Crisis of the University

Crisis of the University

Introduction to the Crisis of the University
Liberal to Modern University

British educationalist Peter Scott (1,2) is one of the three co-founders, the UK’s Michael Gibbons (3) in The New Production of Knowledge and Austrian’s Helga Nowotny (4) in her Re-Thinking Science : Knowledge & the Public in the Age of Uncertainty, being the other two, and yet Scott is the least heralded of all three. This is ironic because, as we shall see, he is the one who has thought most profoundly about the past, present and future of the university, albeit primarily in a European and American, if not especially British, for us “north-western”, guise.  He himself became a Vice-Chancellor of an English university in the new millennium after he had been raising the issue in the 1980’s  Universities in Crisis, primarily alluding to higher education in Britain.

The “universities” to which he was referring were both the Liberal arts-based, and Modern science oriented, universities, the two models, as we shall see, that predominated in modern times. Scott  then proceeded to write a second book on Knowledge and Nation where he not only sketched out, more fully, the prospective future of such “Mode 1” liberal and modern universities, leading implicitly though not explicitly to so-called “Mode 2”, but also brilliantly distilled the four domains, or areas of substance – the arts, social sciences, natural sciences and technology – with which the contemporary university was engaged. The significant limiting factor, in our view, as for almost all other noted commentators on the state of our universities, is that Scott adopts a universalist approach, whereby a “university” in Britain is the same, in substance and form (design), not to mention also process, as that in Belgium or indeed Brazil, that is in one societal context or another.

Differentiating Between Design, Substance, Process and Context

In our own case of “Communiversity” case then, we distinguish explicitly between a pluriverse (5) of communities, economies and societies, in one place or another, whereby the nature and scope of the higher educational institution, or indeed set of institutions, would differ in each case. Moreover, aside from the “Liberal” (for us south-western) and “Modern” (for us north-western) universities that Scott cites, we posit a “north-eastern” version, that is Japanese management philosophers  Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (6) Knowledge Creating Company, and our (7) “integral” Communiversity, with its “south-eastern” orientation.  Moreover, and interestingly enough, such re-views of the world, or worlds, of higher education, and research, all took place during the period 1980-2000, while our own work has appeared twenty years thereafter.

We now turn to Scott’s two seminal works, the first one highlighting the comparative features, or what we term structural design, of the “liberal” and “modern” universities, also alluding to the processual pre-emphasis of the former. as we shall now see. In his second book, he focuses more especially on what we term the substance or knowledge domains of the modern university, in general, that is the arts, social sciences, natural sciences and technology. In no case does Scott, though, deal with one particular societal context or another, though overall his focus is, very explicitly, on Great Britain.

Liberal University’s Job to Teach Students Rather Than Discover New Knowledge

Indeed the liberal university – that could be said to have flourished particularly in non/science disciplines from the mid 19th to mid 20th centuries in non/industrial towns – never really overcame their marginality, according to Scott, in the intellectual market. It saw its job as to teach students rather than discover new knowledge. Cardinal Newman’s (8) Idea of a University, originally appearing in the 19th century, with whom we opened in our Idea of the Communiversity, believed that formal research was best undertaken in institutions other than universities.  Half a century later the Ph.D. was introduced to wean wealthy Americans off the universities of Germany.

The liberal university (for us “south-western”) in fact had three main roles : first the custodianship of an intellectual tradition derived from the culture of a social elite rather than the codification of scientific principles; second, the reproduction of traditional rather than emergent professions; third was its role in legitimizing political and administrative elites. This has led in Britain specifically, for Scott, to the following :

  • anti/intellectualism
  • enthusiasm for pragmatism and suspicion of over/abstraction
  • continued commitment to close and careful teaching
  • an unbridgeable gap between science and non/science
  • an unnatural separation between “human” and “social” sciences.
Natural Sciences as Central to the Modern University as Philosophy to the Liberal

Yet for 30 years following the end of the Second World War, we have seen the rise of the modern university (for us “north-western”). If Britain’s Newman was the household god of the “western” liberal university, America; Clark Kerr (9) occupied the same iconic position for the “northern” modern university.  In fact, the rise of the modern university coincided with the rise of the natural sciences, which became as central to the modern university as classics, philosophy and history had been to the liberal university.  As a result, the modern emphasis was more on the codification of theoretical knowledge than the satisfaction of the culturally defined intellectual needs of students. Disciplines divided and sub-divided. Scholars became specialised researchers, which again increased the distance between disciplines. Two results followed: a splintering of knowledge, on the one hand, and a bureaucratisation of the academic community, on the other.

The dilemma for higher education in the 1980s, for Scott, is clear. At no time has it been more urgent to establish priorities, but at no time, because of the above two developments (fracturing of disciplines and bureaucracy), has it been more difficult.

The same of course still applies today, as we are caught, conventionally speaking for us, with “the Hobson’s choice” between a “south/western” – liberal, and a “north/western” – modern, version of a university with seemingly no “eastern” or “southern” place to go.  Yet the vast majority of the world’s peoples live in the “east” and the “south”.

We turn now more specifically to, first, the liberal university.

The Liberal University

Most Powerful Intellectual Institution: The Royal Society/Our Research Academy

The university generically in fact, for Scott, is the key knowledge institution of modern society. It is the producer of much of the theoretical knowledge which our society increases use as an organizing technology. It is the home territory, moreover, of the most influential component of the intelligentsia. And yet, as he has indicated, the great intellectual movements, the Renaissance of the 16th, the scientific revolution of the 17th, and the Enlightenment of the 18th centuries, seemed to by-pass the universities.

Sir Isaac Newton, for example, may have been a Cambridge University professor, but the most powerful intellectual institution of his day was the newly formed Royal Society. In fact, we pick up this historical thread in our “communiversity”, whereby the research academy becomes an inter-institutional entity in its own, integral light, through duly aligned with individual and communal learning, rather than being set apart from such, albeit thereby lodged explicitly in particular societal soils.

Industrial Revolution Took Place Far From the University/Our Laboratory

Similar academies of scholars and scientists were established all over Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, from France to Russia, demonstrating the intellectual frailty of the university. Furthermore, Scott argues, the industrial revolution, that shaped the intellectual contours of society decisively, also took place far away from the world of the university. The distance at which Cambridge insisted the new railway station must be built from the town was an eloquent comment on the 19th-century university, and comment on how it regarded the values of industrial society.

Thought today, especially in Europe and America, university and industry are often closely interconnected, this arises most especially in relation to the natural sciences, and technology, and such socioeconomic laboratories, as we call ours, are few and far between. Indeed the kind of knowledge creating company to which Nonaka and Takeuchi allude, in Japan, is far removed from the conventional university world. Indeed ironically, the very Harvard Business School at which Takeuchi presides, and where I did my MBA, is a million miles away from such a “laboratory” setting, preferring paper-based case studies to live laboratories (and I studied a thousand of them for my MBA pains).

In other words, and for us, the “western” liberal university, embodying “freedom of expression” to speak, was only such, to some individual degree, leaving out of the institutional account, as it were, laboratory-like “free enterprise”. It is only in recent years, then, that the likes of Oxford and Cambridge have come to embrace such, through for example its conventional business schools, though arguably under undue “north-western” influence from America.  In fact, when I personally attempted to introduce the more integrally “south-western” version of home-grown management guru Reg Revans’ action learning, as well as manager self-development (for Revans you cannot change a system unless you change yourself), into Cambridge University, I was given the cold shoulder. Arguably then, and in the “Global South”, such business schools are introduced “third hand” – from liberal “south-west” to rational “north-west” to the relational “south”, without any conscious evolution of such.

Science Replaced Religion as Intellectual Authority/The Advent of our Pilgrimium

Yet it was the rise of science, in political economy as much as in physics, and the new industrial society, which provided the intellectual and material bases for the restoration of the university. Science replaced religion as a potentially universal intellectual authority which transcended more partial political authorities, and so re-established the ideological basis for the revival of an independent university tradition. The decline of religion made it necessary to constrict more secular interpretations of tradition that would act as a form of stability in a rapidly changing society, again a  role for which the university seemed well designed.  Indeed, we have arguably combined science and religion, in each particular context in which our communiversity operates, to come up with a “regenerative pilgrimium” to take a particular society collectively forward.

In fact, in Europe and America, the growing sophistication of knowledge made it necessary to construct powerful, and professional, intellectual institutions in the 19th century. Salons of intellectual, literary and philosophical societies, mechanics institutes, and all the other apparatus of academic amateurism were no longer enough. The elaboration of higher education systems was a necessary consequence of the advance of science, the sophistication of all knowledge, and the demands of an industrialising society.

Product of Industrialising, Distrusting Industrial Values/Communal Learning

Yet before the advent of the modern “science” based research university, in the 20th century, spearheaded by Germany and then America, it was the liberal university, in the 19th century in Britain at least, that had become established as the dominant institutional form of higher education and in “the knowledge industry”. It was a form full of paradoxes – the product of industrialising society, yet full of distrust for industrial values,  freed by the “objectivity” of the science of the constraints of political authority, yet suspicious of technology. Knowledge then was as much about preserving and refining existing culture as it was about “inventing the future”. The twin emphases on tradition and pedagogy were then important characteristics of the liberal university.  For our communiversity, it is communal learning which represents a further co-evolution of both such collective tradition and individual pedagogy.

The liberal university also saw its responsibility to reproduce the professions, but professions defined as much by social custom as by technological requirements, and to transmit cultural capital through forming elites. As a result, it often appeared alienated from vocationalism and the values of industrial society. The key discipline was originally philosophy. Even physics in most Scottish universities retained the old fashioned title “natural philosophy”. It was in this urge to overcome specialisation and expertise that the importance of philosophy consisted. Towards the end of the 19th century, though, philosophy lost its place to history, as the abstractions of philosophy ever appealed to the broader intellectual constituency. Finally, after the First World War, English literature replaced history as a key integrative discipline, set against the invasion of the “barbarians” from the natural and social sciences.

Integrative Disciplines versus Natural Sciences

There are important differences, for Scott then, between the above so-called “integrative” disciplines like philosophy, history, English and the exclusivist disciplines in the natural sciences, the social sciences being a bridge between the two (hence our integral research spanning the two). The former relies more on intuition and imagination (our relational and renewal research paths), while the latter is experimentally based (our paths of reason and especially realisation). Secondly,  progress in scientific knowledge although not entirely linear is largely progressive. One theory is refined into another. Yet the humanities and social sciences advance of knowledge are much more anarchic. There is no way, for Scott, a social theory can be tested or “falsified” as the natural sciences can. The social sciences and humanities also depend more on intellectual creativity that is closer to artistic creativity than the experimental sciences, and also on the absorption of tradition and culture in the widest sense.        

Cultural and Scientific Knowledge: Knowledge as Process and Product

What Scott then suggests is that scientific method in its austere and therefore modest way may be a necessary, even indispensable, condition of intellectual progress, but it can never be a sufficient one. Hence our integral emphasis, research, and process-wise, on the “southern” relational and “eastern” renewal paths, as well as on “northern” reason and “western” realisation. Many of the most important ideas in the humanities and even social sciences have a semi-metaphysical (for us “south-eastern”) quality: yet to rule them out of (“north-western”) order would be to diminish these branches of knowledge substantially.

The problem, for Scott, remains of how to reconcile such intuitively based knowledge, as opposed to experimentally based knowledge, to proper scientific standards of inquiry: how to retain the value of Marxism, for example, as a source of creative ideas, but to prevent it from becoming intellectual dogma. The key element,  he proposes, is tradition, not as a policeman licensing new ideas, but as a guardian of standards of inquiry, as thereby concerned with the process not the product of knowledge.

So far “cultural knowledge” or intuitively based disciplines have been identified with the humanities, and sometimes with the social sciences, while “scientific knowledge” has been identified with the natural sciences or technology, through all disciplines actually contain both. Darwin’s theory of evolution, for example, was devised through a process of imagination informed by practical observation. So the contrast between tradition and science, for Scott, is too sharp. Historians and philosophers do not operate by different intellectual rules form physicists and biologists. Both accumulate knowledge in a piecemeal way that is entirely consistent with the empirical tradition of science. Both also advance knowledge by intuition and imagination, the construction of semi-holistic theories which either thrive because they are sustained by a suggestive accumulation of evidence or decay because they are gradually worn down by an accumulation of falsifications. These new theories are in both cases rooted in the intellectual traditions of their disciplines and the surrounding social reality.  The latter is progressive; the former suffer from frequent counter-revolutions in thought, and they must rely on verification by cultural tradition as much as empirical falsification.

Yet there are perhaps two even more important differences between “cultural knowledge” and “scientific knowledge”, serving to differentiate between the liberal and modern university. The first is that philosophy, history, English and other leading humanities, those typical of the “cultural”, are typically, for Scott, integrative. Their ambition in their heydays was to provide an overarching intellectual context for human existence, to cultivate and to educate. Physics, the most important of the “modern” disciplines, through the rigor of its method, for Scott, may educate the intellect but not sensibility. So in “cultural knowledge” is education-as-process which counts, and for scientific disciplines “knowledge-as-product”. It is in that guise, ironically, that we align our integral research process with cultural knowledge, indeed drawing explicitly on the “south”, “east”, “north” and “west” in turn, while our integral economics or enterprise, for example, represents scientific “knowledge as a product”.

Liberal to Communiversity: Communal Learning and Regenerative Pilgrimium

The contrast between the liberal (for us “south-western”) and modern (“north-western” for us) universities is then more functional than philosophical. The “knowledge-as-process” of the cultural disciplines led to an emphasis on education (for us evolved also into research), and the “knowledge-as-product” on physical or social technology (the “north-eastern” focus on organisational knowledge creation being an interesting variation). The liberal university, therefore, placed students rather than the codification of knowledge at the center of its mission, with its emphasis, also, on preservation and initiation. The pursuit of knowledge, as such, was a personal, artisanal occupation, as opposed to modern “laboratory research”.

Arguably our communal learning and regenerative pilgrimium serve to further evolve such, invariably in a particular context. We now turn to the modern university.

The Modern University

Knowledge Itself Was Seen As the Product of Higher Education, Not Students  

The quality of standing apart from society, which had been an important feature of the liberal university, was very much eroded in the explosive university growth after 1945.

Universities became almost entirely instrumental institutions losing their semi-spiritual qualities. More and more they were seen as institutions that could make a direct and powerful contribution to the acceleration of economic growth or the promotion of social justice. Knowledge itself was seen as the product of higher education, not students.  For us, arguably, such would serve to promote the cause of both our communiversity research academy, and laboratory, though, as we shall, see, there is a twist in that tale.

This, of course, led to an important shift away from teaching and towards research – as knowledge production rather than a reflection – within the university. But this also substantially modified the relationship between universities and society in two main ways. First, the preoccupations of the university were more directly and intensely influenced by the interests of the state, of the economy and of the civil society.

Knowledge then, for Scott, became more subservient to power. The distinction between intellectual authority and political power, which in the case of the medieval university had been sustained by the superior authority of religion, and in the case of the liberal university, more weakly by the authority of science and intellectual tradition, was very much weakened in the case of the modern university. In fact all too often, the power of status and accreditation, as opposed to that of knowledge per se, took pride of place.

Secondly, this new emphasis in the modern university on knowledge as product or commodity (rather than process) led to a revolution in how the university saw its critical role in society. Previously this had been seen as an intellectual process, in terms of both the rigorous example of the scientific method and as a pedagogical process. But in the modern university, it also became a political process. The technocratic enthusiasm for a “knowledge society” and the belief in ideology as a commanding metaphor for society have a close similarity for Scott, and a similar origin.

In fact, the very “fetishism” of technology, as a surrogate for knowledge, played an ever more powerful part. In fact, in the “Global South”, there was a call now for “appropriate technology” (10), and thereafter for “indigenous knowledge systems” (11), which passed Scott, and indeed his “Mode 2” colleagues Gibbons and Nowotny, by.  Ironically in Zimbabwe, the development of “education for production” (12), during the liberation struggle, and harking back to traditional “age-sets” linking life stages and productive activities, came and went, in a puff of smoke!

The Power of Science and the Production of New Knowledge

John Maynard Keynes in fact, the renowned 20th-century economist, made a claim for the influence of ideas at the end of his General Theory :

..  Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually slaves to some defunct economist.

After the war, the rapid development of high-technology industry increased the sense of the power of science, which came to be seen not simply in terms of spectacular individual intellectual achievement but in terms of the large-scale organisation of the production of new knowledge. The metaphor of the factory seemed more and more appropriate. To the extent that scientific and technological progress came to be seen as a collective enterprise, the randomness of such progress was apparently removed. Breakthroughs could no longer simply be hoped for by providing the right conditions for creative individuals, but organized by the establishment of teams of scientists, none perhaps creative individuals, but whose cumulative efforts could achieve good results.

Unfortunately such, hitherto, has been largely confined to the natural sciences an technology, rather than applied in the social sciences and humanities. Our communiversity based socioeconomic laboratory is designed to overcome such.

For the modern university, it seemed, more especially in relation to the physical sciences and technology, could mobilise and organise the intellectual resources of society and so manufacture progress, in the same way, that a modern economy could mobilise and organise the physical and human resources of society to create wealth. Compared with the liberal university it was a mass institution, mass in the sense of the greatly increased numbers of students and, also, perhaps more important, mass in the sense of the mass as opposed to the artisanal production of knowledge.

Cultural Liberation, Creation of Substitute Elites, Urgent National Development

The expansion of higher education that took place during the mid 20th century in Asia and Africa, moreover, although equally rapid, had a different character and different consequences. The need for cultural liberation, the creation of substitute elites, and urgent tasks of national development were important considerations in the Third World, but hardly applied to the conditions of North America and Western Europe. The fact that the universities, at least in Africa (13), seem to have largely failed in that respect, my well be due to the very “north-western” constitution of the “modern university”.

Technological innovation and the necessary social adaptation – the former much easier than the latter – both seen as the direct products of the application of the theoretical knowledge generated within the university, were, perhaps are, widely regarded as the preconditions of national success and even survival. Even those still attached to the older purposes of the liberal university recast their justifications of university education in this more utilitarian mould.  Of course, and in our re-GENE-rative terms, the prospects of local communal Grounding, prior to, and as a precondition for, local-global technological Emergence, was not considered.

The Displacement of Humanism with Academicism

For English psychiatrist and cybernetician Ross Ashby (14) in fact :

All civilised countries depend upon a thin clear stream of excellence to provide new ideas, new techniques, and the statesmanlike treatment of complex social and political problems. without a renewal of such a nation can drop into mediocrity

The means suggested are those of the liberal university, but the end, to avoid that drop into mediocrity, is typical of the modern university, the displacement of humanism, for Scott, with academicism. So as the natural sciences have replaced the humanities as the hegemonic disciplines within the modern university, the latter’s emphasis on cognitive values at the expense of others, moral-evaluative and expressive, have increased. The organic and didactic view of knowledge treasured by the liberal university has been undermined, but arguably no alternative holistic orientation has been found (which is where our Communiversity comes in).

The dynamism of the natural sciences focused all attention on the discovery and incorporation of theoretical knowledge, cognitive values, often at the expense of the liberal university’s traditional emphasis on the intellectual formation o the student and his/her socialisation into the role of the educated citizen. But as a “knowledge institution” the modern university was clearly superior.

So discipline after discipline underwent an intellectual revolution in the modern university. Increasingly each was organized on the basis of the degree of association between theoretical preoccupations rather than the coherence of undergraduate curricula. With the association of theories as to their guide, disciplines divided into sub-disciplines which were divided into specialties, and individual “schools”. Specialisation and yet more specialisation was the general rule. As Clark Kerr, cited above, put it :

.. this evolution has brought departments into universities, and still new departments; institutes and ever more institutes; created vast research libraries; turned the philosopher on his log into a researcher in his laboratory. Instead of the individual student, there are the needs of society; instead of Newman’s “truths of the natural order”, there was the discovery of the new; instead of the generalist, the specialist. 

Collegiate to Bureaucratic and the Advent of Vocationalism

The liberal university at its best was a collegial institution constructed of common intellectual and other values. The modern university no longer possessed a common intellectual language. Instead, each specialised academic discipline had its own language, that is intelligible in a substantial sense only to its own practitioners. The “visible college” of the university had been largely abandoned as a focus of loyalty, and the university had ceased to be an academic community, except in vacuous rhetoric, and had instead become a shared bureaucratic environment.

The intellectual culture of the liberal university then has splintered in its modern successor not just because of the development of academicism, but also because of a growing commitment to vocationalism, often of a highly specific kind that would have been inconceivable a century ago. In Britain, for example, universities were reduced to acting as service agents of the professions which retained a surprisingly detailed control over the education of the new practitioners. The utilitarian values of industrial society, meanwhile, had been slowly creeping in, even to the liberal university, and rushed into the modern university after 1945. In fact, according to Scott, the new and substantial commitment to vocationalism, whether traditional industrial values or newer “service” ones, reflected to some extent the disintegration of traditional intellectual culture in the realm of academic values.

The University In Crisis

The University No Longer Possesses a Common Intellectual Language

In Harvard based sociologist Daniel Bell’s (15) seminal work on the Coming of the Post-Industrial Society, written in the 1970’s, the university was heralded as the leading intellectual institution in society, which would become a commanding institution of political and economic life too. Certainly, in the natural sciences, the codification of theoretical knowledge was clearly a precondition, for Scott, of better technology and so of greater productivity and thus, it is to be hoped, of greater wealth. With the social sciences, however, the relationship becomes much more ambiguous.

There is a strong practical not intellectual case to be made for saying that in areas like economic and social policy the contribution of the necessarily inexact social sciences is as well made through empiricism as through theory. At the time of writing (1980’s) it seemed much less clear, for Scott, that the trajectories of academic knowledge will naturally and closely coincide with the trajectories of society and the economy, and he is, of course, talking in terms of a singular, standardised, economy and society. So what he totally ignores, as far as we are concerned, is that one society is different form another, one context different from the other.  Meanwhile, it now seems accepted that the university no longer possesses a common intellectual language, for the purpose of setting new institutional directions.

The University itself is Increasingly Controlled by Knowledge Bureaucrats

It may also mean that the university itself is increasingly controlled by knowledge bureaucrats who possess a meta-language of bureaucratic command which has filled the vacuum created by the disappearance of a common intellectual language. Hence “the university is in crisis”. We now turn to Scott’s more recent book Knowledge and Nation.

2/Knowledge and the “North-Western” Nation

2.1. Introduction to Knowledge and Nation

Human Beings Cannot be Regarded as Entirely Reasonable Animals

Peter Scott, in this second work of his, focussed for us on the “North-West”, that is on Europe and America, starts out by reckoning that human beings can no longer be regarded, or regard themselves, as entirely reasonable animals. This is not only because of Auschwitz and Hiroshima in the 20th century. The long arguments concerning the proper distinction to be drawn between mind and brain, and increasing awareness of the subconscious imagination, the moral conclusions that must be drawn from the continuing revolution in the biological sciences, also point to such. The working of the human mind, at once more powerful, seems to count for much less in moral terms.   Hence our preoccupation, from the local outset with our communiversity, with communal learning, which is inevitably morally as well as intellectually grounded.

Knowledge and Nation Have Abandoned Any Transcendental Claims

Knowledge then in recent times –  again for Scott in the “west” – has largely abandoned any transcendental claims. It is content with exploration and elucidation of the material world. It no longer attempts (Scott was writing in the 1990s) to explain the shape and meaning of human society. Marxism and the other great intellectual systems of the past, he maintains, are dead. And the modern university no longer claims to offer a moral guide to the individual, despite its grand “mission statements”; the ethical concerns of a Matthew Arnold are deader still. Increasingly, science and scholarship seem to have turned their backs on the cultural consequences of their discoveries and insights.

Science and religion, then, have been unwilling and unable to provide a substitute for either the discredited ethical authority of religion or the moral routines generated by the life of family, community or nation. Hence we reckon then need for our regenerative Pilgrimium. However, the nation, for Scott the rival of knowledge, is also incapable of peopling the vacant halls or hallowing the empty sanctuary, whereby our starting point becomes the community. No longer an organic accumulation of lived experiences, the nation has been transformed by economies of intellectual and social scale into a scheme of abstract ideas, as austere as any scientific description of the material world. 

The bigger question then, the character and quality of our culture, has been abandoned to silence. English political philosopher and historian Mill and Macaulay, respectively and for example, the scholarship was woven into a grander pattern, that politics and history were part of a more extensive intellectual civilisation.  A century later these expansive ambitions have been abandoned. This neglect, for Scott, is most pronounced in Britain.

In many other countries, there is a livelier cultural debate. In the United States, books like Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers are scholarly works that have become best-sellers. In an interesting sense, Scott maintains moreover, Britain has never undergone a national revolution. Its interrupted modernisation has led to its scatter of anachronistic institutions, practices, and attitudes, making it difficult to generate a national identity and purpose. Such divisiveness is compounded by the perception that these institutions are intellectually bankrupt. Second, there has been little opportunity to learn the powerfully common language which accompanies explicit modernisation. In addition, the clubbability of British culture is deep-rooted, as a source of “us and them”, encouraging discrimination against minorities, racial or social. Scott’s second book then is an attempt to reflect on the relationship between knowledge, science and reason, and the nation. He starts with his brilliant, albeit standardised, substantive division of knowledge.

2.2. The Knowledge Business

Four-Part Division of Knowledge : Arts, Social Science, Natural Science, Technology

Scott’s modern four-part division of knowledge, like our integral worlds, involves: arts (our “east”),  derived not from the medieval “liberal arts” but from the humanism of early modern Europe; social science (our “south”), the intellectual reverberations of the “social question” that has agitated the 19th and 20th centuries; natural science (our “north”), an inquiry begun in the ancient world and accelerated in Renaissance Europe (and earlier in China) that has carried mankind almost beyond the edge of the knowable universe; and technology (our “west”), the ubiquitous application of all sciences – natural, social and even human – that surround and shape our lives.

The Arts : Our “Eastern” Path of Renewal

 Arts versus Sciences

The overarching context in which scientific inquiry takes place, the paradigm in Thomas Kuhn’s phrase, is often long-lasting and resilient, and only with the great climacterics of science – the discoveries of Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Einstein – is the continuity broken. In the case of the arts, discontinuity is endemic. Instability of view is a common condition. All theories are relentlessly contested. No contextual theory is able to solidify into a seemingly objective paradigm within which intellectual inquiry can be safely marshaled. The arts, then, lead a double life, as guardians and interpreters of the common stock of our culture and as vehicles for “scientific” inquiry. It is in that latter respect that we align “the arts” with our path of renewal, and communiversity-wise our pilgrimium, while acknowledging that its distance from the spiritual “east”, in the way that Scott conveys it, thereby omitting religion-and-spirituality, serves to inhibit such.

Moreover, the cultural project which shapes and is shaped by the arts is often interpreted in moral or even personal terms. They must lead to, in Henry James’ Portrait of  Lady,  “the union of great knowledge with great liberty”.

European History of the Arts

Our present, for us “north-western” conception of the arts can be traced back, in a European context for Scott, to the Renaissance, when philosophy escaped the gravity of theology and the classics, first ascending to academic glory. Just as medieval “liberal arts” had included mathematics, so philosophy embraced physics. As a descriptive term then, philosophy had a century ago all the imprecise breadth of science today. Its relationship with the modern discipline was similar to that of political economy with the contemporary social sciences. Other arts disciplines are even more recent creations. History was organized as a scholarly discipline only in the second half of the 19th century. English was barely established till the beginning of the 20th century. The foundations of modern sociology, economics and anthropology were laid down at much the same time.

The Arts and the Re-creation of European Culture

The liberal arts that Cardinal Newman on Ireland argued in The Idea of a University,  cited above, should be at the heart of the university curriculum,  were not the arts as we conceive today. For him, they embraced mathematics, natural philosophy, and political economy,  albeit in generalised terms, and definitively not as applied in Africa, in the Arab world, in the Andes, and so forth. The same ideals lay behind the Scottish universities. In Germany in the 19th century, on the other hand, the natural sciences were strongly represented, as they were in the civic universities in the north of England and the midlands. For the likes of Coleridge in the 1820s then, and for Matthew Arnold, speculation, industrialisation, and mechanisation threatened the equipoise of an ordered, organic society.

A liberal education, therefore, offered the best hope for the re-creation of culture, for a cohesive elite in a troubled society, and later for the enlightenment of citizens in a mass democracy. The arts were also taken to represent cultural traditions threatened by an industrial and democratic society. The arts advanced in a society valuing “character” more than “skill”, for us communal and societal as well as individual, such spreading from the middle classes to the Workers’ Educational Associations. Much of this liberal impulse today has been transferred to the social sciences and caring professions. Today the arts have inherited form the liberal arts of the 19th century the urge to integrate, to try to grasp knowledge as a whole. Moreover, the individual being, for Scott in his “south-western” context, is at the centre of any study in the arts. They are the disciplines most likely to challenge the poverty of positivism, to assert that the truth must always be related to the good and the beautiful. So the arts today have a Janus-like quality. They must look backward and inward, but also forwards and outward, closely aligned with our regenerative pilgrimium.

What role then can they hope to play in a knowledge society? One answer is to retreat into the castle of high culture and pull up the drawbridge. For the American-English 20th-century poet T.S. Eliot and the English literary critic F.R.Leavis culture and equality were not compatible (for us this would be glaringly different in indigenous “southern” cultures).  A second answer was to emphasize the scientific qualities of the arts, transforming the arts into human sciences. A third approach is a reasserted humanism, through for example critical philosophy and social history, not to mention, especially for us also anthropology. Then, finally, for the arts, there is the question of “civilisation”. In the past the arts were appreciated not for their own sake but because they taught rhetorical skills. Today these have been replaced by managerial capacities rooted in more modern disciplines. In fact, for us, such arts are embedded in our relational and renewal research paths, serving to marry up art and science. We now turn to the social sciences.

Social Science : Relational Path

The Shape of the Social Sciences

The shape of the social sciences has been moulded by the great social questions that have dominated 19th and 20th-century politics in the West. Their common ancestor, for Scott in fact, was the political economy, the first organized intellectual effort to understand and hopefully modernise both state and society, and effort that reflected the values of the European enlightenment and the revolutionary changes that followed.  We align social sciences with the relational research path while recognizing, because of its very distance from the natural and communal “south”, it is only a proxy for such. Anthropology and sociology, in particular, are also aligned with communal learning.

The contrast between the social sciences and the arts, for him, is illuminating. Three distinguishing features may be particularly significant. First social science is interested in establishing general laws while the arts are general content with a creative particularity. Second, social science is rooted in a pragmatic investigation while some arts subjects are attached to idealistic notions. Third, social science aspires to action while the study of the arts leads more often to reflection and contemplation. Scott then reviews the historical development of the social sciences, primarily again in Europe.

History of the Social Sciences Over Four Periods

First: Heroic Age of the Classical Political Economists Smith, Ricardo and Marx

A brief sketch of the history of the social sciences suggests a division into four main periods, evidently in Europe and America. First came the heroic age of social science’s founders in the 18th and 19th centuries – Adam Smith and David Ricardo in Britain, Karl Marx from Germany. To this list perhaps should be added, in the 20th century, France’s Henri Bergson, Austria’s Freud, and pioneers for social investigation in Britain the Webbs as predecessors of the Fabian Society.

Second: The Sociological and Economic Consolidators : Durkheim, Weber, Marshall

Secondly, the heroic age was succeeded by the consolidators. One group secured the scholarly foundations of social science; prominent among them in the 19th and early 20th centuries were the French sociologist Emil Durkheim, the German sociologist Max Weber, and the English economist, Alfred Marshall. Another popularised social science perspective was offered by such higher journalism, for example, that of the Norwegian-American Thorsten Veblen in the USA.

Third: Social Science’s Golden Age: Changing Society as a Whole

The third period was social science’s golden age, beginning in the 1930s, reaching its climax in the post-second world war decades, and the dwindling way in the 1970s. It was imperial because, according to Scott, it was in this half-century social sciences replaced the arts as the intellectual language of the West’s (Europe and America) ruling establishments, and even came close to challenging the natural sciences for the leadership of the whole academic enterprise.

It’s Fabian reformism, its classless modernity, its end-of-ideology corporatism, its “New Frontier” idealism captured the mid-twentieth century spirit of the West. In the United States sociologist Talcott Parsons – The Structure of Social Action, and social psychologist David Riesman – The Lonely Crowd, and in Britain sociologist A.H. Halsey – Change in British Society were key influences. Such Atlantic provincialism, for Scott, served to keep at bay the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School in Germany and social science that flourished in Paris. It was in this golden age then that the respective claims of economic man and the social man argued out, without any satisfactory conclusion.

Before Weber, social science had been dominated by economists. Social relationships were subordinated to economic ones, while the effective worlds of families, communities, and individuals were ignored. Two things change this. First the growth of the state in the 19th and 20th centuries, with its increasing involvement in areas like health, education and the relief of poverty. Second, there was a growing intellectual conviction that the social order could not be reduced simply to its economic components. Weber, of course, was the first to argue that modern society could not be interpreted solely by the economic calculus of classical economics. Instead, it had to be understood in terms of the spread of rationality and legality, what he had called “the disenchantment of the modern world”. Hence the growth of bureaucracy to express and implement these rational and legal principles.

In one sense the influence of this expanded social science was profound. The welfare state would not have been possible if it had not been accepted that society was much more than an aggregation of economic relationships. This leads us onto the fourth and current period, starting out in the 1970s.

Fourth: The Resurgence of Primitive Political Economy: Neo-liberalism

But in another sense the outcome was disappointing., resulting in an ever more detailed investigation of smaller and smaller social systems. An intellectual vacuum came to exists which in the 1980s had been filled by the resurgence of what Scott termed a “resurgence of primitive Benthamite utilitarian political economy”. Right wing free market “neo-liberal” ideas began to challenge the liberal and socialist ones. This pattern had originally been established in the 18th century, and two centuries later free market economics has re-asserted itself, albeit in new neo-liberal guise.

Overall then, professions, occupations, communities, classes, groups – once defined in terms of traditional humanistic culture or customary expertise all have been reinterpreted in the light of new insights from the social sciences. We may not like the idea, Scott adds, but we are all social scientists now, that has entered a new phase. It would be interesting, in fact, to conjecture upon such a historical trajectory, for the social sciences so called, in Africa, in the Arab world, on the Indian sub-continent, and so forth, and of course the same could be applied to the arts, natural science, technology.

Science and Technology : Paths of Reason and Realisation

Natural Sciences At The Heart of the Knowledge Business

We now turn from the arts and the social sciences to the natural sciences. The natural sciences then are at the heart of the modern knowledge business.  Their advance seems to confirm the grand old 19th-century belief in linear progress that is inevitable. Moreover, they provide analytical tools and techniques that have become a commanding model for all other disciplines,  to such an extent, in fact, that “scientific” has become aligned with “rational”, and of course inevitably such “rationality”, for us, is associated with the “north-west”.  Finally, of course, the natural sciences create the knowledge that modern states transform into power, the power that builds the economy through new inventions and processes, and defends the nation by military technology.

 Produced by Separate Currents: Speculative/Reason and Practical/Realisation

The hegemony of the natural sciences, according to Scott in fact, was produced by the coming together of two quite separate currents. The first was abstract speculation about the natural world, a centuries-old tradition that reaches back to Plato and forwards beyond Einstein. This for us is the research path of reason.  So the role of what Scott terms such “proto-scientists”, like that of intellectuals in the “west” or indeed sages in the “east” and “south”, was, he says, passive (indigenous peoples might question such) and moral rather than active and instrumental.

The second current was entirely practical. Artillerymen wanted to know where the shells would fall, mariners how to navigate safely, rulers to assess the wealth of their territories, landowners to increase the productivity of their estates. The development of some of today’s most fundamental sciences was accelerated by such demands. Famous institutions like the Royal Society (note Scott’s predominant focus on Britain), and similar such academies in Europe, were created as much for practical as for academic purposes, and are indeed antecedents of our “research academies”, albeit ours are invariably rooted in variegated local soils.

Under the simulating conditions of the industrial revolution (in England), scientific advances of exceptional importance, moreover,  were made by amateur inventors and entrepreneurs preoccupied by feasibly solutions to practical problems.  This for us is indeed the research path of realisation,  and, communiversity-wise, ir represnetd by our “laboratories”. The mingling of these two paths, for Scott though, has never been complete, and indeed, for us, in the social sciences if not also in the arts, such laboratories are hardly even recognized.

Yet in the natural sciences, this incomplete mingling has produced the modern scientific tradition with its extraordinary power and prestige.

Is Speculative Proto-Science Alive or Dead?

For rank-and-file scientists, indeed in the social (hence lip service is paid to “social innovation”) as well as the natural sciences,  scientific advance is dependent on practical “rules” and there is no need to investigate their origin. For the likes of Karl Popper, and indeed for us, this is absolutely not the case, because of the frailty of empirical induction, and scientific theories are not bodies of objective facts about the natural world but products of the human mind. In that sense Newton’s achievements may be compared with Shakespeare’s.

Of course, scientific theories can be tested, or, for Popper, scientific hypotheses can be “falsified”, which makes them, for him at least, logically superior to artistic creation, but their origins are not very different. Other philosophers of science go further in their critique of common-sense empiricism. According to Thomas Kuhn, the progress of science is marked by the rise and fall of successive “paradigms”, overarching theories about the natural world that dominated the detailed research of “normal science”. Paradigms decay partly because their authority is eroded by the accumulation of contradictory evidence, and partly because they come into conflict with the development of a broader intellectual culture which in turn reflects the social and economic change.  Indeed we also align such paradigms with our differentiated “worlds”.

The Evolution of the Natural Scientific Disciplines

For much of the 19th-century chemistry in its many branches was the leading natural science, reflecting the primacy of chemical processes in many developing industries. In the present century, chemistry lost its place to physics. Scientists, subsidised by the state and organized into autonomous institutions and professions, felt less need to defer to industry. They enjoyed greater freedom to pursue their own inclinations. The preoccupations of proto-science were resurrected in the modern guise of fundamental research. The objective remained the same: a complete and penetrating account of the natural world in the cause of science. But as these fundamental inquiries into the nature of matter often produced startling new forms of energy and powerful new weapons, industry and politicians were well pleased.

More recently, biology has taken over as the key discipline. One reason is the superior experimental techniques it has developed. A second is that health care is the most rapidly developing industry in the modern economy. In addition, the life sciences, through biochemistry, have acquired pervasive industrial relevance. “Bio” is now as ubiquitous as “socio”. A third reason is that the life sciences have wide-open frontiers, incorporated now by natural and social sciences, through the study of organisms in their own environment.  A fourth reason may be that biology now offers a satisfying synthesis between proto-science and practical science, addressing questions as fundamental as physics but apparently in a humane context. The mystery of life has become more appealing than the music of distant spheres. This then, overall, represents the historical evolution of the natural sciences in the “north-west. What then about the “rest”?

The Natural Science-Based Knowledge Industry Now Dominates the Modern Economy

In the knowledge industry that now dominates the modern world economy the natural sciences provide by far the most significant raw materials, according to Scott, and most powerful techniques. It extends also to values and goals.  The patterns of thought, of non-scientists as decisively as of scientists, have been irreversibly shaped by the triumphant experiences of the natural sciences. In the knowledge society they form, he says, its leading intellectual elements.  Technology then, for Scott, is both a hate-word and a buzz-word. As the first, it is used to stigmatize a mechanistic approach to both intellectual enterprise and social and economic progress, gadget-written and gimmick-crazy, in which human ends are subordinated to technical means and high science to low consumerism. As the second, it is used to describe the creative application of new knowledge to improve individual and social wellbeing.

To retain their vitality even the most academic disciplines must be associated in some sense with a  wider culture; to maintain that association they must satisfy certain criteria of relevance, even utility, that transcend their private scholarly values. The second defence of technology’s academic validity is an extension of the first, that the interpenetration of theory and practice, reflection and experience, a feature of all professional and technical disciplines, leads to a more thorough understanding.

New technologies today, overall then, are as likely to be developed from scientific research as from industrial practice. So technology has drifted from its conventional image, and it has become highly interdisciplinary. It long since burst the narrow banks of engineering and has spread out across the wide plains of the natural, social and even human sciences.  Perhaps technology, for Scott, shares this common ground with the arts, so that both reach beyond knowledge to knowing, the arts (bearing on our pilgrimium) with the ambition of improving man’s moral condition and technology (bearing upon our laboratory) his material condition.

Knowledge, Culture and the University

On the one hand a Radical Agent; on the other Upholder of the Hierarchy

Knowledge and culture, together then, is Scott’s central theme, as indeed arguably, if culture is aligned with nature, and knowledge with value is ours. “Knowledge”, of course, is a broad and diffuse category. It ranges from the so-called exact sciences and associated technologies to those branches of knowledge rooted in particular social and human environments. “Culture” too is difficult to define. It ranges from the aesthetic, the “high culture” of Rembrandt and Mozart in Europe, the quasi-anthropological, the values and routines of individuals, families and communities, social classes, nations, and even entire civilisations.

Despite these difficulties, it is at the intersection between knowledge and culture that our modern consciousness, according to Scott, has been formed. Our civilisation is the product of the tension, and balance, between reason and tradition, logic and belief – what must be argued and what is assumed. And this intersection is most powerfully felt, he says, in education (and we would add research). The university, in particular, has been a crucial intermediary between knowledge and culture and therefore a key institution in the making of the modern world.  On the one hand, the university is a radical agent, a disturber of settled patterns of thought, the channel through which new ideas and techniques flow into the economy, society and culture. On the other, it is the upholder of the hierarchy, partly because it is designed to reproduce as well as modernise the established social order and partly because it embodies in its own intellectual and professional structures prevailing academic orthodoxies.

Despite its Increase in Scientific Power the University Has Lost Cultural Influence

In the 20th century, for Scott, an important shift seems to have taken place in the role of the university. It has become a much more powerful scientific institution but a less significant cultural agent. As modern society races towards a post-industrial future, when knowledge itself will be a primary resource, the first change naturally has achieved more attention than the second. In many fields the modern university is a near-monopoly producer of new knowledge. However, despite this increase in scientific power the university has lost cultural influence. It has to set a context, or contexts, set by other forces, principally those of politics and the marketplace.

The rise of academic specialisation has made it difficult to confront the fundamental issues of identity, meaning, and purpose. The reductionist techniques of modern science, so effective within particular disciplines, are a barrier to such general inquiries. The university has become a prisoner of its own strict notions of expertise.

Discovery of New Knowledge; Cultural Uncertainty; Socio-Economic Change

In the long history of the university, again in the “north-west” for Scott, there have been three peaks of achievement, three periods when development was especially dynamic. The first was in the high middle ages when the university first took on recognisable institutional form distinct from the court and monastic schools that flourished in earlier centuries. This was when the oldest European universities were founded – Bologna, Paris, Oxford. The second period was the 16th and 17th centuries, the age of the Renaissance and Reformation when the intellectual, religious and political geography of Europe was transformed and when Europe first reached out to grasp a wider world beyond the oceans (and for us became an imperial coloniser!). During this period many universities were established. The third period was that of the industrial evolution when the characteristic phenomena of the modern world – an urban society, a global economy, a mass culture, a secular civilisation – was first felt. This has continued to the present.

At each of these peaks, three ingredients seem to have come together to stimulate university development. The first was the discovery of new knowledge. In the high middle ages, it was Aristotelean thought, transmitted through the Muslim world; in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the revival of classical learning and the turmoil of religious controversy; in the 19th and 20th centuries the irresistible force of modern science.

The second ingredient was the cultural uncertainty that undermined old patterns of custom and belief. In the high middle ages, heresy, urbanism, mercantilism, and nationalism first stirred.  In early modern Europe, medieval mentalities were destroyed. New ideas subverted the established order. The European world exploded outwards (and for us duly colonised the other – the dark side of modernity). The result was an age of anxiety, as well as of achievement. In the 19th and 20th centuries the decay of religion (in Europe), the spread of radical theories of society, the rise of individualism and similar movements destroyed the mental universe of the ancient regime.

The third ingredient was the rapid socio-economic change. In the high middle ages, the feudal state with its virtually cashless economy was being replaced by the nation-state in which royal authority was exercised through bureaucratic government, and new patterns of trading and taxation reflected the growing sophistication of the economy. During the Renaissance and Reformation land and wealth, and so authority changed hands on an immense scale. The state and the economy became increasingly elaborate. In industrial Europe, social and economic relations were transformed. And so on each occasion new knowledge, cultural disarray and socio-economic change were the forces that powered university development. Again it would be intriguing to look into the parallels to this three knowledge, cultural and socioeconomic ingredients in one or other particular society.

Unless backed by Political & Socio-Economic Forces, Intellectual Change Not Enough

But is does seem, according to Scott, that unless backed by powerful political and socio-economic forces, intellectual change is not enough to transform the university. The potential for the scientific advance is always there. It is change in our culture, society, and economy that releases this imprisoned energy. The physics of Isaac Newton, the philosophy of David Hume and the political economy of Adam Smith were only fully realised when social and industrial change toward the end of the 18th century created a new cultural environment, a new way of imaging the world. What and who then is the equivalent in Zimbabwe or Nigeria, Pakistan or Jordan, to what we have seen in Britain? The university’s past peaks were times when it was a formidable cultural instrument as well as a powerful scientific institution.

Although the discovery of new knowledge and the reinterpretation of old ideas will also become important, the main thrust towards the creation of a knowledge society may take place in business, industry and public administration as much as in the university.

Industry May Have to Move Closer to the World of the University

The so-called fourth industrial revolution is powered by information technology. In the next decade through (Scott was writing in the 1990s) industry may have to move closer to the world of the university if it is to keep pace with the knowledge revolution.  Under post-industrial conditions the latter will possess key resources, theoretical and practical, that are needed for economic success.

Roles: Education, Professional School, Science Factory, Cultural Institution

In the light of all of such, today, according to Scott, the modern university then has four main roles : the last stage of general education (our research academy); as a professional school that trains an elite (our learning community); a science factory (our socioeconomic laboratory) that produces science; and as a cultural institution that expresses our sense of being as individuals, nations or entire civilisations (our regenerative pilgrimage).

Firstly then, there will be more mature students and more part-timers, and retraining will become more pronounced in higher education. It will no longer be possible to regard the university simply as the final stage of education, instead it will be seen as part of continuing education. Secondly, comes the professional society. Once the focus of the university’s effort was on pre-industrial professions – lawyers, doctors, clergy. Then it gradually moved towards the technical professions, principally engineering. In the post-war university the emphasis was on professions that emerged around the welfare state, so teachers and social workers became important.  Today, for Scott, we see the emergence of “enterprise” professions.

The third role is that of a science factory, a producer of knowledge. The university as a science factory may need to be decentralised. The orthodoxy of the natural science tradition may need to be broken up. Other more oblique intellectual traditions may be able to better stimulate the lateral thinking that will be badly needed in the knowledge society. The modern university’s final role then is that of a cultural institution. In this regard the university has tended to atrophy, as already intimated, and for us above all, we need, in each societal case, a regenerative pilgrimium to overcome such.

Conclusion : Tension Between Paradigm Shifts and Normality

Civilisations Waxing and Waning : Making Possible Social Reconstruction

The view that Scott then takes, overall, is that human history is a contest between transcendence, imagining things as they could be, and given-ness, accepting things as they are.

Perhaps this contest can be described in Thomas Kuhn’s terms as a tension between paradigm shifts and the progress of “normal science”. Past civilisations waxed as the potential for transcendence gained strength, the act of conceiving other and batter futures making possible the reconstruction of social institutions. They waned as the given-ness of things reasserted its grip, the re-emphasised routines of everyday life imposing a renewed immobility on society.

Modern University is a Crucial Intermediary Between Knowledge and Culture

The modern university is inevitably caught up in these cross-currents of transcendence and given-ness. Indeed it is a crucial intermediary between knowledge and culture.  As a social and economic institution, the university is rooted in everyday life, meeting demands for new knowledge, improved techniques and professional skills, and satisfying the desires of individuals for enlightenment and improvement. But as an intellectual and cultural institution the university is future-oriented and outer-directed.

The university’s capacity for transcendence, then, is expressed in four ways.

Pilgrimium, Learning Community, Integral Laboratory, Socioeconomic Academy

First higher education transforms the lives of individual students (for us, in a communiversity through a collectively regenerative pilgrimium). This is in particular where the arts come in. Second, mass access has transformed the social situation of a university (for us promoting now all round communal learning). Here social science predominates. Higher education is no longer an exclusive and inward operation, designed to produce high-quality experts. The primary cause of university expansion as such has been a “push from below”.  Third, the university (now for us as an integral laboratory) transcends the given-ness of things through its science. It has transformed our understanding of the material world, primarily here through natural science, exposing old belief as baseless and explaining phenomena that once seemed beyond our mental reach.  New products and processes revolutionalize the economic structure.

Ultimately and fourthly, most important of all for Scott in a contemporary university (for us communiversity) context, the search for new and better technical expectations is now the same as the fundamental questioning of the intellectual structures within which these explanations are pursued, set within a socioeconomic technology so to speak (for us, invariably in a particular societal (anthropological and economic) context, this is the function of our research academy) This is then the ultimate, and most fundamental expression of the university’s ability to transcend the given-ness of things.

The Institution that has the Capacity to Invent and Reinvent Paradigms

Indeed for Scott in the final analysis the university (for us communiversity) is the only institution that now has the capacity, if not always the courage, to invent and reinvent powerful paradigms, these metatheories underlying the given-ness of things. And it is these paradigms – in history and economics (and of course for us religion) as much as in physics – that embody the representations of reality by which we have to live. It is not enough to provide a setting in which individual students can imagine a better future for themselves. It is not enough to break the social limits of the old higher education bound up in the narrow needs of elites and experts, however extended or diffuse. It is not enough to transform through science and technology the economic order.

Unless the university is also able to express wider cultural transcendences, to possess the right to remake the moral as well as material worlds, these subsidiary projects will falter.

Individual students will be discouraged by the gap between the things that are and the better things they have glimpsed. Mass access will be frustrated by arguments that society and the economy need fixed numbers of relevant trained graduates, nit undetermined numbers of educated citizens. Even scientific advance will be slowed if pragmatic experts whose intellectual horizons are governed by present limits curb future visions of what could be.

Only a university (for us communiversity) that is free and philosophical can fulfil its modern (for us trans-modern) mission. It must be free, for Scott, in the sense that it is not too tightly constrained by the given/ness of the present – and many universities are too tightly constrained today. It must be philosophical in the sense that it has the intellectual and moral resources to reorder things as they are so that experience is not as give, but open to change.


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2   Scott P (1990) Knowledge and Nation. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press

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14 Ashby R (2015) Introduction to Cybernetics.  Eastford. CT. Martino Fine Books

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