The University, the Universe, the World, and “Globalization”
The paper is centered on the post-WWII decline of the humanities and a proposal for a radically reshaped organization of cultural knowledge and a project for social, environmental, and mental reformulation in the integrated world capitalism.
The discipline of the humanities--like the idea of 'culture'--is a byproduct of the formation of the nation-state in the nineteenth century West. During the post-Enlightenment era, the idea of culture was aggressively promoted by the states to legitimate the integrity of themselves as they engaged in colonial and imperial projects. The importance of culture and the humanities lasted well into the mid twentieth century. The decline began with the fundamental skepticism toward the idea of totality, authority, and centrality, which was replaced fairly rapidly by the ideology of difference, especially as the old colonies began to gain "independence." Said's Orientalism is one of the movements emanating from this challenge, joined soon by gender, ethnic, and popular culture studies which were advanced in the spirit of equity and liberation. Difference and diversity have been assumed as axial by now for several decades. What has gradually emerged from this initially liberating movement, however, is social and intellectual fragmentation. Socially, it coincided with the neo-liberal development. Intellectually and institutionally, it has encouraged and has been encouraged by the emphasis on specialization and "theorization." Commonality is now decisively being dismissed. And the idea of culture is itself no longer accepted, as activities and products--long set aside as "cultural"--become absorbed into the market and commodities. The neo-liberal economy also converted the university into a profession, career, and corporation, and careerism further isolated and atomized individual disciplines and scholars.
The abandonment of the museum and the university may in itself be not a catastrophe. (Nor is it entirely new.) Yet the way today's scholars and writers of different "kinds" (in gender, ethnicity, class, and discipline) have ceased to talk together, discuss together, or even disagree together is quite alarming--especially now that the environmental deterioration demands that the planet be understood and experienced as a commonality that belongs to every single being on earth. Economics cannot externalize the environmental factors: pricing, especially, needs to be fundamentally restructured. History and geography cannot neglect paleontology and geophysics. The humanities that has always been at least implicitly sustained by the idea of nation-state can now seize this demoralized moment and reorganize itself around the planet and the universe, the ultimate totality as the central imaginary.
Environmental sustenance cannot be considered without rethinking social totality. The ever widening gap between the rich and the poor both among and within nations is a part of the ecological deterioration. This time, in other words, the need for a radical reformation is not merely ethical or political, but a necessity for everyone which even the rich cannot avoid. Far from being vulnerable to the assault by totalitarianism, this transformation is integrated with singularities and connectives. Unlike the nation-state, the planet, and the universe, is an inspiring commonality on which writers, scholars, and scientists can work together in a truly transdisciplinary endeavor.
Keywords: University, Globalization, Environment, Corporations/Corporatism, The Gap between the Rich and the Poor, Universal, The Humanities, Nation-State, Discipline, Transdiscipline, Culture, Externalities, Poverty, Profession, Planet, Terrorism, Difference, Totality, Singularization, Ecology, Ecosophy
Prof. Masao Miyoshi
University of California, San Diego