Wednesday, December 06, 2017 No comments
The student representatives call me “willful,” “arrogant” and “irresponsible.” They don’t want me to run my courses in my own fashion. They insist that I should be supervised by a university committee. “We need quality control. This is our right as students.” Some other students disagree. “We’ve taken courses with Erik,” they say. “He’s great. We have complete faith in his judgment.” I’m grateful for the vote of confidence, but both views miss the point. What is at stake here is the independence...
Tuesday, December 05, 2017 2 Comments
  The Swedish government’s requirement that all courses at the university should have a “gender perspective” is yet another example of the parochialism of Swedish universities. It’s yet another expression of a very Swedish, and very limited, view of the world. By imposing this rule, the government assumes that the distinction between men and women is the most salient cleavage in society. It is only a “gender perspective,” after all, that is given privileged access to all reading lists. The most important division in Swedish society, is the implicati...
Saturday, December 02, 2017 3 Comments
One of the things made painfully obvious by the Judith Butler Affair is the parochialism of Swedish universities. Parochialism –“characterized by an unsophisticated focus on local concerns to the exclusion of wider contexts; elementary in scope or outlook” — is a condition that happens to anyone who is convinced that he or she has nothing to learn from others. Judith Butler’s statement in defense of the right of university teachers to teach their own courses in their own fashion was eloquent and forceful, but it was not as such surprising. This is how all acad...
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 2 Comments
By now we know what they make of my course in Germany, in France, in Norway even, but what did the students who actually took the course think of it? Courses at Lund University are evaluated by students and so was this one. Obviously, given the attention which “Modern Society and Its Critics” has attracted, there are problems interpreting the results. In addition only about half of the students responded (which, however, is normal at Lund U). Still, a certain pattern does emerge: 66.7% of the students gave the course a “Very Good” grade (highest on a five point scal...
Thursday, November 23, 2017 8 Comments
The latest issue of the Swedish magazine Kvartal has an interview with none other than Judith Butler herself. The Judith Butler. Pdf here.  In the interview she comments on the recent “Judith Butler Affair” at Lund University, on the use of gender quotas on reading lists, and discusses the role of academic freedom at a university. I am delighted to find that she agrees with my position on all of these issues. And not just half-heartedly either, but with gusto, with zest and with emphasis. Judith, you are the best! I have promised the author of the article not to publish the who...
Monday, November 20, 2017 3 Comments
An MP for Moderaterna, Maria Abrahamsson, is talking about me in parliament. Well, not about me really, but about academic freedom at Swedish universities in general, and at Lund U in particular. She tells the story here. When confronted, the minister responsible said exactly what representatives of my department said in the press: “the quality of a text is more important than the gender of the author,” and “it is all a misunderstanding.” Yet after the debate, Maria Abrahamsson was still puzzled: but Erik’s course was interfered with; he was told what to teach...
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 No comments
Over the past weeks a discussion about academic freedom has been taking place on Academia.edu. Yesterday, Victoria posted this: I am currently active in campaigns for defending the right to academic freedom in Turkey and Palestine, thus, this article caught my eye. It particularly puzzled me, as in the Middle East, the Swedish academy is regularly held up as a bastion of academic freedom. As you may be aware, the situation in both Turkey and Palestine is extremely dire, in both cases we have tens of jailed academics, the state or occupying state dictating the freedom of movement of resea...
Monday, November 13, 2017 3 Comments
  The Swedish government wants to make universities into gender neutral institutions. Employees and students should have the same rights and opportunities regardless of whether they are men or women. What could be more praiseworthy? Who could be against that? Yet the government policy is a threat to academic freedom and thus to the whole point of the university. Reading the government’s proposal you learn nothing about the way the good intentions are translated into practice, how they work in the classrooms. For example: all around the country academic departments have adopted q...
Thursday, November 09, 2017 2 Comments
Today we spend much of our time on-line, and we largely do it together with people who share our interests, thoughts and convictions. This is a public sphere, to be sure, but it is almost entirely made up of like-minded people. It is the public sphere as echo-chamber. The old public sphere did not work this way. It was based in “mass media,” meaning media consumed by large numbers of very different kinds of people. In the old mass media, conflicting views contended with each other and the people reading, watching and listening were forced to confront ideas with which they did n...
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 6 Comments
This is an interview I did with “Studio Ett,” the flagship drive-time news-show on Swedish public radio. It aired this afternoon. If you missed it, it’s here: No, this is not the way for me to win friends and influence people. More like, lose friends and piss people off. Oh well. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
Sunday, November 05, 2017 2 Comments
There are two things I object to: The idea that women authors should be placed on a reading list according to 40/60% formula. Books and articles by women authors must be given a rationale just like any other item on the reading list. Giving rationales is an intellectual activity. The present system is brain-dead, anti-intellectual. That power is exercised over me, my course, my students and our discussions. That we are told what to think and talk about by a committee to which we don’t have access.  And that I’m being bullied by some students for failing to comply. The reading l...
Sunday, November 05, 2017 No comments
Erik, you constantly refer to something you call an “intellectual activity.” What do you actually mean by that? Dear student, I’m glad you asked me that question. Intellectual activities are what a university is — or rather, should be — about. Intellectual activities are what we should engage in instead of fighting over promotions and office space. Intellectual activities, briefly put, is the life of the mind, it is a matter of thinking. But hasn’t post-structuralist theory once and for all proven that thinking is a phallocentric power-game which perpetu...
Saturday, November 04, 2017 5 Comments
The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that there is not one, but two universities. The two are related but still entirely different. The first university is the formal university. It is made up of students, academics and staff, offices and administrative infrastructure, but also the entitlements associated with all this — job titles, research grants, social hierarchies. In the formal university you have a career, there is power and money to be fought over and privileges to be distributed. The second university is the university of the spirit. This is the university in ...
Friday, November 03, 2017 2 Comments
One should not brag. One doesn’t do that in Sweden. But I run pretty good courses, and I have for about twenty years. Student evaluations have always ranged from “very good” to “the best course I ever took at the university.” I’m happy to see that this pattern has continued since I returned to Sweden four years ago. One reason why my courses work so well is that they are my courses. I run them the way I want, according to my own judgment, without asking for permission from anyone. I honestly thought that was the whole point. I didn’t know I was sup...
Thursday, November 02, 2017 No comments
Erik, most academics are actually quite conformist and ready to defer to authority. You seem different, somehow. Why is that? Dear student, too much Auden, too much Auden. from UNDER WHICH LYRE ~ by W. H. Auden Thou shalt not do as the Dean pleases, Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis On education, Thou shalt not worship projects nor Shalt thou or thine bow down before Administration. Thou shalt not answer questionnaires Or quizzes upon World Affairs, Nor with complaince Take any test. Thou shalt not sit With statisticians nor commit A social science. Thou shalt not be on friendly ter...
Thursday, November 02, 2017 2 Comments
My point about reading lists and academic freedom is really about the plurality of values that exist in every society. Isaiah Berlin has written brilliantly about this, and so has my former colleague John Gray.  There are market values, democratic values, emotional values, and so on, but there are also intellectual values. The values of a society, say Berlin, Gray and I, are distributed according to different logics and they cover different realms. The one logic cannot be reduced to the other, although, admittedly, there are certain areas of overlap between them. To reduce everything to on...
Wednesday, November 01, 2017 No comments
Dear students! The point of this course is to help you think for yourself and in new ways. I want to encourage creativity and enthusiasm. I want you to understand just how much fun it is to discover new perspectives on the world. Yet these goals don’t fit very well with the disciplinary aspects of a university teacher’s job.  As a teacher you are supposed to grade, rank and fail your students. I would much rather not do any of this. My classes are about the very opposite of discipline. What would happen if I gave you the chance to set your own grades?  Yes, that’s right, ...
Wednesday, November 01, 2017 No comments
The problem with gender quotas on reading lists is that they have nothing whatsoever do with with intellectual pursuits. It’s pure metrics, pure tokenism. Female authors are added because they are women, not because they are smart, relevant, or even because they have a women’s perspective on anything. This stupid, brainless, system must be replaced. This has nothing to do with a university education. Consider a better alternative. What if all teachers simply got together to discuss reading lists with the idea to help each other improve the courses? There are bound to be a lot of...
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 No comments
Above the entrance to the auditorium at University of Uppsala there is an inscription in golden letters: “Tänka fritt är stort men tänka rätt är större.” “Thinking freely is great, but thinking correctly is greater.” “The right thought is more important than the free thought.” This view is still common at Swedish universities, although what is considered correct and right has changed. According to this view, you go to university in order to learn the truth, in order to learn what’s what. A course on right-wing thought, from this perspective, is an a...
Monday, October 30, 2017 No comments
A journalist from the local paper, Sydsvenskan, just contacted me. Apparently he reads my blog. Well, good for him.  He wanted to talk to me on the phone, but I don’t have a phone. I asked him to put his questions online. My answers below. Hi Hi back. I would have liked to talk to you in person, if possible, but this is what I’m wondering about. Could you send me the reading list, the link doesn’t seem to work. Strange. The link should work. Well, it’s here: http://ringmar.net/lundakurser/index.php/det-moderna-samhallet-och-dess-kritiker/ You continue by clicki...
Sunday, October 29, 2017 48 Comments
In the social science faculty at Lund University there is a rule of thumb which suggests that at least 40% of the articles on the reading list of a course should be written by women. This is necessary, say the advocates of the system, in order to give female academics a more prominent voice. BS, I say. The system is a threat to the university and to academic freedom. Let me give you an example of how it works. Take my course on the rise of right-wing ideas, and eventually fascism, at the turn of the twentieth century. What interests me is the possibility of a connection between the spread ...