Monday, October 4, 2010

A low stakes game

This weekend's Sunday Times Magazine had a fascinating and sad article O The Wild Charges He Made about Orlando Figes, Professor of History at Birkbeck College, London who "brought himself to the brink of academic ruin by posting anonymous reviews disparaging colleagues and praising his own work."
[Unfortunately, the article is only available online with a subscription].

The article raises issues about mental health in the academy and the dangers of the internet particularly because of potential or perceived anonymity.

The article also quotes Sayre's law (giving too much credit to Henry Kissinger) which can be stated as "The reason academic politics are so bitter is that the stakes are so low." 
I only remember hearing this once before, from Andy Schofield in a discussion of The Masters by C.P. Snow. It is worth reading the Wikipedia page.

So bear this in mind next time you are worked up about something....

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