Which Social Science Should Disappear?

Over at Freakonomics, Sudhir Venkatesh is conducting a poll:

Imagine that, in order to respond both to budgetary pressures and calls for greater relevance of the American academy, College & University Presidents are re-examining their social science disciplines. They have decided to eliminate one major discipline. In your opinion, which of the following is no longer as relevant to the mission of research and education, and should be eliminated as a consequence?

  1. Psychology

  2. Political science

  3. Economics

  4. Sociology

You can vote here.  Venkatesh also links to this piece in Nature entitled “Make social science relevant.”


7 Responses to Which Social Science Should Disappear?

  1. Hans Noel July 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    This is cute. But not very meaningful. Taken seriously, surely the right vote is to cut political science. Not that political science isn’t important. As a political scientist, I wouldn’t think that. But you can “do” political science in those other disciplines. These are not disjoint research agendas.

    Political science differs from soc, econ and psych in that its boundaries are determined by subject matter. We study anything that is political, using methods and approaches from sociology, economics, psychology, history, etc. The other disciplines study almost any human behavior, but of course from their own approaches. (Sociology perhaps having the broadest set of approaches it would call its own.)

    So if you vote out econ or psych, what you are saying is that their approaches are wrong. If you vote out poll sci, what you are saying is that political stuff doesn’t “need” its own discipline, which is a much less significant claim.

  2. tomslee July 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Economics, obviously. If there is demand for it, the market will meet it.

  3. Non Ivy League Grad Student July 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    “Economics, obviously.” Agreed, because that is what political science has devolved into.

  4. RobC July 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Seems so arbitrary. Only one?

    Kidding, kidding. Anyway, why cut one of those departments when there are so many other departments and programs so richly deserving? For example, consider these candidates from the GWU Columbian College of Arts and Sciences: Africana Studies, Classical Acting, Global Communication, Interior Design, Judaic Studies, Peace Studies, Women’s Studies. And while we’re dreaming of things that never were and asking why not, why shouldn’t the NSF fund an Interior Design Program?

  5. Brett July 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    I’ll second “Political Science” (and I say that as someone with a Political Science degree). You could probably fold different aspects of the field as sub-branches under “Sociology” and “Economics”.

  6. LFC July 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    This is a rather absurd question, imo, partly b.c these disciplinary divisions are in many respects artificial. See, e.g., here.

  7. John July 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Everything political scientists do could be covered by some combination of historians, economists, and sociologists, I think (perhaps also anthropologists – why is anthropology excluded from the poll?).