Albanian Blood Revenge

When Killing is a crime

(Extract from When Killing is a Crime (2007) by Tony Waters.  Lynne Rienner Publishers)

During the early 20th century, the small Balkan country of Albania was a remote corner of the Ottoman Empire, a principality ruled by a warlord king after World War I, and occupied by Italy during World War II. For most of the century it was a reclusive Stalinist state sealed off from the rest of the world, and ruled by one of the most severe, controlling, and totalitarian governments. Since 1991 Albania has become an anarchic state, in which the government lost legitimacy, and a range of mafias, clans, and businesspeople assumed control. It is an unusually good place to illustrate the range of roles the state plays in state violence and control. Principles dealing with the role of legitimated third parties, and the threat of totalitarian violence are well illustrated.

As is the case in many places where the government is weak, extra-governmental institutions emerged in Albania. These include norms and rules to both further peaceful relations between groups, and provide compensation or justice when an offense occurs. The kanun of Albania is a code of traditional rules for feuding, which are contained in books and oral traditions. But there are no courts for the kanun; each side in a dispute is left to evaluate the rights and the wrongs visited upon them. This system is inherently imperfect, and as a result each clan traditionally had a three-story stone tower known as a kula to which the men would retreat when a dispute was unsettled. There, they were “locked” meaning that they could be killed if the offended party encountered them. By the 1990s, the kula towers were gone, but the members of the clan against which there is a kanun declared are effectively “locked” and either restricted their movements or risked death. Even in the 1990s, wandering about in town can be a fatal mistake, as will be described below. As a result, the men restrict their movements to areas where in-coming paths can be easily monitored.

Scott Anderson (1999) described the murder of Shtjefen Lamthi, on a street of Shkoder, Albania in 1998. Some 200 people witnessed the killing in which Leka Rrushkadolis pumped 31 bullets into Lamthi, in retaliation for the killing of his father by Lamthi’s father in 1985. No one cooperated with the police to make an arrest even though the identity of the killer was well-known. Indeed, the identity of the killer was so well known that Anderson, a foreign reporter, was eventually able to find and interview the killer, and publish his pictures in the New York Times Magazine. What Anderson found was that death delivered on the open street to people like Lamthi, had its origins in a modern kanun. As will be described below, the sharpness and lethality of such a feud is related to the weakness of the 1990s Albanian government, and its inability to assert a legitimated monopoly over the use of coercive force. In the absence of such a monopoly, the lips of potential witnesses were sealed because they fear the courts could not protect them from revenge attacks.

An Albanian Feud: The Kanun

The kanun killing of Shjtefen Lamthi had its origins during the Communist period when state control was strong. Lamthi’s father, Preka Lamthi, was an official in the government. One day in 1985, Noue Rrushkadoli, a neighbor and fellow member of the Communist Party, visited to play cards and drink raki at his friend’s house. There was a lot of drinking, and Noue, who was known for his temper, ended up turning over the table of his host, a particularly strong Albanian insult. Preka, the elder Lamthi, ordered him out of the house, but Noue Rrushakadoli responded by attacking Lamthi’s son Shtejfen, stabbing him six times. Following this, someone—it is not clear who—stabbed Noue. The knife hit his heart, and he died.

A government inquest into the death of Noue Rrushakadolis decided that whoever held the knife, the killing was in self-defense. No case was prosecuted, and Shjtefen survived. Noue’s sons Leka and Angelo Rrushakadolis, quietly nursed their grudge, wary of a man they perceived to be a powerful government official of an all-powerful state. The practice of blood vengeance had been effectively stamped out by the Communist government, which ruled with an iron fist between 1945 and 1991. Indeed, the penalty for a kanun-based attack was that the perpetrator was buried alive with his victim.

In 1988, with the control of the Communist party slipping in Albania, Leka Rrushakadoli made his first attack, stabbing Preka Lamthi in one of the town lanes. In response, the two families became wary of each other, even while Albania was changing quickly. Both families moved to a new town, and entered the new free-wheeling capitalist economy. Then, in 1997, the economy collapsed, and Leka began to nurse his old grudge against the Lamthi family. He bought a Kalashnikov automatic weapon, and waited. Shtejfen crossed his path on August 3, 1998, and Leka shot him in the marketplace. From the Rrushakadoli perspective, the score was now even, but they knew that the Lamthi family would seek revenge. As a result, all of the males of the Rrushakadoli family found themselves “locked,” afraid to be seen in public. One member of the Rrushakadoli family who had emigrated to Canada ten years previously, and returned found himself “locked” and unable to return to Canada.

Assessing the Kanun of the Lamthi and Rrushakadoi Families

In 1999 when Anderson wrote, the score was one Lamthi and one Rrushakadoli. But both clans still felt wronged. The end result of Noue Rrushakadoli’s 1985 death was a feud in which 14 years later, two entire clans had removed themselves from the broader community, afraid to move about, or engage in other types of normal social and economic activity. But this was not an inevitable result. Examples of the “what ifs” in this situation highlight some of the broader social conditions that led to the murder of Noue Rrushakadoli in 1985 becoming framed as part of a kanun, and not another way. For example:

What if the death of Noue Rrushakadoli had occurred in 1955 instead of 1985? The strong Communist government would have effectively stopped Noue’s sons from responding. In the event that a revenge killing had occurred, the all-powerful Communist government would have stepped in, buried Leka with Shtejfan, and that the feud would not have gone further.

What if there had been a more powerful government installed in Albania in the 1990s, as indeed there was in a number of ex-Communist countries at that time? Preka Lamthi (or whoever held the knife that killed Noue) might have been tried for manslaughter, sentenced to prison for a few years, and the passions of the Rrushakadoli sons cooled. Alternatively, if the central government had been more powerful, they would not have been hesitant about arresting Leka Rrushakadoli, after he fell from grace, and perhaps try him for the crime.

What if the Albanian economy had boomed, and all had held good jobs? Would the Rrushakadoli’s minds have turned to revenge? Even had Leka killed Shtejfen, perhaps his family have turned on him, and handed him over to the police, so that they could get back to the business of prosperity?

The biggest What If? question is about the role that revival of traditions like kanun play in the assertion of what is right, wrong, and moral in a society undergoing rapid social change. Following the collapse of any established order, a new one emerges. This is inevitably contested, as the society struggles to establish new norms for understanding itself. The attempt to assert (or reassert) an old tradition like kanun becomes a potent tool to define who is part of whatever group is emerging, and who is not.

 

Further Reading

Anderson, Scott (1999). “The Curse of Blood and Violence.” The New York Times Magazine, December 26, 1999.

 

The Rochambo of Paradox, Conundrums, Dilemmas, and School Bureaucracies

The below is pp. 185-186 (Chapter 9) of my book Schooling, Childhood, and Bureaucracy: Bureaucratizing the Child. Other extracts can be read here at Ethnography.com

here, (Leaky First Graders, etc.)

here, (How the Rich Educate their Children: A Swiss Hogwarts)

and here. (Children as Raw Material on the Bureaucratic Assembly Line)

Or better yet, you can ask your library to get you a copy, hopefully by getting them to buy a hardcover copy from my publisher, or a used copy from Amazon.com. If you could also send an email to the publisher urging them to issue a cheap soft cover version, that would be appreciated, too.  In either case, I really hope that more people will buy it—besides the fact that I get a 2% (two percent) cut of net revenues, I really like it when people read my books!

Schooling Childhood Cover

The Limits of the Modern American School: Rock, Paper, Scissors

Bureaucracies, while well suited to deal with matters of the rational mind that pragmatic American habitus celebrates, are in fact ill-suited for matters of the heart. Thus, bureaucracies created to undertake the tasks bump up against the three values identified long ago by de Tocqueville and that are at the heart of many continuing American dilemmas. These include first the dialectical tensions over equality, individual rights, and utilitarianism.

They are the rock, paper, scissors of the American educational system. This chapter is about how this game of rochambo is played out in recent decades. In describing the swings, I will move between demands

to eliminate the inequalities of race and poverty, protection of individual rights, and most recently, the appeal to business ethics in the administration of education programs. Three examples will illustrate the dissonance between these three values: The persistence of inequality, the persistence of radical individualism, and the persistent connection between education and business practice.

Paradoxes, conundrums, and dilemmas underlie the cultural habitus of the American school that drives the dreams of parents, teachers, administrators, and ultimately children. But the experimentation that began in the nineteenth century and was designed to lead to an ever more perfect school system, ultimately has practical limits rooted in the nature of its Schooling, Childhood, and Bureaucracy intertwined habitus. And this is where limits to how egalitarian, how individualistic and how efficiently schools can be managed. Because schools ultimately seek to provide equality in a society that is not equal, individuality in an environment that is group focused, and efficiency in an institution in which inputs be controlled, the product defined, nor flawed goods discarded

In the case of the American school, the limits are most identifiable when institutions bump up against the underpinnings that form the habitus of thought and deed of both individual and the society they create. In the United States, these limits are found particularly in how schools continue to wrestle with the most salient features of American society and how it views its children. Prominent is the persistence of inequality rooted in both socioeconomics and race and the preservation these contradictions in the context of American-style business models; oddly enough, this happens in the context of an insistence on the uniqueness and rights of every individual child to seek their own potential. And so like a rochambo game of rock, paper, scissors, one wins and one loses, but the game never really stops. Egalitarianism individualism, and utilitarianism echo through the schools, pushing each other aside, but only temporarily.

Thus when a school becomes more egalitarian, it loses its capacity to recognize individual differences, as indeed happened in the 1980s. When it focuses on pragmatic service to the business community it tends toward inequality, which is what happened as millions of immigrants, African Americans, and others were sorted and tracked into vocational tracks during the twentieth century. And when a school begins to respond to individual needs, it becomes less efficient, and given the inequality in the American social system, it advantages the rich. In other words, over the decades, the American school system has played a game of rochambo as the tensions between the habitus of egalitarianism, utility, and individualism play themselves out.

Why isn’t ethnography.com more focused on ethnography? Um, ‘cause I don’t feel like it.

I like to use the categories on our homepage to surf through old posts, looking for oldies but goodies to re-post on slow days. I also like to read and think about anthropology and sociology and I can count on finding something here to get my mental juices flowing. And like Mark describes below, I like to think about social science in terms of strategy and innovation. I think that if you want to make it as an anthropologist or sociologist outside of academia, you have to adopt a “broader and more holistic approach” to ethnographic work. A couple of years ago I read an article in The Atlantic titled, “Anthropology Inc.” and it changed the way I thought about doing social science. Click the highlighted link in the previous sentence but make sure you read what Mark has to say below.

Originally published by our founder Mark Dawson in July 2007.

A friend asked me how many people regularly read this blog. Well, not a lot. There is a good reason for this. I have owned the domain ethnography.com for about a decade, as well as several other anthropology related domains. On the other hand, while I am an ethnographer, my professional life is focused on the strategy and innovation, of which ethnography is just one of the tools in my toolbox. This blog is not unlike having a big sign outside your store that says “Motorcycle Repair” and wondering why no one is popping in to order a pizza

If you are looking for information about Kula rings, Margaret Mead, Structuralism and the Yanamamo, let me please point you to Wikipedia.com. For basic social science information, its pretty good. If you want to learn how to make a living an anthropologist, then this is the blog for you!

See, all of these entries are about culture in some way. What draws companies to bring anthropologists into the fold is the belief anthropologists take a broader and more holistic approach to understanding both customers and themselves.

So this bog is about strategy, innovation and people that say interesting things about those topics from an anthropologists point of view. -M.D.

 

Classism in Academia

Next week, I’ll be posting part three of my blog on corporatocracy and the McDonaldization of work in higher education. In part 3 I’ll be talking about what happens among academic workers when their work becomes corporatized and dehumanized. My focus will be on workplace bullying and hostile academic work environments.

Before I do that however, it seems only fair that in this second installment, I share my experience with academic bullying and classism/sexism. I wrote this piece a couple of months after quitting academia, when I was working through feelings and coming to grips with what I thought academia was and what it actually is. This was originally published by my friends at Class Action in September 2012.

Classism in Academia

A little over two years ago, a student called me a ‘cunt’ in front of 38 other students. My academic employer did little to protect me and allowed a local, “progressive” paper to attack me in a newspaper/Internet article. I believe this had everything to do with my being a popular but adjunct, community college teacher (earning about $18,000 per year). I didn’t know it at the time, but the clock was ticking on my professional career.

The article from the newspaper has haunted my professional life. Last year, a potential client backed out of hiring me for a professional development training, citing a comment at the end of the article that he’d read after Googling me, a threatening comment (written by a tenured colleague) about my credibility as a professional. He said he could not take the risk with me. And, because of how academia works, with its rigid hierarchies and polite wars, I quit after six years and am likely not to teach again. In academia, classism works like this–once tainted, always fouled.

I made a choice; I quit adjuncting because I was experiencing class-based bullying. My life on campus post-newspaper article was awful, every semester a copy of the article found its way to the desk of my shared office and on two occasions, my campus mailbox, and once last spring, placed under the windshield wiper of my Subaru. Every semester after, students wondered why in the hell I hadn’t responded and told “my side of the story,” not understanding the gag the college put over my mouth. I also couldn’t get outside work anymore, which was how I paid for the extra costs of teaching and advising a student club. The comments in the article made me look “unprofessional,” which is a middle class euphemism for “you have no class.” A whopping dose of personal trauma enabled me to see academia for what it is–a bad fit for a working class woman like me.

I need to be honest though, I miss teaching. That’s the complication working class people like me often face, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” The semester started up again August 20and I fell into two weeks of deep depression that I’m barely recovered from, except to say that thinking my life is over professionally has waned into an understanding of the pain. The pain I went through in academia, (first as a working class student and later, adjunct working class faculty) and the pain I denied to myself to the point of exhaustion. This summer was a reprieve but school starting took me all the way back to the beginning six years before I started teaching, when I was a 33 year old college junior, first-generation failures lined up like notches on a belt but earnest as fuck and ready to prove myself.

The blows came early in my student career, a feminist, working class prof praising me for returning to school because it was a good place for working class women escaping an abusive marriage. Of course, I fit her class stereotype, a fat re-entry student, a grown woman afflicted with the use of slang and cuss words, and so wanting to please and be respectful, using “Dr.” even when they said to call them by their first names. Later, my MA thesis chair would fill me in on how my marriage was doomed to fail with each passing year of educational attainment because working class men like my husband, “can’t handle it when their wives get an education.” It happened to her.

After I got the job, I got shit from men teachers too, but it was shit that was familiar, me being a working class woman. It was also less indirect shit, more outright challenges to my knowledge (to the fellas I was “opinionated”) and in regards to my teaching, (I was “easy” because students liked me, I was trying to be their “friend”). In professional settings however, sexism and classism often become intertwined and I became a target for a tenured, male teacher in my area, once popular but now in competition with me a woman, and adjunct faculty. My work life became a special kind of hell when he became my department chair in 2010. To my misfortune, he met with the student who called me a “cunt,” revealing to me in a campus email the next day that the student “seemed reasonable to him,” case closed. It was humiliating.

A year ago, I thought that I had proof of the bullying at last; a friend alerted me that there was a new and threatening personal comment following the newspaper article on the Internet. I was thinking of quitting at that time but worried about my future in academia (and future employment) and brought the comment to the attention of human resources (H.R.). Yes, H.R. said, it was definitely written by a colleague “from within” (validation at last!); but no, there isn’t anything we can do about it and that I “shouldn’t take it personally.” If you are working class, you might understand the deep sense of betrayal I felt, work is never just a job to me, and it is personal.

Teaching was good for a long time and I was a good teacher, I had the stuff and got recognition for it.  Nonetheless, power is central in academic culture, and in a community college where the stakes are small, power is the result of position and status with others, especially amongst faculty. I became a target for being outspoken about social inequality but mostly because I was an adjunct faculty who didn’t know her place and had the gall to allow students to call her “professor.” In spite of doing my best to make a good case with H.R., class-based discrimination isn’t recognized and in my situation, questioned and then demonized; I was sensitive and paranoid, not bullied.

The upside is the lessons I learned and that I’m feeling better with time and perspective. I believed academia to be a little too perfect; an intellectual utopia of egalitarianism and that was my bad. Academia with its hierarchies and rampant personality politics are a bizarro, grown-up version of high school where all the smart, wealthy kids are in charge. I loved teaching, but I’d been bullied and wrung out like a dirty wash cloth; call me chickenshit ‘cause I’ll tell you, the job nearly killed me and quitting was tough but it saved my life.

BSU-Shades of Success Conference
The author and the students she advised and worked with in the Black Student Union at Butte Community College

How Class Differences Shape Love and Marriage

I just ordered and am very excited to soon be reading, The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages by Jessi Streib. Books about marriage are plentiful but an ethnographic account of cross-class marriages is something new. If you click this link, it will direct you to a Washington Post article written by Streib that gives you a taste of what the book is about.

Couples argue about money, sex, and housework most frequently but class differences are sure to affect those variables. Indeed, Streib describes that in the case of her couples, class was about money but so much more about class culture, how to spend leisure time, manage home maintenance, and “even how to talk about their feelings.”

I grew up working class and so did my husband. This June we’ll be married 21 years, we met each other in our mutually impoverished early 20’s. We have some class differences—his family is conservative, religious and more settled, mine more hard-living democrats, I have three other siblings and we each have different fathers. So, we’ve had a few conflicts around risk taking but for the most part, I think it’s been easier for us because we both grew up working class and were better able to climb the ladder together (and that includes two sets of student loans). We are economically middle class but in sync about how we like to spend leisure time (outdoors), manage home maintenance (do-it-yourself), and talk about our feelings (express freely, brutal honesty). Before hearing about Streib’s book, I hadn’t thought past the money part of cross-class relationships.

I’m curious what Streib’s overall point will be. In the opinion piece she wrote she mentions that “the opportunity to marry — or even meet — someone of a different class is disappearing” and that inter-class marriages will become less likely. It’s the way economic conditions can shrink our world’s and give us less opportunity to encounter difference, and maybe find love.

June 24 1994
Author and her husband Larry waiting for the Justice of the Peace on their wedding day in Redding, CA in 1994.

Corporatocracy and the McDonaldization of Work in Higher Education

In the fifth segment of the fantastic book Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell paints a picture of a future in “Corprocratic” (and post-apocalyptic) Neo Seoul, where its bored, spoiled citizens thrive on gallerias and franchises and are legally required to consume products. In Mitchell’s rationalized future, a surplus of deskilled “fabricants” perform the grunt labor of everyday low-wage work. Except for one, Somni-451.

After escaping the drudgery of her job as part of a disposable workforce at “Papa Song’s” (a McDonald’s stand-in), Somni goes on a journey. In the process of gaining her freedom from her fabricant existence, she begins a clandestine education available only to “pureblood’s” who are enrolled in university and have access to “upstrata corpocracy schooling,” which “the upper-class use to teach themselves anything and everything.”

I don’t want to spoil the story, the main reason I mention it is because Mitchell’s fictional “corpocracy” provides a glimpse into a post-modern corporatocracy like here in the U.S. A corporatocracy is a political and economic system that is run by corporations and corporate interests. In this view, inequality is a product of several things but especially globalization (and its weakening of worker rights) and big money in politics. In our “corpocracy,” the problem is corporations more than capitalism. C. Wright Mills talked about rule by the Power Elite, he was right, corporations, and their people are who rule the United States, politicians are part of it, but corporatocracy is more about money and big business. If you want, you can connect those dots and see who the power elite are currently by clicking on the link for They Rule here.

Banksy McDonalds
Banksy McDonalds

I’ve spent the last several weeks on the road, busy giving diversity trainings, and doing other work but I’ve been thinking about workers and how the corporatization of work—McDonaldization—affects them. Giving diversity trainings is rational after all, it allows a human resource employee to check off a box and efficiently and predictably fulfill some state requirement.

Back in January, Marianne Paiva wrote about Ritzer’s theory and the McDonaldization of higher education. About how President Obama’s initiative to provide 2 years free community college would only serve to increase the rationalization of higher education. Kiss liberal arts and critical thinking goodbye, and say hello to more assessment, obsession with student learning outcomes over analysis, and quickie degrees that serve the bottom line of the higher ed corpocracy. McDonaldization makes a degree of sense if you’re an entrepreneur selling a product, not so much if your product is an intangible and abstract service, such as education.

I saw the McDonaldization problem in higher ed about a year into adjuncting at Butte Community College in Oroville, CA. Being the go-getter that I was (and coming from private industry where that is expected), I volunteered for committees and other tasks and didn’t worry about being paid for my service, I was certain it would pay off. And in a way, it did. I blended in and observed and that afforded me a glimpse into how the full-time employees perceived adjunct teachers, student interns, and staff. It also showed me how administrators and tenured profs benefit from low wage adjuncts while at the same time, bad-mouthing and blaming these same teachers for “poor student learning outcomes” (e.g., grades, retention, and persistence to graduation or transfer to four-year schools).

In 2011 I wrote, “How Working at a Community College is Like Working Retail.” Since then, other writers have jumped on board and compared adjuncting to fast food work, working at Wal-Mart, and even slavery (which it is not). What’s really happened is that work in higher education has been McDonaldized from the student/intern level all the way up to administration. If McDonaldization hurts students and compromises learning what about workers in higher education, what does it do to them?

One of the main similarities between adjuncting and low wage service work (fast food, retail) is the precarious nature of the job (at-will employment) and the fact that workers, once employed, are stuck in the work-debt cycle of corpocratocracy. That is, not making quite enough money to live on and going into debt or getting behind financially in other ways in order to fill the gaps between paychecks. The same is true for temporary or contract-based staff positions; some of these folk might make a living wage ($15 an hr) but they work part-time and many end up having to reapply for their jobs when the contract ends. The “good jobs” in higher ed, the one’s with security, higher wages, and benefits are scarcer than ever these days, those are the full-time permanent staff positions, the tenure track, and administrative work. Administrators are often at-will but the pay is astronomical and it’s rare for admins to be de-throned, when they are, they are usually shipped off to another institution and another sweet deal.

McDonaldization and the corporatization of higher education have made it possible to educate more students than ever before but there has been a cost to its workers. Whereas working at a college was once a good job infused with moral value, it is now not much different from any other kind of service work that is guided by bureaucratic, pseudo-corporate values. We all used to make fun of dehumanized DMV workers but we might just have become them and here’s why:

Efficiency

As I’ve said before, labor is the big operational cost for any business, and colleges and universities are stream lining labor and saving money by hiring temporary staff, temporary faculty, and using non-unionized student labor. Though not entirely predictable (more on that in part two), employers count on these workers to provide efficient, rationalized labor and task completion. For a business, this is a matter of resource allocation; adjuncts, temporary staff, and student employees are cheap and provide additional funds for the ballooning of admin positions at inflated wages. If you’ve read Piketty’s Capital (I’m in the middle of it), it seems akin to the CEO phenomenon during the Reagan era. The more power admins got, the more they wanted and the more the institutions started looking to become efficient and focused on products they could sell.

Calculability

Of course, colleges and universities don’t just provide education anymore. There are any number of services for students and their families to choose from when they are looking at where to get their education. When I was a student at CSU, Chico I thought it was a great deal to be able to pay fees and use the student health center, it actually saved me money and I received excellent healthcare. A look at the Chico State Student Services link today gets me a long menu of options and opportunities, a focus on quantity. What I see when I look at that menu is staffing. Who works in these jobs, are they permanent, do they pay well, and provide benefits? Does this affect faculty; has the increase in staff and admin positions increased the reliance on adjunct faculty and decreased tenure track positions? Are schools trying to offer too much so they can increase their customer base?

Predictability

The intent of these measures is to increase the predictability of outcomes for the business. In higher education, this is where McDonaldization is actually failing. Unlike at Barnes and Noble (which sells way more stuff than books these days), being more efficient and calculable might be hurting colleges and universities or at the very least, doing nothing at all. After all the recreation and wellness centers, the vice-vice president positions, and every service you can imagine, the increased costs in overhead have not led to a predictable rise in graduation rates. U.S. Department of Education figures show that since 2002, the number of students who earn a Bachelor’s in six years time has gone up a paltry three percent, from 55%-58%. Meanwhile, student debt has reached the 1 trillion mark.  Higher ed’s investment in overhead has not concurrently led to an increase in its product, education.

Control

One way that colleges and universities have tried to mediate the predictability gap is by increasing their reliance on non-human technology to do the work that people used to do. This has been through the automation of many different types of services they offer, including teaching. It’s hard to teach a classroom full of students without using some sort of learning management software and some schools require it; many of our customers expect it. Control is also through the deskilling (deprofesionalization) of its workforce, that’s where adjunct faculty comes in. I have heard many stories and have a few of my own of being hired to teach a class at the last-minute, once with only a few days to prepare for teaching a new course. It reminded me of the old days when I was working in other low wage work and saved my bosses ass by pulling a double shift or coming in on my day off. I can toot my own horn and say I pulled it off that semester and taught a good class, but it was only one of three and two that I was already prepped for; what if I’d been teaching 6 or 7 classes, surely quality would have suffered.

You get the picture now? McDonaldization is eating higher education alive. The system might even know that, at least I think that some do, but it seems hard pressed to do anything about it except build another building or hire another administrator. It was once a good job to work at a college or university, but it isn’t anymore. I can tell when I talk to people about their jobs, there’s a tension, a knowing that something is screwy and that it has a lot to do with how the business is running and what the bosses are up to. My step-dad used to say that you can tell everything about a business by its employees. Are they joking around with each other, do they seem to like being at work? Do they think the boss is fair?

What is the hyper-rationalization of higher education doing to its workers? How is acting like a business turning students into customers and learning into a product? In part two, I’ll share my experiences with academic bullying. In part three, I’ll be discussing the consequences of McDonaldization among workers and pondering who will have access to knowledge in the future corporatocracy.

American Sociological Association Declares Victory and Dissolves. Starts Over Tomorrow.

(GPI Washington)  American Sociological Association (ASA) President Talcott Webber today announced that the ASA was dissolving, effective immediately. In the ASA press release, Webber explained that

We have come to the realization that virtually every other discipline has adopted the sociological approach to not only the social sciences, but also the humanities and some of the natural sciences. All of this is really just sociology under a different name. There is Institutional Economics, Social Psychology, Organizational Theory, Cultural Geography, Ethnography, Literary Theory, Communication, Cultural Theory, Musicology, Socio-cutural Anthropology, Socio-biology, Mirror Neuron stuff, Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Evolutionary Psychology, and a host of other disciplines which are nothing but rewarmed Sociology.  Even History has given up their old hagiographic tricks, and come over to do comparative and social history.

 

As for the applied social sciences like Social Work, Education, Public Administration, Geographical Information Systems, Marketing, and so forth, what are they but Social Problems courses? Zuckerberg even once admitted that Facebook is as much sociology as it is technology.  It is clear that imitation is the best form of flattery—and Sociology has won the game!

 

We’ve even had a Sociology major elected to the US Presidency, as well as a First Lady.  A Sociology Professor was even one of the key figures in the United States Senate in the twentieth century.  And look at the op-ed page of the New York Times today.  Krugman is not really an economist, he’s a sociologist focused on issues of economic inequality. Brooks is the ‘conservative’ who quotes Marx, and is really just a closeted Marxian, Weberian, or whatever,

In light of this, ASA is declaring victory. Webber in his characteristically blunt approach explained,

Look, we won, they lost. They are us, so now we can go home, which is why ASA is closing shop. At some point you need to quit while you are ahead.  Why should we wait for a bunch of bean-counting Deans to shut us down when we are the most successful shop on campus?

Webber seems to think that it is problematic that despite the obviously widespread acceptance of the Sociological Imagination, hardly any of the daughter disciplines actually ask their students to take actual Sociology classes. “But what’s the point of having our own discipline, when we are everywhere? If our discipline is everywhere, we need to be everywhere, too.”

In light of this announcement, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has announced that it will support the immediate closure of all Sociology Departments in the United States, and the reassignment of tenured, untenured, and adjunct faculty to the appropriate daughter disciplines. The purpose of this policy shift will be to sharpen the sociological skills in the many departments which have been teaching sociology all along.  To assist with this shift, AAUP is recommending that all adjuncts be granted tenure.

“Look,” said an anonymous source from AAUA.

Why should a retired p.e. coach from the Education Department be teaching ‘Education and Society’ when you can have a well-trained sociologist? Or for that matter, why should some molecular biologist who’s never read Max Weber on social stratification be teaching a course in human cultural evolution? Or someone who’s never read Adorno teach a course in Marketing? Sociologists are the ones who get all this. And I’ve never understood what there is about the ‘socio’ in socio-biology that the Dean of Biology does not understand!

The Association of Post-Modern Sociologists was particularly excited about this development. “Whoa, does this mean we can move into the Business School and teach them about simulacra, consumer culture, and McDonaldization? The Business School—that’s really who needs us. I’m glad to shake the dust off my shoes, and put my backside to the quantoids. Give me Marketing, or give me death!”

As for the statisticians in the discipline, they too were relieved. An anonymous source commented,

You mean we can finally join the Department where they design Student Evaluation of Teaching forms? We can definitely show them a thing or two about reliability and validity of social measures. This will be far better than teaching a bunch of sophomores who hate the obligatory social statistics courses.

As for the ASA’s prime office space on K Street in Washington DC, the ASA is looking to sublet it to their Republican lobbyist neighbors.  There was even a rumor that the resident sociologists from Fox News might move down the street so that they can take advantage of the prestige associated with the academy’s most successful discipline.

After concluding his news conference, President Webber pledged that the institution will reconstitute itself tomorrow with a new name and mission.  “After all,” he said, “bureaucracies, even the ASA, are among the most enduring of all social structures.”