Wednesday, 18 March 2009

From legislators to interpreters......

And here is a wonderful supplement to my previous post regarding the changing contexts of academic labour:

"Zygmunt Bauman’s discussion of the rise and decline of the “legislator intellectual” is of crucial importance here. Bauman connects the value of “culture” to the role of intellectuals in legitimating the power of the early modern and modern nation state. The value of culture, the notion that to be fully human meant to be cultured or cultivated, was tied to the way in which the emergence of the modern state involved the replacement of traditional forms of solidarity with centralized social control. It was in this context of the rise of the nation state that Bauman locates the legislator intellectual. Intellectuals, as guardians of “culture,” played a crucial role in legitimizing these new forms of social control and political-cultural identity. Bauman writes: “The intellectual ideology of culture was launched as a militant, uncompromising and self-confident manifesto of universally binding principles of social organization and individual conduct.” The legislator intellectual played a role in defining and asserting the superiority of the national culture, and thereby in legitimizing the power of the nation state. Bauman argues, however, that this role of the legislator intellectual has declined as national culture has been replaced by the market as the central ordering principle of modern societies. “More and more,” he argues, “the culture of consumer society was subordinated to the function of producing and reproducing skilful and eager consumers, rather than obedient and willing subjects to the state.” In consumerism, normative regulation through the nation state is replaced with seduction through the market and the commodity spectacle.
In this context, intellectuals are no longer looked to as “legislators” of cultural values. Instead, they become “interpreters”: “from the perspective of the present-day intellectuals, culture does not appear as something to be ‘made’ or ‘remade’ as an object for practice; it is indeed a reality in its own right and beyond control, an object for study, something to be mastered only cognitively, as a meaning, and not practically, as a task.” The task of creating culture has shifted from intellectuals to the media and other purveyors of mass entertainment and mass consumption. This context provides little rationale for the maintenance of the university apart from the market as a source of high-cultural values.
However, Bauman’s analysis of the importance of the rise of consumer society needs to be supplemented with an account of the relationship of intellectuals to global politics....."

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