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Elite overproduction and the sorrows of the young leftist white man

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This is a pretty interesting story.

Some thoughts:

(1) The facile response from supporters of affirmative action is to claim this is another “mediocre” white man complaining about losing out in job competitions to non-white and/or non-male people. That’s a dumb response, because elite overproduction, especially in regard to something like tenure-track history jobs, and especially tenure-track history jobs at R-1s, and most especially in regard to tenure-track history jobs at R-1s in 20th century American history, is a very real thing.

Behold:

The situation is even worse if you focus only on assistant professor jobs, which is what David Austin Walsh, left wing Twitter warrior, is trying to get. Note that this chart suggests the market for such jobs had gotten more or less rationalized between the early 1970s and the late 1980s, but that since then the corporatization of the university, with its insatiable hunger for semi-free labor, has clearly won out.

(2) Being opposed to white supremacy means, if you’re a white man, that you’re opposed to the continuation of your historical social privilege. This in turn means, among other things, that jobs analogous to the ones your demographic predecessors got are not going to go to you. This is simple math, but it’s the kind of math that people instinctively resist. Now is this unfair? The answer seems to be “no” when it’s happening to someone else, but “yes” when it’s happening to David Austin Walsh.

(3) To what extent should being, for example, a black person or a woman count as a job qualification when somebody is pursuing an academic job that specifically involves the study of, say, the history of black people or women? This isn’t an easy question to answer, in either theory or practice, so people naturally provide easy and therefore stupid answers to it.

(4) The problem of elite overproduction goes way beyond historians or academia of course, because creating an increasingly educated or at least credentialed population with rising expectations of doing creative and otherwise self-actualizing work is going to create problems of oversupply, especially in an economic context in which technology is going to be eating up a lot of those already scarce jobs. A glance at Walsh’s Twitter feed reveals that he really really hates Joe Biden and neo-liberalism, which I more than suspect is his way of dealing with this fundamental structural social problem, that like so many other such problems has no easy solution.

(5) . . . I forgot to mention a huge factor here, which was pointed out by Orin Kerr in the reply threat to the linked post: The elimination of mandatory retirement 30 years ago. This is clogging up an already clogged pipeline for jobs for young academics perhaps more than any other single factor, other than the constant administrative downsizing of non-STEM fields.

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