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Velvet Prisons: Russell Jacoby on American Academia (2013)

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This provocative documentary arises from extensive interviews with maverick academic Russell Jacoby concerning the fate of public intellectuals, the neutering of radical work in the academy... See full summary »

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Hugh Iglarsh ... (voice)
Kurt Jacobsen ... (voice)
Warren Leming ... (voice)
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This provocative documentary arises from extensive interviews with maverick academic Russell Jacoby concerning the fate of public intellectuals, the neutering of radical work in the academy, the need for daring Utopian thought, the scourge of bad academic writing, the blight of pop psychology, the inspiring legacy of the C. Wright Mills, the impact of the 1960s, resurgent conformity since Reagan, and the 'planned obsolescence of thinking' in anti-intellectual American culture. Along the way we learn of the experiences and influences that formed Jacoby's heretical stances. This documentary enables viewers to visit one of the most interesting intellectual figures of our time, much like earlier films on Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Zizek, and Jacques Derrida. Written by Kurt Jacobsen and Warren Leming

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inspiring documentary about an academic dissident in neo-liberal America
14 January 2015 | by See all my reviews

The next best thing to reading Russell Jacoby's provocative books (The Last Intellectuals, The End of Utopia, Social Amnesia, etc) is to watch this appreciative portrait of the man and his feisty work. The documentary is filled with splendid sallies at academic shibboleths and fads in this age of relentless commodifying of everything in sight, yet at the same time underscores how valuable a scholarly life can be. The "life of the mind' truly matters to Jacoby (and some others like him) and the underlying enthusiasm is infectious. He cares about clearly communicating ideas and showing how they are relevant to how we live our daily lives. Velvet Prisons should be required viewing for anyone contemplating a university career in these hard and cynical times. The low budget shows at times but the doc is guaranteed to stir heated debates among anyone who ever spent time on a college campus.


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