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Disciplined Minds

A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives

Jeff Schmidt

"This book is stolen. Written in part on stolen time, that is. Because like millions of others who work for a living, I was giving most of my prime time to my employer..."
So begins Jeff Schmidt in this riveting book about the world of professional work. Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to maintain strict "ideological discipline."
The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations, and even democracy.
Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker, showing how an honest reassessment of what it means to be a professional in today's corporate society can be remarkably liberating. After reading this book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 304Size: 6 x 9 1/4
978-0-7425-1685-4 • Paperback • December 2001 • $26.95 • (£17.95)
Jeff Schmidt was an editor at Physics Today magazine for 19 years, until he was fired for writing this provocative book. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Irvine, and has taught in the United States, Central America, and Africa. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he now lives in Washington, D.C. You may write to him at jeffschmidt@alumni.uci.edu.
Chapter 2 Timid Professionals
Chapter 3 Ideological Discipline
Chapter 4 Insiders, Guests and Crashers
Chapter 5 Assignable Curiosity
Chapter 6 The Social Significance Concealment Game
Chapter 7 The Division of Labor
Chapter 9 Opportunity
Chapter 10 Narrowing the Political Spectrum
Chapter 11 The Primacy of Attitude
Chapter 12 Examining the Examination
Chapter 13 Gratuitous Bias
Chapter 14 "Neutral" Voices
Chapter 15 Subordination
Chapter 17 Resisting Indoctrination
Chapter 18 How to Survive Professional Training with Your Values Intact
Chapter 19 Now or Never
Disciplined Minds is a witty, incisive, original analysis of the politics of professionalism—especially with respect to those fields in which 'professional training' involves an education in how to become oblivious to the political role of one's profession.
Michael Berube, University of Illinois

A blistering critique of how knowledge workers have been subordinated in America. Finally, a book that tells it like it is.
Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center, author of From the Ashes of the Old: American Labor and America's Future

I have been waiting a long time for someone to write this book, and Jeff Schmidt has done it. He exposes, in crystal-clear prose, the inevitably political nature of the professional in our society, and, most importantly, suggests a strategy for resistance. This is an extraordinary and valuable piece of writing.
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States and professor emeritus of Political Science, Boston University

Schmidt has hit the bull's-eye.
Texas Observer

Schmidt analyzes the true meaning of being a professional and the sacrifices that professionals make to achieve their career goals. He challenges them to think outside the box, use their intuition and their attitude to provide for a better society.
Carrie Crystal Van Driel; In The Public Citizen

There is much that is thought provoking and illuminating in Disciplined Minds.
Business & Society

This book should be read by anyone thinking about embarking on a professional education in any field, as well as by those who wonder why their dream job doesn't seem so dreamy after all.
Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

Disciplined Minds is a radical, disturbing, and provocative look at professional life. It offers a profound analysis of the personal struggles for identity and meaning in the lives of today's 21 million professionals. The book will shake up the readers.
Education Review

Just after publication of this book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt was fired after 19 years as a staff writer for Physics Today magazine. In his book Schmidt argues that a hierarchical organization's structure almost guarantees that its workers cannot devote their full energy to the job; he was terminated after a supervisor learned that in his foreword to the book, he playfully wrote that he had completed it partly on 'stolen time'.
The Washington Post

Schmidt is a very good writer, and particularly skilled at constructing his case through example and anecdote. His thesis is compelling.

In this book Jeff Schmidt gives us a remarkably insightful political analysis of the process of inculcating graduate school initiates into a discipline, and how this process of 'disciplining' contributes to the making and perpetuating of unfree minds in the professions.
Social Anarchism Thirty-One

Schmidt offers a provocative critique of how scientists, engineers, and other professionals are groomed to fulfill a specific function in society—that of maintaining the status quo—and, in the process, end up sidelining their own goals and ideals. The book is both well-researched and highly readable. Some readers may disagree with its conclusions, but everyone will recognize its descriptions of the often wrenching choices that today's professionals must make.
Ieee Spectrum

I found Disciplined Minds while planning a course that will deal with the social role and moral responsibility of intellectuals, and after I finished reading it I whooped with joy. It is the perfect book to engage students on these issues — well researched, powerfully argued, and clearly written. Even conservative students with politics at odds with Schmidt's find the book valuable because of its (sometimes painful) honesty and clarity. In addition to using it in my course, I wish I could make Disciplined Minds required reading for my faculty colleagues.
Robert Jensen, Director of the Senior Fellows Honors Program of the College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin

This book comes from the heart...a rallying cry to dissatisfied professionals and disillusioned students to organize and reshape the system that is stifling them.
Review of Radical Political Economics

Disciplined Minds is a freewheeling, thought-provoking examination of the way ideological control is exercised over an increasingly important section of the working class- the professionals.
John Pappademos; Nature, Society, and Thought