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The supply of people with PhDs in the humanities vastly exceeds the demand for them. Why?
The explanations for trouble in the humanities I see the most are:
1. People care too much about making money, not enough about the search for truth and beauty.
2. The Humanities disciplines caused their own problems by wandering off into fashionable theories of the liberal, relativistic, or goofily postmodern persuasion.
The first explanation sometimes involves criticisms of capitalism, and sometimes of Republican governors. The second explanation often appears in places like National Review’s Phi Beta Cons blog. A third explanation of this particular problem is pretty simple, and may not make it as easy for the left or right to toss blame at each other:
3. Too many universities have produced way too many humanities PhDs because universities look more prestigious when they have more PhD programs.
My own working theory is that all of these explanations are correct. Please note: I don’t think much of the first theory as a criticism of capitalism, though it might be a nice criticism of the reduction of the good life to capitalism alone (also criticized here, for example).
I might add that, even if the third theory carries the most weight as an explanation, I am a fan of the second theory, and I think it’s an important commentary on the humanities these days.
I might also ask, given the truth of the second theory, how much you can blame people if they pursue financial stability and a strong economy instead of studying these theories?
What say the Ricochetti?
Theory 4? (Please provide in comments.)