On academic ideals and realities:
We fixate on what these mythical figures seem to possess because it, like the airbrushed beauty of advertisement models, feels tantalizingly attainable — an idea seemingly confirmed whenever someone we know, who at least outwardly embodies the ideals of productivity, wins an award or publishes frequently. This perpetuates a deadening professional culture of suspicion, anxiety, envy, doubt, and bitterness — everyone displays successful facades to one another while secretly wondering how to attain what they suspect others have already found.
On academic ‘productivity’ as unbearable:
New shades of such anxiety await you at every professional echelon. They plague our perceptions and interactions, whether we’re competing for jobs or, if we’re so “lucky,” competing for tenure, grants, name recognition, or that nebulous distinction of just “knowing more.”
Why do we keep up this facade-driven culture when it’s so emotionally draining? Why do we perpetuate myths about “productivity” and “success” when they consume us with doubt and envy?
The road to productivity” will be unbearable, especially for those of us in the precariat, if we can’t find ways to enjoy our work.
The myth of productivity:
Like bear traps clamped onto our spleens, the contemporary academy holds us in place with such polished myths, which tell us who we are or who we should be — myths about how productive we’d be if we “focused more,” about our mental health being an entirely “personal” issue having nothing to do with our exploitative environments, about academe being a meritocracy, about the golden shores of tenure waiting for us if we just swim hard enough. Uncompromisingly, publicly, communally, we need to renounce our allegiance to these myths and throw them into the fire for good.
From Alison J. Pugh in The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity (2014) on how people feel, or think they should feel, about losing their jobs (p41):
While they protect themselves from their feelings, they also protect their employers, they suppress what could be an important impetus for collective action, and they further a privatization of risk that brings the burdens of globalization to rest on their shoulders. In doing so, people employed in precarious work shunt aside a potentially important resource for social change: their own antagonism.