The University and the Market



This book describes a number of negative tendencies which occur in the modern academic life. They are mutually related and create a peculiar syndrome. These phenomena are called by the name of corruption (in the etymological sense of this word as decay) and anomie (as understood by Durkheim). The author does not determine whether this syndrome has already achieved the dominant position, defining the character of modern science, education and organisation of academic institutions, nor does he say what the future of these tendencies is. However, he sees their hitherto growing intensity. The phenomena that are part of this syndrome have both intra-academic and external sources. The author does not refer his conclusions exclusively to the situation in Poland. He also refers to such witnesses of these and similar phenomena in Western science as Thorstein Veblen, Max Weber, Thomas S. Kuhn, Allan Bloom, Kevin Philips, Robert J. Shiller, Diane Ravitch and Alison Wolf.

First of all, anomie dominates in science and in the manner in which it is practised. The author makes sociology the subject of his analysis, although it is only a distinct representative of the humanities in general. The author points to the occurrence in sociology of authoritarian and oligarchic views which often accompany the declared approval of the multi-paradigmatic character of the science dealing with the society. Oftentimes the ideological Heraclitism and Kainotism are connected with these views. The first one signifies a thesis of the momentum and fluidity of all phenomena, which make impossible the construction of any conception of the structure, which would not have by necessity a time-limited, only temporary character, which inevitably is soon doomed to become obsolete. The author understands the ideological Kainotism as a concentration merely on that which is new and also on novelties, which are often only apparently new. According to the author it is a source of corruption of science manifested through the creation of fictitious novelties, and identification of that which is new at a given place with that which is new everywhere, creation of historical myths and stereotypes, establishing of a theoretical archaism. [132]

Another feature of this tendency is distancing from the classics, an obvious disparaging of their achievements, which sometimes leads to epigonism towards them, or in cases where their thoughts are referred to, borrowing from them the weak points of their theories, which sometimes leads to ludic forms of sociological innovation. A form of such an attitude to the classics of sociology is a kind of scientific doctrinarianism, consisting in the evaluation of the theoretical output of its particular representatives on the basis of their practical doctrine. Such an attitude to the classical achievements of sociology is connected with neglecting of the historical knowledge and of the historical-comparative method. This is accompanied by the dissemination of the deceptive statistics (number of articles, number of citations) as marks of the scientific status and a criterion for promotion. An extreme form of the corruption of science is the appearance in the scientific life of certain forms of censure. A separate problem is commercialisation of scientific work, i.e. dependence on the commissions from business circles, selling the work of the universities for profit.

Also the field of didactics shows distinct features of anomie. Its manifestation is the lack of the so called positive criticism of other people's critical attitudes and their overcoming, which the author calls the schoolboy's conception of understanding and the so called simian pedagogy connected with it, which is "a premise of attempts, noble by their intent, to free young people from the pressure of teachers and humiliation by the school, and ensuring for them psychic comfort leading to the removing from the syllabuses of difficult material and such work which requires some effort. With this is connected a model of education, which offers narrow specialisation in particular professions, based on double fiction: an assumption that narrow professional knowledge ensures jobs on the labour market, and that just this is a source students' interest in this type of education. The falseness of the former of the two theses was proved by the fiasco of the American vocational education, the so called National Vocational Qualification, and the latter thesis ignores the fact that for a large number of students the diploma itself, earned according to the principle of the economy of effort, is more important than vocational education. An actual expression of this attitude is plagiarism that spreads amongst students and the anomic ways of fighting it. A not too high motivation for increasing one's knowledge by oneself amongst students is conducive to the decline in the quality of education through entrusting teaching to scientific workers with the lowest qualifications and a widespread use of tests as a means of checking students' knowledge during examinations.

Anomie is also characteristic of the organisation of a university itself, which assumes features of "the factory of knowledge". Among other writers, the author adduces the phenomenon, already noticed by Thorstein Veblen, but which at present is much more advanced. This is the phenomenon of transforming universities into enterprises of competitive businesses. The effect of [133] this is overpopulation of universities and the rising number of students per one academic teacher. According to the author, the academic estate undergoes a kind of mendicusation (becoming poor), and on the other hand, partly as a reaction to this phenomenon, class relations appear within this estate: scientists run their own private enterprises, counselling agencies, and work as consultants, conducting training for businesses.

Another phenomena are the relations: teaching staff-students. The University assumes a lackey-dominant character. The phenomenon of paidocracy appears as a degenerate form of students' democracy and a fight for a larger number of students and notoriety. On the other hand, in the organisational structure of a university mini-parties and mini-leaders begin to function.

The result of the anomie competition which is the feature of the modern university is the dissemination of the three characteristic ills of scientists. The author gives names them from the names of their discoverers: the Schopenhauer-Weber disease (vanity), the Znaniecki disease (envy), and the Sorokin disease (intellectual kleptomania).

Negative processes, which occur at a university, are set by the author within a wider social context, pointing to the phenomena of corruption of modern democracy, of the market and, in particular, the author points to the phenomenon of great scandals in American corporations at the turn of the 20th and 21st century.

This book can be considered as a diagnosis. However, its author does not completely give up any attempts at opposing this situation by offering a certain positive conception. Scientific anomie is opposed by the author by the conception of sociological neo-classicism, which is an attempt at integration of the most important achievements of the classical sociology into a systematic and consistent theory of the society. The author sets the corruption of teaching against the conception of a community of scientists and students, working together not only to carry out the task of mastering knowledge by the latter, most of all the general and theoretical knowledge , but in mutual solving of scientific problems. The author does not propose any limits on the number of students, but is in favour of the American solution, consisting in the separation of elitist universities where there are the highest standards of scientific research and teaching. The author opposes the anomie organisation of schools of higher education by one based on moral customs in the Hegelian sense, and maintaining certain traditional features of the academic estate.