What are universities for? Sociology’s critical awareness of the present

Sociology’s Critical Awareness of the Present

In May 2015 Professor Keijo Rahkonen, Head of the Department of Social Research, organized an international seminar on What are universities for? Professor E.N. Setälä, then Minister of Education, complained in 1925 that university professors are loaded with so many responsibilities for teaching, administration, and other duties that they can hardly be expected to produce the knowledge that was necessary for the young nation. For this reason, strategic research was placed in state institutes.  By 1960, there were about 50 research units and laboratories in the country in agriculture alone. The most recent institute to be established was the Centre for Social and Health Research (Stakes) in 1992, soon (2009) to be merged with the National Institute of Health.

Since 2012 most research activity of the institutes has been moved back to universities. The reversal might seem flattering. However, at the same time science policy has been aggressively aimed against disciplinarity. This is not a true claim for practical knowledge, it is a false belief in the power of funding and management over what universities do.  Sociology is a case in point. Its ontology defines it as a critical awareness of the present that cannot be detached from its object, which is society, not behaviour. In today’s world this object of inquiry is even more challenging than it was when the discipline was founded in Enlightenment. Read more here