n South African Journal of Higher Education - Autonomy and the republic of science

Volume 20, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



This article represents a consideration of the proposal by Michael Peters that peer review should be democratically extended. It begins by tracing the struggle between the natural sciences (the Quadrivium) and the humanities (the Trivium) in the medieval university to the present day, concluding that the Quadrivium has established a decisive hegemony over our current conception of knowledge and its innovation, all attempts by contemporary neo-romantics to 'constructivise' knowledge or 'fictionalise' truth notwithstanding.

The particular version of this hegemony we currently inhabit, the 'strategic' regime of science, favours external drivers of knowledge innovation-utility, relevance, and so on.
The article next re-visits Polanyi's 'republic of science' ideal to show how and why internal regulation of the science system - expert peer review - best suits the knowledge-constitutive features of novelty and unpredictability, and how external-regulation by utility and relevance alone may well impede it. This is especially the case for the humanities. The article concludes that extending or 'democratising' peer review may inadvertently work to consolidate the hegemony of the 'strategic' regime of science, and hence contribute to the long term impedance and decline of science in-general, and the humanities in particular.

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