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Third World Corruption as a Behavioral Science, Part 2
October 9, 2008 - 1:32pm

By

UD

Start here: The more highly corporatized the university, the more corporate in their attitudes the faculty. Especially faculty imports from the corporate world -- people who aren't really professors, but who, usually for reasons of vanity, play them on campus.

I mean, if you want to understand the origin of catastrophes like Emory University's Charles Nemeroff, you need to understand his mental world.

So start here: Start with a recent news story about the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The man who presided over the collapse got five hundred million dollars in compensation while doing so. To be sure, he and his family have suffered like everyone else because of the economic crisis:

'Mr. Fuld was once worth close to $1 billion and now has a net worth estimated at about $100 million. He and his wife have been forced to sell some of their renowned art collection.'

Start there. Start with the understanding that Charles Nemeroff's understanding of his personal value, his social status, comes from Fuld's world. He's not about ... whatever professors are about ... intellectual discovery, pedagogy, communities of scholars...

He's not comparing himself to Freud. He's comparing himself to Fuld.

If one hundred million dollars a year represents your sense of what your compensation should be, and if you find yourself in a university, you're up shit's creek. There's no way, even with a medical professor's salary, you're going to get there.

But you can make a respectable, extra-university ton of money by selling your reputation to drug companies.

Keep front and center the fact that in this sense the university is immensely valuable, even to people like Nemeroff, for whom the shabby, earnest ethos of the institution is a joke and a personal insult. To play the professor is to play the man with integrity, the man who has eschewed the corporate world because he's above single-minded profit-taking. He's motivated by science and altruism.

And it is precisely everyone's appraisal of the university professor as a serious person, motivated more by ideas than money, that Nemeroff and his corporate clients exploit. Professor Nemeroff shares with you his admiration for our new drug! This admiration emerges solely out of his intellectual scrutiny of its properties. You can trust his sober, disinterested point of view because... he's a professor...

The character emerging from what UD's been describing comes out of a nineteenth century novel. The fraud, the poseur, the hypocrite, the confidence man who breaks the rules more and more flagrantly because he's sure he can get away with it. The world, after all, is a cynical place. He knows how to play it.

This is a comic character, full of high sentence and secret hoardings. The only writer today who can do him justice is Tom Wolfe.

Charles Nemeroffs are amusing in novels. Their reality is sad, sad, sad. If you care about the American university.

 

 

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