Call for Papers: The University in Times of Crisis – Prospects for the Social Sciences

A one-day international conference is being organised by the Max Weber Study Group and the Theory Study Group of the British Sociological Association. Its purpose is to think about the current state and prospects of both the university and the social sciences and humanities. After years of having allowed themselves to be defined in terms of usefulness to the ‘economy’, social scientists and academics in general have to face up to the harsh reality and consider whether they have not simply surrendered their mission and responsibility.

With the total withdrawal of state funding for teaching of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, debt-burdened students will be entering effectively privatised universities at a time when market recipes are demonstrably failing in all spheres of life. In addition, research funds will be severely cut and their allocation further subjected to indicators alien to serious scholarship. These are only the most extreme forms so far of developments taking place elsewhere, such as the EU’s ‘Bologna process’.

This conference seeks to explain how we have arrived here, to analyse the consequences of these developments and the possibilities for a free social science praxis (both in teaching and scholarship), and to set out the choices that may lie ahead and the responsibilities attached to them. The conference will be organised around the following thematic sessions:

1. The politics of higher education and social science, and the questions of university and social science autonomy, self-government and academic freedom today.

2. Academic vocation: its significance today and the possibilities for cultivating and strengthening it.

3. Managerialism and its ‘quality’ indicators in social science and education: what kind of human beings lie behind such indicators and result from their use? What kind of learning environment are universities promoting and shaping today in place of the praxis of teacher and student?

4. Contribution of contemporary social science and higher education to society: for example, in terms of clarifying fundamental problems, educating judgement and fostering maturity and autonomy. Are we, to follow Weber, fostering a world of thinking human beings able to conduct their own lives, or rather, a world of indifferent subjects of consumption?

The conference organisers invite the submission of one page abstracts addressing one or more of the above topics and questions. The conference will take place May 2011 and the venue will be London or Birmingham; both to be confirmed.

For further information and submission of papers, please contact:
Carlos Frade (University of Salford)
Sam Whimster (Editor of Max Weber Studies)
Gurminder K. Bhambra (University of Warwick)
Austin Harrington (University of Erfurt, Germany)

Categories: Higher Education

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