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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 22. 14th September 1972

Demonstrable Subservience

Demonstrable Subservience


It is an interesting reflection on the social conscience of some of the teaching staff at this university, that it took an open challenge from a student to provoke Professor Philpott to benefit non-Economics students with an outline of his views in Salient. Peter Wilson was chided by Professor Philpott for not reading the whole of Philpott's speech to the Institute of Management Convention. Perhaps if Professor Philpott thought of education in terms of the whole of society and not a privileged few, more people would have the opportunity of obtaining access to his views. One might even be excused for thinking there is something subversive about economists' opinions, when they are hidden so well from the vast majority of society.

Professor Philpott described Wilson's letter as a 'tirade' and then went on to express himself in a way more befitting the discharge of a public sewer than teacher writing to a student. I was quite frankly amazed by his tremendous conceit and self-righteousness. All the people Wilson quoted were dismissed by Philpott out of hand. Ernest Mandel, I learnt, was 'wrong'. Presumably Philpott thinks he is right. What really got me was Philpott's statement towards the end of his letter that "the function of the University is to explore and propagate truth and reason.........." That doesn't quite square with his arrogant dismissal of those whose views he dislikes, and it makes me wonder how much exploring of the "truth" goes on in the Economics Department. — Just by the way, if Ernest Mandel is "wrong", then Professor Philpott should write to the United States, West German, French, Swiss and Australian Governments to tell them they need not bother banning Mandel from their countries any longer because he's "wrong" (not that I would expect Professor Philpott to be at all concerned about the suppression by five governments of Mandel's academic freedom!).

Unfortunately Philpott found it necessary to launch into an incredible argument that an older generation fought for, paid for and achieved for Wilson the right to attend this university "in economic conditions far more rugged than any you've experienced and without any sign of 'alienation' on our part." This argument is used in a patronising fashion to denigrate Wilson's arguments and as such should be rejected. Of course an older generation had to fight for better conditions for their kids. But it is quite patronising to use that fact to denigrate young critics today. And surely the real point is that some of that "older generation" went on fighting for better conditions and still are. I refer to people like Dr W.B.Sutch, whose constant fighting for a better society impresses me far more than all the academic criticism of him poured out of the ivory tower university Economics Departments.

Finally Professor Philpott talks in his letter about the backing of "demonstrable accomplishment." In my book "demonstrable accomplishment" means the guts to get up and say something's wrong and fight to change it, however unpopular the issue; rather than the "demonstrable accomplishment" of a fat bank balance, a long list of academic letters and volumes of wordy, unintelligible academic publications combined with silence about the atrocities of war and exploitation all round the world. What is more important in seizing the ear of the "Establishment" Professor, "demonstrable accomplishment" or "demonstrable subservience?

Peter Franks