Global Poverty and the Limits of Academic Expertise

| July 12, 2012

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Academics are not a natural kind. They have varied expertise and aims, and most have no expertise that is particularly relevant to problems of poverty and development. This presumably is why the essay in this issue by Thomas Pogge and Louis Cabrera—a virtual “manifesto” of the newly formed Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP)—shifts to and fro between addressing “academics” and addressing “poverty-focused academics.” Even those academics whose work touches on poverty and development—a quite small minority—are mostly expert in some but not in other aspects of these topics. Some are expert in international law, but not in economics; others know about international trade, but not about aid; some study corruption, but know nothing about nutrition—and so on. A few know a lot about normative argument, but their credentials are sketchy when it comes to empirical evidence. Many more are interested in empirical evidence, usually of a specific sort, but are uncritical of or confused about normative argument. It seems to me that any attempt to specify which sorts of people a group with the name Academics Stand Against Poverty strives to address raises many questions, and that it might be better to aim such advocacy not at academics but at the more indeterminate class of persons with some expertise relevant to some aspect of poverty and development.

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Category: Article, Development, Inequality, and Poverty, Issue 26.2, Special Issue: Academics Stand Against Poverty

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