22 SES 11 A, Where Does Theory Come from in Higher Education? Tales from the Field.
As Layder states, theory can be considered a pattern of “...concepts, propositions, and ‘world-views’” (1993:15), with the term ‘worldviews’ presupposing some degree of normativity. Taking as a point of departure a small-scale ‘science war’ between scholars in the field of political science in Denmark, this paper will consider the role of meta-theory and scientific truth claims in academia. In theory that focuses on learning as a community-based process aimed at full membership of that community (Wenger 1998, Lave & Wenger 1991),the notion of belonging is given particular attention, whereby expert practitioners lead the way and serve as guides or models for the “right” forms of practice. To be considered a legitimate member of an academic field one must gain the acceptance and recognition of these already established members. Academia may thus be considered a field (with various subfields) in which one takes a position by means of a certain habitus (Bourdieu 1995a 1995b, 1988), consisting of a taken for granted pattern of values, assumptions and preferences; a set of dispositions that legitimate and “naturalise” field membership. The use of theory and academic referencing serve the function of establishing an academic position, since “Competitors have both to distinguish themselves from their predecessors and rivals and to integrate the work of these groups into a construction that transcends it.” (Henkel 2000: 18). The paper therefore asks, from a political science perspective, whether it is time to focus more (self-)consciously on normativity (Alrøe & Noe 2014) when using (meta)theory in the academic field, since positioning the individual in the social field (Becher 1989, Bourdieu 1995a, 1995b, 1988, Henkel 2000, Teichler & Höhle 2013) involves value negotiation and value assignment to discern the “rights” and “wrongs” of academia (Evetts 2011, 2003), and to gauge ones’ ‘acceptance’ and/or ‘distinction’, in competitive terms.
Alrøe, H.F. & Noe, E. (2014): Cross-Disciplinary Science and the Structure of Scientific Perspectives, Journal of Organizational Knowledge Communication, 1, 1: 7-30. Becher, T. (1989): Academic Tribes and Territories, The Society for Research into Higher Education, SRHE. Bourdieu, P. (1995a): The Political Field, the Social Science Field, and the Journalistic Field, in Benson, R. & Neveu, E. (eds.) 2005: Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field, Polity Press, pp. 29-47. Bourdieu, P. (1995b): Distinksjonen: en sosiologisk kritikk av dømmekraften, Pax, Oslo . Bourdieu, P. (1988): Homo Academicus, Polity Press. Evetts, J. (2011): “Sociological Analysis of Professionalism: Past, Present and Future”, Comparative Sociology, 10. Evetts, J., (2003): “The Sociological Analysis of Professionalism: Occupational Change in the Modern World”, International Sociology, 18:2, pp. 395-415. Henkel, M. (2000): Academic Identities and Policy Change in Higher Education, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991): Situated Learning. Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press. Layder, D. (1993): New Strategies in Social Research, Polity Press. Teichler, U. & Höhle, E.A. (2013): The Work Situation of the Academic Profession in Europe: Findings of a Survey in Twelve Countries, Springer. Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice, Cambridge University Press.
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