Taking the gilt off the gingerbread: Reverberations of the metrics cult(ure) on the theory of social representations

  • Ana Tomicic La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Keywords: neoliberalization, market-oriented academia, impact factor, bibliometric culture, social psychology, social representations


There is a prevailing view that the university is transforming into an economic agent, with broad and troubling implications for scholars’ future prospects. While some studies were devoted to the academic world considering its organizational approaches centered on the rationalization of universities, it is important to devote some focus to the ways these changes translate in specific cases of universities’ knowledge production. It is to the description of a particular case of theory diffusion necessarily embedded within the academic world it emerged out of, developed in and still matures in, that this work will be giving priority—the case of the Theory of Social Representations. Since Serge Moscovici’s 1961 seminal study of social representations (Moscovici, 1961), the theory was developed through different theoretical and methodological approaches, conceptualized through various models, and most importantly widely adopted all over the world by scholars of diverse disciplinary perspectives working in a variety of thematic fields. But the theoretical polarity between the transdisciplinary Theory of Social Representations and “mainstream Social Psychology” is reflected through an ongoing world debate, although largely held within the circles of European social psychologists. The stakes of these internal debates are high: an integral redefinition of the discipline, of social sciences, and of knowledge diffusion. Even though the theoretical core of Moscovici’s theory is an undoubtedly valuable contribution to the social sciences, its methodological incompatibilities with “what sells” leaves it structurally ostracized, and its potential unfulfilled. This article examines the interplay of European tradition, its disciplinary legacy, and market-oriented trends which have undoubtedly impacted the developmental paths the Theory has followed.

Author Biography

Ana Tomicic, La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

ANA TOMICIC I am a social anthropologist and PhD in Social Representations and Communication. In my thesis, I address issues surrounding the neoliberalisation of European academia, examining the ideological support of the current change within the university. My research focuses on the sociology of knowledge and higher education reform. I consider the specific ways and mechanisms through which Universities can act as drivers for social and economic transformation. La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy – ana.tomicic@uniroma1.it

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