Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are All Elites Company Men?

One thing that has always seemed odd to me is the quickness with which people begin to identify with "the man" Go to a department store where the clerk is making $10 and hour and say anything critical about the store and most of the time the clerk will take it personally. It's like they own stock in the store. Is it a power thing? An insecurity thing? I do not know but in the case of working class people who have little power and may be living hand to mouth, it may make sense

But what about your basic tenured law professor who no doubt regards him or herself as "oh so avant garde" or at least an independent thinker. Why are so many sycophants? A dean tells them to do something and they snap to it. Or more often, the dean does something and they look away. Sometimes I think a dean could fire a productive person desperately in need of a job and they would look away. Or the dean could say, "Don't comment on that matter." or "let's make up a story for how we came to have so much money" and they would clamor to join in. Not that many deans are as bad as that but so many law professors are simply looking for an order to follow. Why among elites is there such a powerful tendency not to piss off "the man." And what is weird is that "the man" is not "the man" at all. He or she cannot fire them or really affect their lives in any significant way. Is there something in the genes of the elites that renders them gutless?

Reminds of an old riddle (right now about 8 seconds old).

Q: What do you call a person who gets in a foxhole with an elite?
A. Stupid


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the assertion the law professors are always looking for an order to follow contradict the notion that they always look out for themselves? The posts preceding this one talk about Professors teaching only what they want and not what is needed. This seems the opposite of looking for orders to follow.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

You make a good point and I want to stress this is about elites, not all law professors. The difference in conduct is very clear. They follow orders when the harm caused is to someone else. For example, a dean might say, "Please do not comment to the press about what happened to Professor X" and they will follow along even if Professor X got a raw deal. In short, there is no personal sacrifice for others. On the other hand, when it comes to their own comfort and convenience many are very demanding.

When you think about it the two are not opposites but complementary. It is all about being completely self interested.