restricted access Afterword (2013)
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299 A dozen years have elapsed since the publication, in 2000, of chapter 12 on disciplinarity-interdisciplinarity. That passage of time alone calls for some reflection, updating, and revision of observations made in the accumulated essays on sociology and the social sciences. In 2001 I retired as director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. At that time I moved from Stanford back to Berkeley, where I have taught one course a year (jointly with an economist and a political scientist) to postdoctoral candidates carrying out research on health and health policy; have participated to a limited degree in affairs on the Berkeley campus; and have carried on actively in research and publication. In this final essay I undertake (1) to review my past decade’s work, continuing chapter 11’s theme of interdisciplinarity; (2) to evaluate, selectively , some of my observations about sociology and the other social sciences made throughout the volume; and (3) to update my account of forces impinging on sociology and to identify some probable continuities and discontinuities in the coming years. Afterword (2013) 300 a f t e r w o r d ongoing scholarly work In 1997 I agreed to undertake a massive task: to serve as coeditor, with Paul Baltes of the Max Planck Institute of Human Development, Berlin, of a new international encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences (Smelser and Baltes 2001). This was the third rendition of such an encyclopedia , earlier versions having appeared in the early 1930s and in 1968 (Seligman and Johnson 1930–35; Sills 1968). I almost declined to accept this assignment for two reasons. First, the magnitude of the task seemed overwhelming: the new Encyclopedia (twenty-four volumes) would be twice the length of the 1968 edition and would involve coordinating the work of some forty section (associate) editors. In the end all this called for five years of scholarly, editorial, and administrative labor. Second, that work was to be added to my duties as director of the Center, and I (as well as a few trustees) feared that it would impair my performance as director; undertaking it was a personal risk. Seeing the Encyclopedia through was an apex for the interdisciplinary side of my career. In the first instance the project, by virtue of its very definition , had to cover all the social and behavioral sciences; in addition, my coeditor was a psychologist, and collaborating with him was an interdisciplinary enterprise. Also, Baltes and I discovered early that to organize the encyclopedia’s contents under established disciplinary headings would not do. Over the generations the intellectual viability of disciplines and discipline-based departments has been compromised (above, pp. 00–00). True, the inherited disciplines are still manifested concretely in academic departments and professional organizations that give them an administrative -intellectual home, a definition in the academic market, and a concrete institutional reality. But importing and exporting among them, the growth of hybrid fields, interdisciplinary forays, and, above all, internal specialization and fragmentation have conspired to make disciplines and departments obsolete as systematic representations of knowledge in the social sciences; some (e.g., Levine 1995) have written on the irrelevance and “malaise” of the inherited disciplines. Baltes and I faced this issue concretely in the need to identify sections (subdivisions) and section editors for the Encyclopedia. After seeking a f t e r w o r d 301 advice and struggling with that advice, we designed an architecture of classificatory categories (sections) that seemed to honor the combination of intellectual focus and intellectual sprawl manifested by the behavioral and social sciences at the end of the twentieth century. The following are the components of that architecture: • Sections for the established disciplines (for example, economics, anthropology) and for other fields (for example, education, philosophy, law) that have significant social and behavioral science emphases in their ongoing work. • Sections on “overarching topics,” or topics applicable to and cutting across all the relevant fields. Among these were statistics, ethics of research, applications of knowledge, and the history of the behavioral and social sciences; we included biographies of eminent deceased scholars in this category. • Sections on topics and ranges of intellectual inquiry that involved “intersections” of one or more disciplines, such as gender studies, religious studies, health, evolutionary sciences, and area and international studies. • Sections on “applied” areas, such as management studies, health, and public policy. • Finally, as residual categories, topical items such as multiculturalism and affirmative action, included under headings called...