John O'Brien (JOBRIEN@UCS.INDIANA.EDU)
Fri, 3 Jun 1994 18:54:20 EST
John McCreery recently suggested that anthropologists (and I assume other
academic social scientists in other fields) attempt to rebuild a constituency
by breaking down the barriers between applied and academic . . . with further
cooperation from academic to applied for scholarly activities. John, the idea
is good and will improve the situation, but it does not go far enough at all
. . . nowhere near far enough.
The debate we are involved in is a pragmatic reflection of the parallel
debate on free-will versus determinism. The question is, do people have the
free-will to chose their own career path . . . or is a career path an item
determined by market forces, political constraints and social structure.
My opinion on that matter should be clearly evident . . . an offshoot of
the Scottish moral philosophers . . . that the free and independent interaction
of choices by politically free individuals will inevitably result in the
emergence of social order.
Suggestions that this topic not be discussed (as I have) on Anthro-L
because it may result in alienating individuals with the power to provide
me (or anyone else for that matter) a job . . . effectively are a reflection
of Hobbes' perspective of deterministic social choice . . . that order is
established by top-down power, and that individuals make choices based on
their own rational self interest (to obtain and maximize what they can).
I will reiterate the opinion that it is the responsibility of every
academic anthropologist and scholar, every applied anthropologist or
every aspiring anthropologist to do whatever is deemed necessary to change
the current situation in academia from its present elitest, restrictive
and exclusive condition . . . to one in which equal opportunity without
structured and required preference based on non-scholarly criteria exists.
That as you note, does require an awareness that everyone is ultimately
in the same boat and that it is in everyone's best self interest to do
somethingabout it cooperatively.
I would also have to disagree with Read's concept, and align my own
position to the concept that academic employment in the social sciences is
currently based on purely political criteria. The disunity in the discipline,
the elitist social structure of the discipline (and we indeed do have such a
structure if you consider that academic anthropologists hardly consider applied
to be of the same status), and the general trend in the United States to make
higher education unaffordable for the average person (thus encouraging a two
class, rather than three class system) . . . all are causes for this decade
long demise, and the current demise in sociology.
It is in the best interest of all that the trend to eliminate positions
in the social sciences which is now taking place be stopped dead in its tracks.
There are, after all, no disciplines more important to the continued existence
of our societies than the social sciences . . . and none capable of probing
reflexively to depths of what we are except the social sciences. To degrade
them within in the academic institution, to eliminate and restrict the
opportunity of individuals of any genre to pursue those disciplines out of
free choice or to discard potential ideas (that could well result in answers
to major social problems) is the height of social foolishness, and in my and
others opinions . . . self-destructive at the collective level.