Many of today's anthropology grads are studying a culture they didn't expect: the intergenerational American household, as seen from their parents' couch. New anthropology majors face stifling unemployment, forcing nearly a third to take low-paying office or sales jobs. More dramatically, recent grads stand to make a mere $28,000 per year – less than the median pay for someone with only a high school diploma. If foreign cultures are your thing, a major in international relations promises both a higher salary and lower unemployment rate.Snark begets snark, and Living Anthropologically sees the advantage in not being a corporate tool.
Anthropology is the worst college major for immediate career, but anthropology is the major most likely to change your life. And anthropology may help you change the world, although standard disclaimers about “starving artists” apply. But anthropology is also a great major to acquire lifelong learning skills–language, culture, thinking, writing, analysis–that enables success in several careers. Perhaps paradoxically, anthropology is a great major for analyzing corporations and capitalism, and you probably have just as much chance–if not more–of landing in the top 1% as an anthropology major as you do with any of those Kiplinger top 10 college majors.Once upon the time, the first two years of college, when it was still a liberal arts core curriculum, rather than a general education cafeteria, served that purpose. Somewhere, though, anthropology narrowed its focus, turning the attempt to understand the varied ways in which people interact into yet another manifestation of identity politics and vulgar Marxism.
Of course, changing capitalism is an arduous task, and there are the practical realities of needing a job, of wanting to do something vaguely interesting, of repaying student loans. But here, a rigorous anthropology major should provide skills to navigate a changing world in which graduates will have several careers, not just one.The unstated premise is that capitalism is something that has to be changed. There might be case studies, not to mention models, of human interaction, that do not rely on division of labor and cash incentives in the way industrial economies do. But emergence and evolutionary stability might provide better explanations of the creation of those societies than some sort of vanguardism. Apparently the powers that be in anthropology still aspire to be vanguardists.
It is 2011 and I'm sitting in the Palais des Congres in Montreal, watching anthropologists talk about structural inequality.The notorious job meetings, which can be an expensive proposition if a job-seeker goes to the conference with no interviews lined up. It becomes an even more expensive proposition because the association has a preference for booking hotels in cities with living wage ordinances. Better, I suppose, to stand on principle than to cut the job-seekers a break.
The American Anthropological Association meeting is held annually to showcase research from around the world, and like thousands of other anthropologists, I am paying to play: $650 for airfare, $400 for three nights in a "student" hotel, $70 for membership, and $94 for admission. The latter two fees are student rates. If I were an unemployed or underemployed scholar, the rates would double.