Thursday, January 27, 2011

A spanking for the American Sociological Association

The officers of the American Sociological Association have released an official defense of Frances Fox Piven, who was recently called out as a hypocrite by hyperbolic Glenn Beck. of Fox News.

Lawprof Ann Althouse provides a fisking and a link to the ASA press release.

My thoughts:

First of all, death threats and riots are not reasoned political discourse and are not okay on the left, the right or (what seems to be less of a problem empirically) from (classical) liberals or libertarians.

Second, the ASA is generating a negative externality here by feeding the view among the public that academic social scientists are really just ideologically motivated social activists who happen to work at universities and not really serious scientists at all. Thanks for nothing on that one, ASA officers.

Third, why should the officers of a professional association of academics be making political pronouncements? Is there not enough for the officers to do with running the annual meetings? Are there no data to collect, students to supervise or papers to write? What special expertise do they have? Presumably there are many sociologists who do not agree with the political pronouncements that the ASA makes in their name. Why not just let individual sociologists make their own political announcements? I am very glad indeed that the American Economic Association keeps to its knitting in this regard and recommend this worthy behavior to the ASA.

Finally, here is the list of ASA officers. I recognize only one name: Mario Small at Chicago. He is a serious guy who does good work. I'll assume that he got outvoted on this one.

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