Re: [xmca] University & Conformity

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun May 25 2008 - 11:12:34 PDT

I am actually interested in what others think on this issue, Erik. I hope
voices with multiple experiences will contribute from many countries. (In a
that is my view of the function of XMCA in general and it is a goal several
XMCA members are working on actively, if slowly and not too effectually).

For the moment I will confine myself to noting that it is very difficult,
either concurrently
or prospectively to determine what the most innovative and critical aspects
of social
life are at any given historical moment/context and that Weber's point vis a
chance certainly applies in my own case. The number of absolutely
unanticipateable (sp?)
contingencies that shaped my academic career is a constant source of wonder
to me.

On Sun, May 25, 2008 at 10:59 AM, E. Knutsson <>

> 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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Received on Sun May 25 11:14 PDT 2008

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