The Tribal Theory of University

Here's "Sic Temper Tyrannis" reviewing Tyler Cowen's In Praise of Commercial Culture at amazon.com:
I absolutely love this book, because it's so rare for a book written by an economist to be readable, understandable, convincing, and uplifiting (Cowen just might destroy economics' reputation as "the dismal science"). However I assigned this in a class on Art and Politics at the University of Oregon some years ago, and my students hated it. Why? Because Cowen is harshly critical of some of their ideals--that government has a responsibility to support the arts, that such support is crucial for a thriving cultural world, and that free markets are a soulless, dehumanizing, anti-creative force.
One might think that having one's views challenged is one of the things people expect from a university education. This view is naive. You had to hang out with all kinds of people in school; university is an opportunity to largely restrict social contacts to your own tribe. If you're left-leaning and don't like people in suits, take sociology; if you're one of those people, choose business, etc., etc. And then, when you thought you finally insulated yourself from the undesirables, along comes a lecturer - in Art and Politics, no less - and assigns a book by an economist arguing capitalism is a good thing. You have every right to get angry!

No comments: