A Thought on Amateurism…

Arethusa considers the decline of what she calls amateurism in intellectual endeavor in recent decades — what we also might think of as the work of “independent scholars”, outside the traditional, orthodox academic setting (think Schliemann or the backyard astronomer who discovers something new Out There.) She further contends that scholarship is poorer for this lack of “outsider” perspectives, and FLG notes in the comments that these perspectives may be a strong source of surprising advances in an increasingly homogeneous intellectual world.

This led me to an observation that is about as far from new as one can get, but since I believe in eternal verities anyway, what the heck? Just as intellectual fields can stagnate in the closed circle of the academic guild system, so can the rise of the Codevillian ruling class result in a closed circle that is incapable of conceiving ideas and solutions beyond their own homogenized experiences. I would suggest that our current government’s progress from amateur citizen-legislators to mandarinate bureaucracy (No offense, O Dread One) entails a narrowing of possible perspectives that blocks out ideas that don’t come from members of the Club. (At this point, Morgan is glancing at a picture of Palin and nodding vigorously.)

Now there are some who would point out that we wouldn’t want to trust ourselves to an amateur neurosurgeon — and they would be right. However, I don’t recall a claim that neurosurgeons are supposed to represent us, so frankly I think the analogy fails. I do believe, however, that the political class has a vested interest in making what they do seem as mysterious as possible, in order to create themselves as priests of a State-as-religion, in which we are to live, move, and have our being.

I guess that makes me a heretic — but then heresy is what amateurs tend to do, until we discover like Schliemann that Troy was there all along.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Education, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Thought on Amateurism…

  1. Robbo says:

    It’s funny that you should mention this now, because not an hour ago I overheard a co-, er, mandarin fulminating against all those “stupid, amateur, house freshmen who don’t understand what the hell they’re doing or how things work.”

    I believe I would call this progress.

  2. arethusa says:

    Ooh, independent scholars. A much better term than amateur.

    As for politicians, it’s odd that the appeal of someone like Sarah Palin is often described by supporters as “s/he’s one of us,” yet to a certain sector of the voting public that is a total turn-off and occasion for snobbery.

    • profmondo says:

      It’s the term I see on nametags at Kalamazoo from time to time.

      And the depressing thing is that the snobbish types will cheerfully prostrate themselves before some bearer of their own cultural signifiers.

      • The Ancient says:

        Mondo —

        There is no place on earth more eager and willing to mark down the cultural signifiers of their colleagues than the Harvard Faculty Club.

        (OK, there’s the faculty lounge at the University of Chicago Law School, but all I know about that is hearsay.)

        P.S. I’m tempted by “independent scholar” — but I have a bit of trouble with “scholar,” which seems to give the game away. Is Robert Ballard all that different from Schliemann? Just what’s the difference between Watson and Venter? Etc.

  3. bluesun says:

    When you see how much it costs to run a campaign for national office, you realize a person’s either got to be so entrenched in the party that they have no grasp on reality, or so independently wealthy that they have no grasp on reality. Explains a lot.

  4. Paul says:

    I don’t see how amateurism necessarily connotes conservatism, let alone know-nothing-ism or anything Caribou Barbie might stand for. You might just as easily have grassroots voices coming from left of center – at least where there are any voices remaining on the left that resonate with non-urban whites (an arguable point, I suppose).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s