Useless Sociology & other disciplines

Ioan Davies (idavies@YORKU.CA)
Fri, 21 Nov 1997 22:36:35 +0000

Mike Harris's reprehensible attack on the social sciences and
humanities this week (see Adrian's separate message) calls for (as
far as I know) only three responses from those who take intellectual
culture seriously. The first is to redefine ourselves so that we can
be seen to be economically profitable (a bit like German assimmilated
Jews trying to be more German than the Germans); the second is to
pretend that nothing has happened, and hope that Harris will, sooner
or later, go away; the third is to see ourselves, together, as being
under attack from a government which is philistine,
anti-intellectual, and hitch ourselves to major international
campaigns such as PEN, Index on Censorship, Amnesty International.
The first and second responses are clearly fruitless and bear with
them a resignation to a disaster which is seen to be inevitable. Only
the third offers any hope for success. All social scientists and all
humanitarians must see the great traditions of international thought
as now being challenged. However twinged we might have been by
post-modern or ideological guilt, we must now know that the
barbarians are at the gates and that the great cries of power in the
drama of knowledge are now "All power to machines!" "Let the Cybermen
It is we who are under attack. Let us act accordingly, but together.
The classicist, the philosopher, the encyclopedist, the
deconstructionist, the theologian, the computer graphic designer, the
political theorist, the ideological cartographer, and, God bless him!
the sociologist, are now together in the same trenches. Especially at
York. We are all that is wrong with Ontario. We must defend our
infamy, by leading the way in a struggle for ideas beyond economic or
political trendiness. As Bakhtin showed us in his interpretation of
Rabelais, our own sense of ultimate victory is an essential element
in our laughter against their foolishness.
So, let us keep laughing together.
Professor Ioan Davies,Sociology and Social/Political Thought, Founders College, York University, Toronto, Canada, M3J 1P3
Phone: 416 736 5148.