The minute a profession starts thinking of itself as a profession it’s finished, because henceforth “actually doing the job” will come second to “advancing the guild’s interests.” Not for everyone, of course. Most doctors, I imagine, just want to practice medicine. They probably even feel they’d be much better off without the elaborate apparatus of “the profession” — the American Medical Association, their specialty associations, the unique social status of “being a doctor” (there are a lot more downsides than upsides to this, if you really think about it). They no doubt feel this… until someone outside of it starts badmouthing the guild, or someone inside causes the profession to lose standing. Then they close ranks.
The reason for this — if you want to slap an academic-sounding label on it — is “the reification of the bureaucracy.” Even if 99 out of 100 doctors, say, just want to practice medicine, there’s that last guy who makes “being a doctor” his life’s work. He joins all the associations, and because that kind of guy is basically just Trigglypuff with better hygiene and lower BMI, he quickly rises to a position of influence in every organization. He lives for the bureaucracy. Which means he’s a politician, and there it is.
If you want more examples, look no further than the original guilds, the craft associations of the Middle Ages. Any settlement big enough for actual cash money to change hands in it soon had an exquisitely class-conscious group with lots of actual, but no formal, power. Your smart tyrant co-opted the politicians from the merchant guilds, made them de facto nobility and bade them act like it — that gave you the Renaissance. Your dumb (or merely nonexistent) tyrant let the merchants’ resentments fester — that gave you the Reformation, and the whole catalog of ideological murder that followed.
This, more than anything else, explains the death of the American university. You can yell about the evils of affirmative action, feminism, etc. all you want — you’ll hear no argument from me — but the guild mentality set all that up.
Consider my own ex-profession, History. This was a conservative discipline within living memory. And not a namby-pamby cuck kind of conservatism, either — the only place in America you’d hear the fundamental wisdom of the 19th Amendment questioned was a humanities seminar. History is the art of putting two and two together, and accepting the consequences. Clio may be the muse of History, but our god is Saturn.
Alas, it’s also a job, and if you do it right, there’s not that much for a Historian to actually do.
“Explaining what happened” for even the best-attested event takes a lifetime of study. The Historian’s most basic tools aren’t documents, but people — you need to have long experience of people to make informed historical judgments. Here again, within living memory History professors were guys who did stuff. Even when I was an undergrad, back at the dawn of the Clinton era, you’d have a much better chance of finding a combat veteran among the History faculty than the public at large.
You can see where this is going. Because there’s not much to actually do in the day-to-day, the younger members of the guild used “being in the guild” as a fun way to pass the time. This was even more the case in “disciplines” where there was never anything to do, such as Philosophy and English Lit. (the grandparents of all Angry Studies; most of the barmiest ideas in academia actually proceeded from the latter). Since the job of “shaping young minds” obviously entails that the shapers are qualified to do the shaping, this led, naturally, to the notion that smelling one’s own farts in one’s ivy-walled office just is enlightenment.
So why not affirmative action, feminism, all the rest? There’s nothing outside the guild, after all, and since we in the guild decide what’s best for the guild — and can force students to parrot it back — we can make “being enlightened” our life’s work. It doesn’t matter what happens out in the real world, because there is no “real world.” The only thing that’s real is the next meeting of the tenure committee…Loading Likes...