The Market for Sociological Ideas in Early 1960s Ireland: Civil Service Departments and the Limerick Rural Survey, 1961- 64 (NIRSA) Working Paper Series No. 53.
Murray, Peter and Feeney, Maria (2009) The Market for Sociological Ideas in Early 1960s Ireland: Civil Service Departments and the Limerick Rural Survey, 1961- 64 (NIRSA) Working Paper Series No. 53. NIRSA - National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis.
Why, Joseph Lee asks, `was the market for ideas in independent Ireland so small? Why was it so stagnant?’ In attempting to answer these questions, Lee places most emphasis on demand side deficiencies, discussing in detail the ways in which the development of research in economics was stunted by the prevailing narrow-mindedness of the Department of Finance. Yet, he observes, `slowly though economics developed as a research discipline, it was exceptionally advanced compared with cognate subjects’ such as sociology. A prevalent disregard for research among government policy-makers and private entrepreneurs has more recently been noted by Tom Garvin who highlights `a general syndrome of unintellectual or even anti-intellectual thinking’ within which `a common reaction to academic commentary was “sure we knew all that anyway”’.. Widely accepted and influential as such broad critiques are, the response of the higher echelons of the civil service to early research produced by Irish sociologists has not to date been examined in detail. Here we take the case of what is still a frequently cited study from the fledgling period of Irish sociological research, the Limerick Rural Survey, and we examine the manner in which its conduct and findings were appraised within government departments. Instead of the prevalence of a generalised hostility towards research-generated ideas, we find that the creation of multiple research providers from end of 1950s led to ideas being appraised within a context of institutional competition and conflict. In the appraisal of the Limerick Rural Survey, civil servants privileged some ideas and marginalised others through the selective attribution of `practical’ or `policy-making’ value. Advice that favoured the taking of a `restrained line’ on Limerick Rural Survey’s `merits’ resulted in a book launching speech by the Taoiseach that dwelt on papal pronouncements at a time when clerical promoters of this pioneering rural sociology exercise were seeking to move the Irish discipline beyond a confinement to the regurgitation of encyclicals.
Repository Staff Only: item control page