Re: Andrew Ross Sorkin Is Not Good At Calculating Odds

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Fuck a bunch of "high-prestige" education in the first place. What job would require a "high-prestige" one other than one that trades on reputation.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:23 AM
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Job hunting is very much on my mind right now, and I've been doing quite a bit of research on the topic. One figure that comes up again and again is that between 65 and 80 percent of jobs are filled through networking rather than through classified ads, job websites, or the like. Having a parents like the Clintons is a hell of a networking opportunity. Not that I hold it against Chelsea, who seems like a perfectly nice person.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:24 AM
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1: Shorter me: your use of "high-prestige" somewhat dramatically undermines your point or else unintentionally reinforces it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:26 AM
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That too, of course -- if the qualifications we were talking about were either skills or knowledge, Clinton and Rubin would be competing on a level playing field with tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people, and the odds that they'd be doing anything individually impressive would drop like a rock.

It just burned me having Sorkin gloss over the difference between "On paper, as well qualified under our current system as hundreds of other people are" and "So you'd expect them to have ended up exactly where they are even without powerful parents."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:27 AM
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Alphaville had a pretty good post responding to Sorkin's silliness.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:31 AM
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Yes of course, he pushes it much further, his stance reflecting the educational equivalent of John Kenneth Galbraith's observation that The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:33 AM
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6 -> 5. And there is the reality that in some regard those alpha children are in fact more *qualified* for the positions as they actually exist in the world. In part due to how those organizations work, but also in part due to actual skills that are heavily path dependent.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:39 AM
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Any guesses on how long before these people just drop the pretense altogether and start arguing for a hereditary aristocracy?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:40 AM
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oops 6 -> 4. They actually let me drive on the public roads and stuff like that.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:41 AM
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I am getting less and less sympathetic to the children of famous and/or powerful people and their alleged achievements. We were talking about Wallace Shawn the other night and I was realizing that -- even though I fully believe that on many levels that he is totally awesome, and I think a lot of his work is fantastic -- I am even a little suspicious of what he has accomplished.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:42 AM
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10: I am suspicious of those who even know that Wallace Shawn was from a prominent family. (Not sure how I missed that one.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:46 AM
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My usual response in these threads is to note that for a great many professional positions, the principal qualification is not something one might learn in school, or in some prior position, but access to a network of potential customers. Any fool can take a deposition, but someone under 30 who can get a call returned by a general counsel from a Fortune 50 company, now that's someone worth looking at.

You can never take away, or even mitigate, the advantages that a Clinton or a Rubin (and who wants to bet against the Obama girls?) are going to have on that market. You can widen the circle somewhat though, which is why class-based AA is so important.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:48 AM
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11: I found out about it from NPR, so add me to the rolls of suspect characters.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:53 AM
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12 is what I was getting at in 7. The world as it is.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:53 AM
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You can widen the circle somewhat though, which is why class-based AA is so important.

Right because it is oh so important to have a wider range of people fucking the world up the ass.

/bob


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 6:56 AM
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Consider the case of the Mignon Clyburn, whose chief qualification to be chair of the frigging Federal Communications Commission is not being the publisher of a small African-American newspaper or even her awesome name. And of course the conservative media -- less than the liberal media, as far as I can tell -- is dripping with these people, the Jonah Goldbergs and John Podhoretzes.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:03 AM
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which is why class-based AA is so important

What, they won't let me into certain AA meetings unless I summer on the Vineyard?


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:04 AM
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Creches now. That is all.

Look, I certainly hate the rich fucks, but to be honest the relative advantages a kid has from a family making $150, 000 a year compared to a kid from a family making $30, 000 a year are much more important to me and much more significant to general social justice, fairness, and equality.

Difference between a communist and a bourgeois liberal.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:05 AM
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Let me admit that my grumpy over the top attacks on this are in part a reflection of my experience of the past few years as a Beta Elite Third Class attempting to launch kids into the World As It Is™. A lot of exploration of the limits of personal political capital and ruminations on the desirability and morality of using it*. So the usual baseline self-loathing is cranked up to 11 on this one. But no worries, I'm A Happy Boy (ain't it good when things are going your way).

*With bonus counterproductive retrospective musing on a history of ample missed opportunities to cultivate same. With which I was perfectly content at the time. But having followed the blog for a while now, I can see that everyone here will be utterly non-conflicted about such things when their time comes...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:11 AM
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Why Progressives Are Lame...Naked Capitalism

And of course, read the comments, all 400 of them. I did. Or just search the page for "Richard Kline" for a start.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:12 AM
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Difference between a communist and a bourgeois liberal.

Wait, I heard this one recently. The communist sells the light bulb on the black market.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:14 AM
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I have a low-prestige education - bachelor's degree from a poorly regarded state college. So I'm not much impressed by "prestige". Nonetheless, I keep finding myself hiring people from "elite"* schools.

This isn't deliberate on my part. But the kids from the elite schools get the breaks that allow them to compile experience that gets my attention. In some objective sense, it's completely unfair.

*I mean elite in the sense that there are about four schools that are considered worth a damn in my business. The elites of the Unfoggetariat would mostly mock the schools on my list as being second- or third-tier**.

**A person from my alma mater used to coordinate the US News College rankings. She told me that her colleagues considered our school "fourth tier." I told her that I wasn't interested in the opinions of people from a fourth-tier news magazine.


Posted by: FD Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:15 AM
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19 -- Yes, one feels this much more strongly as a parent than as a deluded-about-the-world 20/30 something.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:18 AM
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George W. Bush totally would have become president had he come from a family like Bill Clinton's.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:19 AM
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I don't care about Wallace Shawn. Who cares if his dad was editor of the New Yorker, as long as he writes good plays. Who cares if Oliver Reed is the grandson of Beerbohm Tree, if he makes good movies. It doesn't harm you and me. The pernicious side to nepotism in the arts is when completely talent free individuals land contracts because they're descended from Bob Dylan or Bob Geldof or somebody.

Where it's dangerous is in politics, military and large corporations. They do affect you and me. But I'm not sure why it's suddenly an issue now. There was an Adams in government for the first 150 years of the republic, and not to mention all those Gores and Kennedys and so forth. Short of deliberately handicapping the children of public figures, I don't see what's to be done about it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:19 AM
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In some objective sense, it's completely unfair

Of course in an objective sense, "unfairness" goes far deeper than turtles.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:21 AM
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19/23, I do this occasionally in terms of mentorship. It makes me feel very dirty explaining that a student can (likely) get a coveted position by asking one of our coworkers if they have a connection at a desirable place. The students are always a little surprised, then reticent to take advantage, which is to their credit but doesn't get them the position. (I do try to take students from non-elite places, although it doesn't often work out.) In one instance a connection like that was nearly life and death (yay, messed up health care).


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:23 AM
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Harrison Begeron's of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:24 AM
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I don't see what's to be done about it.

At an absolute minimum, we can acknowledge the way that society is built and mock people like Sorkin for their pernicious cluelessness.

But there are other things. We can give civil rights to minorities, or have government-funded schools, or a progressive taxation system. Universal healthcare, even. Really there's quite a lot that has been done, and quite a lot more that can be.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:25 AM
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25: I have learned two important facts from this post: until today I thought Wallace Shawn was just the guy who played Vizzini (no idea he wrote plays) and I had no idea that Oliver Reed was related to anyone much.

Short of deliberately handicapping the children of public figures, I don't see what's to be done about it.

Even that won't stop them. Look at FDR.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:27 AM
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30.last: Yep, teaching them to fly private planes would seem to have been more effective.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:29 AM
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Reticence to take advantage of a network of potential customers is a disqualification. You don't hire the brilliant guy with no social skills to be a salesman.

Students think that .20 of GPA one way or the other is significant, because it looks like that's how score is kept. But it isn't, in a whole lot of the world.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:30 AM
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I think private schools should not be tax exempt, but that's likely to happen only after the revolution.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:31 AM
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In a society with a strong social safety net, good worker protections, strong civil liberties protections and so forth I really wouldn't be bothered that much by the dynamic in the OP. So there's some unfair advantages going to the children of the rich and well connected. Good looking people have unfair advantages, so do tall people, smart people, and on and on. Trying to eliminate all the unfairness is a fools game. The best we can practically do is mitigate and reduce the unfairness and try to make it so that wherever in the social hierarchy you are born you have meaningful choices to try to improve your lot and a safety net if it turns out you are unlucky, especially incompetent, or simply very stupid.

The things that frosts my nads is the myth of meritocracy coupled with the dynamic in the OP. There are lots of people like Sorkin willing to defend privilege as merit, and do so in much stronger terms. These toadies and lickspittles need a swift kick in the balls.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:35 AM
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We can give civil rights to minorities, or have government-funded schools, or a progressive taxation system. Universal healthcare, even.

Yeah, all that. But people will still give kids jobs on the strength of their parents' contact list, as Charley points out, because it's an asset.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:36 AM
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Surely we can all agree that Jaden Smith would be a star no matter who his parents were.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:36 AM
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34.1 sums it up well for me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:37 AM
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And so to work.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:38 AM
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If you you follow the links you'll read that there appears to be much more elite labor market nepotism in Canada than in Denmark. I think making society more egalitarian in general will decrease nepotism.


Posted by: David the Unfogged Commenter | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:41 AM
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But the kids from the elite schools get the breaks that allow them to compile experience that gets my attention.

This is very frustrating, in my experience. There are philosophers whose parents (typically, fathers) are well-known philosophers. Is this a help? Hard to say, but chances are if your dad works at Harvard you're not going to move to Utah...


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:43 AM
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||

Speaking of people called Chelsea...

Fucking brave to do this at this moment in time.

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:43 AM
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I'm with 29 and 34.1 as well. And as for students who refuse to use the network that their matriculation has created -- they should be refunded half their tuition, because no one apparently explained half the purpose of their attendance.

And with that, I'm off to prove that any fool really can take a deposition.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:43 AM
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Trying to eliminate all the unfairness is a fools game.

I suppose, but you've adopted language that is typically used by people who aren't really interested in eliminating any of it.

In fact, trying to eliminate all unfairness is a perfectly legitimate aspiration. The fact that Martin Luther King* failed in so many respects - and really could never have hoped to succeed - doesn't mean that he was playing a fool's game.

*there really should be a Godwin rule for MLK, just because name-checking him is a lazy way to invoke an archetype. What can I say? I'm lazy. Lucky for me that we don't live in a meritocracy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:43 AM
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43.1 True, I could probably have phrased that with more nuance, getting at the difference between tractable and problems and ones where the only real possible cures are worse than the disease.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:46 AM
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Topical: Larry Summers' kid was a 2013 White House Intern.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:47 AM
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45: Always topical: Larry Summers is a worthless prick. DeLong has been really impressive in demonstrating exactly how thin the case is to make Summers Fed Chair.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:49 AM
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The things that frosts my nads is the myth of meritocracy coupled with the dynamic in the OP. There are lots of people like Sorkin willing to defend privilege as merit, and do so in much stronger terms. These toadies and lickspittles need a swift kick in the balls.

This. Maybe the well-connected will always come out on top, because that's the way the world has to work. But I'm damned if I'm going to sit quietly and listen to people tell me it's all about merit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:49 AM
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I wonder if 25 is casting aspersions on the talents of Peaches, Pixie, or both.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:50 AM
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41: He's mentioned before that he's TS. He's also openly talked about being seriously mentally ill, so who knows if this is real or just acting out. Flip the genders in the previous sentence if it turns out that this is the real deal. Either way, good luck to him and I hope (s)he gets the help (s)he needs as well as an early parole.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:51 AM
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42: You know, that's sort of fair, except that the usual way this plays out is that we tell the kids to work hard because it's all about merit, and then it turns out that it never was, and aren't they stupid for believing us.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:54 AM
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49: Yeah, and now with this explicit public statement I am re-evaluating the claim that the solitary confinement was in part to protect Manning from other, transphobic prisoners, which claim I'd mostly dismissed as noise before. It seems as if at least one of the premises is true, now.

Manning's had a lot of challenging circumstances.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:55 AM
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I agree that "unfair" inequalities of opportunity are basically unavoidable, because humans have families and other social bonds that have all kinds of consequences for kids growing up in a society. Problem is when inequality across the whole society gets worse, the consequences of winning or losing the various natural lotteries become much more huge. Flatten society out and nepotism becomes almost charming because the stakes are low enough.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 7:57 AM
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re: 50

Yeah, that shit bit me on the arse long after I was old enough to know better.

'What do you mean I should have been assiduously cultivating all of these contacts, and self-marketing above everything else, since day one?'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:00 AM
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And the knowledge in 53 is something that people from the right class background understand implicitly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:01 AM
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they should be refunded half their tuition, because no one apparently explained half the purpose of their attendance.

I am due a refund. I never got that part of college or, heck, high school. I was a fish out of water in both. Back to the social capital problem.

I still have problems with networking. That sucks as I do want to change jobs.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:01 AM
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I'm always surprised by how many academics are children of other academics. It seems to be a pretty large fraction.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:10 AM
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56: I think that's partly because when a professor occupies an endowed chair, it is customary for them to legally adopt their chosen successor.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:12 AM
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That wouldn't explain regular professors or adjuncts, though.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:13 AM
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Ah, the eternal debate.

Asshole: sure i got my foot in the door but i still had to prove myself

Normal person: you are the only one who got his foot in the door


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:13 AM
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It keep being surprised to learn about more perversities in the impact of USNews rankings on colleges. For example, I'm told that there's a push to raise our standards for incoming freshmen, while simultaneously lowering them for transfer students (many of whom are obviously unprepared and going to fail). The reason is that you don't report SAT scores for transfer students, so this scheme raises our ranking by raising the average SAT score, but does so without losing tuition money by shrinking the number of students.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:14 AM
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re: 55.1

Yup. I'm a reasonably social person, and quite like talking to new people [within reason]. But I don't think I realized how different some other people's more purposeful interactions with people who might have the capacity to help with their academic career were until it was already too late.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:14 AM
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You can widen the circle somewhat though, which is why class-based AA is so important.
Right because it is oh so important to have a wider range of people fucking the world up the ass.

I agree with Bob on this. The answer to our current system of a hereditary neoliberal elite ruling over a growing class of proletarianized serfs is not to make sure a few more of the serfs can be become part of the elite.

Privilege is merit in a corrupt society. I'm becoming less and less convinced we're all that much better than China. Corrupt oligarchies don't really provide transparent and accurate statistics on these things so it's hard for a direct and meaningful comparison, but I'd say we're falling (fallen?) out of the functioning democracy territory.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:16 AM
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56: I think the college/grad school/academic career track is unusually opaque from the outside. Not that you can't figure it out as a student, but, for example, it never really clicked for me that going to academic grad school was in a lot of ways much more like applying for a job as an apprentice academic than it was like prior schooling. That wasn't an issue for me, because I wasn't interested in an academic career, but if I had been I would have been a little lost about how to go about it.

Simply having exposure to how the system works seems like it'd change your odds of a successful academic career a lot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:17 AM
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It's interesting also that there are lots of academics whose parents are academics but in different fields. For those people, it's cultural knowledge rather than name recognition or direct influence of the parents.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:18 AM
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Asshole: sure i got my foot in the door but i still had to prove myself

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates had a good formulation of this (which I have previously quoted), "Let me tell you how I came here. I write for a major magazine and this is a privilege. I would say that it is earned, except that many people earn many things which they never receive. So I shall say that it was earned and I was lucky."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:20 AM
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I'm with 29 and 34.1 as well. And as for students who refuse to use the network that their matriculation has created -- they should be refunded half their tuition, because no one apparently explained half the purpose of their attendance.

most educational experiences do not provide people with a "network", just a bunch of random people


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:21 AM
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He's mentioned before that he's TS. He's also openly talked about being seriously mentally ill, so who knows if this is real or just acting out. Flip the genders in the previous sentence if it turns out that this is the real deal.

SHUT UP TOKOLOSH. SHUT UP.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:23 AM
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IIt's especially frustrating in my field because there is a lot of very good work out there, but not many jobs, so a very small networking effect isn't the difference between being hired at Princeton and being hired tenure-track somewhere else, but the difference between being hired at Princeton and adjuncting. And due to structural features, the person at Princeton then has time to write the book and the money to go to conferences, and the adjunct doesn't, and then... well, isn't just obvious that the person at Princeton is more qualified? They have a book!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:24 AM
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The nice thing about going into a field that's different from your parents' is, they'll still give you lots of unsolicited (and often completely irrelevant) advice.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:24 AM
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I got into academia through the math highschool scene, which got me a lot of the relevant cultural knowledge early enough (despite not having parents who knew anything about academia). By the time I was 17 I had a reasonable idea of what the career path for "someone like me" looked like. Without that experience I really don't know how I would have figured these things out. RWM had a much harder time sorting this stuff out (in part because non-math fields do a worse job of this, and in part because her parents were way less involved), and it's why she didn't end up a scientist.

One thing I really liked about going to grad school at Berkeley is that there was a genuinely wide range of backgrounds represented by the grad students. At college I was the poorest person I knew, but in grad school there were multiple people who grew up in trailers. Both at the undergrad and grad level I felt like the University of California was a genuine engine of social mobility (despite its not being what it once was).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:27 AM
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Also, what 52 said.


Also, for anyone who cares:

China is also heading in the downward direction. Most people respect the current leaders, or at least respect their qualifications to rule, since many came from quite humble backgrounds and almost all put in their time doing hard labor in factories and farms and pushing paper before rising up the ranks. When the "fu'erdai" (wealthy 2nd generation), who are widely seen as lazy, incompetent, greedy, and selfish, take power, it's anyone's guess what will happen. You wouldn't know it reading Western media, but in the past 10 years the Chinese state embarked on possibly the third most ambitious and successful anti-poverty campaign since liberation (1st being post liberation reforms, 2nd being land reforms in the early 80s), mainly as an attempt to stave off anger and unrest at growing corruption and inequality. How much longer increasing material wealth will placate people is unknown, since the psychological effects of unfairness and relative poverty are also very real and damaging, even if one's life is materially better off. Also, there are limits to how much one can improve someone's life without addressing corruption. If a village is angry because chemical waste has killed all the fish and polluted the drinking water, solving the problem means prohibiting company kickbacks to the village head and enforcing anti-chemical dumping laws, which authorities are in general loathe to do. For whatever awful things Mao did, he was quite successful at eliminating corruption, and for this reason he's becoming quite a folk hero. I do like to joke with people though that at least their corruption comes with anti-poverty measures, whereas ours comes with increasing-poverty measures.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:27 AM
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You wouldn't know it reading Western media,

Or anything else, to be fair.


Posted by: cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:30 AM
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49: Coming out as trans normally takes a lot of sustained effort and determination, and should be respected at face value, extending to pronoun usage, unless there's a very good reason not to.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:36 AM
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72

I'm confused. There's actually quite a bit of literature on the recent anti-poverty campaigns in English and Chinese, mainly from academic sources. There are also English language aggregate reader sites of the Chinese web. Reading these sources you would know about it.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:37 AM
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Oh. Nevermind. I was confused, and misread your comment. On second reading, I agree.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:37 AM
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Bave has it right in 52, JP said redundantly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:52 AM
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73: You are correct. I should have just gone with her preferred pronoun.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 9:08 AM
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In fact, trying to eliminate all unfairness is a perfectly legitimate aspiration.

I don't buy this -- I think it's a foolish and possibly pernicious utopian desire. Our talents and skills are not completely our own creation and our genetic endowment and the early background that shapes us are a gift that is 'unfairly' distributed. An aspiration toward fairness makes sense in terms of rewarding some specific skills that society chooses to cultivate, but the fairness part of it is always somewhat illusory. Life ain't fair.

The problem we have is the sheer level of inequality and the way in which power and advantages are being concentrated in a smaller and smaller group. Fix that, and the normal 'unfairnesses' of life just become ordinary human contingency.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 9:19 AM
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I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten a job despite my inability to network.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 9:31 AM
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if your dad works at Harvard you're not going to move to Utah...

The universe will reward them with soul crushing weather and ridiculous housing costs while we're out biking and fishing.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 9:46 AM
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The problem we have is the sheer level of inequality and the way in which power and advantages are being concentrated in a smaller and smaller group.

Yep.

Nepotism is inevitable. It's ok for some people to get good jobs through connections and some people to get good jobs through objectively hard work. Now it seems like in most fields there are not enough good jobs available to give any to the second group of people.

Which means that WITHIN the world of people who already have connections, the hard-working and conscientious ones are rewarded. Meritocratic!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 10:02 AM
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80: No kidding. My sister came to visit, and I pulled her away from the baby long enough so we could go on a hike up a mountain. Which we got to by walking two blocks from my house.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 10:40 AM
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81 last is reasonably accurate for the legal profession.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 10:42 AM
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I'm always surprised by how many academics are children of other academics. It seems to be a pretty large fraction.

Hi.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 10:50 AM
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By the time I was 17 I had a reasonable idea of what the career path for "someone like me" looked like. ...in part because non-math fields do a worse job of this,

Math fields do a good job nurturing a narrow profile of students.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 10:55 AM
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I have a low-prestige education - bachelor's degree from a poorly regarded state college. So I'm not much impressed by "prestige". Nonetheless, I keep finding myself hiring people from "elite"* schools.

I really do agree with the fundamental point of the OP, but there's also a regional point that I always feel is forgotten in the quote above. There are great jobs in San Antonio that hire strong students from Heebie U. There are great jobs in Lincoln, Nebraska, that hire strong students from U of Nebraska. Hiring from the 4-5 best schools where people are likely to want to live in your area isn't peanuts. So in central Texas, it's central Texas, and in the NE corridor, you also get to dip into California, because elites and their arugula, but essentially it's not the end of the world.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:00 AM
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85: Fair enough, but at least it's a second route in. Not only aren't my parents academics, we didn't really know any academics.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:06 AM
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That's probably true.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:08 AM
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Short of deliberately handicapping the children of public figures, I don't see what's to be done about it.

... Have I told you guys about this cool idea I just came up with to replace elections with random selection?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:19 AM
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83: Alito's son to Gibson Dunn.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:23 AM
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(Scalia's has been there a while.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:23 AM
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Britta, is Will the Boat Sink the River? accurate enough in your estimation? (It's certainly good, all the rest of you; gripping and short and not completely despair-inducing.)

Also thinking about China; based on Mote's medium-sized work, the examination system was effective off and on. That is, it tended to become irrelevant, and then captured, and then derided, and then revitalized as a bar high enough that lazy scions found something easier to do. Inconveniently, there were often generations and interregnums and wars between these stages.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 11:46 AM
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The young princelings don't rise to the top by some kind of natural law -- people have to break the rules in various ways for them: lowering admission standards, going outside ordinary hiring policies, not applying academic sanctions for failure or integrity violations, etc. So there are pretty obvious places for anti-nepotism campaigns to get a toehold, if you're in a society that cares about having rules in a general way. That's why nepotism is a good bellwether for overall social decay, viz China and the USA.


Posted by: millicent friendly | Link to this comment | 08-22-13 8:12 PM
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clew,

I haven't read book, but I've read similar accounts of rural China, and reading the summary it sounds accurate but out of date. It was published in 2007, so written before then with the data gathered probably in the very early 2000s, which is light years ago in terms of China's rural policies. Since the mid 2000s, rural taxes and fees have been pretty much completely abolished, and there is now an extensive, if basic, welfare network in place for peasants, including comprehensive health insurance plus welfare and free schooling for the old, the poor, and the sick. I currently live in Anhui province, and people talk about how markedly improved their lives are, even in the past 5-10 years. I ascribe to the New Left school in China, and basically, as they describe it, the Reform and Opening movement started off with genuine reforms to improve the lives of China's peasantry, which had been starved during the Great Leap Forward and was still quite poor. The early land reforms boosted agricultural productivity and individual wealth, and was a period of relative openness. After Tiananmen in 1989, the government took an abrupt turn towards the "Right," clamping down on freedom of speech and political reforms and diving headlong into neoliberal free-marketization, which enriched the urban citizens at the expense of the rural. My take is that the government assumed, quite rightly, that students at elite universities wouldn't take to protesting in the street if they were too busy becoming filthy rich, which is basically what happened. Price controls on crops to keep food prices low in cities plus ruinous taxes made farming completely unprofitable, and 100s of millions of peasants fled to the cities as migrant laborers. From 1990-2006 or so, being a Chinese peasant was completely and utterly miserable. Sensing growing unrest in the countryside, the Hu Jintao administration (2003-2013) made urban/rural equality & an increase in rural standard of living the focus of his policies. In terms of improving quality of life, the results were extremely effective. While there still are distinct advantages to being a Beijinger or Shanghainese, there's no real benefit in general to having an urban residence permit vs. a rural one, and I know former peasants who've complained about the switch, because the fees are higher and they're not allowed to have a second kid if the first one is a girl.

There are still issues, mainly:
1) corruption is still a big problem. Although the tax collection system, which was a big avenue of corruption, was abolished, there are still other forms of corruption, often dealing with illegal land appropriation or shady investments. Farmers who protest or don't go along risk being killed by thugs who are generally relatives of the village head. Not so much in my part of Anhui, but this is one reason why there's such a strong preference for multiple sons. Having a large family you can call on for support or muscle power is helpful in village disputes. Northern Anhui has one of the worst gender ratios and highest birthrates in the country, according to a sociologist I talked to.

2) Farming is still less profitable than working as a migrant laborer in the city, so all the young people do that and leave the old people to farm. If this is transitional or simply a new lifestyle form is yet to be seen. It may be that rural people will now work in cities until late middle age and then retire to the countryside to farm small plots of land and raise their grandkids. Most peasants build giant 3 story houses which are actually much more comfortable to live in than a tiny city apartment, and growing food provides food security (both quality and quantity) that lots of people value, so few migrant workers want to permanently abandon their land for some slum in outer Shanghai. (I read an Economist article suggesting this as an option.) With urbanization, migration patterns are contracting, with fewer people traveling cross country. I live in a tiny city, and the closest village is a 15 minute scooter ride away. Many of the people working here live in villages and commute in during the day. Conversely, outside the city core, much of the city looks like a village, with people growing corn and living in giant houses. Outside of the megacities, the rural/urban divide pretty much dissolving. Most of China's food comes from vast industrial farms or is imported from SE Asia.

3) Registration permit stuff has been relaxed a bit, but welfare benefits are tied to region or hometown. This can mean that if a farmer from rural Anhui goes to work in Shanghai, his medical benefits may not cover a hospital stay in Shanghai, or not cover nearly as much, and a Shanghai hospital will be more expensive. Secondly, even if he can receive his benefits, they're often tied to local cost of living, so what is adequate in rural Anhui is inadequate in Shanghai. I knew a blind masseuse from rural Hubei (middle of China) working in Beijing, and he received about 600 yuan ($100) a month of disability pay from the govt. If he had had a Beijing residence permit, he would have gotten about 1100 yuan a month from the govt.

3b) City perks are reserved for city residents. Non Beijing residents have to pay higher fees for public schools and don't have precedence, meaning that they often can't send their kids to the good schools or have to pay for much more expensive private schools. Top universities like Peking University operate like US public universities, meaning that something like 40% of the spots are reserved for locals. This means that getting into Peking U is far easier for a Beijinger than for someone from another province, which everyone outside Beijing sees as bitterly unfair. With the crazy real estate bubble, outsiders (waidi ren) are prohibited from buying real estate in Beijing, and Beijingers are limited to 2 apartments. This was designed to prevent wealthy speculators, but it means that anyone without a Beijing residence permit is kind of screwed if they want to stay in Beijing permanently and marry. (Men need to own a house to marry).


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 12:16 AM
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That's all really interesting, Britta, and very different from the picture of China that comes through from Western media sources. What's the feeling there about the Bo Xilai trial?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 12:26 AM
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Xi Jinping's "crackdown on corruption", so far. (via Jamie)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 1:26 AM
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95

Ha thanks, I'm glad someone is interested. But yeah, this is why I absolutely hate Western coverage of China. It's all neoliberal propaganda, lauding China every time they do "market reforms" (aka impoverishing millions of people and further concentrating wealth in the hands of the corrupt elite) and criticizing anything that smacks of "socialism." Even when they report on legitimate human rights abuses, it's always from the most backwards angle possible, or filled with such hyperbole that any legitimate criticism gets lost, e.g., comparing the One-Child Policy to the Holocaust. The NYTimes isn't more biased than the People's Daily, but at least Chinese people have no illusions that their news is reporting some objective truth.

In terms of Bo Xilai, my immediate informants want him hanging from a lamppost. People are spitting mad about corruption or anything that reeks of special treatment for officials and their children. A few days ago some of my informants were saying the problem with corruption is that the death penalty isn't applied often enough, so officials aren't scared enough of the consequences. I don't know how widespread this view is, and lots of people, esp. those with govt jobs, don't talk about it.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 1:36 AM
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Maybe a better more widespread and pernicious example of Western media bias is the way it frequently attributes the effects of unregulated, unbridled capitalism to some sort of "Chinese characteristics." This denies that China is actually quite capitalist and erases the damage that neoliberalism has done to ordinary Chinese, and also stirs up anti-Chinese sentiment, or at least anxieties towards the Oriental Other. It also then allows for "neoliberalism" or "the free market" to be posed as the solution to China's problems, rather than its cause.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 1:49 AM
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Men need to own a house to marry.

That bit I didn't know. Good grief.

I don't think you can really talk about China as having "unregulated, unbridled capitalism", though. The major banks are all state-owned. Most of the major industries are state-owned. Almost half of total corporate profits are made by SOEs.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 2:21 AM
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Wow, thanks, Britta! My sweetie spent a couple years there in... the late eighties? and still does language exchanges or such and is gobsmacked at how fast the changes have been. (At which his party trick is now singing The East Is Red, which was still obligatory at his job.)

It may be that rural people will now work in cities until late middle age and then retire to the countryside to farm small plots of land and raise their grandkids. Ha! Had we had kids in our thirties, we'd have done this.

I knew scraps of what you describe from following Ministry of Tofu, where the comments are worth following, too. Wonders of the Internet.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 5:26 PM
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Since I appeared to have killed this thread, I'll just keep going.

ajay,

I wouldn't say that state-owned precludes operating in an essentially unregulated capitalist fashion. You're right that the whole system is far from unregulated, but the things that get picked up and criticized in the Western media, particularly in more "liberal" circles, such as rampant piracy, food adulteration, environmental destruction, and atrocious working conditions are the result of unregulated, often short-term, profit maximization, not some innate Oriental lack of empathy for human suffering, or whatever other explanation is given. Religious oppression, freedom of speech, and the one-child policy might be major issues that are exceptions.

clew,

Talking to some of my college educated informants, they feel the Bo Xilai thing is just internal party politics playing out in public. They think Bo will get off with a slap on the wrist, in large part because Xi can't afford to alienate Bo's supporters in the party, and his faction is too large to entirely suppress. Unlike my older or more working class informants, they seem pretty jaded about corruption in practice, though disgusted with it in theory.

My aunt and uncle taught English in China for two summers, in 1980 and 1981. From their description, it might have well as been 100 years ago. I've been coming to China for 10 years, and even the changes in this period of time are kind of mind boggling. Sometimes I'll ask people about something, and they'll say, "oh, that is what it was like last year. This year is completely different." What I find interesting about this is it includes not only technology, material goods, or government programs, but also customs and habits of the sort that we tend to think are ingrained and resistant to change. Seatbelt wearing, drunk driving, spitting, lining up, smoking, following traffic laws, all of these habits have changed drastically in the past 5 years in a way that hardly seems believable. Of course these are fairly superficial changes, and in many fundamental ways things are the same and/or the continuities are greater than they may at first appear, especially outside the large cities. But in terms of material changes, I don't know if there's been anything like it anywhere else--maybe postwar Europe during the "thirty glorious years"?


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 11:11 PM
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p.s. what job requires singing "The East is Red"?

Also, check out China smack


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-23-13 11:12 PM
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But in terms of material changes, I don't know if there's been anything like it anywhere else--maybe postwar Europe during the "thirty glorious years"?

Most mass urbanizations look something like this, to some degree. Add modernity, the valorization of the shock and awe of the new, and you accelerate the changes. These can also be repeated.

The paradigm is the 2nd industrialization, like 1880-1920. Train/truck and telephone are huge. Huge. These two create the production economy.

Many people think the big one is when you industrialize agriculture and create a proletariat. They move to the city, create a demand for transportation, communication, architecture, education, organization, entertainment and services. The managerial class that provides these things have new demands of their own.

The post-WW II leap in the OECD was to the consumption society, the effective demand Fordist economy, where internal demand drives GDP and economies of scale. Big difference from the pre-WWII production/import/export model. I think even "liberal" economists agree that trade is most important for internal capital accumulation.

Moving from the production export economy to an internal demand economy is the tough jump, and obviously even the most developed democracies haven't completely figured it out yet. Post-modernism is hard.

China may be about to move into the 50s-60s transition, but I don't think it wants to. Losing social control and stability is I think absolutely guaranteed at the tail end of that. 1968 happened everywhere.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 2:10 PM
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are the result of unregulated, often short-term, profit maximization, not some innate Oriental lack of empathy for human suffering, or whatever other explanation is given.

Culture is regulated, and culture is engineered

There is something called "familialism" where you have few ethical obligations outside your ie, your household, your clan, your village, your domain.

Nowhere unique to the East, but Confucianism is a good example of familialism. Maybe not, wiki doesn't mention it. It, like most religions/ideologies, is an constructed form of social control.

How you generate a broader sustained benevolence, internalized norms behaviors and institutions that mitigate parochialism ("shaming family" was important to Neo-Confucianism) is another one of those tough questions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 2:26 PM
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Britta, serial commenting is great. Please feel free to continue.

I'm sort of curious, what do you think of the tone of political discussions in China? From an outside perspective, it sounds horrible -- lots of absolute black-and-white statements, exaggerated rhetoric, etc. -- and people say the government's propaganda encourages this. But how common is that kind of talk, and do people really mean it literally, or is it just a mode of expression?


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 2:41 PM
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what job requires singing "The East is Red"?

I'm probably sharpening up his anecdote a bit. But, as I misremember it, *any* job when he was there still included singing heroic revolutionary songs, possibly during physical exercise. The East is Red is the one he can remember.

Wait -- wait -- *lining up* is now done? Truly humanity is self-recreating.

My favorite new kitchen thing is a Instant Pot auto-pressure-cooker (also a slow cooker, steamer, rice maker, and sauté pot). Computerized, so you can start the pressure cooker and walk away. Quite simple in a good way. Apparently the first version was promising but unreliable and this version seems a lot more solid. It's now top of my list for what to give as a new-home present -- I can't think of much that makes thrifty healthy cooking easier in a tiny space. There's a little slot for the spoon so you can cook with it on newspaper on the floor. It feels like the beginning of Chinese-oriented consumer goods being good enough to affect the rest of the world, an inflection I just remember for Japanese ones.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 3:03 PM
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Wait -- wait -- *lining up* is now done?

Before long, no one will even believe M/tch's anecdote any more.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 3:18 PM
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China recently pulled off a pretty big coup in particle physics, which is something that people seem to have thought was inconceivable until pretty recently. There are rumblings of much bigger projects under consideration there, the sort of thing that would define the direction of the field for decades to come. It'll be interesting to see if they pull it off, since the US is pretty clearly out of the business of building major new experiments for the foreseeable future.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 3:26 PM
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I wonder how long the funding strategy of getting rich Chinese students to come to college here is going to keep working before China has enough great universities of its own.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-24-13 3:52 PM
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clew

Lining up as a concept seems to be spreading outwards from Beijing. I was in BJ for a month in March, and people actually do the "stand to the side in a line and let the people getting off get off first down the middle" thing for the subway. The govt. has made it easy by painting arrows on the floor, telling you exactly where to stand. There are also fences and rails everywhere corralling traffic, both human and vehicle, and it appears that people have effectively internalized these restraints and tend to just be more "orderly" in general. I went to BJ from Taiwan, expecting to find a huge difference in terms of orderliness, and found very little at all. Things are a little more "messy" as the Chinese say, in small provincial cities, but car traffic is remarkably well behaved. My theory is it that's because a significant number of middle class Chinese people now drive. With more cars on the road, people have to obey the law more, but also, if you kill someone, you have to pay their family 100s of thousands of yuan. Before when it was just wealthy officials and taxis and truck drivers, no one seemed to care about not mowing people down, but now most drivers are very conscientious. Scooters still drive like maniacs and rely on the fact that car drivers don't want to kill them to stay alive. My theory for the orderliness in general is that most Chinese people alive and on the street now have never experienced significant deprivation, so most people are comfortable with the idea that there's enough to go around and everyone will get what they want if they wait their turn. This theory is reinforced by the fact that old people can still be very pushy, whereas younger people seem better at lining up.

torrey pine,

That is interesting, I don't think I've heard that before. With the major caveat that I am a foreigner and people may not speak about politics with me like they do other Chinese people, I would say that it varies, but most I've talked to tend to be relatively nuanced. Some people say inflammatory things to me, like "Obama sucks, Chairman Mao forever!" etc. but I'm pretty sure that's entirely to provoke me. A lot of people don't talk about politics with me at all, or they have a somewhat disinterested or cynical view. Since people can't vote, there's not the same sort of personal stake in discussing politics, at least for the people who are willing to talk to me. What's interesting to me (given my own national-centrism) is that the Chinese opinion of American presidents is based almost solely on the administration's treatment of China, and, to a lesser extent, other foreign policy. (I mean, this makes sense, I'm just so used to evaluating our presidents on domestic as well as foreign policy.) People really didn't like Bush because of the war in Iraq, but they don't like Obama any better, since they think he's taken a 'hard line' towards China. A lot of people really still respect and admire the US as the world's most powerful and advanced country, or at least admire parts of it, though almost no one I've met recently views it as some sort of Utopia, as maybe people used to do in the 80s. People respect our democratic system of government, even if they don't think it suits China, our military, which is seen to be the most advanced in the world (if overly belligerent), and our economic power. They really value our educational system, which they think fosters creativity and innovation and is the best in the world. American TV shows, movies, and sports leagues are hugely popular, so most people have some sense of the US and US popular culture, even if it's a very distorted one. If I have to generalize, I would say the average Chinese person knows far more about the US than the average American knows about China, though that is probably true of all countries around the world.
I tend to hear more black and white statements when it comes to national stereotypes. It's common for people to say, "the Japanese are xx" or "the Italians are xx" etc. This can also come out in self-stereotyping (We Chinese are all xxx), and especially in expressions of cultural chauvinism, like my personal favorite: "the Chinese language is complex and refined, whereas English is simple and straightforward." I have the feeling this is more a reflection of a mode of expression + little contact with foreigners rather an actual sense that the world breaks down into easy stereotypes. At least with cultural chauvinism, I think there is a growing sense, at least by some people, that the Chinese spent the 20th century attempting to eradicate their traditional culture in one way or another, and that the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. Also, I get the sense that people are growing to see themselves as living in country which is becoming a major world power and was once one of the 'greatest' world civilizations, not simply a developing country trying to catch up to the West, and are less likely to assume that foreign is automatically better. I feel like this often gets reported as 'nationalism' or 'xenophobia' in the West, but I would say that it's more like a skepticism about if recreating a the western developed country model is an appropriate for China, as well as a growing confidence towards traditional culture. Most people in all walks of life are worried about what they see as the growing selfishness and materialism of young people. The story goes that the Communists abolished Confucian morality and replaced it with Marxism, and the Reform and Opening period abolished Marxism and replaced it with pursuit of wealth at all costs (from Deng's "to get rich is glorious" speech in 92). Stories of young wealthy people behaving badly are very popular on the internet and in general discussion, and in terms of raising children, everyone feels caught up in a rat race that they can't step off of without fear of being totally left behind.

109

I wouldn't worry too much. The US is still the top place for very wealthy parents to send their terrible or mediocre students, and I don't see a third tier Chinese University gaining that much prestige any time soon. Australia would have to worry before we do, since Australia is seen as the back up place you send your kid if you can't get them into the US, England, or Canada (in that order). While I'm writing a novel, I might add that this is why, AFAICT, the higher ed system is or at least is seen as relatively uncorrupt. College admissions are based solely on test scores, so it's harder to fudge admissions for the wealthy and well-connected. A more common way for the wealthy to 'cheat' than to try to buy their way into a top school would be to buy their kid a Beijing or Shanghai residence permit, which very likely requires bribes and string-pulling, since admissions rates are so much higher if you're from one of those cities. It's more common though for the very wealthy and well connected to send their kids abroad. It's easier for Hu Jintao's daughter to get into Harvard because of her father than Peking University, and Harvard is more prestigious anyways.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 8:51 AM
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Here is a good example of ordinary people's outrage (and humor) directed towards officials and corruption:

http://www.chinasmack.com/2013/stories/no-dereliction-of-duty-in-police-failure-to-stop-murder.html


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 9:35 AM
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At least with cultural chauvinism, I think there is a growing sense, at least by some people, that the Chinese spent the 20th century attempting to eradicate their traditional culture in one way or another, and that the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak.

I have nothing useful to add, I just think that is an interesting perspective. I also wonder if people who feel that way are motivated by a desire to have a more continuous (and maybe less depressing) narrative that connects modern China with its pre-20th century history.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 4:12 PM
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I've noticed that Chinese traditional clothing and hairstyles, Englished han-fu, is newly stylish in some circles; somewhere between historical reenactment and cosplay. In my experience adopting clothes generally comes along with a version of the morals and mores. Often a really cockeyed, clearly modernized, somewhat self-indulgent, Good Parts version, but it's a way to organize change.

One of the people who kept a Mao, mm, shrine? in SF's Chinatown and was of an age to have suffered said to my other half that yes, she had suffered, and her family worse, but that the rest of the world would have kept their foot on China's neck without him. We don't think she was on the mean of political opinion, but the Mao image was visible from the street. Fits with the Chinese opinion of American presidents is based almost solely on the administration's treatment of China somehow.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 5:43 PM
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I had a mouse pad that was a Mao's Pad, but I wouldn't read too much into that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 5:51 PM
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113.1: Shit. I'm wearing khaki pants and a golf shirt. In my defense, Protestants have nicer clothes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-25-13 6:13 PM
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