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Another couple of choice quotes from the same line of discussion [I've dispensed with quote tags for the stuff I wrote myself, although the order is altered a bit for the purpose of exposition]:

Universities represent another conflict with the liberal democratic principle of transparency and external review: If you try to subject scholarly research to external review by people who have not been trained in the subject in question, they will do stupid things that impair the functioning of said scholarly research. And if they have been trained in the subject in question, then they're part of the self-selected Good Old Boys' network.

And if they have been trained in the subject in question, then they're part of the self-selected Good Old Boys' network.

I take it this is a "tongue-in-cheek" caricature too :-)

Not at all. Any academic schooling is going to socialise you into the way of thinking that prevails in the academic community in question, and the patronage networks that exist in same. And modern scholarly efforts being what they are, you will need to remain in both that culture and that patronage network if you wish to remain (regarded as) competent in the field in question.

The scholarly investigation of the political economy provides a very distinct example, because the favoured theories are such utter garbage with precious few redeeming virtues of any kind. This makes it easy to see that theories can be maintained by patronage rather than because they accurately describe empirical reality. But you shouldn't believe for a moment that the social dynamics that make the study of the political economy so incredibly dysfunctional are not equally applicable to chemistry, physics, linguistics and any other scholarly pursuit. In other areas of study, the socially dominant paradigm just happens to be compatible with empirical reality, making it a lot harder to distinguish between theories that are supported out of social convention and theories that are supported because they are correct.

Indeed, I am increasingly convinced that society itself is best analysed as an interlocking grid of Good Old Boys' networks, all of which shape and are shaped to a greater or lesser extent by the other GOB networks they interact and/or share parts of their membership with. In this model, a functioning society is one in which every social network enacts some measure of influence upon every other social network that they share a physical territory with. Social dysfunction occurs when a network, or cluster of networks, becomes detached from the other networks that occupy the same physical territory. Examples of the latter include hoodlums, biker gangs, the City of London and assorted brownshirt movements through the ages.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Oct 14th, 2010 at 02:02:23 PM EST

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