Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Jonathan Purkis


2
Towards an anarchist sociology1

A serious scholar is one who takes the Pope at his word and discounts the words of
rebels. A ranter is one who takes rebels at their word and discounts every word of
the Pope. (Fredy Perlman, 1983: 183)

Objectivism and relativism not only are untenable as philosophies, they are bad
guides for fruitful cultural collaboration. (Paul Feyerabend, 1995: 152)


Introduction

The 'politics' of knowledge has long been a concern of the humanities and social sciences. The decisions taken about which areas of society are regarded as being worthy of study, how they should be researched and the relative usefulness of the findings raise many questions about power and how it is manifested within particular societies. The ideological implications of these issues extend to questioning the role of the academic just as much as the legitimacy of State agencies who might turn research recommendations into potentially harmful social policies. In recent decades such questions have become part of the Marxist project to look at the intellectual means of reproduction in modern capitalist societies, as much as they have informed a generation of feminist sociologists keen to critique the politics of knowledge for their patriarchal assumptions. At the same time, however, the neoliberal economic agenda, in the ascendancy since the late 1970s, has asked its own questions about the politics of knowledge, to the extent that it has posed serious challenges to both established academic practice and socialist and feminist resistances to it.

As both Zygmunt Bauman (1987) and George Monbiot (2000) have noted, in recent times the priorities within the academy have changed, and the intervention of corporate interests into the production of knowledge has raised questions about its very constituency, particularly claims for 'value freedom'. Moreover, the role of the academy, at least in many Western countries, has changed to incorporate these new priorities. Not only are there particular priorities to maximise student intake at all costs, but any research that is allowed to

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