I just came across Pierre Bourdieu’s curious comment on American universities and their set-apartness from society:
American universities, especially the most prestigious and the most exclusive, are skhole made into an institution. Very often situated far away from the major cities — like Princeton, totally isolated from New York and Philadelphia — or in lifeless suburbs — like Harvard in Cambridge — or, when they are in the city — like Yale in New Haven, Columbia on the fringes of Harlem, or the University of Chicago on the edge of an immense ghetto — totally cut off from the adjacent communities, in particular by the heavy police protection they provide, they have a cultural, artistic, even political life of their own, with, for example, their student news paper which relates the parish-pump news of the campus. This separate existence, together with the studious atmosphere, withdrawn from the hubbub of the world, helps to isolate professors and students from current events and from politics, which is in any case very distant, geographically and socially, and seen as beyond their grasp. The ideal-typical case, the University of California Santa Cruz, a focal point of the ‘postmodernist’ movement, an archipelago of colleges scattered through a forest and communicating only through the Internet, was built in the 1960s, at the top of a hill, close to a seaside resort inhabited by well-heeled pensioners and with no industries. How could one not believe that capitalism has dissolved in a ‘flux of signifiers detached from their signifieds’, that the world is populated by ‘cyborgs’, ‘cybernetic organisms’, and that we have entered the age of the ‘informatics of domination’, when one lives in a little social and electronic paradise from which all trace of work and exploitation has been effaced?
From Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, p. 41.