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Steve Fuller in Times Higher: Academics are the last “feudal lords”

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Readers will recall U Warwick’s Steve Fuller as s sociologist who studies ID and is not given to conspirazoid rants. Here, whe takes on academics’ obsession with plagiarism:

“Plagiarism” is the name of the collective neurosis of academic life – and it’s only getting worse.

Academics worry endlessly about both being plagiarised and being accused of plagiarism. The concern has even extended to self-plagiarism, which in a saner world would be regarded as an ordinary exercise of the author’s copyright. Moreover, the neurosis has spread from the research to the teaching side of academia. Customised computer systems now monitor students’ work to ensure that they haven’t cut and pasted from anyone, including themselves…

Many if not most academics fancy themselves as “anti-capitalist”, but that may be because they are the last feudal lords. They alone take the metaphors “domain of knowledge” and “field of research” literally, which ultimately explains the fixation on plagiarism. However, in our multiply sourced, interconnected world, the plausibility that the practitioners of a discipline might “own” the knowledge they professionally pursue is rapidly disappearing.

Steve Fuller, “Plagiarism hunters, please lay down your weapons” at Times Higher Education

They probably like harassing people anyway.

4 Replies to “Steve Fuller in Times Higher: Academics are the last “feudal lords”

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Finally a sane approach to this question. In both journalism and academia, plagiarism is a handy charge against a colleague who is really unpopular or heretical.

    It’s similar to “ethics violations” in politics. Every politician “misuses” campaign funds because it’s the only way to survive. “Misusing” becomes a crime when a crime is needed.

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    Wow. Fuller ignores the issue that plagiarism is dishonest – you’re passing someone else’s words off as your own. I’m not sure what it says about him that he doesn’t address this.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    I’m pretty sure that if someone C&P’d large chunks from one of his books and passed it off as their own work he wouldn’t be too happy.

  4. 4
    David Tyler says:

    Bob @2: Fuller agrees that plagiarism is dishonest, but his article is not about that. It is the abuse of plagiarism that he objects to. Here’s one example he gives:
    “Wherein lies this madness? After all, from a strictly legal standpoint, the fixation on plagiarism gets the point of assigning property rights to intellectual products exactly backwards. The point is not to create an endless trail of debt, whereby those who come later must always pay backwards to their predecessors before proceeding forwards. On the contrary, the point of intellectual property rights is to ensure that those who come first enjoy a temporary advantage, before others appropriate the work to their own potentially greater advantage.”
    He is opposed to academics using “plagiarism” as a tool to exercise their authority in their field.
    There’s an expansion of the argument in his paper: “Against Academic Rentiership” (2019) – a link is provided in the THE article.

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