Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Small World

Conservative commentator Roger Scruton writing in the American Spectator proves that sometimes the enemy gets it right in spite of itself.

"Scholarship is its own purpose, and it consists in continually adding to the libraries from which it feeds. Much of the result is unreadable; most of it is unread. But the process goes on, since it is well funded by those awe-inspired students, some of whom will detach themselves in due course from the milling crowd of spectators and join the ranks of the scholarly elect. A modern university could be compared to an ant-heap, in which the library is queen, her swollen body constantly enlarged by the fertile scholars that cling to her, and surrounded and protected by the sterile bands of student soldiers.

Activities insulated from the surrounding world, with no purpose other than themselves, may seem to have no economic function. However, as Veblen saw, that is to take too narrow a view of human life. In its own way, the purposeless is functional. Middle-class parents, whose children provide the running costs of scholarship, are compelled by the high tuition fees to work harder, just at the moment when they might have retired. In this way scholarship ensures that the managers, consultants, advertisers, and media specialists, who are the primary source of the fictions on which the modern economy feeds, go on producing at full throttle.

Meanwhile their children, sustained in the amniotic fluid of academic life, are learning to delay the moment of engagement. By remaining distracted throughout those years in which energy, ambition, and creativity might otherwise search for a real target, they are preparing themselves for their forthcoming life among fictions. Nothing would be more damaging to the economy than the entry of young people with ideals and a desire to be useful. The young must therefore be provided at this most dangerous age with a spectacle, one in which they cannot join, but which awes them with its arcane and seemingly functionless perfection. After three or four years of this, they lose the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, and go with a subdued but resigned awareness into the labyrinth where images trade for images, and dreams for dreams."

Sounds like someone's been reading the Situationists with his sherry.

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