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Reading #1: Reform of Social Sciences

Reading #1: Reform of Social Sciences

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R E F O R MO F T H E S O C IA L
.'
S C IE N C E S A N DO F
U N IV E R S IT IE S T H R O U G H
A C T IO N
R E S E A R C H
D avyddJ . G reenw ood and M orten Levin
h e n
d is s a tis f ie d
p ra c titio n e rs
s e e k
to e x p la in w h y im p o rta n t, in n o v a tiv e ,

tra n s d is c ip lin a ry d e v e lo p m e n ts s u c h as fem inism , grounded theory, cultural studies, social studies of science,naturalistic inquiry, and action research have d iffic u lty g a in in g a fo o th o ld and then surviving in universities, the analysis focuses on the organizational structures created b y

th e
d is c ip lin e s a n d
th e ir
a g g re g a tio n s
in to
c e n trifu g a l
c o lle g e s

(M esser-Davidow, 2002). M ost critics account for the conservative behavior of which

th e y d o
not approve by
r e f e r r in g
to

academ ic "politics," to the m aintenance of m in i- c a rte ls a n d d is c ip lin a ry m o n o p o lie s th a t c o n tro l publication, prom otion, research

fu n d in g , a n d
sim ilar
processes. The
apparent cause is
th e
political pow er of the ow ners of the various dis-
ciplinary bunkers on cam puses.

A s " p o litic a l" a s th is b e h a v io r s e e m s , it is o b v i- o u s w o rld w id e th a t th e re la tio n s h ip b e tw e e n w h a t is done in universities-especially

w h a t w e d o in
the social sciences-and
w hat the rest of society
(o n w h ic h w e d e p e n d ) w a n ts is n o t b e in g h a n d le d

w ith m u c h p o litic a l s k ill. In o u r o p in io n , u n iv e rs ity re la tio n s h ip s to k ey e x te rn a l c o n s titu e n c ie s(e .g ., taxpayers, national and state governm ent funders, private foundations, our surrounding com m uni- tie s , a n d p u b lic a n d p riv a te s e c to r o rg a n iz a tio n s ) em body

p o litic a lly
( a n d
e c o n o m ic a lly )
s e lf -
destructive behavior.
Agreat num ber of university social scientists

w rite about each other and for each other, pur- p o se ly e n g a g in g a s little a s p o s s ib le in p u b lic debates and in issues that are socially salient. O ften, their research is w ritten up inala n g u a g e and w ith concepts that are incom prehensible to the people w ho are the '(subjects" of research an d to th o s e o u ts id e th e u n iv e rsity w h o m ig h t w a n t to u se th e fin d in g s. T h a t p h ilo s o p h e rs , m a th e - m a tic ia n s , o r

m u s ic o lo g is ts
d o

this fits their im age as hum anists conserving and enhancing ideas and productions of hum an value, regard- le s s

o f
th e ir
d ir e c t a p p lic a b ility . T h a t
s o c ia l

scientists do this as w ell, despite their claim s to study and com prehend the workings of society, is m o re p ro b le m a tic .

4 4
a
H A N D B O O K O F Q U A L IT A T IV E R E S E A R C H -C H A P T E R
2
P u t m o re b lu n tly , m o s t s o c ia l s c ie n c e d is c ip lin e s
M arxist o r N eo-M arxist V iew s

have excused them selves from social engagem ent b y d e fin in g d o i n g U s o c i a ls c i e n c e " a s s e p a r a t e f r o m th e a p p lic a tio n o f th e ir in s ig h ts . T h e re m a in in g gestures tow ard social engagem ent are left m ainly to the social science associations' m issions ta te - m ents.T he cost of this disengagem ent to the social s c ie n c e s is v is ib lei n the sm all state and federal research allocations for academ ic social science re s e a rc h .'

These observations raise the follow ing ques-
tions: How
c a n

social scientists be at once so " p o 1 itic a l" o n c a m p u s a n d s o im p o litic in re la tio n to s o c ie ty a t la rg e ? W h y is it th a t th e k n o w le d g e created by social science research seldom leads to s o lu tio n s to m a jo r s o c ie ta l p ro b le m s ? W h y is it that social disengagem ent is m ore typical than a ty p ic a l fo r s o c ia l s c ie n tis ts ? T h is c h a p te r is o u r effort to sort out these issues.W e seek to account fo r th e d is c o n n e c tio n b e tw e e n th e in te rn a l p o li- tics of professional practice an d the external con- stituencies of the conventional

social sciences (e .g ., s o c io lo g y , a n th ro p o lo g y , p o litic a l s c ie n c e , and m any branches of econom ics) in view of the fact that those external constituencies provide th e fin a n c ia l a n d in s titu tio n a l s u p p o rt n e e d e d fo r the survival of the social sciences. W e then pre- sent an alternative approach to social science and action research, because we believe that action research is key to the needed fundam ental trans- form ation of the behaviors engaged in by social s c ie n tis ts .

There is no one right way to conceptualize and
u n d e rs ta n d
th e
re la tio n s h ip
betw een

s o c ia l science w ork at universities and society at large, a n d

d iffe re n t
p e rs p e c tiv e s
le a d
to
d iffe re n t
in s ig h ts . W h a t w e
o f f e r
is
sim p ly
o u r
v ie w ,
b a s e d
o n

the use of three elements: M arxism, the sociology of the professions, and historical1 developm ental perspectives.

These analytical fram ew orks stress the im pact o f th e la rg e r p o litic a l e c o n o m y o n in s titu tio n s a n d id e o lo g ie s , in c lu d in g th o s e o f th e a c a d e m y (S ilv a

&S la u g h te r, 1 9 8 4 ; S la u g h te r& L e slie ,1 9 9 7 ) . F ro m

th is p e rsp e c tiv e , th e p rin c ip a l fu n c tio n o f u n iv e r- sities is the reproduction of social class differences through teaching, research, and the provision of new generations w ith access to key positions of pow er w ithin the class system . From

a M arxist p e rs p e c tiv e , u n iv e rs itie s c o n ta in a c o m p le x m ix o f e le m e n ts th a t in v o lv e b o th p ro m o tin g a n d d e m o t- ing the claim s of aspirants to social m obility.

U niversities em phasize respect for the past and its structuring value schem es w hile sim ultaneously engaging in research designed to change the hum an c o n d itio n . M u c h

of this
re s e a rc h

is e x te rn a lly fu n d e d , p la c in g u n iv e rs itie s in a s e rv ic e re la tio n - ship to existing structures of power. Furtherm ore, m ost universities are both tax exem pt and tax sub- s id iz e d , p la c in g th e m in a re la tio n s h ip of s u b o rd i- nation to the state and to the public. D espite this, it is q u ite ty p ic a l fo r m a n y of th o s e e m p lo y e d in u n iv e rs itie s to fo rg e t th a t th e y a re b e n e fic ia rie s of p u b lic s u b s id ie s .

As w ork organizations, universities are char- acterized by strong hierarchical structures and a num ber of superim posed networks. They are d iv id e d in to c o lle g e s , w ith f u r th e r d iv is io n o f th e colleges into disciplinary departm ents and

th e
d e p a r tm e n ts in to s u b d is c ip lin e s , w ith n a tio n a lly
a n d in te rn a tio n a lly n e tw o rk e d

sets of relation- ships linking individual researchers to each other. T e a c h in g is s tro n g ly c o n tro lle d b u re a u c ra tic a lly , but the organization of research is m ore entrepre- neurial and m ore determ ined by the researchers them selves. D espite

th e
recruitm ent of

som e senior faculty into adm inistrative roles, universi- ties increasingly are run by m anagers w ho often h a v e s tro n g ly T a y lo ris tic v is io n s o f w o rk o rg a n i- zation and w ho operate at a great distance from th e s ite o f v a lu e p ro d u c tio n .

A s
i n
feu d alism , ad m in istrativ e
pow er
is
w ie ld e d
b y
e n fo rc in g
c o m p e titiv e n e s s a m o n g
th e
units. A cadem ic m anagem ent
p h ilo s o p h ie s
and schem es generally m im ic those of the private
G reenw ood& Levin:R eform Through A ction R esearch
4 5

sector,but w ith a tim e delay m easured in years.A s a result, m ost of th e recent efforts to becom e m ore " b u s in e s s lik e " in u n iv e rs itie s in v o lv e th e a p p lic a - tio n o f m a n a g e m e n t s tra te g ie s a lre a d y trie d a n d discarded by the private sector (B irnbaum ,2 0 0 0 ).

Id e o lo g ic a lly , u n iv e rs itie s c la im
to

serve the "public good" by educating the young for good jobs and conducting research that is in society's in te re s t o r th a t d ire c tly c re a te s v a lu e fo r s o c ie ty . In te rn a l

m anagem ent
id e o lo g ie s
s tr e s s
c o s t-

effectiveness, encouragement of entrepreneurial a c tiv ity in u n iv e rsity o p e ra tio n s , c o m p e titiv e n e s s in student adm issions and support services,and e n tre p re n e u ria lis m

in attracting research m oney
a n d a lu m n i g ifts.
T h e T a y lo ris tic a n d e c o n o m is tic id e o lo g ie s o f
cost-effectiveness and

m arket tests, increasingly used by university adm inistrators and boards of tru s te e s to d is c ip lin e c a m p u s a c tiv itie s ,h a v e to d e a l w ith th e c rip p lin g in c o n v e n ie n c e th a t th e re a re few t r u e G m a r k e t t e s t s " f o r a c a d e m i c a c t i v i t y . A s a r e s u l t , a d m in is tra tiv e " im p re s s io n s " a n d b e lie fs o fte n s u b - stitu te fo r m ark et tests, a n d fram in g th em in "m ar- ket" language serves m ainly to obscure the constant shifts of pow er w ithin the system , including shifts in

the structures of patron-client

re la tio n s h ip s , c h a n g e si nfa v o ritis m s , a n d th e o n g o in g c o n s o lid a - tio n o f a d m in is tra tiv e p o w e r. T h is s itu a tio n is b a s i- cally the sam e in m ost industrial societies, even if the university form s part of the public adm inistra- tive system ,as it does in m any E uropean countries.

A t th e lev el o f w o rk o rg a n iz a tio n , u n iv e rsitie s are characterized by intensely hierarchical rela- tio n s h ip s

betw een
senior and
ju n io r
fa c u lty ;
betw een
fa c u lty a n d
staff; and
a m o n g fa c u lty ,
students, and
staff. The
sam e

c o n tra d ic tio n s betw een public political expressions of prosocial v a lu e s a n d p riv a te ly c o m p e titiv e

and entrepre- neurial behaviors that characterize m ajor corpo- ra tio n s a n d

political parties are visible w ithin xniversity structures at all levels. T he notion of 2 :a lita ria n

c o lle g ia lity , o fte n
u s e d
t o
d e s c rib e
r-lationships between "disciplinary" peers, rarely
isv is ib le a n d a ris e s u s u a lly w h e n a d is c ip lin a ry
?-cr group is under threat or is trying to w rest
::so u rces
fro m
other such groups. M ost people
7:-olved in the w orkings of universities-faculty,
students, adm inistrators, and staff-experience
them as profoundly authoritarian w orkplaces.
Sociology of the Professions V iew s

P e rh a p s th e m o s t a b u n d a n t lite ra tu re o n th e issues discussed in this chapter is found in the m any variants of the sociology of the professions. T hese approaches range am ong M arxist, function- alist, and intepretivist strategies and resist easy sum m ary (see A bbott, 1988;B rint, 1996;Freidson, 1986; Krause, 1996).W hat they share is a m ore " in te rn a lis t" p e rs p e c tiv e th a n is c o m m o n ly fo u n d in the m ore com prehensive M arxistlneo-M arxist fram ings of these issues.T he sociology of the pro- fessions focuses on the m ultiple structurings of professional pow ers. These structurings involve centrally the developm ent of boundary

m a in te -

nance m echanism s that serve to include, exclude, c e rtify , a n d d e c e rtify p ra c titio n e rs a n d g ro u p s o f p ra c titio n e rs . T h is lite ra tu re a lso e m p h a s iz e s th e developm ent of internal professional pow er struc- tures that set agendas for w ork, that define the "discipline" of w hich the profession is a n em bodi- m ent, and that establish the genealogies of som e of the m ost pow erful subgroups of practition- ers and turn

these partisan
g e n e a lo g ie s in to a
"history" of the profession (M adoo Lengerm ann
&N ie b ru g g e -B ra n tle y , 1 9 9 8 ).
In these approaches, the self-interest of the
e s ta b lis h e d
academ ic
p ra c titio n e rs
is
c e n tra l.
Essential to
p ro fe s s io n a lis m
i s
that a

stro n g boundary exist betw een w hat is inside and w hat is outside the profession. T his is key to the devel- opm ent of academ ic professional structures and also directly requires that groups of professional c o lle a g u e s

e n g a g e
i n
num erous
tra n s a c tio n s

w ith superordinate system s of pow er in order to be certified by them . To function, the academic professions m ust be accepted and accredited by those in power at universities, yet m em bers of th e p ro fe ssio n o w e p rin c ip a l a lle g ia n c e to th e ir professional peers, not to their universities.

W ithin
th e u n iv e rsity
structure, disciplinary
departm ent
c h a irs -n o
m a tte r h o w
im p o rta n t
th e ir d is c ip lin e
m ight be-are
s u b o rd in a te to
deans,provosts,and presidents.Thus,a departm ent

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