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Title: Governing Disciplines: Reform and Placation in the Austrian University System
Contributor(s): Meister-Scheytt, Claudia (author); Scott, Alan  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2009
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Abstract: "The principle of equality and the principle of hierarchy are facts, indeed they are among the most constraining facts, of political and social life." --(Dumont, 1970: 3). The above quotation from Louis Dumont's influential anthropology of the Indian caste system, 'Homo Hierarchicus' (first published in French in 1966), provides the initial premise from which this analysis of the nature of recent reforms within a continental European higher education system commences. For Dumont, the principles of equality and hierarchy are "social facts" in Durkheim's sense; that is to say, they exist beyond the preferences and choices of individual actors, and in part form those preferences and constrain those choices. We should note straight away that for Dumont - as for Durkheim - a social fact is every bit as "real" as a physical one. Furthermore, Dumont's assertion also implies that (a) equality and hierarchy are systems of beliefs and practices - i.e. consistent and coherent across a wide range of actions, issues, dispositions and opinions, and (b) these two systems are mutually exclusive - i.e. they create different worlds of cultural practice, opinion and cognition. Dumont analyzes a case - the caste system - in which the principle of equality is all but absent. Our case is different. We shall argue (a) in the university system both principles are present and form the poles towards which actors are drawn; (b) these two systems are in a long-term struggle with an indeterminate outcome an ongoing war of position between the historically older principle of hierarchy and its upstart rival, the principle of equality; and (c) while, for many observers of university systems, this kind of dynamic is thought to lead to ossification - the "moving graveyards" view of university reform - we shall argue that university systems do move, though more slowly than reformers would wish, but they do so via minor, and often reversible, shifts in the relative balance between the two contrasting principles. Rather than the replacement of one principle by another, we typically observe the sedimentation of conflicting values and practices, or vacillations between them.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: International Perspectives on the Governance of Higher Education: Alternative Frameworks for Coordination, p. 52-68
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: London, United Kingdom
ISBN: 9780415989336
Field of Research (FOR): 160809 Sociology of Education
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 939999 Education and Training not elsewhere classified
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Series Name: International Studies in Higher Education
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