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Social Science for Public Knowledge

November 11, 2009

Craig Calhoun in SSRC:

Public engagement was a strong feature of20080220-b12 the social sciences from their birth. Could one imagine Hobbes, Locke or the Scottish moralists as mere academics? Weber, Durkheim, and the great Chicago School sociologists had university jobs but both public concerns and public audiences. Social scientists today contribute to public understanding of issues from social inequality to transformations of the family. They also inform public policy on problems from educational reform to economic productivity. But since World War II, dramatic growth in universities and research institutions not only created opportunities for social scientists, it contained much of their communication inside the academy. An ideology that opposed academic professionalism to public engagement and a prestige hierarchy that favored allegedly pure science over applied added to the tendency.

Today there are widespread calls for more public social science. Academics have recognized the problems that come from being too much cut off from public discussion.

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