Reviewing (i.e. bashing) David Warsh’s Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations for the Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Philip Mirowski (2007: 492), concluded:
I pity the poor student of modern economics, trying to make some sense of what can only appear to the outsider as cryptic oracular pronouncements emitted from people who claim to be experts in the nature and validity of knowledge.* But when you get your news from Jon Stewart, your history from Paul Krugman, and your research facts from Wikipedia, maybe the nature of knowledge has itself changed.
The end of the sentence is tinged with what I believe is Mirowski’s utter disdain for popular culture. It takes, however, just a few days for a non-American person to realize that Jon Stewart’s Daily Show is certainly a better source of information than any other cable news (CNN included …), though I personally prefer the Colbert Report.
But my question is: what about Wikipedia? I have to confess I use it quite frequently, for some basic research at work as well as for some more silly inquiry about music, cinema or celebrities at home. Of course, I never take the information that is given there as granted and I think it is rather crucial to double check it with a more formal source of information, but I have largely benefited from the bibliography that is often provided at the end of articles. I am fairly impressed by the fact that some anonymous people have spent some time writing on E. Roy Weintraub or Waldemar Kaempffert, sometimes advertising the works of others without any reward. All in all, there is an underlying model of disinterestedness scientists should be proud (or envious?) of … Why, on the contrary, they spend so much time bashing it is therefore a mistery to me. Where does this idea that an increasing dissemination of knowledge corresponds to a degeneration of its substance come from? Jealousy? Elitism? Declinism? Conservatism? Repugnance for the “neoliberal” ideology they think such modes of dissemination sustain?
PS: Thanks to Wikipedia, for example, I learned that philosopher of science Susan Oyama has been married to the late great contemporary composer Luciano Berio from 1966 to 1972. Pretty interesting …
* I should point out that Mirowski is not referring to David Warsh here but to Paul Krugman, though his using the plural of “experts” is quite intriguing.