By Jon Warren and Kayleigh Garthwaite
In 1967 Howard Becker posed the question – to academics – “Whose side are we on?”.
Becker was discussing the question during the time of civil rights, the Vietnam war and widespread social change in the US. He sparked a debate about objectivity and value neutrality which had long featured as part of the social sciences’ methodological foundations and which has implications beyond the social sciences for all academics.
What relevance do these ideas have now, in an era when academics and their research are becoming increasingly commodified? Academics are increasingly pressured by their own institutions and fellow professionals to gain more funding, publish more papers and make more impact. Questions of social justice and professional integrity are at risk of being swamped by these forces allied to unscrupulous careerism.
We argue that the question now is not only who academics serve but also who we write for.