Look, smarty-pants, let me put this in overcomplicated language you can understand: Ludwig Wittgenstein concluded his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by proclaiming that anyone who “understood” the work would know to discard everything in it after reading it, to “throw away the ladder” after reaching the top, as it were. But with academia, you don’t need to put yourself through five to 10 years of the hardest work you will ever do, followed by four years (and counting) of rejection and dejection, simply to conclude that the experience was ill-advised. When it comes to graduate school, you should just chuck the ladder before you try to climb it. You’ve only got to run the other way.
Picture yourself at an office building. You're there to take care of something: request your school transcript, change the address on your driver's license, return a defective laptop – whatever the task is, it seems a relatively simple and straightforward matter.
Until you actually try to get it done.
The first person you talk to tells you you're in the wrong office; you have to go to a different one. And at that office they tell you that you need to complete a form which you can only pick up at a different office, which is in a different building all the way across town. And at that office they tell you those forms are actually outdated and you can do it all at home online. When you get home, you can't find the forms online, so you call the office again for help. But you get forwarded straight to some answering system that gives you ten options, none of which apply to your particular situation.
As a sultry but stern answering system voice asks you to say "yes" or press 1, you're overwhelmed by feelings of frustration, anger, and finally, futility. You hang up, and three weeks later, you still haven't gotten around to getting that defective laptop exchanged.
Congratulations, you've just had a taste of the world of the "kafkaesque," a term that entered our vocabulary with Kafka 's horrific vision of bureaucracy in The Trial . Although the novel came out in 1924, it described the bureaucratic structure of the court system with such devastating and prophetic precision that we can still recognize many features of The Trial 's court system in bureaucracies today.
Like the court system, many bureaucracies – whether it's a school or a government, a private company or a public institution, a small firm or a multi-national conglomerate – operate according to their own rules and regulations. And like Josef K., any individual who attempts to confront the bureaucracy can only do so on its own terms, or fail miserably.
If you've ever felt the life slowly being sucked out of you as you patiently endure the Muzak on yet another customer service "help" line, you can almost understand why Josef K. seems to submit so passively to his eventual fate.