Essay Archives

Universities & the Public Sphere

August 5th, 2011

Redefining the Public University: Developing an Analytical Framework

Submitted by Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

The university is in crisis, almost everywhere. In the broadest terms, the university’s position as simultaneously inside and outside society, simultaneously participant in and observer of society – always precarious – has been eroded. With the exception of a few hold‐outs the ivory tower has gone. We can no longer hold a position of splendid [...]

July 21st, 2011

International Affairs and the Public Sphere

Submitted by Stephen M. Walt, Harvard University

Most social scientists would like to believe that their profession contributes to solving pressing global problems. Indeed, the United States and many other modern societies subsidize university-based research and teaching on the assumption that scholars will develop useful knowledge about today’s world, communicate that knowledge to their students and to the broader public, and, where [...]

March 31st, 2011

Why Are There Business Schools in Universities?

Submitted by Rakesh Khurana, Harvard University

In 2008, Harvard Business School celebrated its 100th birthday. Harvard’s year-long centennial culminated in a two-and–a-half-day global summit in which more than 2000 business leaders, alumni, academics and a select group of invited journalists from around the world gathered to discuss the School’s contributions to American business. Moreover, in recent years the school had broadened [...]

February 13th, 2011

Toward a Public Social Science

Submitted by Herbert J. Gans, Columbia University

The social sciences deal with humanity’s most pressing problems, but there are barriers between practitioners and the public. We must restructure these disciplines from the ground up. In times of economic and political distress, the social sciences must become more relevant and useful by devoting their attention to society’s major problems. Such calls to reform [...]

March 30th, 2010

An Avantgardistic Instinct for Relevances: Intellectuals and their Public

Submitted by Jürgen Habermas, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

The roots of the egalitarian self-understanding of intellectuals in Germany extend back to the first generation after Goethe and Hegel. The restive literati and private lecturers from the circle of Young Germany and of the Left Hegelians nurtured both the image of free-floating, spontaneous, intensely polemi­cal, often maudlin, and unpredictable intellectuals and the prejudices against [...]

December 10th, 2009

The Public Responsibilities of Political Science

Submitted by Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania

Michael Burawoy’s 2004 American Sociological Association Presidential Address, entitled “For Public Sociology,” painted a complex picture. He delineated multiple public sociologies, particularly “traditional” public sociology, aimed at prompting discussion among mainstream publics generally, and “organic” public sociology, developed in close connection with a particular active public or, more often, “counter-public.” And he contrasted these public [...]

October 10th, 2009

Social Science for Public Knowledge

Submitted by Craig Calhoun, Social Science Research Council and New York University

Public engagement was a strong feature of the social sciences from their birth. Could one imagine Hobbes, Locke or the Scottish moralists as mere academics? Weber, Durkheim, and the great Chicago School sociologists had university jobs but both public concerns and public audiences. Social scientists today contribute to public understanding of issues from social inequality [...]

September 3rd, 2009

A Sociology for Public Sociology: Some Needed Disciplinary Changes for Creating Public Sociology

Submitted by Herbert J. Gans, Columbia University

Michael Burawoy’s dramatic reinvention of and powerful advocacy for public sociology at the ASA’s 2004 annual meetings has set off a process to incorporate public sociology into the current discipline. Although it is too early to determine what paths that process will take, so far there seems to be more discourse about public sociology than [...]

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