21 April 2010

On cited authors in the humanities (2007)

Foucault came top.  D G Myers comments, concluding;
The “enchanting crisscrossing of names” from France—Foucault, Bour­dieu, Derrida—suggests that humanists remain bogged down in the slough of Theory. They are engaged in a common pursuit, all right, but it is not the pursuit of truth. It is the pursuit of intellectual fashion, even if the fashion is a little worn and threadbare after four decades.
I've got a lot of sympathy with that viewpoint, although it's a bit tough on Bourdieu, who may be unreadable but has more going for him than those other posturing purveyors of intellectual flatulence.

But one is bound to be disappointed if one sees studies in the humanities in terms of the "pursuit of truth" with a sub-text of the possibility of making "progress". I don't even see what would count as "progress" in those areas.

On the other hand, note that the list includes Albert Bandura at number 4, Anthony Giddens at 5 and Erving Goffman at 6. All of them have a body of empirical (and incidentally very accessible) work to their credit, and may indeed be credited with useful new knowledge, sometimes in terms of answers, but sometimes too in terms of new questions. What of course the current authors were doing as they cited them is a different matter--probably rubbishing them! Citations cut both ways.

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