Credentialism Ruins Everything

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…

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12 thoughts on “Credentialism Ruins Everything

  1. MBlanc46

    I feel compelled to come to the defense of philosophy. Sure, a lot of the jackassery that passes for intellectual life these days came from university philosophy departments. Philosophy is fundamental. If the philosophers get it wrong, the wrongness will percolate through everything. Some philosophers will always get it wrong. (My candidate here is Continental philosophy. They got everything wrong, but often wrong in interesting and important ways.) Other philosophers will get things largely right. Everything else being equal, things will balance out. That’s pretty much the history of philosophy: Cycling through the fundamental categories of Rationalism/Empiricism, Materialism/Spiritualism, Realism/Phenomenalism, Deontology/Consequentialism, and all the various attempts at synthesis. It’s all pretty harmless and of interest only to a few nerdy guys. Like the model railroad club in high school. Until recently. In the eighties (in this country, earlier on the Continent) some folks in other departments, then in the wider world, discovered that some of this stuff (one branch of it anyway) could be used to undermine the Western project. All of a sudden, epistemology is everywhere. English majors and history majors arguing furiously about foundationalism (they’re against it) and deconstruction (they’re for it). It’s not that the philosophers have gotten political, but that the (Leftist) politicians have co-opted philosophy.

    1. Severian Post author

      Another illustration of my point. Philosophers used to be men of action. “Philosopher” didn’t mean “guy who sits on his ass dreaming stuff up all day;” it meant “man who orients his entire life around a set of higher principles.” Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher, an exemplar of the breed.

      But then they started awarding degrees in it…. Karl Marx had a PhD in philosophy. Tells you everything you need to know.

      1. MBlanc46

        There is certainly the view of philosophy as a way of life, a way of acting in the world. Mostly not as a Roman emperor. Thales cornered the market in olive oil through his thought, but today we’d consider that he was wearing his scientist hat, not his philosopher hat. Plato thought that philosophers should be kings. He gave it a try. It almost cost him his life Aristotle was tutor to Alexander the Great. As I recall, that didn’t turn out well for him. He spent his last years in exile. The medievals were all churchmen with an ambivalent view of the world. When you get to the 17th century, there are not many ways to support yourself as a philosopher. Hobbes was a courtier. Descartes was a rentier. Locke was a concierge physician. Leibniz was a librarian. In the 18th century, Hume supported himself as a secretary, but from Kant on, it’s pretty much professors all the way down. There’s simply no other way to earn a living at it, and without an academic appointment, there’s no way to be taken seriously. A David McCullough type can make a career as a writer of history books because there’s an audience for history books among the general public. There is no such audience for philosophical writing, which these days is mostly journal articles. I’m not claiming that this is a good thing, but it’s the way things are. It does, however, absolve philosophers from blame for the ills of the modern world. Nobody but other philosophers pays any attention to philosophers. What trouble 19th century guys such as Hegel and Marx (and their 20th century epigones) have caused derives not so much from their philosophical ideas as from their general historical and political ruminations. Gentlemen of the jury, my client is not guilty.

        1. Severian Post author

          Nobody but other philosophers pays any attention to philosophers.

          If only!!

          The blue-haired nose-ringers in History, Psych, Soash, and especially English Lit. departments paid a LOT of attention to philosophers. “Deconstruction” and “Postmodernism,” for instance, are fun to play around with as an extension of radical skepticism a la Hume. Real philosophers don’t take them seriously, though, because you end up arguing, again a la Hume, that it’s just a coincidence that the window breaks every single time you hurl a brick at it.

          The blue-haired nose-ringers, on the other hand, thought that was a swell argument, because that way you can argue that every single thing you don’t like is — all together now — “just a social construction,” and so we have to scrap it. Ever read Sokal and Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense? That’s what happens when you let the face-shrapnel set get their hands on philosophy, and it’s everywhere in academia.

          Furthermore, the philosophers — the very people who should’ve damn well known better — let clowns like Michel Foucault into the guild. Foucault was originally a Historian, to what should be our everlasting shame, and he wrote exactly the kind of History you’d expect from a shaven-headed Frog who like rough gay sex — cherrypicked and tendentious when it wasn’t completely incomprehensible. Foucault should’ve been told to stick his sophomoric Nietzsche-lite act where the sun don’t shine — Foucault would’ve enjoyed it, and the world would’ve been spared a lot of grief. But the Philosophy Department let him in.

          Are they as bad as Soash, Eng. Lit., or even History? No…. but that doesn’t let the Philosophy department off the hook.

          1. MBlanc46

            Regarding Foucault: 1) It was France. 2) From what I’ve read if him (which isn’t a lot), he’s mire a historian than a philosopher in any traditional sense.

  2. Pickle Rick

    Bingo. The old school historians got into history because the men of the past we’re seen as exemplars of our culture to emulate (Washington at Trenton, etc.) and to pass on the ethos of our ancestors.

    Trigglypuff, Mo’neeshia, Shlomo, and Hajji bin Jihad hate white men and our history because it can inspire whites to greatness.

    1. Severian Post author

      To give you an example of how recently History was taken over by the Left, as recently as 2001 (!!) Joseph Ellis was benefiting from false claims that he was in combat in Vietnam. Nowadays, if you’ve got a hitch in the military on your resume and you want to do anything in college, you’d better be Bradley Manning.

  3. rwc1963

    Speaking of higher ed. Some prankster at Bates College in Maine put up flyers saying “It’s okay to be white” which set off a panic on campus and the police were called in to investigate. Police say it’s “hate speech”.

    https://bigleaguepolitics.com/another-college-freaks-out-over-its-okay-to-be-white-calls-police-and-condemns-signs/

    If this is all it takes to make those freaks and losers on campus have a panic attack and meltdown. The alt-right people ought to be flooding campuses across the country with these flyers, not to mention business cards sized ones.

  4. Dividualist

    ” 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.”

    Meaning: he will make up a lot of bullshit rules and force it on other doctors.

    “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. ”

    Meaning: they do nothing.

    Don’t you see a bit of a contradiction? Sounds like you are talking about two different things: the first guy is ambitious (for power), the second not.

    I’m a European and my generic stereotype of Americans is everybody being very ambitious for something. Dunno why. Maybe it is because they descended from people who were ambitious enough to get on a ship and cross an ocean. So maybe you mean eventually the second will be ambitious for something, make up bullshit and push it on others.

    In my neck of the woods they would be simply unambitious. They would enjoy the fun easy life with little work. They would play guitars, form hobby bands and drink a lot of beer. Troll libs on Twitter, discuss Huizinga in the pub, get into weight lifting. Which really describes some young – and conservative – historians I know.

    1. Severian Post author

      I see what you mean. Let me try it this way: The type of person I’m describing wants power, yes, but only the kind of power that comes without accountability. The petty bureaucrat who enjoys making citizens’ lives hell wouldn’t take a promotion if it were offered her, because 1) she’d have fewer people to torment (her direct underlings vs. the public at large), but also 2) because she’d be held to account. If the public complains about her, nothing will happen. If other bureaucrats complain about her, there might be consequences.

      This is why so many Leftists go into academia, but very few transition into the administration, even though that’s where the real money and influence are. In my fairly extensive experience of the university system, departments have to all but shanghai professors into serving as department chairs. They’ll happily torment students all day, and they’re always ready to run their fool mouths in public, but if they serve as department heads they’d actually have to answer to someone for something.

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