Revolution Without the Revolution

A series of shifts are happening in our economy: A record of number of millennials are trading in conventional career paths to launch tech start-ups, start small businesses that are rooted in local communities, or freelance their expertise. We are sharing everything from bikes and cars to extra rooms in our homes.

Globally recognized entrepreneur and founder of Taproot Foundation, that helped create the $15 billion pro bono service market, Aaron Hurst argues in his latest book, The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community is Changing the World, that while these developments seem unrelated at first, taken together they reveal a powerful pattern that points to purpose as the new driver of the American economy.

The Purpose Economy

I heard about this book from one of those irritating NPR stories in which the reporter swallows a marketing plan whole and then treats it as if it were social science. I can just see the publisher’s PR guy checking one more item off the list. Next up, “Good Morning America!” In any case it struck me as a perfect example of the bourgeois desire for a revolution– profound and lasting social change– without the revolution– that is, with no notion of justice and collective struggle. This is what the internet was suppose to do as well.

That’s not to say that the internet didn’t change many things; it did. The internet as such, though, isn’t a revolution: it leaves the basic social structures of capitalism, worker and capitalist, private property, and so on, intact. Arguably, the internet and its attendant technologies reinforced capitalism and extended the reach of the market. Hurst’s ideas are, in effect, an attempt to convince us that the loss of benefits and a pension plan and any job security is, in fact, the best thing that every happened to you and to the world. Got it.

Snowden on TED

This is a little long but worth watching. Snowdon’s argument is air tight and his demeanor puts the lie to the notion that he is somehow unhinged. His is the fate of any whistle-blower before there are laws to protect them. The current political climate makes it unlikely that the charges will be dropped and, unfortunately, I suspect it will take several presidential administrations before there is any chance of a pardon. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Obama will grant Snowden a pardon in the last few moments of his administration.

The Moral Equivalent of War

According to the most recent comprehensive report on staffing by the Modern Language Association and the Association of Departments of English, published in 2008, English lost 3,000 tenure-track positions from 1993 to 2004, roughly 10 percent of the total. Even that understates the case, since more than a third of the new tenurable hires have not been in traditional literary fields but in composition, rhetoric, theory, cultural studies, new media, and digital humanities. Combined with evidence of lowered public interest in reading traditional literature and plummeting enrollment in traditional English majors, many faculty members in traditional literary studies have engaged in a backlash discourse against the new or renascent fields, a “moral panic” in defense of traditional literary studies.

“The Moral Panic in Literary Studies,” Marc Bousquet

I think “moral panic” is a understatement. I’d say that a certain cadre of literary academics has been at war with rhetoric and composition for a long time now. In many schools, too, English departments– and literary scholarship– has been funded on the backs of poorly paid adjuncts– often women. This is one of those issues that no-one wants to say much about or to investigate because it could be so divisive. The last thing academics need is another ‘divide and conquer’ division. Yet I think it needs more discussion and investigation. I know, from long experience, that the ‘panic’ about rhetoric and composition, and new communication technologies, has kept people from getting tenure, for example. It would great to have a sense of how often this has happened.