Scholarship and pseudo-scholarship

Some recent discussion about the distinction between ‘opinion’ and ‘analysis’ at Larvatus Prodeo. As a historian I see this debate differently, it is an echo of past debates about ‘objectivity’ in history (in the American case beautifully covered in Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream). I see a distinction between scholarship and pseudeo-scholarship. The former can be politically informed, it can even be biased and erroneous but the author is arguing for a sincerely held position. Pseudo-scholarship is where the author defines¬†themselves first and foremost not just as the advocate of a political position but as a member of a political organisation, this can be formal as in the case of a political party or informal as in the ‘conservative movement’. Communism provides examples Maurice Dobb and Ronald Meek prduced works of scholarship, even if politically misguided, R. P. Dutt produced pseudo-scholarship. Evgeny Pashukanis (and Carl Schmitt on the other side) produced works of scholarship that retain value, even if their political choices were entirely indefensible (annoying that Pasukanis’ Marxist admirers don’t face up to his service as an agent of Stalinist justice, although this recent book may be an exception), Andrei Vyshinky produced pseudo-scholarship. In Australia Gerard Henderson is an example of someone who moved from scholarship with Mr Santamaria and the Bishops to pseudo-scholarship. Geoffrey Blainey and Manning Clark both pushed political barrows but they were barrows of their own creation, both were and remain scholars. Pseudo-scholarship can be well written it can even make good points, Dutt’s India To-day is an example. A major problem that many observers cannot distinguish between scholarship and pseudo-scholarship. How can universities help?

3 thoughts on “Scholarship and pseudo-scholarship

  1. Charlie says:

    Keith Windschuttle is a good example of pseudo-scholarship in the Australian context you would think? He very much follows the rhetorical technique and trends of American ‘anti-liberal’ writers such as Goldberg.

  2. admin says:

    I agree Windshuttle is a good example, I have read all of his book and it was clever but unconvincing. His is also quite inconsistent, one moment Christians are great the next moment they are not etc. etc.

  3. charlie says:

    Geoff – you ask what universities can do? Why not do a critique of Windschuttle’s pseudo scholarship – his false empiricism and historiography ? This is particularly important no whe has another volume of ‘Fabrications’ out. Also there are very few blog critiques by specialist historians …for reasons which still escape me

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