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Archive for February 14th, 2010

free professional advice!

with one comment

‘Tis the season of fielding PhD applications… The following advice only applies to those applying in the UK, and I explain why this is the case below…

I am somewhat astounded how many I see that front a high (or somewhat high) concept “idea” but then have almost nothing to say about actually existing novels, collection of poetry etc. It seems clear in many cases that the novels that are mentioned might not have even been read. I understand the difficulty involved – one needs the time of the PhD to do in depth research into the way ideas manifest in the literature of period X or Y. But on the other hand: good ideas for literary critical projects generally arise out of the reading of works themselves, not the imposition of an externally developed lens.

So if you’re thinking about putting in a proposal of this sort, make sure you’re solid on the authors / books that you’re going to discuss before you type up the abstract. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready yet… Take another year, there’s no rush. Might seem obvious, but really does separate out the tenable proposals from the flimsy ones, this issue.

(I say UK PhD applications because the US version is quite different.  Since you’re going to do 2 – 3 years of seminar work before composing your abstract, you can be more vague – probably should be more vague – on this point…)

(Oh, and it of course makes less and less sense to do a PhD in the first place every year, so caveat emptor and all that. Then again, it’s unclear that there’s much else to do nowadays, so if you can get funding to do it I suppose why not, right?)

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Posted in academia

vampirising the vampires, or trolling the trolls (i could never figure out the difference)

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Nice when a review can help out. Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism never uses the phrase “pseudo-marketization” or any variant thereupon. You can go amazon and search it this way and that and you’ll never find it. Neither will you find reference to “simulation” in this regard in his book. But these phrases have become touchstones, really the centerpieces, of interviews and talks in the wake of its release. It’s even more prominent in the talk I just linked to, but here’s some copyable print:

But the phrase ‘pseudo-marketisation’ is crucial — what we have in public services is an absurd simulation of market mechanisms rather the market as such, a kind of worst of all worlds scenario in which a simulated market goes alongside continuing surveillance and monitoring from state bodies.

Well, here’s me on the book, from the day of its official release back in December:

It’s not even the standard story about privatization that Mark is ultimately telling here, though it’s a related story. Rather, Capitalist Realism is ultimately focused on something else – the ways that public institutions that haven’t and likely won’t be privatized have been forced (have been forced to) to participate in simulated markets, where a rigorous regime of testing on a set of metrics replaces the invisible hand of the market. It’s a governmental gambit driven at once by a desire to reduce funding across the board and to convince voters that they are taking the efficacy of public institutions very seriously. Since it couldn’t / can’t actually expose some public institutions to market forces through opening competition or privatization, New Labour established (and continues to establish) pseudo-markets, fake market-like games, for public institutions to compete in in order to obtain funding.

Glad to be of help, I suppose. But perhaps in exchange for providing usefully clarifying language, he could agree to drop the gray vampire / troll stuff from now until the end of time? Because when he says that…

Grey Vampires don’t feed on energy directly, they feed on obstructing projects. The problem is that, often, they don’t know that they are doing this. (That’s one difference between them and a troll – trolls usually aren’t under any illusions about themselves, they just find spurious justifications for their activities.) There is very definitely a type of person who is a Grey Vampire – I’ve encountered a few, and, once their shield of sociability and charm falls away, they become revealed as horribly, tragically cursed, existentially blighted. But the Grey Vampire is also a subject position that (any)one can be lured into if you enter certain structures. Part of the reason I can’t hack it as an academic is that, in a university environment, I invariably find myself pincered between the troll and Grey Vampire positions. That’s why I sincerely admire anyone who can pursue a project in the academy.

… but then proceeds to co-opt the selfsame (ugh) vampire’s contribution without reference, it all starts to look a bit nervous and shifty, no?

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 14, 2010 at 4:38 am