Last night, at The New School for Social Research convocation, I used the occasion of introducing the graduating MAs and PhDs in sociology to reflect on the dangers of market fundamentalism on universities and on the important resistance of our graduates :
Looking at the big picture, it is easy to be cynical about the life of the mind at this moment in history, dominated as it is by the logic of the bottom line. Market fundamentalism prevails, apparently even in the activities of the university, even in the assessment of advanced studies.
We have attempts to objectively assess course objectives and educational impacts.
We have a tenure review system that uses quantitative measures in determining scholarly impacts. It has become not a matter of what you publish. But where you publish, and how often that determines, the fate of scholars and scholarship. Judgment has been outsourced (thankfully this doesn’t happen at The New School)
We have public figures, including those that I generally support, who too quickly identify education and scholarship with vocational training, and would link public support with job placement. It is important to prepare for a job, but institutions of higher learning have to do more than that.
And this anti-intellectualism is not only in America. It is a global phenomenon, I fear.
Yet, sometimes, I think, as many of you know, that it is not the big, but the little picture and its relatively small things, that reveals the most important story, and where critique and hope can be found. The persistence of life of the mind is in the work and achievements of individual scholars working together, in small corners of the big world.
We are in such a small corner this evening. In this extraordinary room, we celebrate extraordinary scholars who work against the current, in the great tradition of The New School for Social Research. I know these graduates in sociology (and many in the other departments). I have learned from them and I thank them for that, and I have hope.
As these sociology graduates have attended classes, written term papers, taken exams and embarked on original research, “the living spirit” -the motto of the New School for Social Research since the time that Thomas Mann spoke at our convocation exercises of 1937) – this spirit is alive and well in their work, tonight commemorated in their being awarded the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
Through these graduates, we, I, understand the world as it has been and as it could be. We can know more about the pressing problems of our times and enduring problems of the human condition, despite global anti-intellectualism. Listen (examine the list below) to the titles of the dissertations and take note. Realize that our MA graduates have been no less intellectually bold and inventive in their work, with very special insights. I could name names and topics and insights, but time won’t permit that.
I can note, though, that tonight for me, it is hard to be cynical and I thank and congratulate these graduates for making it so. And with this in mind, it is my honor to present to you the sociology candidates for the degrees of Masters of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy.
Veronica Alfaro Ahumada, Collective Action and Social Movements in Cyberspace: Contentious Practices of Silence, Disruption and Acting in Concert
Maria Cabrera, Dressed for the Party: The Politics of Fashion in Socialist Cuba
Vincent Carducci, The Art of the Common: Envisioniing Real Utopias in Postindustrial Detroit
Kumiko Endo, Risk-aversion Passivity and Proactive Valuing of Human Connectivity: Divergent Behaviors among Singles amidst Mariage Postponement and the Declining Birthrate in Japan
Carol Garza, The Suppression of the Black Press by Local, State and Federal Governements, the FBI and Black Informants: 1950 -1980
Sebastian Gabriel Guzman Rivera, To Pay or To Protest: Consent and Resistance in Social Housing Debt in Chile
Nahed Habiballah, Aliens in their Own Land: A Sociological Analysis of the Lives of Palestinians in East Jerusalem
Aron Hsiao, The Social Interface: Technology Beyond Production, Consumption and Mediation
Esther Kreider – Verhalle, Democratic Values in Russian Society: A Study of Political Deliberations in the Media, 2008-2010
Despina Lalaki, Digging for Democracy in Greece: Intra-Civilizational Processes During the American Century
Atsuko Nakajima, Hijikata Tatsumi, Butch Networks, and Collective Identities in 1960s Japan
Daniel Sherwood, Civic Struggles: Jews. Blacks and the Question of Inclusion at the City College of New York, 1930-1975
Valerie Small, Navigating Biographies through Space, the 21st Century Church and the LGBTQ-S Community Bridging the Gap
Sanja Trpkovic, Sensual Soiree: Regulated Sensual Freedom