Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Damn it feels good to be Professa

I love this Inside Higher Ed piece:
A blog post last week offered an unexpected idea: New Ph.D.s are behaving like those who seek to join drug gangs.
"If you take into account the risk of being shot by rival gangs, ending up in jail or being beaten up by your own hierarchy, you might wonder why anybody would work for such a low wage and at such dreadful working conditions instead of seeking employment at McDonald's. Yet, gangs have no real difficulty in recruiting new members. The reason for this is that the prospect of future wealth, rather than current income and working conditions, is the main driver for people to stay in the business: low-level drug sellers forgo current income for (uncertain) future wealth. Rank-and-file members are ready to face this risk to try to make it to the top, where life is good and money is flowing," wrote Alexandre Afonso, a lecturer in political economy at King's College London.
He cites the work of the economist Steven Levitt and the sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh in understanding drug gangs. "With a constant supply of new low-level drug sellers entering the market and ready to be exploited, drug lords can become increasingly rich without needing to distribute their wealth towards the bottom," he writes. "You have an expanding mass of rank-and-file 'outsiders' ready to forgo income for future wealth, and a small core of 'insiders' securing incomes largely at the expense of the mass. We can call it a winner-take-all market.
Then he turns to academe and finds very similar conditions. "The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders. Even if the probability that you might get shot in academia is relatively small (unless you mark student papers very harshly), one can observe similar dynamics," he writes. "Academia is only a somewhat extreme example of this trend, but it affects labor markets virtually everywhere....  Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of 'outsiders' ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail."
Academia's a tournament game.

And while it would be fun to see a 'Damn it feels good to be Professa' version of the Geto Boys...

... reality is a bit more Weird Al.

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