This Academic Life
  Sensible Foreign Policy
I have been absent from this blog for a while because I've been working on a piece of political activism: a website to publicize the overwhelming consensus among IR scholars that the current direction of US foreign policy, especially in Iraq, is not a good one. The website is now up, and can be viewed at

Please publicize it far and wide!

How do I square this political involvement with my strong Weberian stance? For one thing, this campaign is not about my teaching or research practices. Those remain "scientific" in the logical sense, inasmuch as they are not efforts to justify a pre-determined political position on some temporal matter. Now, they are a form of long-term philosophical politics, if you want to put it that way, since I am clearly advocating in my research a particular way of viewing and apprehending and worlding the world. But as far as local, "timely" issues are concerned, my research itself stays neutral.

Also, remember that the Weberian stance does not mean that one has no politics. it means that one does not choose to further one's political agenda through one's work with students either inside or outside of the classroom, and that one does not subordinate one's research to a particular partisan agenda. This website -- this whole campaign -- is not a piece of research. And I would never claim it as such. It is a political intervention which deploys the rhetorical resource "IR expert" so as to perhaps change the contours of the present debate about US foreign policy. The fact that many of the signers base their support on things derived from their research is incidental, especially since the scholars on the list disagree severely about issues of methodology and the like. This is why it is so striking that so many diverse scholars have chosen to sign on to the open letter.

It would be logically wrong to conclude that our research has demonstrated that US foreign policy is bad, and this is not the goal; instead, the goal is to point out that if one wants to fight terrorism, invading Iraq is a very bad way to go about doing so. So in that sense we are engaged in the sort of value-clarification that Weber advocated, and my stance should be under no stress at all. (There was talk of becoming a 527 group and really acting in a more partisan fashion, but that made some of us -- myself included -- uncomfortable so we didn't pursue that option.)

Hence: the politics of a non-political scholar. Such is what is given to me by my decision to treat academia as a vocation, and not merely as a means to an end.

[Posted with ecto]

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"Academia als Beruf," or, an occasional record of the various aspects of my life as an academic. Written by "21stCWeber," an arrogant handle I know…but I must confess that I do want to be Weber when and if I grow up :-)



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