Academic Autonomy Beyond the Nation-State

The Social Sciences and Humanities in the European Research Council
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Abstract

The social sciences and humanities (SSH) traditionally have a close relationship to the nation-state and there are substantial disciplinary differences across countries. Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of the academic field, the present article examines how academic autonomy and heteronomy are applied as discursive strategies as the SSH compete for funding in the transnational European arena established by the European Research Council (ERC). To this end, we analyze mission statements of ERC Starting Grant projects in the SSH, using a mixed methods approach of statistical text analysis (topic modeling) and qualitative content analysis. Although the ERC puts the SSH under the constraints of academic capitalism, the classical humanities secure a strong position by signaling academic autonomy and engaging in the construction and consecration of European culture. However, economics and other social sciences gravitate toward a more heteronomous self-representation, emphasizing the political and social utility of their research, while disciplines like neuro-science and psychology exhibit self-representations closely related to the “hard sciences”—and relatively alien to the SSH.

Keywords

Social sciences Humanities Academic autonomy Bourdieu ERC Topic model 

Akademische Autonomie jenseits des Nationalstaats

Die Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften im Europäischen Forschungsrat

Zusammenfassung

Die Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften (SSH) stehen traditionell in enger Beziehung zum Nationalstaat, und im Ländervergleich bestehen erhebliche disziplinäre Unterschiede. Ausgehend von Bourdieus Theorie des akademischen Feldes untersucht der vorliegende Aufsatz, wie Signale akademischer Autonomie und Heteronomie als diskursive Strategien im durch den ERC etablierten transnationalen Wettbewerb um Forschungsgelder eingesetzt werden. Hierzu analysieren wir die mission statements von ERC-Starting-Grant-Projekten in den SSH mithilfe einer Kombination qualitativer Inhaltsanalyse und statistischer Textanalyse (topic modeling). Obwohl das im ERC vorherrschende Paradigma des akademischen Kapitalismus die Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften unter Druck setzt, gelingt es insbesondere den klassischen Geisteswissenschaften durch ihre Mitarbeit an der Konstruktion und Konsekration einer europäischen Kultur eine starke Position zu besetzen. Die Ökonomie und andere Sozialwissenschaften tendieren demgegenüber zu einer heteronomen Selbstdarstellung und betonen den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Nutzen ihrer Forschung, während Disziplinen wie die Neuro-Wissenschaft und Psychologie eine an die „hard sciences“ angelehnte, für die SSH recht ungewöhnliche Selbstdarstellung an den Tag legen.

Schlüsselwörter

Sozialwissenschaften Geisteswissenschaften Akademische Autonomie Bourdieu ERC Topic Model 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank both anonymous reviewers as well as Stephanie Beyer for their thorough reading and helpful comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bayerisches Landesamt für StatistikFürthGermany
  2. 2.Department of Society and Governance StudiesZeppelin University FriedrichshafenFriedrichshafenGermany

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