Every now and then I catch myself on the edge of falling into one of the most treacherous traps of intellectual life – vainly and pathetically seeking to please the institution. It may take the form of trying to impress the powers that be so they smile favourably upon you, or of pursuing ‘esteem factors’ so that one’s status in the twisted world of academia rises, or of having one’s photograph on the institution’s webpage as a reward for some paltry achievement, or of wanting to see the small corner of intellectual life one inhabits grow and prosper, or of aspiring to be invited to the sad bodies known as the ‘academy’ of whatever disciplinary area, or of putting together a ‘promotion’ portfolio, of of wanting – God forbid – your own institution to do well on the league table. I don’t usually teeter on the edge of all these traps, but they are all there to catch the unwary and grovelling. As I have pointed out a number of times in the ‘Typology of Scholars‘, the catch is that the institutions in question rely on both the ideology of achievement and on the fact that most people engage in intellectual pursuits due to a sense of vocation. Given that institutions will not hesitate to make one redundant for unexplained reasons, or close down a program, centre or department  at a whim, or screw you over whenever possible, these are dangerous and soul-destroying snares. Apart from that they are thoroughly empty and unsatisfying if achieved – a little like the cars, house, 2.3 kids, resort holidays, healthy bank balance and successful career. Thankfully, I usually avoid that crap, but every now and then I’m tempted.

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