I just came across this great 2005 interview by “The Minnesota Review” with American political scientist Adolph Reed. In-between talking about his personal biography (he’s been a Marxist since he was thirteen) and his analyses of contemporary US politics, Reed drops this bit about academia:
“… [T]he more that people declaim piously and in favor of multidisciplinarity, the less inclined they are to read or engage outside their own narrow sub-specialty. There are not many disciplines, right? I’ve been struck at how infrequently the work of historians or political scientists, or economists, or even sociologists, gets cited in the domain of cultural politics. I suppose you could say that the same is true on the other side of the ledger; most of what goes on in political science is pretty stupid anyway. It could be possible to be a competent theorist without immersing oneself in multiple disciplinary debates, but I think all too often people are drawn to what they imagine theory to be because they think it comes with no heavy lifting.
I’ll go into a bookstore and look at a book by the title of, say, ‘The Political Economy of Gender in Late Victorian England.’ I pick it up and find out it’s an examination of six poems. That gives you the sense of a lot of cultural studies discourse: political economy is a phrase whose main function is to imply a kind of heft and demands to be taken seriously, but it has nothing to do with anything that anybody from Marx to Krugman would call a political economy …”