Or, engaged scholarship. Following on from the discussion with Eli in the comments here. I don’t think there’s an a priori reason why academic work can’t be useful for important social change. I am just very skeptical about any particular claim about particular work making a real contribution, and even more so about this work making any difference to people outside of universities (or people who work at universities but are not academics). I think the burden of proof is on the people making such claims and the bar is high re: evidence.

A few more thoughts on this.
1. I think being motivated by the same sorts of values that makes one take a radical political perspective is great. It doesn’t make one’s work matter, though, except in the sense of “this matters to me.” I think often claims to radicality are more like a convoluted way for people to say they care about something.

2. I think career advancement for ostentsibly radical scholarship should send up warning signals. Something contributing to one’s own success professionally is not likely to also make a contribution to communism defined as the real movement which abolishes the present order. (Again, maybe, but the burden of proof is on those who claim such a mutual contribution.)

3. Whether or not academic work (or any work) makes a contribution to a movement or organization and what that contribution consists of is to be defined by people other than the producer of the work and who are in that movement or organization. And the perceptions of other movement actors is merely a necessary rather than a sufficient condition for concluding that a work really makes a difference to a movement.

I am particularly skeptical about claims to contributions by academics who do theoretical work (contributions in the form of theoretical work). Specifically regarding theoretical work:

4. Undermining the foundations of something conceptually is not radical on its own. Radicality is contextual. For instance, Marx’s Capital is only radical in the context of movements and organizations and only to the degree that those are themselves genuinely radical. The German Ideology, if it has radical content at all (something I doubt) has/had that content only when it is/was not consigned to a drawer and the gnawing criticism of mice.

5. In a recent review essay Scott McLemee writes of remarks regarding Hardt and Negri’s Empire that many commentators on the success of that book had “a complete disengagement from the actual efforts at thinking and theorizing then under way” within movements. “After all, in normal circumstances, journalists and pundits have no incentive to follow the debates in subterranean intellectual provinces—and the latter, for their part, tend not to send out press releases.” Similarly, people doing what is supposed to be movement-oriented academic work who do not engage with movement voices and display an awareness of the organizations and forms of thought in movements – in the particular movements they’re supposed to be contributing to – should be treated with extra suspicion.

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