Universities in Crisis: Social Sciences respond

It is useful to see how the social sciences are responding to cuts and changes. The International Sociological Association (ISA) has a blog titled, Universities in Crisis. The blog has reports from different countries so you can see what is happening in a place like Italy. They have videos from sociologists around the world and they have links to other forums.

Another useful link is the Campaign for Social Science being organized by the Academy of Social Sciences to “promote UK social science and raise its visibility in the public, media and Parliament.” They are sharing documents (like “Making the Case for the Social Sciences: 1 Wellbeing”), gathering funds and running events.

A story in the Guardian by Kate Roach, Social scientists explain many things – but can they explain themselves? makes it sound like the issue is communication – that the social sciences (and humanities) have been terrible at communicating all the good stuff we do. This plays into a rhetoric that the cuts are our own fault – that Academia plays into the hands of the right. No doubt much of what is written in the social sciences and humanities is difficult and we should continue to strive to explain what we do, but there is no dearth of counter examples of accessible public intellectuals widely read. Perhaps the opposite is true – that there is so much accessible and public intellectual work from the arts, humanities and social sciences that politicians feel it can’t possibly hurt to cut back a bit and let the market pay for it all.

Another site that tackles the cuts in the UK from an economic point of view is False Economy. This site, which is still in Beta, brings together expert opinion, evidence and argument to the effect that the cuts are the wrong cure. The site however is not just about economics. It republished a brilliant lecture by Philip Pullman titled, Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value. The beginning of this talk mocks the Big Society idea that volunteers are going to step into the shoes of all the librarians (and other civil servants) fired in order to maintain services.

This is the Big Society, you see. It must be big, to contain so many volunteers.

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