Discipline and innovate 

I really like this overview in Conflict in the Academy, by Marcus Morgan and Patrick Baert, concerning the conflicting pressures towards discipline and innovation which afflict all disciplines. From loc 408-421:

We would like to suggest that the story of the MacCabe controversy ought to be placed within a broader account of disciplinary professionalisation, one which raises the question of what exactly a discipline is –a question much easier to answer in the so-called hard sciences than in the humanities. Is it, as Rorty (2006) has suggested, simply a matter of the ritualistic reading and referencing of one set of books rather than another, and the justifying of one’s claims to one community of practitioners rather than another, or does it point towards something more essential in method and content? One thing that appears clear is that disciplinary reproduction is unable to take place effectively without to some extent disciplining those who refuse to operate within its prescribed confines. Most of the time this disciplining (or what might otherwise be called ‘boundary policing’) happens in tacit ways through rewarding work that builds upon, and can be understood and judged in terms of, a discipline’s established corpus, and punishing that which does not. Such mechanisms help ensure a necessary focus to branches of intellectual endeavour and a coherence of aims and criteria of judgement which allow for the discipline to reproduce and extend itself in a recognisable form throughout time. However, operating simultaneously to this imperative of disciplinary reproduction, there is also an equally important countervailing pressure for disciplinary innovation and development, and such innovation often occurs through contact with, and importation of approaches from, other disciplines.

I like the use of mechanisms talk here, though I suspect I’m reading it in a much more CR-inflected way than the authors would intend. How do these mechanisms operate? How do they change? How effective are they? These questions track important changes at the level of scholarly communications which are key to my current research.

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