71.

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Ibid., vii. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. See Chapter 4, “All Publishers Are Equal.” “Ford in Europe: The First Hundred Years,” Serious Wheels. http://www. seriouswheels.com/art-Ford-Europe.htm. Self-publishing in America is quickly coming to dwarf the traditional publishing world in terms of titles published per year. For an overview of the challenges and opportunities this affords book culture in America, see Chapter 4, “All Publishers are Equal.” The first edition of Leaves of Grass was published and designed by Walt Whitman in 1855. It was printed by James Rome and Thomas Rome, and was sold in two stores, one in New York and the other in Brooklyn. The first edition appeared on July 4, 1855. Whitman would go on to self-publish many more editions of Leaves of Grass. See, John Kremer, “Self-Publishing Hall of Fame Featuring Famous Self-Publishers.” http:// www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish-m.htm. Herman Melville self-published his epic poem Clarel in 1876 as a limited edition of 350 copies. He also self-published several other volumes of poetry before he died though none sold very well. Though not selfpublished, his novel, Moby Dick, never sold out its original printing during Melville’s lifetime. See, John Kremer, “Self-Publishing Hall of Fame.” Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, eds., A New Literary History of America (Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009), xxiv. Ibid., front cover, inside flap, dust jacket. Tony Blair, “Speech at the Labour Party Conference,” The Guardian, October 2, 2001. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/oct/02/ labourconference.labour7. Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, A New Literary History of America, xxvii. Ibid., xxiv. Ibid. The Matrix, dir. by Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski (Burbank, CA: Warner Bros., 1999). Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, A New Literary History of America, xxiv. William James, The Principles of Psychology, Two volumes (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890), I: 246. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar,” 44. Ibid., 57. Ibid., 54.

CHAPTER 8

A Century of Antitheory

To view theory through a turning kaleidoscope is to see the variety of different meanings it carries within the academy. For some, theory is the various “methods” of literary studies. For others, theory is a flexible toolbox of concepts. For still others, theory is just what every specialist in literary studies knows. And then there are those who regard theory as a vast collection of schools or movements such as Marxism, psychoanalytic, and gender theory.1 However, none of these or any of the other senses of theory draws ire like the following one: theory is structuralism and poststructuralism, that is, the so-called high theory. When the linguistic turn of the late 1960s—which we will turn to in more detail in the next chapter—announced the entry of high theory into the academy, it was nothing like the theoria of antiquity.2 While Greek philosophers from Xenophanes to Aristotle coined a historical role for theoria in Western thought, the high theory of the late twentieth century was very different from other notions of theory. Theory as structuralist and poststructuralist thought had a revolutionary impact on the human sciences including literary studies and philosophy. Not only did high theory challenge the critical model of the New Criticism then fashionable in English departments, it also had a ripple effect in philosophy departments, which were then largely divided along analytic and continental lines. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_8

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Although English departments were relatively quick to absorb the fruits of the linguistic turns of structuralism and poststructuralism into their curriculums and scholarship, philosophy departments had the opposite reaction. Instead of widely embracing the linguistic turn, the roots of which lay deep in the philosophical tradition, they used it as an opportunity to further widen the analytic and continental divide in philosophy.3 Whereas prior to the linguistic turn, continental philosophy from the perspective of the American philosophy department largely involved phenomenology, existentialism, and the Frankfurt school, after the linguistic turn it expanded to include structuralism and poststructuralism. By the close of the twentieth century, though the continental philosophies of Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Jean-François Lyotard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, and others, were an important part of the American higher educational curriculum with many professors producing scholarship in this area, it was largely not due to the efforts of its philosophy departments, which widely refused to teach the work in this area or even to recognize it as “good” philosophy. Instead, the rise of theory in the academy was largely due to its adoption by English, comparative literature, and foreign language departments.4 The reason for this is that philosophy in America was still on a course laid out a century earlier when it came to be bitten by the scientific progress bug. The irony here is that this “bug” came to American philosophy in the late nineteenth century via developments on earlier work from the continent by English philosophers such as Francis Bacon, William Whewell, and J. S. Mill by American philosophers such Charles S. Peirce and William James for whom the scientific method came to mean experimental empiricism.5 This was occurring while other important American philosophers, such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, the latter of whom, which we know from the previous chapter, famously called for a break from the continental traditions as early as 1837,6 were starting to be ignored by mainstream philosophers and philosophy departments—a course that would intensify such that by the close of the twentieth century their work was primarily relegated for study only in English departments, which were also home to much of the work of theory.7 Analytic philosophy found in the conceptual analysis of G. E. Moore and logical atomism (and logical-analytic pluralism) of Bertrand Russell a methodology that could mirror the exactitude and certainty of the

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sciences. Logical empiricism, as you may recall, rejected metaphysics as unverifiable, and focused instead on perfecting conceptual analysis.8 Moreover, analytic philosophers had their own “linguistic turn.” It was not one that revolved around the work of structuralism and poststructuralism, but rather one that involved the aforementioned logical empiricism in addition to American pragmatism and ordinary language philosophy. However, before the rise of logical empiricism, philosophy found itself in a similar position to theory today: namely, cast aside for the new, shinier, areas of inquiry that were emerging from its own efforts. I’d like to begin by going back to the turn of the twentieth century when scientific minds were railing against philosophy, and use this moment to provide some insight on our current “down with theory” moment that now seems to be growing into a movement. It is ironic that philosophy not so long ago found itself in a situation similar to the one that theory finds itself today though with a fatal twist: whereas the anti-philosophy of the early twentieth century did not destroy academic philosophy, twentieth-century antitheory has the potential not only to bring down its home departments, but also to destroy the humanities, if not bring down the academy itself.

The Products of Theory In his posthumously published, Some Problems of Philosophy, William James tells us of the “down with philosophy” moment at the turn of the twentieth century: “Down with philosophy!” is the cry of innumerable scientific minds. “Give us measurable facts only, phenomena, without the mind’s additions, without entities or principles that pretend to explain.” It is largely from this kind of mind that the objection that philosophy has made no progress, proceeds.9

This cry is noted in a textbook on metaphysics that was published in May of 1911. Some Problems of Philosophy was meant to be an “introductory text-book for students in metaphysics”10 which he “hoped by it to round out [his] system, which now is too much like an arch built only on one side.”11 Ralph Barton Perry, himself a noted philosopher as well as a celebrated James biographer,12 says that in his last days, James devoted himself very seriously to the “philosophical enterprise.” It was, in Perry’s

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estimation, “the most technical and carefully reasoned of all his books,” and “represent[ed] a definite turning away from polemics, popular and literary appeal, mysticism, and flights of imaginative speculation.”13 Some Problems of Philosophy “grew out of introductory courses at Harvard and Stanford,” and, according to Perry, “was designed to serve as a college textbook having a wide circulation.”14 Moreover, “it was written for readers, and not for an audience” of listeners. In this way, it was different from all of his other philosophical works, says Perry, except The Meaning of Truth: A Sequel to ‘Pragmatism’ (1909) and the posthumously published Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912). But here too Some Problems also differed from these two books as it was “conceived as a unified treatise rather than a volume of independent articles.”15 In short, in his last days James was hard at work on his first unified philosophical treatise. In a memorandum dated July 26, 1910, just a month before his death, James acknowledged that though his treatise is “fragmentary and unrevised,” it should nonetheless be published with the subtitle “A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy.”16 His brother, Henry James, who wrote a prefatory note for the book, comments that the philosopher “cherished the purpose of stating his views on certain problems of metaphysics in a book addressed particularly to readers of philosophy.”17 For those unfamiliar with his work, James may seem an unlikely place to begin reflection on the ends of contemporary antitheory. However, as we shall see, he too was concerned with the fate of theory—and his situation offers a useful and sobering perspective on the contemporary one. At the time of his death on August 26, 1910, James was pronounced in his New York Times obituary as “America’s foremost philosophical writer, virtual founder of the modern school of psychology and exponent of pragmatism.”18 Though he retired from teaching a few years before his death, James had been an active member of the Harvard University faculty from 1872 to 1907. When he met with his advanced students in philosophy for the last time on January 22, 1907, they gave him a silver loving cup. His first book, the classic Principles of Psychology—which is also the source of his famous kaleidoscope metaphor noted earlier—was published in 1890 after twelve years of “introspective experimentation upon the physiology of the mind.”19 It would become the standard textbook for university use, and is claimed to have “practically founded the modern science of psychology in America,” although it is usually duly noted in

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histories of psychology “some experimental work had been done along the same line [as James’s work] in Europe.”20 Until 1880, James worked as a faculty member in Comparative Anatomy and Physiology at Harvard. He then was on the philosophy faculty at Harvard from 1880 to 1889, but moved to the psychology faculty from 1889 to 1897—and then back to the philosophy faculty from 1897 to 1907. James opens Some Problems of Philosophy by commenting “every generation of men produces some individuals exceptionally preoccupied with theory.”21 “Such men,” he continues, find matter for puzzle and astonishment where no one else does. Their imagination invents explanations and combines them. They store up the learning of their time, utter prophecies and warnings, and are regarded as sages.22

For James, this theoretical work is the work of philosophy, something he regards as an essential part of a liberal education: To know the chief rival attitudes towards life, as the history of human thinking has developed them, and to have heard some of the reasons they can give for themselves, ought to be considered an essential part of liberal education. Philosophy, indeed, in one sense of the term is only a compendious name for the spirit in education which the word “college” stands for in America.23

For James, in agreement with John Dewey, “philosophy expresses a certain attitude, purpose, and temper of conjoined intellect and will, rather than a discipline whose boundaries can be neatly marked off.”24 Nevertheless, in spite of its many advantages, “the study of philosophy has systemic enemies, and they were never as numerous as at the present day.”25 For James, these enemies, in part, stem from the “definite conquests of the sciences and the apparent indefiniteness of philosophy’s results.”26 They can also be found in “man’s native rudeness of mind, which maliciously enjoys deriding long words and abstractions.”27 Says James, the critics of philosophy liken “the philosopher to ‘a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that is not there.’”28 They also describe philosophy “as the art of ‘endlessly disputing without coming to any conclusion.’”29 James finds the “hostility” of his time toward philosophy “reasonable” but “[o]nly to a very limited degree,”30 and makes some effort to reply

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to the critics of philosophy. To the objection that philosophy “makes no progress and has no practical applications,” whereas “the sciences make steady progress and yield applications of matchless utility,” he reminds us “the sciences are themselves branches of the tree of philosophy.”31 “As fast as questions got accurately answered,” continues James, the answers were called “scientific,” and what men call “philosophy” to-day is but the residuum of questions still unanswered. At this very moment, we are seeing two sciences, psychology and general biology, drop off from the parent trunk and take independent root as specialties.32

Indeed, James’s prognostications about psychology and general biology were prescient. Today they are major disciplines unto themselves whose relationship to philosophy just a century earlier is largely ignored by their denizens. As sciences, both would rather we forget the way in which they were initially the products of theory, that is, the imagination inventing explanations for puzzling matters. But this relationship is nevertheless important to recall when attacks are made upon theory by branches that fell off its tree and took deep root in the fertile scientific soil of academe. Subsequently, at least one other major discipline has resulted from a similar path. Namely, computer science and its subfield, artificial intelligence, which both “dropped off from the parent trunk” of philosophy in the twentieth century and took independent root as specialties. In addition, the growing subfield of cognitive science needs also to be noted as a field of study which brings together the disciplinary work of biology, psychology, and computer science, each of which, again, has theoretical and institutional roots in philosophy.

The Ends of Antitheory The situation of theory at the turn of the twenty-first century is not unlike the situation of philosophy at the turn of the twentieth century. Both have vocal critics and systemic enemies,33 some of whom were also formerly proponents. The difference though is that unlike philosophy, which has been part of the academy since its origins in ancient Greece, theory as it has come to be known since the late 1960s is a relatively recent addition to the academy. Also, unlike philosophy, which is institutionally situated as its own discipline within the academy, theory has never been its own discipline within the academy. Though the division of the faculty has included

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and still includes many who self-identify as “theorists,” the division of the academy has not afforded theory its own discipline. Theory functions in the academy primarily at the service of literary and cultural studies. While it has twentieth-century historical roots in many different disciplines including philosophy, English, comparative literature, psychology, anthropology, sociology, foreign languages, and linguistics, it is ultimately at home in none of these areas. Moreover, the birth of theory in the academy arguably came at the same time as the birth of antitheory. Their histories are tied together like the two sides of a coin—or, following James, the two sides of an arch. For James, the scientific minds of his time that were embracing the nascent fields of psychology and biology were turning their backs on the work of philosophy—which James also prophetically calls “theory”—that had brought about the creation of these new areas of inquiry. The cry “Down with philosophy!” he notes could have just as well been calls for the “death of philosophy.” The objection to philosophy that James is mentioning was not that it was not historically important, but rather that at the turn of the century philosophy was not making the kind of “progress” found in some of the newer, “scientific” areas of inquiry. The “progress” of philosophy though in twentieth century has been markedly different than the “progress” of theory in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Whereas philosophy served as the tree from which different branches took root as their own disciplines, with biology and psychology being the major branches from philosophy in James’s own time, and computer science and cognitive science being the major branches coming into their own from philosophy in the mid- to late-twentieth century, theory has had a somewhat different relationship with its own branches. The short version of this story of the relationship of theory to its branches is that from the early “high” theory of structuralism and poststructuralism came various “low” theories such as cultural and area studies as well as posttheory and antitheory. The “branches” of the theory tree include feminism, race and gender studies, cultural studies, globalization studies, queer theory, postcolonialism, Marxism, and new historicism. For some, they represent “progress” in theory, though for others, particularly antitheorists, their relationship to theory is more like the one James describes as the relationship of psychology and biology to philosophy. Namely, these branches from the theory tree that have taken independent

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root in academe obviate the need for their progenitor: theory. The difference here of course is that whereas it is common now to find “professors of” biology or psychology in the university, it is very uncommon to find “professors of” new historicism or feminism. But, more to the point, it is rare too to find “professors of theory” or “antitheory.” To make matters even more complicated, theory in the new millennium is a multi- and interdisciplinary endeavor. It operates, to varying extents, within and among the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, the formal sciences, and the professions.34 Thus, while the tree of theory has produced many new branches, none of them has taken root as a new tree or discipline in the way psychology or biology has taken root. Moreover, for the purposes of the academy, theory is not nor has it ever been one of its trees. It is not a discipline in itself like philosophy or psychology even though it arguably today operates in every discipline in the academy—including philosophy and psychology.35 Arguments as to whether the branches of theory are signs of progress or merely growth are moot if the most progressive and fastest growing area of inquiry in the university is both not recognized as a discipline and is under continuous challenge from antitheorists. Making matters even more complicated is the presence of theorists who are not pluralistic about theory.36 These theorists resist the model of theory as differing “approaches” or “methods.” For them, there is only one way to teach and research in their chosen field be it literature or some other area of inquiry. To call their chosen manner of teaching and researching an “approach” or “method” presents the false illusion that there other competing ways to teach and research that are just as legitimate. Some consider this theoretical “dogmatism”—a dogmatism of the type that leads to remarks like “Down with [every] theory [other than my own]!” Such dogmatism about competing visions of theory recalls a similar situation in philosophy. One of the things that made James such a respected scholar and popular theorist was the pluralism at the heart of his approach to education. As quoted earlier, James regarded knowledge of “the chief rival attitudes towards life, as the history of human thinking has developed them” as well as “some of the reasons they can give for themselves” as “an essential part of liberal education.”37 He then linked this pluralistic “spirit of education” to the term “philosophy” going so far as to say that it is what “the word ‘college’ stands for in America.”38 A century later, can we say the same of “theory,” namely, that it captures the

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“spirit of education” in our time and that it is what “the word ‘college’ stands for in America?” Given the insight that theory provides on education, society, and the world it should be the case it does. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t. The fault is not with the tree of theory and its branches—antitheory and otherwise. Rather, the fault is with the immodesty and arrogance of many theorists and antitheorists today. Some might blame it on the neoliberal university that pushes professors to produce original research. The argument here is that pluralism regarding theory results in embracing a wide range of theory, and this is not what the university demands of its most distinguished members. Rather, it demands that they either carve out new areas of inquiry, shut down old areas of inquiry, or both. Announcing the “death of theory” at the same time the tree of theory continues to grow new branches is one of the absurd realities of scholarship in the neoliberal university.39 The heights of it are reached by those like the proponents of postcritique who dismiss critique and the hermeneutics of suspicion in toto simply because this is not what students would prefer to do in the classroom. Rather than approaching the situation like James, who chose the production of textbooks even in his final days as a way to educate students on the varieties of philosophical approach to metaphysics, antitheory today chooses to dismiss theory as a whole in the pursuit of a more affective approach. After a long and distinguished career in both psychology and philosophy, and knowing that because of recurring health issues it would probably be his final project, James chose to work on a philosophy textbook. It aimed to be a book not for a general audience, but for students of and readers in philosophy in particular. It was to be a component of a liberal education, not a rejection of philosophical pluralism. James did not want to give the next generation of students who might follow in his footsteps the misguided notion that they should abandon philosophy (or theory) for the “progress” of psychology and biology—fields that his own work played a role in developing. In specific, James’s textbook aimed to not just announce his commitment to theory, but to prove it through the development and defense of his own metaphysics. Some Problems of Philosophy aimed to provide the metaphysical side of the pragmatist arch that he felt was being lost or forgotten in assessments of his philosophical contribution.

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Perry describes well James’s philosophical temperament by comparing it to that the philosopher Charles S. Peirce, the person James introduced “in 1898 as the originator of pragmatism”40 : Peirce, both by aptitude and by training, was an exponent of exact science, where a man might be sure of his ground, and where inaccuracy was the deadliest of sins; whereas James was at home in literature, psychology, and metaphysics, where accuracy is likely to be pretentious or pedantic, and where sympathy, insight, fertility, and delicacy of feeling may richly compensate for its absence.41

Perry adds to this “James most eagerly desired to be understood, while Peirce was sometimes playfully or maliciously obscure.”42 Though it is debatable as to whether Peirce was ever deliberately obscure, it seems to me to be uncontroversial that James “eagerly desired to be understood” as well as to help others including his students to “understand.” As an active university professor who took his classroom duties seriously as well as someone who wrote textbooks and aimed a great amount of his work toward a general audience, James can never be accused of not striving to be understood. However, the tradeoff here seems to be that in striving to be understood, he ended up producing philosophical work less attuned to the rigorous standards of twentieth-century analytic philosophy than that of his less well-known contemporary, Peirce. Moreover, the contributions of Peirce arguably came to be much more influential to both philosophers and theorists in the twentieth century than those of James. While I am not calling for us to reject rigorous standards in philosophy or any other field, I am suggesting that to approach theory today as a series of rejections of failed theories not only kills theory (or philosophy) it also further destroys liberal education in America. James understood this when he stood in opposition to the powerful fields of psychology and biology that he had helped to develop, and counter-intuitively called for us to continue work in philosophy. In fact, his own effort to develop a metaphysics in his final days was not only his last philosophical contribution, it was probably his most rigorous one. The notion of denizens of the nascent fields of psychology and biology looking down their noses at philosophy gives us some needed perspective on the recent work of antitheorists who are today looking down their noses at theory. While speculative realism and postcritique—which we

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will turn to in more detail in the next chapter—may be the shiny new intellectual achievements of our day, their rejection of theory echoes the rejection of philosophy by psychology and biology in James’s day. But unlike complaints about philosophy such as it “makes no progress and has no practical applications,”43 “is dogmatic, and pretends to settle things by pure reason, whereas the only fruitful mode of getting at truth is to appeal to concrete experience,”44 and “is out of touch with real life, for which it substitutes abstractions,”45 all objections that James directly addresses in Some Problems of Philosophy before developing and defending his own philosophical conclusions regarding metaphysics, theory has no long institutional history for it to bend back upon when dealing with complaints about it by antitheorists. When antitheorists yell “Down with theory!” it has the effect of taking an ax to the relatively young trunk of theory, whereas “Down with philosophy!” has never meant anything more than acknowledging and recognizing the developments of a few of its branches. Moreover, if we look at the academy today, and situate antitheory and its “Down with theory!” cries within the context of the rise of the neoliberal vision of the university, one that has catastrophically decimated its academic ideals and replaced them with the protocols of debt culture and market economics, one finds in antitheory echoes of the attack on the liberal education spoken of by James. The professional training model of higher education, which places a high value on curricular efficiency and educational instrumentality, obviates the old utilitarian case for theory based on its ability to provide life and career skills. Far too many students, faculty, and administrators today are choosing to trade away theory and the higher aims of education for lower and inferior ones. This trade imbalance regarding theory in the academy shamefully echoes earlier trade-offs in other areas of inquiry such as rhetoric and philosophy, which were both much more central to a higher education than they are within neoliberal academe. Trading away work that has been a key component of a higher education going back to its origins in the academies of ancient Greece allows one to pursue a much poorer version of higher education—which, of course, is not what Emerson meant by poverty being the condition of philosophy. Antitheory, which calls on us to denounce theory, in the end only works to bolster the ends of neoliberal academe. The ends of antitheory are very different though from the ends of what we might call “anti-philosophy.” James is correct in pointing the finger at the sciences as the source of anti-philosophy. Whereas the sciences claim

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to be more in touch with the “facts” of the “real” world than philosophy; seem to provide a better sense of “progress” than philosophy; and do not appear to rely on dogmatism as much philosophy, this ultimately is one of the dogmas of science—not philosophy. But as much as science and philosophy duel with each other for academic supremacy, there are philosophers that are not anti-science, and many scientists that are not anti-philosophy. However, the situation of antitheory with respect to theory is very different. While it is possible to be both a scientist and a philosopher, it is not possible to be both a theorist and an antitheorist. The very notion of antitheory forces its practitioners to take a stand on theory. “Down with theory!” for the antitheorist is not about the relationship of the tree of theory to its branches, rather it is about which tree one chooses to climb. By denouncing theory one is not simply making a disciplinary preference but rather rejecting the entirety of the work of theory. The academic move of one-upping the work of prior theorists thus becomes a dangerous game when it involves the rejection of theory. While some contend that antitheorists are not actually antitheory, this is not always evident to observers (and funders) who take antitheorists at their word. Just as the internal squabbles among philosophers are the modus operandi of philosophy, so too are they among theorists. However, you do not find philosophers rejecting philosophy. But we have seen and do see antitheorists who play the dangerous game of appearing to “reject” theory—when in fact they are merely theorists expressing disagreement about the work of other theorists through antitheory.

Conclusion At the turn of the twenty-first century, both philosophy and theory are still struggling for institutional life against the efforts of their doubters and enemies. Philosophy has the distinct advantage here though in prevailing institutionally against its doubters because of its long history as a central discipline in the academy. Theory, however, as a recent addition to the academy, is not in as secure a position. With no central or singular disciplinary home, theory is everywhere and nowhere in the academy today. This is both one of its strengths and one of its weaknesses. It is a strength because of the transformative impact it is having in so many different disciplines. Many different points of contact with theory mean many different ways for it to be influential and relevant

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throughout the academy. However, this lack of disciplinary center makes it more vulnerable to the attacks of those who seek to eliminate it from the curriculum and replace it with more a vocationally-oriented area of study. Some of these critics of theory are disciplinary purists who resent its encroachment on their discipline, and use the neoliberal vocational-telos of education as an excuse to purge theory from their curriculum. Moreover, both philosophy and theory still remain vulnerable to threats from the sciences who still claim as they did a century ago in James’s day that the certainty of their work makes the speculative work of philosophy and theory of secondary intellectual significance. In this regard, it is important to recall the sciences whose existence was largely made possible by the work of speculative thinking. It took philosophy over two thousand years to bring about the psychological, biological, and computational sciences. If we put theory in the same league as philosophy, namely, regard it as a speculative rather than scientific endeavor, then why not at least allow it more time to mature as an area of inquiry before summarily dismissing it through antitheory? But what is forgotten here too is that despite its long history going back to Greek antiquity, the central role of philosophy in the academy was not always a given—even thousands of years after its birth. One needs only to recall, for example, its famous struggles for institutional support and prestige in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Germany— a struggle in the case of Kant that echoes the charges of impiety and corruption of youth that led to the death of Socrates. Immanuel Kant published The Conflict of the Faculties in 1798 in part as an effort to “liberate the philosophy faculty within the academy from its subordinate position in relation to the ‘professional’ faculties of law, medicine, and theology.”46 In Kant’s case, the hyper-orthodoxy of the clergy under Frederick William II led him to be accused by his government of “act[ing] against [his] duty as a teacher of youth and against our paternal purpose” by “misuse [of his] philosophy to distort and disparage many of the cardinal and basic teachings of the Holy Scriptures and of Christianity … particularly in … Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason, as well as other shorter treatises.”47 Kant responds “As a teacher of youth … I never have and never could have mixed any evaluation of the Holy Scriptures and of Christianity into my lectures,”48 and “as a teacher of people … I have done no harm to the religion of the land.”49 Still, Kant made a personal promise to Frederick William II to not publish anything

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else on the subject of religion, and it was only after His Majesty’s death that The Conflict of the Faculties would appear.50 The first essay of Kant’s book, which takes up the conflict of the philosophy faculty with the theology faculty, concerns the freedom of expression of the philosophy faculty, particularly its right to make rational arguments which are responded to by rational argument rather than force.51 But he was not the only philosopher at the time to advocate for the rights of philosophy faculty and a greater role for philosophy in the academy. So too did other major German philosophers including F. W. J. Schelling in lectures delivered in Würstburg in 1802, Friedrich Schleiermacher in Occasional Thoughts on Universities in the German Sense (1808), and J. G. Fichte in Lectures on the Theory of Ethics (1812). These philosophers were part of the radical reformist spirit for the German university, which resulted in a much better place for philosophy in the university.52 So given philosophy’s historical battles for institutional prestige and disciplinary centrality, it is not surprising that theory has faced and continues to face similar challenges in the academy. Antitheorists who are throwing in the towel on theory are at the same time casting off the many accomplishments of theory in the academy. Critical citizenship, democratic values, social justice, and identity politics have all flourished as areas of concern of late in the academy through the efforts of theory. Where respect for others wanes, theory has provided intellectual resources to push back; when an economy that values market growth over human need takes rise, theory has been there to call it out; when the university ceases to be about education and becomes a job-training center, theory calls for its reform. In each of these cases, theory pushes the local perspectives of its host disciplines into a wider institutional chorus that says we in the academy need to do better by our students lest our society and world become one that we and they abhor. When James says that one sense of the term “philosophy” is “only a compendious name for the spirit of education which the word ‘college’ stands for in America,” one can see how in only a century our own educational spirit has changed. “College” today stands more for “vocational training” and the development of docile neoliberal subjects to serve in its economy than “philosophy.”53 If anything, “theory” represents the rejection of the neoliberal spirit of education. This, perhaps, more than any other reason is why the neoliberal academy seems so invested in eliminating every last vestige of theory from the academy.

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Antitheorists who worry about the fate of literature in the academy forget that without the resistance that theory provides against the neoliberal university, the fate of literature in the academy becomes moot when a liberal education is no longer valued. Moreover, antitheorists who call for the rejection of critique and its “hermeneutics of suspicion”54 are as well calling for the rejection of the very instruments that are central from keeping the university from becoming a vocational training center. Ultimately, the greatest proponent of antitheory is the neoliberal university. Its aim is to eliminate critique and to repress the voices of those who believe that a key element of the spirit of education is theory. The ends of antitheory are not the same ends of the sciences that were once branches of the tree of philosophy. The end of antitheory is always to cut down and burn the tree of theory regardless of whether it regards itself as a branch of theory or not. The sciences may frown upon philosophy from time to time but even in their most hubristic moments do not call for its elimination as an area of inquiry. Why some theorists have become antitheorists is perhaps more a sign of our neoliberal academic times than anything else. Announcing the newest, shiniest, most novel theory provides one with a level of prestige in the academy that is hard to come by in the liberal arts today—and it unfortunately makes some all too quick to ride rough-shot over alternative theories on their path to academic glory. But by rejecting the spirit of theoretical pluralism, they are promoting a form of antitheory that works against the institutional interests of theory—and winds up supporting the ends of neoliberal academe, which, again, would like nothing more than to have theory disappear entirely from the academy. In short, antitheory that works against the interests of the humanities and the academy may be theory, but it is “bad” theory. Theory is not nor should it be simply the product of an individual rejecting or opposing the views of others just because they can. Rather, theory involves the shared pursuit of values55 that ultimately have the potential to make the academy a better site of education—and give it the best chances to have a positive and transformative impact in the world. As theory was born in the academy and is primarily the province of academic publishing, it should not be surprising that its first goal seems at times to be innovation for the sake of boosting individual academic careers and the marketplace for theory. Rather, theory’s primary aims should be to make the academic community a stronger and more vibrant place; to provide resistance to injustice

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and violence of all forms; and to promote critical citizenship and democratic values. As such, when we consider the role of theory versus antitheory in overcoming some of the catastrophic problems facing the humanities and the academy, the progressive potential of theory trumps the innovative potential of antitheory. Ultimately, the best way to destroy the humanities and the academy is to become an antitheorist who categorically rejects theory. This, of course, is a counter-narrative to the antitheorists who claim that they are saving the humanities and the academy by rejecting the mandates of theory. Theorists, however, know better—and the next chapter aims to show how and why. In it, we will look a bit more closely at the nature of the reactionary foundations of three current versions of antitheory.

Notes 1. For a recent survey of the major senses of theory, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, ed., The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019). 2. For an historical introduction to theoria, see, for example, Scott M. DeHart, “The Covergence of Praxis and Theoria in Aristotle,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 33.1 (1995): 7–27. 3. It should be noted that analytic philosophy also had its own “linguistic turn” albeit one very different than the one in structuralism and poststructuralism. If Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916) is considered the foundational text of theory’s linguistic turn, then Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Logico Philosophicus (1921) is the foundational text of philosophy’s linguistic turn. According to P. M. S. Hacker, the expression “the linguistic turn” was first introduced in a review of Peter Strawson’s book Individuals in 1960 by Gustav Bergmann. Richard Rorty popularized the name among philosophers when he edited the book The Linguistic Turn in 1967. The first part of the book contains classic statements on the thesis that philosophical questions are questions of language with contributions by Moritz Schlick, Rudolph Carnap, Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Gilbert Ryle, John Wisdom, and Norman Malcolm. The book also has major sections on the problem of ideal language philosophy (including essays by Irving Copi and W. V. O. Quine) and ordinary language philosophy (including essays by Roderick Chisholm and Stanley Cavell). In short, this group of philosophers and approach came through Bergmann and Rorty to be analytic philosophy’s “linguistic turn,” one very different than the project of structuralism and poststructuralism. For a survey of the linguistic turn in philosophy, see

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4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10. 11. 12. 13.

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Richard Rorty, ed., The Linguistic Turn: Essays in Philosophical Method (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), and P. M. S. Hacker, “The Linguistic Turn in Analytic Philosophy,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy, ed. Michael Beaney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 926–948. This situation presented a particular set of institutional challenges for philosophy students in the United States who were interested in the intersections of literature and philosophy as presented through continental theory. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Academe Degree Zero: Reconsidering the Politics of Higher Education (New York: Routledge, 2016), 43–54. See, Horace Fairlamb, “Scientific Method,” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 677–678. I’m referring here, of course, to Emerson’s famous 1837 divinity school address, “The American Scholar,” which is collected in The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 43–62. For discussion of its role in the formation of an American literature and philosophy, see Chapter 7, “Post-Literature America.” If not for the influential contributions of the late twentieth-century Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, whose work brought Emerson and Thoreau into conversation with Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, and others, these philosophers would probably have an ever smaller role in US philosophy departments today, who, for the most part, relegate their work merely to surveys of nineteenth-century American philosophy. See, for example, Stanley Cavell, This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein (Albuquerque, NM: Living Batch Press, 1989). Proponents of logical empiricism include Moritz Schlick and Rudolf Carnap, who each represent different wings of thought in this direction, and are fittingly the first two philosophers anthologized by Rorty in The Linguistic Turn. In addition to the logical empiricists, there were also the Cambridge analysts, who included C. D. Broad, G. E. Moore, and John Wisdom. William James, Some Problems of Philosophy: A Beginning of an Introduction to Philosophy (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1916), 22. Ibid., vii. Ibid., viii. Perry was also a former graduate student of James as well as later his colleague at Harvard. Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James: Briefer Version [1948] (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1964), 352. This book

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19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27.

28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

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is a briefer version of the two-volume edition originally published by Harvard University Press in 1935 to which Henry James, not Perry, held the copyright. Ibid., 352. Ibid., 352. William James, Some Problems of Philosophy, vii–viii. William James died on August 26, 1910. Ibid., vii. “William James Dies; Great Psychologist,” The New York Times, August 27, 1910. movies2.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/ bday/0111.html. Ibid. Ibid. William James, Some Problems of Philosophy, 3. Ibid., 3. Ibid., 6. Ibid., 6. Ibid., 8. Ibid., 8. Ibid., 8–9. Note that these comments are similar to those of antitheorists who aim to rescue literary criticism from the “esotericism,” “jargon,” and “delusions” of theory. These complaints about theory are well represented in Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral, eds., Theory’s Empire: An Anthology of Dissent (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005). Ibid., 9. Ibid., 9. Ibid., 9. Ibid., 10. Ibid., 10. Again, for a collection of representative complaints about theory by some of its major critics, see Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral, Theory’s Empire. In the humanities, theory is particularly present in history, languages, linguistics, the arts, philosophy and religion, and literature; in the social sciences, it has a substantial role in anthropology, ethnic and cultural studies, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology; in the professions, it is utilized in architecture, business, communication, education, environmental studies, journalism, law, museum studies, media studies, military science, public policy, and sport science; in the natural sciences, there is theory at work in many areas including biology, physics, the earth sciences, and the space sciences; and in the formal sciences, theory is especially present in mathematics, computer science, and systems science. Though there is no single bibliography of the work of theory in and across these disciplines, if there were one, it would be quite extensive.

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35. In philosophy, the work of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault is representative; in psychology, the work of Jacques Lacan is of singular importance. 36. One of the most significant rebellions in the history of the American Philosophical Association (APA) was called the “pluralist movement.” Led by Bruce W. Wilshire, a group of metaphysicians, continental, and pragmatic philosophers in the early 1970s demanded that the APA not treat their work as second-rate to the dominant analytic philosophy and include more of it in their conference programs. The work of this “pluralist movement” eventually changed the APA to be more inclusive of “non-analytic philosophy” in the conference program and laid the course for the inclusion as well of the work of women and racial and ethnic minorities in APA conference programming. I invoke the term here in both the spirit of Wilshire’s “pluralist movement” and its achievements as well as William James, whose thought Wilshire greatly admired. See, Edward S. Casey’s “Foreword” to Bruce W. Wilshire, The Much-At Once: Music, Science, Ecstasy, the Body (New York: Fordham University Press, 2016), x, and Bruce W. Wilshire, “The Pluralist Rebellion in the American Philosophical Association,” in Fashionable Nihilism: A Critique of Analytic Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 51–64. 37. William James, Some Problems of Philosophy, 6. 38. Ibid., 6. 39. Related to the death of theory is the legacy of theory after the death of so many of its leading lights, from Roland Barthes to Jacques Derrida. Not only has the question of the death of theory haunted theory from its beginnings, but so too has the specter of death. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, ed., Dead Theory: Derrida, Death, and the Afterlife of Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2016). 40. Ralph Barton Perry, The Thought and Character of William James, 129. 41. Ibid., 131. 42. Ibid., 131. 43. William James, Some Problems of Philosophy, 88. 44. Ibid., 96. 45. Ibid., 97. 46. Benjamin D. Crowe, “Editor’s Introduction,” in J. G. Fichte, Lectures on the Theory of Ethics (1812), trans. and ed. Benjamin D. Crowe (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015), ix. 47. Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties [1798], trans. and intro. Mary J. Gregor (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 11. Kant is here quoting a letter dated October 1, 1794 from His Majesty. 48. Ibid., 13. 49. Ibid., 15.

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50. Mary J. Gregor, “Introduction,” in Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, xxiv. 51. Ibid., xxi. The second and third essays take up law and medicine in turn and were each written separately for different purposes. 52. In addition to Crowe’s intro to J. G. Fichte’s Theory of Ethics, see Theodore Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and Its Institutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) and Charles E. McClelland, State, Society, and University in Germany 1700–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980) for further background on philosophy and German university reform in relationship to the discipline of philosophy. However, some of A. Wolf’s observations in Higher Education in Nazi Germany, or Education for World Conquest (London: Metheun & Co., 1944) on Nazi education should also be noted here: For a long time Germany was regarded by many as the besteducated country in the world. Yet the Germans as a whole have easily surpassed the Huns in every form of crime. Evidently the study of the “humanities” has not made them humane; the pursuit of science has not made them impartial and objective; and the cultivation of philosophy has not taught them to take things philosophically …. Like every other instrument, or form of power, knowledge can be used for evil as well as for good. (101) Wolf uses the example of Nazi education to point out how the worst type of education and politics can result from “any system of education that confines itself entirely to imparting knowledge, without attempting to cultivate wisdom” (102). 53. The notion of the docile subjects of neoliberal academe is established in some depth in my book Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) as is a critique of the neoliberal crusade in higher education to reduce the pursuit of knowledge in favor of an increase in vocational training. 54. See Chapter 1, “Introduction,” for a note on the “hermeneutics of suspicion” as established by Paul Ricouer. 55. For a defense of the role of community in theory, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Running with the Pack: Why Theory Needs Community,” Intertexts 20.1 (2017): 65–79.

CHAPTER 9

Catastrophic Theory

The New Criticism dominated the critical landscape of literary studies for the greater part of the mid-twentieth century.1 Its origins can be traced back to the Fugitive poets at Vanderbilt University in the early 1920s where Donald Davidson, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren attempted to create a modern southern literature through an engagement with the poetry and criticism of T. S. Eliot. Politically conservative, this group argued in a 1930 segregationist collection of essays2 that the South is “the last best hope for the European tradition of the educated gentleman farmer.”3 Like most of the movements in twentieth-century literary criticism, so-called New Critics often held differing beliefs about criticism. “The New Criticism was in fact no monolith,” writes one prominent literary historian, “but an inconsistent and sometimes confused movement; the differences among variously identified New Critics and their progenitors … are real.”4 In general, this literary movement promoted the view that texts have four basic characteristics: autonomy—texts are isolated from the whole of signification; stability—texts are perfectly stable and unchanging; coherence—texts are totally coherent and definable; and identity—texts have an entirely determinate identity. Given the broad range of these characteristics, it should not be surprising to find then that greatly differing ideas of the nature of criticism like reader-response, hermeneutic and New Criticism will share the same fundamental depiction of text. Together, these © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_9

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four characteristics comprise what is known as the classical depiction of text. Moreover, because the New Criticism held sway in literary studies in the university from the 1930s to the mid-1970s through the editing of major literary journals,5 the publication of popular textbooks, and the education of several generations of students, the view that works of literature are autonomous, self-contained, and exist for their own sake became a common one in the academy in the twentieth century. That is, however, until many of the vibrant new forms of theory and types of criticism that emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century adopted an opposing depiction of text: the contemporary depiction of text. Views of text from the contemporary perspective tend to define themselves in direct opposition to classical depictions of text. Hence, the contemporary depiction of text can be said to have the following four main characteristics: non-autonomy—the contemporary text is regarded as co-extensive or integrated with the whole of signification; non-stability—the contemporary text is unstable and changing; noncoherence—the contemporary text exemplifies a total lack of coherence and definability; and non-identity—the contemporary text has an indeterminate identity. As with the classical depiction of text, the contemporary depiction of text supports a wide range of critical positions and ideas concerning the metaphysics of text. The common ground among these differing positions on text and textuality will be the relative lack of autonomy, stability, coherence and identity afforded to their depictions of text.6 The widespread development of contemporary depictions of text and textuality in the last quarter of the twentieth century helped to make this period one of the most vibrant in the history of the humanities. New forms of theory and types of criticism seemed to be sprouting up daily and there was a spirit of rapprochement between philosophy and literature that had not been seen since the British and German romanticism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.7 Among other things, this contemporary depiction of text provided an alternative to the metaphysics of the classical depiction of text, and allowed for a radically different way to consider not only the literary object, but also cultural objects more generally.8 While there are a number of different ways to describe the new forms and types of criticism that emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century, one grounded on the relative autonomy, stability, coherence, and identity of the text is a measure that provides a set of characteristics that

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readily differentiates metaphysically (or, more narrowly, ontologically) the emerging forms of theory and criticism of the late twentieth century from those of the mid-twentieth century, specifically the New Criticism that dominated the latter period. My thesis in this chapter is that whereas affiliation with the contemporary depiction of text served to differentiate various types of theory and criticism in the late twentieth century from the so-called New Criticism, affiliation with a classical depiction of text is allowing a group of early twenty-first-century approaches to theory and criticism to associate itself with the New Criticism. These early twenty-first-century movements include but are not limited to postcritique, object-oriented ontology (or, more narrowly, object-oriented literary criticism), and Radical Aestheticism. What ties these disparate early twenty-first-century movements together is both their predilection for the characteristics associable with a classical depiction of text as well as their distaste for the major forms of theory and criticism associated with the contemporary depiction of text. While this distaste with the forms of theory and criticism associable with the contemporary depiction of text has often been termed antitheory, there is another much more specific way to term work in this area. One that associates it both more closely with the classical depiction of text as well as with the New Criticism, the classical depiction of text’s longeststanding twentieth-century instantiation: namely, the New New Criticism. In this chapter, I will argue that because of their relationship with the metaphysics of the classical depiction of text, and because of the celebrated status of the New Criticism in the twentieth century, these new antitheory movements in theory and criticism are best labeled the New New Criticism.9 Finally, as a form of antitheory, I will conclude that this New New Criticism is also catastrophic in its aim to diminish theory, particularly theory that is used in the fight against neoliberalism.

The Aesthetic View The New Critics foregrounded all of the main features of the classical depiction of text with the possible exception of coherence: the literary texts that they valued the most tended to have a high degree of ambiguity. Still, this characteristic of the classical depiction of text is defensible from within the New Critical perspective on text. Even if a text contained a high degree of ambiguity, the self-same text for the New Critic was also regarded as a coherent, unified, organic whole.

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Moreover, the unified, organic whole of the New Criticism functions as their “god-term,” wherein to a certain extent, these critics “exchange the inerrancy of the biblical word for that of the poetic word” with ambiguity along with metaphor and irony becoming “the holy trinity of New Critical reading.”10 As a result, the New Critics tended to find the coexistence of ambiguity and coherence in an object not to be contradictory characteristics. One of the more noteworthy aspects of New Criticism was encapsulated in an argument made by Monroe Beardsley and W. K. Wimsatt in the Sewanee Review in 1946. In “The Intentional Fallacy,” they argue “the design or intention of the author is neither available nor desirable as a standard for judging the success of a work of literary art.”11 “The poem is not the critic’s own and not the author’s,” they continue “(it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend it or control it).”12 The New Criticism firmly rejects the idea that literary texts convey a message from the author. For them, literary texts involve the coming together of a signifier and a signified, and are autonomous verbal artifacts where devices such as irony, ambiguity, and metaphor reveal to the close reader a rich and complex meaning. In short, the identity and meaning of the literary object does not have any relation to the intention of the author, who, for the New Critics, only functions as a critical diversion from the real object of attention: the text. According to the New Critics, the nature and limits of literature and the literary are always decidable on exclusively textual grounds; there is never any need to draw on context (e.g., history, biography, politics, etc.) in the analysis and understanding of literature. This was a sharp turn from philological approaches to the text wherein the intentions of the author were a key component to understanding it. Also important for the philologists were the material boundaries of the text, which the New Critics also decided played no role in understanding the text. Rather than relying on the biography of the author, the New Critics foregrounded the relationship between form and content in literary criticism. Close reading for the New Critics became then the means of unlocking the dynamics between the form and the content of a text. For them, the text was an object of aesthetic appreciation whose beauty could be determined through a close reading of the complexities and uniqueness of its language. Given its emphasis on the beauty of literary language, Northrop Frye termed the New Criticism “the aesthetic view”—which, by the way, he did not

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intend as a compliment, but rather as a scathing criticism.13 In semiological terms, the form of a text for the New Critics was its signifier and its content the signified. However, in opposition to semiology, which dismantled the form/content distinction, the New Critics championed it. The New Criticism held sway in American universities until the mid1970s when it came to be displaced by forms of theory and criticism with more affinities to the contemporary depiction of text than the classical depiction. The contemporary depiction of text, like its classical counterpart, is articulated through a diverse range of theories and notions. Also, as with the classical depiction of text, a number of unlikely theories and notions can be grouped under this set of characteristics including semiology, structuralism, poststructuralism, and cultural studies. Its main characteristics are diametrically opposed to those of the classical text: whereas the classical depiction of text stresses autonomy, stability, coherence, and identity, the contemporary depiction of text emphasizes nonautonomy, non-stability, non-coherence and non-identity. While not an exclusive characteristic of the contemporary depiction of text, the extension of the domain of text to both written and non-written entities had a huge impact on the articulation of contemporary theories and notions of text. By the 1960s, the domain of text had extended from its traditionally delimited space of written discourse to that of any object whatsoever— written or spoken, aesthetic or otherwise. Whereas the New Criticism regarded the domain of literature to be a fairly narrow one, the contemporary depiction of text radically widened its domain with its limit cases regarding the world itself as text.14 Often termed the linguistic turn, the contemporary depiction of text was rooted in some of the implications of the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, whose posthumously published Course in General Linguistics (1916) laid the groundwork for both the structuralist and poststructuralist movements. For Saussure, the linguistic and philosophical foundations of language are determined by material and non-material differences among signs. Language on this view is not a representation of reality, but rather is a system of signs with no existential or analogical relation to anything outside of the sign system. On this revolutionary and powerful view of language, awareness of reality is only possible through functional structures. Structuralism contends that form is imposed on nature by language, and nature in turn is manifested as the given of a

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particular structure. Hence, literary art as language under structuralism is abstracted from its existential, historical, and aesthetic context. Unlike the New Criticism, which did not revere the materiality of the text, the semiological tradition passed down through the work of Saussure followed the philological tradition in its reverence for the materiality of the text. Nevertheless, they did not adopt the idealism of the philologists, that which gave the philological text a stable and fixed meaning. Through the innovative work of Louis Hjelmslev in the 1960s, who regarded text as a process, the contemporary depiction of text clearly came to differentiate itself from the classical text of the New Critics. For Hjelmslev, processes are the starting point in defining and individuating language, and it is only against the background of systems that texts come into existence.15 Finally, the three masters of the contemporary depiction of text, who were also members of the Tel Quel group—Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and Jacques Derrida—each further contributed their own unique takes on the non-autonomy, non-stability, non-coherence, and non-identity of the text.16 So why then given all the changes and developments in twentiethcentury theory including structuralism and poststructuralism and after this other movements such as Marxism, feminism, postcolonialism, new historicism, cultural studies as well as the myriad of other studies that left the autonomy of the literary object in the dustbin of aesthetics and the New Criticism, does the latter appear to be resurfacing in several versions of antitheory? The first, the Radical Aesthetics (or, alternately, the New Aestheticism17 ) is the easiest to address because a return to the aesthetic is a straightforward return to the wheelhouse of the New Criticism, that is, the “aesthetic view.” Efforts to “rethink” the aesthetic and “remake” aesthetic discourse such as Isobel Armstrong’s in The Radical Aesthetic and Terry Eagleton’s The Ideology of the Aesthetic are a return to a form of criticism rejected by proponents of a contemporary depiction of text as well as by the work done by cultural studies and the multitude of studies it spawned.18 New New Critical formations of the aesthetic do not simply reproduce the New Critical aesthetic of old, but will, like Armstrong and Eagleton, often give it a “political” twist, which in Armstrong’s case is referred to as a “ludic feminism” that is potentially disruptive and transgressive.19 In Eagleton’s case, a “conflict … between two opposing notions of the aesthetic” is identified: “one figuring as an image of emancipation, the other ratifying domination.”20 Nevertheless, the intrepid

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Eagleton continues to build his case for a radical materialist aesthetics in later work albeit by both pointing out the flaws of the “high theory” (“a male-dominated high theory had austerely excluded: pleasure, experience, bodily life, the unconscious, the affective, autobiographical and interpersonal, questions of subjectivity and everyday practice”21 ) and by pointing out the limits of cultural studies (“It cannot afford simply to keep recounting the same narratives of class, race, and gender, indispensible as these topics are. It needs to chance its arm, break out of a rather stifling orthodoxy, and explore new topics, not least those which it has so far been unreasonably shy”22 ) with a radical materialist aesthetics being one of those “new topics.” Understanding the ideology or performativity of the aesthetic and its historicity has a place in theoretical discourse regarding literary studies so long as it is not a return to the autonomous, organic wholes of the New Critical aesthetic—a task that is very difficult if not impossible to avoid when engaging the aesthetic.23 Back in 1983, Hal Foster described the “anti-aesthetic” position as follows: The adventures of the aesthetic make up one of the great narratives of modernity: from the time of its autonomy through art-for-art’s sake to its status as a necessary negative category, a critique of the world as it is. It is this last moment (figured brilliantly in the writings of Theodor Adorno) that is hard to relinquish: the notion of the aesthetic as subversive, a critical interstice in an otherwise instrumental world. Now, however, we have to consider that this aesthetic space too is eclipsed—or rather, that its criticality is now largely illusory (and so instrumental).24

It is not much of a reach to view the transition from the anti-aesthetic position—depicted so well here by Foster—to the interest in the aesthetic in the work of “radicals” like Armstrong and Eagleton as a faint albeit palpable prospect for its comeback—a return which is both a species of antitheory (especially in the case of Eagleton) and a sign of the reappearance of the New Criticism in a shinier new form. But the lines of association of object-oriented literary studies and postcritique with the New Criticism may be for some a bit more of a reach. So let me now try to convince you otherwise.

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Stale Objects Object-oriented philosophy was inaugurated early in the new millennium by Graham Harman with the publication of Tool-Being : Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects in 2002. Five years later it came to be entangled with speculative realism, which Harman calls “a loose philosophical movement opposed to trends that have dominated continental philosophy from its inception.”25 Thus, much of Harman’s work as a proponent of object-oriented philosophy is to distinguish it from speculative realism, particularly the work of Quentin Meillassoux, whose 2006 book, After Finitude, launched a “philosophical” ship26 that has attracted many supporters, opponents, and those like Harman who work hard to distinguish their own work within the speculative realism movement. What makes work in this general area particularly difficult to master is that it really is not a cohesive philosophical movement. “What prevented speculative realism from becoming a cohesive philosophical movement,” writes Harman, “was the vast range of options available within its rather general founding principles: realism plus unorthodox speculation.”27 In this section, however, we will focus on the efforts of Harman to develop and defend his own version, which he generally terms, object-oriented ontology (OOO), which he regards as a part of “the broader framework of speculative realism.”28 As we shall see below, his so-called objectoriented literary criticism, that is, the application of OOO to literary criticism, is very closely related to the approach of the New Criticism.29 Moreover, like the New Criticism, which has been dubbed “the aesthetic view,” Harman’s object-oriented philosophy regards aesthetics as “first philosophy,” that is to say, the root of all philosophy.30 “Aesthetic experience is crucial to OOO,” writes Harman, “as a form of non-literal access to the object.” “It occurs,” he continues, when sensual qualities no longer belong to their usual sensual object, but are transferred instead to a real object, which necessarily withdraws from all access. For this reason, the vanished real object is replaced by the aesthetic beholder herself or himself as the new real object that supports the sensual qualities. Thus we can speak of the necessary theatricality of aesthetic experience ….31

Though one might be tempted to group OOO with the Radical Aestheticism (or New Aestheticism) of Armstrong and Eagleton, this would be

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inappropriate. While it shares with Armstrong and Eagleton a radicalization of aesthetics by necessitating its “theatricality,”32 a move akin to the necessity of Armstrong’s performativity and Eagleton’s ideology to the aesthetic, unlike them, Harman rejects use of any social, political, cultural, and biographical considerations in object-oriented criticism. By contrast, radical aestheticism uses social, political, and cultural considerations to radicalize the aesthetic. Object-oriented criticism, however, much like the New Criticism, aims to empty the aesthetic of all social, political, cultural, and biographical considerations, and focus purely on formal ones. Object-oriented criticism in the hands of Harman arguably tries to make the New Criticism “great again” by doubling-down on its most recognizable characteristics. In the case of the relationship of criticism to political concerns, for example, the New Criticism was wrought through its conservative and segregationist political vision, which although a failed one, still landed them positions as tenured conservatives at numerous colleges and universities across America. In the case of object-oriented criticism, however, we supposedly do not have to worry about it being a form of criticism wrought through a Heideggerian or any other political vision (a point though that some will surely want to contest). For Harman, not only are political concerns unrelated to literary criticism and theory (a view he shares with the New Criticism), but, additionally, “[t]here is no political knowledge”33 (a view he does not share with the New Criticism). “Political theory cannot be based on a claim to knowledge: whether it be the supposed knowledge of what the best polity is, or merely the cynical claim that it’s all just a struggle for power,” writes Harman.34 “Along with the need to recognize itself as a non-knowledge, political theory must give a much larger role to non-human entities than has previously been the case.”35 In this regard, Harman’s vision of the reinvention of aesthetics for the new millennium is very different from the highly politicized Radical Aesthetics of Armstrong and Eagleton. Harman’s work not only goes against the Marxist traditions in theory (and praxis) that both reject non-ideological criticism like the New Criticism, but also which work against the tendencies of neoliberal aesthetics to erase the political from literary and cultural criticism.36 Nonetheless, it is really through Harman’s use of autonomy with regard to the text of object-oriented criticism that the association with the New Criticism is most apparent. While he realizes that the “deeply non-relational conception of the reality of things [at] the heart of objectoriented philosophy … will immediately sound deeply reactionary,” he

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nevertheless finds many different ways to defend the autonomy of texts.37 Moreover, Harman continues on this reactionary path in spite of being well aware that “most advances in the humanities pride themselves on having abandoned the notion of stale autonomous substances or individual human subjects in favor of networks, negotiations, relations, interactions, and dynamic fluctuations”38 —a point also made at the beginning of this chapter. “This,” he continues, “has been the guiding theme of our time.”39 This theme is, of course, the contemporary depiction of text. Harman has no problem supporting the autonomy of the text but believes that certain conceptions of it are wrongheaded: “problem with individual substances was never that they were autonomous or individual, but that they were wrongly conceived as eternal, unchanging, simple, or directly accessible by privileged observers.”40 He tries to distance his view of the autonomy of the text in object-oriented literary criticism from that of the New Criticism by at once recognizing the “obvious similarities between [OOO’s] relationless concept of objects … and the New Criticism’s long unfashionable model of poems as encapsulated machines cut off from all social and material context”41 but also citing his own doctrinal disagreements with the ontology at the heart of the New Criticism’s “heresy of paraphrase.” This well-known heresy was the subject of the final chapter of Cleanth Brooks’s 1947 New Critical classic, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry. His thesis here is that a poem cannot be paraphrased, that is, a poem cannot be rephrased into a series of statements or propositions. Writes Brooks, “any good poem sets up against all attempts to paraphrase it.”42 “For the imagery and the rhythm,” continues Brooks, “are not merely the instruments by which this fancied core-of-meaningwhich-can-be-expressed-in-a-paraphrase is directly rendered.”43 Quoting William Marshall Urban’s Language and Reality (1939), Brooks brings home his point about the relationship of form and content to the “essential core of the poem itself”: The general principle of the inseparability of intuition and expression holds with special force for the aesthetic intuition. Here it means that form and content, or content and medium, are inseparable. The artist does not first intuit his object and then find the appropriate medium. It is rather in and through his medium that he intuits the object.44

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Generally speaking, this position is one wherein paraphrase, quotation and translation necessarily alter the content of texts. It assumes, of course, a particular relationship between form and content, of which there are three basic variations wherein content is regarded as an autonomous object: monism, dualism, and pluralism. These three potential relationships between form and content have been widely discussed in literary studies and philosophy. Each though is founded upon a classical depiction of text. Monism regarding form and content, as Gustave Flaubert famously put it, “is like body and soul: form and content … are one.”45 Therefore, for monists (like Brooks), any change in form will result necessarily in a change in content. Dualism contends that form and content are separate entities and that there is no necessary connection between them. With respect to artworks, dualism entails that considerations of form (or style) are purely or simply matters of expression rather than content. Finally, pluralism is the position that there are many different functions that articulations of content may serve.46 As such, pluralism leaves open the possibility for an indefinite number of different relationships between form and content. Pluralism regards form as the characteristic or specific ways in which language is used in a given context, by a given person, for a given purpose, and so on. Content then for the pluralist is determined only through a functional analysis of the characteristic or specific ways in which language is used. Now that we have established a broader context for understanding the relationship between form and content within the context of the classical depiction of text, let us turn now to Harman’s effort to distance his own object-oriented literary criticism from the work of the New Criticism. Harman hopes to achieve this by leveling two criticisms against the New Criticism, specifically targeting the “heresy of paraphrase”: the first is that the New Criticism is guilty of what he calls “the taxonomic fallacy, which consists in the assumption that any ontological distinction must be embodied in specific kinds of entities”;47 the second is that the New Criticism fails in its efforts to maintain the autonomy of the literary object.48 Let us now look at each of these criticisms in a bit more detail. Harman agrees with the fallacy of paraphrase to the extent that it means “The poem differs from any literal expression of its content just as Heidegger’s hammer itself differs from any broken, perceived, or cognized hammer.”49 However, because the New Critics were not objectoriented ontologists, the heresy of paraphrase needs to be adapted to the requirements of OOO. Here, the first order of business for Harman is

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to point out that the “irreducibility of reality to literal presence applies as much to the sciences as it does to poetry.”50 “The literal and the nonliteral cannot be apportioned to different zones of reality, but are two distinct sides of every point in the cosmos.”51 Therefore, because the New Critics “treat literature as a uniquely privileged zone standing outside the rest of space-time,” OOO must reject their taxonomically suspect ontological assumptions.52 For OOO, everything stands “partially outside” the cosmic network, and partially inside it. Ontological privilege leads the New Critics to assert a distinction between literary objects and non-literary ones. Whereas, according to OOO, there is no ontological distinction that is embodied in specific kinds of entities—and those that believe as much, such as the New Critics, commit the “taxonomic fallacy.” So while Harman agrees with aspects of the New Critics heresy of paraphrase (viz. primarily its general notion of the autonomy of objects), other aspects of it violate the principles of OOO (viz. primarily the taxonomical ontological assumptions it makes). To be clear where he stands on the ontology of the New Critical heresy of paraphrase, Harman writes, “we can accept Brooks’s claim of an absolute gulf between literalized prose sense and the nonprose sense that it paraphrases or translates. Yet, it does not follow that there should be a division of labor in which poetry has all the non-prose sense while other disciplines have all the literal sense.”53 Moreover, Harman has a different problem with paraphrase than the one stated by Brooks. It is not that we should reject paraphrase in toto, but rather we should be aware of its limits. He makes this point through the example of Moby-Dick: “why not try shortening it to various degrees in order to discover the point at which it ceases to sound like Moby-Dick? Why not imagine it lengthened even further, or told by a third-person narrator rather than Ishmael, or involving a cruise in the opposite direction around the globe?”54 The point he is establishing here is that objects are “to some extent autonomous from even their own properties.”55 The phrase “to some extent autonomous” reveals the dualism between form and content at the heart of Harman’s object-oriented literary criticism. For him, form (viz. various expressions of Moby-Dick or “any broken, perceived, or cognized hammer”) and content (viz. Moby-Dick or Heidegger’s hammer) are separate entities, and while there are no necessary connections between form and content, they are connected in the sense that at some point changing the properties of Moby-Dick will result in “it [ceasing] to sound like Moby-Dick”—or more accurately, cease to be or express Moby-Dick. Consequently, while Harman and the New Critics

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agree on the autonomy of the literary object, they disagree about whether to posit a monist or dualist approach to the classical conception of text at the center of their respective literary criticisms. Before closing, Harman’s second criticism of the New Criticism is worth mentioning as well as it further confirms his commitment to ontological autonomy. For him, while the New Critics do a great job establishing “the poem as [existing] in pristine isolation from the rest of the cosmos,”56 they do a poor job maintaining this autonomy “once we have entered the gates of the poem,” where “nothing is autonomous at all according to Brooks: instead, we inhabit a holistic wonderland in which everything is defined solely by its interrelations with everything else.”57 For Harman, “by turning [the poem’s] interior into a relational wildfire in which all individual elements are consumed,” the New Critics again have failed to produce a model of literary criticism consistent with the principles of OOO. To be fair though, we noted this line of criticism earlier, and stated that the New Critics tended to find the co-existence of ambiguity and coherence in an object not to be contradictory characteristics. But rather than seeing these as tensions that could be resolved through close reading, Harman would rather that object-oriented literary criticism posit a non-relational literary object, rather than a radically relational one. The exercise with altering senses of Moby-Dick is also meant to show “how each text resists internal holism by attempting various modifications of these texts and seeing what happens.”58 In sum, Harman’s approach is an effort to provide a proper ontology for the New Criticism and its classical depiction of text. By focusing on improving autonomy in literary criticism, it serves as both a rejection of the contemporary depiction of text and a reactionary form of antitheory thoroughly grounded in aesthetics. “‘Everything is connected’ is one of those methods that has long since entered its decadence, and must be abandoned,” comments Harman.59 “The call for ‘the death of the author’ needs to be complemented by a new call for ‘the death of the culture.’”60 For his part, Harman has done a yeoman’s job in rehabilitating the New Criticism. “Instead of dissolving a text upward into its readings or downward into its cultural elements,” states Harman, “we should focus specifically on how it resists such dissolution.”61 The New Critics would be proud of him given all the pounding they have taken from various contemporary views of text over the last quarter of the twentieth century and thereafter. Calling the object-oriented literary criticism the New New Criticism based on its upgraded ontology, shiny new

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dualism, and thorough-going commitment to the autonomy of the text seems only fair given Harman’s efforts here. It also signals the complete reversal of OOO with regard to contemporary trends in the humanities which are based on the rejection of “stale autonomous substances.”

Actors and Texts Rita Felski has in Graham Harman a loyal ally in the rejection of critique. Or so she says. “I join a growing groundswell of voices,” boasts Felski in her 2015 postcritical manifesto, The Limits of Critique, “including scholars of feminist and queer studies as well as actor-network theory, object-oriented ontology, and influential strands of political theory.”62 But his name only appears once in her book and there is no other discussion or mention of OOO aside from a long footnote to the above sentence, which after citing specific works of scholars such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Toril Moi, Linda M. G. Zerilli, Steven Best, Sharon Marcus, Heather Love, and Jane Bennett, concludes with the sentence, “I have also learned much from the work of Graham Harman ….”63 Even more curiously, she finishes this sentence with “… and of course am deeply influenced by the work of Bruno Latour.”64 In comparison with Latour, whose actor-network theory index entry has fifteen subheadings, and whose own entry has eleven subheadings, there is no entry in her index for Harman, and the only direct reference in the book to OOO is the one above. Why then does Latour get an “of course” from Felski but the “deep influence” of Harman is directly stated nowhere in the book? In this section, I will argue that whereas Felski shares with Harman a passion for the classical depiction of text and the associated characteristic of textual autonomy, she hides behind the work of Latour in order to avoid any association through Harman with aesthetics and the New Criticism. Nonetheless, in spite of her cloaking devices, she too is a representative of the New New Criticism, albeit by a different path than Harman. In her co-written introduction to Critique and Postcritique, a collection of essays on the postcritique moment that followed two years after the publication of The Limits of Critique,65 the editors, Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, share what links together the disparate postcritical work of Stephen Best, Sharon Marcus, Heather Love, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick: “these critics are all committed to treating texts with respect, care, and attention, emphasizing the visible rather than the concealed

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in a spirit of dialogue and constructiveness rather than dissection and diagnosis.”66 One would be hard-pressed to say that these same characteristics, that is, a commitment to “treating texts with respect, care, and attention, emphasizing the visible,” are not also characteristics of the New Criticism. But, more to the point, the autonomy of the text immediately begins to appear here as an important consideration of critics sympathetic to postcritique. This also comes out in the descriptions of the specific contributions of Best, Love, Marcus, and Sedgwick by Anker and Felski: Best and Marcus “urge greater attention to what lies on the surface [of a text]—the open to view, the transparent, and the literal”; Love “calls for a model of what she calls ‘thin description’ and for renewed attention to empiricism ‘after the decline of the linguistic turn’”; Marcus “develops a model of ‘just reading’ that attends carefully to what is given by the text”; and Sedgwick’s “account of paranoid reading … culminates with an acknowledgement of the value of the reparative impulse that is ‘additive and accretive,’ aiming ‘to assemble and confer plenitude.’”67 In the same introduction, though separately discussed, Latour’s actornetwork theory [ANT] is treated as an objection to literary critics who try “to reconcile the spheres of literature and politics, enlisting their expertise and training in close reading in the service of combatting social injustice.”68 For postcritics such as Anker and Felski, “it is not at all obvious that literary analysis offers a direct conduit to a sharper understanding of the social, or that individual texts can be seen as microcosms of broader ideological structures or cultural forces.”69 Actor-network theory scholars are then cited responding to this problem by “replac[ing] the notion of ‘society’ with an emphasis on networks of associations, conceiving of the artwork as embedded within multiple chains of mediation rather than serving a microcosm of a social totality.”70 On this view, ANT shares an affinity with the New Criticism by agreeing that social and political concerns are not determinable through the close reading of literary texts. “The politics of a text are not dictated by its form, structure, or internal dynamics,” conclude Anker and Felski regarding ANT. “Rather, they are forged in the history of its various diverse entanglements.”71 Many of the concerns then of postcritique are also those of the New Criticism. This is most obvious in its rejection of politics and ideology as relevant to textual criticism (viz. “The politics of a text are not dictated by its form, structure, or internal dynamics”), and its rejection of the contemporary depiction of text (viz. the depiction that results from the “linguistic turn”). But the newness of Felski’s New

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Criticism is felt most palpably in her desire that artworks be both “connected” and “autonomous.” For her, “works of art cannot help being social, sociable, connected, worldly, immanent—and yet they can also be felt, without contradiction, to be incandescent, extraordinary, sublime, utterly special.”72 That is to say, for Felski, “[t]heir singularity and their sociability are interconnected, not opposed.”73 How then does she resolve this apparent contradiction? Namely, the postcritical contradiction that artworks are both autonomous and non-autonomous? Social and non-social? That they exhibit singularity and plurality? For one thing, unlike Harman, she does not rely on aesthetics as the first principle of her postcritique, and unlike the New Aestheticism, she does not use aesthetics to bring performativity or ideology into her postcritique. “This book,” writes Felski, “does not take up arms against social meanings under the stirring banner of … a ‘new aestheticism,’” nor does it “champion aesthetics over politics.”74 For her, the social aspects of literature cannot be “peeled away from its ‘purely literary’ ones.”75 “No more separate spheres!,” she adds. But here again she appears to be going in the opposite direction of Harman whose object-oriented philosophy has a “deeply non-relational conception of the reality of things,” rejects “networks, negotiations, relations, interactions, and dynamic fluctuations,”76 and last, but not least, regards objects as “cut off from all social and material context.”77 If anything, Felski’s postcritique is an effort to provide a new type of relationship between text and context, that is, between the singularities of the text and the pluralities of context. “Refusing to stay cooped up in their containers, texts barge energetically across space and time,” opines Felski, “hooking up with other coactors in ways that are both predicable and puzzling.”78 But why do these autonomous, singular texts venture out into context? Because this allows them as agents (or Latourian actors) “to make a difference” in the network. “Only by making attachments and forging alliances [and ‘hooking up’],” claims Felski, “are they able to make a difference.”79 For her resolving the contradiction of the autonomy and non-autonomy of texts is merely a matter of “stress”: Rather than stressing their otherness, autonomy, nontransferability, we point out their portability, mobility, and translatability. Instead of asking “What does this text create, build, make possible? Against those who declare “The text is singular! It cannot be appropriated!” we intone our own mantra: “The text is singular! Of course it will be appropriated!”80

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In the final analysis, what Felski offers in place of a hermeneutics of suspicion and the contemporary depiction of text has a lot more in common with reader-response criticism than object-oriented ontology: Reading is now conceived as an act of composition—of creative remaking— that binds text and reader in ongoing struggles, translations, and negotiations. The literary text is not a museum piece immured behind glass but a spirited and energetic participant in an exchange—one that may know as much as, or a great deal more than, the critic. This text impinges and bears on the reader across time and space; as a mood changer, a reconfigurer of perception, a plentitude of stylistic possibilities, an aid to thought…. Don’t texts, after all, routinely transcend their circumstances of conception—straying into new networks that have little or nothing to do with their original meaning or purpose?81

For Felski, understanding how autonomous texts can “resonate” and “move across time” is the central problem of literary criticism in the new millennium.82 What puts her firmly under the influence of Latour is her adoption of his unorthodox position that “Literary texts can be usefully thought of as nonhuman actors,” and as such, exhibit a form of agency.83 In a way, by recalling the work of Stanley Fish on textual autonomy,84 Felski’s postcritique might be seen as taking us back to the twentiethcentury debate regarding the source of the identity of the autonomous, stable, and coherent classical depiction of text as well as to the unique type of antitheory he advocates. For Fish, a reception theorist in the tradition of Roman Ingarden and Wolfgang Iser, the identity of the text is not an inherent property of the object, but is rather bestowed upon it by its interpreter. Fish’s position that textual identity is a social construction implies, for example, that authorial intention plays little role in the identity of the text. It also implies that different interpretations entail different texts. For Fish, there is no difference between explaining a text and changing it. His view then might be said to conflate questions of interpretation with those of identity. Nevertheless, Fish’s place among classical depictions of text is not as obvious as say the New Critics. Much the same holds for Felski though her categorical rejection of the contemporary depiction of text a la the linguistic turn makes it easier to view her through the fog of her position as a limit case (like Fish) of the classical depiction of text. Felski’s position as a limit case of the classical depiction of text affords her the opportunity to pursue some of the more extreme, relativistic, and speculative implications and possibilities of this depiction.

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For both Fish and Felski, texts are changing entities, though while the former claims that they are not definable outside of a perceptual awareness of them and do not exhibit agency, the latter locates the source of their change in their agency as non-human actors within networks. As with Fish, the key to situating Felski’s work within the tradition of the classical depiction of text is her repeated insistence that texts have autonomy and a determinate identity—two of the four main characteristics of a classical depiction of text. Whereas for Fish, texts are autonomous in the sense that they gain their identity by being isolated from the whole of signification either by a single interpreter or an entire interpretive community; for Felski, however, texts are autonomous in the sense that they gain their identity by being isolated from the whole of signification either by a single reader or by serving as a singular “actor” in a network. In the case of both Fish and Felski, the source of the identity and autonomy of the text is relative to something else (e.g., an interpreter, a reader, a network, an interpretive community) in spite of the fact that texts for both of them are basically also unstable and incoherent entities. Which now brings us back to the question, so what did Felski learn from Harman? Or, more generally, what did postcritique learn from OOO? For one thing, like OOO (and its cousin, speculative realism), postcritique is not a cohesive philosophical or critical movement. If speculative realism is realism plus unorthodox speculation, then postcritique is the rejection of critique plus even more unorthodox speculation. One need not go much further than trying to imagine Felski’s image of the life of texts as “one text as an ‘actor’ ‘hooking up’ with other ‘coactor’ texts in ‘predicable and puzzling’ ways.” And the differences among the work of Rita Felski, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Toril Moi, Linda M. G. Zerilli, Steven Best, Sharon Marcus, Heather Love, and Jane Bennett are probably more evident than the similarities. Still, OOO gave postcritique the philosophical, critical, and speculative courage to be confident in reasserting the authority of what Harman calls “stale autonomous substances.”85 And, by doing so, put postcritique like OOO in immediate comparison with the once-celebrated form of criticism that championed “stale autonomous substances,” namely, the New Criticism. Ultimately, postcritique makes the same move as OOO regarding these autonomous substances by fundamentally agreeing with Harman that the “problem with individual substances was never that they were autonomous or individual, but that they were wrongly conceived as eternal, unchanging, simple, or directly accessible by privileged observers.”86 Nevertheless,

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OOO and postcritique disagree with how textual change occurs, with Harman following a path laid out by Heidegger, and Felski a path laid out by Fish and Latour.

Conclusion If the last quarter of the twentieth century was one of the most vibrant periods in the history of the humanities, then the first quarter of the new millennium is quickly becoming one of its most reactionary. The contemporary depiction of text brought with it exciting new ways of dismantling the autonomy of the text and replacing it with a myriad of energizing possibilities. The critical measure of the difference between the classical depiction of text as autonomous, stable, coherent, and of determinate identity, and the contemporary depiction of text as not autonomous, stable, coherent, and of determinate identity was often the New Criticism. For at least a twenty-five year period, New Criticism often stood as the barometer of everything that contemporary depictions of text sought to undermine. But the reactionary winds of critical change started to gather force at the turn of the century through new forms of antitheory. While antitheory of the form that rejects the epistemological and metaphysical project of structuralism, poststructuralism, and the social construction of knowledge predates the new millennium, so too does antitheory that opposes the use of race, class, gender, and sexuality in the analysis of literature and culture. However, postcritique, a particularly virulent strain of antitheory, just took root a few years ago through the leadership of Rita Felski. It was preceded by another strain of antitheory alternately called speculative realism and object-oriented ontology, which has gained steam through the contributions of OOO pioneer, Graham Harman. What these three strains of antitheory share, that is, postcritique, speculative realism, and object-oriented ontology, is a reverence for the classical depiction of text, one that exhibits autonomy as its paradigmatic feature. This has led many to call work in this area reactionary because of its reversal from the progressive criticism that stemmed from the contemporary depiction of text. Also caught up in the whirlwind of reactionary work on text was a return to aestheticism through both OOO and the Radical (or New) Aestheticism. This only further establishes the case that a new form of the New Criticism is in play through the anti-theoretical interventions of postcritique, speculative realism, OOO, and the Radical (or New)

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Aestheticism. The only thing left to consider now is whether the New New Criticism is a cohesive movement or not. Given that we have said virtually the same thing about the New Criticism, speculative realism, OOO, and the Radical (or New) Aestheticism, namely that none of them was or is a monolith, it only seems fair to say the same about the New New Criticism. Still, the shared commitment of the different forms of the New New Criticism to the autonomy of the literary text is nothing less than a marvel given their epistemological and ontological variations. In conclusion, one only hopes this current wave of reactionary criticism is short-lived. But then again, didn’t the first New Criticism hold court in the humanities for nearly fifty years? What it going to happen now that it has been made “great again”? The New New Criticism is a catastrophe for the progressive hopes of theory in the new millennium. These hopes, which I aim demonstrate in the next chapter, are vital to the future of the humanities and higher education lest they both be sucked further into the catastrophic undertow of neoliberal academe.

Notes 1. See, for example, Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980), Vincent B. Leitch, American Literary Criticism from the Thirties to the Eighties (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), and René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism, 1750–1950, Volume Six: American Criticism, 1900–1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986). 2. Twelve Southerners, I’ll Take My Stand [1930] (New York: P. Smith, 1951). 3. John N. Duvall, “New Criticism,” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 593. 4. Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticism, xii–xiii. 5. John N. Duvall, “New Criticism’s Major Journals,” in The Oxford Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Vol. 2 North America, 1894– 1960, eds. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 928–944. 6. In addition to work that clearly fits into one depiction or the other, there are also limit and mediation cases with regard to these depictions: limit cases are ones that while they share characteristics from both depictions of text, the balance seems to shift to one depiction or the other; mediation cases are ones that share both sets of characteristics but do not seem to fit either paradigm. Stanley Fish’s work on text is a good example

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12. 13. 14.

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of a limit case (and will be discussed later in this chapter), whereas the respective work of Umberto Eco and Richard Rorty on text is exemplary of mediation cases (and not the subject of this chapter). For exemplary work in this regard, see Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1976), Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), and Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1982). On the spirit of rapprochement between philosophy and literature, see Geoffrey Hartman, “Preface,” in De-construction and Criticism: Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, J. Hillis Miller, eds. in Harold Bloom, Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller (New York: Continuum, 1979), ix, and Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Philosophy as World Literature: An Introduction,” in Philosophy as World Literature, ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), 1–20. These two depictions are further developed in Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Text,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, 2nd., 6 vols., ed. Michael Kelly (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), V6: 129–134. I would like to thank Christopher Breu for suggesting this line of approach and for providing some of its broad outlines in his excellent essay, “After Foundationalism: Ten Theses on the Limits of Antitheory,” in What’s Wrong with Antitheory? ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), esp. 254–256. John N. Duvall, “New Criticism,” 594. W. K. Wimsatt, Jr., and Monroe Beardsley, “The Intentional Fallacy [1946],” in W. K. Wimsatt and two preliminary essays written in collaboration with Monroe C. Beardsley, The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1954), 3. Ibid., 5. Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays [1957] (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 350. See, for example, Juri Lotman, The Structure of the Artistic Text [1970], trans. Ronald Vroon and Gail Vroon (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977), and Jacques Derrida, Dissemination [1972], trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 328. See Louis Hjelmslev, Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, trans. Francis J. Whitfield (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962). For exemplary work in this regard, see, Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), Julia Kristeva, Séméiotiké: Recherches pour une sémanalyse (Paris: Seuil, 1969), and Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology [1967], trans. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976).

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17. See, for example, John J. Joughin and Simon Malpas, eds. The New Aestheticism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004). 18. For the multitude of “studies” in literary and cultural theory today, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, “Introduction: Theory in the New Millennium,” in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Literary and Cultural Theory, ed. Jeffrey R. Di Leo (London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), esp. 6. 19. Isobel Armstrong, The Radical Aesthetic (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), 214–215. 20. Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 411. 21. Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction, anniversary edition with a new preface (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 194. 22. Terry Eagleton, After Theory (New York: Basic Books, 2003), 222. 23. For a number of different ways to engage the aesthetic in conjunction with the political, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, ed., Criticism After Critique: Aesthetics, Literature, and the Political (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 24. Hal Foster, “Postmodernism: A Preface,” in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983), xv. 25. Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer: Object-Oriented Literary Criticism,” New Literary History 43 (2012): 184. 26. OOO might also be considered an “anti-philosophy” because the rise of its influence is in many fields and disciplines other than academic or professional philosophy in America, where it is generally regarded as “bogus” philosophy. In this way, it shares the fate of other areas of speculation favored by literary and cultural theory and criticism such as structuralism, poststructuralism, and cultural studies. Also, for an excellent critique of the Meillassoux and speculative realism from the considerations of philosophy and anti-philosophy, see Zahi Zalloua, Theory’s Autoimmunity: Skepticism, Literature, and Philosophy (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2018), 121–137. 27. Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer,” 184. 28. Ibid., 186. 29. While Harman sees his own efforts in OOO as coming to terms with “phenomenology and its radicalization at the hands of Heidegger” (186), for those versed in both the history of New Criticism and phenomenology, the New Criticism may analogously be argued as an effort to come to terms with phenomenology and its invention at the hand of Edmund Husserl, who was, of course, Heidegger’s teacher at the University of Freiburg.

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30. Graham Harman, Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything (London, UK: Pelican Books/Penguin Random House, 2018), 59–102. 31. Ibid., 260. 32. See also, Graham Harman, Art + Objects (Metford, MA: Polity Press, 2020), 48–82, for an extensive description and defense of “theatrical” aesthetics. This book is Harman’s most elaborate defense of aesthetics as the central discipline of philosophy. 33. Graham Harman, Object-Oriented Ontology, 260. 34. Ibid., 260. 35. Ibid., 260. 36. For the erasure of the political under neoliberalism, the best source is Henry Giroux, who has written extensively and persuasively on this topic. Most recently, see, for example, Henry Giroux, The Terror of the Unforeseen (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Review of Books Provocations, 2019). 37. Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer, 187. 38. Ibid., 187. 39. Ibid., 187. 40. Ibid., 188. 41. Ibid., 188. 42. Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn, 196. 43. Ibid., 197. 44. Ibid., 199; Brooks quoting Urban. 45. Gustave Flaubert, “Letter to Mlle Leroyer de Chantepie, 12 December 1857,” in Correspondance de Gustave Flaubert, Vol. 2, ed. Jean Bruneau (Paris: Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1973), 785. 46. Roman Jakobson, “Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics,” in Style in Language, ed. Thomas Sebeok (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), for example, famously argued that there were six basic functions of verbal communication—referential, emotive, poetic, phatic, conative, metalingual. However, for Jakobson, “the verbal structure of a message depends primarily on the predominant function” (353). 47. Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer,” 189. 48. Ibid., 190. 49. Ibid., 189. 50. Ibid., 190. 51. Ibid., 190. 52. Ibid., 190. 53. Ibid., 189. 54. Ibid., 202. 55. Ibid., 202. 56. Ibid., 190. 57. Ibid., 190.

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Ibid., 201–202. Ibid., 201. Ibid., 201. Ibid., 200. Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), 8. Ibid., 195-6n4. Ibid., 196n4. While the postcritique moment was codified through the publication of Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique and triumphantly celebrated through the publication of Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, eds. Critique and Postcritique (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017), questions about the fate of the political dimensions of literary criticism amidst a sea of change in attitudes toward ideological critique had already been established by many other scholars, particularly those interested in a return to aesthetics, well before Felski’s particular intervention/s. For a selection of statements about a return to aesthetics and its relation to the rejection of critique, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, ed., Criticism after Critique, a book wherein the work of Felski in this area is only mentioned once. Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, “Introduction,” in Critique and Postcritique, 16. Ann Laura Stoler is also discussed by Anker and Felski here, but is not among the group listed in Felski note cited above. Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, “Introduction,” 16. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 17. Ibid., 17. Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique, 11. Ibid., 11. Ibid., 11. Ibid., 11. Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer,” 187. Ibid., 188. Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique, 182. Ibid., 182. Ibid., 182. Ibid., 182–183. Ibid., 154. Ibid., 154. See Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? Graham Harman, “The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer,” 187. Ibid., 188.

CHAPTER 10

Pessimistic Education

It is much less difficult to be unhappy. —Sigmund Freud1

Antitheory and the return to aestheticism are reactionary developments in theory. Their aim is to ensure a better future for the humanities in the age of neoliberal academe by going back to its past. For advocates of antitheory and the return to aestheticism, the best way to respond to the catastrophes facing the humanities is to return to fundamental textual assumptions that dominated it prior to the rise of structuralism and poststructuralism. While new developments in literary studies such as speculative realism and postcritique may appear as opportunities for the humanities, they are not. Rather, they suggest that the greatest threats to the future of the humanities may come from within its ranks. Still, theorists and antitheorists agree that the state of the humanities in the new millennium is nothing less than catastrophic. Our struggles as humanities scholars over the nature and value of the humanities weaken its status within the academy. As we disagree over whether to be progressive or reactionary regarding the aesthetic and theory, the door to a more vocationally centered vision of higher education becomes increasingly welcoming to a new generation of students. If those within the humanities cannot get their story together regarding its value, it is not surprising that students as a consequence are less attracted to our majors as opposed to © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_10

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those which champion their value as marketable skills and job attainment. In a political economy and academic environment wherein educational values are determined by market-share, majors and courses that cannot be directly connected to skills and jobs in demand by the market are regarded as expendable. Thus, if the humanities major is regarded within and outside of the academy as disposable, so too is financial support for it. In the wake of the loss of students and energy, humanities scholars are understandably scrambling for solutions. Some have responded to this situation by criticizing the neoliberal educational practices that are allegedly deepening the problems facing the humanities. The university that makes no pretense toward an educationally driven university mission and whole-heartedly adopts an economically driven one cannot be good for the humanities. Thus, halting the rise of the neoliberal university is regarded by some as one way to reverse the decline of the humanities. But this response involves nothing short of changing the way universities function today. It is based on the assumption that if we halt the rise of the neoliberal university, then the decline in the humanities will in turn slow down. But is this necessarily the case? Will it be enough to renew the humanities? More importantly, is halting the rise of the neoliberal university even a realistic proposal to save the humanities from demise? Or is it just naïve optimism? Pessimism with regard to halting the rise of the neoliberal university finds its opposite in the joyful optimism of those who believe that embracing neoliberal academe is the solution to the problems facing the humanities. Rather than resisting neoliberal academe as a way to resolve the woes of the humanities, some believe that embracing neoliberalism is the best way to rescue the humanities from their perilous condition. In Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010), for example, Martha Nussbaum argues that assaults on the humanities are also assaults on democratic education. “Thirsty for national profit, nations, and their systems of education,” writes Nussbaum, “are heedlessly discarding skills that are needed to keep democracies alive.”2 “If this trend continues, nations all over the world will soon be producing generations of useful machines, rather than complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements,” continues Nussbaum. “The future of world’s democracies hangs in the balance.”3

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Therefore, concludes Nussbaum, the humanities need to be put in the service of the neoliberal economy rather than used to resist it. A “flourishing economy,” writes Nussbaum, “requires the same skills that support citizenship.”4 In her opinion, those who believe that passive pedagogies, technical training, and the elimination of the humanities curriculum lead to economic growth are mistaken. For her, active learning in the humanities is necessary to democratic education, economic growth, and financial profit. In short, Nussbaum’s optimism about the potential of economic neoliberalism leads her to believe that saving the humanities is a matter of better employing it toward the ends of neoliberalism. There are others, however, who strongly disagree, arguing that democratic education and critical citizenship are in decline because of the rise of the neoliberalism economy. Therefore, the elimination of economic neoliberalism provides the path to restoring democratic values and critical citizenship to society at large. Here humanities education can play a vital role in both bringing about the demise of neoliberalism and restoring democratic values and critical citizenship to society. One of the strategies to fight economic neoliberalism and to move beyond it involves using the power of the classroom as a site of resistance. Critical pedagogy has long advocated this strategy with the pioneering and brave work of educational theorists such as Paulo Freire5 and Henry A. Giroux6 leading the way. Through the work of critical pedagogy, pessimism and doubt regarding neoliberalism is counterbalanced with optimism and hope concerning the transformative and liberatory potential of the classroom. At the center of these debates regarding the humanities is a fundamental disagreement about the role of critique. For some, like Giroux, “critique as a mode of analysis that interrogates texts, institutions, social relations, and ideologies as part of the script of official power”7 is vital to both resisting “the terror of neoliberalism,” and increasing the democratic potential of education.8 For others, like Nussbaum, critique is not the answer because our aim is not to resist the official script of power, but to use education and the humanities to locate ways to bolster its dominant form: neoliberalism.9 More recently, there has been a wave of scholarship in the humanities that goes one step further than Nussbaum’s position. Led by Bruno Latour and Rita Felski, it contends that critique itself is the primary source of the problems facing the humanities. Eliminate critique from the academy, and you will thereby reverse the decline of the humanities.

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This position, popularly called postcritique and described as a form of the New Criticism in the previous chapter, is deeply rooted in neoliberalism. It calls not only for the end of critique but also for the end of theory—all in the name of reviving the humanities. But is postcritique the best way to respond to the disenchantment of humanities scholars regarding their position within the neoliberal academy? Is the best way to revive the humanities to throw theory out of the academy and in its place embrace practices that support the growth of neoliberalism? In this chapter, I will argue that it is not. Postcritique will be positioned as a fundamentally pessimistic, life-denying approach to the humanities in particular, and the university in general. Against this pessimistic approach, I will offer critique as an optimistic, life-affirming approach. The first half of this chapter will briefly look at pessimism as a philosophical and critical position, primarily in the work of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, and then turn to its educational implications. The second half of the chapter will first present critical pedagogy as a form of critique without pessimism and then turn to examining postcritique as a species of philosophical pessimism. I conclude that not only does critique provide us the best chance of saving the humanities from demise and resisting the neoliberal university, it also gives humanities scholars the best opportunity to avoid getting lost on the life-denying road of postcritical pessimism.

Pessimism and the Dignity of Critique “Pessimism,” writes Eugene Thacker, “is the philosophical form of disenchantment.”10 It is also “the lowest form of philosophy, frequently disparaged and dismissed, merely the symptom of a bad attitude.”11 “No one ever needs pessimism,” continues Thacker, “in the way that one needs optimism to inspire one to great heights and to pick oneself up, in the way one needs constructive criticism, advice and feedback, inspirational books or a pat on the back.”12 But in a society where individuals are systemically subject to domination, exploitation, and fear, and where they do not have agency or enjoy democratic values, pessimism can give individual disenchantment with the world a philosophical outlet. Still, it needs to be tempered lest it lead to complete nihilism and despair. Arthur Schopenhauer, whom Thacker calls “that arch-pessimist, the thinker for whom the philosopher and the curmudgeon perfectly overlap,”13 is the historically commonplace figure to locate both the

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heights of the philosophy of pessimism—and the lows. The pessimism of Schopenhauer is most fully developed in The World as Will and Idea, particularly Volume 1, Book 4, where he argues “that in life suffering is fundamental, universal, and unavoidable, and real satisfaction unobtainable.”14 “The truth is,” claims Schopenhauer, “we ought to be wretched, and we are so.”15 In contradistinction to the “palpably sophistical proofs of [Gottfried Wilhelm] Leibniz that this is the best of all possible worlds,” comments Schopenhauer, “we may honestly oppose the proof that it is the worst of all possible worlds.”16 His “proof” is as follows: Now this world is so arranged as to be able to maintain itself with great difficulty; but if it were a little worse, it could not maintain itself. Consequently a worse world, since it could not continue to exist, is absolutely impossible: this world is the worst of all possible worlds.17

Schopenhauer confirms his pessimism by claiming that it can be found throughout the philosophical tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks. In fact, if he “were to give what has been said by great men of all ages in this anti-optimistic spirit, there would be no end to the quotations, for almost every one of them has expressed in strong language his knowledge of the misery of this world.”18 For Schopenhauer, evidence that the Greeks were “deeply affected by the wretchedness of existence” can be shown, for example, by “the invention of tragedy” and the fact that the Thracians had the “custom of welcoming the new-born child with lamentations, and recounting all the evils which now lie before it; and, on the other hand, burying the dead with mirth and jesting, because they are no longer exposed to so many and great sufferings.”19 Even Socrates in Plato’s Apology, reports Schopenhauer, says that “death, even if it deprives us of consciousness for ever, would be a wonderful gain, for a deep, dreamless sleep every day is to be preferred even to the happiest life.”20 “Everything in life shows that early happiness is destined to be frustrated or recognized as an illusion,” writes Schopenhauer.21 “Happiness accordingly always lies in the future, or else in the past, and the present may be compared to a small dark cloud which the wind drives over the sunny plain: before and behind it all is bright, only it itself always casts a shadow.”22

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Though Schopenhauer championed the philosophical work of Plato and Kant, he was also the first Western philosopher to be influenced by Buddhism. This is immediately apparent in Buddha’s idea that misery, pain, or suffering is not just one element of experience among many. Rather, it is the central element of experience, and all other aspects of experience also contain suffering. For the Buddha, if one is to attain enlightenment, then one must address oneself to the elimination of suffering. For Schopenhauer, the path to liberation comes through his ethics of pessimism. One must overcome the ego that the will has created in its effort to feed and satisfy desire. Compassion for others can break the bonds of ego, when one understands the unity of all beings. When one feels the pain of another with the same intensity with which one feels one’s own pain, one has conquered pain through pain itself. Thus, renunciation, resignation, and asceticism are necessary. The final move for Schopenhauer is a negation of the will to live, which he understands in terms of nirvana. In the Buddhist doctrine, resignation leads to the escape from individuality through conquering the will to live. This cannot be done through suicide, since that is an action expressing desire. It must occur through the movement into serenity along the path sketched above. To be sure, pessimism, at least from the perspective of its major proponent, Schopenhauer, is a life-denying approach. The first edition of The World as Will and Idea was published in 1819 when Schopenhauer was thirty years old. The following year, he lectured at the University of Berlin but did not attract much of a following, in part because his lectures were held at the same hour that Hegel lectured. A second edition came out in 1844, and he wrote a preface to a third edition in 1859, the year before he died, explaining seven years after the appearance of the second edition I published two volumes of “Parerga and Paralipomena.” What is included under the latter name consists of additions to the systematic exposition of my philosophy, and would have found its right place in these volumes [viz., The World as Will and Idea], but I was obliged to find a place for it then where I could, and it was very doubtful whether I would live to see this third edition.23

It was only upon the publication Parerga and Paralipomena in 1851 that his work began to attract attention. But in spite of Schopenhauer’s claim that his “anti-optimistic spirit” may be found in “the great men of all ages,” his work as the arch-pessimist

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pretty much stands alone in the Western tradition. Even Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophical pessimism is well-established, wished to distance himself from the work of Schopenhauer. “In his last productive year [1888],” comments Thacker, “Nietzsche looked back at his first book [The Birth of Tragedy, 1872], noting how, with pride or relief, ‘the cadaverous perfume of Schopenhauer stuck to only a few pages.’”24 “Cadaverous” here is a direct reference by Nietzsche to Schopenhauer’s association with a life-denying approach to the world, one which is at odds with his own life-affirming approach. For his own part, Nietzsche clarifies his point regarding Schopenhauer in Ecce Homo, noting that his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, in retrospect, might have better been less ambiguously entitled, “Hellenism and Pessimism,” “suggesting the first instruction about how the Greeks got over their pessimism, how they overcame it.”25 “Precisely,” continues Nietzsche in Ecce Homo, “their tragedies prove that the Greeks were not pessimists: Schopenhauer went wrong at this point, as he went wrong everywhere.”26 Nietzsche’s early mistake was conflating “the worldview of Schopenhauer with that of Greek tragedy.”27 While Nietzsche explicitly praises the Greeks “for having the courage both to look clearly at the terror and horror of existence and, in spite [of] that, to embrace it,” he does not mention in his early work that Schopenhauer, “having similarly accepted the horror of existence, did not nevertheless embrace it.”28 However, Nietzsche would go on later to develop a critique of Schopenhauer’s view that there was no substantial satisfaction in life. He was able to accept both the prevalence of suffering and the possibility of real satisfaction in life by detaching the notion of satisfaction from the notion of escaping from suffering. This separation of the concept of satisfaction from that of pleasure (or the absence of pain) was one of the results, and motives, of his rejecting hedonism for the theory of the will to power.29

Still, in spite of his outward proclamations to distance himself from Schopenhauer’s pessimism, there is good reason to believe that the real person to whom Nietzsche wanted to distance himself from in his comment from Ecco Homo is not Schopenhauer, but the composer Richard Wagner, who he had for a time enthusiastically supported.30

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A closer look at Nietzsche’s philosophy though shows the influence of Schopenhauer’s pessimism on it.31 Nevertheless, Schopenhauer as the major exponent of pessimism in the Western tradition is generally admonished for his philosophical failures than praised for his contributions. Thacker, for example, says the following: Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation [or Idea] is one of the great failures of systemic philosophy. What begins with the shimmering architechtonics of Kant ends up crumbling into dubious arguments, irascible indictments against humanity, nocturnal evocations of the vanity of all being, cryptic quotes from the Upanishads , and stark, aphoristic phrases entombed within dense prose, prose that rails off in meditations on nothingness. Schopenhauer, the depressive Kantian.32

But what if Schopenhauer is regarded not by the failures of his general philosophical system, but rather for his effort to view critique through the lens of an ethics of pessimism instead of an ethics of optimism? By this standard, his failure to successfully incorporate Kantian critique into an ethics of pessimism might be regarded as a success for critique, rather than the failure of an ethics of pessimism. Hacker, for example, seems to believe that pessimism abjures critique: Pessimism always fall short of being philosophical. My back aches, my knees hurt, I couldn’t sleep last night, I’m stressed out, and I think I’m finally coming down with something. Pessimism abjures all pretenses toward system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique.33

What if he is right? If so, then critique might be regarded as fundamentally anti-pessimistic in spirit. Moreover, this also opens the door to regarding anti-critique as fundamentally pessimistic in spirit, that is, life-denying rather than life-affirming. But more on this later. Let’s now turn our attention to how the pessimisms of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche relate to education and its aims.

Educational Pessimism There is much unhappiness in academe today, which, if we follow Freud, comes with the consolation that at least it is much less difficult than trying to be happy. One does not need to dig very deeply to locate

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the catastrophic sources of unhappiness: rising student debt, increasing use of adjunct labor and decreasing number of tenure track lines, closing of humanities departments, and ballooning class sizes are just the tip of academe’s mountain of woes. Academics though are not encouraged to make considerations of happiness part of their expectations for life in the university. Against this trend, I have argued previously that we need to be bullish about our happiness in the academy, and that academic hedonism is something that we need to be discussing as we look for ways out of the despairing chains of neoliberal academe.34 But there is another side, equally important, that comes to the fore in considerations of the role of pessimism with regard to critique and its role in the university. Namely, what does it mean for education if its practitioners are continually pessimistic about its prospects, and unhappy with academic life? To shed some philosophical perspective on this question, we can do no better than turn to the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche regarding pessimism in education. Both were concerned about the future of education though their pessimism regarding it went in somewhat different directions. In the case of Schopenhauer, education offers us the opportunity to escape from the slavery of the will. His refined Kantianism combined the latter’s phenomenal world of appearances and representations with a reformulated noumenal world. Whereas for Kant, the noumenon, the thing-in-itself, can never be known to us, for Schopenhauer, this noumenal world was transformed into a central all-embracing notion of the “will.” For him, “the whole [physical] body is nothing but objectified will, i.e., will become idea.”35 Moreover, through the world of representation or idea, the will acquires knowledge of its own willing. Writes Schopenhauer, “the word will, which like a magic spell, discloses to us the inmost being of everything in nature, is by no means an unknown quantity, something arrived at only by inference, but is fully and immediately comprehended, and is so familiar to us that we know and understand what will is far better than anything else whatever.”36 Nevertheless, while the will “always knows what it wills now and here, [it] never [knows] what it wills in general.”37 Consequently, the will in itself is merely blind, irrational striving—“a constant striving without end and without rest” and with “an unquenchable thirst.”38 For Schopenhauer, this irrational striving of the will and the fact that for him the satisfaction of the will is a contradiction in terms makes his pessimism totalizing. For him, “life swings like a pendulum backwards

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and forwards between pain and ennui.”39 When the will “lacks objects of desire, because it is at once deprived of them by a too easy satisfaction, a terrible void and ennui comes over it”; but when the will is in the throws of its unquenchable thirsts, “the nature of brutes and man is subject to pain originally and through its very being.”40 In short, life is suffering. Still, in spite of the Schopenhauer’s bleak account of the life of humans and the world, he is nonetheless concerned that through education we acquire unprejudiced knowledge of the world. “To acquire a knowledge of the world might be defined as the aim of all education,” writes Schopenhauer.41 The “artificial method” of education “is to hear what other people say, to learn and to read, and so to get your head crammed full of general ideas before you have any sort of extended acquaintance with the world as it is, and as you may see it for yourself.”42 While it is hoped that the “general ideas” that are “crammed” into your head are verified by particular observation, “until that time arrives, you apply your general ideas wrongly, you judge men and things from a wrong standpoint, you see them in a wrong light, and treat them in a wrong way.”43 Thus, for Schopenhauer, the artificial method of education “perverts the mind.”44 Nevertheless, Schopenhauer held out the hope that formal education could at least attempt to avoid perverting the mind by endeavoring to always “let particular observations precede general ideas and not vice versa as is usually and unfortunately the case.”45 While book knowledge has its place, it is limited especially with young learners. “Instead, therefore, of hastening to place books, and books alone, in [children’s] hands, let them be made acquainted, step by step, with things —with the actual circumstances of human life.”46 The path of education without prejudice is hard enough for Schopenhauer, “but the difficulty is doubled by novels, which represent a state of things in life and the world, such as, in fact, does not exist.”47 The “false view of things” arrived at through reading novels “exercises a baneful influence on [the young person’s] whole life.”48 Though there are few exceptions to this rule such as Walter Scott’s novels, Schopenhauer contends that Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote is “a satirical exhibition of the error to which [he is] referring.”49 Yet, in spite of his warnings about the dangers of reading novels and emphasis on acquiring knowledge of the state of things in life and the world, Schopenhauer maintains that the arts can provide a reprieve from the suffering of the world. In particular, he believes that “aesthetics offers one way of escaping from the slavery of the will.”50 This is particularly true in the case of music, which Schopenhauer regards as “the most

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powerful of all the arts.”51 For him, “music acts directly upon the will, i.e., the feelings, passions, and emotions of the hearer, so that it quickly raises them or changes them.”52 Musical affect is accomplished because music, “unlike all the other arts, does not express the Ideas, or grades of objectification of the will, but directly the will itself.”53 Thus, according to his metaphysics of music, it “exalts our minds,” elevating them above the suffering of the world and removing the intellect from the servitude of the will.54 Nevertheless, Schopenhauer wants to be clear that though the affect of music on the will “seems to us to speak of other and better worlds than ours [which is ‘the worst of all possible worlds’], yet really it only flatters the will to live, because it exhibits to it its nature, deludes it with the images of its success, and at the end expresses its satisfaction and contentment.”55 It stands to reason, therefore, that because music flatters and deludes the will to live, it is probably best kept out of the hands of the young because the aim of their education is to learn the world as it is—not as it might be. In contrast to Schopenhauer, who finds in education the search for knowledge of the world through empirical observation, Nietzsche seems to believe that if we only “stick to empirical observation, all you will find is the human animal with its many conflicting values and ways of life.”56 Moreover, Nietzsche contends that “[t]o divide the world into a ‘real’ and an ‘apparent’ world, whether in the manner of Christianity or in the manner of Kant (which is, after all, that of a cunning Christian—) is only a suggestion of décadence—a symptom of a declining life)”—which though were perhaps not “cunning” enough given Kant’s religious troubles with Frederick William II noted earlier.57 For Nietzsche, “one of the highest tasks of formal education” is to “inculcate serious and unrelenting critical habits.”58 However, German formal education, that is, both its gymnasiums, which prepare students for the university, and the universities themselves, are in Nietzsche’s opinion failing in this regard. Rather than educating students in critique, German institutions are caught up in “the ubiquitous encouragement of everyone’s so-called ‘individual personality,’” which Nietzsche considers “nothing but a mark of barbarity.”59 Formal education in Germany is failing, argues Nietzsche in his 1872 lectures on the future of German educational institutions, because of both its “drive for the greatest possible expansion and dissemination of education” and its “drive for the narrowing and weakening of education.”60 The first drive extends it too widely and pushes it upon those who may

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not need or want it; the second makes it subject to the needs of the state and thereby requires it to relinquish its independence. “It is in journalism that the two tendencies converge: education’s expansion and its narrowing,” which “reduces scholars to being mere slaves of academic disciplines.”61 “The daily newspaper has effectively replaced education, and anyone who still lays claim to culture or education, even a scholar, typically relies on a sticky layer of journalism—a substance as sturdy and permanent as the paper it’s printed on—to grout the gaps between every form of life, every social position, every art, every science, every field.”62 “The newspaper,” concludes Nietzsche, “epitomizes the goal of today’s educational system, just as the journalist, servant of the present moment, has taken the place of the genius, our salvation, from the moment and leader for the ages.”63 The educational expansion that Nietzsche refers to is part of the “national-economic doctrines”64 that see education only as a training ground for state service. A push then is made by the state for “rapid education, so that you can start earning money quickly, and at the same time a thorough education so that you can earn lots of money.”65 “Culture,” within this rapid education model, “is tolerated only insofar as it serves the cause of earning money.”66 In direct opposition to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche concludes, “humanity has a necessary claim to earthly happiness and that is why education is necessary—but that is the only reason why!”67 While Nietzsche is not opposed to the acquiring wealth, he is opposed to Bildung that thwarts the process of self-education that aims to produce a “true culture” within oneself. The German word for “education,” Bildung , though has other meanings including enlightenment, culture, inner development, sculpting, and shaping. As Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, editors of the Nietzsche’s 1872 lectures note, “Bildung is not simply education but the process, achieved through education, of forming the most desirable self; it is also the ideal endpoint of that process: attaining or undergoing Bildung means acquiring and entering true culture.”68 In Nietzsche’s opinion, the German educational system thwarts self-cultivation when it “reduces scholars to being mere slaves of academic disciplines”—something that makes “it a matter of chance, and increasingly unlikely, for any scholar to turn out truly educated.”69 In fact, in Germany “[t]here is a need for educators who are themselves educated.”70

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To reverse this decline in German education, Nietzsche says that there must be a greater emphasis placed on classical education (Greek and Roman) and learning the German language. But this comes at a cost: namely, the democratization of education. Perhaps the real problem with education’s expansion and its narrowing for Nietzsche is its relation to “privilege”: “That ‘higher education’ is no longer a privilege—the democratism of ‘culture’ made ‘universal’ and common.”71 As such, Nietzsche’s educational pessimism is fundamentally flawed by contemporary standards. While we can agree with claims like “Learning to think: our schools no longer have any idea what this means”72 and sympathize with his worries about “expansion and narrowing” as well as the relative failures of education to instill “unrelenting critical habits,” Nietzsche’s recommendations for a return to educational privilege and emphasis on “high” culture (Greek and Roman) are not timely today. Still, his belief “[t]he essential thing has gone out of the entire system of higher education in Germany: the end, as well as the means to the end” holds as well for our current educational situation. Neoliberal academe has corrupted both the means and ends of education. For Nietzsche, “[t]hat education, culture, itself is the end … has been forgotten”73 is a good place to start educational pessimism; however, to end it with a call for a return to educational privilege is not a viable solution—particularly in view of our earlier critique of academic privilege.74 By comparison, Schopenhauer, who leaves his pessimism about the world in tact while retaining the lofty goal of acquiring a knowledge of the world as the aim of all education,” seems preferable to Nietzsche’s self-cultivation.

Resistance and Hope At twenty-four years of age, Nietzsche was offered a professorship in classical philology at the University of Basel. A long way from finishing his dissertation, Nietzsche was required to teach eight hours a week. In addition, he was required to give six hours of instruction at a local gymnasium.75 These were secondary schools that prepared students for the university, which included study in Greek, history, Latin, literature, mathematics, natural history, physics, and religion.76 During this period, Schopenhauer was one of Nietzsche’s guiding lights, and compared to him, other academic writing seemed “dead.” Nietzsche followed Schopenhauer in believing that “all enlightened thoughts” only stem

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from a few “great geniuses”—individuals “who most assuredly did not pursue philological and historical studies.”77 But compared to Nietzsche’s educational pessimism, Schopenhauer’s pales. From January through March 1872, Nietzsche delivered five lectures at Basel’s city museum. Entitled On the Future of Our Educational Institutions , Nietzsche outlined his complaints against the German educational system, which at the time was widely considered to be the best in the world.78 In fact in 1879, almost six hundred American students were pursuing graduate studies in Germany, which at the time was far more advanced in this area than American universities. Nietzsche’s comments on higher education in the previous section come for the most part from these five lectures, which were written at the beginning of his professional career—as well as from a work from his final year of writing, Twilight of the Idols (1889). A sixth lecture, which was to provide a conclusion to the lectures was never written, nor were the other five lectures published in Nietzsche’s lifetime. He had planned to publish On the Future of Our Educational Institutions as a book, but never did. One of the reasons was presumably that he could not find a workable solution to the problems he raised concerning the expansion and narrowing of German higher education. In short, the system of education in Germany was in crisis in the nineteenth century—and Nietzsche did not know how to end it. In many ways, Nietzsche’s pessimism regarding the crisis in education in Germany reflects some of the same concerns we have today in higher education. American higher education is also undergoing rapid expansion and narrowing. More students today are in higher education today that at any other time in the history of this nation. Moreover, at the same time there is also a narrowing of education through increasing academic specialization. There is also a growing interest in subordinating American education to the needs of the neoliberal economy: higher education is needed to produce the workers and products that keep the market economy chugging along. But while there may be some parallels in the educational crisis in Germany with our own crisis in the twenty-first century, the approach to pedagogy that Nietzsche promotes as a partial solution to this crisis is not one that transfers well into our own age. For Nietzsche, according to Reitter and Wellmon, “true education is by nature exclusive, and to be worthy of their name, educational institutions must nurture genius, culture’s best possibility for achieving ‘our salvation from the moment.’”79 “Nietzsche,” they claim, “saw

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and embraced a model for the complete obedience to real pedagogical authority and the discipline that, in his view, education required.”80 Such authoritarian and exclusionary pedagogical ideals are contrary to the ones promoted by progressive educators today, particularly ones who like Nietzsche aim to “inculcate serious and unrelenting critical habits” in their students. The takeaway perhaps from his lectures is that pessimism regarding educational systems that is authoritarian and exclusionary deflates the hopeful optimism of critique as an aim for all education. While Nietzsche acknowledges the role of critique in education, his pessimism regarding the ability of an expanding educational system—one that strives to serve more students than fewer students— to provide this type of critical education is unfortunate. This is why critical pedagogy—a form of educational critique without pessimism—is important to recall in this context. The most important proponent of critical pedagogy today is Henry Giroux. For the past forty years, Giroux has been writing about the rise of a politics of authoritarianism in conjunction with the dismantling of education’s critical capacities. Giroux maintains that “education is fundamental to democracy and that no democratic society can survive without a formative culture shaped by pedagogical practices capable of creating the conditions of producing citizens who are critical, selfreflective, knowledgeable, and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially responsible way.”81 He sees critical pedagogy as both a moral and a political practice that “provides the tools to unsettle commonsense assumptions, theorize matters of self and social agency, and engage the ever-changing demands and promises of democratic polity.”82 According to Giroux, since the late 1970s, American education has been viewed less as a public good than a private right, particularly as it has come to be increasingly linked with economic growth. Privatization, commodification, and consumerism under neoliberalism has resulted in forms of increasingly pernicious educational domination and terrorism.83 For Giroux, the classroom is a site of struggle and resistance against the dual terrors of neoliberalism and authoritarianism. It holds the pedagogical promise of not only self-change, autonomy, and freedom, but also of social hope and reform. It produces a form of critique that is both transformative and transgressive. By interrogating institutions and ideologies and analyzing social relations, critique aims to destabilize the official script of power. Writes Giroux, “critique focuses largely on how domination manifests as both a symbolic and an institutional force and the ways in

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which it impacts all levels of society.”84 Rather than simply reporting on, for example, the ways in which schools have become “adjuncts of corporations or for modeling themselves on a culture of fear and security,”85 Giroux’s critical pedagogy provides outlets for resistance and hope. While Nietzsche too is concerned with the ways in which education precludes self-cultivation, he is more interested in pursuing higher education as a private right than a public good. In addition, whereas Nietzsche stresses an authoritarian form of pedagogy, critical pedagogy strives for its opposite: namely a form of pedagogy that is born out the struggle to resist all forms of domination and authoritarianism. Moreover, Giroux and others who advocate for critical pedagogy insist that there is no a priori method to it: rather it is “the outcome of particular struggles and is always related to the specificity of particular contexts, students, communities, and available resources.”86 Critical pedagogy is both “central in drawing attention to questions regarding who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge, values, and classroom practices” and an important part of “an ongoing individual and collective struggle over knowledge, desire, values, social relations, and, most important, modes of political agency.”87 It is a form of critique where theory is used in the classroom to provide hope and resistance against authoritarianism, domination, and neoliberalism, that is, to avoid and remedy educational catastrophe. Critical pedagogy locates in classroom struggles the possibility for individual and social change, and provides the promise of critical citizenship and the promotion of democratic values. Also, contra to Nietzsche, who seemed to be concerned with the diminution of student education because of the expansion of higher educational access, critical pedagogy is premised on the belief that education must be expansive for democracy to thrive. Not only is education a right, but it must be critical education—for without it, democratic values will wane and give rise to increasingly authoritarian forms of governance.

Pessimism into Theory Critique has become the modus operandi of the humanities. But if the humanities are in peril, is it possible to save them by rejecting their modus operandi? There is a “conviction,” one that Rita Felski says is “shared by a growing number of scholars”88 that rejecting critique and its “rhetoric of suspicious reading in literary studies and in the humanities and interpretive sciences generally”89 is the solution to the woes

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facing the humanities. While Felski recognizes the criticism that rejecting critique is tantamount to becoming a “pawn of neoliberal interests,”90 she nonetheless tries to distance herself from the neoliberal agenda for the humanities by saying that her real motivation is elsewhere. Namely, it is “a desire to articulate a positive vision for humanistic thought in the face of growing skepticism about its value.”91 But in spite of her claims to articulate a “positive vision” for the humanities, Felski does the opposite. Namely, the postcritique that she promotes has produced a virulent and highly destructive form of theoretical pessimism. In a relatively short period of time, Felski has become the poster professor for attempting to unpopularize theory and its use in the humanities. Her high profile and higher funded postcritique movement, initiated just a few years ago, is an effort to move beyond the critique that Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson, and others successfully championed and promoted back in the 1980s and 1990s.92 Felski’s postcritique was rewarded in the form of a $4.2 million grant in 2016 from the Danish National Research Foundation. A press release from her university announcing the grant says that it stems from work done in The Limits of Critique, which “encouraged her fellow scholars to explore alternatives to increasingly predictable and formulaic styles of ‘suspicious reading.’”93 Felski, continues the release, says literary scholars should spend less time looking behind a text for hidden causes and suspicious motives and more time placing themselves in front of it to reflect on what it suggests, unfolds or makes possible. What literary studies needs, she said, is less emphasis on “de” words – demystifying, debunking, deconstructing – and more emphasis on “re” words – literature’s potential to remake, reshape and recharge perception.94

Felski claims that she will use the grant to “develop new frameworks and methods for exploring the many social uses of literature,” something she has already begun in her course, “Theories of Reading,” where, “students first learn to become skeptical readers, drawing on ideas from Freud, Foucault or feminism to criticize the works of the canon or to challenge their assumptions of their favorite TV shows,” and then learn “to reflect on why they love certain novels or movies and to develop more sophisticated vocabularies for describing and justifying these feelings.”95 Felski’s comments here are important to note because they betray the basic parameters of her attacks against theory. For her, theory has

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become “predicable and formulaic,” and she aims to provide it with “new frameworks and methods.” These new “frameworks and methods” aim to establish “more sophisticated vocabularies for describing and justifying” why we “love certain novels and movies”—and, of course, television shows.96 Arguably, Felski builds her postcritique on the foundation of the success of efforts like Terry Eagleton’s to demystify and popularize theory in books like Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983). But her effort to place “more emphasis on ‘re’ words – literature’s potential to remake, reshape and recharge perception” comes with a bit of irony, especially when we consider that Eagleton opens up Literary Theory with the statement, “If one wanted to put a date on the beginnings of the transformation which has overtaken literary theory this century, one could do worse than settle on 1917, the year the young Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky published his pioneering essay, ‘Art as Device’”97 —a piece which introduces the concepts of defamiliarization, foregrounding, and estrangement, arguing that art is a means to make things real again, that is to say, it is a means of recharging our perception of things. Hence, from Shklovsky in 1917 to Felski a century later, literary theory has arguably come full circle back to its storied “beginnings” in recharging our perception of things. Or, given the pessimistic inclinations of postcritique, back even further to Schopenhauer’s rejection of “general ideas” in education in favor of direct observation of “things,” which are now for Felski movies and television shows. Prior to Felski though the French sociologist Bruno Latour also waged war on critique in his infamous 2003 Stanford presidential lecture. Addressing an audience of academics at the Stanford Humanities Center, Latour asked, “What has critique become when a French general, no, a marshal of critique, namely, Jean Baudrillard, claims in a published book that the Twin Towers destroyed themselves under their own weight, so to speak, undermined by the utter nihilism inherent in capitalism itself—as if the terrorist planes were pulled to suicide by the powerful attraction of this black hole of nothingness? What has become of critique when a book that claims that no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon can be a bestseller?”98 Latour sees in works of critique, such as Baudrillard’s, a hastening of the desire toward revisionism. “Remember the good old days when revisionism arrived very late,” asks Latour, “after the facts had been thoroughly established, decades after bodies of evidence had accumulated?”99

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Now because of the legacy of critique, we have “instant revisionism,” says Latour. The smoke of an event barely clears before there arise multiple conspiracy theories “revising the official account.” This new phenomena of instant revisionism add “even more ruins to the ruins … even more smoke to the smoke.”100 But these are not even the final ruins of critique. Rather, for Latour, it comes when nonacademics (or dare we say with Nietzsche “journalists”?) express more critique-driven statements than academics. He reminds us of the “good old days when university professors could look down on unsophisticated folks because those hillbillies naïvely believed in church, motherhood, and apple pie.”101 Now it is the “unsophisticated folks” who look down on the “sophisticated” ones when it comes to critique. “What has become of critique when my neighbor in the little Bourbonnais village where I live looks down on me as someone hopelessly naïve because I believe that the United States had been attacked by terrorists?”102 For Latour, Baudrillard’s response to the attacks on the Twin Towers was akin to a mechanical form of critique that responds more or less the same way to any and all new events. What is even worse, though, than Baudrillard using critique in this way is teaching the next generation of critics to engage in critique in a similar fashion. “Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids—yes, young recruits, young cadets—for wars that are no longer possible, fighting enemies long gone, conquering territories that no longer exist, leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we had not anticipated, for which we are so thoroughly unprepared?”103 But the only revisionism here is that of Latour and Felski in trying imagine the humanities without critique. To scapegoat Baudrillard as exemplary of the limits of critique or to say that we need to use more “re-” prefixes in the humanities rather than “de-” prefixes is to resort to a life-denying form of critical pessimism that would have made Schopenhauer proud. Like Schopenhauer’s will, postcritique is blind irrational striving albeit for the will to preserve neoliberalism. Postcritique negates the optimism of efforts like critical pedagogy to bring about the demise of neoliberalism—and serves only to bring pessimism into theory.

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Conclusion There is a great deal of unhappiness and disenchantment within academe today. The humanities are struggling to define their role in an academic world driven more by data and numbers than knowledge and ideas. The university itself has been the object of increasing levels of privatization, commodification, and corporatization. Many academics are scrambling to find solutions to these and other catastrophes. But to blame “critique” for the problems facing the humanities in particular and the university in general shamelessly kowtows to the neoliberal agenda that is for the most part responsible for these catastrophes. Critique in its best form provides a life-affirming approach to education. It focuses on the ways in which domination manifests itself throughout our society, and empowers students with the tools to work to overcome it both symbolically and institutionally. As a part of critical pedagogy, it asks for our educational systems to do more than just put information into the heads of students so that they can become “useful machines” for society. Rather, critical pedagogy seeks to produce citizens who are critical, self-reflective, and knowledgeable; who are responsible moral agents that see politics, education, and the economy as continuum rather than separate spheres; who view education as a primary means of avoiding catastrophe. Critical citizenship and democratic education provide democracy the backdrop it needs to be successful. In short, critique provides society with hope and the optimism that we can make the world better in terms of social and economic justice. It is the polar of opposite of pessimists like the late Wells who found no hope amidst the catastrophic social and political challenges facing the world.104 Postcritique aims to do away with critique and its social and political “baggage.” Rather than educate students in what is needed for them to be a critical citizenry that espouses democratic and social values, it reverses the educational process by focusing on their own personal likes and dislikes. If the aim of critique is to learn to think, then the aim of postcritique is to learn how to unthink. While I am not opposed to students developing “more sophisticated vocabularies for describing and justifying [their] feelings,” this must not come at the expense of critique. But unfortunately it does for the postcritical crowd. Rather than educating students in critique, postcritics, much like the German institutions of the nineteenth century, are caught up in “the ubiquitous encouragement of everyone’s so-called ‘individual personality,’” which, again, Nietzsche

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considers “nothing but a mark of barbarity.”105 Today, it is also the mark of educational catastrophe. Understanding that the philosophical roots of pessimism are associated with a life-denying philosophy that was ultimately not able to find a systemic role for critique is important. It allows us to see postcritique for what it really is: a life-denying approach to the world that has more in common with the philosophy of Schopenhauer than life-affirming approaches to education and the world. On the one hand, critique finds an unwelcome host in pessimism and despair; on the other hand, critique finds a welcome host in optimism and hope. To see postcritique as a species of philosophical pessimism casts a dark shadow on it; to understand as well that postcritique is a species of neoliberal thinking casts it into complete darkness—and hopefully too out of conversations about the future of the humanities. The future of theory depends on the continued viability of critique in the humanities. Likewise, the humanities without critique are nothing more than a service industry in the neoliberal academy. Critique without pessimism is the life-affirming path out of the economic juggernaut of neoliberal academe—one that aligns postcritique more with the philosophical legacies of Schopenhauer than the life-affirming ones of Giroux. Education will continue to be just another catastrophe unless the lifeaffirming embrace of theory is brought back into the humanities.

Notes 1. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents [1929], trans. Joan Riviere (London: The Hogarth Press, 1930), 27–28. 2. Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010), 2. 3. Ibid., 2. 4. Ibid., 10. 5. See, especially, Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1970), and Paulo Freire, The Politics of Education: Culture, Power, and Liberation (South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey, 1985). See also Freire’s “Editor’s Introduction” to Henry A. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning, intro. Paulo Freire (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1988). 6. For a representative sample of his extensive work in this area, see Henry A. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals, and Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York and London: Continuum, 2011). 7. Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy, 4.

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8. See also, for example, Henry Giroux, The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy (Boulder: Paradigm, 2004) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014). 9. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Corporate Humanities in Higher Education: Moving Beyond the Neoliberal Academy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 14–18, for an account of Nussbaum’s position on the humanities in relation to neoliberalism. 10. Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism (Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing, 2015), 4. 11. Ibid., 3. 12. Ibid., 3–4. 13. Ibid., 11. 14. Ivan Soll, “Pessimism and the Tragic View of Life: Reconsiderations of Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy,” in Reading Nietzsche, eds. Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 107. 15. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea [1819 1st ed.; 2nd ed. 1844], three vols, trans. R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1883), III, 388. 16. Ibid., III, 395. Leibniz makes this famous argument, which is also known as “Leibnizian optimism,” in Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil [1710], ed. with an introduction, Austin Farrer, trans. E. M. Huggard (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1985). 17. Ibid., III, 395. 18. Ibid., III, 398. 19. Ibid., III, 398. 20. Ibid., III, 399. 21. Ibid., III, 382. 22. Ibid., III, 383. 23. Ibid., III, 506. 24. Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism, 53. 25. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo [1888], in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Vintage Books, 1969), 270. 26. Ibid., 270. 27. Ivan Soll, “Pessimism and the Tragic View of Life,” 127. 28. Ibid., 114. 29. Ibid., 130n16. See Ivan Soll, “The Hopelessness of Hedonism and the Will to Power,” International Studies in Philosophy 18.2 (1986): 97–112, for a fuller account of how Nietzsche separates the concept of satisfaction from the concept of pleasure.

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30. Ivan Soll, “Pessimism and the Tragic View of Life, 105. 31. See Soll (1988) for an excellent account of the role of Schopenhauer’s pessimism on Nietzsche’s pessimism. 32. Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism, 53–54. 33. Ibid., 13. 34. See Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Higher Education Under Late Capitalism: Identity, Conduct, and the Neoliberal Condition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 49–62. 35. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, I, 130. 36. Ibid., I, 144. 37. Ibid., I, 215. 38. Ibid., I, 402. 39. Ibid., I, 402. 40. Ibid., I, 402. 41. Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Education,” in Complete Essays of Schopenhauer: Seven Books in One Volume, trans. T. Bailey Saunders (New York: Willey Book Company, 1942), V, 63. 42. Ibid., V, 63. 43. Ibid., V, 62. 44. Ibid., V, 62. 45. Ibid., V, 64. 46. Ibid., V, 66. 47. Ibid., V, 70–71. 48. Ibid., V, 71. 49. Ibid., V, 71. 50. J. T. Hyland, “Unhappiness and Education: Some Lessons from Schopenhauer,” Educational Studies 11.3 (1985): 227. 51. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea, III, 232. 52. Ibid., III, 232. 53. Ibid., III, 232. 54. Ibid., III, 244. 55. Ibid., III, 244. 56. John Gray, “Anti-Education by Friedrich Nietzsche: Why Mainstream Culture, Not Universities, Is Doing Our Best Thinking,” The Guardian, January 8, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/ 08/anti-education-on-the-future-of-our-educational-institutions-friedr ich-nietzsche-review. 57. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols [1889], in Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin Books, 1968), 39. See Chapter 8, “A Century of Antitheory,” for Kant’s religious trouble with the government. 58. Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education: On the Future of Our Educational Institutions [1872], trans. Damion Searls, eds. Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon (New York: New York Review of Books, 2016), 27.

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59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77.

78.

79. 80. 81. 82. 83.

84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90.

Ibid., 27. Ibid., 15. Ibid., 18. Ibid., 18–19. Ibid., 19. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 16. Ibid., 105n13. Ibid., 17. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 63. Ibid., 64. Ibid., 65. Ibid., 63. See, Chapter 5, “Academic Privilege.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education, vii. Ibid., 103n7. Rüdiger Safranski, Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography, trans. Shelley Frisch (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002), 53; quoted in Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education, vii. Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education, ix. The meaning of “best” of course all changed with the rise of Nazi Germany through the aid of the German educational system. See, A. Wolf, Higher Education in Nazi Germany, Or Education for World Conquest (London: Metheun & Co., 1944). Ibid., xix. Ibid., xviii. Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy, 3. Ibid., 3. For Giroux and others on the connections among neoliberalism, education, and terrorism, see Jeffrey R. Di Leo, Henry A. Giroux, Sophia A. McClennen, and Kenneth J. Saltman, Neoliberalism, Education, and Terrorism: Contemporary Dialogues (New York and London: Routledge, 2016). Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy, 4. Ibid., 4. Ibid., 4. Ibid., 5. Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 186. Ibid., 186. Ibid., 186.

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91. Ibid., 186. 92. For a survey of the shapes of postcritique, see Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, eds. Critique and Postcritique (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017). 93. Lorena Perez, “UVA English Professor Lands Large Danish Grant to Explore Literature’s Social Use,” UVAToday, May 25, 2016, n.p. https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-english-professorlands-large-danish-grant-explore-literatures-social-use. 94. Ibid., n.p. 95. Ibid., n.p. 96. The question remains though whether Felski’s “frameworks and methods” are antitheory or a simply a new form of theory. 97. Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1983), vii. 98. Latour is here referring to two essays that Baudrillard published in 2002: “L’esprit du terrorisme” and “Requiem pour les Twin Towers.” Both are collected in Jean Baudrillard, Jean, The Spirit of Terrorism (London: Verso, 2012). But Baudrillard’s notorious work in this vein goes back even further to his 1991 book asserting that the Gulf War “did not take place.” See, Jean Baudrillard, La Guerre du Golfe n’a pas eu lieu (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1991). 99. Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (Winter 2004): 228. 100. Ibid., 228. 101. Ibid., 228. 102. Ibid., 228. 103. Ibid., 228. 104. See Chapter 2, “Education and Catastrophe,” for an account of late Wellsian pessimism and despair. 105. Friedrich Nietzsche, Anti-Education, 27.

CHAPTER 11

Coda

In the face of catastrophe, Ralph Waldo Emerson declared America’s intellectual independence. American literature would be set on its nonworldly course amidst “Bankruptcy in England & America” and “plague in Asia & Africa.” He offered a new philosophical path for a country where “Young men have no hope” and “Adults stand like daylaborers idle in the streets.” Despite possibly being the worst year ever in American history, Emerson offered philosophical hope. Upon the sickness that the world was suffering in 1837, poverty would become the condition of an American philosophy. The conditions born out of catastrophe that Emerson set for American thought arguably held sway until the Twin Towers fell to the ground on September 11, 2001. A catastrophe like no other faced on US soil amplified fear and xenophobia around the country. However, despite the calls from a major theorist such as Jacques Derrida for a “new philosophical reflection,” the past twenty years have resulted in nothing less than a reactionary response that has intensified the neoliberal social and political philosophy that replaced the poverty-based thinking of Emerson. Since September 11, 2001, the shortcomings of neoliberal social and political public policy have relentlessly continued to decimate all aspects of American life. The discourse of neoliberalism has no capacity to deal with the many catastrophes that have succeeded “the event” of September 11, 2001. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8_11

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These include but are not limited to the many mass shootings including those at public schools and universities, the bombings of theaters and markets, and the widespread violence by police against blacks. This situation has been further revealed in the national response to the catastrophe of the Coronavirus, which on the one hand gives lip service to the various tragedies within the commons including the deaths of thousands of people in the United States, while on the other cannot help but emphasize the neoliberal prioritization of the market at the expense of the people to “get the economy moving again.” Again, if September 11, 2001, announced the age of terrorism and neoliberalism, then the national Coronavirus response has further shown us the catastrophic consequences of following a philosophy based on the maximization of fear and capital via the free market. Emerson was right in his 1837 Phi Beta Kappa address when he said “Fear always springs from ignorance.” It was a message that he would deliver many times over in addresses and lectures to writers, scholars, clergy, students, and as many other people who would listen to him. From 1837 to 1844, he was in full out defiant revolt against his times, hoping that “Amidst a planet peopled by conservatives, one Reformer may yet be born.” Much of the fear that drives neoliberal thought is also grounded in ignorance. It is a fear that the terror of neoliberalism feeds upon as it continues its catastrophic decimation of democratic values and the public good. H. G. Wells faced a much different situation than Emerson when he decided to write a textbook to save the world from catastrophe. World war of the scale experienced by Wells was almost unfathomable in Emerson’s time. Still, they would both concur that the “world has failed” and that it is also “sick.” Also, while they would agree about the relationship of fear to ignorance, after seeing the ravages of the First World War, Wells would raise the red flag of warning even higher by replacing “fear” with “catastrophe” in his own thinking. The immediacy of the catastrophe facing the world and the amount of ignorance that needed to be overcome were such that Wells believed the most expedient response was to publish a book, rather than attempt to alter the course of history through lectures and addresses that he would deliver. Like Emerson, Wells too was in a revolt against his times, but he believed that it was through publishing that he would make his contribution to catastrophic education. Wells’s Outline of History would start a revolution in publishing where many other individuals would contribute their own “Outline” or “Story”

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to help fill in educational gaps. Arguably, this publishing enterprise was grounded in the Wellsian idea that in order for the world to avoid catastrophe, education in all areas of knowledge that is publicly accessible both intellectually and financially is necessary. The need here was felt to be urgent, and writers and scholars from many different areas contributed to this project. While some of them are still well-known today such as Bertrand Russell and Will Durant, many others have been long forgotten even though at the time their contributions were massive. A great example of a publisher and writer whose work held sway worldwide from the 1920s through the 1940s but who is virtually unknown today is Emmanuel Haldeman-Julius. This publisher answered Wells’s call for help in the avoidance of catastrophe through worldwide education more effectively than anyone else at the time. His Little Blue Books carried information and edification that would revolutionize publishing with the aim of catastrophic education. Short, inexpensive, and easy for all to obtain through the postal service, Haldeman-Julius’s Little Blue Books would make him the greatest publisher in the world in terms of the sheer number of his books that would find their way into the hands of a global population desperate for education in all areas of knowledge. One of the most difficult but important of these areas is philosophy. When Haldeman-Julius began his publishing project, there was not a survey of philosophy that met the demands of catastrophic education. Namely, a survey that was both authoritative and accessible. At the behest of Haldeman-Julius, Will Durant would provide such a book in the form of the Little Blue Books that would later become The Story of Philosophy. Though its authority has been widely challenged including by Durant himself, the book almost single-handedly popularized philosophy in America at a time when it desperately needed more thoughtfulness and less ignorance. For the record, I will add one of my own complaints here about the volume, namely, that it did not include a chapter on Emerson. In fact, there are only a few passing references to him, and only a few facile quotes from him including one in the introduction: “Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.”1 This particular passage though is not from Emerson’s great Phi Beta Kappa address, “The American Scholar,” rather it is from a grab bag of materials from his uncollected writings, which his London publisher was intending to publish without consulting

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him. Though he tried to stop the publication of the volume, he agreed to oversee it in the last years of life, albeit, writes J. E. Cabot in his preface to the volume, with a “heavy heart, partly from a feeling of repugnance at being forced into an enterprise which he had not intended, but still more perhaps from a sense of inability, more real than he knew, which was beginning to make itself felt.”2 Moreover, Emerson even disclaimed credit for the book from which this quote is taken, giving it all to Cabot. But such are not matters for Durant in his volume. Rather, using a quote that clearly empowers the reader to believe that even they have something to teach the great American philosopher Emerson is important to the project of giving the lay reader confidence to soldier on in their catastrophic education. And this of course is the spirit of the education afforded those who venture into the historical publications of Wells, the philosophical ones of Durant, and the general publishing corpus of Haldeman-Julius: catastrophic education is achieved not by scholarly exactitude but by just getting people to read and think about areas of knowledge that will ultimately help them become more responsible and responsive citizens of the world. The educational bar here is a general one not a scholarly one. In this setting, an amateur historian such as Wells, a self-published writer such as Haldeman-Julius, and Durant, a school teacher and public lecturer on almost every subject under the sun, who moonlighted with “extension courses” at Columbia University, would become major voices for areas in the humanities all around the world. Arguably, in spite of their scholarly deficiencies, work in this vein increased the audience for the humanities during this period of catastrophic education. Today their work reveals some of the opportunities and challenges for both the humanities and education as we face our own set of catastrophes. While it is important for the university to maintain the highest levels of scholarly excellence in the work published by its faculty, there is still a disconnect with this type of scholarship and the kind of writing read by those not attuned to or with the patience for the intellectual ideals of academe. History, philosophy, and literature today all benefits from the work of writers who masterfully popularize and update these and other areas of knowledge for readers who are not required to meet the educational demands of a university humanities curriculum but who nonetheless are eager to get a taste of the fruits of higher education. Catastrophic education in the tradition of Wells and Durant often sacrifices rigor for recognition, precision for popularity, and authority for accessibility. Yet in spite of these scholarly concessions, work in this

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spirit is able to engage a wide swath of readers with the humanities without them feeling belittled as non-scholars for not dedicating more of their life to study in this area. The wide dissemination of these works is important because they espouse key values of the humanities such as cultural diversity, democratic citizenship, and critical inquiry. In times of catastrophe, the associated values of social and economic justice are significant only if they are acknowledged on a national and global scale—and not just reserved for the intellectual elite. The progressive and transformational advances in the humanities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century including considerations of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability were not mere scholarly exercises. Rather, the hope was and is that they would reach a wide audience who would then assist in overcoming the various forms of oppression associated with them. Neoliberal academe though has become an educational catastrophe, rather than catastrophic education. The difference here is quite significant. Catastrophic education in the tradition of Wells, Durant, and HaldemanJulius is education aimed at avoiding catastrophe. It is education that promises to lead us away from catastrophe—not into it. As such, catastrophic education is greatly different than the kind of vocational training advanced by neoliberal academe that place little value on education in the humanities. The study of history, philosophy, and literature is only as important in neoliberal academe relative to its ability to increase ones earning and career prospects. So, unless you plan a career in history or philosophy, which, of course, is in direct opposition to the telos of neoliberal academe, then education in these areas is not encouraged. This is just one of the educational catastrophes of neoliberal academe: the irrelevance of the humanities to higher education. But the educational catastrophes of neoliberal academe cut much wider and deeper than just the marginalization of the humanities. Neoliberalism aims to privatize for profit all public goods including education. For public institutions of higher education, this has resulted in much less state support for its colleges and universities, and therefore skyrocketing tuition and student debt. Faced with the prospect of a life entombed in debt, some students have considered not paying back their debt. This places them in the dilemma of choosing between morality and debt, a catastrophe that is made even worse for those not subject to privilege such as people of color, queer or trans people, women, people with disabilities, and the poor. The cycle of educational catastrophe is then recycled by a

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neoliberal higher educational system built to produce and reproduce this privilege. Notice again this catastrophic cycle by playing it backward: privilege thrives and reproduces itself well under neoliberalism. Those of privilege without need for racial, economic, gender, sexuality, and disability justice are not concerned with its disappearance in the curriculum in neoliberal academe. Arguably, the presence of these oppressions provides neoliberal man a competitive economic advantage. Areas such as the humanities that have advocated for identifying and ending oppression of all types are no longer an educational priority in neoliberal academe. Therefore, building the case for higher education as a public good that needs to be well-supported by the state becomes very difficult in this environment. The educational catastrophe is then completed with students, who are strapped with massive amounts of debt contemplating ending their commitment to morality. This is an educational catastrophe proportional to most any catastrophe imaginable. Nevertheless, tools for resisting educational catastrophe are readily at hand for those who so choose to fight back with them. Whereas the traditional publishing world held relatively few opportunities for resistance because of the extremely limited catalogue of its product, the rise selfpublishing puts virtually no constraint on its opportunities for resistance. However, it too risks being coopted by both the corporate publishing industry as well as the extreme individualism of neoliberal man. One of the axioms of neoliberalism is that everything is for sale and everything can—and should—be plundered for profit. Self-publishing has been subject to a high degree of profiteering and effectively plays to the individual vanity of neoliberal man. Right now, there does not appear to be a Haldeman-Julius among us who has figured out how to harness the power of self-publishing to the ends of catastrophic education. But the situation here is not without hope. The same however cannot be said about the forces within the humanities who attack the very thing that provides catastrophic education with hope: namely, critique. Postcritique has managed in the period of just a few years to turn back the progressive clock of the humanities fifty to seventy-five years. This reactionary effort by some humanities scholars is an educational catastrophe of the highest order. Advances in the humanities made particularly in the final quarter of the twentieth century under the name of “theory” offered the hope for a critical humanities powered by the kind of philosophy fit for a world tempered by neoliberal catastrophes. From critical

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climate change and queer theory to disciplines ranging from the social and natural sciences to the humanities, theory was coming to make its mark through the application of its formidable powers of critique. This all came to a grinding halt in the minds of a new generation of antitheorists who felt that the way to save the humanities was to embrace neoliberalism, rather than work to reject or overcome it. Postcritique is a life-denying approach whose pessimism needs to be replaced by a more life-affirming one. While critical pedagogy offers one such approach others too might be offered. But what is not negotiable here is the role of critique in the university. The humanities without critique might meet the needs of neoliberal academe, but it does not meet the needs of catastrophic education. Our aim is to avoid catastrophe through education not to perpetuate it through education. Catastrophe and Higher Education argues the future of the humanities is tied to the fate of theory. Without the aid of diverse and critical forms of theory, higher education is always already vulnerable to the formidable and destructive forces of economic neoliberalism. Left to its own designs, these destructive forces will continue to eat away at the educational center of academe and replace it with a vocational training center. And once the educational center of higher education is replaced by this lower form of education, the argument for a bachelor’s degree rather a training certificate becomes increasingly more difficult to make especially if the immediate earning potential of the certificate is greater than the bachelor’s degree. In sum, higher education under neoliberalism is an educational catastrophe. Higher education under neoliberalism becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Notes 1. Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the Greater Philosophers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1926), 4. 2. J. E. Cabot, “Preface to the First Edition [August 27, 1883],” in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims [1875] (Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1883), ix.

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Index

A academe, 5, 10, 16–19, 22, 24, 84, 111–116, 170, 172, 175, 179, 204, 209, 210, 216, 217, 221, 229, 238–240 academic affiliation, 116 academic hedonism, 217 Accursed Share, The (Bataille), 131 Achilles, 132, 134 actor-network theory, 198, 199 Addams, Jane, 61 Adler, Felix, 64 Adorno, Theodor, 191 aesthetic experience, 192 aesthetics, 102, 188–194, 197, 198, 200, 218 aesthetic view, the, 187, 188, 190, 192 Afghanistan, 146, 148 After Finitude (Meillassoux), 192 Alexandria, 11 All’s Well that Ends Well (Shakespeare), 32

Al-Qaeda, 146, 147 Amazon, 8, 87, 92, 93 American exceptionalism, 143, 144 American philosophy, 152, 153, 166, 235 American pragmatism, 167 American Scholar, The (Emerson), 150 An Agnostic Looks at Life (Haldeman-Julius), 102 analytic philosophy, 153, 166, 174 ancient Greece, 15, 170 ancient Greek law, 15 ancient Greeks, 15, 151, 213 Anderson, Margaret, 99 A New Literary History of America (Marcus and Sollors), 156, 157 Anker, Elizabeth S., 199 ANT. See actor-network theory Anthony, Susan B., 157 Anthropocene, 34 anthropology, 132, 171

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 J. R. Di Leo, Catastrophe and Higher Education, Palgrave Studies on Global Policy and Critical Futures in Education, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-62479-8

259

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INDEX

Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze and Guattari), 130 anti-philosophy, 167, 175, 176 anti-science, 176 antitheory, 22, 167, 168, 171–173, 175, 176, 179, 180, 187, 190, 191, 197, 201, 203, 209 Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Newman), 71 Apology (Plato), 213 Appeal to Reason (newspaper, 61 Apple, 85 Archway Publishing, 92 Arian Christianity, 31 Aristotle, 40, 41, 65, 68, 165 Armstrong, Isobel, 190–193 Art as Device (Shklovsky), 226 artificial intelligence, 170 Asclepius, 119 Athens, 15, 16, 43, 120, 121, 128 AuthorHouse, 86, 87 authoritarianism, 75, 76, 223, 224 Author Solutions Inc., 92 autonomy of the literary object, 190, 195, 197

B bachelor’s degree, value of, 11 Bacon, Francis, 68, 166 Barker, Ernest, 35, 36, 38 Barthes, Roland, 190 Bataille, George, 131 Baudrillard, Jean, 157, 226 Bauman, Zygmunt, 143 Beach, Sylvia, 99, 100 Beardsley, Monroe, 188 Beckett, Samuel, 12 Bellamy, Edward, 40 Bell, Daniel, 147 Bellow, Saul, 157 Bennett, Jane, 198, 202 Bentham, Jeremy, 147

Berger, Victor L., 61 Bergson, Henri, 68 Best, Stephen, 198, 199, 202 Biblical-style Jubilee, 129 big data, 95 Bildung , 220 Bin Laden, Osama, 146, 147, 153 biology, 35, 37, 52, 64, 170–173, 175 Birth of Tragedy, The (Nietzsche), 215 Blair, Tony, 157 Bloom, Allan, 108 Boni & Liveright, 100 Book Country, 92, 93 book culture, 85, 87–89 BookExpo America, 87 BookLocker, 85, 86 bookstores, 9, 99 Borradori, Giovanna, 144 Boston University, 6 bourgeois ideology, 131 Bradstreet, Anne, 157 Breaking Bad, 132–134 bricks-and-mortar classrooms, 8 Brooks, Cleanth, 194–197 Buddha, 73, 214 Buddhism, 49, 214 Bunk Box (Haldeman-Julius), 102 Bush, George W. (president), 144–146 business majors, 12 butterfly effect, 54 Byzantine Empire, 31 C Cabot, Anne M., 156 Cabot, Henry B., 156 California State University, 6 California wines (course), 6 Cambridge, city of, 149, 156 Cambridge History of American Literature (Trent, Erskine, Sherman, and Van Doren), 154

INDEX

Cambridge University, 114 capitalism, 18, 21, 104, 126, 129, 132, 153, 156, 159, 226 Capote, Truman, 95 Cassiodorus, 33 catastrophe, 1–5, 7–11, 17–21, 23, 24, 31, 32, 59, 60, 75, 136, 143, 145, 160, 204, 228, 236–241 catastrophe theory, 33, 54 Catholic Church, 43 Catholicism, 31 Catholicism and Sex (Harrington), 62 Cavell, Stanley, 152 Center for Microeconomic Data, 123, 124 Cerf, Bennett, 100, 101 Cervantes, Miguel de, 218 Chicago School of economics, 147 Chicago World (newspaper), 61 Christianity, 42, 49, 64, 177, 219 Churchill, Winston, 100 Chwang-tze, 73 Cixous, Hélène, 166 classical depiction of text, 186, 187, 201–203 classical education, 221 Clinton, William Jefferson (president), 147 Clippings from Editor’s Scrap Book (Haldeman-Julius), 102 Closing of the American Mind, The (Bloom), 108 Cohen, Morris, 69 Collège de France, 119 Columbia University, 63, 100, 114 comparative literature, 12, 166, 171 computer science, 170, 171 computer virus, 5, 9 Confession of a Debunker (Haldeman-Julius), 102 Conflict of the Faculties, The (Kant), 178

261

Confucius, 73 consumerism, 223 contemporary depiction of text, 186, 187, 189, 190, 194, 197, 199, 201, 203 continental philosophy, 166, 192 Coover, Robert, 14 Cornell University, 6, 114 Coronavirus, 2–5, 7, 9, 17, 23, 75, 236 corporate publishing, 98, 99, 103 correspondence education, 2, 3 Course in General Linguistics (Saussure), 189 Crane, Hart, 100 CreateSpace, 86, 87 creditocracy, 126 Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), 127 critical citizenship, 180 Critical Inquiry (journal), 114 critical pedagogy, 212, 224, 227, 228, 241 critical theory, 145 critical university studies, 112 critique, 22, 24, 40, 42, 122, 123, 130, 133, 173, 179, 191, 198, 202, 211, 212, 216, 217, 221, 223–229, 240, 241 Critique and Postcritique (Anker and Felski), 198 Crito (Plato), 119, 120 Croce, Benedetto, 68 cultural studies, 145, 171, 189–191 Culture and Its Modern Aspects (Haldeman-Julius), 102 cynicism, 47, 55 D Dalkey Archive Press, 96 Danish National Research Foundation, 225

262

INDEX

Dante, 11 Darantière, Maurice, 100 Darwinian progressivism, 52 Davidson, Donald, 185 Davies, William, 147 da Vinci, Leonardo, 69 Day, Jonathan C., 64 dead white males, 108 death of theory, 173 debt, 18 Debt (Graeber), 127 debt culture, 13, 175 debt slavery, 128 Deleuze, Gilles, 130, 131, 166 DeLillo, Don, 97, 148 Demeter, 15 democracy, 16, 18, 43, 44, 126, 128, 146, 155, 224, 228 democratic education, 210, 211 democratic values, 178, 180, 211, 212, 236 Derrida, Jacques, 144, 145, 166, 190, 235 Descartes, René, 157 despotism, 40 Dewey, John, 70, 74, 169 disaster, 23 disaster capitalism, 23 docile subject, 133, 134 Dog Ear Publishing, 86 Don Quixote (Cervantes), 218 Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 11, 127 Draper, Michael, 38 dualism, 195, 198 Durant, Ariel, 64, 65, 67 Durant, Will, 19, 59, 60, 63–76, 83, 84, 152, 238, 239

E Eagleton, Terry, 225, 226 Ecce Homo (Nietzsche), 215

economic Darwinism, 52 economic neoliberalism, 211 egoism, 103, 133 Eightfold Way, the, 49 Electronic University Network, 6, 8 Electronic University, The, 6 Eliot, T.S., 185 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 21, 24, 149–152, 155, 156, 158, 159, 166, 175, 235–237 empiricism, 166, 167, 199 endowment, university, 111 entrepreneurial man, 133, 134 entrepreneurs, 10, 103 Epicureans, 68 epistemology, 63, 68, 69 Ernst, Morris, 101 Espresso Book Machine, 87, 98 Essays in Radical Empiricism (James), 168 Eurocentrism, 108 Evans, Brad, 143 existentialism, 166 experimental empiricism, 166 Experiment in Autobiography (Wells), 42

F Facts about Cancer (Bloodgood), 62 Facts about Venereal Disease (Greer), 62 Falling Man (DeLillo), 148 fascism, 19 Faulkner, William, 95 fear, 21, 24, 41, 42, 45, 46, 59, 85, 104, 159, 212, 224, 235, 236 Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, 123 Felski, Rita, 198–203, 211, 225–227 Felton, Cornelius, 150

INDEX

feminism, 172, 190, 225 feminist studies, 198 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 178 figs, stealing, 15–17 film, 12, 14, 37 First Men in the Moon, The (Wells), 34 First World War, 19, 34, 35, 59, 61, 148, 154, 236 Fish, Stanley, 201–203 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 100 Flaubert, Gustave, 195 Ford, Gerald (president), 67 foreign languages, 171 form and content, 188, 194–196 for-profit education, 5 for-profit institutions, 4, 6 Fortgang, Tal, 110 Foster, Hal, 191 Foucault, Michel, 119, 166 Frankfurt school, 166 Frederick William II (Prussia), 177, 219 Free Speech and Free Thought in U.S. (Haldeman-Julius), 102 French Revolution, 154 Freud, Sigmund, 216, 225 Friedman, Milton, 147 From Socrates to Cinema (Di Leo), 71 Frye, Northrop, 188 FSG (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 93, 107 Fugitive poets, 185 Fuller, Margaret, 157 Fun I Get Out of Life (Haldeman-Julius), 102

G Gaddis, William, 96 gender studies, 171 genealogy, 130, 131, 144 Gilgamesh, 11

263

Girard, Kansas, 60–62, 65, 83 Giroux, Henry, 18, 223 global economy, 155 globalization studies, 171 Gold Almighty, 153 Gracchi, 43 Graeber, David, 127–132, 134, 136 Great Depression, 3, 147 Great Gatsby, The (Fitzgerald), 100 Great War. See First World War Greece, 13, 15, 175 Greek (language), 15, 151, 221 Greek art, 158 Greek culture, 221 Greek myths, 134 Greek philosophers, 165 Greek tragedy, 215 Guattari, Felix, 130

H Hachette, 95 Haldeman, Henry J., 76 Haldeman, Marcet. See Haldeman-Julius, Marcet Haldeman-Julius, Emmanuel, 3, 19–21, 24, 59, 60, 62–67, 75, 76, 83, 84, 94, 102, 104, 240 Haldeman-Julius, Marcet, 62, 102 happiness, 116, 122, 213, 217, 220 Harasim, Linda, 6 Harcourt, Brace, 96 Harlequin Horizons, 92 Harman, Graham, 192–198, 200, 202, 203 Harvard Extension School, 7 Harvard University, 4, 6, 8, 74, 114, 150, 168 Harvey, David, 18, 147 Hayek, Friedrich, 147 Heap, Jane, 99 Hegel (Singer), 70

264

INDEX

Hegel for Beginners (Spenser), 70 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 214 Heidegger, Martin, 195, 196, 203 Hendrix, Jimi, 157 hermeneutics of suspicion, 12, 173, 179, 201 Hillquit, Morris, 60 Hjelmslev, Louis, 190 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 151 homo economicus , 130 Homosexual Life (Fielding), 62 hope, 21, 24, 37, 44–46, 52, 54, 90, 91, 98, 99, 120, 149, 151, 155, 157, 204, 211, 223, 224, 235, 240 Horrabin, J.F., 36 Howe, Irving, 147 How to Become a Writer (Haldeman-Julius), 102 How to Play Golf (Lardner), 62 How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself (Bonus), 62 How to Write Book Reviews (Markun), 62 humanities, 11, 13, 16, 17, 21, 22, 24, 113, 114, 153, 167, 172, 179, 180, 186, 194, 198, 203, 204, 209–212, 217, 224, 225, 238–240 humanities curriculum, 17, 211 human knowledge, 17, 49 Hume, David, 15–17, 22 Huxley, Aldous, 39 hybrid publishers, 94 I Iconoclastic Reactions (Haldeman-Julius), 102 idealism, 50, 190 identity politics, 178 ideology, 132, 134, 191, 193, 199, 200

Ideology of the Aesthetic, The (Eagleton), 190 Idol, Billy, 129 Indiana University, Bloomington, 3 Indiana University Independent Study Program, 3 individualism, 103 Infinity Publishing, 86 Ingarden, Roman, 201 instant revisionism, 227 Intellectual Declaration of Independence, 151 Intentional Fallacy, The (Wimsatt and Beardsley), 188 International Correspondence Schools, 2 International Socialist Review (newspaper), 60 internet, 2, 12, 103 Introducing Hegel —A Graphic Guide (Spenser), 70 Invisible Man, The (Wells), 34 Iran, 3, 148 Iraq, 145, 146, 148 Iser, Wolfgang, 201 Islam, 32, 49 Island of Doctor Moreau, The (Wells), 34 Is Theism a Logical Philosophy? (Haldeman-Julius), 102 iUniverse, 86, 87, 93, 107

J James, Henry, 168, 169 James, William, 22, 24, 74, 158, 166–175, 177, 178 Jameson, Fredric, 225 Jobs, Steve, 103 John of Ephesus, 32, 33 Johns Hopkins University, 114 Johnston, Henry H., Sir, 36

INDEX

John the Lydian, 33 Joyce, James, 95, 97, 99–103 J R (Gaddis), 96

K Kaepernick, Colin, 108 Kant, Immanuel, 39, 65, 68, 128, 178, 214, 216, 217, 219 Kennedy, John F., 153 Keys, David, 31–33 Kindle Reader, 8, 85, 87, 88, 98 Kingdom of Heaven, the, 49 King, Martin Luther, 153 King, Stephen, 92 Kirkpatrick, George R., 60 Klein, Naomi, 18, 23 Klopfer, Donald, 101 Knopf, Alfred A., 96 knowledge economy, 133 Komunyakaa, Yusef, 157 Krauze, Andrzej, 70 Kristeva, Julia, 166, 190 Ku Klux Klan, 65

L L’ethique de la dette (Sarthou-Lajous), 131 Labor Temple, 63–65 Lacan, Jacques, 166 Language and Reality (Urban), 194 Lankester, E. Ray, Sir, 36, 38 Lao-tze, 73 Laski, Harold, 39 Latin, 11, 221 Latin Self -Taught (deFord), 62 Latour, Bruno, 198, 199, 201, 203, 211, 227 Lazzarato, Maurizio, 133 League of Nations, 35, 53 Leaves of Grass (Whitman), 102

265

Lectures on the Theory of Ethics (Fichte), 178 Lee, R. Alton, 62 Lefebvre, Henri, 123 Lewis, Sinclair, 95 liberal arts curriculum, 17 Life of Reason, or The Phases of Human Progress (Santayana), 74 Limits of Critique, The (Felski), 198, 225 Lin, Maya, 157 linguistics, 171, 189 linguistic turn, 12, 165–167, 189, 199, 201 Literary History of the United States (Spiller et al.), 154, 157 literary studies, 165, 191, 195, 209, 225 literary theory, 226 Literary Theory (Eagleton), 226 Little Blue Books, 3, 19, 59–63, 65, 66, 70, 74–76, 83, 84, 102, 237 Little Review, The (journal), 99 Liveright, Horace, 100, 101 Llumina Publishing, 86 logical-analytic pluralism, 166 logical atomism, 166 logical empiricism, 167 London School of Economics, 127, 147 Los Angeles Citizen (newspaper), 61 Love, Heather, 198, 199, 202 Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (anonymous), 62 Lowell, James Russell, 151 ludic feminism, 190 Lulu, 86, 87 Lyotard, Jean-François, 166

M MacKenzie, Jeanne, 37

266

INDEX

MacKenzie, Norman, 56 Madoff, Bernie, 159 Magee, Bryan, 71 major publishing houses, 94 male privilege, 109, 112, 115, 116 Marcus, Greil, 156–158, 160 Marcus, Sharon, 198, 199, 202 market economics, 13, 175 market globalism, 147 Marlow, Christopher, 12 Marquette, Father, 157 Marxism, 165, 171, 190 Mauss, Marcel, 130 McIntosh, Peggy, 109–112, 115, 116 Meaning of Truth, The (James), 168 Meillassoux, Quentin, 192 Melville, Herman, 156 Mencius, 73 metaphilosophy, 123 metaphysics, 69, 167, 168, 173, 174, 186, 187, 219 metaprofessional studies, 112 military interests, 51 Mill, John Stuart, 166 Miller, J. Hillis, 33 Milwaukee Leader (newspaper), 60, 61 Mind at the End of Its Tether (Wells), 37, 47, 54, 149, 150 Minich, Elizabeth, 116 misery, 46, 51, 213, 214 Moby-Dick (Melville), 196, 197 Modern Aspects of Birth Control (Knopf), 62 modernism, 147 Modern Library, 100, 101 Modern School (New York City), 63 Moi, Toril, 198, 202 monism, 195 Montaigne, Michel de, 12 Moore, G.E., 166 moral altruism, 133

morality, 21, 120–123, 126, 128 Moraru, Christian, 149 Morton, Jelly Roll, 157 Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (Woolf), 147 mujahideen, 146 Murray, Gilbert, 35, 36, 38 Myth of Barter, 127 Myths and Myth-Makers (Haldeman-Julius), 102 N NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), 108 Nasca civilization, 31 Nationalism, 48 National Socialist Press (newspaper), 61 Nature (Emerson), 150 NBC (National Broadcasting Company), 146 neoliberal academy, 13, 14, 178, 212, 239 neoliberal economy, 211, 222 neoliberalism, 1, 10, 11, 16–18, 20–22, 24, 52, 54, 94, 103, 104, 116, 145, 147, 154–156, 187, 210–212, 224, 235, 236, 239–241 neoliberal socialism, 103 neoliberal subjects, 178 New Aestheticism, 190, 192, 200 New Appeal (newspaper), 61 New Appeal ’s “Pocket Series”, 61 New Criticism, 22, 153, 165, 185–195, 197–200, 202–204, 212 New Critics, 185, 187–190, 195–197, 201 New Historicism, 190 New Literary History (journal), 114

INDEX

New New Criticism, 187, 197, 198, 204 New York Call (newspaper), 60 New Yorker, The (magazine), 110 New York Public Library, 73 New York Times (newspaper), 34, 68, 108, 168 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 22, 63, 65, 68, 73, 120, 129–132, 136, 212, 215, 221–224 nihilism, 55, 123, 212, 226 Nixon, Rob, 10 non-autonomy, 186, 189, 190, 200 non-coherence, 186, 189, 190 non-identity, 186, 189, 190 non-profit education, 4 non-profit institutions, 4, 5 non-stability, 186, 189, 190 North Korea, 148 Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Nussbaum), 210 Nussbaum, Martha, 210, 211 O O’Hara, John, 95 Obama, Barack (president), 46 object-oriented criticism, 187, 193 Occasional Thoughts on Universities in the German Sense (Schleiermacher), 178 Occupy Wall Street, 135 OED (Oxford English Dictionary), 143 Of the Balance of Trade (Hume), 14 online education, 1, 2, 4–6, 9, 21 On the Future of Our Educational Institutions (Nietzsche), 222 On the Genealogy of Morals (Nietzsche), 130, 131 ontology, 22, 69, 194, 196, 197 OOO (Object-Oriented Ontology), 192, 198, 201, 203

267

optimism, 47, 210–212, 216, 223 Otto, Max Carl, 64 Our Oriental Heritage (Durant), 73 Outline of History, The (Wells), 19, 35–37, 42, 236 Outskirts Press, 86 Overbeck, Franz, 120 Oxford English Dictionary (OED), 32 Oxford University, 71 Oxford University Press, 70

P pain, 214, 215, 218 pandemic, 2–4 paraphrase, heresy of, 194–196 Parerga and Paralipomena (Schopenhauer), 214 Parker, Charlie, 157 Pease, Donald, 144 Peirce, Charles S., 2, 166, 174 Penguin, 92–97 Penn Foster College, 2 Pentagon, 21, 143, 226 performativity, 191, 193, 200 Perry, Ralph Barton, 168 Persons and Personalities (Haldeman-Julius), 102 pessimism, 24, 55, 90, 210–217, 221–223, 225, 227, 241 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 145 phenomenology, 166 Phi Beta Kappa address (Emerson), 150 Phi Beta Kappa Society, 151 philology, 188, 190, 221 philosophers, 59, 63, 65, 68–71, 73, 74, 76, 120, 165–167, 176, 178 philosophical man, 123 Philosophy and the Social Problem (Durant), 63, 67 philosophy of education, 35, 40

268

INDEX

Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, The (Durant), 83 Phytalidae, cult of the, 15 Phytalus, 15 Plato, 63, 65, 68, 73, 119, 213, 214 PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), 6 pluralism, 173, 179, 195 PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association), 114 political theory, 147, 193, 198 popular philosophy, 70, 71 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Joyce), 100 post-America, 160 postcolonialism, 171, 190 postcritique, 12, 22, 173, 174, 187, 191, 198–203, 209, 212, 225–229 Postgate, Raymond, 47 posthumanism, 75 post-literature, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 160 poststructuralism, 12, 165–167, 171, 189, 190, 203, 209 posttheory, 171 post-War America, 154, 155 post welfare-state, 18 poverty, 54, 152, 153, 155, 158, 159, 175, 235 pragmatism, 168, 174 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 67 pre-Socratics, 68 prestige, 5, 20, 92, 94, 97, 98, 112–116, 146, 177, 179 Princeton University, 114 Principles of Psychology (James), 168 private institutions, 4 privilege, 18, 20, 21, 96, 107–113, 115, 116, 136, 194, 196, 221 Procopius, 33

progressivism, 52 Prostitution in the Modern World (Markun), 62 psychology, 44, 64, 65, 68, 69, 170–175 public institutions, 4, 5 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 67 Pynchon, Thomas, 97 Q queer studies, 198 queer theory, 171 Quinn, John, 100 R Radical Aesthetic, The (Armstrong), 190 radical aesthetics, 22, 190, 193 Random House, 95, 101 ranking, 5, 113, 114 Ransom, John Crowe, 185 Reaganomics, 147 Recognitions, The (Gaddis), 96 Reitter, Paul, 220, 222 Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason (Kant), 177 Representations (journal), 114 revisionism, 226, 227 rhetoric, 13, 17, 145, 147, 175, 224 Rice, Anne, 92 Robbins, Bruce, 148 Robbins, Lionel, 147 romance writers, 92 Roman culture, 221 Roman delator, 15 Roman Empire, 31 Roman myths, 134 Roman Republic, 43 Rome, 43, 128 Ross, Andrew, 126

INDEX

Rousseau and Revolution (Durant), 67 Routledge, 70 Roy, Ravi, 147 Russell, Bertrand, 5, 19, 60, 62, 63, 68, 83, 166, 237

S Salter, Arthur, 35 Sandburg, Carl, 61 Santayana, George, 59, 68, 74–76, 152 Sarthou-Lajous, Nathalie, 131 Saussure, Ferdinand de, 189, 190 Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph, 178 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 178 Scholastics, 68 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 22, 65, 68, 73, 215–222, 226, 227, 229 Schuster, M. Lincoln, 65–67, 83, 92 scientific method, 40, 166 scientific progress, 166 scoundrelism, 46 Second World War, 3, 34, 47, 154 Second-Story Man, The (Sinclair), 83 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, 198, 199, 202 self-publishing, 20, 84–88, 90–94, 97, 99, 101–103 semiology, 189 Sensible Views of Life (Haldeman-Julius), 102 September 11, 2001, 21, 143–145, 147–149, 153, 154, 156, 159 Sequoyah, 157 Sewall, Samuel, 157 Sewanee Review (journal), 188 Sex Obsessions of Saints and Mystics (Fielding), 62 Shakespeare and Company, 99, 100 Shakespeare, William, 32, 62

269

Shankara, Adi, 73 Sheldon, Rebekah, 54 Shklovsky, Viktor, 226 shock doctrine, 23 signified, 188, 189 signifier, 188, 189 Simon, Richard, 66, 67, 92 Sinclair, Upton, 83 Singer, Peter, 70 slavery, 116, 150 slow violence, 10, 11 small presses, 90, 95 Smith, Adam, 131 Smith, David, 35, 36 Smith, Dorothy, 6 Snapshots of Modern Life (Haldeman-Julius), 102 social construction of knowledge, 203 Social Democrat (newspaper), 61 socialism, 103 Socialist Party, 60 social justice, 50, 52, 178 sociology, 37, 40, 64, 171 Socrates, 64, 73, 119–121, 126, 134, 136, 177, 213 Sollors, Werner, 156, 157, 160 Some Problems of Philosophy (James), 167–169, 173, 175 South Arabian civilization, 31 Spanos, William, 144 Spargo, John, 60 speculative realism, 22, 174, 192, 202–204, 209 Spencer, Herbert, 65, 68, 83 Spenser, Lloyd, 70 Spiller, Robert, 154, 160 Spinoza, Baruch, 64, 68, 73 Spire, André, 99 Stanford Humanities Center, 226 Stanford University, 6, 114, 168, 226 Star Trek and Philosophy (Decker and Eberl), 70

270

INDEX

State University of New York, 6 Stegner, Manfred, 147 Stein, Gertrude, 95 Stevens, Wallace, 100 Stoics, 68 Story of Civilization, The (Durant), 67, 73 Story of Philosophy, The (Durant), 66–69, 71–73, 83 Strategic Survey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 146 Strike Debt, 135 structuralism, 12, 153, 167, 171, 189, 190, 203, 209 student loans, 124, 125 Studies in Rationalism (Haldeman-Julius), 102 Supermen: An Interpretation of History (Durant), 65 Supreme Court, 156 surface reading, 12 sycophants, 15–17, 22 Syria, 148

T Tariff Act, 101 Tate, Allen, 185 TeleLearning Systems, Inc., 6 television, 12, 71, 226 Tel Quel group, 190 Temple School (New York City), 63 Teotihuacan, 31 terrorism, 21, 24, 143, 145, 147, 153, 154, 223, 236 text, 38, 70, 131, 167, 185–190, 194, 195, 197–204, 225 textbooks, 2, 35–37, 70, 173 textual autonomy, 198, 201 textuality, 186 Thatcherism, 147

theoria, 165 thin description, 199 Thoreau, Henry David, 166 Tikal (Mayan city), 31 Time Machine, The (Wells), 34 Tool-Being (Harman), 192 Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (Wittgenstein), 139 trading literature, 12–14, 16 traditional publishing, 20, 84, 88, 89, 94, 98, 103 Trafford, 86, 87 training certificate, 241 translation, 159, 195, 201 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, 60 Trump, Donald J. (president), 44, 46, 147 Tunnel, The (Gass), 96 Twilight of the Idols (Nietzsche), 222 Tyranny of Bunk (Haldeman-Julius), 102

U Ulysses (Joyce), 99–101 unilateralism, 146, 155 United Nations, 35 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 35 University of Berlin, 214 University of California, Berkeley, 114 University of Chicago, 114 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 6 University of Maryland University College, 3 University of Toronto, 6, 8 University of Wisconsin Extension, 3 Upanishads , 216 Urban, William Marshall, 194 U.S. News and World Report, 113, 114

INDEX

U.S. Postal Service, 3, 102 utopia, 40 V Vanderbilt University, 185 Vietnam War, 153 Virginia Institute of Technology, 6 vocational training, 12–14, 16, 17, 76, 179 Voltaire, 65, 68, 73 W Wachowskis, the (Lana and Lilly Wachowski), 163 Wagar, W. Warren, 40 Wagner, Richard, 215 Wainwright, Jonathan Mayhew (bishop), 150 Wall Street, 100, 135 Wall Street Journal , 146 Wanhope, John, 60 War of the Worlds, The (Wells), 34 Warren, Robert Penn, 185 Watergate, 153 Weiss, Paul, 69 Wellmon, Chad, 220, 222 Wells, H.G., 19–21, 24, 34–54, 149, 160, 236, 237 Well Wrought Urn, The (Brooks), 194 West, Anthony, 36 Western Democrat (newspaper), 61 What Can a Free Man Believe? (Haldeman-Julius), 102 What Can a Free Man Worship? (Russell), 62 What’s Wrong with Schools? (Haldeman-Julius), 102 Whewell, William, 166 white privilege, 108, 109, 112, 115 White Privilege and Male Privilege (McIntosh), 109

271

White, Walter, 132–134 Whitman, Walt, 102, 156 Why I Am Not a Christian (Russell), 63 Why I Believe in Companionate Marriage (M. Haldeman-Julius), 62 Wilhelm, Gottfried, 213 Williams, William Carlos, 100 Wilson, Woodrow (president), 45, 46 Wimsatt, W.K., 188 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 129 Women’s Sexual Life (Fielding), 62 Woolf, Virginia, 147, 148 Woolsey, John M. (judge), 100, 101 World as Will and Idea, The (Schopenhaeur), 213, 214 World Brain (Wells), 47 world history, 19, 32, 33, 35, 38, 39, 52, 62 world literature, 12, 62, 149, 159 world peace, 40, 45, 51–53 world-political animal, 41 world state, 38, 48, 49, 51–54 World Trade Center (Twin Towers), 21, 148, 149, 227, 235 Würstburg (Germany), 178

X Xenophanes, 165 Xlibris, 86, 87 Xulon Press, 86, 87

Y Yale University, 114 Yeats, William Butler, 100

Z Zacharias of Mytilene, 33 Zamustin, Elizabeth, 60

272

INDEX

Zerilli, Linda M.G., 198, 202 Zimmern, Alfred, 35

Žižek, Slavoj, 76 Zolajefski, David, 60