Struggles over Legitimate Science

Science Policy Ideals of Excellence within the Field of Sociology


  • Johanna Hokka



In several countries, national governments have implemented science policy reforms to elevate research excellence and to promote managerialist principles with an aim to gain success in the global knowledge-based economy. This qualitative study explores discursive responses to the current science policy reforms in Finnish and Swedish sociology. Drawing on a Bourdieusian perspective and a two-country research context, the research scrutinises the dynamics between the field of sociology and science policy paying particular attention to how the science policy ideals on excellence appear in the internal discursive struggles surrounding legitimate science among professors of sociology, who are conceived as a scientific elite. The results show that the excellence ideals are met in various, conflicting ways in sociology. Furthermore, there are national differences as Finnish sociology expresses more compliance towards science policy reforms than its Swedish counterpart, which seems more able to distance itself from these ideals and cherish traditional academic values. These findings evince that although science policy trends are becoming increasingly global, national university traditions and political cultures entail a slightly different national shape to seemingly similar reforms, which again, shapes the way the science policy incentives are made sense of at the grassroots level of academia, even within this particular discipline.


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