Summers School

November 29, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I don’t know Larry Summers (though my father was a very good friend of his uncle), but I always sensed he was the kind of guy I wouldn’t like even when I agreed with him. And that was before I read this:

Over lunch not long after Summers took over the presidency in 2001, Ellison said, Summers suggested that some funds should be moved from a sociology program to the Kennedy School, home to many economists and political scientists. “President Summers asked me, didn’t I agree that, in general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists?” Ellison said. “To which I laughed nervously and didn't reply.”

A major critique of Summers by faculty has been that he plays favorites with subject areas.

It’s from a Boston Globe piece in 2006, when Summers, as president of Harvard, was busy alienating much of the faculty.

Hat tip to Henry at The Monkey Cage, who is, I suppose, smarter than the average sociologist Boo Boo.


newsocprof said...

i'm laughing -- i feel exactly the same way about him, wouldn't like him even when we agree.

isn't this also the order of decreasing representation of women by degrees awarded? i read this as just another way he was saying that men were smarter than women or that women shy away from more rigorous jobs to take care of babies.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people think sociology is the lowest form of social sciences.

It seems we're an easy group to beat up on, for some reason.

Jay Livingston said...

There's also Tom Lehrer's song "Sociology." His spoken intro is about teaching mathematical models in the political science department at M.I.T. so that the poli sci types could justify the "science" in the name. "The song is called 'Sociology,'" Lehrer says, and rushes to add, "Now, M.I.T. did not have a sociology department -- they hadn't sunk that low."