David Graeber in the Chronicle:

I would like to write about the bullshitization of academic life: that is, the degree to which those involved in teaching and academic management spend more and more of their time involved in tasks which they secretly — or not so secretly — believe to be entirely pointless.

For a number of years now, I have been conducting research on forms of employment seen as utterly pointless by those who perform them. The proportion of these jobs is startlingly high. Surveys in Britain and Holland reveal that 37 to 40 percent of all workers there are convinced that their jobs make no meaningful contribution to the world.

Largely a painful rant, but does have it’s moments of clarity.

It strikes me that a real problem with the university system is that, intellectually, it is becoming the only game in town. Scholars have no other place to go, scientists few, and even as university departments themselves become less and less concerned with ideas, almost anyone whose work is in any way related to the life of the mind — artists or journalists, for instance — becomes more and more likely to have to spend at least some time employed by one. These two phenomena are related. The best thing that could happen to universities would be to face a little competition.

It’s helpful to remember that universities have faced effective competition before, and benefited from it. Most 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers had nothing but contempt for universities, which they saw as corrupt, pedantic, moribund, and medieval; they preferred to write for the general public.