Tag Archives: PhD

The ‘Rights and Responsibilities of the PhDS: An extension Talcott Parsons didn’t think of

As I’ve been slaving over a hot keyboard morning, noon and night of late, having ramped it up in an effort to put this beast to bed – it has occurred to me, socially isolated, tired, often distressed, anxious (well, not really), fraught with uncertainty, contributing very little to our domestic bliss as my partner does all of the chores – should we revisit Parsons’ Sick Role (1951) and consider the ‘Role of the PhD Student (PhDS)’? or perhaps any post graduate student. Let’s think about it (I am using Howard Brody’s(2003 p. 53-54) interpretation  of Parson’s rights and responsibilities of the sick role here to frame the ‘rights and responsibilities of the PhDS’ . (footnote – for ‘her/she – substitute him/him/he as appropriate) –

1) The PhDS has an inability to perform her socially approved roles that is not correctable by her own actions: She cannot be held responsible for her failure.

2) The PhD is a legitimate excuse from performing role responsibilities; excusing the PhDS from her duties is not to be viewed as special favouritism or as weakening role expectations generally within society.

3) The PhDS shares the same basic value assumptions as the rest of society. In particualr, the student state is devalued, and the PhDS is seen as deriving no pleasure or satisfaction. (If the person seemed to be actively seeking to occupy the study, society would regard the person as ‘deviant’ and reclassify the deviance as sin or disloyalty).

4) The PhDS seeks the the help of the socially identified authority and puts herself under that authority’s regimen as part of the desire to complete the thesis. She is expected to be adherent to the authority’s prescriptions and edits. Failure to adhere to the academic regimen also carries the risk of reclassifying the deviance as ‘not really wanting to finish’.

I think that there are some useful similarities there, however, Talcott was a great thinker and probably found his doctorate to be 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration unlike the rest of us who tend to experience the converse.