There’s quite a lot of discussion about crisis in my book, both in terms of the two historical crises (the Great Depression and World War II) that had such a profound effect on the teaching of English, and in terms of the contemporary crisis, which I argue is less about pedagogy than it is about institutional power. Academics have allowed others to control our professional lives.
There’s not a fundamental crisis in funding, or in the market for English majors, or the use of part time labor, or the rising costs of tuition. (See this “Redesigning Today’s Graduate Classroom” for a recent example of these misconceptions.) The crisis is symptomatic of working people in academia who no longer believe in the power of organizing together towards collective goals.
The attacks on unions in Wisconsin should be instructive to academics. The budget crisis wasn’t caused by the unions, and it won’t be solved by breaking their power. The attacks on the unions is about trying to shift power away from democratic control so that money and capital can be moved out of the public sphere and into private hands. It’s simply a redistribution of wealth.
Markets are not natural phenomena; they are shaped by more or less explicit policy decisions. We can’t reshape the market for liberal arts graduate students simply by teaching them differently. We have to seize control of the mechanisms of policy and create a market that suits our goals. The only way to do that is to organized ourselves into unions. Right now, the rest is fiddling.