Robin Oberg

Graduate School Skills Workshops

13th May 2017:

Make social science great again

The workshop will facilitate social-science scholars to (1) share how our research participants are affected by being part of world societies, whose hallmark is increasing inequality, (2) discuss why we are motivated to be a social-science scholar, and how we personally make sense of our research in light of the current conditions of world societies, and (3) consider what a social science that meets these challenges looks like.

Increasingly our relationships are part of world society. Materially or conceptually, our personal, local and collective lives are increasingly global in nature. However world society today is increasingly unequal, in terms of access, voice, and vision. This is a workshop to consider what people who have chosen to do the science of society -social science- bring to the development of world society. And in collectively coming together, we ask in what direction we will take social science as part of world society?

Keynote: Placing your work in the new human universal – world society

Professor Keith Hart is a world renowned economic anthropologist. His work has lately focused on “money in the making of world society”. This requires both developing a mode of scholarly enquiry that is up to this task and helping to bring it about with the general interest of all human beings in mind. Having once launched the idea of an informal economy, in the present decade he has co-directed a research programme on the Human Economy in South Africa.

He is an active participant in the social media and has been pushing for a more open and collaborative anthropology that is fit for the 21st century. This entails questioning how the project of Social Science might be rescued from what academic bureaucracy has become.

At a moment in history when the West is polarized into camps embracing and rejecting globalization, 75% of humanity lives in Asia and Africa, a share that is expected to rise to 82% in 2100. The main event of the 19th century was the capture of the world by European empires. In the 20th century, peoples coerced into world society by empire sought to establish an independent relationship to it through anti-colonial revolution. In the 21st, only Africa will have a growing population, while the rest decline. This has the potential to turn upside down a world society that has been racist since its inception. Meanwhile the American Empire is likely to be strengthened by the turbulence to come.

Hitherto human universals (the Catholic Church, western empires, bourgeois economics) have repressed local particulars. The next human universal is not an idea, but emergent world society – 7.5 billion people desperately seeking new principles for living together. Following the example of great literature, history and ethnography, this universal will recognize that people can participate in world society only by valorising their cultural particulars – personalities, places and events. The global and the local are not opposed, but implicated in each other. Social scientists can and should show how they may be fruitfully combined rather than be radically opposed, as at present.

Some relevant published works by Keith Hart:

(a) World Society as an Old Regime (b) Social Anthropology as a Generalizing Science (c) Studying World Society as a Vocation (d) Economy For and Against Democracy: A Human Economy Approach (e) Capitalism, revolution and racism in the US and the world (f) Does Brexit really matter? Yes, as the end of the UK (g) A human economy approach to development (h) Waiting for emancipation: the prospects for liberal revolution in Africa (i) A Crisis of Money: the demise of national capitalism

More Info on Keith Hart:

Wikipedia Page

Personal Website

University of Pretoria Profile Page