1st Edition

Social Scientists in the Civic Space Ethical Perspectives on Democratic Involvement

Edited By Arundhati Virmani, Jean Boutier, Manohar Kumar Copyright 2025
    168 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    168 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    The book explores the stakes for the social sciences around four central problems: the challenges of context; modes of intervention; involvement; and the ethical dilemmas for the scholar in a democratic space. The first, challenges of the context, examines the variety of situations confronted by scholars since the beginning of the 20th century. These include their interventions in key judicial affairs, the impact of technological developments like the introduction of big data, or even the positionality of the scholar. Second, the book investigates the modalities according to which social scientists may intervene in the civic space: in particular as specialists, as experts, or in the media. A third problem brings together some cases illustrative of researchers’ involvement in critical issues, such as food policies, major social reforms, or gender-related questions. Finally, the book concludes with a reflection on the modes of exercising critique or dissent in democratic societies and on the ethical dimensions of involvement in the civic space.

    A searing examination of the role of social scientists, as they are called upon to address the multiple critical issues faced by contemporary societies, from pandemics to climatic change, sustainable development, migration, ethnicity, or the place of religion. This volume will be of great interest not just to scholars, students, and researchers of the social sciences but to the general reader as a concerned citizen.

    Introduction 1. French historians’ interventions in a world in crisis, 1925-1939 2. Discovering the genocide of the Rwandian Tutsi: civic engagement or activism? 3. Why so few economists become public figures? 4. The freedom of the foreign scholar? Writing national histories from afar 5. Three forms of expertise in social sciences 6. Citizen economist or economist citizen? 7. Experiencing Last-Mile Welfare. Field Notes from Six Districts in India 8. Addressing food security in India: the debate on Targeting vs Universal distribution 9. Social sciences and social policy reforms in a democratic system : insights from Scandinavia and France 10. Anti-gender movements and gender studies in two national contexts: France and Brazil in the last decade 11. Feminist research engagement and civic space in India 12. The role of experts in society 13. Social Sciences and forecasting: the state and big data revolution in India 14. Defining norms of civility : disobedience as protest Epilogue


    Arundhati Virmani, historian at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseilles, works on transformations of cultural and political practices from the colonial period to the contemporary moment in India and in Europe.

    Jean Boutier Professor emeritus of early modern European history at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Marseilles) and former director of the Norbert Elias Centre in Social Sciences (2002-2011) is a specialist of comparative history of social elites.

    Manohar Kumar is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-D) Delhi, India.

    ‘A fascinating volume on the various forms of interventions by social scientists in the civic space, in India and worldwide. It offers a nuanced understanding of how scholars’ production of knowledge distinguishes them particularly from journalists and social influencers in dealing with the challenges thrown up by social realities.

    A much-needed book for our troubled times. A must-read.’

     Thomas Piketty, Economist, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris and Paris School of economics

    ‘With its insightful epistemic analysis of mutually enriching relationships between social sciences and civic spaces, the volume constitutes a critical tool to combat contemporary forms of enervating anti-intellectualism. It strengthens the social basis and egalitarian thrust of social sciences. Democratic societies cannot do without them’.

    —Gopal Guru, Political Scientist, Former Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and former editor of Economic and Political Weekly

     ‘At a time when the legitimacy and relevance of knowledge produced in the academic social sciences have been increasingly questioned by a variety of actors, including the public, it is only appropriate that social scientists find time and space to make their case to the public. The collection of articles in this volume offers a broad range of examples from history, economics and politics, as well as many insightful ways of rethinking the scope and nature of the engagement between academicians/experts and the public. It should be mandatory reading for social science students.’

    Sundar Sarukkai, Philosopher, Barefoot Philosophers