Saturday, April 21, 2012
After reading Tony Judt's classic history of Europe, Postwar, and Friedrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (in which he largely updates classic Jeffersonian arguments for smaller government to meet the rise of the authoritarian regimes of the 1930s) I decided I wanted to know a little more about communism as a separate and distinguished historical idea David Priestland's Red Flag fit the bill. Priestland begins with the French Revolution and its impact on Karl Marx. The young German carried the calls for liberty, fraternity, and equality into the economic realm. Marx produced an enormous amount of writing, which resulted in two different and largely distinct variants of communism. The younger Marx was more radical and romantic in his views of class struggle, the middle class, and effects of revolution. This romantic vision espoused democracy and freedom as the primary ideals of communism and saw revolution as a productive purge of society. In the wake of the failed revolutions of the mid-19th century, an older Marx questioned the wisdom and motives of the working and middle classes. What emerged was a more modernist and technocratic vision. Instead of rights and democracy, the modernist persuasion pursued planning. Lenin made important contributions (hence the phrase "Marxism-Leninism)to the development and emergence of communism. He espoused revolution, sharpened the divide
Sunday, April 15, 2012
I am finally getting around to the last issue of Perspectives magazine. I want to applaud AHA President William Cronon's article on Wikipedia. He argues that Wikipedia's content has improved and that it can be a worthwhile source. After all, we know our students use it despite admonitions not to. And the first result of a google search on any historical topic is usually a wikipedia entry. For some years I have been making corrections and additions to Wikipedia articles, although I must admit my contributions have been minimal. Like Cronon, I think it is better to improve the site than it is to ignore it. As professional historians I feel we have some obligation to do so. Ignoring Wikipedia or dismissing it, only sharpens the divide between the historians of the academy and the larger public who obtains some historical knowledge from this source.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The other day waiting outside the Dean's office I decided to peruse through a stack of Chronicle of Higher Education issues. I was particularly drawn to an article from March entitled "Exploding the Myth of the Aging, Unproductive Professor" by Josh Fischman. Honestly, I was a little surprised that some think of older professors as unproductive. They have much more time to devote to producing scholarship than the younger members of the department. A late 30s or early 40s professor is likely to have young children, a heavy teaching load, and departmental or university obligations. A professor in the late 60s or early 70s will likely have grown children, a reduced teaching load, and maybe fewer departmental or university obligations. What truly stunned me in the article, though, was this idea of staged retirement. Meaning that professors have a staged 5-8 year step-down plan. It seems that the aging baby boom professoriate just cannot let go of their jobs and sense of purpose. Personally, I wish they would step aside and create some jobs for the younger members of the profession, like me!