This is part of a series of study guides I’m developing on Minds. These guides are for college students and lifelong learners, and will follow the same outlines as standard sociology and biology courses. I’ll eventually cover every topic, thinker, and method that you would come across in college sociology and biology courses. This one is the first in a unit on the demarcation problem, which tries to clarify the difference between science and not-science.
Excerpt: According to French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, academics have this special privilege of being divorced from necessity. He has a special term for the condition of the academic—skhole. Whereas primitive man had to use his intellect for hunting and solving the problems most pertinent to his survival, Homo academicus is “outside the urgency of a practical situation” and so uses his intellect to solve problems he is disconnected from, “for the sole pleasure of resolving them.” The truths he discovers are highly abstract, context-free, and eternal.
This has been the case for the kind of thinking that goes on in universities until recently. For a long time, universities were for nobles and elites. The aristocratic classes, like academics, are removed from necessity, making them the perfect students for this kind of program. Today, universities have evolved into vocational training programs for masses of ordinary people entering into the new working class. Most of their professors, however, are still entrenched in the old tradition of skhole, and ill prepared to answer their students’ all-important questions why am I paying for this shit, and since when am I going to use this in the Real World™?