On professionalization

I have said it before but it bears emphasizing: when I write my academic advice book, if I ever do, it will not take as its point of departure the idea that the reader lacks discipline or does not know how to work. My book will not be a self-improvement book. It will be about pleasure and gathering information and making informed decisions.

Meanwhile I learned from Facebook that academic career success is now defined as having a patchwork of adjunct jobs, and that professors actually promote this vision. Who is calling deprofessionalization, career success?

It does occur to me, though, that perhaps the reason the adjuncts and post-acs are as convinced they must stay in academia as they appear to be, is the “professionalization” that was brought in in the 1980s as part of graduate training. I know from my experience that once you go on the job market, you get a lot of pressure from everyone you know to only consider academic jobs. But I did not get that from graduate school, and now apparently many do.

Did “professionalization” (I am not sure what it was) mean having a certain kind of Kool-Aid forced down your throat earlier? Of course it does, and we have discussed this before.

There’s something really insidious about “professionalization”–professionals not only get paid for what they do, they so often have to BELIEVE in it also, and that belief ends up making them defend the system and the status quo. (Virginia Woolf brilliantly points out the dangers of this for women in “Three Guineas.”) A lot of so-called “working” people might believe in what they do, but just as many are realists–we work to get paid, end of discussion. It’s not about who we are, not about having a “career” or being famous, it’s about needing to survive, and what work we can get that will enable us to do that. That, I believe, is a key factor in assimilation (or the failure thereof), and why it is that the women whose writing doesn’t rock the boat much in the first place are the ones who get these kinds of offers–the recent situation of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan comes to mind as well.


One thought on “On professionalization

  1. Also in my advice book: people should seek pleasure and self determination, and believe in their projects. As opposed to require discipline and second guess themselves, watch their backs and figure out what orders to take.

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