I’m pulling out a comment below because I think it makes a great point: why the instant concession to Scull?
Or, more fully from the linked article at Limited, Inc:
The more interesting question, however, is why Scull was instantly conceded to be right, and Foucault wrong? I think this might be on account of the general beating Continentalist are perceived to have received from Sokal and Bricmont. That perception is wholly based on the idea that Sokal is a hard scientist, a physicist. What Foucault did was make us question experts – and he appeared at a time when the advice of experts, from that given about the Vietnam war to the dangers of radiation, fell into disrepute. Unfortunately, knowledge by authority is a very powerful thing – in Weber’s triad of legitimations, tradition/authority is at the center. It is especially powerful when the authority figure bases his authority on reason – but then uses the authority qua authority to squash opposition. This is just what Scull did. The scurrying for the exits done by Foucaultist is a painful reminder that, on the whole, academics can be defined as those people who have been extraordinarily influenced, in their development, by the classroom. Thus, their rebellions are most easily quenched when a teacher figure comes through the door.
I wondered this myself, several times, although this is put more eloquently and forcefully. So the answer seems to be empiricism vs. theory, or, expertise vs. novice-like interpretation.
It was Scull who set up these categories and some Foucauldians who conceded them (I hope I didn’t; I wanted them investigated in say a 1-day conference on historical sources). Where the expert does set up we can examine the grounds for the truth-claims established certainly (but that is different from saying the expertise does not exist, it is a critique about what is used to prop up the claim to expertise and the notion of expertise and can be very revealing about what a society values–in this case “empiricism” and “science”).
Roger at Limited Inc. is if not the first post then the most detailed to engage with Scull without either conceding Scull’s attack or retreating to “alpha-omega” scholarship.