Simon During over at academia.edu:
Why is it just now that a need is felt for courses on the humanities as such, and why, too, are histories and defences of the humanities pouring from the presses? As we all know, a good part of the answer is that the humanities are currently under financial and ideological pressure. This has had the effect of flattening them—by which I mean that the humanities are often no longer so much regarded as a suite of specialized disciplines but rather as a distinct formation on their own account. When, for instance, politicians, business people and university administrators worry that the humanities are insufficiently geared toward training students for the workplace they usually don’t distinguish between history, philosophy, archaeology and so on—it is simply the humanities that are in their sights, and, from that perspective, we—students and teachers— are “in the humanities” rather than in a particular discipline. We might say, in sum, that the humanities are becoming a “meta-discipline.” For all that, a concept of the humanities that transcends or,at any rate, overflows the established disciplines is a beast that has been vaguely denoted rather than concretely apprehended.