Craig Calhoun is the new Director of the LSE

by Kieran Healy on November 24, 2011

Here’s the announcement. A tough job. He certainly did a good job with NYU and at the SSRC, and I imagine the fact that he didn’t make his career in the UK was a relevant consideration given the state of the institution—though it’s not as if he’s a stranger to the British system, as he was trained at Manchester and Oxford. He starts next September.

Apropos of nothing, I think that the very first academic conference I attended in the U.S. as a graduate student featured Craig as a speaker. It was a small thing on culture and politics at the New School. Marshall Berman was on the panel as well. I recall asking a question that was in equal parts tendentious and underinformed, and Craig’s response was really quite polite, all things considered.



mise 11.24.11 at 9:35 pm

I suppose it would be self-centred to feel aggrieved because I hoped he might supervise a PhD at NYU. Academics are unhelpfully mobile.


Andrew Fisher 11.25.11 at 9:05 am

An interesting appointment, inasmuch as the LSE hasn’t traditionally recruited career social scientists as Directors.


ptl 11.25.11 at 9:10 am


J. Otto Pohl 11.25.11 at 9:19 am

I liked Calhoun’s little book on Nationalism because it provided a good summary of the writings on the subject by everybody else. I haven’t read anything else he has written. But, based on that book alone I like him a lot better than Anthony Giddens.


Andrew Fisher 11.25.11 at 10:49 am


Sure, but I think Giddens is the only one in recent history (other than Judith Rees of course, but she wasn’t hired through the normal process). Davies was much more typical of the breed prior to that.

We have this narrative in the UK about university leadership being increasingly taken by people from outside the academy or hostile to its values. My own observation is that career academics have consolidated their hold over senior leadership positions in UK universities over recent years. I’ve got no insight into Prof Calhoun’s values but he is a career academic in a senior leadership role that hasn’t normally gone to a career academic, and that’s why I’m interested in his appointment.


Chris Bertram 11.25.11 at 11:52 am

_My own observation is that career academics have consolidated their hold over senior leadership positions in UK universities_

Interesting sub-theme, the numbers of senior positions held by people who served under Howard Newby when he was Southampton VC.


ptl 11.25.11 at 12:05 pm

Andrew Fisher @ 5, but I think “hasn’t traditionally” isn’t all that accurate (I agree Rees probably doesn’t count): I saw Davies’ appointment as something a little new.

I’ve no idea what the VC etc. trend is, I admit. But when I got the (alum) email about Calhoun, I wasn’t all that surprised.


Andrew Fisher 11.25.11 at 12:22 pm

Wikipedia gives us a handy list. Before Giddens were Ashworth (a biologist I think, but presumably hired for his Government experience), Patel (again with a Government background, albeit Indian), Dahrendorf (an EU Commissioner), Adams (a colonial administrator). Even though I am British and ought to know better, I feel entitled to regard anything that dates back to before I was born as ‘traditional’.

I’m not sure that there is a trend amongst VCs (Shan Hackett was a retired general – but he was pretty unusual even in the 60s, I think) so much as at the next layer down with the onward march of the PVCs, so I think LSE’s past practice has been a little unusual.

Chris@6 when I worked for Sir Howard I used to think he would make a fine Bond villain – the kind of man who could discuss art or culture or plot to destroy the world with the same disinterested courtesy.


David Voas 11.25.11 at 12:56 pm

Bear in mind that Dahrendorf was an extremely distinguished scholar as well as a public figure.


LFC 11.25.11 at 1:41 pm

Dahrendorf (an EU Commissioner)
Ralf Dahrendorf had both a political and an academic career; was a prof at various universities. I’ve never read it but I’ve seen Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society cited many times.

I like [Calhoun] a lot better than Anthony Giddens
Giddens’s The Constitution of Society (1984), the only thing of his I’ve read (well, I’ve read parts of it), is quite lucid and well written. The library copy of it I read some years ago had had so much use that it was practically falling apart. (I know in the 90s he went off onto the ‘third way’ stuff etc. but he’d written a lot before that.)


ptl 11.25.11 at 1:42 pm

8. My “trend”, Andrew, refers to your “have consolidated their hold”.

I did check the list of Principals before posting. My tradition extends further back than yours, but really I only meant that Calhoun’s appointment doesn’t seem a departure from tradition to me.

And yes, Dahrendorf was a Commissioner when he was appointed, but he was also a noted sociologist.

so I think LSE’s past practice has been a little unusual

perhaps not that unusual among London colleges? (I don’t only mean Kings, though Hackett wasn’t, surely, their only principal who wasn’t a career academic?)


Andrew Fisher 11.25.11 at 3:57 pm


Sorry if I was unclear in my 7. I was trying to clarify that my original reference to ‘senior leadership positions’ wasn’t only – or even mainly – refering to VCs. It is quite natural that you took that meaning from what I said, because I wrote without due care and attention.

Equally I wasn’t trying to suggest either that Calhoun is a controversial appointment, or that any of his predecessors were intellectually undistinguished.

And no, Hackett certainly isn’t the only non-academic Principal of Kings – not even the most recent. He sprang to mind because I reread his biography recently

I should probably stop digging about now…

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