cover of book

We scholars: changing the culture of the university
by David Damrosch
Harvard University Press, 1995
Paper: 978-0-674-94843-3 | Cloth: 978-0-674-94842-6
Library of Congress Classification LA227.4.D35 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 378.73

Never before have so many scholars produced so much work--and never before have they seemed to have so little to say to one another, or to the public at large. This is the dilemma of the modern university, which today sets the pattern for virtually all scholarship. In his eloquent book, David Damrosch offers a lucid, often troubling assessment of the state of scholarship in our academic institutions, a look at how these institutions acquired their present complexion, and a proposal for reforms that can promote scholarly communication and so, perhaps, broader, more relevant scholarship.

We Scholars explores an academic culture in which disciplines are vigorously isolated and then further divided into specialized fields, making for a heady mix of scholarly alienation and disciplinary territorialism, a wealth of specialized inquiry and a poverty of general discussion. This pattern, however, is not necessary and immutable; rather, it stems from decisions made a century ago, when the American university assumed its modern form. Damrosch traces the political and economic assumptions behind these decisions and reveals their persisting effects on academic structures despite dramatic changes in the larger society. We Scholars makes a compelling case for a scholarly community more reflective of and attuned to today's needs. The author's call for cooperation as the basis for intellectual endeavor, both within and outside the academy, will resonate for anyone concerned with the present complexities and future possibilities of academic work.

Reviews of this book:
"In We Scholars, David Damrosch provides a thoughtful and penetrating look at what he calls the 'isolation of the disciplines' in today's universities. He describes a 'mix of scholarly alienation and disciplinary territorialism...a poverty of general discussion.' The beauty of this book is how well and how carefully he does this and then how cogently he presents his solution. First of all, this no excercise in faculty bashing, nor is it in the mode of the sweeping generalization we have seen from others who would help higher education identify its shortcomings. It is, instead, a thoughtful, carefully constructed position."

--Charles E. Glassick, Educational Record

"The interest of We Scholars, essentially concerned with the American university, and with professors in humanities and social sciences, is that it reveals with painful clarity how an ethos in which a sense of 'community', whether within departments or across whole universities, is very largely absent, can arise without government pressure."

--Fergus Millar, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[Damrosch] writes beautifully about the sociology of academic life, and about key debates in the humanities...His book is one of the most insightful and helpful accounts of the academic experience written in recent years. At a time when everyone writing on these subjects is ideologically loud, his voice of quiet authority is especially welcome. Damrosch establishes as one of his goals 'to convert people away from the wish to convert people.' I hope he succeeds."

--Alan Wolfe, Washington Post Education Review

"The argument of [Damrosch's] book is effective in drawing the reader's attention to what goes on around us and in stimulating thoughts about what might be done about it. It is gracefully written, informative and concerned in the best sense...[It is] strongly recommended to academics--teachers and scholars--who, more than most engaged in work that can make a difference for our common future, need to think what they are doing."

--Frederick J. Crosson, The Review of Politics

"Professor Damrosch is both a wise and considerate man. This is a book that ought to be bedside reading for academics and for those who like to follow academic arguments from the boardroom and the Wall Street Journal."

--Roger D. Abrahams, University of Pennsylvania

"This graceful and thoughtful book makes an important contribution to current debates about scholarship and universities."

--Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
Nearby on shelf for History of education / United States: