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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Organizational life inverts core intellectual commitments

My pet Theory of Professional Academic Associations is that the discipline’s organizational life inverts its core intellectual commitments.

Thus, Political Science is the discipline of government and especially of democracy. Yet, the last time I checked, all of the high-level positions in APSA are decided by committee deals rather than free and fair elections by the membership.

Or, Economics is the discipline of decentralized coordination through the efficient operation of the market. Yet its job “market” is in fact an administered queue, with departments explicitly ranking their candidates, departments effectively ranking themselves, and a direct matching process operating between the two as top-ranking candidates slot into open positions in top-ranked schools. (This mechanism also includes an effective method of rent-extraction from Deans in the form of a salary ratchet.)

And, to get to the present case, Sociology is the discipline that analyzes the many forms of collective social action, on the one hand, and is the social science most oriented towards the exposure of the workings of power, on the other. So naturally it follows that the ASA is not very good at organizing anything, and that its financial arrangements are as secretive as legally possible.

-That’s from Kieran Healy, and worth reading if you like reading about sociologists.  But my function here is to provide more support to Kieran’s theory.

One might cite Catholic religious orders who take a vow of poverty, but nevertheless often end up with substantial amounts of wealth. 

One might cite a marketing research firm that purports to help clients improve their brand equity, but squanders it’s own brand equity by continually renaming divisions (one example: Market Response Analysis (MRA) to Analytics Insights Group (AIG) to Brand Consumer Insights (BCI) to Consumer and Shopper Insights (CSI) to … but my point is made.)