Thursday, September 15, 2011

Potential Historical Projects

I still think about graduate school a good bit.

I wonder what I will end up going back to school for.

My current line of reading is keeping me pleasantly balanced between philosophy, history, and contemporary politics. Lets see. What were some of the books I've read recently? Democracy Incorporated, Thinking In An Emergency, Empire Of Illusion, The Archeology Of Knowledge, Being Human, In Defense Of Lost Causes, Speculum Mentis. A nice mix for me. I couldn't make it through Deleuze's Difference & Repetition, and I also gave up on Leviathan after part I. Both of those books were super difficult. I also read Naked Lunch and Sirens Of Titan. Those detours of fiction were nice. But I feel that my nonfiction reading has been following a broad but somewhat logical path.

In general I have been reading more about things like politics, economics, culture, etc.. It has been good to move away from more abstract philosophy and closer to something like politics.

And so what will I do for graduate studies?

Where is all this reading leading me?

Lately I'm thinking it is bringing me back to military history.

I think it would be valuable to go back to school for history.

And with my current line of reading I can see military history being valuable. It would be a way to get into the particulars of the processes that I am reading about on a very abstract level.

So what particular types of historical research would I undertake? And why would they be important?

Well, I have two ideas.

One would be a continuation of the research that I did for my junior research seminar. I wrote a paper called "World War Two, The Federal Government, And The University Of Maryland: War-Related Administrative Expansion," which you can see here: I should have changed the subtitle to something like 'War-Driven Administrative Expansion", or simply "War and Administrative Expansion." But in that paper I explored the ways that UMD was used by the US government during WWII. I wanted to see how it effected UMD, how it changed the campus and the administration. I tried to show that UMD experienced growth that was qualitatively comparable to the growth of the US government.

So I could easily see myself doing research on the relationship between universities, the government, and wars. I would also include corporations/economics into that equation. It would be research on the military-industrial-academic complex. And I think that would be valuable research because the universities seem to be in a sorry state. Would shed some light on the situation. On many situations probably.

The other line of research would be drawing from my work with David Segal and Meyer Kestnbaum at UMD's military sociology department. From them I learned about the important relationship between the concept of citizenship/political participation, and military obligations/war. The relationship between citizenship and war is undeniable. But in America there seems to be a disconnect between political participation and war. Sheldon Wolin argues that the population has been purposefully depoliticized by the government.

I would want to do research on the switch to the all volunteer force in America. In 1973 the draft ended and the military adopted the model of an employer. They would now draw quality personnel by offering competitive economic incentives, not by appealing to nationalism or any other deontic notion. I wonder how much 73' has to do with the depoliticization of the American population. I wonder how much that was a moment of transformation. I also wonder how much the government was involved with corporations at the time. I wonder if they wanted the corporations to be involved in this new all volunteer military. I wonder what CEOs were talking to what government officials during that period.

In any case, both of these research projects seem relevant to contemporary politics in America. They would be ways to identify moments of change in American culture. Histories of the present, I might say. Who knows if that label applies. But that is what I would want a historical project to be.

And it occurred to me in the shower that the all volunteer force would be a research project that would illuminate government, corporate, citizen, educational relationships. And would be a research project with political implications

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