The road from “vocation”: Weber and Veblen on the purposelessness of scholarship

  • Stephen Turner
  • Journal of Classical Sociology, May 2019, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1468795x19851375

What is Scholarship for?

What is it about?

Academic life has changed-- it is more invasive of the rest of the world, and more competitive, as well as being increasingly trivial. Trivialization and professionalization went hand in hand. So what happened in the hundred years since the classic texts by Weber and Veblen on the subject? This paper gives an account of what changed and why, and why this is a bad ending.

Why is it important?

Everyone, except for administrators and winners in the grant lottery and perhaps a few teaching oriented lecturers, feels the agony and misery of current academic life. Few senior people would choose to do it again. Yet people want in, more than ever, despite the fact that there are few jobs and conditions for most people are appalling.


Professor Stephen P Turner
Stephen Turner

It is easy to complain, hard to find solutions. But one can at least try to understand. This is part of my effort to understand what went wrong and what has been lost over the last century in the university. You may not like what I say, but the paper and my other talks and articles have hit a nerve.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Stephen P Turner