Re: [xmca] University & Conformity

From: E. Knutsson <eikn6681 who-is-at>
Date: Sun May 25 2008 - 10:59:33 PDT

Mike has emphasized socio-economic, technological, pedagogical, "studento-
centric" aspects. I would like to reintroduce the academic guild- and
recruiting-related (“mandarin”) and institutional (sub-cultural) aspects. I
agree with Michalis that "the university should be linked to the parts of the
society which are the most innovative or critical at a given historical
moment”. But could this normative expression of deep concern be brushed aside
as wishful thinking?

Max Weber ("Essays in Sociology") certainly seemed to be pessimistic:

"Certainly, chance does not rule alone, but it rules to an unusually high
degree. I know of hardly any career on earth where chance plays such a role. I
may say so all the more since I personally owe it to some mere accidents that
during my very early years I was appointed to a full professorship in a
discipline in which men of my generation undoubtedly had achieved more [than] I
had. ... The fact that hazard rather than ability plays so large a role is not
alone or even predominantly owing to the ‘human, all too human’ factors, which
naturally occur in the process of academic selection as in any other selection.
It would be unfair to hold the personal inferiority of faculty members or
educational ministries responsible for the fact that so many mediocrities
undoubtedly play an eminent role at the universities. The predominance of
mediocrity is rather due to the laws of human co-operation, especially of the
co-operation of several bodies, and, in this case, co-operation of the
faculties who recommend and of the ministries of education. A counterpart are
the events at the papal elections, which can be traced over many centuries and
which are the most important controllable examples of a selection of the same
nature as the academic selection. The cardinal who is said to be the ‘favorite’
only rarely has a chance to win out. The rule is rather that the Number Two
cardinal or the Number Three wins out. The same holds for the President of the
United States. Only exceptionally does the first-rate and most prominent man
get the nomination of the convention. Mostly the Number Two and often the
Number Three men are nominated and later run for election."

What do you think, Mike?

Eric (now adapted to the Anglosphere...).

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