The Reader: Spare a thought for the humble sociologists

DAVID Cannadine cites the crucial role of the humanities for understanding the world [“Let’s hear it for the humanities — knowledge for our future”, June 21]. He lists them almost in their entirety but somehow neglects to mention sociology — the very foundation from which all other disciplines can be understood.

He goes on to say that studying humanities subjects practically guarantees employment — that, then, might explain why as a sociologist with a PhD I have yet to sustain a full year of work on any project or tenure and find it increasingly difficult to translate my seven-year investment and commitment to anything more than paid sessional teaching work at £30 per hour or guest lecturing on a daily rate.

And sadly I’m not the only PhD sociologist this position. I’m sure Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels might also argue for the role of the humble sociologist to be included in Cannadine’s list.
Fiona Peters


Dear Fiona

You mention Karl Marx: his example doesn’t offer much encouragement, I’m afraid — aside from some jobbing journalism he never had a proper job. On the other hand, he did change the world.

I was proud to carry David Cannadine’s defence of the humanities in the paper: his point was that ideas from Britain have been part of human progress for centuries and will go on being a part, if we give them a chance. At a time when it is fashionable for policymakers (many of whom studied humanities not science) to talk of the superiority of STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), it’s good to remember that subjects such as history will define our future, too.

Universities shouldn’t shy away from teaching them and students should want to study them. Meanwhile, good luck finding an interesting job, as I am sure you will.

Julian Glover, Associate Editor (Comment)

The US should not provoke Iran

I WAS surprised it took until June 20 before Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a US surveillance drone. President Trump immediately ordered a retaliatory military strike on Iran but changed his mind while his finger hovered over the button.

It’s difficult to imagine a performance more likely to send the wrong signals to the religious fanatics who run Iran and whose record for allowing brinkmanship, political miscalculation and provocation to spill over into armed conflict is legendary.

When the US last tried to protect neutral shipping against Revolutionary Guard attacks in the Gulf in 1988, the gung-ho crew of the USS Vincennes managed to shoot down an Iranian civilian airliner full of pilgrims, mistaking it for an attacking jet. And most neutral intelligence experts believe the Lockerbie atrocity was masterminded by Iran in retaliation.

Donald Trump should get on the campaign trail, tell the good ol’ boys how great America is, and leave the Middle East alone.
John Cameron

Ejecting protester was not ‘abuse’

IF SOMEONE breaches security and invades a gathering of the country’s decision-makers they must expect to be bundled out, be they a man or woman [“Minister facing ‘assault’ probe”, June 21]. Mark Field was only doing what security should have done, and he should not be pilloried.
Tony Jones

PEOPLE break into a private function and are escorted off the premises. The person ejecting them is accused of “abuse”. Surely when someone enters any property that does not belong to them and to which they have not been invited, what happens to them is their own problem?
Graham Cornwell

Businesses need to behave better

I SHARE your City editor Jim Armitage’s views on businesses when he says “if businesses don’t want to be vilified, more should behave better” [The Reader, June 21]. Big companies, including charities, are often creative with the truth and have zero people experience.

“Human resources”? The term deserves oblivion but how can you tell bosses that employees are people? And I won’t even comment on the huge salaries: my comments would be censorable in all known languages.
Chris Declerc