On french sociology of philosophy

I’ve been reading a lot of French sociology of philosophy, and it continues to frustrate me that the major American text in this genre, Randall Collins’ The sociology of philosophies (1998), basically makes no reference to this literature. Admittedly, the French subfield I’ve examined is relatively limited in scope, basically amounting to a very elaborate exploration of the French philosophical field, which is construed in generally orthodox Bourdieuian terms. There’s a lot of stuff about publishing markets, access to jobs, different forms of symbolic capital. But as far as I can tell, the whole French enterprise is dramatically more empirically involved than Collins’ over-ambitious project to theorize all of philosophy throughout world history. (Mostly this involves drawing little network diagrams of who knew whom.)
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Universities and economic slowdown

Timothy Burke predicts the end of university growth in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. He says that colleges will no longer be able to keep raising tuition at such high rates; that endowments will get much lower rates of return (or possibly shrink outright); that fundraising will be harder; and public funds will be scarce.

That gloomy future is perhaps already arriving at even the wealthiest universities. Alison Sider’s article this week at the Maroon, the University of Chicago’s newspaper, indicates that “the University informed nearly 3,000 graduate students that it had lost its major lending partner and could no longer offer student loans.” According to administrators, “most students remained relatively unaffected by the change,” but nonetheless, “international applicants often lack the credit references necessary to obtain loans from increasingly wary banks.”

Not to mention that international students are often more precarious because they can’t legally work off campus. As usual, economic problems hit hardest on the more financially vulnerable.

Veblen on universities

If one reads Thorstein Veblen’s The Higher Learning In America: A memorandum on the conduct of universities by business men, it only takes a page or two for him to turn to the technological determinants of knowledge. In a scathing passage, he comments:

The modern technology is of an impersonal, matter-of-fact character in an unexampled degree, and the accountancy of modern business management is also of an extremely dispassionate and impartially exacting nature. It results that the modern learning is of a similarly matter-of-fact, mechanistic complexion, and that it similarly leans on statistically dispassionate tests and formulations. Whereas it may fairly be said that the personal equation once — in the days of scholastic learning — was the central and decisive factor in the systematization of knowledge, it is equally fair to say that in later time no effort is spared to eliminate all bias of personality from the technique or the results of science or scholarship. It is the “dry light of science” that is always in request, and great pains is taken to exclude all color of sentimentality.

Yet this highly sterilized, germ-proof system of knowledge, kept in a cool, dry place, commands the affection of modern civilized mankind no less unconditionally, with no more afterthought of an extraneous sanction, than once did the highly personalized mythological and philosophical constructions and interpretations that had the vogue in the days of the schoolmen.

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