Impossible Vocation? Rethinking Weberian Scientific Ethics in the Context of Marketization

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Koytak M. E.

19th Annual Conference of the International Social Theory Consortium, Florida, United States Of America, 17 - 19 June 2021

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: Florida
  • Country: United States Of America


In his famous speech “Science as a Vocation”, Weber evaluates the challenges and possibilities that await the scientific researchers and scholars in modern times. His approach was an outcome of the role and duties that assigned to the German universities in the 19th century. I argue that Weberian model of science is no longer possible in today’s system of higher education where a massive expansion has been witnessed in the last fifty years. More specifically in Turkey, the field of higher education has grown very rapidly in the last two decades and the number of students has increased geometrically. Along with this, the number of private universities also increased, where lecturers and researchers become deeply proletarianized in terms of autonomy and work relations. The late-but-rapid expansion of higher education therefore transforms not only the social meaning and position of being scholar, but it also brings a demographic flood of credentials that affect all the elite professions and professional ethics. In this paper, I explore how this flood of credentials eroded the traditional walls of social closure of elite professions that were established by the bureaucracy before 1990’s. In order to discover this process of turmoil, my analysis compares the science and legal practice as two occupational fields. I use historical and nation-scale datasets on employment, education and market related to these two professions. Following Weberian emphasis on social closure and market relations, my argument goes that Weberian definition of scientific ethics is vulnerable to the social and economic conditions that are mistakenly considered external to the university or laboratory. After all, no theory of ethics is possible without contextualizing within a socio-economic configuration.