Thursday, October 05, 2006

Social Trajectories

People within particular fields have a sense of the social trajectories of those who occupy the field. These trajectories indicate the directionality of a person within a given track and the expected distance that a person is expected to reach along that track.

This sense of trajectories is very much alive in language. It would probably include phrases like dead-end job, he's going nowhere (walang patutunguhan, hanggang diyan ka lang), most likely to succeed, moving up in the world, promising individual, he's going to go places, malayo ang mararating niya etc.

Following socially sanctioned tracks and directionalities certainly helps a person to be satisfactorily assessed in terms of trajectories. Refusing to follow particular tracks or directionalities results in unfavorable assessments and even sanctions.

In the Philippine academic setting, for example, the minimum requirement for permanency is a masteral degree. After obtaining a masteral degree (and assuming three years of full-time service), it becomes very difficult to fire a person. Technically speaking, that person can rest on his laurels, be an instructor for life and exude indifference toward the reindeer games of the academe. That person, however, unless he has some other source of cultural capital, would not be expected to go very far (and would probably be assessed as going nowhere) and would be under intense pressure to proceed to a PhD.

Aside from the minimum requirements for being allowed to stay on the track, there are also (fast-track) strategies for increasing the possibility of moving higher up in the ladder. Within the Philippine academic setting, for example, it matters where you get your graduate degrees. Obtaining a graduate degree from a (socially-acceptable) local university is good but obtaining a graduate degree from a foreign university is much, much better. This foreign credentialing also helps in terms of where an academic is able to publish. Foreign (ISSI) publications are literally and figuratively worlds apart from local publications.

And then are numerous other strategies that could be employed to improve one's trajectory. Developing social capital with the Department Chair or other administrators or well-connected faculty members is certainly one strategy for obtaining favorable recommendations to prestigious universities. Demonstrating an ability to do research (especially published research) is also a good strategy.

Every field, whether it be the academe or business or art, is a game with stakes worth playing for and tracks to follow to attain those stakes worth playing for. Those who obtain the stakes at play are those who have a good "feel for the game", who have a keen sense of what is a good strategy and what is a bad strategy and who play the game accordingly.

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