Pity the Poor Adjunct

The Dylan reference is probably unfair. But whenever I read a piece like this (“Value Students? Then Value Adjuncts“) I can’t help but feel more than a little frustrated. Academics– not just adjuncts– just don’t seem to understand the basic paradigms of power in a capitalist economy. I know that in part it’s just a figure of speech, but it’s absurd to ask the university to “care.”

It just does not work that way. No capitalist institution, no matter how rooted in the liberal arts (or organic foods or solar power or anything else) is going to willingly give up power over something as basic as labor costs. Adjuncts, especially in writing programs, like the author of the piece, are money making machines. Too often (but not always) they are very compliant money machines too.

The real problem, in the end, is that academia needs to give up its genteel notions of power and influence exercises through persuasion, specially in a written form. It borders on a kind of fetish– this notion that the way you change the university is by writing texts to persuade them that your cause is just. Writing is fine, but power comes from organization.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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