Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Harvey Mansfield Dishes Out Some Punishment

Who knew that Harvard's Harvey Mansfield has an unfavorable view of sociology?  After reading his OP-ED in the WSJ today, I see that he will be a popular graduation speaker.   What does he think about economics?  To quote the Charmer; "

"Others try to imitate the sciences and call themselves "social scientists." The best imitators of scientists are the economists. Among social scientists they rank highest in rigor, which means in mathematics. They also rank highest in boastful pretension, and you can lose more money listening to them than by trying to read books in sociology. Just as Gender Studies taints the whole university with its sexless fantasies, so economists infect their neighbors with the imitation science they peddle. (Game theorists, I'm talking about you.)"

Now, that's diversity in the academy!


Thomas said...

Harvey Mansfield's attack on the social sciences, and on sociology in particular is groundless trafficking in caricatures and ignorance. To be sure, the field of sociology has been influenced by the take over of those who are either unable to survive in any other social science and by left-wing ideologists masquerading as social scientists. In this respect, sociology deserves even more criticism than Mansfield offers.

Yet, as someone who professes the love of great books, Mansfield ignores the classic works that form the core of the sociological vision. Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim, Robert K. Merton, just to name a few of the great sociologists who make up the core of a rigourous canon of sociologists, transformed the way we view society and its hidden intricacies. And one could list the well-known figures in American history who who majored in sociology to get a sense of the enduring importance of our field: Martin Luther King, Jr., Frances Perkins and, yes, Ronald Reagan.

Such spurious attacks do nothing to strengthen the case that the grand old man of American conservatism has something meaningul to say in his dotage.

T. Cushman
Sociology, Wellesley College

brad said...

Dear Professor Cushman:

It's not just sociologists (and economists!). Mansfield hates "gender studies" as well. He hates political scientists who--like economists--count things and use math. And he hates scientists to, although he doesn't quite say so exoterically: you have to notice his claim that scientists' belief that they know facts is itself a matter of value to get it.

Most of all, however, Mansfield hates undergraduates. I remember one dinner at one New England college where a political science professor just back from a semester visiting Harvard, and he was still somewhat shaken that in his first week there Harvey Mansfield had stopped by, looked into his office, and said: "You should close your door. If you don't, undergraduates may wander in."


Brad DeLong