Assuming that all students should learn some science, just to become educated citizens, should scientists in training be expected to learn a little social theory?

Should they read a little Foucault? a little Haraway?

Should they learn about the history of their own disciplines? Maybe read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

I, like many in academia, have a love-hate relationship with social theory. If I lived in a sane world, I would probably be a marine biologist, that’s what I dreamed about as a child. But as I grew up I realized that science wasn’t enough, that science wasn’t solving the world’s problems in the way the Enlightenment promised.

Now I do my best to read some of those difficult social thinkers and writers, so that I can try to understand some of the crazy things we do to each other and the planet. Reading social theory isn’t fun. It’s work. Some of what I read is just pompous crap, created in order to position the author as cutting edge and get him published, tenured, or promoted. Yet some social theory helps me understand the world and function more effectively in it and because of that I think it is worth the work. I also don’t think scientists should allow themselves to be intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the subject, the name dropping, or the attitude of some social theorists. It pisses me off when people use social theory to dominate and silence others.

So, my friends, what do you think? What social theory (if any) is important for scientists to know? If you were creating a class for new graduate students in a science field that would introduce them to concepts in social theory and make them better scientists, what would you include?

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