Life Imitates Art School

I had lunch with Lisa Goldberg, an adjunct professor in the Statistics Department at Berkeley. Her application area is finance. She said that people in finance have at least as much contempt for academics as academics do for people in finance. Thorstein Veblen, of course, wrote about the latter — people looking down on useful work — but not the former. Perhaps his views were skewed by being an academic himself. I blogged earlier about how students in each major at a San Francisco art school look down on the students in some other major.

Lisa also said she sleeps well. I was surprised — hardly anyone says that. It turns out she exercises heavily. She swims or runs seven days a week and when she swims, she swims 2000 meters. As a former swimmer, I know that’s a lot. When I exercised, there was no clear effect on my sleep, apart from falling asleep faster. I still woke up too early in the morning. Maybe I wasn’t exercising enough. Anyway, it’s one little data point supporting my conclusions from standing on one leg.

4 Replies to “Life Imitates Art School”

  1. I wonder if we form a tribe or band with our fellow members of a profession. Professors have offices around each other. They get used to seeing each other regularly and this triggers tribal feelings. “He’s one of my group.” Ditto students of the same major, and finance people. We see others bands or tribes as competitors for resources whom we signal our dislike of to our friends.

  2. at least as much contempt for academics as academics do for people in finance

    With more numbers …

    Somewhat like the way Economists used to look down on “softer” sciences in the 70s when NASA had to go to Econ PhDs to handle linear programming.

    But yes, there is a solid feel in Finance, especially given the objective measures (e.g. how much money they are paid) that there is a merit system that puts them at the top, easily measured.

  3. I’ve observed that on average every profession and every subculture idealise their profession or subculture and look down on every other profession or subculture. People at each station or position within different sectors tend to do so as well. It is subtle but seems real, and probably relates to some aspect of our need to affiliate — so we do it on the available lines since we don’t have true tribes anymore. (note: the following are gross simplifications, and averages with lots of exceptions, but I think the trends are accurate): Punk rockers look down on hip-hop, and vice-versa, grunge rockers didn’t like glam rockers, and vice versa, bankers think academics are not practical enough, academics think bankers are shallow, non-profit workers think corporate people are greedy, corporate people think non-profit people couldn’t cut it in the corporate world, etc. It creates a tendency to stay within our tribe that perhaps helps us extract the economic benefits of specialization. If people don’t derive status from one thing (say money) they will derive their status from something else. Within the environmental movement (which I’ve been deeply involved in) it was eco-purity, and money was a bit disdained. People with materialistic predilections (I know lots of millionairres) tend to scorn those with less as ascetics. People who truly cut across areas are few and far between. I’ve had many dozens of jobs (36 in one ten year period) so a chance to observe this pretty closely.

  4. Let me quote from another blog, just a bit 😉

    In 1990, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wrote his wildly entertaining (though obnoxiously esoteric) book, Homo Academicus–a sociological study of academics as a social class. He calls his study a “comic scenario, that of Don Juan deceived or the miser robbed.” Lest I sound unkind in my reference, I point to the reality that scholars have made similar characterizations of their subjects for centuries…making labels, classing peoples. Yet I suggest that the analyzers of man might also profitably become the analyzed.

Comments are closed.