Monday, February 21, 2005

Déformation Professionnelle

I received a lot of outraged emails after that last post. People claimed I was being unfair--to "breeders," "economists," "sacred cows" etc. Let me add a couple of qualifications. Was I right to pick on economists for their arrogance?. Yes and no. I do think that in the modern academy, economists are generally the most unpleasant, socially-unskilled, and arrogant people. (Larry Summers is, I suspect, in hot water with his Harvard colleagues more for these traits than anything he said about women in science depts.) But I don't think that these are the worst faults. The redeeming feature of economists is that they like to argue and never (or at least rarely) get offended when you disagree with them. Indeed, they encourage and expect disagreement. The worst people in academia are the insecure. People who take offense when you disagree with them. These people tend to congregate in disciplines whose intellectual foundations are rather fragile. Political Scientists are, I think, among the worst here, because their entire discipline seems to be constructed out of authoritative figureheads (what would Marx, Weber, Rawls, Putnam, Waltz say about [fill in subject]?), typologies, and jargon. I know a few people from Grad School, who got booted out of the Political Science program for disagreeing with their Professors' pet "theory." I suspect that this happens much less in economics and history.

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