Letter: Academic 'reality'

December 21, 2001

David Walker's argument concerning the impact of social science ignored the role that many social scientists play in what he terms the "real" world ("Get out into the real world", THES , December 14) In criminology, there are a number of academics involved in debates and policy work around deaths in custody, deaths at work, prison healthcare, violence against women, state secrecy and racial violence, to name but a few.

They have been willing to engage with politicians and the public and have successfully moved the debate and policy forward against the wishes of politicians for whom expediency rather than principle often rules.

That work has been built on the insight offered by C. Wright Mills more than 40 years ago, namely that social science is about teaching, thereby encouraging others to act with "historical consequences" to build a democratic society. Mills recognised that social science was about enlightenment, engagement and human development. In the modern academic world of grant applications and market discourses, Mills's words are more than apt as guiding principles for the future.

Joe Sim
Liverpool John Moores

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