25th Sep

Social Science and Democracy

2

I remember getting riled by the engineering and even the kinesiology students during my undergrad for taking sociology. They felt it was a waste of time, and even a bit of a cliche for a young woman to be in that program.   The social sciences have often been ridiculed, but recently one study funded by a large financial institution (CIBC) has provided social science haters with lots of ammunition, particularly when it comes to the return of investment on a degree. This study tells us that pursuing a degree in the Humanities or social science is basically pointless.  Students, instead should be opting to pursue careers in fields like business.

While I’m certainly not prepared to review the particular methods and the validity of the findings here, I think that we should be critical at a larger level. It is troubling to me that a powerful financial institution is producing research that explicitly deters people from entering the only programs that will formally introduce them to critical social discourse.  The social sciences, like History, Political Science, and Sociology provide students with ways to problematize major financial institutions and the subsequent wealth disparities that they perpetuate. This is extremely threatening to the status quo, which banks like CIBC are highly invested in.

That social sciences have a ‘low return on investment’ (if it is true) says nothing about the intrinsic value or applicability of the disciplines to current social conditions. Rather, it is a devaluing of the critical voices that emerge from these programs. This exchange between right wing business douche Kevin O’Leary and Chris Hedges is a perfect example of an attempt to silence such a social scientific critique of neoliberal economic hegemony.  The Humanities are clearly a threat to the institutions that hold power in our culture.

The thought of a society without the social sciences and Humanities quite frankly terrifies me. Dissent and the opportunity to thoughtfully develop it is crucial in a democracy. This not so subtle push towards a post-social science world is absolutely a threat to democracy.

Thanks for telling me about this Ryan!

2 Comments

Ryan

2nd Oct 2013 - reply

My pleasure! Thanks for writing the post and spreading the word about the issue. I can’t help but also connect the anti-liberal arts sentiment to our Prime Minister’s previous comments about not wanting to “commit sociology”.

Sad times, sad times indeed.

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