We find ourselves . . . in a vicious eddy of American economic history. Our fortunes as an occupational group have, for a hundred years, been closely bound to the evolution of industrial capitalism, for reasons I tried to analyze in English in America. Because our society expresses its values through the market, a sudden change in the market makes itself felt as a change in values. You can find in just about any of our professional publications now expressions of dismay that society does not seem to care about the humanities, about the full cultivation of the mind, about the higher literacy, about what we value most and are prepared to offer. Yet I doubt that American society, taken as a collection of individuals with personal values, holds literature or literacy any less dear in 1976 than in 1966. The point is that society determines our fortunes as a profession, not mainly through direct purchase of our services, but through the labor market where capitalists buy one or another kind of labor power. Right now they do not need nearly so much educated labor power as we, along with our colleagues in other fields, have been producing. This is the main fact about our present and future. The economic system is shaping our educational choices, and providing us the circumstances within which we will make our piece of history.
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