Is Japan abolishing social sciences and humanities departments?

It’s now being widely reported in Western mass media that Japan is abolishing its social sciences and humanities departments. I am not actually annoyed by these reports, because in this instance the Japanese media have done no better. Here’s the Yomiuri Shinbun attempting to explain:

The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a survey among the presidents of all 86 national universities across the nation to ask about their faculty reform and abolition plans as of the end of July, and how they reacted to the education ministry’s notice. The Yomiuri received responses from 81 universities.

Of the 60 universities with humanities and social science faculties, 58 responded to the survey and 26 said they had plans to abolish such faculties or convert them to other fields.

Of the 26 universities, 17 plan to stop recruiting students for these departments, which contain at least 1,300 students.

Many universities plan to abolish “no-certificate” courses that do not require students to obtain a teaching certificate in their teacher training faculty and allocate their existing quota to newly established faculties.

There’s a lot of stuff making this report confusing, so here’s a full rundown.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: September 23rd, 2015 | Academic mumbo jumbo

Herbert Marcuse: The original Tumblard

Case Zero of the Internet’s atheist, leftist, cult-crit zombie horde appears to be this New Leftist Marcuse, now forgotten outside of leftist circles, whose biography from Main Currents Of Marxism: Volume III, The Breakdown I now excerpt.

Marcuse is generally considered as a member of the Frankfurt school, to which he is linked by his negative dialectic and faith in the transcendental norms of rationality.

Marcuse’s interpretation of Hegel is almost exactly the same as that of the Young Hegelians attacked by Marx. Hegel is presented simply as the advocate of supra-historical reason, evaluating facts by its own criteria. We have seen more than once how ambiguous Hegel’s thought is in this respect; but it is a parody of his ideas to ignore the anti-utopian strain completely and reduce his doctrine to a belief in transcendental reason telling men how to achieve ‘happiness’. In addition, it is more than misleading to depict Marx as a philosopher who transferred the categories of Hegelian logic into the realm of politics. Marcuse’s argument ignores all the essential features of Marx’s critique of Hegel and of the Hegelian Left.

Marcuse … is interested in society chiefly in so far as it constitutes a barrier to instinct, i.e. to individual satisfaction. He seems to believe that as all questions of material existence have been solved, moral commands and prohibitions are no longer relevant. Thus when Jerry Rubin, the American hippie ideologist, says in his book that machines will henceforth do all the work and leave people free to copulate whenever and wherever they like, he is expressing, albeit in a primitive and juvenile way, the true essence of Marcuse’s Utopia. As to Marcuse’s qualifications of the notion of eroticism, they are too vague to convey any tangible meaning. What could the eroticization of the whole man signify, except his complete absorption in sensual pleasures?

I find this last point quite interesting: Marcuse’s theory arises out of the oil bubble and will vanish with the return of scarcity. The Tumblards may therefore be safely ignored.

I will close this short entry with the final lines of Christopher Hitchens’ God is not Great:

Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman. … Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse.

Posted: July 26th, 2012 | Academic mumbo jumbo 1 Comment »

Things I Don’t Understand: Foucault

So, this Continental philosopher writes a reading of the universe, and it syncs up to modernity. He says stuff like that everything is just a play for political power, but he doesn’t back this up with definite evidence, which is sensible enough because it is a metaphysical principle and not a scientific claim. Some of what he says, for example on madness, is merely a repetition of G.K. Chesterton, but he adds a tone of suspicion that makes a perfect fit for the academic culture of critique.

He uses some examples but they are clearly symbols, for example, the Panopticon was a mere idea that never got built. If you wanted to write an anti-Foucault you would do very well to start with the everyday image of a guard rounding a blind corner in an ordinary prison. His premodern historical examples have been shown to be rubbish. Anyway, the plural of anecdote is not evidence.

This metaphysical theory of modernity is then claimed to be the basis of everything that ever happened in history. Well, maybe not everyone considers Foucault specifically when they are rewriting a medieval church-state dispute to claim that nothing was incarnate in the actors for the church or the state except selfish greed, but if they run into a conflicting theory written by someone who claims the church had higher goals in mind (this would have to be a very brave academic these days), they will laugh at them and remind them that Foucault “proved” all of this wrong.

Foucault did not “prove” anything, any more than the Bible “proves” that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Like Foucault, the Bible is a testimony and not an evidence, and the only difference between Foucault and the Bible is that you can believe in the Bible and be happy and content with what life gives you.

But maybe I just don’t understand Foucault.

Posted: July 24th, 2012 | Academic mumbo jumbo 1 Comment »