Menand analyzes the culture of academia in the USA as the outcome of a struggle between external socioeconomic forces and internal self-perpetuating tendencies. The principal mechanism of self-perpetuation in academic culture is doctoral education; Menand emphasizes that the critical process is not the production of knowledge, but the production of producers of knowledge. Professionalization of academia has tightened control over entry to the field. Menand believes it has led to an unhealthy homogenization of the professoriate, manifested politically as an overwhelming numerical dominance of centrist liberals over conservatives on the one hand and radical leftists on the other. While academic autonomy is critical to the university’s role as an independent source of expert knowledge, conformism to existing dominant thinking within academia can be as destructive as interference from the larger society. Menand proposes that entry barriers should be lowered and the PhD made easier to obtain, so that academia will benefit from a wider variety of perspectives.
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