Saturday, October 28, 2006

pub econ?

my friday talk was co-sponsored by a law school and a soc department. over the years, i've spoken in econ departments and crim departments and law schools and african american studies departments. it is always fun to see the different norms regarding length, interruptions, and so forth. in the soc series, the speakers are expected to talk for an hour and then take questions for thirty minutes. in the law series, in contrast, they are expected to speak for seven minutes before engaging in questions. this must have something to do with billable hours.

i spoke about public criminology (and, by extension, public sociology), using clifford shaw as an exemplar. many law professors have been doing pubcrim for years, particularly on the op/ed front, but one of the economists in attendance suggested that the idea of public economics would never get much momentum. i mumbled something about lester thurow and john r. commons, and, of course, steven levitt's name came up. still, i think my questioner was probably right about the prospects for pub econ. is there a public aspect to other disciplines (e.g., pub polisci, pub anthro, pub psych, pub history, pub philosophy, pub geography, pub genetics), or is sociology somehow uniquely positioned to want or need a public moniker? if so, does this signal the relative weakness or the relative strength of sociology as a discipline?

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