Plowing Under Rural Sociology

20 May 2009 at 8:13 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

From Randy Westgren:

The aggie world, and to a lesser extent, the sociology world, is reacting to a decision by Washington State University to dissolve its Department of Community and Rural Sociology. There is a great deal of rancor developing about this type of budget-cutting strategy, as opposed to making everyone suffer equally. If one looks closely at the budget documents made public by WSU, the ag school is getting a smaller cut (5% teaching + 8% research) than many colleges, including the B-school (13%, 12 vacant positions). The budget plan can be found here. It looks like the Dean’s decision, rather than the CEO’s (The Dean is an agricultural economist).

I was stunned to see a comment to a piece written in Inside Higher Education on this battle from an engineering prof — well, not actually stunned, more like chagrined.

“As for the rural sociology department, while I can sympathize with their plight in Pullman I do not see the loss as intellectually serious. As a member of an engineering faculty at a major university for more than 25 years, I’ve known quite a few sociologists. Most of them publish little stories that are not much sounder empirically, and usually less interesting substantively, that a good fiction writer. With very few exceptions, sociologists I know and have known are mathophobes! The few who have some ability in math use it on their omnibus snapshots of human populations taken at widely spaced intervals and then try to figure out from those “data” what happened and why. Ridiculous! Continuous observation is probably not possible, but you need closely spaced observations that focus on the specific processes that are the point of your investigation! If you have continuous-time observations, you need calculus in order to analyze your data. If you have closely spaced discrete-time observations, you need something more than shotgun regressions to analyze your data. Most of what sociologists publish is a waste of time and money.”

Obviously, this scholar has not followed the closely reasoned defense of fuzzy, ill-defined concepts at

Teppo and Brayden, if you are watching, ask Dave Whetten about his take on the Chancellor of SUNY Albany who undertook a similar department-cutting strategy during the New York State budget difficulties of the late 1970s.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Education, Food and Agriculture.

More on Adam Smith’s Metaphor Tweeting Too Hard

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. justsaying  |  20 May 2009 at 9:35 am

    Um, what’s actually incorrect about the engineer’s statement? A disturbing number of sociologists, particularly at the less elite schools, are mathophobes who incorrectly apply a small handful of techniques to disasterous effect…. jussayin…

  • 2. tina  |  20 May 2009 at 9:37 am

    Also, sociologists, with a few exceptions, all have bad haircuts and body odor. They chew with their mouths open and they talk too loudly.

  • 3. brayden  |  20 May 2009 at 4:20 pm

    This is just not true. I’ve been working on chewing with my mouth closed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Nicolai J. Foss | home | posts
Peter G. Klein | home | posts
Richard Langlois | home | posts
Lasse B. Lien | home | posts


Former Guests | posts


Recent Posts



Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).

%d bloggers like this: