Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sciences po: La Guerre Continue

Two articles in  Le Monde today on the ongoing Sciences po controversy: one by Bruno Latour, the other by Nicolas Jounin. The issues in this imbroglio are complex, confused, entangled, and heavily laden with old grudges and conflicts of personality as well as with important issues of pedagogy, selection, and social change. I'm not about to sort them out in a blog post, but I do think that it's important to note that reforming an institution like Sciences po takes a strong hand, a willingness to make powerful enemies, and perhaps a certain contempt for entrenched traditions as well as rules both reasonable and unreasonable. To judge a reformer like Descoings, one would have to know a lot more about the inner workings of the institution than I do. I can therefore understand Latour's defense of both the man and his project, even if I cannot be sure that he is right to call the many critiques that both have engendered an "assassination." No doubt there is excess, as there always is in cases like this, and just as certainly some of the grievances are surely justified. But what matters here is the future of an institution that plays a crucial role in the selection of French elites and the kind of governance they provide. The choice of a new leadership and a new direction should focus on the desired goals and take account of past errors only insofar as necessary to correct future aims. Richard Descoings should be allowed to rest in peace. His successor need not be cast in his image but should partake of his toughness. (h/t George Ross)

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