Aldon Morris’ point of view supports the coexistence of scholarship and activism, where scholarship has a “political purpose…to change the world.” (1) Morris based his view on Du Bois’ work studying and exposing whiteness as a social construct. (2) Because science purposely being used to campaign for a specific point of view carries a negative association, Morris admits that it is “risky being an activist sociologist,” limiting his career mobility. (3) However, by combining scholarship with activism, it reinforces the causes’ credibility and legitimacy as well as links it to scholarly and scientific backing. In class, we discussed the possible hierarchy with politics, bureaucracy, and science (in order from top to bottom), which implies that politics and activism are separate from science. Morris disputes this hierarchy by proposing politics and science join, blurring the separation in the hierarchy outlined in class.
Foucault, on the other hand, maintains the political-activism separation in his explanation, where the top oppresses the bottom through power relations. Foucault defines power as being an oppressive set of relations, which shape people’s behaviors. (4) He warns that the institutionalization or crystallization of power constrains innovation, and as a proponent of innovation, Foucault encourages humans to accept their right to freedom in being able to rise up against power and challenge or overthrow it. (5) While Foucault does not explicitly make a connection between activism and scholarship, his“morals,” as he refers to them, call for activism, where individuals work to keep deconstructing power to avoid living under oppression.
Finally, Weber, who has more extreme philosophy than Foucault and Morris, maintains as strict separation between science and other spheres of thought, asserting that science cannot attain any moral ends. (6) In this way, Weber preserves each respective school of thought, and because science has no place in morality, it would not play any role in activism. Activism typically arises from discrepancies in moral beliefs, but according Weber, scholarship should not touch morals and therefore should not provoke any activism. Because Weber’s strict separation, his philosophy fails to explain where spheres of thought overlap.
Morris’ argument is a critical approach to scholarship because his activism promotes the integration of thoughts which are absent in the political sphere, and I think his philosophy is integral in promoting activism backed by scholarly sources. While I think some politicians earn a reputation as twisted, by using science as a tool to make their political platforms more favorable, Morris’ point is different. Even though it is possible to confuse Morris’ point as using science to justify protest, he prioritizes scholarship. In addition, there is a fine line between manipulating science to support arguments or political platforms and doing research in hopes making discoveries to create a better future. Blurring the line between scholarship and politics can get messy, for it is possible that unfounded or misinformed thoughts can become popular and widespread. However, the harmony and coexistence of politics and science can also be a strong platform to promote positive change in the world.
(1) Aldon Morris, “From Du Bois to Black Lives Matter,” Berkley Journal of Sociology (January 2016): http://berkeleyjournal.org/2016/01/from-du-bois-to-black-lives-matter/.
(4) Michael Bess, “Interview with Michel Foucault,” (November 1980): https://www.michaelbess.org/foucault-interview/.
(5) Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” 10.