A Tenured Professor
|A Tenured Professor|
1st edition (US)
|Author||John Kenneth Galbraith|
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin (US)
Sinclair Stevenson (UK)
|Feb 21, 1990 (US)
Nov 12, 1990 (UK)
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
A Tenured Professor (1990) is a satirical novel by Canadian/American economist and Professor Emeritus at Harvard, John Kenneth Galbraith, about a liberal university teacher who sets out to change American society by making money and then using it for the public good. Set at Harvard mainly during the Reagan administration, the plot and all the characters that appear in the story are entirely fictitious.
The book chronicles the rise to fame of one Montgomery Marvin, a professor of economics who, as an academic teacher, keeps a low profile but who nevertheless is given tenure quite early in his career. While outwardly concerning himself with unspectacular research focusing on "Mathematical Paradigms in an Approach to Refrigerator Pricing" (which is also the title of his Ph.D. thesis), Marvin's extracurricular activities centre on becoming very rich in a very short time. For that purpose, Marvin has devised a new formula—a stock forecasting model by means of which he and his wife can cash in on people's euphoria, greed and, as they call it, dementia. Eventually, while everyone loses money in the wake of the "Black Monday" stock market crash of October 19, 1987, the Marvins gain an awful lot. (See also Michael Milken and leveraged buyout.)
They decide to spend their money wisely, according to their liberal agenda. Intent on strictly observing the code of business ethics, they start to make use of the "positive power of wealth" and embark on a life of philanthropy. They fund a number of chairs in peace studies to be established at, of all places, military academies. They also secure legislation by which companies are required to label their products according to the percentage of female executives employed by them. After they have launched several of their projects, their operations are increasingly considered un-American and officially put under surveillance. But whatever will happen - Marvin knows that he will be able to nourish his family, as he has been accorded tenure.
Literary significance and reception
The New York Times reviewer commented on this novel:
- "Watching Mr. Galbraith's Tenured Professor and his wife shake up Harvard and cut up the corporate world makes for a lively satire".
- Another satire on human greed and on capitalism in general is Terry Southern's 1959 novel The Magic Christian.
- Another satire of academia is Moo, by Jane Smiley, which satirizes life and work at a midwestern university.
- Henry Adams's novel Democracy (1880) also deals with political corruption and possible threats to American democracy.
- Under the nom de plume of Marshall Jevons, U.S. professors of economics William Breit and Kenneth G. Elzinga have written three mystery books, Murder at the Margin, The Fatal Equilibrium, and A Deadly Indifference. The protagonist of these novels is Henry Spearman, who relies on economic thinking to solve crimes.
- For a depiction of the world of academe, see also the list of books at School and university in literature.
- Amazon.com: A Tenured Professor (9780395471005): John Kenneth Galbraith: Books
- A Tenured Professor: Amazon.co.uk: John Kenneth Galbraith: Books
- Mitang, Herbert (1990-02-24). "Galbraith the Novelist In Economic Fairy Tale". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- "Emeritus Professor John Kenneth Galbraith". Harvard Economics Bios. Spring 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-25.