the problem of academia

If science as we understand it (The Enlightenment Project, modernity etc) is on a timeline then the social “sciences” would do better to stop hitching their wagon to science. The beautiful thing about theory is that it can never be disproved. As long as it makes no claims to absolutism it cannot be refuted. It makes it no less relevant or important because it cannot make a universal claim. As ambitions to universality are slowly eroded it shall be apparent that social sciences only aimed to satisfy the broader trends at the time.

The struggle to find something universal and/or fundamental is part of the broader academic discourse that fits into my theory of academia as being a space for (rich) people to avoid “real” work. I do not buy that there is a “fundamental” or “universal” human nature for example. But the refusal to accept a multiplicity of natures allows the debate to continue. No one within academia wants to challenge this, because once you are inside the system you are part of the system and want to use it as a refuge the same as everyone else.

Academia is full of nonsensical rules and peculiarities that only serve the continuation of academic discourse and fundamentally its own survival. The sharper academic may realise this and in doing so will be wary of what they publish and put out in the world. We do better to understand the thinker in their context than we do to extrapolate their theory for current debates that have no baring on the reality the theorist lived in. Not only that but there is a inherent problem with thinkers (traditionally male – but that is another topic) that drive to publish and promote their thoughts as having some universal or “truth” claim.

Take for an example a recent class text on Che Guevara’s Foco Theory. The Cuban Revolution no more claimed at the time of being Marxist than Marx claimed that a communism was inevitable. Foco Theory was later adapted to align with Marxism because the real historical events, in this case Cuba’s alignment with the Soviet Union to ensure the socialist state’s survival, created the necessity. Does this make me a realist? Certainly by reducing theory adaption to survival sounds positively Hobbesian but I think not. I just think that academia needs to recognise its own ambitions and intentions, one of which is survival. What’s more it needs to recognise that this intention of survival sometimes overrides the beautiful work it seeks to create.

KH

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