Essay Archives

Universities & the Public Sphere

June 12th, 2012

Political Science and the New Arab Public Sphere

Submitted by Marc Lynch, George Washington University

The uprisings which surged through the Arab world in 2011 did not come from nowhere. They represented in part the manifestation of a long, structural transformation in the region’s public sphere which radically undermined the ability of states to control or shape information. Challenges to authoritarian regimes, on the streets and online, had been growing [...]

May 5th, 2012

Economics and the Public Sphere: The Rise of Esoteric Knowledge, Refeudalization, Crisis and Renewal

Submitted by Erik S. Reinert, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

After receiving the National Bank of Sweden’s 1973 ‘Nobel’ Prize in economics – shared with development economist Gunnar Myrdal – Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992) held an unusual dinner speech where he quite explicitly criticized the prestigious prize he had just received: “…if I had been consulted whether to establish a Nobel Prize in economics, I [...]

March 22nd, 2012

Idiosyncrasy as a Tool of Knowledge: Social Criticism in the Age of the Normalized Intellectual

Submitted by Axel Honneth, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and Columbia University

Contrary to repeated claims of the disappearance of the intellectuals, their participation in public discussion has never been livelier than in today’s advanced democracies, Axel Honneth argues. Instead, he traces an epochal transformation that has brought about two fairly distinct types of reflexive positions: the constantly growing number of normalized intellectuals as the cultural byproduct [...]

February 14th, 2012

Public Uses of History: Expectations and Ambiguities

Submitted by Jacques Revel, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

In 1876, the first issue of the Revue historique was published in Paris. The birth of the journal is commonly seen as a founding moment. History was now defined as a professional discipline, with explicit scientific and more precise methodological requirements, with specific and codified forms of training and a strong sense of academic community. [...]

November 4th, 2011

New Forms of Communication and the Public Mission of Economics: Overcoming the Great Disconnect

Submitted by Mark Thoma, University of Oregon

Economics has a long history of engagement on important public policy issues, and its early history was driven in large part by the desire to answer important public policy questions. However, ties between academic economists and the public, the press, policymakers, and economists in business and government have declined in recent decades.[1] This has reduced [...]

September 30th, 2011

Public Sociology as a Return to Political Economy


Submitted by Wolfgang Streeck, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne

A few years ago, at some international social science conference around the time when Michael Burawoy issued his call for “public sociology,” I was struck by the thought that never before in the history of mankind had there been so many people as today so well trained in analyzing and explaining social life.[1] Still, the [...]

September 7th, 2011

The Return of the Repressed: Recovering the Public Face of U.S. Sociology

Submitted by Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

The founding of the American Sociological Society took place in 1905 at the annual meeting of the American Economics Association.[1] Sociology’s declaration of independence marked the coming of age of the new discipline, taking it from a social movement of reformers and utopians into the era of 20th century professionalism. Lester Ward, vociferous opponent of [...]

September 5th, 2011

Historians in Public

Submitted by Thomas Bender, New York University

It is no easy challenge to situate the place and role of academic scholarship into the public sphere. The main reason is that both “academic knowledge” and the “public sphere” have over time taken novel forms and are still being transformed into yet newer forms. And this means that figuring out the place of history [...]

September 4th, 2011

'Too Much Information:' International Affairs, Political Science and the Public Sphere

Submitted by Lisa Anderson, American University, Cairo

Stephen Walt’s observations about the “growing gap between university-based scholars and both the policy world and the public sphere” echo, as he points out, many such laments in recent years, and much virtuous self-criticism in the academy. Political scientists (and area studies specialists) have been quick to castigate themselves about the irrelevance of their work [...]

September 1st, 2011

Political Science and the Public Sphere in the 21st Century

Submitted by Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania

Fifteen years ago, I was one of several political scientists asked to participate in an interdisciplinary conference organized by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to analyze transformations in four disciplines over the last fifty years.[1] That request prompted me to become more of a student of the history of American political science, its [...]

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