What Are the Humanities? Why Are They Worth Saving?

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

This much is all true: I believe that “quality television” is in fact of extremely low quality, that “YA literature” is not literature, that “OA literature” as it were looks more and more like YA with each passing year, that superhero movies are of course not cinema and that no self-respecting adult should ever watch them, except perhaps as an expression of love to some li’l tyke in their lives. If we were living in a culture dominated by grown-ups, Martin Scorsese would be considered the purveyor of middle-brow forgettable fare rather than the gold standard of sophistication, and at least the childless among us would not even have to be aware of Spider-Man’s existence.

Somehow these commitments make me a crypto-reactionary for a whole generation of thirty-somethings with Ph.D.s and with anime avatars on their social-media accounts, even though my principal frame of analysis whenever I discuss these cultural phenomena remains Marxist through and through: they are opium for the masses, churned out by rapacious mega-corporations that do not care about society or about art. Yet in the current climate, for reasons I will never understand, to share 10% of one’s views with the political right is to invite constant entreaties and attempted seductions from the right, while to share 90% of one’s views with the left is to invite categorical ostracism from the left for not being able to get on board for that remaining 10% — even when that remaining 10% concerns “superstructural” questions of art and sensibility, and has nothing to do with fundamental questions of economic justice.

I was brutally reminded of all of this when, last week, the Chronicle of Higher Education picked up and ran a version of my most recent public ‘stack concerning, among other things, the near-total collapse of the academic humanities over the past few decades.

More here.