The Politics of Disciplinary Advantage


  • Steve Rodgers Murdoch University
  • Michael Booth Murdoch University
  • Joan Eveline University of Western Australia


Interdisciplinarity, Steve Rodgers, Michael BoothJoan, Joan Eveline, HIC, 2003


Interdisciplinary work avoids specialisation's growing fragmentation, but it also loses the political advantage of setting criteria and patrolling boundaries. Research that faces the challenge of bringing together concepts from several areas (e.g. in deep ecology, health studies, and natural resource management) is often criticised for blurring distinctions, for being unscientific, and for being conceptually trite.

In addition, disciplinary work produces advantages for its practitioners which those who attempt more open approaches rarely enjoy. Besides epistemic authority and public legitimacy, such advantages include a degree of control over resources, clearer standards for publishing, and a critical mass of disciplined members who protect the turf of their specialisation.

How can interdisciplinary work in future best play the political game? Should interdisciplinary scholars be between the boundaries of other areas, exhorting those protected within to choose relevance and come out and do as we do? Do we need boundaries for interdisciplinary work, carefully and vigorously controlled, so that we too can form distinctions based on criteria for methodological rigour? Is there a place for full theoretical awareness of what distinguishes interdisciplinary work? If interdisciplinarity is to mobilise support, does it need, just like any discipline, its own self-regulating guild?

Author Biographies

Steve Rodgers, Murdoch University

Steve Rodgers is a doctoral candidate at the Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Western Australia. Steve's graduate work investigates possibilities for constructing knowledge where the complexity of a situation has become too great to be comprehended cognitively. This work is situated within an institutional context through a concern for the role and relevance of the contemporary university. His interests include the construction of agency in post-structuralism and social theory, along with continental accounts of ethics and responsibility. He currently works as a policy officer within government on issues such as biotechnology in agriculture.

Michael Booth, Murdoch University

Michael Booth is Senior Lecturer, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University, Western Australia. Michael has an extensive association with Murdoch University, which prides itself on its interdisciplinary research ethos. He has been chairperson of the Politics, Philosophy and Sociology (PPS) program and has a long-lasting interest in interdisciplinary study. He is now developing that interest in relation to sustainable processes of social participation.

Joan Eveline, University of Western Australia

Joan Eveline is a Lecturer in Organisational & Labour Studies, University of Western Australia. Joan teaches sociology of work and organisations, with an emphasis on method and theory and the politics of change in industrial relations and organisational studies. Her research is in the same field, with a focus on gender in organisations and diversity studies. Current research includes a three-year project on leadership and gender equity at UWA, an examination of the gender dynamics of police work, and a study of the "fun industry" that is shaping call centres.