Prof. Dr. Jerome Krase,
Emeritus Professor, sociologist, Murray Koppelman Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
For the first part of this essay, I have been asked to address the following questions:
Question 1. Is it permissible for a scientist to use free encyclopedias as sources of scientific information?
The role of Wikipedia and similar sources.
Question 2. The manipulation of data in science: challenges of assessing results received through quantitative and qualitative methods. The problem of division and disciplinary biases in modern science.
As to the first question, my simple answer is that Wikipedia, and similar, mostly open source and collaborative on-line projects, are not very different from other more socially accepted (of the academic, professional, scholarly kinds as opposed to “deviant”) sources. They are of similar value to the user to the degree that the information provided is subjected to the same (perhaps more) of the required vetting. In general, the value of the information on Wikipedia, et alia, depends on the editors of the pages and additions. It should be noted that it has become a model of scholarly collaboration that is imitated widely by more and less “authoritative” disciplinary and interdisciplinary organizations. In a sense, Wikipedia’s challenge to academic hegemony has had significant results.
If I may, being an “Innovator,” I would divide Question 2 into several parts. As to the first, issue of quantitative versus qualitative methods, I have written extensively and will only summarize here, and later on in the essay enhance with some additional autoethnography. (Krase 2018) As I have argued, Social Science, like all other Sciences, is a social organization (society) of professionals in which members strive to achieve the rewards of their association by following its rules and accepting its goals. In Robert K. Merton’s “Theory of Anomie,” the successful adherents would be called “Conformists.” And, although he labelled the others as “Innovator,” “Ritualist,” and “Retreatist,” more empirically accurate terms for these three categories might better be “Unhired, Unpublished” and “Untenured.”
I was taught that the most important goals of my chosen profession are to produce new knowledge, or contribute to its existing accepted store of knowledge (axiomatic or canonical), via valid, reliable, and objective research, or informed critique. Here I must insist that testing claims of validity, reliability, and objectivity ins the scientific communities requires another level of scrutiny, or level of analysis, beyond that of the work itself that must remain within the commonly accepted parameters — that of the social organization of the conventional decision-making process itself in which the claims are themselves are validated. I would add the caveat that nothing is ever really ‘proven,’ in that similar to the logical process of analytic induction, accepted hypotheses (findings) are to be continually tested and modified (especially in our changing social worlds) as new realities or understandings of “truth” come into being.
In this essay, I will introduce and briefly discuss some ways others, and myself, have approached, or are now approaching, these interrelated issues. Since, by necessity, I intend to be unconventional, and at the risk of being called a post-modernist myself, I will reflect on a recent exchange on “Post-Truth and the future,”(Resnick 2020) on a virtual American Historical Association discussion platform, go on to other nontraditional “sources.”
In which Research Historian Kenneth Zimmerman commented on the Fukayama’s (Pollyannish?) “End of History,” acknowledging that the ending is subject to change. i.e., never final.
In brief, for Fukuyama, liberal democracy may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government,” and as such constitutes the “end of history.” But, as is obvious today, he was wrong.
Truth always moves on. Historians know this. Otherwise, they would not continue to write about the same topics, actors, and events as past, or just other historians have studied and written about. Writing history is conversations between the historian and actors, events, and topics from the past. And these conversations exist in their own contexts. Since I am an Anthropologist as well as historian, an anthropologist would make the point this way. Culture is relative. It is specific to time, place, and actors. Since truth is cultural (shared within a culture) then truth obviously is relative. For example, the truth of 11th century Europe is not the truth of 21st century Europe. Just as the truth of Revolutionary era America is not the truth of 21st century America. Sometimes they share common elements, but they make sense only in their own contexts. Translating among them is the job of historians and anthropologists. And it is not an easy job. (Zimmerman 2020)
In the same conversation, Kevin Jablonowski, raises a related point about truth which comes closer to our social scientific approach to history.
As opposed to those who see the objective of post-modernism in history as to say “nothing is true, there’s no cause and effect, and everything happens at random” He argues “…post-modernism challenges us to reconsider what we have come to accept as absolute truth, and to determine critically whether our beliefs are ‘valuable’ enough or ‘true’ enough to continue to accept.” Noting, also that Fukuyama thought liberal democracy is(was?) inevitable, as did Marx in a similar trajectory toward perfection.
Post-modernism …demands that we critique anything that presents itself as true, obvious, inevitable, perfect, or given. Our critiques may find that there is reason to believe some things as true and reject others as false; at the very least, we may gain a better understanding of why we believe the things we believe. Post-modernism, done well, is not the wholesale rejection of ‘truth’ but rather the refusal to accept ‘truth’ without criticism.
Here I must interject a recent observation while doing my daily reading of The New York Times. In the Saturday, November 21, 2020, issue, on Page 2, column 1. There were three advertisements, placed one over the other offering: “From Our Archives to Yours,” “Photography reprints available…”; “Good friends deserve extraordinary journalism. Refer someone to The Times.” and the most egregious in bold letters “The truth is essential.” What would Baudrillard, Fukuyama, and Marx say about this convenient assemblage of commodifications?
To move from the ethereal to the earthly, Nicole Brown, addressed these related challenges of truth and method in a different, more pragmatic, framework in a Call for Papers. In it she noted that competition among academics today for ever-shrinking funds is fierce. Not only is their increased pressure for originality,
There are no longer clear boundaries between qualitative and quantitative methods, or indeed within these. For example, Where ethnography was once a specific approach to carrying out research requiring weeks and indeed months spent in the field to be studied, harnessing of social media data for example allows for the relatively quick collection of months’ worth of information in a much shorter period of time.
She recognizes that research is “messy, chaotic, untidy, disorderly,” but “research reports do not account for this nature of research.” In contrast to current practice in our disciplines, Brown encourages a focus on the difficulties, and failures and fallacies of innovations to make research less “hierarchical, more participatory, more accessible, more modern and in line with the developments of our social and cultural worlds.” Of special value to those who engage in trans- and interdisciplinary work, is her recognition of the problem of data collection methods which may not be easily transferrable, especially cross-culturally.
Probably the major cause of reputed “failures and fallacies” of research practice is the social organization of reviewing. Here we must remember that success is judged by publication or winning grant, or other positive peer evaluation. At least for multimodal ethnography, Sevasti-Melissa Nolas and Christos Varvantakis believe that a different (meaning socially just?) review process is possible. (2018) For this they created a new journal, Entanglements. Which generated a great deal of interest in a short period of time. The journal sees itself as “a peer-feedback rather than a peer-review journal.”
After a discussion of the current normative practice of peer review they note:
Our own experience over the last however many years that we have both been submitting our work to journals, resonates with this inconsistency in quality. We have had reviews of quality: some excellent, constructive, critical, encouraging and supportive which have helped us to develop our work.
Other review experiences are best captured by the figure of ‘#reviewer2’: petty, pedantic, critical, short, nasty, unhelpful and, occasionally, destructive. The figure of #reviewer2 does not haunt us alone. The ‘Reviewer 2 must be stopped’ Facebook page has over 17,274 members, at time of writing, and parody Twitter accounts like Grumpy Reviewer provide examples of the sorts of comments attributed to #reviewer2 as well as exasperated author responses. It is perhaps not surprising that last Halloween 2018 dressing up as #reviewer2 became a meme amongst academics on Twitter.
The negative impacts of such review are many and go beyond giving up on a particular publication. They can have devastating effects on the self-confidence and fragile careers of young as well as more senior scholars.
The new journal, Entanglements, strives to avoid these “toxic dynamics” via feedback “vital for learning and development.” Thee Editors, Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa and Varvantakis, Christos see that in academe “nurturing collegiality” often feels like a scarce resource, and political issue,” and that “toxic dynamics of peer review” are part of the “ structural violence practised in the neoliberal university.” They end by citing, Mark Fisher, an author they admire: “We need to learn, or re-learn how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other.” (2019)
Such and Academic Utopia, is “Devoutly to be wished,” but their prolegomenon to a socially-just society of scientists requires a close look at the social organization of how we evaluate each other as both subject and object.
In a related vein, as to “Ivory tower Semiotics”, Marshall Blonsky (1985: xx) commented on the Daedalus’ commissioning of Jonathan Culler to judge the limits and conceptual advances in the field of semiotics. Culler took the opportunity to reflect on first congress of the International Association of Semiotic Studies held in Milan in 1974, which sounds very familiar.
Semiotics, the science of signs, became something to be reckoned with, even for those who reject it as a Gallic or a technological obfuscation. And of course when a discipline establishes an organization with committees, officers, publications, when it distributes titles and responsibilities to its adepts, it imposes itself on the scholarly world in symbolic fashion. (1981:95-96).
What will follow in Part 2 of this essay is an autoethnography of some of these “toxic” practices, or better phrased as “the slings and arrows of outrageous scholarly discipline.”
As an addendum to my addressing questions related questions in Part 1 of this essay, on November 24, 2020, I was pleased to participate in another segment of the “Challenges in Source Evaluation in Science and Correlated Areas” during which we considered the following questions:
Question 1. Does the authority of an author guarantee the accuracy of scientific information?
Question 2. Priority of sources and self-alignment among them.
Role of experiments. What if the facts contradict science? Do such contradictions indicate an unscientific nature of preceding inferences?
As they are closely related, I will attempt here in Part 2. to blend them together, and provide a few autoethnographic examples of some of the “toxic” practices that beleaguer the, for want of a better word, “governance” of related disciplines in which I practice. As I have argued, Social Science, like all other Sciences, is a social organization of professionals in which members strive to achieve the rewards of their membership by following its rules and accepting its goals. (Krase 2018) Therefore, in reference to Question 1., we must consider from where does the authority of an author or text derive? Max Weber wrote of Traditional, Legal-Rational, and Charismatic Authority. Without elaboration, I think the readers of this essay will agree, that for scientists at least, the authority of an author’s claim must be based on Rational grounds. This is true even though in many cases the authority of classical/leading scholars within any discipline is given in very much the same way as Traditional Authority is given. Unfortunately, it is also true that established “leading lights” in any field command much in the way of Charismatic authority, some of which has been “routinized” via the practices of esteemed professional associations and institutions. (See also Krase and Krase 2018).
For social scientists of my generation, our understanding of the relationship between leaders and followers was stipulated by Max Weber as to “Types of Legitimate Domination” and “The Three Pure Types of Authority” (1978: 215) The validity of claims to authority rest upon:
- Rational grounds – resting on the legality of enacted rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands (legal authority).
- Traditional grounds – resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them (traditional authority) or finally,
- Charismatic grounds––resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism for order revealed or ordained by him (charismatic authority).
As Weber explained, “Naturally, the legitimacy of a system of domination may be treated sociologically only as the probability that to a relevant degree the appropriate attitude will exist, and the corresponding practical conduct ensues.” (1978: 214) To be voluntarily dominated, subjects must grant legitimacy to their rulers.
In this regard, I have discussed elsewhere, for Weber, human society is made possible when social actors can imagine themselves in the place of the others with whom they interact, and thereby correctly anticipate the others’ behavior. Every society as dependent on such common, or shared, ‘text’. (Krase 2018) Weber defined Sociology as: […] the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By ‘action’ in this definition is meant the human behavior when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful […] The ‘meaning’ to which we refer may be either (a) the meaning actually intended either by an individual agent on a particular historical occasion or by a number of agents on an approximate average in a given set of cases, or (b) the meaning attributed to the agent or agents, as types, in a pure type constructed in the abstract. In neither case is the ‘meaning’ to be thought of as somehow objectively ‘correct’ or ‘true’ by some metaphysical criterion. This is the difference between the empirical sciences of action, such as sociology and history, and any kind of a priori discipline, such as jurisprudence, logic, ethics, or aesthetics whose aim is to extract from their subject-matter its ‘correct’ or ‘valid’ meaning. (1991 : 7)
Since Authority comes from reputation, then we must consider from where does reputation come; what are the social processes that create and grant it? Although a discussion of all the many ways academic reputation is created, such as peer reviews, ranking indicators, impact factor, citations, etc., are far beyond the scope of this essay, a few will be addressed herein.
The second question can also be rephrased as to issues of fact and truth, as well as the confidence, both scholarly and public audiences may, or may not, have in the pronouncements (findings) by scholars of all persuasions, such as the current public debate over the reality of a COVID-19 Pandemic. (“The Covid Science Wars,” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-covid-science-wars1/)
When I teach, I explain to my students “What I say to you in class may or may not be a fact or a truth, but it is always a fact, and true, that I have said it.” Furthermore, facts may be true but the truth of a statement comes from the relation of facts to other facts within it, and our ability to certify the validity and reliability of those statements via the judicious employment of commonly accept practices of the scientific method (which in itself is also a social practice)
As someone who grew up in relative poverty in the U.S.A., the desire to achieve respectability was especially strong, and the status (prestige) of a professorship in higher education was devoutly to be wished. This was especially attractive as it promised a world beyond the stereotypical baseness and veniality of working-class life. I vividly remember, for example, the explanations (excuses?) given by my often out-of-work father for the slings and arrows of his outrageous misfortunes. Higher education, post-graduate education, and then a professorial position seemed the ultimate accomplishment (escape?).
My disillusionment with this naïve view of the world, in which I have been reasonably successful, came rather quickly. Compared to the experiences of my father and mother, of course my “sufferings” were quite innocuous, but they are informative in describing the academic and scholarly worlds as they actually are, as opposed to how they present themselves to themselves and to outsiders.
While pursuing an independent Master’s Degree in Sociology at Indiana University I was briefly mentored by Alfred Lindesmith, a leading sociologist/social psychologist of criminology. Under his tutelage, I crafted a thesis proposal to investigate why, it seemed that, the death penalty was not a major deterrent to the commission of homicides. I had already conducted a secondary analysis of survey data on convicted/incarcerated criminals showing that, although at first fear of punishment was a major deterrent to committing crimes, as their interaction with the criminal justice system increased their fear of punishment decreased. My plan was to apply Kurt Lewin’s “Field Theory” to argue that as their direct experience with the system increased, they learned that the probability of arrest, prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration declined. Although Lindesmith was fine with the proposal, I needed at least one other committee member to proceed. When I went into his office to see how things were going, I saw a note on his desk from another criminology faculty member which read in part “What is this field theory crap?” The following semester, I was at New York University pursuing a PhD looking for more sympathetic faculty advisers. This was a prime example of social forces within disciplines, schools of thought, and departmental emphases, whereby few faculty want to engage with work that is not related to their own.
The phenomenology and ethnomethods I was later to embrace were, at the time, emerging on the fringe of pre-postmodern humanities-inflected social science . The best example of this increasingly internecine conflict was the Proceedings of the Purdue Symposium on Ethnomethodology (Hill & Crittenden, 1968). The transcripts of exchanges between ethnomethodologists such as Harold Garfinkle and quantitative sociologists like Karl Schuessler (who taught me statistics at Indiana University) read more like an argument among cliques who used their own jargon to insult each other, rather than a scholarly conversation among peers that might lead to a shared understanding of methodological and theoretical differences.
Gadamer argued that ‘truth’ and ‘method’ were in conflict because approaches to humanities were in conflict. One approach to understanding a particular text was modelled upon the natural sciences, and the other implied that its interpretation required knowledge of the original intention of its author. For him, although meaning cannot be reduced to the author’s intentions, it is however dependent on the context of the interpretation. For Gadamer people have “historically-effected’ consciousness and are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. These “prejudices” affect their interpretations, but rather than being a hindrance they are prerequisites to interpretation. That is, the scholar interprets the history of a text by connecting it to his own background. According to Malpas, Gadamer’s work, in conjunction with that of Heidegger, was “…not a rejection of the importance of methodological concerns, but rather an insistence on the limited role of method and the priority of understanding as a dialogic, practical, situated activity.” (Malpas 2013, in Krase 2018)
Although there were many other similar experiences of learning the ropes of being an academic, a few others should suffice. As in all socially organized systems, social science research is hierarchical. Consequently, qualitative researchers in general, and ethnographers in particular, feel the need to “justify” their own practices with reference to those seen as of higher order. Within ethnography itself there is a rank order ranging downward from classical, through autoethnography, to short-term autoethnography. I imagine at the bottom of the barrel is the short-term visual auto-ethnography in which I often engage. (Krase 2018)
As to the confidence, both scholarly and public communities may, or may not, have in science and scholarship Mariella Nocenzi wrote of the political and cultural causes of uncertainty as to . environmental risk from electromagnetic pollution in Italy. (2002) In her book, she noted the development of environmentally sensitive legislation in the European Community and intergovernmental programs which favored environmental protection and sustainable development. However, public confidence in government decisions was undermined via the mass media which conveyed information through the prisms of influentials in various fields. In reference to the current discussion, she paid special attention to how public trust in the source of information is undermined when ‘scientific’ experts disagree with each other, for example, about the risk to people of eating genetically modified food products. The public already has come to mistrust economic, political and mass media institutions therefore uncertainty generates even more risk and adds to the growth of a culture where risk comes to be expected as an aspect of everyday life. Of course, the same can be said in the current climate of doubts over Covid-19 risks and their abatement, and what passes for “science journalism” (which is another long story).
A more academically embarassing loss of confidence in scholarship was the 1966 “Sokal Affair” or “Sokal Hoax” in which a physics professor submitted an article to a “postmodern cultural studies journal, Social Text. He claimed the submission for a “Science Wars,” special issue, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” was to test the journal’s intellectual rigor, and whose editors would accept an article “…liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” Three weeks after publication Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the articles was a hoax.
Below is the missing-the-point reply by the editors to Sokal’s claim in Lingua Franca that his article was a parody, and that he intended this hoax as a critique of science studies.
Why does science matter so much to us? Because its power, as a civil religion, as a social and political authority, affects our daily lives and the parlous condition of the natural world more than does any other domain of knowledge. Does it follow that non-scientists should have some say in the decision-making processes that define and shape the work of the professional scientific community? Some scientists (including Sokal presumably) would say yes, and in some countries, non-expert citizens do indeed participate in these processes. All hell breaks loose, however, when the following question is asked.
Should non-experts have anything to say about scientific methodology and epistemology? After centuries of scientific racism, scientific sexism, and scientific domination of nature one might have thought this was a pertinent question to ask. Bruce Robbins and Andrew.
At best, the article, Sokal’s admission, and especially the editors’ response is clear indication of the socio-cultural nature, as opposed to the objectively innocent Ivory Tower worlds of Academe in which the pursuit of truth is the highest goal.
My experience in seeking recognition within the social science social worlds in which I toiled taught me a great deal about practices that increase the likelihood of success; some of which I adopted. However, from the perspective of what I had hoped for, most were negative; for example, plagiarizing, stealing ideas (note ideas can’t be copyrighted), mostly from unpublished manuscripts, or using student work without attribution. As a novice, such “borrowing” happened to me several times, but as in the real world, being a whistleblower for a young scholar is a recipe for professional disaster. In memoirs, we tend to note those who didn’t do us academic dirty. For me, exceptions to the NeoFeudal rule of academe’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” were Alfred Lindesmith, Ronald D. Corwin, Edward Sagarin, and my final mentor Feliks Gross. For example, as opposed to the common practice of not including junior faculty and graduate students as “authors” of articles to which they contributed, Sagarin put my name first, in contrast to the normal rank order, and Gross regularly gave me opportunities to publish in his stead, even when he contributed to them.
Even as one rises in the profession, one learns that their work might not be cited or recognized for various reasons. Seldom do we look at ourselves as cogs in a, perhaps NeoLiberal Capitalist, machine. For example, when submitting articles for publication, authors understand that the publication rank of sources, impacts on the evaluation of their work by reviewers. Therefore, they might exclude sources from minor publications. Relatedly, because works are also ranked by the number of times they are cited in other works, authors are tempted to cite their own works, relevant or not, in their own publications.
We must also note that book publishers themselves are informally ranked by academics, and increasingly they “own” academic journals, so profit motive, and academic “star power” is not beyond consideration in the choices they make in publishing and marketing. Academe is a market at many levels; the largest is the student market (in 2018, in the USA the textbook market was worth 8.79 billion dollars).
As an aside, I am currently on a book award committee and have been bombarded by “nominations’ from major publishers, while books from small presses tend to be self-nominated and the authors themselves must pay the cost of buying and mailing the book to all members of the committee. So far I have received 60 books, each with a retail value of about $50, and there are 10 members of the committee who have also received copies for a total cost of $30,000. If we multiply this by all the book awards given by professional organizations and add advertising, and other promotional costs, it is easy to see the size of the social problem. These are professional practices that we seldom look at. How many awards are there and who can afford to enter the contests for them? We also have to admit of a hierarchy of publishers. Elite publishers often have elite authors in their writing stable. They also have the ability to provide editorial and related services that improve the quality of the final product. They are also able to pay for or reward manuscript reviewers and subsequent endorsements as well as paying fees for copyrighted materials used in the text. Then there are costs of participating in book fairs and conference exhibits, book promotions, advertising, and sending examination copies, to faculty, who are uncompensated retailers. Although not as crass as commercial publications which become “best-sellers” before the books are sold; based on the elite reviews and back cover endorsements. Reputation/Authority, therefore, in the context of NeoLiberal academe, suffers from the problem of the law of continuous accumulation. At the lower levels of academic labor, NeoFeudalism seems a better term, recognizing that within larger systems of exploitation there are local variants. For example, international or global capitalism depends on feudal systems of labor in colonies or NeoColonies colonies which today have thin layers of political independence.
Where, and whether, a book is reviewed, not to mentioned how it is reviewed, also recapitulates the accepted social order. Major journals, also reiterate the dominant ideology of the profession, its leaders, schools of thought, and key cliques within the discipline. Historically, academic “outsiders” tend to develop their own journals. This problem, of pre-ranking, spills over into peer review as well, as reviewers “evaluate” sources and citations. I have seen recognizable, de rigueur patterns of sources in all type of publications which seem like authors are following a template. Journal editorial boards might also have their own preferences, not simply for topics but, for how those topics are covered. I generally have instructed my own students to be good social scientists, and look up the work of editorial boards and reviewers to increase chances of acceptance. I have often faced the problem of reviewers (as gatekeepers) suggested that I “missed” something, when it was not necessary for reaching the conclusions of the study. For visual social scientists the problem is more complicated as few reviewers, except in journals such as Visual Studies (on whose board I serve) have the competence to judge, for example visual evidence and images as data. For a pragmatist like myself, when I review book manuscripts or journal submissions, I look at the soundness of the argument and content, such as data, and citations only matter if something is missing that would improve the piece. This usually becomes a publish with “minor revisions” evaluation.
Although I could go much further in compiling a litany of what we all know but are afraid to tell anyone in academe, a few others should suffice. As to another research oddity seldom do people report on negative results of research in the rejection of the null hypothesis in quantitative studies when such reports are of equal value. We must remember that many reviewers tend to be at the lower end of the academic food chain, and review assignments probably reflect that social order. The reward being low for toiling in the field being low, a crediting service emerged to credit their important role in the profession, and their Curriculum Vitae. (See Publons https://publons.com/about/home/). I prefer that reviewers not be totally anonymous, as in one case, I received a (rejected) review and was able to respond to the editors the nonfactual basis for the rejection; leading to a “minor revision” recommendation, so as not to offend the reviewer. In another case, a submission on how people are stigmatized by the places, such as slums and ghettos, in which they live to a major journal was rejected after a “mixed” review. The editor wrote me personally and apologized, essentially for not having the courage to publish it against what probably was the wishes of a particularly influential reviewer. As to grant reviewers, sometimes they lack the expertise for the review, such as when I proposed a study of Poland as a “Borderland” which was rejected by a reviewer who said Poland was never a borderland. This of course would be news to Polish and other Central and Eastern European scholars.
Finally, as to personal experiences with academic social disorders, I have observed that as one attains leadership positions in professional organizations, the status is like honey to bees. For example, publishers see you as leading constituents, who might buy their products. When I chaired my department, I became very popular at annual meetings, being swarmed by job seekers. Similarly, journal and book editors, and officers of major professional organizations, also benefit from similar celebrity status. As president of one association, beyond being invited to, and paid to speak, I asked to author books or edit series that might be saleable to association members. We must also admit that sometimes publishers just want a prominent name on a textbook. While a graduate student I was offered a job by a major publisher to ghost write textbooks in several science disciplines in which I had little training.
I have lived through several periodic ideological, theoretical and methodological crises in social science disciplines. Each solution seems to follow the classical Hegelian dialectic as it has been most often presented of “thesis, antithesis, synthesis,” until the next new crisis. Other than Postmodernism and adding “Critical” to just about any subject, many have offered, falsely in my experience, that Interdisciplinarity, is the answer to the problem of division and biases in the practices of modern sciences and humanities.
In Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory, Allen F. Repko (2008) addressed the problem of academic disciplinarity, in which universities around the world have relied on separate disciplines for imparting and generating knowledge. He argues that today interdisciplinarity is needed because complex problems and issues cannot be adequately addressed or resolved by any single branch of learning or body of knowledge (canons). As to these weakness, he cites Schulman, who said that each discipline has their own “contrasting substance and syntax – ways of organizing themselves and defining rules for making arguments and claims that others will warrant. They have different ways of talking about themselves and about the problems, topics, and issues which constitute their subject matters.” (Schulman 2002: vi-vii)
To James Welch IV added that interdisciplinarity:
Nonetheless, interdisciplinarity does not seek to transcend the disciplines entirely into a unification of knowledge. The problems with such grand narratives have been thoroughly described by postmodern thinkers. Rather, the interdisciplinary approach offers corrective measures to dominant knowledge formations of any sort, by broadening their contexts and establishing synthetic relationships among them. Thus, the interdisciplinary idea has evolved from a mere critique of the disciplines to the more sophisticated mission of negotiating within and beyond the epistemological frameworks they project. (2011: 31-32)
I should have noted at the outset of this brief discussion that Interdisciplinarity, as sociologically predictable, seems to have quickly morphed into its own discipline (as per the emergence of separate social sciences from the grand social philosophies of the 19th Century). And, as would be expected, this counter-sociocultural system has developed its own factions and cliques. (On Transdisciplinarity see for example Jahn 2008). In a way, as to the many unrecognized failures of research methods, interdisciplinarity became just another discipline as indicated by their own journals in various fields: Journal of Interdisciplinary History (https://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/jinh/42/4?mobileUi=0 ), Research (https://www.jis3.org), Economics (https://journals.sagepub.com/home/jie), Education (https://dergipark.org.tr/en/pub/jietp), et alia.
Finally, over the decades, I have submitted many articles, some at the request of an editor, to journals describing themselves as “Interdisciplinary” in one way of another. What, I have discovered, through peer reviews, is that they seem to have their own canons, norms of validation, and languages. Or as Schulman wrote “…ways of organizing themselves and defining rules for making arguments and claims that others will warrant. They have different ways of talking about themselves and about the problems, topics, and issues which constitute their subject matters.” (Schulman 2002: vi-vii) Even though I might have been asked to submit something from my own perspective, I was gently informed that to be published, I had to edit it to fit the Journal’s. As expected, my decision, of course, was a normatively social one.
Blonsky, Marshall, ed. (1985) On Signs, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press.
Culler, Jonathan. (1981) The Pursuit of Signs, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. (Reprinted from “In Pursuit of Signs, Daedalus 5 (2).
Jablonowski, Kevin. (2020) May 1. “Post-Truth and the future. – A New AHA Member.” American Historical Association. https://communities.historians.org/home Accessed: November 1, 2020.
Krase, Jerome. (2018) “Ethnography: Bridging the Qualitative-Quantitative Divide,” in Placing Urban Anthropology: The Production of Empirically-based Knowledge and its Significance to Society, edited by Giuliana B. Prato, Italo Pardo, Walter Kaltenbacher. Diogenes, Sage.
Nolas, Sevasti-Melissa and Varvantakis, Christos. (2018) “Another review process is possible,” Entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography 2 (1). https://entanglementsjournal.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/another-review-process-is-possible.pdf Accessed: November 1, 2020.
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