Quote of the day

Political influence may be acquired in exactly the same way as the gout; indeed, the two ends ought to be pursued concurrently. The method is to sit tight and drink port wine. You will thus gain the reputation of being a good fellow; and not a few wild oats will be condoned in one who is sound at heart, if not at the lower extremities.

–F.M. Cornford, Microcosmographia Academica: Being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician (1908)

3 thoughts on “Quote of the day”

  1. Academic politics is famously cutthroat and conspiratorial. Good fellows always finish last. Typically with a metaphorical knife in the back; occasionally, with a real one.

    Also, I’m not sure that sitting around drinking port is what gives one the gout. My late father was a teetotaler with an absurdly healthy diet who got the gout late in life. His doctor told him to lay off beans.

    Besides which, I’m of the school that thinks it better to be feared than loved. Power typically eludes nice guys; they usually end up bleeding in a back-alley somewhere. So I think Cornford is wrong on all counts.

    1. I’m sorry you think the academic world is so nasty. Perhaps I haven’t been in it long enough to see what you’ve seen, but I’ve been fortunate to enjoy amazing generosity from my superiors. What little claim I could pretend to make in having advanced in the field is almost entirely a result of others’ charity, and my elders having taken a chance on me.

      I’m currently in the middle of a research project about the history of my own department here at Berkeley, and I’ve been submerged in folders held at the University’s Archive that contain administrative correspondences. Among other things, one incontrovertible fact emerges that the former Dean of my department, Sheldon Messinger, was an indisputably good egg and inestimable scholar. Perhaps more famously, the story of Richard Feynman is testament to the success of smart people being elevated in large part because, as opposed to despite, their niceness and ability to play the academic politics game: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jul/14/dramatic-picture-richard-feynman/?pagination=false.

      About the gout, though, I’ve got nothing.

      1. Johann: What you have seen you will continue to see — many very fine people rise to high positions in academia and use those to help other people.

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