Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom

Joan Wallach Scott

Columbia University Press

Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom

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Pub Date: January 2019

ISBN: 9780231190466

184 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $28.00£22.00

Pub Date: January 2019

ISBN: 9780231548939

184 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $27.99£22.00

Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom

Joan Wallach Scott

Columbia University Press

Academic freedom rests on a shared belief that the production of knowledge advances the common good. In an era of education budget cuts, wealthy donors intervening in university decisions, and right-wing groups threatening dissenters, scholars cannot expect that those in power will value their work. Can academic freedom survive in this environment—and must we rearticulate what academic freedom is in order to defend it?

This book presents a series of essays by the renowned historian Joan Wallach Scott that explore the history and theory of free inquiry and its value today. Scott considers the contradictions in the concept of academic freedom. She examines the relationship between state power and higher education; the differences between the First Amendment right of free speech and the guarantee of academic freedom; and, in response to recent campus controversies, the politics of civility. The book concludes with an interview conducted by Bill Moyers in which Scott discusses the personal experiences that have informed her views. Academic freedom is an aspiration, Scott holds: its implementation always falls short of its promise, but it is essential as an ideal of ethical practice. Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom is both a nuanced reflection on the tensions within a cherished concept and a strong defense of the importance of critical scholarship to safeguard democracy against the anti-intellectualism of figures from Joseph McCarthy to Donald Trump.
Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom is brilliant and written with admirable clarity and style. This book could not be more timely or important. Michael Bérubé, author of author of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?: Classroom Politics and “Bias” in Higher Education
For decades, Joan Scott has been a passionate and thoughtful advocate for academic freedom. In these penetrating essays, she explores the often subtle tensions between free inquiry and disciplinary authority, critique and orthodoxy, disruption and civility, as well as the distinctions and interplay between academic freedom and freedom of speech, which underpin academic freedom as an ethical practice essential to the academy's future. Hank Reichman, chair of the American Association of University Professors Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure
Joan Scott’s incisive account of the numerous assaults on academic freedom is a timely intervention in the so-called free speech debates. Scott reminds us that the search for truth requires freedom on the part of experts to challenge prior knowledge and established theories. The forces arrayed against academic freedom, she reminds us, would love to do away with public education altogether,which in any functioning democracy is simply unacceptable. Carolyn M. Rouse, coauthor of Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment
For anyone who cares about the survival of academic freedom in the twenty-first century, this is required reading. Scott deftly outlines the tensions, ambiguities, and paradoxes of academic freedom and proves that it is the oxygen of any healthy democracy. Readers will come away convinced that the crises of our own historical moment call for its reinvention and revitalization. Adam Sitze, author of The Impossible Machine: A Genealogy of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Introduction: On the Future of Academic Freedom
1. Academic Freedom as an Ethical Practice
2. Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom
3. Civility, Affect, and Academic Freedom
4. Academic Freedom and the State
5. On Free Speech and Academic Freedom
Epilogue: In the Age of Trump, a Chilling Atmosphere—an Interview with Joan Wallach Scott by Bill Moyers
Notes
Index

About the Author

Joan Wallach Scott is professor emerita in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Her books include Sex and Secularism (2017) and Gender and the Politics of History (Columbia, thirtieth anniversary edition, 2018). She is a long-standing member of the American Association of University Professors Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.