So many things have happened while I've been away that I hardly know what to blog about first. The conservative assault on scholarship in the UK is one of the topics that deserve immediate attention of all of us who value intelligence and oppose the cult of ignorance promoted by conservative forces everywhere. David Cameron's government will now pull the funding of all research in the Humanities that does not support his weird idea of "big society":
Academics will study the "big society" as a priority, following a deal with the government to secure funding from cuts. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will spend a "significant" amount of its funding on the prime minister's vision for the country, after a government "clarification" of the Haldane principle – a convention that for 90 years has protected the right of academics to decide where research funds should be spent. Under the revised principle, research bodies must work to the government's national objectives, although the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that ministers will not meddle in individual projects. It is claimed the AHRC was told that research into the "big society" was non-negotiable if it wished to maintain its funding at £100m a year.
The article where I found the above-quoted statement proceeds to suggest that
It is government money. They have the right to spend it on what they want.
This, of course, is completely ridiculous. This money doesn't belong to the government. It belongs to the taxpayers who hired the government to manage this money. If the way these hired managers administer the funds given to them by the people does not serve the public good, the citizens of the country have every right to send the government packing.
The problem with forcing academics to pursue only those projects that study the "big society" is that nobody really knows what this concepts actually means. It was coined in order to promote a political campaign of a party that is not famous for its high intelligence and is supposed to have as its goal
to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will 'take power away from politicians and give it to people'.I don't think that even the people who came up with this strange definition know exactly what it's supposed to mean. As a result, it will be possible for the UK's conservative government to exercise firm control over the country's intellectuals based on a set of criteria that nobody has even bothered to define.
What Cameron and his posse of fools don't understand is that when people start their research, they don't know where it is going to lead them. If you begin a research project and expect it to reach a predetermined set of conclusions, you are going to fail. A responsible academic does not conduct research in order to support ideas s/he had before beginning the project. Nobody can reasonably guarantee that the funding one received to promote the "big society" will end up supporting conclusions that have anything to do with that goal.
Now, every academic who wants to engage in a project will have to come up with elaborate ways of convincing illiterate idiots in charge that the project in question will fit into these unintelligent politicians' view of what the country needs. This will result in a lot of aggravation, bureaucracy, corruption and will bring about absolutely no positive results whatsoever. Unless, of course, you count the destruction of UK's academia among positive results. This, I believe, is the ultimate goal of the British government.