Sunday, March 06, 2005

Advice To An Aspiring Academic

I had a former student in mind when I read this. Max Horkheimer's admonition should be inscribed on her heart:

A revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.
(Via: Louis Proyect)


Blogger Aaron said...

I wonder if, in this admonition, Horkheimer's highly aversed with the liberating feeling progressive work can provide? I believe that that is the sole reason why progressivism still continues to thrive in the most unlikely places, in hope-forsaken places (like the Philippines). Or is he just sarcastic?

By the way, I'm curious, who's that student? Is she giving up her revolutionary ideals?

7:01 pm  
Blogger Gareth said...

Aaron, thanks for the questions. I'm not sure whether I can answer you fully. I don't take Horkheimer's views to be driven by sarcasm. He was genuinely concerned with the way in which the trappings of the academic life could seduce thinkers away from their revolutionary commitments. A little biographical note may be in order. Horkheimer had been the first Marxist to appointed to head the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research in 1930 but he was summarily kicked out by the Nazis three years later. The second part of his quote - the bit about misery, disgrace, &c. - simply reflected his treatment and experience. I believe he wrote this piece from exile in Switzerland just before his departure for the US. I don't agree with you that the academic world is the only space in which progressive forces survive (even in the Philippines). That gives too much credit and importance to people who are only too willing to take that and more besides. There are other progressive spaces but they may be outside the daily vision of all but the most committed academics. Of course, I won't answer your last question. But perhaps she equates her (diluted) version of "revolutionary" politics with the entreaties that Horkheimer lays out for us.

8:55 pm  

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