08 June 2014

Gainful game of academic publishing

First posted at Progressive Geographies:

My experience with academic publishing is dispiriting. Mostly editors and so-called peer reviewers don't like (my) thinking, but demand standard scientific or 
scholarly discourse instead. The lesson: Don't rock the academic boat. Don't challenge orthodoxy in its infinite variety and complacency. Academic publishing is a rigged game. Academics (thankfully, I'm not one) have to publish in well-reputed journals or by a well-reputed publisher to get ahead in their careers by boosting their who-status as somewho purportedly worth listening to, who gets a pat on the back from colleagues. 

The academic scholar has to submit to the publisher's rules and, these days, often even has to pay for the review and editing process, or the printing, him/herself. Academic reputation has a monetary price. The publisher then locks up the textual product behind a pay-wall. For a single short article today's standard prices are around USD30 up to USD50 or EUR40. At that price, your article doesn't get into wide circulation to polish your reputation. Those citing it are largely those with a pre-paid institutional access, i.e. those with some more or less modest position of power in an academic institution. They're the ones who have a say in whether your career flourishes or withers on the vine. Keep the club closed for the initiated. Apart from gouging academic authors in reputational need, the whole who-game stinks, serving as it does to keep thinking within bounds already established by some institutional power play or other. Maybe you're lucky or clever enough to be swimming along in one of the current streams, whether main or subsidiary. Just be prepared for disappointment and exclusion if you try to think anything hitherto unheard of.

So academic publishing is one more instance of how the gainful game can be played. The latter is infinitely versatile. The quest to see more clearly pursued by the precious few, too, is a power play with winners and losers.

Further on the gainful game as a socio-ontological constellation.


  1. Unfortunately para-academic publishing is also an arena for the gainful game (what I have called the "game of thrones": http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/bourdieu-academias-game-of-thrones/). Disappointment and exclusion are the rule for interactions on the blogosphere as well.

  2. Thanks for the link, which is interesting. What you address as the Game of Thrones I regard as a version of the Emperor's New Clothes. Everyone knows very well of the ubiquitous power plays, but, if you have skin in this game, it is very impolite to say anything publicly about it, even and especially if you are a philosophy professor. I say that this philosophical nakedness has to be remedied by a thinking that puts the phenomenon of whoness itself centre stage to show that these who-power-plays are not merely unfortunate or deplorable facts of life, but themselves call for a simple thinking to see more clear and gain distance. The individuation you speak of I see as the possibility of casting your ownmost self, i.e. the self-mask that fits you best of all for as long as you are around to play the who-game. Philosophical re-flection back onto your self is a therapy for hubris as well as alleviating blindness. In German I speak of the Wertsch├Ątzspiel (literally: value-estimation-game) among people and things, i.e. whos and whats. This is a socio-ontological concept, not merely a descriptive word. It is supposed to capture in thought the presencing and absencing of whos and whats in a play of mutual assessment and valuation that can take on myriad shades from accolades and fame through to denigration and annihilation of reputation.