Synopses & Reviews
Calls for closer connections among disciplines can be heard throughout the world of scholarly research, from major universities to the National Institutes of Health. In Defense of Disciplines
presents a fresh and daring analysis of the argument surrounding interdisciplinarity. Challenging the belief that blurring the boundaries between traditional academic fields promotes more integrated research and effective teaching, Jerry Jacobs contends that the promise of interdisciplinarity is illusory and that critiques of established disciplines are often overstated and misplaced.
Drawing on diverse sources of data, Jacobs offers a new theory of liberal arts disciplines such as biology, economics, and history that identifies the organizational sources of their dynamism and breadth. Illustrating his thesis with a wide range of case studies including the diffusion of ideas between fields, the creation of interdisciplinary scholarly journals, and the rise of new fields that spin off from existing ones, Jacobs turns many of the criticisms of disciplines on their heads to mount a powerful defense of the enduring value of liberal arts disciplines. This will become one of the anchors of the case against interdisciplinarity for years to come.
The publication of has precipitated a lively debate about the future of the American university system: what makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects are required? Why are so many academics against the concept of interdisciplinary studies? From his position at the heart of academe, Harvard professor Louis Menand thinks he's found the answer. Despite the vast social changes and technological advancements that have revolutionized the society at large, general principles of scholarly organization, curriculum, and philosophy have remained remarkably static. Sparking a long-overdue debate about the future of American education, argues that twenty-first-century professors and students are essentially trying to function in a nineteenth-century system, and that the resulting conflict threatens to overshadow the basic pursuit of knowledge and truth.
"Crisp and illuminating . . . well worth reading."--
According to Harvard professor Menand, at a time when competition to get into and succeed in college has never been more intense, universities are providing a less useful education. In "The Marketplace of Ideas," he assesses what is important in a traditional university---and what is not.
Has American higher education become a dinosaur?
Why do professors all tend to think alike? What makes it so hard for colleges to decide which subjects should be required? Why do teachers and scholars find it so difficult to transcend the limits of their disciplines? Why, in short, are problems that should be easy for universities to solve so intractable? The answer, Louis Menand argues, is that the institutional structure and the educational philosophy of higher education have remained the same for one hundred years, while faculties and student bodies have radically changed and technology has drastically transformed the way people produce and disseminate knowledge. At a time when competition to get into and succeed in college has never been more intense, universities are providing a less-useful education. Sparking a long-overdue debate about the future of American education, The Marketplace of Ideas
examines what professors and students'"and all the rest of us'"might be better off without, while assessing what it is worth saving in our traditional university institutions.
About the Author
Jerry Jacobs is professor of sociology at the University of Pennyslvania. He is coauthor, with Ann Boulis, of The Changing Face of Medicine: Women Doctors and the Evolution of Health Care in America and, with Kathleen Gerson, The Time Divide: Work, Family, and Gender Inequality, among others. He lives near Philadelphia.
Table of Contents
List of FiguresList of TablesPrefaceand#160;1 Introductionand#160;Part 1 Academic Disciplines, Specialization, and Scholarly Communicationand#160;2 The Critique of Disciplinary Silosand#160;3 Dynamic Disciplinesand#160;4 Specialization, Synthesis, and the Proliferation of Journalsand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; (coauthored with Rebecca Henderson)and#160;5 Silos versus Weband#160;6 Receptivity Curves: Educational Research and the Flow of Ideasand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160; Part 2 Interdisciplinary Alternatives7 Antidisciplinarityand#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;8 American Studies: Interdisciplinarity over Half a Centuryand#160;9 Integrative Undergraduate Educationand#160;10 Implementing InterdisciplinarityAppendix: Data SourcesNotesReferencesIndex