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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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March 28, 2008

Speaking of convergence culture, Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like has landed a book deal based on the stuff he blogs. I'm impressed.

Lander's posts sending up the white middle class lifestyle get mixed responses. Some people get it, some don't. Some white people are a bit sensitive, although some of the entries have made me a bit uncomfortable. Still, it was a brilliant idea for a blog. Some of our op-ed columnists would get a real kick out of it.

You can get a fair idea of what he's on about from the Full List of Stuff White People Like:

Dinner parties
Having gay friends
Hating corporations
Bottles of water
Knowing what's best for poor people
Arts degrees
Being an expert on YOUR culture

White people are pretty conflicted about their culture. On one hand, they are proud of the art, literature, and film produced by white culture. But at the same time, they are very ashamed of all the bad things in white culture: the KKK, colonialism, slavery, Jim Crow laws, feudalism, and the treatment of native americans.

Arts degrees?

These degrees enable white people to spend four yeas of their lives reading books, writing papers and feeling great about themselves. It is a known fact that Arts students firmly believe that they are doing you/society a favor by not getting a job and reading Proust. They use this to protest for reduced tuition, more money for the arts, and special reduced student rates on things like bus passes.


So why would white people spend all that time studying and working to get into college if they are just going to read books that they might have read in their free time? Because white people have it made. They can take that degree and easily parlay it into a non profit job, an art gallery job, or work in publishing. If the pay is low, no problem, their parents will happily help out with rent until they magically start making six figures or non-magically turn 40.


| Posted by Lyn at 11:10 AM | | Comments (26)


Should be stuff white American people like.

I discovered him via the Cats (Catallaxy) & the post about travel caught my eye and one destination was our home country where the people are predominantly...

There's a lot of specifically American stuff in there. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about on the bottled water entry where he was going on about containers I've never seen here. Overall though, middle class white people seem to be similar wherever they are.

Yes, having lived in White Yanqui Land I can say that it is very 'merican. It is somewhat universal however. A very entertaining read, wherever you are coming from.

Somewhat universal, yes. Yesterday's post was about music piracy which I've talked about hereabouts.

the stuff about arts degrees is a parody of the conservative science position who still adhere to all that dreary two cultures stuff? Or is it serious about what is happening to a liberal education and the intrinsic value of the arts in a knowledge-based society.; or the need to redefine what a liberal education would mean in an information economy.

The digital creative economy is full of arts people--the vitality and prosperity of Melbourne's laneway economy, which is proving so attractive to Melburnians, is premised on the creativity of the arts/humanities crowd.

This is something more here than thinking of usefulness of a liberal education in the market-place and as we live in a competitive environment so the aim of education is to help us to become winners.

the ideal of a liberal education is the view that a certain sort of learning and knowledge might enable one to lead a freer life.This learning and knowledge is not directly connected with practical results or technical power, and the ideal is often formulated as a defense against a perceived threat or attack (such as that pursuit of such an ideal is a waste of time).

The latter position is that of Christian Lander in your post. he mocks it becauae he senses the emptiness inside the ideal.

The ideal a liberal education is "under pressure everywhere" and those who defend it have a siege mentality and adopt deploy a "man the barricades" rhetoric as they confront the effects of the seats of power and influence in the modern university and economy. These are the natural and life sciences + economics.

The reinvented liberal education prizes critical thinking above all else. It's aim is to teach you how to think hard and well.

Critical thinking is a rather straightforward process that involves asking important questions and making convincing arguments of your own in response to those questions.

There is no need to be defensive about this, as it is highly relevant in a knowledge society.

Nan, Peter,
Lander is a self described white person and arts degree holder. He's applying a bit of Anon's critical thinking to his own life, examining it from an Other perspective. Clearly, as Nan points out, the arts/humanities people do well in the digital, or Anon's knowledge, economy.

As we've discussed hereabouts many times, not everyone has the required competencies or inclination to take part. It's hard to tell sometimes which side of that divide Lander is sending up.

I think it is too late to talk about humanities/liberal arts educations in Australia. They seem to be almost dead with the trend not looking good. Social Studies has pushed the humanities out.

cultural studies seems to be thriving. Arew you referring to old style humanities?

critical thinking is not just of central importance for university professors and their graduate students. It has much utility in the so-called “real world,” which is where most of us are going to work and live. Critical thinking is central to job and play.


Yes, that is what I mean. The humanities are being pushed aside by Cultural/Gender/Media/Whiteness/Communications/Whatever "Studies."

We are producing a generation of complete philistines.


Well critical thinking has been quite popular for over 2,500 years, you know. ;)

what is your point about critical thinking in relation to digital literacy?

cultural studies and communication studies are a part of the new humanities in our universities. Are you then denying that they are not part of the humanities---such as English or visual art? Or that there is no such thing as digital literacy?

Do not the new humanities broaden our intellectual horizons by exposing us to a wide range of issues and ideas, many of which we have not thought about before?

The classical understanding of critical thinking was that it an education for dialectical and rhetorical techniques of persuasion. Are you suggesting that these cognitive skills are not useful to a lawyer, a doctor, a businessman, a teacher, or a policy wonk, or navigating the internet?

You do need to spell out what mean by critical thinking. Are you implying that this is educating sophists---a person who is skilled at influencing audiences and winning arguments; one who is skilled in survival in a social context? Or is it something more in a liberal education? Something to do with a moral education and creating a certain type of person?


My point is quite bland. All I am saying is that critical thinking has been at the centre of all university teaching since the early second millenium and in schools at least as far back as 2,500 BCE.

The Cultural/Blah Studies movement is not the humanities. It is a narrow form of social science rhetoric rooted pretty much in very tired mid twentieth century continental angst of the Frankfurt School married to post 1960s French post-structuralism.

Great art, literature, science, and mathematics are secondary to their political agenda. That is, merely attempts to have another bite at the Marxist cherry.

You baffle me. You did a great analysis of your own experiences as a flano wearing westie watching Flaming Hands at a pub in the rocks, your own youthful version of subverting the geographical class/culture divide.

Is that understanding useless? Would you be better off without the ability to analyse your own experiences in class terms?


I got that analysis from an old fashioned non-Frankfurt/French postit education, as had many just like me for decades and centuries beforehand.

It would be highly unlikely that a person going through High School and university nowadays would be able to pull off a similar analysis. Class? ROFL. So modernist of you sweetie. ;)

what John means is that he is one of Mark Latham's aspirationals who has become a cultural conservative hooked up to the Arnold/Leavisite cultural formation of the early 20th century. This resisted Marxism in the1930s.

Its adherents today have deeply resisted the influence of the Frankfurt School and post structuralism as foreign bodies carry the nasty virus called Theory. That virus must be stamped out along with its hosts in the name of moral health.

John is a flag bearer and engaged in the fighting cultural wars in the Oz blogosphere by firing off his little word bullets that are designed to sting the Australian left. This is designed foster reasoned debate. His cultural home is Quadrant and its discourse about the politicization and intolerance of the universities by the 1968ers who succumbed to the disease of political correctness. Quadrant, for these cultural conservatives, is the last bastion of intellectual courage and dissent.

I would doubt, given his old fashioned education, that John would have read Adorno's Aesthetic Theory or Negative Dialectics.Given the kind of education he refers to he would be proud of not having read these seminal texts. All he requires as his touchstones is an appeal to the canon and the 'lived experience' of the common folk--definitely not the Dialectic of Enlightenment.


Without any intention of flattering you, that analysis had a far more sophisticated understanding of symbolism than a standard education of the time supplied. I was there too, watching Flaming Hands with my Hurstville background and standard history-started-when-Captain-Cook-landed education.

Why was it such a big deal to move from Canley Vale to Bondi? How is it that you know that you and your mates were violating some kind of code just by being there? Or is the difference that you can articulate better now that you're older and you didn't understand back then?

Kids routinely use that kind of thinking in classrooms and universities now. That's what all the complaints about the loss of the classics and collapse into relativism are about.

Yes, I'm familiar with the blogosphere's John Greenfield. I know that just the mention of his name can upset people. But I don't think it helps anyone to dismiss someone or automatically disagree with them. Different matter when they're just stirring of course.

And where do we find JG's sophisticated analysis of what it means to be a stranger in his own land? Is it online? Can it be shared?

Greenfield strikes me as being on a similar trajectory to one David Burchell who has become part of The Australian's conservative crew. The pose is one of the gadfly who tries to scratch were it itches.

Talking of Burchell, I read his op-ed that cast doubts on whether there is a productivity crisis as Rudd and Treasury argue. I couldn't follow the argument. He says that:

Lewis Carroll might have enjoyed the idea of productivity. Like one of those charming paradoxes out of Through the Looking-Glass, it's a phenomenon that appears entirely different according to the angle from which you view it.

Well, he's discovered perspectivism. He sums up thus:
And here's the rub for the Government. From this bird's eye view, we're still what we've always been: a small, developed economy placed in an awkward part of the world, with no particular competitive advantage in industry or technology, and with a persistent over-reliance on low-value-added exports. That longer-term problem, rather than temporary blips on the productivity screen, is what should worry us most.

I thought that Treasury was arguing that increased productivity was one of the was to address this structural problem. Increased skills, becoming smarter, innovation, developing a knowledge economy etc etc. Its not that Australia has many options.


OMG. If U used to go the Flaming Hands, I think I know who you are! Nothing weird here. Can I email you to verify if I am right? It would be a scream if I am right! :)

Sorry. No mystery intended. The discussion was ages ago and I knew it would take me ages to find.

It's here at Jan 6 10.18am and continues in chunks throughout the thread.

Nastiness warning. There's a lot of useless name calling in the thread and an awful lot of academic terminology being used as ammunition, which was the thing that initially interested me from a Bourdieu Language and Symbolic Power angle.

I understand what you mean with the Burchill thing, thanks to your persuasive arguments on that score, but in the context of a brawl over high/low culture John had some good points I thought, if you can ignore his obsession with luvvies, whatever that means.

My own background and youthful experience was very similar, and JG and I seem to have come away from it with similar understandings of it in relation to high/low culture. As grownups we seem to have gone off on different attitude trajectories (or something).

It struck me that for someone so hell bent on discrediting analyses that have anything to do with French theorists he is really quite good at it. I also have enormous sympathy with the argument that European (and I'd add, American) theory doesn't easily transplant to the Australian experience.

I hope you can ignore all the nastiness on the thread. I'd be interested in what you think.

Highly unlikely but anything's possible I guess. I was a huge FH fan so it's entirely possible that we were often in the same place at the same time. I'll email you.

I still have my Flaming Hands, Phantom Records - The Big Beat in the Heart of the Vinyl Jungle t-shirt. And a Wake Up Screaming b/w Sweet Revenge poster I pinched off a telegraph pole in Bondi Junction.

Care to one up me on that?

How very appropriate for a thread on Stuff While People Like.