Interdisciplinarity: theory and practice

Max Weber

Guido Palazzo (note 1) posted the following on LinkedIn on 8 September 2022 (note 2):

When Max Weber was criticized by a colleague for publishing outside of his own discipline, he responded: "I am not a donkey, and I don't have a field”. Today, free-ranging intellectuals are almost extinct. Transdisciplinary thinking has become a career risk. Scientists are supposed to stay in their field like donkeys. However, the big problems of the world are transdisciplinary. Donkeys won't solve them.

My comment on Guido Palazzos post (adapted):

We have all experienced this. An example that comes to mind is from when I worked at the World Bank durinh the 1990s. My unit, composed of social scientists, worked on social issues in general, and on involuntary resettlement and indigenous peoples issues in particular. As a social anthropologist I was interested in natural sciences and the interface of Nature and Culture. Towards this I got involved in fisheries projects, among others in Bangladesh. My manager did not like this. She said: "We have biologists down the corridor, this is their responsibility. You should continue your work on resettlement and indigenous peoples".
I would like to hope that things have changed, but I am not sure. The compartmentalization of disciplines is profound and very basic, including in institutions like the World Bank that work on applied and interdiciplinary issues. Our educational system is heavily responsible for this.

Further comments


Lars Soeftestad

(1) Guido Palazzo profile:
(2) LinkedIn article:
(3) Image credit: Max Weber, from the LinkedIn post, source unknown.
(4) Relevant Devblog articles: "x" at:
(5) Permalink:
(6) This article was published 9 September 2022. It was revised 29 April 2024.