Asia’s lost generation

by johnmccreery

In a mad bit of self-indulgence, I am not going to repeat myself. Instead, I would like to draw your attention to the piece I just posted on Open Anthropology Cooperative in response to the top story in this week’s China Daily/Asia Weekly. It puts a lot of our concerns about how the world is changing and what that means for education into a global context.

3 Comments to “Asia’s lost generation”

  1. It’s a great post John, well worth the click-through. Ironically I just ordered a new Gramsci book (on G and the pragmatists) hot off the presses from Italy. The Italian author, Chiara Meta (great name) has a list of scholarly accomplishments longer than my arm. Her day job is treasurer for a local historical society. This is not at all uncommon in Europe.

    What this suggests is that the question of how to produce and then absorb highly-educated people is subject to multiple contextual answers. In the U.S. we kept ahead of the curve for quite awhile by expanding mass education. Keep adding History departments and you don’t have to think too hard about whether more History Ph.D.s make the world a better place; narratives of personal failure available in local knowledge to account for those who fall through the cracks. That system has been under increasing structural pressure over the last 15-20 years.

    In contrast, European higher education remained more restricted but also produced less of a sense of entitlement than the U.S. did. A permanent intellectual underclass is business as usual. Nevertheless, Europe has a long and illustrious history of radicalized underemployed intellectuals, including Marx, Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler.

    The Russian case points to a bit of a double-bind for developing countries. In order to get out of the raw material / cheap labor ghetto of the global periphery there has to be an educated technical intelligentsia. But it’s hard to produce those without giving them just enough exposure to ‘critical thinking’ to make them dangerously vulnerable to existential malcontent. And more substantively, there’s a bootstrapping process involved in the dialectic of education and development that’s easy to miscalibrate, especially given that global capital flows are not subject to local control.

    Blahblah, just shooting from the hip here.

  2. Keep shooting. Would you mind if I cross-posted this as a comment on OAC?

  3. Sure, go for it! I almost posted over there to start with, then figured we might as well get some water in the pump over here.

    I’m aware by the way that in the first comment I made hasty overgeneralizations about only academic intellectuals in particular, who are only a small fraction of the educated intelligentsia, who are in turn only a small fraction of the intelligent, thoughtful people in the world, assuming of course that we academics are properly included among the intelligent and thoughtful.

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