Who’s the real academic or scholar?

Fringes and Frontiers
Rhoderick Abellanosa
Rhoderick Abellanosa

Academic scholarship in the 21st century has changed significantly. Decades ago, the cry in the academia was “publish or perish.” 

Today, it is not enough to publish, one has to be cited.  With universities now defined in terms of market-driven rankings, research, and citations are now indispensable metrics of relevance.

It is dangerous when academics do not criticize social ills.  It is doubly dangerous when they do not criticize policies and practices that prevent them from living up to their “calling” as agents of social change. Creative works and writings should flow freely from the soul of the scholar.

At least we can speak for the Humanities and to some extent the Social Sciences that share its disciplinal origin from the former.  We are not saying that academic scholarship should not be relevant or impactful.  What we are saying on the contrary is that the “genuine” relevance and impact of an intellectual cannot be measured by a university’s ranking portfolio.

An academic or a scholar should not be forced to write on a topic that does not concern him.  Doing this distorts the nature of academic life and produces works or outputs that are alienated from the scholar.

Sadly, universities have now become, to borrow the words of the sociologist Frank Furedi, “merchants of knowledge.” 

In this so-called “globalized” economy, academics do not have a choice except to compete like peddlers. Arguably, not all research or publications reflect an academic scholar’s passion for social change. Some are written as necessary outputs for survival in an educational system that cannot escape the dictates of a neoliberal superstructure.

Precisely, I do not agree with those who argue that scholarship is defined by citations. Neither do I agree that an academic’s influence is measured only by a “citation index.” 

Some academics continue to be influential within the range or scope of their work despite not being recognized globally.  Just because the scope of the reach of the work is local does not mean that it is not significant. Rankings and indices may measure a “certain degree” of an academic’s influence but it is not defining.

It is all the more problematic when an academic starts claiming “expertise” and intellectual distinction from the other members of the scholarly community. Expertise should be demonstrated and not merely curated. 

For example, in the field of Theology, some claim expertise in the discipline based on their citations. Unfortunately, it is an expertise that has not moved outside the bubble of the academic community. The measure of a good Theology is its impact on the pastoral and ecclesiological lives of the people, which is essentially its locus. 

The same is true with Philosophy, the measure of which, in thegrandr scheme of things, is not only the extent of ideas consumed by fellow academic philosophers. Real philosophy must be resistant.

A real philosopher is relevant not only to his fellow philosophers. He must be able to create a discourse that can put into question the inanities both of those in power and the crowd whose idolatrous behavior is as tyrannical as the dictator they criticize.

The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964. He said: “A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own – that is, the written word”, and that “all the honours he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable.” 

Sartre added: “The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honourable circumstances…”

Unlike Sartre, some academic scholars today do not have the luxury nor the courage to reject the honor and recognition they are even looking for.  The academia has lost to the market.

Only those who do not desire anything are capable of resisting.*


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.