University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Humanities and social sciences are self-obsessed

Scholars sound the alarm at Brussels conference, saying that the arts and social sciences are on the road to destruction due to self-promotion and lack of academic substance

The humanities and social sciences are rife with narcissism and are obsessed with novelty over substance, say delegates at a recent academic conference in Brussels.

This is according to the British news site

»Highly competitive, image-oriented, substance-avoiding, ultra-innovative, quotation-obsessed individualists.«

With these less than flattering words, Sasa Bozic, associate professor of sociology at the University of Zadar, Croatia, describes his peers.

Obsessed with novelty

Bozic and other attendees at the ‘Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences’ conference criticise the »constant search for novelty« which has overshadowed scholary substance in research, and devalued work which confirms existing knowlege.

Bozic claims that this has made it difficult for the arts and social sciences to build a solid body of knowledge.

The result is that, »theories in the social sciences cannot predict much and their explanatory power is decreasing constantly,«he says.

Academic suicide

Elizabeth Sundin, professor in business administration and management at Linkoping University, Sweden, fears that »the suicide of the social sciences« is looming.

She feels that for research to be useful, it must reflect the complexities of the social world.

However, international journals often demanded »one single score and conclusion in each article«, and this decreases the relevancy and legitimacy of research results, she says.

Communication is key

As well as airing their criticisms, the conference guests look to the future.

Philippe Keraudren, scientific officer for the SSH-Futures project at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research, is of the opinion that the circulation of social science and humanities results and knowledge within Europe is key.

Indeed, how to communicate was a hot topic, especially for Allan Janik, senior research fellow at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

Fails to address ‘distressed mankind’

While the humanities ought to aspire to wisdom, many academics »don’t rise to the challenge, and address their peers rather than distressed mankind«, leaving the non-academic world to »fall back on ‘how-to’ books«, he says.

The conference was organised by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research in the Social Sciences (ICCR) in Vienna.

Its aim was to discuss how the Social Sciences and the Humanities can better equip themselves to match the current and future needs of society.

Read the full report from the conference here.