Academics and the real world

January 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Academics have an unfortunate tendency to ignore the real issue when it comes to global poverty. This is not true across the board, of cause, there are some very generous individuals like the Toby Orb over at ‘Giving What We Can’ who has managed to persuade 181 people to pledge a total of $45,000,000. However, the more often than not the inhabitants of philosophy and political science departments the developed world over tend to develop very well meant theories about why poverty exists without really doing anything practical about it.

The first problem is that there is no defined structure to allow academics to directly turn their theories into practice. This would require an institutional change whereby some organisation or group had the final word in the debate on how policies should be structured. Unfortunately at the moment the final say lands squarely in the hands of politicians who have their own interests, constituents and parties to fraternize.

Secondly, the very nature of academic debate invites conflict and disagreement. Not only is discussion and criticism necessary, but I have even heard of philosophers who place gaps in their own theories to encourage a reply so that they may write a rebuttal. Everyone else is left with a feeling that no one really knows what the best course of action is and if the ‘experts’ don’t know then what hope do the rest of us have.


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