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THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS
ESSAYS ON ACADEMIC LIFE AND SURVIVAL
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NE 68512 www. Suite 100 Lincoln. recording.iuniverse. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means. taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. graphic. iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse 2021 Pine Lake Road. including photocopying.THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ESSAYS ON ACADEMIC LIFE AND SURVIVAL Copyright © 2006 by Alf Rehn All rights reserved. electronic.com 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677) ISBN-13: 978-0-595-39158-5 (pbk) ISBN-13: 978-0-595-83545-4 (ebk) ISBN-10: 0-595-39158-3 (pbk) ISBN-10: 0-595-83545-7 (ebk) Printed in the United States of America . or mechanical.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity. . . . . . 1 The Importance of Journals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 On Alternatives and Heresies. . . . . 76 References . . 50 A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars . . . . . . . . . . . . .Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . vii Ch a p t e r 1 Ch a p t e r 2 Ch a p t e r 3 Ch a p t e r 4 Ch a p t e r 5 Ch a p t e r 6 Ch a p t e r 7 Ch a p t e r 8 Ten Commandments for Scholars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Essay: The Moral Economy of Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Essay: On the Research Economy . . . 87 v . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Particularly there are important differences career-wise. In other words. tenured professor at age 31. I was then the youngest full professor in Finland. but I do not think that my views should be understood as even an attempt at a dogmatic viewpoint. I was appointed as a full. My personal road through the wilds of academia has been a bit odd. No. Sweden. think that there are things that exist on a level of generality that trump these differences. I do not see myself as an expert in careers. befriended a mentor. ideas. where the humanities and the social sciences belong to a different way of thinking compared to the world of technology and the natural sciences. Note: I know my experience with academia is mostly European. Professor Claes Gustafsson. These are simply my own personal observations and include everything from my thoughts regarding academic ethics to some advice regarding publishing. Clearly. I earned the title of Docent (similar to the German Habilitation) from the same institution. and I realize I can say very little about making your way in academia on the natural sciences-side of the reservation. I had.Introduction The following text is a collection of my thoughts. I’m talking about the academia I know. and my grades weren’t that great. nor do I think I have all the answers. I got my PhD of Industrial Management at this institution. I do. and got it. Later. I then applied for the chair in organization and management at my old alma mater. I have written this text because I think I have something to say. however. vii . Even in a European context. however. who took me on as a doctoral researcher and later as a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. I earned a masters of science degree from a small Finnish university. I was seen as frightfully young to be a full professor. I still believe that there are important differences. I should also point out that even though I believe there is much wrong with the old notion of the “two worlds” argument. having written a dissertation on gift economies and software piracy. and that there are differences when compared to the system in the United States. and may still be the youngest full professor in the ﬁeld of business and management in Scandinavia. and advice regarding a career in academia.
Instead. and I make no claims to cover everything there is to be said about the academic career. I want to present a series of essays regarding things I feel strongly about. On the other hand. but mostly it’s been smooth sailing. It should be noted that the following essays cover different kinds of issues in different kinds of ways. I’ve had a few bumps in the road. I hope I have succeeded. I’ve led something of a charmed academic life. Far from it. One could argue that I am fundamentally unsuitable to write a book such as this since I haven’t come across enough hardship. —Alf Rehn.viii THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS So. I’ve seen some things during these years. tenured professor-at-large . so I believe I may still have something to say. and I’ve had more than my share of friends in dire academic straits.
As odd as it seems. stop caring. our ethical stance. Love what you do. these “commandments” constitute what I believe are necessary for having a meaningful life. love the 1 . many people in academia are miserable and do not really want to be there except to pick up a paycheck. and as in so many endeavors. not truths or necessities for others. and I believe that this is important for any academic. Two. in academia. These are my own commandments. This. in this chapter I will try to outline what I believe are the most important points for a scholar (or an academic. we have to ask if a life unexamined is worth living. 1. So. many people in academia live by other rules and heed other principles. a way to look for meaning in a profession that frequently seems devoid of meaning. The most important commandment for any academic is also the most ignored. Our statement. but then. These people can often be some of the saddest individuals you’ll come across. even ﬁght for them. One. therefore. most people working in academia are not there for any love of knowledge or sense of intellectual adventure. a life all too few actually enjoy. One could call this an attempt at outlining ethics for researchers.1 Ten Commandments for Scholars I always wanted to make my own statement as to what being a scholar means. They are there because they just happened to get stuck in an academic environment and do not know what else to do. is a declaration of how to live the good life in academia. I have not attempted to create an orthodox set of rules for the academic life. but rather wanted to note some of the things I believe to be important in academia. They act like ghosts who haunt the corridors or the classrooms. rather than a torpid existence. Anything is preferable to this. There are two ways to handle it. but I will stake a claim as to their importance. Simply put. terms I use interchangeably) to follow. is the foundation of our research. and just shufﬂe through eight hours a day like a zombie. Certainly.
I would have gotten out a long time ago. however. the rage to ﬁght that which kills the soul and the passion that will drive you onward. is both strenuous and difﬁcult. And just as in life. does not mean that one should follow this path of least resistance. I am saying that if you want to be in this ﬁeld. there is no manual. consequently. at least in part. In order to be a true academic. think about your reasons for choosing this path. But so does every job. So love what you do. never really challenging anything. The most important thing. Science builds on original insight and thrives on conﬂict. you have to ﬁnd your own passion. Do you think it will advance your career? Do you think it will help you gain acceptance among your peers? Do you think it will bring you lucrative consulting gigs? Then stop. Being original. your own reason to love it. Sadly. and times when I feel I want out. If you have the passion for it. For your own sake. Be original. To be proud of one’s academic work.2 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS research and truly be passionate about academia. academia can be a fun place. This. in scholarship as in life. I am blessed because I am doing what I truly want to do. I am not saying that you have to love academia. you have to . Were it not for that. there are times I dislike it. Most people cannot and should not. the easiest way to get published is to be carefully unoriginal. you must be able to go. is love. because soon you’ll realize it’s not really worth it. never trying out anything even remotely adventurous. the writing. and I know that the passion I have for academia and scholarship is the thing that will keep me aﬂoat. Happiness can be found in so many places. Obviously. 2. and the thinking is critical to having a good life within academia. By then. And if you don’t love it. In order to be original. What you must do is ﬁnd the reasons you still want to do this strange thing. and an enjoyable place. to have something of substance to bring to the discussion. and this business will kill you if you let it. in a world I want to be a part of. however. and getting out will be hard. but because you feel sure it is what you want to do. There are no courses that teach you this. against the grain. Before you enter academia. I believe it is critical to ﬁnd a way to be original. Loving the work. however. most of what is published in the social sciences is completely unoriginal. you will have invested too much time. love it or leave it. and times when the work contains infuriating and boring elements. Those are horrible reasons to get into the grind. the inevitable crush of academia will eventually destroy you. a good place. not because it sounds cool or makes your mother proud. Most people do alarmingly well by never doing anything original and by generally just agreeing with other people.
a good way to get an audience but has precious little to do with actual original thinking. is often looked upon with bewilderment by academics. but that’s about it. we are not as wary as we maybe should be. out of a larger project rather than out of the relentless striving to be different. go to boring conferences and generally do a lot of foundation work. What is important here is to realize that originality doesn’t necessarily mean saying something brand new but saying something that you believe in and that engages you. Some people also mistakenly think that generosity is a social behavior that doesn’t have a place in the individualist “publish or perish” ethos one often ascribes to academics. and. and your original statements should spring from an original project rather than from individual insights. It is also a . and its nefarious inﬂuence can be seen all over academia. in order to be original. and too few realize that this is a bad idea. Generosity. Often. academia can best be understood as a peculiar kind of social economy where gifts and commodities intermingle and where competition and generosity can productively co-exist between people (cf. But it is my conviction that greed is one of the greatest dangers in academic life. It may bring down some rightful spite on unoriginal thinking. Originality is not the same as formalistic criticism. and one that will make one a lesser scholar. This is. for it often seems that truly original thinkers just turn up fully formed.Ten Commandments for Scholars 3 understand your ﬁeld. my essay on the research economy). Original thinking is born out of someone trying to be a serious thinker. for all the beneﬁts it can bring. Originality is not a case of singular activities. To be original is a question of having a serious intellectual project and to be able to say something engaging based on this. of course. In fact. You cannot start out as an original thinker. The most unoriginal thing in the world is saying something just because you think this is what you’re supposed to be saying and that you believe people want to hear. Being original is a process. thus. one comes across the mistaken idea that. The fact that greed exists in every sphere dominated by humans is almost assumed. one must start by trashing everything that came before. you become one through hard work and the paying of dues. 3. But scratch a little and you will ﬁnd a lot of hard work underneath the ease and elegance of originality. read tons of bad studies and hackneyed papers. Too many people in academia are greedy. This is a big mistake. on the other hand. I think this may be due to people mistakenly inferring from the often-lonely work of scholarship that academia is an individual endeavor rather than a social one. Be generous. Personally. This step often bothers people.
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mistake because it limits our understanding of what science, in fact, is. To me, as to Koestler, science is a long-term ongoing discussion, where the individual academic has but a brief walk-in part. We are part of a long debate, make our statements as parts of a complex interwoven series of commentaries, and have to show some humility. Generosity, in this context, is a question of paying homage, being able to say who has affected your thinking—and also whom you are thinking with, as the notion of thinking as an individual activity should be abandoned. We always do our thinking as a relation and an engagement with others, and a generous acknowledgment of this is a way to show how your thinking actually works. It is also a way to invite others to think with you, rather than showing off something like an internal (and uninteresting) monologue. Academic generosity can come in many forms. It can be something small, like referencing a doctoral student in an article, even though you could easily ignore it, or it can be bringing people into a workshop or a publication, or it can be a case of simply remembering to mention good work in a random conversation. It is always, however, a case of having respect for academia as a social sphere. It is also a question of having respect for yourself. 4. See the world. Academics often get accused of being recluses, cooped up in their ivory towers. And often, the accusers are right, all too right. Many scholars are myopic, and although many of them travel quite extensively, they normally just go from one corridor to another or from one lecture hall to the next. For an academic, seeing the world should be something more than merely experiencing sightseeing tours and lecturing to other students. My exhortation to see the world is not necessarily an issue of travel and globalization. The contemporary academic already travels, sometimes too much. The issue is more of how you observe the world, the way in which you position yourself in relation to it. Far too many academics look upon the world as a resource for their working purposes rather than as something to exist in as an academic. This leads to a strange disassociation, with people writing about the world as if it were something alien to them, rather than the context within which all text exists in. Seeing the world is a question of realizing the place one has in it as well as being able to be fascinated by the world as a world. Too often academics separate their world as it exists in their research—often making this a very limited one—and the world as it exists in the rest of their lives. It makes for a perverted view of the world in academic writing, and it makes academics unnecessarily lim-
Ten Commandments for Scholars
ited as people. To me, the good academic life extends beyond the corridors of the university. Seeing the world is also an epistemological question. All too often academics will see the world only through their own lenses. It is important not to let your discipline limit the way in which you view the world. Instead, allow yourself to be amazed by the complexity and multifaceted nature of reality. A good academic will always be prepared to ﬁnd something completely new and surprising in the world—preferably something contradicting everything one has thought and claimed before—regardless of which part of it one travels in. 5. Make friends. Academia is social, regardless of what it looks like from the outside. Still, people underestimate the importance of things such as friendship and having good people around you. But as thinking never happens in a vacuum, and is never a completely solitary activity, it is critical to surround yourself with a group of peers with whom you feel comfortable and with whom you enjoy working, and, not to be forgotten, a group who can challenge you and force you to sharpen your thinking. Still, people often see that making friends is something separate from academic life. In order to be a well-rounded academic, making friends is something you have to work on. I’m not talking about viewing your friends as instrumental parts of your career, nor do I believe that friends should be chosen and evaluated based on whether they can assist your academic endeavors. Instead I’m talking about not viewing academia as a neutral and sterile sphere and trying to ﬁnd the social and pleasurable aspects of this business. Friends are not necessarily something that exist separately from the work but can be an important source of input, critique, and inspiration. Scholarship is difﬁcult enough as it is, so why go at it all alone? 6. Don’t cheat. It isn’t difﬁcult to cheat in science. In the social sciences, it is exceptionally easy. If you want to, you can make up all your data, create a bogus organization, make up your informants, and invent all of your interviews and ﬁeld notes. You can tell stories and fantasize. It can be done. Still, it is important, and critical, not to do it. And this is not only a question of lying. Cheating in the academic sphere comes in many forms. Sometimes we are talking about clearly illegal or immoral activities, such as falsifying data, stealing material from others, misrepresentation of the facts, or other such malfeasance. At other times, cheating is more a question of not behaving honorably or simply fooling oneself. My warning about not cheating might, in fact, be less about the
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problem of unethical behavior than the ease by which one can fall into such behavior. The problem is that cutting corners and overstating your case is endemic in academia. People reference without having read sources, exaggerate the originality of their statements, and “borrow” thinking quite often, and some of these quick ﬁxes are even slyly celebrated in the ﬁeld. Such dirty tricks can at times be helpful and are not in and of themselves unethical. The problem is, however, that an indiscriminate use of shortcuts can lead to an academic thinking that academia is a case of “anything goes,” and that all tricks you can get away with should be used. Here’s the problem: After a while, you will no longer see the difference between a trick and unethical behavior and may well start deluding yourself into thinking that things such as plagiarism and making up data really aren’t so bad. And, sooner or later, you will get caught. Not cheating is itself not a question of pretending to be perfectly righteous and morally superior to others; rather, it is a case of looking at your own behaviors and reﬂecting upon them. There will always be times when you’ll feel the temptation to cut corners. The important thing is to be aware of what you’re doing and not to let the lure of the quick-ﬁx take over. Cheaters do sometimes prosper, but all too often they come out losing in the end. 7. Stay true. In order to become an academic, a real one, you need to develop not only ethics, but also a solid identity. It is too easy to become just another gadﬂy, an intellectual gun-for-hire, and thus lose all sight of what being a scholar should be about. Think about it: Why in the world are you an academic? What is it that made you love it? What made you think it would be worthy as an endeavor? You can easily lose yourself in the academic game and start believing that it is the ﬁtting-in rather than the standing-out that is important. In fact, quite a few academics look like they no longer have an idea what their original identity was, and are condemned to play a part for the rest of their lives. This is also why so many academics seem to be depressed. It is easier to adopt a role, and it is often rewarded. Research ﬁnancing often depends on being able to fabricate a suitable identity, and it can sometimes be easier to publish if you live up to certain expectations. At the same time, a short-term obsession with such matters will hurt you in the long run, as you’ll be doing things for the wrong reasons and often reasons you do not understand. In order to develop a serious intellectual project, it is important that this is grounded in who you are and what you want to accom-
Quite often. for without it we become dogmatic and lose the very heart of our common project. and a continuously ironical attitude toward yourself and established notions of propriety. I see it as a kind of humility and a desire to continue and a warning against becoming complacent and lazy. 8. You can survive in academia for a long time on your old work. and scholarship depend not on sticking to dogma. making any real development a lot more difﬁcult in the future. you lose sight of the big picture. Real intellectual work is always a reﬂection of your identity. forget playing intellectual dress-up. and in this way cliques are born. But this habit makes you a lesser scholar and hurts academia as a whole. your thinking suffers. Have pride in your work.Ten Commandments for Scholars 7 plish. Don’t take yourself too seriously. but be humble. the egomania—are the direct result of this kind of erroneous belief in the completeness of a project. It is rather sad to see how few aca- . Research. The most dangerous thing in the world is to believe your own hype. Forget becoming too serious minded. academics seem to think that they are granted the considerable freedom they enjoy by way of their special standing in the universe and that they. science. and you will not only become a bore but a lesser scholar. None of this is a good or beneﬁcial thing for a scholar. This is not merely a question of adhering to a research ethic but one of your place in a larger context. but on progress. the cult of the academic superstar. The easiest way to stop questioning is to believe yourself to be above it. are responsible only to themselves and their personal career paths. An ironical attitude about yourself and your project shouldn’t be confused with selling yourself short or in not having pride in your work. critical thinking. Once you’ve started to think your project is beyond reproach. Take responsibility. a serious scholar knows it’s the journey that’s important. Do so. and others can distinguish the real from the phony. many of the ills of the academic world—the xenophobia. In fact. Being a scholar is a long-term project. consequently. You start assuming that you’re always right. When you start taking yourself seriously. and you shouldn’t spoil it for short-term beneﬁts. Academia needs constant questioning. you’ll also start thinking that others are beyond reproach. and you lose the ability to look critically at your work. and many are happy to milk their old projects for as long as humanly possible. And wouldn’t you rather have some fun than play the po-faced adult? 9. rather than in some outside idea of propriety. While a mediocre thinker may need the accouterments.
Make a difference. And if more scholars would live in accordance with this. unengaged ones. be a structure that would support this. What such a reﬂection can do is to awaken a sense of responsibility. and how you can make it part of your academic life. you do have a certain power. The important thing. make sure that you’ll make a difference. might be only part of the solution. the very world might actually be a little bit better. Taking responsibility does not have to mean affecting politics or taking a stand in the media. and it needs them now. Academics could be a productive. it is important to reﬂect on this. not does it need more listless. Regardless of the way you choose to use your potential in the world.8 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS demics try to enact some form of change and try to use the possibilities they are given to make a positive difference in the world. passionate scholars. Jean-Paul Sartre. As an academic you have the freedom to try new things and speak your mind. to support the notion of scholars as active and productive agents in the world. who said “hell is other people. and we should all do our part. although important. socially engaged. therefore. individual project. . That’s why it would be important for us. and to actually be taken seriously. 10. An academic can. generally important force in society. the world is far from perfect. Academia should. very few feel like they can actually make a difference. take some time to think about what responsibilities might come with this. and should. make a difference. and could. politically important. If you’ve decided to be an academic. So I say: If you’re going to be a scholar. If we could all remember this. Taking responsibility. you will have a far better chance to speak to the media. Even though most academics will privately talk about the potential of scholars. as a group. As an academic. it can be something as simple as treating doctoral students with some kindness or trying to do your part in defeating sexism in the academic workplace. The world doesn’t need any more bad scholars. regardless of whether you utilize your potential or not. both as individuals and as a group. the university might be a better place for all.” Also. engaged. comment on policy. think about how it ties to your project. and it might not be mere coincidence that it was an academic. is to think about the ways in which you will affect (or not affect) the world. It needs active. In my view. Academia can be a horrible place. but all too few actively work toward such a goal. Think through what kind of difference you want to make. How will you use this opportunity? Although the individual academic will probably feel pretty powerless. being a scholar should be about something more than just your own.
commandments are unnecessary. . If you do. What is important. in your heart of hearts. You may have other commandments you adhere to. The important thing is to realize that you have to have a point with your academic life. or that this would be anything even remotely like a complete list. and this is the reason I’ve tried to create a list. and other priorities. and try to make this into a version of the good life. and this is OK. some form of sense that it is more than a salaried job. is that you reﬂect on your life as an academic. and it isn’t. But this isn’t even the point of a list like this.Ten Commandments for Scholars 9 Note that I’m not saying that these “commandments” would be the only ones. They’re not.
therefore. There are rituals to follow and unwritten rules to abide by. or even a minor. Still. Further. I will here refer to the kind of journals I know. Lastly. I was actually raised in a culture that didn’t rate journals highly. Consequently. An understanding of a particular journal requires a serious engagement with it and takes time and effort. in some cases. It can. and so on. and not getting into a journal can be a career-breaker. The little I now know. being rejected. there are some peculiarities that at ﬁrst make little sense. and a lot of things about publishing in them cannot be learned except through a long process of reading. nor is he widely published therein. Culture & Society) seem to lack a logic altogether. there are things to be learned from observing the process in its entirety. that is. I learned the hard way. and idiosyncrasies. Also. and what is written here should be interpreted as my understandings of the game. resubmitting. there are aspects of the general process of being published in a journal that can be taught. submitting.2 The Importance of Journals For the modern scholar. quirks. they do make a difference in an academic’s career. It should also be noted that the author isn’t a great believer in the journals. the importance of the academic journal cannot be exaggerated. Regardless what we think of journals. not eternal truths or natural law. journals in the social 10 . in more ways than one. A well-received article in a top journal can start a career. there are certain technical facts that may seem trivial but that are often unknown to a young scholar just starting in academia. writing. and instead emphasized the monograph as what scholarship was all about. rewriting. Getting published in a major. Some venerable journals (such as Theory. and we have to relate to them. but still have to be kept in mind. Each journal has its own language. journals take time. journal is always a happy event in the life of an academic. take years of intense study to truly understand the publishing logic of some journals. nobody taught me how to write for the journals. and doing so by proxy may help a beginning scholar. In part.
A typical journal is structured in a speciﬁc way. this is often a lot easier than conceptual development. The latter are normally written by senior professors. Different journals put different emphasis on this section. The third part of the typical journal is dedicated to book reviews. too. paper normally will be judged on originality and whether it brings something new to the debate. designed to be read in a certain way. . In addition to the articles. “fun stuff. they can be a good place to publish conceptual ideas. a lot of these papers tend to be fairly monotonous reviews of what someone else (such as a philosopher) has been saying. one I can say very little about). Still. too. As these sections put less emphasis on form. Usually. empirical papers are normally the easiest ones to get published. and review articles that condense a wider discussion and/or literature. so it is important to check the journal beforehand. I have been mainly published in organization studies. although original theoretical works can be wellreceived. sometimes known as a conceptual. such as notes. Review articles are often seen as slightly less “important” than empirical or theoretical papers. and some lack it altogether. The main content of a journal is the scholarly article. these texts are not ranked as highly as scholarly articles. From a career perspective. Obviously. Of these three categories. an editor commissions these reviews although you can contact the editor and suggest one. there is a ritualistic quality to a certain kind of theoretical papers and in reality they are not viewed as particularly original. A theoretical. and case studies. but most of what I know seems to hold across the social sciences (journals in the natural sciences is another world. Contents of a Typical Journal The ﬁrst thing to realize is that a journal isn’t just a wrapper around a series of articles. These are basically not ranked at all and carry no real weight as research. essays. but they shouldn’t be frowned upon. theoretical papers putting forth an argument. and usually contains several parts. which is a good thing. generally regarded as the meat of the journal.The Importance of Journals 11 sciences. Book reviews can be added to your list of publications. with the richness of the outside world. most journals include a section of less “rigorous” texts. Empirical papers are judged on the stringency of the analysis and whether the study highlights something interesting. Articles fall into three main categories: empirical papers presenting ﬁndings. you are expected to do this kind of work. but they are important for the scholar’s general visibility—and if you expect to be published.” if you will. Thus.
unprofessional. Subsequently. so don’t use footnotes unless you absolutely have to. however. Since the article is supposed to be double-blind reviewed.. which are issues where one speciﬁc theme forms the framework for the issue (such as “Foucault and female prisons” or “Consumption and trust”). limit the word-count to 5. so use photographs sparingly if at all.e. Not doing so makes you seem sloppy. almost all journals publish special issues. Minimize the amount of graphics and tables overall. All journals have some form of “Instructions for Authors” that details submission guidelines. one talks of a normal issue. This point seems like such an obvious thing. These issues have guest editors and often spring out of a conference or a workshop. The Basics Here are some basic pointers for creating and submitting an article to a journal. include a loose cover page with your name and contact information on it and another title page that does not contain your name (i. and . Read these guidelines and follow them to the letter. Be sure to check the preferred method of formatting and referencing your article before you submit it. This. and when one talks generally of a journal. normal and special. Submit your article double-spaced with wide margins. being published in a special issue is seen as slightly less meritorious than being published in a normal issue. most journals will not indulge you.000 words although this may vary depending on the journal. First. always remember that any kind of text that publishes your name in a journal is far.12 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Journals normally have two kinds of issues. far better than not getting the visibility at all. surprisingly. and do not try to be “creative” with layouts. an “anonymous” title page). is true only by the slightest imaginable margin and should not be a factor when one is thinking about submitting articles to special issues. Getting published in a special issue can be easier than getting into a normal issue due to the thematic nature of the special issue and due to the fact that guest editors are often more ﬂexible as to what they want to publish. Be sure also to spell-check and proofread your text before submitting it. The normal issue can have material from a wide range of perspectives and approaches. In addition. Be sure to check and double-check your list of references and make sure they are complete because every reference in the text must be in the list of references and vice versa.000 to 8. Most journals are printed in a way that does not really support photographs. it is often ignored. but. Regardless of the many ways of rating the importance of a speciﬁc contribution. Very few journals like footnotes because they make page layout difﬁcult.
almost criminal. If you get caught doing so (it’s called multiple submissions). If the editor cannot open your document for some reason. the second page should contain the title of the paper without your name. you will alienate the editor. the editor will not be happy with you. it is considered proper to submit the article as a Word document or a rich text format (RTF) ﬁle. and its own idiosyncrasies. You can never go wrong with submitting in several formats at the same time. its own vernacular. whether your preferred journal will accept digital submissions.The Importance of Journals 13 uninterested in the journal. however. cultures unto themselves. there are corroborated stories about reviews taking a year. In fact. The ﬁrst page of the article should contain your contact details and the title of the paper. With the advances in technology. no more than one page. In the former.. a data CD (if your article is typed on a computer). You also have to understand how the editors and . start working on another article. It is important to understand that journals are. an RTF or a PDF copy will be greatly appreciated. you have to at least try to read the journal. he or she may send out even a badly structured paper to reviewers). In the latter case. And there is a good chance you will wait in vain. At the very least. many journals now accept digital submissions. Each journal will have its own requirements. in a way. and you send it anyway. Learn to expect this possibility and accept it. Once you have submitted your article. possibly with a portable document format (PDF) copy to boot. and a cover letter to the editor. because if they don’t. its own style.e. your reputation will suffer a severe blow. Do not ever—repeat. and sometimes this means that the journal (or even the publisher) has a Web-based submission system. It can take a long time to become familiar with the speciﬁcs of a certain journal. ever—submit the same article to more than one journal at a time. the traditional way is to submit it by mail with three to ﬁve good quality paper copies. In order to write for a journal. In submitting an article to the editor. and it may take six. there is no way to mess up. The cover letter should be very polite and very brief. and you do not want to take that risk. Receiving a response will take much longer than you think. This is really unnecessary. be patient and be prepared to wait. You need to check. submission is pretty easy. your article may well be rejected. To stay positive. In a worst-case scenario. To do so is considered bad form. a journal may blacklist you. but often you will get your paper back with a curt note about re-editing according to journal’s guidelines. Three months is quite normal. A good editor will accept a good paper for review regardless (i. Sometimes this means that you can e-mail your article.
that constitutes the B-list. you also have to have some concept of the general discourse of that journal. others would say ﬁve). one which you have read and studied thoroughly. and try to behave. I believe every scholar should be intimately familiar with at least one journal. they are read. it is important to have some form of mental map of how this conversation has evolved and what has been said. and they are a good avenue to publish in. These are great journals. Succinctly put. Since a journal is much like a protracted conversation that takes place over a long period of time. One of the most important aspects of journals is their ranking. a group that contains titles so strictly in a niche that they basically exist for just a small group of scholars.14 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS contributors of the journal think and the way in which the journal exists as a discussion. . Below these journals is a wide range of weak journals. the ones everyone reads and where the most-cited papers appear. They have a standing. and a general feel of the rules for moving about (Saigon requires a different approach than Stockholm). a bit misleading. usually more specialized. the journal thing is pretty easy: do the background work. as ﬁve-star journals. We often talk about there being at least four different levels to this ranking (some would say three. in some cases. sometimes. Below this top tier is another group of journals. and there are great differences both in standing and in style. Just as ﬁnding your way in a city involves learning something about the transportation system. Think of it as going to a party and talking with people. Below this level are the bread-and-butter journals. Publication in one of these journals is a major career event and can. The top tier of the journals is sometimes referred to as A-journals or. it’s just that there are even greater ones. You don’t enter into a discussion at a party without having at least some idea about who people are and what they are talking about. thus. journals that have to work to get good papers. To be published in these journals is desirable even to senior. This group of journals consists of the three to ﬁve “best” journals in a given ﬁeld. Consequently. particularly for a junior scholar. including several years of back-issues. and which you follow closely. know at least something about your audience. Different Kinds of Journals All journals are not alike. make an entire career. This practice will also give you a picture of what kind of papers more generally get published in the journal. learning a journal involves similar tacit understandings. and calling it the B-list is. If you hope to be published in a certain journal. well-published professors.
Another way to separate journals is their level of generality. most young scholars would be happy to be published anywhere. therefore. often feel that they are devoid of choice. without hesitation. A more experienced scholar will. with a few exceptions. The general journals often look for broad theoretical arguments and are very aware of the need to be perceived as top quality.The Importance of Journals 15 A young scholar should. They will normally also have a strategy—an implicit or even subconscious one—about how to handle this mix of publications. rather. attempt to be published in the A-journals. The issue. In fact. Aiming too high is just silly. and the time that a review will often take is not in your best interest. A rule of thumb. This does not mean that you should send everything to the A-journals ﬁrst but. You should always try to ﬁnd the best possible journal in which you think you have a ﬁghting chance to be published. reject a great many submissions. For instance. Seasoned veterans of the publishing wars know how to pick their battles. but it is important to think about the level one wants to go for. normally. It is general to the extreme. submit an article far worse than the one the junior researcher doesn’t even dare to show to colleagues and more often than not get it published somewhere. is that the more general a journal is. This is the way of the world today. if not impossible. Junior researchers. Culture & Society is universally seen as a top journal. is one of balance. there are a number of possibilities we should think through when working with these issues. They will have weaker papers they’ll send to low-ranking journals and pick up a quick publication. I also know that less experienced researchers often feel so unsure of themselves that they don’t even submit articles. They’ll have strong papers they try to get into top journals and take the time to develop them and work the system. but often this will prove difﬁcult. They are also more prone to demand several rounds of rewrites after which they may still reject the paper. The difﬁculty in writing for such journals is that there are a limited number of general topics and many schol- . the number of manuscripts they reject) high and will. the higher it is ranked. I believe this is a mistake. so the likelihood of getting a detailed and constructive review increases with the level of the journal.. however.e. They will strive to keep their rejection rate (i. that you should aim reasonably high. of course. Although I know that it can be very difﬁcult indeed to get into the pages of top journals. but success can really make the career for a young scholar. The publication Theory. feeling that they’ll have no chance. Still. therefore. Journals such as Sociology or Journal of Management Studies tend to rank very highly. a top journal will use very good reviewers. Getting published in such a journal is often very difﬁcult. Aiming too low is a good way to get published but not a good way to maximize the impact of your research.
of course. but it seems more likely that a specialized journal will become even more dogmatic. but even in this category. at some point in your career. cheaper and simpler to maintain than their paper equivalents. sometimes more so than the more traditional journals. which increases the amount of potential authors. the online journal is a valid avenue for publication and should not be overlooked by young academics. as they are making quite a lot of money off them. In connection to this. One always has to remember that publishers have a vested interest in keeping the paper journals alive. Again. it generally will not be very highly considered outside this group. so even though it doesn’t carry quite the same prestige as its traditional counterpart. Having said that. so the competition is often ﬁerce. serious journals now have an online presence. understanding the reasoning and logic behind a journal is an important step in developing your publishing strategy. the latter rarely is. and so on. Still. try to publish in such journals. We can. separate between those who have a specialized area and those who have a specialized group in mind as authors. Most online journals do. You should. a journal that covers all of a specialized ﬁeld may be viewed as a general journal. In contrast to the general journals. specialized journals are often seen as less prestigious. and the general journals. tend to give very incisive reviews. we can also mention the new phenome- . Online journals are. and some are so narrow they seem meant for only a very small set of research groups. which prompts many scholars to consider them as somehow less valid. Others are intimately tied to a conference or a network. I do think it will be some time before we see the ﬁrst highly ranked online journal and far longer before we see a change in the perception toward this format. Sometimes a journal like this will attempt to break with tradition and become more open and accepting. Whereas the former may well be highly ranked. “specialized” is a question of context—since most researchers work in specialized ﬁelds. therefore. at least. however.16 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ars who perceive themselves competent to write on them. But you should remember that a good paper deserves a good journal. if not all. As of late. pay a lot of attention to their reviews and editorial processes. These journals also have a much wider reading public. a new kind of journal has emerged—the online-only journal. These journals were originally seen as merely experiments but now seem to have become accepted alternatives. top journals exist. some journals are more focused than others. Clearly. potential critics. If a journal seems parochial and will publish only what is accepted in the narrow conﬁnes of specialized groups. Whether you should go for it while still a junior researcher (some have tried and prospered) or wait until you feel a bit more assured is a question for the individual scholar. partly because most.
the published authors pay a fee. Here are some things you should check before submitting to a journal you haven’t heard of before: 1. This practice turns the earnings-logic of the traditional journal upside down. Knowledge and Change” journals. To this I also have to add a word about the journals I have sometimes referred to as the “International Review of Social Theory. and do you recognize the names on the board? 3. These journals are not really even C-level publications and can be anything from gloriﬁed working papers to attempts from a new publishing company to establish itself. or academic probably isn’t. It isn’t always simple to know what constitutes a “proper” journal. however. it is too early to say how this development will play out in the coming years. Also. Do you recognize the publisher? 2. In the same way as online journals. and . indexing. This is a fairly new development and one I am sure will change the world of journals quite extensively. Does the journal have a professional Web site with online access to articles? 4. professional. Is there an editorial board. In an age when all manners of printing have become much cheaper and easier. but one should be wary of journals that seem to come out of nowhere. Does the journal list things like associations. but a no to all of them should be seen as a warning sign. and that make claims they simply cannot live up to. and only after you’ve passed the review are you allowed to be published. open access journals adhere to stringent double-blind review. In order to make publication feasible. The reason a checklist like the one described above is important is because the journal you’re considering may be a case of vanity printing or a “fake” journal. abstracting. remember the old rule that something calling itself international. particularly not for an academic starting out.The Importance of Journals 17 non of “open access” journals. Right now. that are afﬁliated with no one. Some of these journals are online journals. These journals abide by the principle that no one should have to pay to get access to scientiﬁc ﬁndings. and so forth? An answer of no to one of these questions doesn’t necessarily mean anything. but others are actually a free paper journal that is funded by authors who pay to get their articles published (not be confused with vanity publishing). This cumbersome name has been my way of talking about journals that occupy a place somewhere between out-and-out academic fraud and serious attempts at scholarly publication.
For the ﬂedgling academic. The third aspect of an article’s merit is the way in which it furthers discussion on a topic—I call this “network effects. This is not as easy to measure. it is good to note all three . this perception is. it is a waste of time and paper to submit it somewhere that can only hurt your reputation. the fact is that the academic world still thinks that an article gains merit by being published in a top journal. a merit that is detached from the article itself. that there are many perfectly proper journals that. Still. due to the vagaries of academic fashion. or more than one. and this is not something you want to invite. I will assume that the ﬁrst of these points requires no additional explanation because the quality of an article should speak for itself. and (3) The discussion that the article raises. such as whether it is seen as furthering the ﬁeld and getting people engaged in an issue. a market for what fraudulently attempts to establish academic credentials will emerge. Obviously.18 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS where there are a lot of desperate academics out there. So try to stay away from journals that have difﬁculty keeping up an academic front. Be aware also. people will just look at whether you’ve managed to get an article into a top journal and ignore the contents thereof—as unscientiﬁc and bizarre as this is. will start questioning whether one. quantiﬁable measurements that some see as the sine qua non of journals.” Some measure this aspect by looking at things such as frequency of quotation or impact factors. This does not necessarily mean they should be avoided. in part. Although the contribution of the article really should be what counts. but this is a very dangerous assumption. may seem a bit out-of-the-way and bleak. Sometimes. Still. Somebody. somewhere. Although submitting an article to a journal you later realize churns out almost anything sent to it isn’t necessarily a career breaker. due to people assuming that the level of the journal guarantees the scholarly level. merit accrues both through the quality of the content and the perceived quality of the medium. Others. I can start by saying that a published article gains merit points in at least three ways: (1) The scholarly level of the article itself. The Question of Articles and Scholarly Merit Any published article is a merit for an academic. but active academics will still have a pretty good feel for what constitutes an important article. myself included. however. On the contrary. (2) The level of the journal it is published in. would rather look to the more general reactions. there are differences. they may be efﬁcient ways to achieve publication. of your articles might be shady. This leaves the two last points.
So. most junior researchers simply want to get a publication. general journals. Although usually it is easier to get published in a special issue. and are seen as carrying slightly less merit. but. are not seen as bringing great additional merit to the author. Obviously. but it may strike the casual observer as odd since it isn’t very difﬁcult to ﬁnd such empirical data. therefore bolstering it with evidence. the best articles carry a combination of both. at the same time. they are viewed as slightly less important than theory-type pieces. and theoretical). We can perhaps separate empirical papers into two categories according to the way in which they target the prevailing logic/theory in the ﬁeld. Such articles tend to have a lesser standing. Theoretical articles are notoriously difﬁcult to write. at one point or another. the difference seems small. quite reasonably. such as when a previously overlooked ﬁeld by way of a review article is brought into the spotlight. The question of whether articles in special issues are less meritorious than ones in general issues is difﬁcult to answer. Empirical articles may be slightly easier to get published than purely theoretical ones. This is clearly a good thing but. for even when one cannot guarantee impact it should serve as a model for what articles are supposed to do. When looking at the three kinds of articles usually published (review. this much can be said: Review articles. I will here treat them as separate entities. been published in special issues. These articles also are normally written by established ﬁgures in the ﬁeld and can perhaps best be understood as political delineations. that being either afﬁrming or critical. at least for the academic starting out.The Importance of Journals 19 of these. Such a paper is often seen as meritorious. even though they are important and tend to appear in the major. and since most academics have. It stands in the shadow of some earlier statement and merely acts as an afﬁrmation thereof. such empirical papers can further theorization and the ﬁeld. Critical empirical papers can perhaps best be understood by way of Karl Popper’s thesis of falsiﬁcation. They try to look at the consensus in the ﬁeld (or some fair approximation thereof) and bring in evidence against this. These types of articles usually condense a complex theoretical issue into the limited space of a journal . empirical. special issues are just as meritorious as general issues—for now. regardless of the ﬁner points. at the same time. This said. but as there often is a greater emphasis on one or the other. as it clearly brings in an original viewpoint. but generally they tend to be overviews with little to no original scholarship. not very original. making this a divisive issue seems petty. By showing that reality works in ways not covered by theory. Sometimes they can be more important. Afﬁrming empirical papers try to show that a hypothesis derived from earlier works can be shown to be correct.
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and to do so in a fashion that does not truncate the previous debate too much. The sheer difﬁculty of this makes the theoretical paper meritorious in the eyes of academia. As always, issues such as originality, stringency, and rigor are taken into account. A perennial issue to consider is whether a single-authored article is better than one with several authors. Both have advantages. The single-authored article stands out as a single body of work, wholly the contribution of you and no one else. The multi-authored article shows that you can cooperate and collaborate, and this should not be discounted. My personal view on this issue is that you should be able to show the capacity for both. You need single-authored articles to show that your work can stand on its own, but you also need coauthored pieces to demonstrate that you can work with others. To me, a good balance is to try to have about equal amounts of both. This issue brings with it the question of “ﬁrst author.” In some contexts, it is assumed that the ﬁrst author deserves more merit than the others—a tradition we have inherited from the natural sciences and papers with up to ten authors. In the social sciences, far less emphasis is placed on this division although remnants of this thinking still exist. Normally, if there is no compelling reason to put one of the authors ﬁrst (such as, you’ve written several pieces together and want to alternate; one of you needs recognition a lot more and every little bit counts; or one of you has actually written far more than the other), using the old system of alphabetical order seems to work just ﬁne. In all these matters, the important thing is to stay true to your work. Don’t get too obsessed with the issue of minor afﬁrmations. In the long run, true merit will win out.
The Review Process
The ﬁrst thing you should realize about the review process is that it takes time—an inordinate amount of time. Waiting six months for a review is quite normal. Some people wait a year or more for their ﬁrst reviews. Later rounds, after resubmission, tend to go a little quicker, but it always takes more time than you’d like. Patience is deﬁnitely a virtue when it comes to the reviewing process. When you submit a manuscript to a journal, you will probably think it’s pretty darn good. You will have worked hard on it, and, in all likelihood, you will nurture the dream that the reviewers’ comments will be, “Publish this work of genius immediately!” Unfortunately, they rarely say that. When a manuscript arrives at the editorial ofﬁce, the editors of the journal are faced with the difﬁcult decision of who to forward it to for review. Normally, edi-
The Importance of Journals
tors will quickly review the paper themselves, at least enough to get a feel for whether there is any point to have it reviewed further. Different journals are more fastidious than others (some seem to send everything out for review even if it is gibberish) while others may reject a great number of manuscripts on arrival. Most such rejections are based on the editor’s feeling that the proposed article simply does not suit the journal or that there are grave and glaring ﬂaws in the work. Still, it seems that most manuscripts do get reviewed. After a quick, initial review, most editors send the manuscript out to two or three reviewers, although the tendency seems to be that more and more editors limit themselves to two, for reasons I’ll explain later. Finding good reviewers is one of the most onerous jobs of a journal editor. The task of reviewing manuscripts is hard work, unpaid, and carries very little reward for the reviewer. To add to the problem, the pool of potential reviewers is small, leading to the fact that good people in a ﬁeld will ﬁnd themselves swamped with requests to review manuscripts in addition to all the other things they’re supposed to be doing. While most academics will take on such work, they cannot do an unlimited amount of reviewing, leading to a situation where an editor may have to struggle to secure a review. If they can ﬁnd three reviewers, that’s great. If they can only ﬁnd two, that’s ﬁne, too. Reviewers are not necessarily picked because they are experts in the speciﬁc ﬁeld of the proposed article. In a highly specialized ﬁeld, usually only three or four top people exist, and all of these people will probably be very busy. So editors often have to ﬁnd people they believe can give good general comments, regardless of their specialty. Sadly, as is often the case, editors sometimes secure just about any warm body that might have something to say. Good reviewers are worth their weight in gold, and often editors have to settle for second best (or worse). After you’ve submitted your paper and the editor has decided it’s worth sending out for review, it will go to at least two reviewers. All respectable journals use a system known as the double-blind review process, which means that the author will not know who his reviewers are, nor will the reviewers know the name of the author. The logic behind this process is that it should minimize the risk of personal feelings impeding the objective evaluation of the paper and that reviewers shouldn’t have to fear retribution from authors. When neither party knows the identity of the other, the reviewing is supposed to be more fair and more honest. In reality, things may deviate from this ideal. Since most academic circles aren’t that large, it is fairly likely that reviewers will either know who they are reviewing or will be able to ﬁgure it out—particularly if the author isn’t a beginner. Also, it is often possible to read a reviewer’s comments and ﬁgure out who
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wrote them. Still, the double-blind process is adhered to and seems to be working fairly well. When the “blind reviewer” gets a manuscript, he or she gets the paper with the name of the author(s), as well as additional review documents, removed. These additional documents normally include a short evaluation form as well as some general guidelines regarding the journal’s preferences when it comes to reviews. Normally, the guidelines tell a reviewer to submit two sets of statements, one that goes directly to the editor and a detailed review that is meant for the author. In the former, the reviewer is often asked to grade the manuscript on things such as originality and technical quality as well as give a recommendation on whether to accept or reject the manuscript. These recommendations, which the editor then weighs and bases the ﬁnal decision on, are what makes or breaks a paper. Both recommendations and ﬁnal decisions normally come in four ﬂavors: A recommendation of “reject” is self-explanatory. A manuscript can get rejected for a number of reasons, but normally it is simply a question of reviewers not ﬁnding enough of publishable value in the article. Somewhat better is a recommendation of “revise and resubmit,” which is a broad category. This can be both a more polite way to reject a paper or a request for major revisions. Basically it means that the journal would be happy to see the manuscript in a more developed form but that, it at the moment, has problems that are grave enough to make the editor unsure as to whether it can be published. Often this recommendation can mean there is something of value in the paper but that it has been sloppily put together. A far better decision to get is “accept with revisions.” This recommendation comes in two ﬂavors, either “major revisions” needed or “minor revisions” needed. You can go an entire career without ever seeing the mythical “accept as is” applied to something you’ve submitted. It is very rare to get something accepted directly and mostly this applies to the bigwigs in the game. The editor will, thus, receive two recommendations and base the journal’s decision on these recommendations. It is important to realize that the editor is not bound by the recommendations. If one reviewer suggests rejection and the other acceptance, it is up to the editor to make the ﬁnal decision. Interestingly, both reviewers could, in theory, suggest rejection, and the editor may still decide to publish the paper (a very rare occurrence, but possible). Most of the time, the editor will simply collate the reviewers decision and transmit it to the author. The author will then receive a letter from the editor complete with the journal’s deci-
rejoice and see how much work they want you to put into it. Good comments are like roadmaps to a published paper. revise. in part. where it all begins. In a way. by deﬁnition. for neither the instructions nor the comments tend to be very clear. These comments can also be immensely helpful. on the other hand. the only thing to do is to battle on and attempt to revise your work in a way that hopefully pleases both you and the reviewers. and there is no point in railing against the fact that they may have misunderstood you. the next step is the revision process. There’s nothing you can do about it. may just be a rant against a speciﬁc method or an insistence that you should have referenced different people. If the kindest thing the letter says is that the general topic of the manuscript was interesting. The tricky bit is to correctly read a “revise and resubmit” letter. If the letter states that your manuscript has been rejected. Most reviewers want to be helpful. This basically means they’re thinking about accepting it and means you really should try to meet the stated deadline. a rework. If the letter says the manuscript has been accepted. and . It is important to understand that reading these comments takes some adjustment. of course. in part. and learn from them. Then rejoice some more. an improvement and. and you just have to play the cards you’re dealt. they might as well have rejected it (as most topics are. that’s it. with point-by-point ideas about how to develop the paper. Revise and Resubmit Assuming your manuscript has been neither accepted nor rejected straight off. One thing to look out for is whether the letter mentions a date by which they’d like to see a revised manuscript. this can mean they really disliked the manuscript or that they actually want to publish it. it is a difﬁcult part. Regardless. Reading reviewer’s comments can be both painful and traumatic. Bad comments. One could say that comments are generally a gamble. Reading the editor’s letter is. Read. Reading a reviewer’s comments is easier as these tend to be straightforward and to the point. A revision is. Remember. interesting).The Importance of Journals 23 sion (one of the above) and will receive at least two sets of comments. In another way. You’ve just received instructions on what you have to do to get the paper published and two sets of comments that are intended to help you achieve this goal. No one can actually teach you how to do a revision since this is always an individual project. There may be subtle signs as to one or the other of these interpretations and ﬁnding these subtleties takes some skill. this is the easy part. Just read the comments and decide if they help in any way.
Most scholars seem to think that in order to get the article accepted they have to do exactly what the reviewers tell them to do. If one of the reviewers cannot help in this. explaining how you’ve reworked and improved the paper. First among these is realizing that it is still your paper. of course. It is considered good manners to include three documents in your resubmission.24 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS you’ll soon realize that the paper may change considerably during the process. who are . however. You never know what kind of comments you will receive. you should. There are times when a reviewer’s comments may be completely superﬂuous to the rewrite. Three. In that case. you should write a new letter to the editor. there are times when you get a reviewer’s comments that are so perfect and so detailed you can just follow them step by step and literally see the manuscript develop before your eyes. I feel that the latter strategy is better. explaining how you’ve dealt with their recommendations. not merely follow them. The reviewers aren’t there to write the paper. Obviously you have to pay heed to what the reviewers say. This doesn’t need to go into exacting detail but should give a broad outline of your revision. Two. your job is to explain the point and make the paper communicate better. even explaining why you’ve ignored some comments. Normally. no matter how entangled or illogical the suggestion is. you are still in charge. Here. it is also permissible to explain why you’ve not done something. Your job is then not to revise the paper but to completely rework it. Sometimes you will ﬁnd that reviewers misunderstood the point you tried to make. One. The trick is to use the reviews as guidelines. Then again. Other times you will ﬁnd that reviewers were confused by the amount or type of information within the paper. Although you should be courteous. Others pick sides and simply ignore those comments that contradict what they want to do. It is your paper. Personally. then it is permissible to ignore the comment. and it is seldom a good idea to pervert what you are trying to say by forcing it into paradox. you have to ﬁx these. but to try to improve it. and this may be both a good thing and a sad thing. This is not true. and your prime task is to let them. but reviewers are not infallible and not everything they say is brilliant. There are. and if they have identiﬁed mistakes or logical inconsistencies. some things to keep in mind. send your revised manuscript. Remember. you shouldn’t grovel. you should write a letter to the reviewers. Sometimes the end-result looks nothing like the original idea. A common question is what you should do if the two (or three) reviewers have diverging or even contradictory views and suggestions. Some scholars try their best to do everything the reviewers say. the latter two documents are then sent to the reviewers again.
The good news is that this all becomes easier and more normal the more you do it. get rejected. you will be rejected from time to time. The ﬁrst line of defense is to be prepared for rejection. The trick. Some scholars even see submitting to journals as a kind of lottery. as in love. At times. “Dirty Tricks” Here are ten more tricks of the trade: 1. It’s a fact of life. After a while. Find a statement that you feel you can criticize either theoretically or empirically and make this your starting point. in fact. of course. indeed. So the second line of defense is to have several papers processed at the same time. ﬁnd such a statement/article in the journal you’re writing for. “It has sometimes been argued that the ontological position of . is not to make this a one-time affair. also. however. The important lesson is to learn from the experience and try to move forward. and this can always be used to improve the next paper. Sometimes. a rejection will come with at least some explanation as to why your paper didn’t make it. If you just wait for a reviewer’s comments each time you submit something. Be aware. Others take each rejection as a personal slight. work on several papers at the same time so that you’re working on one when waiting for comments on the other. that editors do have the right to accept—or reject—the article at this stage. Preferably. up to ﬁve rewrites can precede an acceptance or. this process can go on for two or three turns. the explanation will make no sense to you. you’ll be published three times in a decade.The Importance of Journals 25 then supposed to say whether they believe that the article now meets the standards of a publishable article. you’ll even start telling others how to do it. To be successful in academia you need to make the process of publication a continuous and normal part of your working life. a rejection. An article can very well start with. but such is life. have patience. if you’re lucky. In exceptional cases. but these people tend to have a lot of problems. constantly juggling at least two or three papers. Getting Rejected and Doing it All Over Again In journals. Instead. Most of the time. Most papers do. working from the premise that every paper needs to get rejected a set number of times before it gets accepted. Again. It is usually easier to get an article published if you can point to someone or something you disagree with.
as this guarantees replies. For instance. Sometimes. a journal that has just gone from four issues a year to six will need an extra inﬂux of papers to keep their system in gear. so they are a “soft target. but sometimes timing can be your friend. Editors are sometimes lazy. therefore. the abstract. A manuscript that comes in through the proverbial door at the last minute will seem like a godsend. you know the editor.” Similarly. A journal that has a reputation for publishing empirical articles may well be up for a theoretical synthesis or review. editors will look through the title..g. even bad blood. Making a statement is. A catchy title that carries the promise of dialogue or controversy is always a good thing. not get you exactly the reviewers you want. rejoinders. 3. and the editor may well be more lax about triple-checking your arguments. energized theoretical engagement. too. a new journal will not necessarily have as many quality papers they need. they are in the idea business. An editor will sometimes be pressed to ﬁll out and ﬁnish an issue and may not have a suitable ﬁnished piece available. a good thing and is in the best interest of the journal. al 2005). I’m not saying you should always send in manuscripts late. but it can tweak the probabilities ever so slightly. This article will show that this cannot be seen as a universal rule and instead will argue that a more correct understanding can be found by applying a theory of widgets as phenomenological.” 2. and so on. It is a lot easier to get something published on the back of a conference track or workshop that later is turned into a special issue. Remember that journals have their problems. 5. of course. and the references of your manuscript and try to think of someone who’s interested in similar things. When choosing reviewers. for example) can be beneﬁcial. too. than by way of submitting to an open issue. This practice can sometimes be strategically useful. 8. They’re human. but you can still keep the interests of the journal in mind when planning your article. This is due to the fact that you’ve already written a treatment on the subject. Johnson et. Referencing a couple of people you trust and including a phrase in your abstract that sounds a lot like that article in the same journal you admired will. Journals are not in the consensusbuilding business. 6. 7.26 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS widgets must be understood as relational (see e. An editor may well look kindly on a piece that will raise a lot of debate. Controversy can be your best friend. Leek 2001. 4. playing it close to the deadline (when it comes to rewrites. This is by no means a sure thing. Editors like to see their own articles referenced in a manuscript. the pool of potential authors has been .
Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect when you send it off. There is no point in making your manuscript difﬁcult to read. the reviewers will know the subject more intimately. Since 50 percent of the work for an article is in the polishing. men seem to take this advice easier than women. Often (but not always) guest editors for special issues will also consciously try to include more junior researchers. Look at it before you send it. 10. Call it psychological warfare or call it an intelligent use of the review process. the reviewers are there to help you make it better. This. Don’t send in manuscripts written in all sans serif (Arial. For some reason. learn to submit a manuscript when you feel it communicates. and this 50 percent can be extended indefinitely.The Importance of Journals 27 radically limited. leads to a situation where women publish less than men. neither should you use decorative fonts. Learning at least the basics of layout can’t hurt you. and so on. Think about your use of space. Some scholars swear by sending in material they feel is only 80 percent there so that the reviewers will feel they have input. it is done and it can be efﬁcient. Keep away from Times New Roman as well. or Helvetica). 9. Speciﬁcally. who send in sub-par stuff and get it published regardless… . women seem more reticent to send in stuff that is less than perfect. Think about how different it feels to read pleasantly laid out text versus muddled and badly thought through text. not when you feel every single letter is perfect. Although it should be free of obvious mistakes and you should have spell-checked it beforehand. unfortunately. does it looks typographically inviting? Under no circumstances should you make it look like you’re practicing with new fonts. Verdana.
For all our access to computers and digital technology.). this allows us to propose a more general deﬁnition of what heresy is: in order for an ideological ediﬁce to occupy the hegemonic place and legitimize the existing power relations. but also to mess around in the borderlands of both thinking and seeing. ﬁnally. 8) Some time ago. it is odd to note that most academics still seem to ﬁnd even photography threateningly “arty” and “odd” (cf. With our stated love of the ethnography. I wrote the following text: The following is a short movie. (]i\ek 2001. To accompany the ﬁlm. So I have started to play around with digital video. sticking to the original message. I published a small. and thus clearly an idea looking for a home.3 On Alternatives and Heresies [P]erhaps. 448–450 & 12m. a project that has resulted in the publishing house Dvalin (http://www. Sam Warren’s article on 28 . it HAS to compromise its founding radical message—and the ultimate “heretics” are simply those who reject this compromise. experimental ﬁlm in an online journal (ephemera: theory & politics in organization. and have started to think about the possibilities of documentary ﬁlm in the ﬁeld of organization studies. occupying a space somewhere between the experiment and the documentary. 46s. Most scholars still seem stymied by technologies beyond copiers and email.dvalin. It is born out of a long-term research project I’m conducting regarding alternative forms of academic publication and expression. 5(3). we still feel most content when we keep to the hard-to-fuck-up word processing program. and the ﬁeld feels poorer due to this.org/) and various other mutations. My interest here has been to adopt new technologies and see how these can be deployed to play around with our notions of academic propriety. Particularly this interest is due to a certain frustration I have regarding what I feel is a dangerous aversion towards technology among many organizational researchers.
. but I want to leave a space for the viewer to make her own sense of it. a sense that we pay far too much interest to the hustle-bustle of modern life. Whereas most social science seems occupied with documenting the extremes—or even creating it through sensationalism or ideology—the everyday. a question. in that I wanted to look to the ways in which we try to imbue places with meaning that may not be there. but it is not a provocation. I do not know how this should be inquired into. This is a documentation. which looks like the one in Sydney. has often not been studied at all. 1995). I’m still pondering this. I’ve long been interested in the less obvious stasis of modern life. Just as an organization. which after all is the most common form of life (or non-life) is seen as uninteresting. a case study. Somewhere behind the mad activity of the contemporary world. The lounge in Stockholm looks like the lounge in New York. That would be foolish. and a mundaneity that we fail to acknowledge and engage with. Why is this? So I walked through an abandoned ofﬁce. with my digital videocam. behind our cramped attempts to write in meaning into everything we see around us. the ﬁlm at times jolts from the mind-numbingly slow to the hectic pace of the supermodern. but I do think we should attempt to. 2(3): 224–245). a hiss. So I wanted to see if the image of an empty corridor would jolt something in me. thinking about the traces and the absences of organizational behavior. Studies of violent oppression and extraordinary strategies abound. and can thus be viewed as a methodological note. nor do I make any claims to be an artist. I realized I was inspired by Marc Augé’s Non-places. It tries to provoke some form of reaction.On Alternatives and Heresies 29 photography in ephemera. the continuous mundaneity of it all. Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (New York: Verso Books. It should be noted that the ﬁlm plays around with this. It may be urging organizational scholars to explore the medium of digital ﬁlm and the documentary. But so do the ofﬁces of the academics. that which exists in the spaces we do not immediately recognize as interesting. But this piece is also born out of a feeling I have. to the extreme activity of contemporary capitalism. Note that this is not art. and that it is intentionally constructed in a way that at times may feel boring or uncomfortable. jetting from conference to conference. but the mundane. So perhaps this is a methodological comment. if we can even reach it. there is a stillness.
and far too many scholars are merely agents of this. nothing new. . it is a bit silly to publish an experimental short ﬁlm when you are supposed to be a serious scholar in organization theory. And as those who are most likely to introduce alternatives tend to be those who are most susceptible to the pressure to conform. most simply give in. but I do believe two speciﬁc things deserve extra mention: publishing and media. I believe heresy is an important aspect of keeping academia healthy. something through which we can inquire into what deviation in scholarly practice would mean. many ways. these form a kind of test case for academic tolerance. such heresies are important. Both the ﬁlm itself and my successful attempt to position it as a publication broke with a lot of ideas about what should count as real academic work. The ﬁlm that the text above was an introduction to spanned both these. Obviously. The other is a ﬁeld that is seen as deeply problematic and one that an academic is not supposed to engage in too deeply. of course.30 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS This text can perhaps serve as an introduction to my thoughts on alternatives to prevailing academic praxis and the issue of being an academic heretic. if academia is to be a living. There has always been an oppressive side to science. the structure of academia effectively hinders change. therefore. Whereas the original message of academia was the relentless pursuit of knowledge. particularly so when we acknowledge that digital video seems a particularly unacademic form of media (unless you’re in media studies). Consequently. it is important to question and probe the prevailing order of the ﬁeld. meaningful activity. regardless of whether it ﬁt with earlier ways of looking at things. One of these is a hallowed ﬁeld and questioning it (in a way that deviated from the normal criticism) is a form of heresy. Many a young scholar rarely has the ﬁnancial or institutional security that would enable him or her to go on ﬁghting. Many young academics also feel that the only way to get ahead is to accept the hegemonic structure and do as you’re told. To state that academia is an inherently conservative and uncreative atmosphere is. Still. My belief is that for a practicing academic. But how does one achieve the position of the heretic? There are. Together. one that tries to keep to the status quo and enable those in power to remain in control. What deﬁnes many a department is not a healthy debate but a crushing and mind-numbing orthodoxy. today a contrarian position will be looked on with suspicion. of course. critical even. This is far more dangerous than heresy.
trying to engage with technology. as it truly has changed scientiﬁc communication in remarkable ways) ﬁles to distribute texts. a technology that hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. I was brought up in an environment where working papers were held in some esteem. and this aligned with my interest in publishing. Academically.On Alternatives and Heresies 31 Alternative Forms of Publishing When academics talk about publishing. they almost always talk of one of two things: articles in double-blind reviewed international journals on one hand and chapters or monographs published by a publishing house on the other. alternatives seem necessary if we are to keep academia alive and relevant in the contemporary age. So I played around with Web design and taught myself Adobe Acrobat. In part this may be a question of culture (i. Alternatives seem few and hard to come by. and my advisor actively promoted writing short essays and putting them out as working papers. and a lot of people acknowledge this. in its day. at the same time. Playing with new programs made me want to try out new things. but as a worthy undertaking in itself. In part. it is difﬁcult to say what a good alternative would be. a huge thing for me. Some pieces even . I was just fascinated with the potential of using the Internet and the versatility of Adobe’s PDF (portable document format. Most academics are afraid of technology or otherwise shy away from it. The possibility of setting up a site with your own texts for the world to download was. I’ve worked on a project on alternative methods of publishing. this was due to my interest in software. as well as the existence of working papers and series of such.. Yes. A research group I helped organize started its own series. not as steps to something greater. So I wrote my little pieces. Alternatives to these two approaches are astonishingly difﬁcult to ﬁnd. and put them out. it may be an issue of people simply feeling that they do not have the time to engage with technology and no time to learn how to use new software. An important issue here is technology. and suddenly we found that the stuff we wrote for our own amusement was actually being read all over the world. Locking ourselves into such rigid institutional forms cannot be healthy for the development to the ﬁeld. but these are normally seen as intermediate steps toward “real” publishing—which always means one of the two aforementioned things. mind you.e. All the while. In order to break with this thinking. Originally. playing around with settings and thinking about different ways of thinking about academic distribution. there is the tradition of publishing conference papers in proceedings. but. that technophobia is seen as something academics simply should adopt). publishing everything over the Internet. In part.
and that when it came to distribution. it actually depended on whether you were interesting or not. but most people were looking at this merely as making the old systems more efﬁcient rather than looking to the ways in which this might. these methods are not alternative methods. according to Norse mythology. I had the run of a working paper series. a self-contained book-production facility—with the actual printing outsourced as and when needed. Well. Quite a few academics do similar things.32 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS got referenced. I had taught myself book design. editing. But I was always most fascinated by the new avenues this opened and the fact that one could distribute things so quickly and elegantly. My own Web site grew with a bit of this and a bit of that. and I had learned a little bit about the publishing industry from the books I had done. this is not meant as a disparaging comment on publishers. sending off another ﬁle to a printing shop. Having always loved books and typography. The point of starting a publishing company. something I’d also practiced by designing books for some friends. a “house” might be overstating it. I had also learned some layout. I realized that the trip from manuscript to printed book actually could involve as little as my getting a ﬁle. I had been published in online journals (and quite a few ofﬂine ones). digital technologies were ushering in a new era for scholarly communication. but also by the fact that publishers seemed to do fairly little when it came to the trip from manuscript to published text. I even blogged (short for Web logged). and stopped once I realized how limited it was (but man. In my fascination for everything connected to text and computers. Obviously. for they can do wonderful things when it comes to organizing the process. I loved the technology behind it). Now. how my laptop was. And it got me thinking: How far could one take all this? Clearly. and built upon. a registered company that published books might be a better term. was not to pretend to overthrow the traditional publishers. nor to create a vanity . Whereas the old working paper series were cumbersome and expensive (prohibitively so if you wanted to distribute them). quoted. During this process I was amazed by the craft behind it. the new technologies meant that a series from a bunch of guys having a laugh could look just as good as a series from a top university. And I started wondering how one could learn from this. and developing manuscripts. in fact. working it on my computer. invented the runes. long before everyone did it. and they are crucial in the commercialization process. disrupt the system itself. What I am getting to is that I started a publishing house. after the dwarf who. and getting a box of nice books by return mail. in fact. I thought a lot about this. I named it Dvalin. I decided. Still.
I started to think about media. Since I had played around with design already. My ﬁrst problem was having something to publish. I also decided that Dvalin would always distribute the books it did for free. to write manifestos about the business school of tomorrow (Jones & O’Doherty 2005). but still. the publisher-thing and. Printers today are used to short print runs and delivery by mail or FTP (ﬁle transfer protocol). Campbell Jones and Damian O’Doherty came to me with an idea: Would I help them do a collection of manifestos? They gathered an international gathering of academics. the thought of doing things with . and a story line around it. and thus the distribution. created a logo. which was exactly what I wanted to accomplish with the project. and informed some friends of the Web site. a micro-publisher was tenable again. so arranging for printing was actually simple. but also having a dedicated interest in popular culture. a Web site. Doing the layout was relatively easy. Having done the Web-thing. sent some of them out. as were things such as getting an ISBN number. The book got referenced some and got a bit of fame in the circles I work in as a cool project. I knew enough about books to design them myself. although the writing took some time. What people rarely understand about publishing is that it is the dearth of publishable material that plagues the industry. mostly as downloadable PDF ﬁles. and the layout a couple of days. Pretty soon. I knew how to work with printers. I realized that more than a thousand copies had been downloaded. many of whom were big names in the ﬁeld. after checking the blogs. People mailed me and congratulated me for doing such an off-the-wall stunt. this was seen both as an alternative and as a political statement. which were then distributed for free at some of the central conferences—to some consternation of the big publishers. I started wondering about alternatives to text. some of these were just downloads by the idle and the curious. picked up the forty-two copies I had had printed (each one numbered and signed).On Alternatives and Heresies 33 project. the traditional thing of journal publishing and the like. Clearly. but to show that it could be done. A little later two of my friends. and a lot of the small things I decided I would just deal with when and if needed. The same goes for setting up the Web site. Suddenly. One day I just drove to the printers. at the same time. everything went so smoothly that I could hardly believe it myself. I wrote a short book called The Serious Unreal and got to work. They also got funding for printing 800 copies. Others have then taken the idea and have tried to accomplish it on a somewhat grander scale. they had been seen. In fact. So I registered it. Obviously. Fortunately. Having worked in text all of my professional life. Some asked me for advice and obviously started thinking about their own alternatives. I like writing.
it will turn up as an item on Amazon. in itself. Alternatives should not be done indulgently nor be seen as ends unto themselves. makes the very endeavor of academic work feel more worthwhile. I want to emphasize that I am wary of people making claims about the “natural afﬁnity” between science and art. If things go the way I’ve planned. generally. I could have pushed this book through a “serious” publishing house (I even had an offer to do so). I bought a relatively inexpensive digital video camera. For a long time I had thought about the possibility of using documentary ﬁlms in the social sciences. as it does not tie itself to the way things are normally done nor to dogmatic ideas about propriety and scholarly praxis. if you excuse the hyperbole. my attempt at another minor insurrection. This way. I am pondering a book of photography and possibly an extension of my video project. something I’m still pretty lousy at. In the end. I was just interested in making an epistemological point. academic life without alternatives is just another form of intellectual death. It still isn’t. and tried to see whether this could produce a reaction. more of an adventure. and. a heretical act. I never wanted to create video art. Obviously. this book will be published by a self-publishing print-on-demand company. that is. I had to learn to edit video. Some. but that would have been far less fun. But they can be engaged in as a way of keeping the founding radical message of academia alive and as ways to keep academia a little more interesting.34 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS images and video came pretty naturally. This form of publishing used to be called vanity publishing and was not favorably looked upon by academia. thus. It got some attention. For a small fee. which pleased me (although I don’t think it turned out to be that great). It is. At the moment. . juxtaposed this with quotes from social theory. Often this has been a way for researchers to engage in self-indulgent projects. producing things that are neither particularly good art nor particularly interesting research. so in connection with this. but these days. What was important about academia early on was that it tried new things. it ﬁt into my project of studying the alternatives to business as usual in the academic world. this is not accepted in the way it should be. Now. but not many.com. it will have been transformed into a ﬁle from which anyone can print copies and also placed in the logistics chain of modern book-selling. manage to combine the two forms. So I believe in the importance of exploring alternative avenues. This book is an important example in itself. the heretical way. and. Publishing this book through such a system is. So I ﬁlmed empty corridors. but the video did get made and it did get published.
Instead it represents a possibility for a more entrenched engagement with society. and. Assumedly. a way to make academia meaningful. ﬁnd this a limited and damaging view. however. such as myself. each academic has a media presence. we have a plethora of less than wholesome ones. and a communication . Instead it is a question of engaging with society. The ﬂamboyant Bernard-Henri Lévy. of becoming something of a talking head. this becomes even more pronounced. is a case in point. radio. however. in a good position to comment on the social world. they are basically hired by the state to be a class of people who are less fettered to the grind of corporate life and. and instead stated my personal feeling on the subject: Academics are paid to ponder. Personally. does not mean popularizer or pleaser of crowds. and TV—and feel no less of an academic for this. For regardless of whether you like it or not. Academics are a kind of free agents of thinking. I can quite assuredly state that most academics look down on media. academics need to think about their relation to the outside world. particularly popular media. particularly. being a public intellectual means one is compromised as a researcher—unless you happen to be Michel Foucault or Slavoj ]i\ek (and so few of us are). I’ve always found this a bit unfair. Academics that regularly appear on talk shows tend to be seen as gadﬂies or pundits. Public here. not as hermetic high priests or civil servants. thinking the intellectual project beyond the circles of academic culture. and the way in which they want to portray themselves in the media. The media is not the enemy of research. Since we no longer live in an era when scholars hide away in a monastery and remain there in solitude until their magnum opus is ﬁnished. Others. Some are contented with the latter and are comfortable to play into the image of the scholar as a recluse who’d rather not be in media. At the same time. to be an acronym!). for a contemporary academic. thus. and when it comes to academics in media. better known as BHL (oh. I’ve happily worked with media—newspapers.On Alternatives and Heresies 35 Media and the Modern Academic To all this we can add the issue of media. to research. prepared to comment on any and everything and gladly pouncing on every chance to get into the spotlight. but as public intellectuals. it is not the enemy of social science. either a managed one or just the caricature conveyed by media about academics in general. I have been accused. and to teach. And for every case of a successful cross-over. and there is an implicit assumption that being in the media makes you less of a scholar. the media should be a natural and even normal milieu. In all these cases. given space precisely to be able to serve the public. often by close friends.
Remember. Most importantly. When the sciences were developing. Yet far too few scholars are prepared to take on the role of the Cathars.36 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS with those whom academia is supposed to serve. the important part is actively ﬁnding one’s own heresies. and instead persist in their version of deep Catholicism. accusing anyone who breaks with this of vulgar apostasy. more original academic ethic. communication with the outside world was not only normal. and its very lifeblood should be the alternative interpretation and the heretic’s outlook on the world. an engagement with media can be understood as part of the original academic event—free thinking in engagement with the world. as it breaks with the notion that only academia can truly understand academia. and the later sectarian attitudes would be very strange to our intellectual forefathers. be a return to an earlier. Rather. media can be a powerful reminder for the scholar that the insular world of the university is not all there is. Obviously. Media is a form of heresy. But academia is not the one true religion. It can also be an excellent space to train yourself to communicate your research. as formulaic questioning is no questioning at all. it follows quite logically that heresy is actually at the heart of true scholarly engagement. each academic has to develop her own version of heresy. ecclesia non sitit sanguinem… . As heresy is simply shorthand for not accepting dogma and dogma is the enemy of any critical engagement with the world. Instead. in fact. it was crucial. Heresy …should be a natural part of academic life. In much the same way as alternative forms of publishing may. a discussion of the ages. it is a continuous questioning. Still. But it is also a perfect case of how academia has gone wrong. a healthy relationship with media can be both an arena for developing new ideas and a test bed for old ones.
I’ve come to understand what Lawrence Block meant when he said. just work and more work. let me point to some of my own experiences. perhaps). quick and dirtylike. Simply put. I now know that it is my job to produce words. One of the things I’ve learned in academia is just to write. but it really isn’t. Do you think plumbers get plumber’s block?” At ﬁrst I thought this comment was funny. “When I hear people talking about writer’s block I only get annoyed. what amazed me. then I thought it was wise. and just write. I’ve also learned that a standard book manuscript is about 80. that’s it. There isn’t anything mysterious or ethereal to it. It took me years to learn how to just let the text ﬂow and to write down what I was pondering. It might not be the kind of work that makes you sweat (except for deadlines. The computer’s “word count” feature does it for me. It might sound like a little thing.4 Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity The biggest mistake people make when they talk about research and academic work is that they portray it as an ethereal endeavor. To dispel this notion. 37 . You write. The image of the scholar as a person ensconced in a utopian world. Text doesn’t write itself. but in many ways it isn’t that different from cleaning or building a house. and nothing happens unless you actually sit down and write. and what I had seen. both as an activity and a craft. engaged in thinking. and detached from the mundane reality of manual labor is persistent but also dangerous. I had to learn to weave arguments together and to edit and rework. It took me years to learn just to sit down in front of my laptop computer. It sums up what I think about writing.000 words. and now it is kind of a koan for me. I now know that it’s unnecessary to count the pages of a document. open up the document.
I also discovered I simply couldn’t capture everything in text. quick and dirty. Thoughts I had treated as separate entities became combined when placed upon a page. obviously I do not mean that it took me six months to become a PhD. When I mentioned this to my Doktorvater. and that I ﬁve months later I had a manuscript that to a great extent looks like the published work on the basis of . he just smiled and said I had started to write like a scholar—and not a moment too soon. seems to be one of those things scholars always have an opinion on. and the paths not taken. What had once felt like ﬁnalized theory showed itself on the page as quite tentative and slipshod. those words.38 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS When I started writing seriously. Such writing. research is ﬁlled with clichés and shibboleths. I also started to realize that the more I wrote. As in any human activity. Thoughts seemed to take on a life of their own as those words spilled onto the page. I suddenly saw ﬁfteen new pages that I could write. I found I could write with something akin to conﬁdence. I started seeing the ﬂaws of my thinking. the shoddiness. What I mean is that one day I decided that I was going to write the Book. then jostled new thoughts and created new connections. I realized I had to take a stand in my text. and as time pressures forced me to abandon intense selfreﬂection and self-criticism. I wrote my doctoral thesis in about six months. the gaps in my argument. Don’t make it too difﬁcult. Just do it. Now. First say what you’re going to say. When it comes to writing. I found this absolutely fascinating. in turn. and I was made aware of their constant niggling presence. Some even have a motto. and the sheer viscerality of writing. The impurity. that when I had written ten pages. Well-meaning people say a lot of things: Don’t get it right. to me this is far more interesting than the rather sterile world of ideas often idealized by scholars. Write for acceptance. get it written.” and most are not shy to tell you. I realized. Simply put. This last platitude is of particular interest to me in writing this book. Those errors had to be ﬁxed. most “actually know how to do it. rather than hide behind the potential text I had yet to write. then say it. and this goes particularly for the act of academic writing. is both undertheorized and underrated as a highly interesting form of manual labor. The worst research is the kind that doesn’t get written up. the better my thinking became. to the extent that I knew how. The very act of writing. which academia has romanticized and even afforded an air of mysticism. then say what you’ve said. which is often portrayed as a bit of boring drudgery.
unless you count four pages of scribbles in longhand. I remember sitting cross-legged on a bed. These outputs are then transferred onto paper and later fed into other machines such as reviewers and thesis advisors. thumbing through a stapled bunch of papers. some reading under my belt. But where did the book come from? The Only Thing I Know about Research Research does not take place inside your head. and the UK). Matters were further complicated by the fact that this process prompted me to completely abandon my earlier thesis plans. with nothing written and nothing really prepared. and that we can talk about it in the same . for I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I’d gotten it all straightened out inside my head. that thinking is a special kind of activity. some data collected. I also remember being surprised. This is a fallacy. from the realization that I had to write like a demon to my public defense (the process in Scandinavia differs slightly from the one in the U. and a dangerous one. or. This is the sum total of my research experience. I had a book I wanted to write. and a story to tell.S. people assume that the human brain is akin to a machine lodged in the head of the individual researcher and that the research process is mainly about tuning this machine and feeding it the right kind of material after which research outputs are formed within the cranium of the writer. says Wittgenstein. Seemingly. and I recognized the words I had written. The process in its entirety. I literally started from scratch. Still. Ten months later I had a book in my hand and a PhD. In less than a year. and suddenly realizing that this (by golly) was a thesis. For reasons that are of no interest here.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 39 which I was awarded a PhD. I started from a clean slate. But what was it that I had done. a pretty good draft of one. quick and dirty-like? Was it research? That sounds very vague and far too abstract. Someone who was particularly attuned to debunking such metaphysical fallacies was Ludwig Wittgenstein and much of his later philosophy was an engagement with them (Wittgenstein 1958/2001. there it was. Quick and dirty. For what is it they think within the skull. a lot of people obviously think that thinking is something that takes place within the gated community of one’s head and that intellectual work is an internal affair. at least. took about ten months. I didn’t have a single page of written text. what kind of activity did I engage in. Ignoring this. Was it typing? That sounds…mechanic. anyway? And on what do they base this belief? We seem to think. Heaton and Groves 1996). one that takes place within the head.
as she looks very troubled and/or constipated. The wrinkled brow and the somewhat forced breathing seemingly mean that you are thinking.—OK. it’s private.’ So that in the ﬁrst case the clockwork runs down all at once. as it existed before its expression? (Wittgenstein 1958/2001. So it is natural to ask if the same thing happens in lightning-like thought—only extremely accelerated—as when we talk and ‘think while we talk. And at the same time. On the other hand. braked by the words. and that woman’s thinking hard. and can’t remember the word for it? Now if it were asked: “Do you have the thought before ﬁnding the expression?” what would one have to reply? And what. however. sec. how problems become clear to us in a ﬂash. I’m starting with this chapter on…—How does it start?—Do you think I can recite it straight out of my head?—Why not. the thought seems not to be separate from the expression. of how a thought goes through one’s head like lightning.40 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS manner as we discuss eating dinner. and so on. one does speak of the speed of thought. this thinking is not only internal. 318) . I mean I know what I’m going to write. as we normally do—we shall not in general say that we think quicker than we talk. too and difﬁcult to transfer out of the head. What?—What what?—What are you writing?—Well…OK. But what then when we think about something. but in the second. 335) What has any of this got to do with academic work? And what has is got to do with writing quick and dirty? Suppose we think while we talk or write—I mean. That guy is eating. to the question: “What did the thought consist in. I got it all up here. —Now I know exactly what my book will look like. sec. (Wittgenstein 1958/2001. bit by bit.—Don’t all those pages up there bother you? Does it hurt?—Don’t be silly. this thing that makes our friend believe “it is done”? And what makes the researcher think that the thought is analogous with a book? Wittgenstein (1958/2001) comments that we seem to make a fundamental mistake when we think that thought is a process that occurs in the head and is then translated into “language” and communicated. if it’s in there? What does our imagined researcher carry around in his head? A manuscript written in a language only he can translate? Fragments of a text? A table of contents? What could it be.
All this might seem contradictory. His On the Road (1957/1998) has become mythologized as a kind of perfect writing. however. Later research into Kerouac has shown that most. in the words of Wittgenstein. an idea. one can still ﬁnd lots of nearly unreadable garbage in the form of “stream of consciousness” writing. It shouldn’t be surprising that a number of ﬂedgling writers and epigones haven’t come much further in their emulation of their idols than copying their addictions. but I think that the same goes for the assumedly intellectual parts of research as well. more inspirational story. But what does it matter anyway? My point lies in the writing. is created right there—in writing. And. if not all. just like all other myths. rather the opposite. produced over a period of ﬁve years. the lightning-fast snap-crackle-pop of biochemical madness in the brain. three week.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 41 Even though there is a distinct pleasure to be had in rapid thinking. hinder it. or drugs without this meaning that their work would be a direct consequence of heroin or martinis. and others who’ve been threatened with physical violence). The mythological version simply makes for a better. of the book can be found in draft form in a number of manuscripts and notebooks. or thought long and wrote quickly. I believe that thoughts are created in their capture. as a direct consequence. writing on a single roll of paper so as not to have to break for changing sheets. looking for the illumination they assume is the primus motor of scholarly work. has mostly been ignored. Take Jack Kerouac as an example. This fact. We could compare with the way in which more than a few writers have been inspired by a developed addiction to alcohol. They seek a thought. created in a single. or whatever else they think lies at the base of research and seemingly think that writing would. and even though many a scholar is hopelessly addicted to the high this can produce. Thinking. The trivial and often internally contradictory thoughts I tried to convey to increasingly skeptical audiences . sex. emulating the Beat authors. My experience in writing has never been one of brilliant insights being transferred onto paper. Benzedrine-fuel marathon session at the typewriter. this is not synonymous with research. in the moment they are written down. become “braked by the words” this. Obviously this is particularly true when it comes to gathering data or empirical observations since ﬁeldwork can be both physically demanding and contain an element of risk (I’ve been fortunate enough to know research assistants who’ve contracted exotic diseases. This is also why I feel that research is primarily a case of manual labor rather than abstract and mental. Similarly one can often ﬁnd researchers in various states of either ecstasy or despair. a theory. However counterintuitive it may seem. Kerouac wrote quickly.
Instead. It was created through a thousand attempts. the art of being able to put words on paper without thinking about it too much—write ﬁrst.” Succinctly put. edit later. “it ain’t the same kind of text!” And partly they might be right (see Czarniawska 1999 on organizational research as genre). Quick.” someone might interject. a thought becomes a living thing when it is created onto a page. work with their brains rather than with their hands. this value was added through the manual work of writing. The resistance Wittgenstein (1958/2001) describes as happening in writing is. Text. a description of what happens when thoughts work and when they. often due to sheer lack of time was forced to write them down before I’d had the pleasure of “thinking them through. So I didn’t plan or draft or create outlines. nowhere else. . long passages that simply didn’t work. The fact is that in the same way that a book becomes real in the process of writing. I gathered literally hundreds of odd scraps that somehow congealed into bigger wholes. Marx turns up in the most surprising contexts… Jack Kerouac wasn’t a good author due to his passion for literature. I would fail. is not a question of who writes the fastest or about the number of words per minute you can write. well. I wrote onward. On the Road (1957/1998) was a great book because it had been worked on. “Yeah. always onward. or because he drank a lot. I just wrote any and everything I could think of that might have something to do with the subject. And I don’t mean that you’ll just write faster. and actually save those thoughts that deserves saving. see where your reasoning doesn’t work. in labs).42 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS became something entirely different when I. I deleted. But the work entailed in producing the texts might not differ that much. in some cases. in the sense I’m talking about it. is born in writing. I moved. See. and I wrote even more. the quicker it goes. Still we often think that academics. I wrote. if there is anything of value at all to my thinking. Back then. the faster it goes. any text. To be quick to subject your arguments to the friction of the paper means that you’ll discover the ﬂaws of your thinking faster. even though this might be another consequence. or because he had some metaphysical “it” lodged in his brain. it is the speed to write I am referring to. are born. and ditched drafts. if I didn’t produce enough words. but that your actual argumentation will develop more quickly. think then. I’ve found that the less time I use to plan writing. to me. who work primarily by writing (or. in a manner of speaking. and that was all I knew. The more you write. manually. Rather. The only reason I actually managed to earn a PhD was due to the fact that I simply did not have time for anything except writing.
the fear of ﬁnishing (What should I do now?). some theory. Science seems to be all about “matter in its place. Mary Douglas presents her well-known and seminal theory of impurity and the role of it in human thinking. arrange it in the lonely room of your head. which is an illogical and very unscientiﬁc ﬂaw in thinking. One fear that is particularly important within the scope of this essay is. On one hand. and perhaps. which comes in at least two shapes. The other fear. therefore. No matter how much I think about order. The problem is that we’ve then created a dangerous blend of different kinds of activities. the fear of producing crap. which has been conclusively proven in an extensive study I’ve made of my desk (Rehn. particularly when it comes to thinking the sacred and the strive towards clarity and certainty. which isn’t completely detached from the ﬁrst. as does philosophy. unexpected results. cleaning everywhere (a not a thing to think). and some spices for ﬂavor). Cleaning. Organization theory looks a lot like a form of meta-cleaning. In fact. it never becomes orderly. the fear of writing. the antithesis to knowledge itself? Thinking about it. a lot of people are conﬁdent in their belief that research is supposed to be a hygienic activity. This is connected to the notion of research as a mental activity. ongoing). Sociology and political science often try to create highly ordered images of the world. and then output the now well-ordered. many scholars think that their job is reducing the inherent complexity of the world into something more easily handled. But what is crap? In her brilliant Purity and Danger (1966/2001).Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 43 Writing the Impure One of the most dominant feelings in academic work seems to be fear. Observing cleaning is not the same thing as cleaning up. a lot of what (social) scientists do starts looking like a form of cleaning up—a hygiene function. obviously. and so on. a fear of what might happen once you start writing since actually writing stuff down can often lead to new avenues.” Douglas analyzes what it is in the category of “ﬁlthy” or “impure” that so offends our sense of order. such as the fear of data. one where their job is to clean up not only a dataset or similar gathering of material but also the mess within one’s own head. the fear of presenting research (What if they laugh?). Developing William James’s classical deﬁnition of dirt as “matter out of place. Fear can take many forms. is the fear to write badly. Despite this. it is fear of the unknown. Because isn’t this what dirt/ﬁlth/crap is. as do many of the natural sciences. the antithesis of order.” and it would seem most proper that research and the products therein should be well-ordered and structured. and even contradictions. prop- . You input things in your brain (a little bit of data.
seemingly without an underlying logic: “Why should the frog be clean and the mouse and the hippopotamus be unclean? What have chameleons. the chameleon. I like to call it the “the brain as a washer” mode of thinking. but something in-between. There is a marked difference between the natural sciences. or any. and the crocodile all seem to have “hands” (i. say. Research into the social world simply cannot create meaningful general models. “(i) frenzied. At the same time. and ponders why some things are declared impure. where one has. But should academic texts be puriﬁed? And puriﬁed from what? What interests Douglas most (1966/2001.e. journalism. unclear and in ﬂux. and dirty limericks. If you fail in this. such as when Foucault in The Order of Things (1970/2002) quotes Borges’s text on a “Chinese lexicon” and the way to divide animals into. (l) et cetera.” This would indicate that impurity in academic writing might be deﬁned by a stepping outside of the boundaries of proper science. those demarcations that separate an academic text from. the mouse. and the social sciences. (j) innumerable. which try to understand and interpret a world that is. maybe even a poem or two. Phenomena with characteristics from more than one thinkable unity are impure. and ﬁne literature (Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux 1994). the mole. . if you can’t get the washer to run the right program. tried to create ﬁnalized taxonomies and categorizations of the natural world (Bowker and Star 1999). since Linneaus. (m) having just broken the water pitcher. pragmatic statements. those odd things that are neither ﬁsh nor fowl. you have to guard the border between truth and ﬁction. you’ll be writing crap. alternatively the line between productive interpretations and foolish ones. For example. 42–58) are the hybrids.. moles and crocodiles got in common that they should be listed together (Lev. 27)?” After debating the issue. Leviticus. their paws look like hands) but use these to walk with. The social might be best understood as a hybrid unto itself. But this is actually something different from the impurity Douglas ﬁnds and particularly so in the social sciences. and texts written on it might well contain snippets from and references to journalistic text. literature. The division of the world can take any number of forms. by deﬁnition. consultant’s tomes. She looks to one of the oldest normative texts of our Western culture. at least not without becoming so general and abstract that these models cease to have a meaningful relation to the world and become a kind of metaphysical language unto themselves.44 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS erly hygienic result. she comes to the conclusion that it seems to be a principle stating that unity is synonymous with holiness that orders this thinking. (k) drawn with a very ﬁne camelhair brush. xi. list of “matter in its place.” And impurity is transcending this.
Social scientists write about the impure. Taking economic phenomena. not to be ignored. In much the same way as Jacques Derrida in Of Grammatology (1976/1997) showed that no text can be completely free from alternative interpretations and thus potential contradictions (although he never claimed that knowledge would be impossible). It is a monster. say. and start studying “everything.S. the social sciences are interested in a ﬁeld that works differently and where truths take different forms. in this sense. no text in social science is ever complete and puriﬁed. the ideas you want to convey. in an essay on economic anthropology. Nor can you know beforehand exactly what should be included and excluded. So whereas theoretical physics may have cordoned off a relatively “pure” ﬁeld for itself. But if you try to adopt a more holistic. but it can be. distribution. W. at best. For what do social scientists study? We all have our favorite deﬁnitions.” Research. the absolute fact that you never can know. and to penetrate to the depths of the domain. Hegel). the role of poetry in publishing. such as “the economy. But is this enough? To exemplify. social such. such as.” (Godelier 1978. It may be highly relevant when companies try to convey their messages. Hacking 1999). 55). turn up in company narratives. and most importantly of all. which are often assumed to be deﬁnite and easier to model than. Maurice Godelier (1978) has remarked that the separation of a speciﬁc ﬁeld. Thus it is not always the case that you can exclude poetry from social science. If you reduce the ﬁeld to a set of functions such as production. one can state that order in this world is. Thus writing the impure is a part of the ﬁeld. including everything that might play a role. And. systemic view. a temporary state of affairs. it is somewhat important to companies that publish poetry. “always already” (with apologies to Judith Butler and G. this hybrid we social scientists study. and consumption. and even without making trivial statements regarding the “social construction of everything” (cf. becomes a continuous balancing act between delimitation and inclusion and the task of research to “analyse both this external and this internal aspect. for our own favorite ﬁelds. one that excludes poetry. they quickly turn out to be impure indeed. and neither . until the latter opens on to other social realities and ﬁnds there that part of its meaning that it does not ﬁnd in itself. as it all depends on context. you will lose sight of the ﬁeld of interest. the perspective you adopt. Eliot. Poetry isn’t always relevant for an economic analysis. F. you will neglect phenomena that are actually needed to grasp the ﬁeld.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 45 The fact is that social world is deﬁned by impurity and paradox. a continuous engagement with our own Augean stables. or when a CEO has a thing for T.” by necessity leads us into a paradox.
so the notion that research should be a question of cleaning up in the complex world into a series of more or less trivial concepts is troubling indeed. or moments caught in a haze. one of creating interesting descriptions. photographs. the important issue is not the arranging and ordering of the world. Much of my writing has been deﬁned by my not taking the time to worry about whether what I write will ﬁt within a predeﬁned ﬁeld and also by my assumption that part of my work. particularly if you mean an insecurity as to what can “ﬁt” the discourse of the social sciences. and Richard Rorty . Such a language game can so easily devolve into nothing more than a scholastic nitpicking and word-play. Well. Pierre Guillet de Monthoux once rhetorically asked me why so few researchers illustrate their own works. in this sense. rather. and the processes we study are messy. with his Return to Reason (2001). where one is more interested in looking the part than actually doing science. and there are those who seem to agree with me. but the effort to understand it. something he’s done with some success. A text about social phenomena can never be complete and can never be completely devoid of gaps and potential impurities. overheard conversations. one might come closer to the phenomenon one studies by deliberately going for impure forms of representation—creating collages of quotes. one is struck by the fact that many a social scientist obviously believe that in order to be pure and “scientiﬁc.” texts have to be as unattractive as possible.46 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS is the ﬁeld. The fear of producing crap is. snippets of text captured at a printer. If one is interested in science. pencil sketches. Stephen Toulmin. Wittgenstein is one. So what should a text in social science look like? The very question is wrongly put. In my own case. particularly if you believe understanding is a setting on your internal washer. I crossed the borders between organization studies and economic anthropology as well as the borders between commodities and gifts (Rehn 2001). An academic can save a lot of unnecessary grief by not even attempting to write puriﬁed scholarship. but. And I guess you might think that. teeming mass of images that exists in the social world and comparing these to the trivial illustrations that exist on the pages of research. notes. But I think it isn’t as easy as that. part of any scholar’s work. Thus the ideal in these sciences shouldn’t be an issue of creating perfect models. But looking at the beautiful. why not? Obviously. is to cross borders. The ﬁelds we study are not simple or rariﬁed. a mistake. “But that’s the same thing. to make a productive mess of things. The social sciences are interesting precisely because they discuss phenomena in the social world with all the impurity this brings with it. this is an impure method to clarify one’s message. sudden asides. Instead.” I can imagine someone shouting.
the unstable tuft on which we can precariously balance as long as we don’t stand still. In order to do good academic work. but the opposite. And this is something that cannot be learned except through the work itself. for too long. through the act of writing and thinking. however. Scholarship and Impurity So what could all this mean for social science? And what kind of connection am I trying to make between the quick and the dirty? Some might think I’m propagating a kind of sloppy pragmatism. academic work is work. a search where disparate bits of information are imperfectly woven together into a tentative whole you may have an engagement of understanding to. and shouldn’t be romanticized more than absolutely necessary. it means you have to reﬂect a lot more and think a lot harder. and the level of purity desired. Despite the sudden sense of well-being it generates. the notion that there would be a Platonic ideal for the academic text may be the most unscientiﬁc thought of all and the biggest hindrance to actually doing something worthwhile in social science. you are simply forced to be able to tell the difference between the relevant and the ornamental. wears them down. understanding isn’t a simple. Churning out text does not mean one has exchanged thinking for production. I am actually talking. It is also a symbol for judgment as a critical skill in scholarship. This is why I’ve increasingly started to view research as a form of manual labor. and seldom more than that. destroys people. and through the crafting of a text or an argument. You understand “enough” to manage. Even though it lacks the sweat and ﬁlth of a factory ﬂoor. one where only results count and where science and the search for truth become abstract and pointless concepts. handling it head on. It means working on your thinking. It is rather something like an oscillation between states. a position where humility and active engagement becomes an integral part of the search for truth.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 47 (1989. the amount of impurity needed. petriﬁed. 1998) are two others. it is an ethic. this “enough” is not an argument for sloppy work or lazy analyses. Accepting the impurity of reality does not mean cutting corners. about the opposite. the form and the content. I was locked into this mode of think- . However. Rather. Consequently. straightforward phenomenon. engaging with it rather than treating it as some sort of metaphysical illumination in the world. This romanticized notion that research is the thinking of deep thoughts that are documented a posteriori. an acceptance of limitations and the impossibility of eternally stable knowledge. This “enough” is what I believe is at the very heart of research.
an observation that might be far more interesting than it seems at ﬁrst. and it was a crisis. And I haven’t even touched upon my most extreme impurity. nor were my impure techniques a way to avoid stringency.48 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ing for a long time. is that this leads to an extreme form of hygiene. my worst break with the academic code. The forbidden and the impure have great difﬁculties with ﬁtting into such a mode of thinking science. when every sentence is . So the effort becomes to imitate some ideal form for the academic text and to follow the cut of this year’s model. The thoughts I’ve tried to handle in this essay deal with two issues: the nature of thinking and the form of science. but looking at most of the things published in the social sciences. be girded by a scientiﬁc and academic attitude to the world.” Instead. and a slowness like the ﬂow of molasses. Often this seems to hinge on academics in their anxiety not to step over some imagined boundary of propriety. as the ink and paper spent on them clearly aren’t warranted. And since form is easier to replicate than thinking. The sad fact is that most publications are rarely read. the academic world often accentuates this. if at all. It seems like a lot of people simply work in environments where anything beyond the most stunted text is looked upon with suspicion. obviously. you will often ﬁnd that they are written in an entirely different manner. I tried to do research. We often seem to think that academic writing is a question of combining these two elements. the notion that research is supposed to be done in a speciﬁc way and supposed to hold to a speciﬁc look. pressing scientiﬁc thinking into an acceptable form. Writing quickly didn’t mean that I compromised my science. possibly due to personal insecurities among the senior researchers. I admit that this has a political dimension. The difference might not seem that huge. namely sterility. in fact. writing in a style that is almost criminally stilted and uninteresting.” Easier? There is not much worth saving in science if “easy” has validity as a criterion. The problem. there are still ways to enact change. and some actually constitute environmental crimes. it takes courage. If you read monographs written by more prominent researchers. but academia is no place for the fearful. A comment I’ve often heard that enrages me is variations of “but if you’re unsure. It was a depressed despair that ﬁnally made it possible for me to write academically. I never did write for publications. it’s easier to write the way everyone else does. but I never did think that hard about the way a publication was “supposed to look. it seems to be. Yes. But even taking all this—conservative seniors and the general lack of well-written social science—into account. Learning to write taught me precisely how writing quick and dirty can. I tried to get what I wrote accepted and into publications.
science is something that has to be given form. what we have here is a dynamic notion of writing. when it ﬁghts against the material resistance of the audience and the world. sterile isolation. and communicated. . the resistance of the page that can only be bridged by manual labor. as a wholly internal happening. Write. but do not purify. therefore. in connection to this. of course. Form. the braking Wittgenstein identiﬁes. Research can take many forms. Simply put.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 49 formed and ﬁtted to a clumsy and unforgiving form—as if being an epigone was more acceptable when the copied original is mediocre. and contains transgressions and the breaking of taboos as a matter of course. to ﬁnd new ways to think and surprising ways to address problems—a mass of activities none of which are supported or helped by sticking dogmatically to form. That there would be a criterion of form beyond the one that is given by the science itself is. (Douglas 1966/ 2001) At the same time. you’re not doing social science. Science is not a sterile concept. formulated. It can only become so when it meets the friction of the world. also note that Mary Douglas states that concepts of impurity are mostly religious. isn’t scientiﬁc either. Before this barrier is breached. but one principle can never be ignored or forgotten—it is supposed to be a case of independently scientiﬁc work. a dialectics between breaking with form as dogma and creating form as communication. It is part of the very nature of science to seek its own limits. highly illogical. isn’t scientiﬁc. Thinking that that happens in splendid. You are merely performing synaptic gymnastics. in its guise as something to be dogmatically followed. the ﬁrst and foremost material resistance. to continuously question itself. Wittgenstein 1958/2001). And. We can.
Also. So I decided to write my thoughts down. “no one knows. I decided I would take the opportunity to play the role of the “bad boy” (Similar to the angry young man. They are not meant as feel-good sentiments nor are they malicious ones. they will only have the slightest inkling about how other people manage this. Every 50 . They are simply thoughts that I wanted to share regarding the funny business of writing a thesis in order to become a PhD and the problems one might encounter therein. Your advisor doesn’t have all the answers. then. however. but with less quotations and a penchant for one-liners. particularly since the panel consisted of nice and knowledgeable people.” A senior researcher can look at unﬁnished work and say whether it cuts the mustard or doesn’t. A common question. What follows. as any input of energy into academia is something to cherish and rejoice over.5 Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students I recently had the pleasure to sit on a panel that was convened with the lofty aim of improving PhD programs in business studies by discussing the role of the thesis. They are in no particular order. Anger and confusion are wonderful things.). except for the last one. but no one in the whole world can give you a sureﬁre model that will guarantee that the work will turn out right. they are almost as scared as you are. but these may also take away from the issue at hand. is a variation of “how can I make sure it will be good enough?” The answer is. it also made me think. posed by doctoral students all over. are some remarks for doctoral students. In accepting to do so. This may seem strange since these same people will be able to tell in an instant once they see the ﬁnished work. Obviously there are some things that are not explained enough in the ﬁeld. Senior researchers will know how they manage to write something they feel is scientiﬁc or scholarly. 1. Although I greatly enjoyed the discussion. but this is just the way things are.
This doesn’t mean that ambitious projects aren’t difﬁcult. then you can make choices and focus on cer- . but you need to ﬁnd your own answer. and this is why it is important. merely that you have to make it clear what discussion you are a part of and what you are bringing in. focus. But then again. and no one else does either. really bad advice. Asking your advisor will not be of much help. There is no honor in making things ridiculously simple for yourself. but the accomplished ones get better at hiding it. research should be. a tangled web with confusing and twisted spheres of thought and inﬂuence. Unfortunately. Sometimes doctoral students get really. I disagree with this claim.” The research community will either accept it or not. To really hammer the point home.” Some will claim that this is the way to do research. What is “good enough” in research? I don’t know. Every project in research should be ambitious. There is no predeﬁned level of “scientiﬁcness” that you have to reach. is a really bad idea. What one needs to do is make the research good enough and to persuade the ﬁeld to accept it. This does not mean that it is all show and politics. Consequently. ambition becomes the patsy when insufﬁcient reading and lack of thought should be attacked (I want to acknowledge that it was my friend.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 51 researcher is scared about whether or not their stuff is up to scratch. as it were) can give. Once you’ve started noticing patterns in your material/data. On the contrary. Under-ambition and excessive focus is a ﬁne recipe for stupid. and thus be written with the integrity that only going for the jugular (of the ﬁeld. This is about as bright as driving blindfolded during rush hour in a major city and navigate according to a memorized map from 1973. Research is an ongoing discussion. Your advisor can guide you. Another way in which people try to battle the problem of fear and confusion is to invoke the notion of “focus” or “research question. Marcus Lindahl. They are. just gray zones. un-ambitious question. one that separates good research from bad. There are no clear demarcations. For instance. The problem is that a lot of people have problems discerning between ambition and lack of thought. in the social sciences. There is nothing wrong with ambition. don’t hide behind a tiny. just you and your claim that “this phenomenon exists. to ﬁnd a deﬁnite focus and to then keep to that. they may be told not to pick too ambitious a project. This is utterly idiotic. There is. in the end. One deﬁnite upside to a good frontal lobotomy is focus. who pointed out this discrepancy to me). The very notion is tainted by an idea of some metaphysical dividing line in the world. such a line or such a point does not exist. and you should keep this in mind when an advisor talks about focus early on. 2.
In other words. Having a lot of people butting in just confuses the process. This discussion can mean two things. a number of important researchers worked hand in hand with their advisors. The argument is less persuasive if we imagine that one aspect of doctoral studies is to develop into a thinker. In the natural sciences. A lot of the greatest thinkers didn’t have any real advisor (in the way we see them)—names such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Norbert Elias come to mind. Talk to people. this means they want enough people along so that no one can be blamed. but don’t get two advisors. One. winning Nobel Prizes in the process. when an advisor suggests extra advisors. Two. seventy years later. Advisors sometimes don’t want to take any responsibility for you. then you need to focus in order to keep the extraneous stuff out. Everett Hughes and Herbert Blumer both advised a number of the ﬁnest sociologists of an era and. where extra help is always a good thing. So be ambitious. and get editorial help or a few good references from a number of friends. Putting on the blinders of focus or the limitations of under-ambition is a sureﬁre recipe for failure. If they suggest an entire panel of advisors. they might think your work stinks and want somebody else along to share the blame. This might very well be true if one imagines that writing a thesis is similar to painting a house. not even with following this advisor pretty closely. If we perceive it thusly. Besides that. they may think that you are immature and easily led and thus likely to follow one person blindly. Count the number of people they want to bring in and you have a fair picture of just how stupid your advisor thinks you are. and used this in their own work. There is nothing wrong with working with one advisor. one advisor is more than enough. and she is still referenced. You don’t need any more bad advice. such a notion is built on the assumption that more comments and “help” will improve the thesis. A sure sign is that they will talk to you about getting an additional advisor. but don’t be focused. Once you’ve started to write things up. Examine things in the world and think about them. There is a notion bandied about that more advisors will bring about better work. The anthropologist Ruth Benedict worked along the same path as her teacher Franz Boas. There is very little to be . Be original and try to say something important. Obviously. by all means. 3. You will be hindered enough in your thinking by the social demands of academia. seemingly. cared not a whit about the fact that sometimes their students actually learned a lot from them. they think you are a bad student.52 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS tain things. focus is just another way to turn into a bad researcher. however.
That’s why you get the accolades. It is also reminiscent of having two mothers. in fact. get help. The harshest lesson for any doctoral student is this: When all is said and done. and the fact that some things are set in stone goes against the whole ethos of our era. Nevertheless. When it comes to the science-bit. 4. of course. accustomed to explaining away our choices and predilections. We are. Regardless of what anyone will tell you. If you see nothing wrong with that. No. developing into a scholar. you are the only one who can fail your thesis. these simply shouldn’t exist. While it is natural to wish for different kinds of certainties and possibilities for blamesharing. If you feel like blaming someone else. ambition and realism are not mutually exclusive. It is not a group endeavor. A part of this is taking full responsibility. and your advisor really shouldn’t have too much to do with it. In the end. You are responsible for every single word of your thesis. But you will just have to face these obstacles like everyone else does and handle them as best you can. Of course. Yes. you should try to write a seminal work. You will only get some of the fame (your advisor wants a cut). Remember. or illness. A thesis is supposed to be an independent scientiﬁc work. ambition and humility aren’t mutually exclusive. and actually becoming an independent one. An indicator of not good enough is that you either don’t know what you went for. The faster you get to terms with this. There are many things in life that may hinder you—a death in the family. Writing a thesis is a question of growing as a researcher. or believe you’ve done something you haven’t done. the same thing goes. an advisor is there to help you develop into an independent thinker. One reliable test of good enough is that you tried for something but didn’t get all the way there. Learn to live with it. There are two kinds of thesis: the bad and the lousy. a thesis is not expected to be a masterwork. If you can ﬁnd joy in the fact that you can (and will) be attacked for your work. children. a piece of scholarship . It is supposed to be good enough. you are the one responsible for your thesis. no one can really do that part for you. you are. you’re not ready to be a doctor. not better than the ﬁnest works in the ﬁeld. 5. but you will take all the blame. Having two advisors is like having two priests or two psychiatrists.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 53 gained from having two. An advisor isn’t there to write your thesis. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. a classic. the happier you will be. In fact. That’s why you get the lofty title. it is your own fault. it only has to show that you were striving for brilliance. period. and no one else is. You are battling it out to be better than other PhD-students. research is hard.
The point to ﬁnishing a thesis. It’s a book.” or.54 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS so astounding that your advisor isn’t worth to comment on it. “I think it was best for all. giving up is the smart thing to do. If all else fails. and the way the trafﬁc ﬂows. as compared to writing it. give up. On one level. lies in this realization. consequently. Now. can save you a lot of heartache. Personally. Unfortunately. Some will never come to terms and. nothing more. and there should be far less of a stigma to giving up.” or. Anyone can observe and think about things. It does not help you pick up strangers in bars. You will fail in this. the laws. being one. 6. it may. This type of thesis rarely becomes a masterpiece. is allowed to fail. There is no need to ﬁnish. so has everyone else. “I miss having her around. have a child. keep you from getting a decent job. I think a lot of people ﬁnish their thesis just because they’re afraid.” Obviously. You don’t have to ﬁnish your thesis. this is true. and it sure as hell doesn’t bring fortune. make a difference in the world.” Actually.” Now. “That Alf guy. Sometimes. and although most people have a book in them.” In some cases they’ll say. Your parents will be proud. I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about someone who dropped out. but no one thinks it is particularly negative to say. you have to learn the language. He seems a lot happier now. Still. A thesis does not bring happiness. Aren’t people saying things like. it doesn’t bring fame. They don’t want to be the one about whom people say. he really can’t write poetry. Don’t think that a thesis is where it’s at. That’s okay. Get a great job. it isn’t necessarily a thesis. work for ten or ﬁfteen years trying to polish their thesis. the vernacular. Not only do you have to be able to observe and think. They’ll say things like. “He didn’t feel he could do it. but is that negative? Why do people think that everyone can write a thesis? Most people can’t write poetry to save their lives. but they’re impressed by the fact that you learned to walk and managed to eat without getting food all over your face. A lot of people suffer far too much during the process for it to be worthwhile. “He wasn’t up to it”? Sure they do. the grammar. the social rules. the simple realization that a thesis is a serious work and. You can do a lot of things with your life that are both more productive and bring more joy than writing a thesis. plant a tree. you probably think I’m lying. “What a damn shame. we believe that research is something everyone should be able to do. And then you have to learn how one . you shouldn’t cut corners or go for just good enough (because you will always fail and instead produce something that doesn’t cut it). “He didn’t ﬁnish. research is another country. in fact. and most of your friends will not understand what the fuss is all about.
try again. Although this may seem like the most mean-spirited comment in a series of fairly nasty remarks. saying. . Not because they aren’t smart enough but because they can’t see the point or don’t care enough. The same goes for academia.” This is good advice for learning how to ride a bike. I would just be parroting sentences. try. I dropped out of a course in Japanese simply because I realized I didn’t have the time or the patience to reorient my notions of how a new language works. You don’t have to ﬁnish your thesis. But it is not so in academia. feel-good advice. how one breaks the rules. For many. A long time ago. it is because they cannot comprehend just how much of a culture research is. I remember thinking that if I decided to learn without rethinking. Sometimes. In this harsh world. There is nothing wrong with not ﬁnishing. you need to realize what I’m actually saying. Sometimes a parent will say something like: “If at ﬁrst you don’t succeed. This is positive advice. and how one curses in a natural and effortless way. this hill is too steep to climb.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 55 behaves naturally within this tangle of tacit rules. “Fuck you!” to your advisor might be the best decision you’ll ever make.
rather than obscurity. Although the personal Web site has been around for more than a decade and its importance is generally and universally accepted. Some simply have a monstrously long page containing their curriculum vitae (from here on referred to as CV) and little else. A lot of active academics have no Web presence apart from a short and often out-ofdate piece on the department page. instead. the really useful scholar’s Web site is a very rare beast. In fact. but the academic does. remarks on a special aspect. A serious scholar does not need to constantly appear on talk shows or try to get media attention. every journalist. This is not a general manifesto for the relationship between the scholar and society seen as audience. Others have pages that say “Under Construction” and were last updated in 2000. It is. and the notion that visibility is synonymous with shallowness should be abandoned.6 A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars Let me state what should be obvious: The contemporary academic has an obligation to be visible to the outside community. This chapter will not be a design guide or a coding guide. This is true for almost all people under the age of thirtyﬁve. and so on. What I am talking about is a Web site. I feel. have a certain responsibility to enable the outside world to learn of the work the scholar has accomplished. Today an increasing amount of people see the Internet as the ﬁrst place they look for information. but I will offer some ideas about the underlying logic of the personal academic Web site. And this is a problem. Visibility. We no longer think 56 . an aspect that today is so common that there should be no need for critical comments of this kind. should be a question of honor for a scholar. the online situation in academia borders on the tragicomic. almost every academic. Some scholars have pages that are tacky with cringe-worthy graphics and zero accessibility.
or a date. more important than publishing yet another paper. we are. it should be viewed as just as important as the CV and the updated list of publications. It’s quite okay to communicate just to other academics (although I think you’re doing academia a disfavor). Although the statement smacks of 1990s puffery. post-structuralist thought. the qualities that make for good science are the same qualities that make for a good Web site. At least. making academia more insular and less important. get one. This shouldn’t be something you do when you have a spare moment but something you set aside time for. The site that the department has of you—the one with the bad photo. like writing a paper. but if you don’t. Actually. By hampering the way in which single academics could become approachable for those interested in engaging in wider discussions. The personal Web site should be seen not as an optional extra for the professional academic. Toward the Visible Academic First: You must have a personal. and that you can turn into a way of communicating what it is you do. Second: There must be some point to your Web site. but you must have some idea in your head what visibility means to you. In fact. professional Web site. who might read it. the respect of your peers. and I’m getting radical here. transparency. You need a Web site that you control. It is. clarity. your classroom number. even in the limited form of constructing a Web presence. and some extraneous information—is not enough. I’m in favor of appending it to your contract with the university. usability and internal logic should not be scary to a scholar even to one engaged with. Consequently. so what I am proposing here should in no way be particularly radical. and what you want to gain from it. .A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars 57 about where one might get information for some speciﬁc thing. say. we just Google it. You may be looking for speaking gigs. I want to contend that the way in which one handles one’s visibility on the Internet is an integral part of being a contemporary scholar. the fact that most academics do not have a professional Web site is part of the marginalizing of academia. is actually part of your job. You must have some idea about why you have one. it should be. Terms such as central argument. you should have one already. A Web site that isn’t capable of communicating ideas actually questions the academic veracity of the academic. that you can update. Third: Visibility. in fact. but you must have a conscious idea about what the goal of your Web site is.
Your name. but to avoid bad design. award-winning design. black-on-white Web site that is pleasant to look at and that is easy to navigate is all you need. this does not mean that you cannot make this image visible. Keep to simple color-schemes (white and black probably sufﬁce). just the important stuff. your contact information. but in every case. A Web site that communicates nothing more than the fact that you have no clue about layout or aesthetics is really not worth the effort. A simple. If you know little or nothing about layout and design. until you can handle more. so you should include at least detailed keywords (“labor. So a ﬁrst rule of thumb could be: Make sure that your visibility doesn’t make you look bad.58 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Fourth: The way you make yourself visible. It is still important to plan even these minimal features. this image can and should be communicated. Here are some simple rules to follow: Keep each page small enough to be viewed on a screen without scrolling. It is okay to have a site that is just a calling card. that contains no usability. your afﬁliation. and traditional. but this is. of course. If you see yourself as serious. ask for help. Don’t get cute or try to be funny. There is no point in stating that your area of research is “economics” or “English literature” or “theoretical physics. Most departments have someone who knows enough to create a design that won’t make you look foolish. What information should be on your Web site? Basically. communicates something about you. Such a page will make it possible for people to ﬁnd you and get in touch with you. In fact. But there is more to this than merely having some HTML (hypertext markup language) thrown up on a server.” . Don’t use images until you’ve thought them through. and you can keep to your preferred self-image. if you can’t be bothered to make the pages within your site look decent. you can and should be visible. You don’t have to turn into a huckster salesman. or invisible for that matter. The important thing is not to have a perfect. The point is that regardless of what you do.” Someone who is checking up will be interested in speciﬁcs. just the absolute minimum. you’re better off having no site at all. somber. Keep to a single typeface until you learn enough about typography. in the way you prefer to be seen. Minimum Requirements Obviously. make sure that you have some kind of consistent design for the site. and your general area of research are good for starters. When you have a Web site. the minimum requirement is actually having a personal Web site. Don’t try to use technologies you can’t handle. as paradoxical as this sounds.
I feel that the old notion of scholars as disembodied minds belongs to the trash-heap of . might be the bare-bones of your site. Think of your Web site as a showcase. The PDF ﬁle is a godsend to the academic. and publishers to run your photo in case they interview you. downloadable creates usability and an actual point to the site. Tell people what it is you do. Having a nice photo is also a way of communicating who you are so that people can recognize you. where you do it. in many cases (particularly if you have a lot of publications) a selected list of your best works will be preferable. To this you could add some general descriptions of research projects and their aims as well as links to groups you are afﬁliated with.A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars 59 “poverty. This is not a question of vanity but one of making it easier for magazines.” “econometrics. a way to present yourself. I believe you should have a photo of yourself on your Web site. To a certain extent. The academic is a writing animal. your university probably has a photographer that can take a print-quality (300 dpi) photo of you for downloading purposes. newspapers. This practice also creates transparency in research. I usually think that you don’t have to have a complete CV on your Web site. there are several important things I believe should go into the Web site of a professional academic. having long pieces. the minimal features of an actual page. and how you do it. include a list of publications. low-quality snapshots. It does not have to be a perfect and complete list of everything you’ve achieved but a snapshot of who you are as an academic. a good idea is to have at least some of these accessible. in this age of ubiquitous digital cameras. it should be as an optionally downloadable PDF (portable document format) ﬁle. Instead. Still. which is a good thing. and I don’t mean one of those tiny. Having a selected list of publications. if you do. I do not believe such a list has to be a complete listing. and such a list will communicate what it is you do. and I do not think that it can be emphasized enough. with a few of your favorite pieces linked as PDF ﬁles. For this reason. When it comes to the list of publications. and that. Because a lot of text on a Web site creates clutter. even books. You will need to think through what it is you want to do with your Web presence and how this can best be achieved. combined with a selected list of works and a few downloadable papers. Preferable Features of a Web Site If you actually want some visibility. First.” “Hungary”) and the full titles of those publications that describe you best. should be part of anyone’s professional site. minimalism will not be enough.
com) and forward this to their http://www. An internet service provider (ISP) enables anyone to get a domain name (such as mine. the ﬁrst screen of your site). You should update your Web site. Even if you have no news. If you’ve been interviewed for a magazine. really. This gives the Web site some topicality. just out of courtesy to your visitors. I do believe that you should put some effort into this. 2006” and keep this date fairly recent). you should care enough to update it every few months. also. but I do believe that the skill of a good journalist is to make complex issues a little less intimidating. A full-body shot with you in trunks or a bikini might be overdoing it. or even monthly. If you haven’t updated your site in a year.60 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS history and that even scholars are allowed to have an identity. preferably on your home page (i. a sample of the interview belongs on your Web site. in such a way that you convey something about your research. a visitor may assume that you haven’t achieved anything noteworthy in the last year. confusing name is cumbersome. either. A long. you should have an inconspicuous line of text somewhere on the home page that states: “Last updated: May 14. but a short name is easy to remember and increases the chance of somebody actually ﬁnding it. but one or two good media representations of your work ﬁts well with a professional site for an academic. If a visitor cares enough to check your site. The people that visit your site want to get information. you should list important professional news.html for as little as ten dollars a year.e. and things such as a new book or having changed universities are things that you should communicate. a lot. www. Hosting your Web site yourself isn’t that expensive. You should also make it clear when the page has been updated.universityoutthere. though.alfrehn. or if it is impossible to tell when the site has been updated. and increases clarity by having the important stuff up front. update the date on your Web site (for instance. . but once every three or four months seems fair. Show me how “fresh” it is. It is a simple thing.. Also on your Web site. As to the domain name that you select. This might be seen as boasting. and a good interview may help laypeople (and colleagues) get a better understanding of what it is that you do.edu/ fak/hf/depecan/staff/hhrnoss/index. A photo is a good way to convey your identity. I don’t mean that you have to update your site weekly. I do not think that you should make the site a collection of press clippings.
My blog was named Nasty Scholar. only your personal creativity is the limit. instead. blogs (short for Web logs) seem to be all the rage. Start simply and build something that is both simple to use and useful. I did not send it away to be published and. a complete CV with lots of links. and I tried to write in it pretty regularly. A completist would want to have an allinclusive list of publications with PDF ﬁles of all texts. such as . as it became a bit stale.A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars 61 Above and Beyond How much information beyond the bare necessities should you put on your Web site? This question does not necessarily have a generic answer because it depends on the design of the site.org. This path would be challenging to maintain and would require some skill so as not to end up in massive clutter. Don’t show off your skills at animation and graphics until you have good content and enviable design skills. I do it because I like it. there are few limits to what could be put into one. Placing things on your Web site that are difﬁcult or impossible to get elsewhere obviously realizes the potential of the Internet in a very speciﬁc way. however. for some reason (such as copyright). One can imagine a number of fanciful extensions. and because I think it is a fun idea. One possible development path would naturally be to make it as complete a record as possible of your research life. put it on my site under a Creative Commons-license as a way to enhance the “value” of my site. I think that the technology underlying blogs. I’ve had a blog. Get acquainted with creativecommons. One thing that can spruce up a page considerably is including PDF ﬁles of works-in-progress and excerpts from works that. I feel that you shouldn’t put personal things like photos of the family on the same set of pages where you keep the professional stuff. going into cute tricks is a problem. one connected to my Web site. Look through your ﬁles and drawers. But that’s just me. I did however decide to end it. Both serve as a form of transparency and might actually increase interest in your work. Obviously. and I couldn’t keep it updated enough. A note on blogs: Even among scholars. but I won’t go into these for I still contend that since the simple and usable academic personal Web site is such a rare thing. and do something a bit different. Like many other people. and so on. Of course. quite a few photos and press clippings. However. Personally. This very text was originally written as a “Web special” on my own Web site. cannot be included in their entirety. the way you want to use your site and the amount of work you want to put into it.
dobers. If your idea about your own Web presence is in line with the logic of blogs. Good and Bad Examples • Obviously. His site can be found at http://www.org. • Sociologist Howard Becker has a site that combines the best and the worst of academic Web sites at http://home. • My former colleague Peter Dobers has a good academic page at http:// www. Otherwise.ensmp.ac. Learn from the content and stay away from the layout. a showcase of bad Web design.stanford.com/ is a good site. It could be aesthetically enhanced. but very efﬁcient. • Richard Rorty has a sparse Web site at http://www. go ahead. but is pretty good contentwise. about whether to recommend blogs for everyone.uk/∼dawkins/) should be ashamed of himself. • Management professor Henry Mintzberg has a pretty good site at www. On the whole.edu/∼rrorty/. but on the whole it seems more a complement to a site (as understood here) than a platform. in my opinion. you have to have a good idea why you would take up a blog instead of just jumping on the bandwagon. get your basic Web site up to scratch before you attempt to improve it with an extra layer of technology.earthlink.net/∼hsbecker/. I am torn. however. is fabulous.se/. at http://www.fr/∼latour/ . but it sufﬁces and I’m pleased enough with it. His site demonstrates how a simple design keeps clutter away. mintzberg. which is a treasure trove of contents and. which is not beautiful or communicative. I do not feel that it is perfect. it is somewhat beyond the basics I’ve described but not crammed with stuff. • Richard Dawkins (http://users. I feel that blogs can be a good way to uphold a Web page. I feel that my own Web site. far from it. • Bruno Latour’s Web site is remarkably good (although the slightly chaotic design and the bilingual confusion is a bit disconcerting).62 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS the system of direct publishing itself and the related technology of RSS (rich site summary).ox. Again.alfrehn. which has a lot of updated items and works-in-progress. particularly if one updates often.
and rogues. fools. trades. countries. as whores. 63 . and delights of all sorts. silver. as it is usually discussed. precious stones. servants. gold. with their companions. that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity. somewhere. husbands.7 Essay: On the Research Economy Almost ﬁve thousand years agone. bawds. lands. reﬂection has become a byword for evermore excessive exhibitions of academics wallowing in their own self-importance in which people in the name of reﬂection can engage in seemingly endless diatribes regarding their own lives—something you’d think interests only themselves. has. places. an invocation of doubt that has often taken on an almost ritualistic air—a whirlpool of continuous exhortations to think everything through just one more time. peculiarly enough. In the former case. apes. reﬂection has become something of a meta-methodology. In the latter. should be sold all sorts of vanity. which is the gaze of the one reﬂecting. games. souls. always meant one of two things: methodology or autobiography. titles. there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City. masters. and Legion. pleasures. as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub. plays. what is seen? Reﬂection in social studies. and what not. moreover. closely attending to the possibility that someone. honours. pearls. children. Not surprisingly. lives. (Bunyan 1678) What is reﬂected in reﬂection? In the gaze of vanity. has not yet had their subjectivity properly mulled. wives. bodies. when academics brandish the word “reﬂection. they contrived here to set up a fair. a fair wherein. lusts. preferments. and that it should last all the year long: therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold. and that of every kind. kingdoms. at this fair there is at all times to be seen juggling cheats. Apollyon. blood. as houses. perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made. And. if that.” many shudder and shy away. knaves.
and thus stimulate a new way to talk of the phenomenon. yes. “See my faults. my manifold of ways. obviously does something that pleases the average researcher. Reﬂection is closely related to vanity. so that the reﬂection of which we speak is understood as that of a mirror. reﬂection casts new light on something and illuminates it from another angle. namely portrays him or her anew. does however distract us from the more important and thought-provoking aspect of it all. who has argued for the necessity of keeping an “ironical” attitude toward the vocabularies we use to make sense of the world and strives to break with both the metaphysical notion that activities have simplistic and essential natures and the egoistical idea that the spirit of research is somehow to be found within the mental states of the researcher (Rorty 1989). 2000) has discussed the ideological. gives the researcher the possibility to bask in his or her own glory once more. Such a perspective is close to the thinking of Richard Rorty. an identity project (see also the discussion on “interpassivity” (]i\ek 1998)). Not only is the creation of such fractures ﬁendishly difﬁcult. this very word is taken altogether too literally. and. reﬂecting surfaces. is. is the other aspect of reﬂection—the less vain one—and it depends more on ﬁnding new ways to talk about a subject than merely repeating the formulaic inﬁnite regress of “reﬂective science” as an identity project. of course. Just as a mirror uses available light to throw back an image of what’s in front of it. not to mention the personal feelings of the academic would in any way be interesting to the reading public). Often. To reﬂect. since the performative aspects of ideology will always be. at the same time. thus. but . this kind of reﬂection depends on our ability to talk about a phenomenon within a novel framework. this is seldom possible. and we can here see a connection to the way in which Slavoj ]i\ek (1993. Basically. my whole delightful being!” Such blatant exhibitionism. that is. much of what is written in the name of reﬂection is written to glorify the writer. Such a device of. making the familiar unfamiliar. or the very possibility of such a foundation. However. then. This. an act of reframing. Consequently. I will attempt to do something slightly different while still keeping to the notion of reﬂection. in part. best be achieved if we could totally break with the accustomed principles of sense-making and create a sort of vertiginous aporia that would force us to rethink the very foundation of the thing we are reﬂecting on. sometimes elevated to works of an oddly shameless art (where the willing suspension of disbelief is abused inasmuch as we are expected to think that the personal life. to re-engage with some mode of thinking or expression.64 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS In this chapter. A recasting of this kind would.
and the aporia created by the notion of academic life as deﬁned by hybridity. Starting from a discussion of research as a hybrid economy. it represents a hybrid economy where gift-giving and post-industrial capitalism are merged and intermingled. The chapter will conclude with some remarks regarding the economic nature of reﬂection in the social sciences. even though there is an aspect of the self-evident to this. I will here discuss the economic nature of research. We are thus caught in a double blind—truly important reﬂections will not be seen as reﬂections. Consequently. Whereas most analyses of research look to the social and personal aspects thereof. the following will be an attempt to reﬂect on (social science) research by recasting it. et omnia vanitas…) and triviality. the less likely it is that it will be understood and comprehended. This said. by discussing research as an economical activity I do not wish to reduce it. In this vein.Essay: On the Research Economy 65 the nature of this process is such that the better one crafts such a recasting. Thus. Research as Hybrid Economy What I wish to argue here is that a central fact of research as a human activity is that it is driven by both a generosity and a brazen calculative rationality. we have. Rather. Now. it is quite astonishing to realize that little attention has been paid to the economic nature of research. the paper will cover issues such as the commodity-nature of contributions as well as gifts and sociality in research. whereas. particularly if by “economic” we mean something more complex than simple analyses of transaction costs or similar hackneyed models from economics. to a degree. any attempt at reﬂexivity needs to reﬂect on the issues of vanity (Vanitas vanitatum. arguing that this admittedly simple recasting can still shed some light on the complexities of the research life. in other words. be plagued by their triviality. The idea that research has an economic side is not new. throughout the . The putative ﬁeld of “the economy of research” can be said to have been instantiated by Charles Sanders Peirce. who saw notions such as limited resources and efﬁciency in inquiry as paramount for the development of science. the following analysis of the academic draws primarily on economic anthropology and attempts to place research activity into a more social framework of exchanges. realizing that these will always play a part in the act thereof. comprehensible reﬂections will always. I want to point out some of the processes that exist in the background of even the most reﬂective research. and there exists a large literature of economic analysis of the research process.
see also Yang 2000). study the ﬂuid intermingling of various systems. in her study of economic behavior in Wenzhou. for instance. be seen in the process of writing grant applications where statements regarding the beneﬁts of the proposed research are often given a prominent place. however.K. had a constant production of cost/beneﬁt-analyses and calculations regarding the economic beneﬁts of research. This hinges instead on the fact that the economic behavior of the individual academic engaging with the science community cannot be reduced to one single economic system. Looking to the life of individual academics. as it is this very aporia that can be used to explain speciﬁc logical ﬂows not reducible to efﬁciency or other mono-logical concepts. they argue that in order to understand economic systems. Mayfair Yang (2000) shows people from a predominantly rural society engaging in capitalist production with a gusto only to use their accumulated wealth in a ritualistic economy where one.66 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS 20th and 21st centuries. For instance. Hybridity in the sphere of the economic is a concept that has been suggested by a number of authors. . it is the very intermingling of different logics that deﬁnes this economic nexus. we have to relinquish the idea of stable and total such and. Gibson-Graham (1996. but intermingle and reinforce each other—capitalist production enables and aids the function of the ritual economy. burns money at burials and in other ways squander and waste this surplus (cf. Douglas 1966/2001). but that we instead must conceptualize a hybrid economy to make sense of this. a hybrid is always already an impure monster (cf. To state that this economy “in reality” is one or the other would be to miss the very point of how it has been established and how it is performed. Instead. this can. and a rhetorical analysis of such statements could probably generate highly interesting ﬁndings. Yang argues that this is an example of a hybrid economy. and this again drives people to greater engagement with capitalism. none of this is pertinent to the argument that I attempt here. Bataille 1967/1991). for example. two economies with fundamentally different structures do not simply co-exist. a kind of a third space (Bhabha 1994) for the economic where the limited models thereof are shown as untenable. invalidate it as an analytical category. However. instead. where hybridity is presented as an analytical alternative to the common assumption that capitalism represents a completely penetrative and all-encompassing imperialistic function. Further. Here. This does not. Rather. since its internal logic is that of inherent contradiction and performing a paradox. one that has to be understood not through reduction to one form or by claiming that it exhibits some set fraction of a speciﬁc form. The most developed notion may be that suggested by J. Rather.
are talking about one of its facets. even though this should be understood as merely a simpliﬁcation and an epistemological shortcut of sorts. however. 1976) operated with the assumptions that the economic is a complex manifold where several potentially conﬂicting logics worked in concert to structure exchange. and although one would think that organizational scholars would be the last people to assume that a reference to economic life by necessity means a reduction. particularly if more polemical statements are taken into account. is that academic work can be understood as a hybrid economy. there is little similar reﬂection on the economic aspects thereof. there still exists an assumption that we. we can state that this. consists of three interlocking economic spheres: a gift economy. Claims that academia is a gift economy are not unheard of. therefore. The traditional deﬁnition of a gift economy (cf. and. Thus the claim that recasting a phenomenon as an economy would. The way in which scholars are prepared to engage with this concept could be understood in a number of ways—such as an effort to portray oneself as a moral being and as a political move used to position academic work outside of the demands of the market economy—but it also shows a critical aspect of how exchanges work within academia generally. To refer to economic aspects seems to be to debase the research life.Essay: On the Research Economy 67 The central claim of my argument. then. integral and central to academia although we often. out of ideological reasons. treat them in parts. I shall. Looking at academic life as an economy. a social economy. the three spheres do. at the very least. Whereas there is much discussion about the social and socio-psychological aspects of life within the ivory tower. this still seems to be the case. namely. I’ll return to the issue of hybridity. the irreducible complexity of these spheres intermingling constitutes academia as a hybrid economy. Sahlins 1972. Godelier 1999) . Berking 1999. seem to marginalize these. help us to create at least a tentative order of economic behaviors. Although it is well known that the notion of the economic cannot be reduced to merely a caricature of bourgeois capitalism. in fact. seem fairly prevalent (cf. Mauss 1924/1990. that of the idealized market. by a reference to the economy. at least taking this latter deﬁnition as a starting point. and a market economy. Taken together. After considering these three constitutive parts. among several other disciplines. While it is not possible to delimit behaviors therein as purely being part of one or another. The reason for this is easily deduced. has for the last thirty years or more (cf. not refer to a reduction but rather to a contextually constituted system of exchanges that can be structured in a number of different and complexly aggregate ways. economic anthropology. At the same time. however. Hyde 1979). These aspects are.
in a worst-case scenario of sorts. we normally assume that economic behavior is chieﬂy ordered around three functions or requirements: the necessity of giving. when we do so we acknowledge (receive) similar gifts given before by referencing important contributions and the like. and active senior researchers will often be inundated with such engagements. to assessing the work . but it may enable us to discuss some of the more intangible aspects of organized economic behavior in academia. such as the potlatch (or to use Chinook jargon. Keeping just to the process of academic publishing. thus. Whereas some form of symbolic entities structures the gift economy. This distinction. one where the gift rather than the priced commodity is seen as the default unit of economic action. one had to give speciﬁc ritual gifts. that is. but this is an illustrative example. patshatl) and the kula. All active academics will. we are invoking something similar. for example. a person had to accept a gift given to them. and the need to reciprocate (cf. Important research ﬁndings. This culture created a circulation of gifts and counter-gifts that deﬁned the economic nexus for the societies engaged herein. The element of gifting in academia can be manifested through a number of channels. which is very tenuous. This will entail everything from the relatively simple job of refereeing articles or books. with publication being just one. are distributed through the academic journals without the scholar receiving any monetary compensation. Likewise. and this means that we. ﬁndings. Of course. In classic gift economies. This structure can be contrasted with another structure that I like to call the social economy. Mauss 1924/1990. references. the requirement to receive. Much of what goes under the label of academic work is arranged as a process of gifting (advice. undertake some reviewing. We can start by exemplifying.68 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS describes this as an economic structure where gift-giving is seen as the most characteristic form of exchange. a social economy is organized through relations. to the more arduous processes of assessing thesis manuscripts. at least in part. results. should be understood merely as an orienting device. Much of what is produced in a university is given away. receives. can talk about academia as a gift economy. All gifts had to be reciprocated in some way (Derrida 1992 offers a critique). When we refer to academia as a gift economy. Rehn 2001). and reciprocates. we are so happy to give away our ﬁndings and/or opinions that we celebrate when we’ve managed to efﬁciently give away some by publishing it. we can read this as a kind of ongoing spiral of gift-giving where every member of the community continuously gives. and so on). and our new publication can. In such a structure. In fact. a gift economy meant that in order to be a member of society. at some point. or. be seen as a form of reciprocity.
and tenure are ﬁerce. and honor. of course. Whereas it is clear that there is an aspect of gift-giving and social relationships to scholarly work. it . wanting to gain in standing. say that our continuing existence within the ﬁeld of academia requires and builds on certain social processes that will form our behavior within it.Essay: On the Research Economy 69 of several prominent scholars who have applied for the same chair. As getting an article published in a prominent international journal can have a tangible and measurable effect on things such as career possibilities and even salary. and normally it is done either pro bono or for a nominal fee not in line with the work entailed. instead. In a situation where an increasing amount of particularly junior academics and postdoctoral researchers get by on short-term ﬁnancing. but I contend that.g. there is a difference. but important when re-considered in the context of hybridity. Referring to gifts and the social can. The social economy. I will take on work due to the fact that I know I will need similar favors in the future (e. hard work. within the structure we are discussing. The difference to the gift economy may seem tenuous. reputation. securing people to appraise doctoral students). In fact. in part. This is. perhaps.. as favors of the kind discussed here could be understood as a form of gifts (cf. it would be naïve to discount such a fact. The requirement to devote oneself to the craft and take part in certain jobs regardless of their pay off is an integral part of academia. and where competition for grants. positions. however. the market economy of academic work cannot be discounted. we often fail to acknowledge how publications and academic activities constitute a form of currency and something that can conceptually be treated as a scarce resource. the social economy is built on more of a reactive mode where we will be prepared to take on irksome and arduous tasks because not to do so would seem callous or shameful. and thus. refers to the ways in which social forces such as peer pressure or tacit demands can order activities in ways that cannot be reduced to the restricted understanding of the economic. What is interesting here is that the smooth functioning of academia requires and presupposes that people will commit themselves to such work even though it is clearly not in the immediate best interest of the individual. constitutes what could be called its economy. This point is somewhat trivial. Clearly. Ledeneva 1998). We could. there is an element of quid pro quo here. Still. we cannot be blind to the fact that there is also a very tangible market structure to academia. Whereas gifting is tied to a productive logic. therefore. also work in a way that masks the existing market structures of universities. but this does not fully describe this operative logic of favors.
Articles form commodities. could build on the notion of academia as a hybrid economy. we usually ignore these aspects. and these logics can thus be interrogated only in part as solitary phenomena. if one was so inclined. is that economic activities within academia must be considered but that they cannot be reduced to one single conceptualization of the economic. and that we at all times must pay heed to the dialectical ﬂow within which our understandings are constituted. making sense of it simply by living it. as previously stated. I will not here detail the market properties of university life. Rather.” Sometimes this refers merely to a ritualistically repeated question in seminars. in order to form a reﬂective understanding of academic economy. But when we start to talk about reﬂecting on our academic practices. that we can only understand phenomena in parts. we are. traded on one market (the journals) for publication points. we must deploy a complex set of understandings. through their place in the social structure and the market economy of the university system. and our embodied sense of academic life is well equipped to take care of these matters. On one level. we cannot simply refer to such embodied understandings but must instead deploy more overt explanations. a number of logics co-exist that cannot be understood in isolation. which. they must be understood as fundamentally intertwined into each other so that the gift-nature of an academic publication must be understood both through this speciﬁc nature and also.70 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS would be fairly easy to describe the activities of a scholar as direct utility maximization. inherently paradoxical logics to make sense of it. in their turn. I am stating that my understanding of its economic nature is one of irreducible complexity and that we must be able to deploy several. But as this seems a very harsh way to view scholarly publishing. which can then be used in negotiations on another market (work opportunities). and I will in the following section use the logics I’ve tried to outline in order to make sense of two things: the status of contributions and the economic logic of reﬂection. at the same time. Instead. My argument. Here hybridity can help. of course. Within the structure that has developed over the ages. merely point to this third economic sphere and move onto the issue of hybridity. where words such as “contribution” or “epistemology” are bandied about simply to divert attention from the fact that no one is actually talking about anything . This is the logic of the hybrid. By saying that academia is a hybrid economy. as I assume these are mostly well known. Contributions and Reﬂection as Commodities An issue often raised among social scientists is that of the “contribution.
Whereas we in the iterative process of ongoing publication of research can ﬁnd traces of a gift economy.Essay: On the Research Economy 71 remotely sensible. brings honor to the author. Thus. we can even state that the academic economy by necessity is socialistic. a public function. ]i\ek 2000). it is a question of partaking in a shared activity. lack of community. references to the “contribution” of a speciﬁc text or spe- . an offering. despite this. if you will. but the issue does. as this clearly is a symptom of lack of cohesion. is an offering. which means “to pay tribute together. It would be easy to psychoanalyze the obsession with contributions in organization studies. as the individual works gain their standing by the way in which they further the aims of the community at large. so that we can pay tribute to a beloved colleague or to a rock band. The contribution. and the ever-present desire for completion (cf. When we give. The social nature of contributions determines their standing in the economy of academia. the word comes from the Latin contribuere. we appear as parts of a deﬁning whole—truly social. is. have more of interest to it. it seems that ascribing it merely to such a psychopathology would be too simple. At the same time. Observing the communal nature of many such tributes. even a most symbolic one of praise. as the preoccupation with this phenomenon is so clearly an aspect of the social order of academia. we stand as individuals taking part in a structural exchange. and they represent the fact that the social life-world of research is one which can never be complete. In part. however. This requires of the participants to abandon their own standing and accept that the greater project supersedes the individual ones.” A tribute. we have to note how contributions are something beyond gifts and how they stand as over-determined signiﬁers of the academic condition. the moral category of contribution can be said to represent a more deep-rooted sense of academia as a community and the economic structure this imposes. There can never be closure and never an end to the activities. Originally this meant something paid to a ruler or a ﬁgure of power for protection (often from the power itself). Etymologically. The publication. but has later begun to be understood as any offering. When we contribute. Instead. again. a necessary show of sacriﬁce that has to be understood as a form of ritual relinquishing of identity and immersion into the greater community. in part. carries the name of the author and. the social cohesion implied in the notion of “con-tribution” thus strengthens the aspect of sacriﬁce and the common good. A contribution is not merely something brought to the party. read as a gift. but when we exist as contributors. thus. we clearly do something more than simply write a text or suggest something.
this is.72 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ciﬁc researcher is a way to state that in order to gain exchange-value on the academic market (merit counted towards career advancement. the contribution can then be turned into something that can be treated as a commodity on a market. Reﬂection. this description suffers from the fact that it treats these processes as serialized. Using the concept of hybridity. Still. If this succeeds. but rather on reﬂection as a function in the aforementioned. but it will sufﬁce for now. Speaking from a perspective of logic. reﬂection is meaningless. this does not mean that reﬂection cannot be engaged with as an object (indeed. Obviously this can be perverted insofar as such a use-value may well be gained merely by bolstering the social standing of others (epigonic works. and reinforcement of egos). If we turn our reﬂective gaze not on research or researchers. is seen as a good thing. Such a view would emphasize not reﬂection as a relation but as a signiﬁer deployed for economic reasons. reﬂecting) this as partly an economic process. the commodiﬁcation of reﬂection. I am increasingly thinking about academic reﬂection as a Lacanian objet petit a). toadying. less) than a gift. it is an empty ritual. it must also be accepted within the sphere of the social economy as something more (or. in a manner of speaking. Speciﬁcally I want to note some things regarding the moral economy of the concept. in fact. the discourses of social studies posit reﬂection as an upstanding and honest activity. when we should be saying that these three processes are simultaneous and enmeshed. Normally. characterizing a good researcher. Obviously. but from a structural viewpoint this makes no difference. in and of itself. so that one leads to another in something akin to a chain reaction. for example). prima facie. so that the invocation of speciﬁc modes (reﬂection. one must ﬁrst establish that it has use-value within the social economy.. We could even say that there exists a form of “moral coinage” in research. critique. therefore. highly irrational. On its own. we can. be socially accepted in order to be viewed as reﬂection. We will now turn to this last part.e. the social nature of reﬂection as a contribution signiﬁes the way in which reﬂection must. as a commodity. say that the contribution may start out as a gift. by existing in a relationship with something. This again problematizes the nature of academic reﬂection by casting (i. .. It can only gain meaning by being contextualized. for example) is seen as the mark of a morally aware and upstanding researcher. of course. The hybrid nature of contributions further shows us something about reﬂection. but in order to realize its economic potential. we can note some things about it that might otherwise be obscured. Whereas reﬂection is often viewed as an intrapersonal process.e. and dialogue. i.
peddling indulgences). we are. In order to think through the process. and the seemingly humble confessional could be studied as the peddling of vanities (or in the case of editors. we might. In this way. in fact. By noting how reﬂection. be viewed as callous cynicism (cf. in fact. we must also pay heed to those frameworks that may make such considerations paradoxical and contradictory and accept the conﬂict of thinking. be viewing a reaction to market demand—or a case of supply-side economics. but I would insist that it is also a case of realism. of course. more to the point publishing texts ostensibly about reﬂection. or. In a situation where the deployment of reﬂection is seen as having the function of improving ones chances to get published—and. avaricious motives. and fostering whole cadres of similarly reﬂection-touting acolytes. we may. Thus I feel we can state that reﬂection today is not only an upstanding process of re-consideration of epistemological bias but also contains things such as brazen careerism. Such a perspective does not invalidate reﬂection in the social sciences. Even if we can agree on the ethical impetus for reﬂection. an utterly logical move for homo academicus œconomica. say. in fact. not unrelated to more mundane forms of coinage. therefore. Such an understanding will. as.Essay: On the Research Economy 73 Referring back to my previous point about the market economy of the university. in fact. thus. but it does raise a problem as to the moral stance we often take. publishing on reﬂection. As it is apparent that there are scholars who have made their entire career by extolling reﬂection. secure a job. Sloterdijk 1983). get promoted and get a raise—it ceases to be a mode of thinking and turns into a commodity that can be peddled on the academic market. have clear economic consequences. When we see to the increasing interest thereof. engaging in a dogmatism unworthy of a considered academic life. to ignore these less wholesome but still existing aspects of it. keep a more reﬂective stance on reﬂection. a perspective on academic work which draws from economic understandings and a sensitivity toward the composite and hybrid nature of social being can be used to show otherwise ignored aspects of assumedly pure activities such as reﬂection. does. the use of reﬂection in the social sciences could succinctly put be understood as a restricted economic action. to deny the market function at play here seems to be the fundamentally unreﬂective thing to do. or more to the point. The moral coinage of reﬂection is. . the increasing popularity of publishing texts on it. and even purely automatic and dogmatic calls towards a ritually constituted concept that may be incomprehensible outside of the social locality in which it is gloriﬁed.
internal contradiction. but by paying heed to the numerous light-effects. we seemingly turn inward to understand the world. There can be no clear conclusions in a state of hybridity. instead. We cannot present a ﬁnal word. Such an approach does not work by casting light. But this is true of all kinds of existence. total state. Reﬂection is a case of speciﬁcally such a contradiction. In the same way. we often fail to acknowledge the same processes in our own behavior (Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris…). And this blinds us to many of the complexities of the academic life. but this turning inward can only be comprehensible in the context of a social group of researchers who comprise the consumers of such an experiment in solipsism. it is oddly unaware of the organization of reﬂection. By doing so. will explore the jouissance of economic miscegenation and mutation and the marvels of mixes and ﬂuid dynamics. the changing patterns and interlaced effects. we are more than happy to engage in the fantasy of pure reﬂection. and this is why an engagement with hybridity is necessary. Aporia One of the important aspects of hybridity is that it by necessity constitutes conclusions as an aporia. but. as hybrids never can reach a ﬁnal. or a case of the ]i\ekian Real. as the very nature of the monster is one of irreducible conﬂict. But the alternative to pure reﬂection (which is always a one-way affair)—reﬂected reﬂection—instead creates something more akin to a prismatic effect. Whereas we social scientists are quick to analyze economic agency in others. the shadows. we can not only explore the intricacies of social life in a less reductionistic way but also ﬁnd a path toward a post-moralizing social science. It delights in the moiré-patterns and odd optic effects of the non-continuous reﬂections created by natural light in unnatural circumstances. ]i\ek 1993). Rather than viewing our own behavior as fundamentally economic. one where the certainties of moral goods (sic) are cast in doubt. a lacuna. Even more peculiar is that the economic nature of academic work seems to be a blind spot. Rather. Life can well be understood as a continuous. but in the fact that this aporia does not condemn us to eternal doubt (cf. one where the easy agreements have to give way to greater awareness of the ideo- . a study of the economic that builds upon the notion of hybridity will not go looking for casual explanations or reducible models. Sloterdijk 1983. When we engage in reﬂection. We could further state that although the ﬁeld of organization studies has been interested in reﬂection in organizing. we seem more than happy to live our lives with logical disjunction and even revel in the paradox of social existence. and the marvel of social life lies not in the few moments of consensus.74 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS In the End.
Essay: On the Research Economy 75 logical underpinnings of our actions and the politicized nature of even that which on the surface seems morally uncomplicated. possibly. reﬂection might be able to break with reﬂection. . And then. escape its current ethos of guarded self-control and truly become emancipatory.
things do get weird sometimes. research. It’s supposed to be an empirical ﬁeld. “What’s your methodological standpoint. You see.8 Essay: The Moral Economy of Method Marcel Mauss (1924/1990). methodology frightens me. it is true. And when I answer. This chapter. In a more general sense. it will be an attempt for me to ﬁnd a way to think about method that does not scare me witless. In part. the intellect meeting the body. I don’t like methodology. The fact that I’ve been forced to teach it for the last few years has heightened this aversion into something close to a pathological state. whose contribution to the development of organizations studies is rarely acknowledged. It is described as the natural meeting the artiﬁcial. but I don’t really know.” they laugh nervously and say something about the coffee. then?” without feeling the least bit intrusive. We’ve learned to avoid that. aren’t we? Still. Conferences are the worst. And the methodology? This is supposed to be a chapter on methodology. The mere idea of methodology frightens me. by provisionally introducing aesthetics into a discussion on methodology. Strangely enough. but much of what one reads sounds like scholastic philosophy (How many alternate-reality organizations can you ﬁt on the tip of Nike’s rhetorical swoosh?). famously described the tradition of the potlatch as “the monster child” of an indigenous economy perverted by the introduction of the Western concept of the market. Why? 76 . sitting pretty in the ﬁeld of organization and management. then. “I don’t really have one. discusses it from a somewhat different standpoint. I really don’t like methodology. I would like to ﬁnd other ways of thinking about method and thus. it will try to address some issues regarding how methodology is viewed. right? We’re smarter now. People you hardly trust enough to watch your coat seem perfectly at ease with asking personal questions such as. and the classic Cartesian dichotomy. Simply put.
leading to a state where different schools mostly resemble papal states. when reading what is normally written on the question of method.” (Heidegger 1959) As I’ve said. as the winding path of the epistemological sage. The “physics envy” that led the social sciences. 1993). dead wrong. research. in general. Searching for coherence. I have to stress the following: I do not believe researchers to be akin to artists. Taking a cue from Norbert Elias (1978). metaphorically. and. And I think this is a question of language. You’re either right or. as academics. be discussed as a path towards aesthetically pleasing. I’m struck by an immense sense of dread. A series of mutually exclusive recipes are laid out and argued for and against. not only be trite but disdainful to research. I do not wish to present any pseudo-psychological statement à la “we are artists all” but merely to discuss methodology as more of a path and less of a toolbox. thus.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 77 Well. scolding the reader for an inability to choose. in my mind. one comes away feeling as if one were to try to lose one’s virginity immediately after reading Henry Miller. inaccuracies. as a roadblock “[o]n the [w]ay to [l]anguage. it would seem that we. into operations analysis. and an absurd dependence on quantitative methods. this has not had much of an impact on meta-methodology. writers on qualitative methodology have habitually propagated a view on method that resembles (one might even say is) a moral discourse on the conduct of research and researchers. Silverman 1985. What I wish to put forth here is the argument that methodology could be thought outside of this dominating discourse of a moral science and. Talking about methodologies as aesthetic practices is here presented as a way to enliven the discussion about research and make methodology meaningful. and rigor. and so as not to be misunderstood before I have had the chance to explain myself. Such a claim would. After a careful reading of any standard textbook on methodology. Bryman 1992. instead. because a lot of the time it seems like methodology stands in the way of research. scary not only because it is presented as a hermetic mystery. In arguing that aesthetics could be incorporated in the methodological discourse. A never-ending list of problems. better. and mistakes are presented as a condemnation of the reader’s impudence in thinking that he or she is capable of conducting research (Alvesson and Sköldberg 2000. methodology is scary. but because of it being fundamentally anti-inquiry. completeness. has led qualitative studies into a cul-de-sac of condemnation and confusion. functionalism. Although most reﬂective scholars share some notion of cultural and social relativism. . Let’s face it. faults. have gone though a lengthy civilization process and are now socialized into a mode of talking about method that equates propriety in method with a more general morality.
I happen to believe that appreciation (“Nice. To further confuse the issue. Heidegger shows how different types of things show us their being in different ways.”) might allow for a more diverse discussion. Becker 1986. is his easiest work. and organizes schools of practice. not be read as a ﬁnished argument but as a slightly bewildered look at the idea of “method” in research. not at all. But I’m not talking about art. and is that of which we acquire knowledge (of its being) through using it. Czarniawska 1999). which could be translated into tool or equipment. as if our texts were mere coincidental effects of the “real deal” of scientiﬁc inquiry. to some extent. . All that is more than this are Zeug. research is. raises speciﬁc questions. the way in which a work of art is a “mere” thing. “a stone. Recapitulating his argument. Because method is a practice that by its very nature organizes data. 155). therefore. like a pair of peasant shoes that “is half thing…[and]…at the same time it is half artwork” (Heidegger 1936/1993. as if the path was already decided. Curiously. increasing attention to its ordering qualities would seem important. a clod of earth. Aesthetics here simply denotes a way of talking about human expression that is tied neither to calculative logic or an ethics (although such divisions are dangerous. Mere things are here the basest elements. the question of method. The following should.78 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Still. the notion of a known and communicable way of conducting research. in many ways. a creative process. The Origin of the Work of Art When it comes to aesthetics. innit?”) rather than approval (“That’s a well done bit of discourse analysis. which. he ﬁrst approaches the thingness of art. particularly in the ﬁeld of organization theory. the possibility of a more fundamental set of moralizations already present in the very fabric of research is seldom expressly discussed. And whereas the importance of a research ethics is routinely brought forth. 147). The following will also consequently by its very nature be a blunt instrument taken to a ﬁne weave. that is. but you’ll just have to bear with me). organizes research. Martin Heidegger is at his most lucid in The Origin of the Work of Art (1936/1993). an organizational theorist taking on the organizing of that which makes him one. just these end-products of our scholarly endeavors are quite routinely ignored (cf. The work deals with nothing less difﬁcult than ﬁnding the source where art springs from. By incorporating his earlier analysis of the ontological position of things. one which produces artifacts that can be aesthetically appreciated. Being somewhat naive. organizes disciplinary boundaries. a piece of wood” (Heidegger 1936/1993.
to my mind. we must create ways in which our description of the organization and its behavior(s) not only show that which has been at hand but the world in which this Being exists. The artwork works through the unconcealment of the Being that served as the inspiration for it. aesthetic research. this would also entail a reduction of the praxis of research. or ideo-logicians. instead of the rational path towards available answers (the way of method). it is broached only in the epistémè. Heidegger in his Letter on Humanism (1947/1993) tries to ask this question. the poverty of over-intellectualizing—and we are always there. Heidegger’s own example (later criticized by Derrida 1987) of Vincent van Gogh’s painting of a pair of peasant shoes for him not only shows the shoes themselves but the world in which they Are. lacking a more elegant name. thinking that is its use. Now. correctly and particularly poignant in the ﬁelds of organization and economy) dismissing scholarly thinking that is not tied to praxis as “a purely scholastic question. and simultaneously the very organizing of organizations). The problem is. measured against the shape of writing. famously (and. blisters. “Thinking is what we already know we have not yet begun. demagogues. 93) . particularly turning to the possibility of thought prior to a distinction between theory and practice. are constantly at risk to fall into their own closed practice. telling of organizational praxis and the like. Problematically enough. less metaphysics. All this should be well known. the mere matter of the organization. perilously—pointing out the need for less philosophy. Heidegger becomes a paradox. Ever since Marx scribbled down his thoughts on Feuerbach. We can tell of the things that are immediately at hand. the praxis of doing research becoming self-contained and the scripture of methodology working as the researcher’s handmaiden. the smell of the earth. But if we are to go beyond this.” (Derrida 1976/1997. intellectuals. whether they are researchers.” the scholar’s Cartesian split between doing and thinking about doing has been difﬁcult to uphold. 161). or as Jacques Derrida reframes him. such as ofﬁcial reports or returned questionnaires (the latter being a wonderful example of the reduction of organization. tool-like.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 79 The Zeug is that which contains a necessity of purpose. but instead “is the disclosure of what the equipment [Zeug]…is in truth” (Heidegger 1936/1993. the sun on the peasants back. as it is imbued with the world in which it is to exist. contrast this with the way descriptions of organizational life can be attempted. This would be. We can also attempt a Zeug-like description. Returning in his writings again and again to the non-thought. The artwork no longer contains the thingness of what it depicts. the way of the intellect.
poetry) and the revealing of the true nature of Being that an aesthetication of the world can bring. what is it we are attempting? All claims from below have been scurrilously disguised as claims from above: and the surrealists. The process of aesthetication then becomes just another instrumentalization. and structure the world. the artwork referred to ceases to be a speciﬁc cultural form of expression and stands for expression more generally. having become the laughing-stock of those who have seen close up a sorry and shabby failure. In such a reading.80 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS The path then. shows us the tool. order. then. inherently present in the modern view of science (Toulmin 1992) and has been criticized by a fair amount of scholars. It is this reductionism and effort toward totalization that also continuously endangers the researcher. namely. believing that we could approach the communicative powers of the artwork? And even if we could. But is the path from technè to poeisis tenable in anything except a metaphoric way? Are we merely romanticizing research. but thinking reveals it and the world within which it exists. Technology in the sense used here is not a question of engineering but of the tendency to rationalize. another moral goal to be attained. imagining that the mere aura of art is sufﬁcient to carry or stand in for argumentation and/or analysis. This tendency is. as a phenomenological naturalism. 1998) has called for a new approach to research. and farther. the expression of thinking. And Heidegger doesn’t argue for art. instrumentalize. 39) The difﬁculty. he argues for thinking. of course. For Heidegger the path to escape this totalizing and reductionism is art (speciﬁcally. The Economy of Method and Its Ironies To complement his pragmatic and anti-foundationalist view on epistemological questions. improve upon. The analysis of the artwork that Heidegger presents can be read as dealing with how a human artifact is connected to that from which it sprung. whether a hammer or the sun. (Bataille 1985. obstinately hold on to their magniﬁcent Icarian pose. The later Heidegger was consequently occupied with battling an attitude toward the world he called “technological” (Heidegger 1954/1993). making the aesthetication of research an important question. is that the invocation of the word “aesthetics” often makes people go into conniptions of a particularly ugly sort. The engagement with the world that is present in the use of equipment. Richard Rorty (1989. the stroll through the thickets of metaphysics towards the Lichtung of thinking. goes from the thing-ness of the world toward praxis. in his case. .
until the publication of this text. these other researchers turn out to be homicidal maniacs. The postmodernist’s continuing skepticism is as much a mistake as the positivist’s incorrigible trust in ﬁnal truths. for neither trust nor doubt longer holds an edifying position towards the other. So maybe methodology lacks irony. It is important to realize that these two forces here should have equal weight with the ironist (Note that this is an ironic reading of Rorty. however tentatively. and claiming victory. of course) with their evil ways of bad methodological conduct. killing and maiming (textually. Textbooks and articles on methodology almost always show that. based in part on Hall 1994 and that it in fact stands partly at odds with Rorty’s vocabulary that tends to downplay the dialectic dynamic of thinking. . an ironist could be seen as a thinker who does not take him or herself wholly seriously but. Not that they don’t accept that there are many ways to skin a cat. Methodology.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 81 an approach he calls ironic. I am in awe of the seemingly unending amount of evil that other researchers partake in. clumsy and insufﬁciently subtle. they just seem to insist that some of these ways are right and some others wrong. the ironic attitude could be seen as complementary to the post-empiricist school in the philosophy of science (Bohman 1991). Why? Because even the most strident proponent of reﬂective and critical research proposes reﬂection and critique as remedies for ailments present in other forms of methodology.). one can even ﬁnd the two forces at work in a symmetric but unattached manner as Rorty seems to see in critical theory in general and in Jürgen Habermas in particular. seemingly cannot exist without positing itself in relation to others. the ironist makes science a little more interesting. In extreme cases. Ironic thinking is ﬂuid but with a certain rigor. Then the lack of irony has become pathological. an application. this view builds upon the researcher being able to balance two opposing forces in thinking. until now. It places the world as available and free to be manipulated. Mostly these researchers are merely buffoons. thereby taking a moral standpoint. instead. Reading texts on methodology. In some instances. To reiterate. sort of like properly chilled vodka. revels in the possibility of someone destroying his or her argumentation. as it is usually talked about. By allowing a certain amount of holes in defenses. it frames the world. namely. establishing hegemony. In this sense. A method. some of us have been doing things wrong. both believing in the validity of “ﬁnal vocabulary” and being able to constantly question and doubt the same. as it is presented in learned books on the subject. is a technological concept. Stated otherwise. a little more dangerous.
. as we by this seem to mean more or less efﬁcient way of producing the aforementioned science-values. and those who wander poor in the world. a set of tools. Method is. Such challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked. Is your junk pure enough? This is where my argument. Those who have the method-capital. The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon. […] It designates nothing less than the way in which everything presences that is wrought upon by the revealing that chal- . what is stored up is. Use the right tool and the world is yours. […] Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by. to be immediately on hand. a productive function and posits the world as a supply of data. and nothing is to be had. and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. We call it the standing-reserve [Bestand]. leave the world as standing reserve that can be roused for the technological apparatus (Heidegger 1954/1993). what is unlocked is transformed. For what is method if not the organizing of the world? Even without turning to the machinic theories of Deleuze/Guattari. the way in which the notion of a separated constituent of inquiry which functions as a device for turning the input of the world into the output of science is fundamentally technological. It organizes research into the do-rights and dowrongs. frames the world and makes it a commodity for the academic potlatch. This economic unconscious of research enables us to talk intelligibly about “good” or “bad” methods. Method. Method produces results and contributions and improves data. the correct tools of knowledge. in such a view. distributed. It becomes a ground suitable for dividing into easily digestible chunks of “studies” presented to a voracious band of research junkies eagerly awaiting their next ﬁx. in its totality. a reserve. it makes that-which-is-studied a subject. some of which can efﬁciently be turned into scientiﬁc value. If method is viewed as a technology. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. as a technique and a tool. what is transformed is stored up. methodology usually posits the world as a surface to be penetrated and mined. turns to economy and organization theory. naked and despairing. This is the path of technology where everything becomes-for something else.82 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Just as Heidegger showed that the essence of technology would. in the sense of a challenging-forth. with nuggets of knowledge to be had as long as the tools are kept sharpened. Use the wrong tool. creating efﬁcient divisions between orthodoxy and the great unwashed. in return.
method does things and is. I’m not going to butt heads with Gareth Morgan (1983) and Alan Bryman (1992). This is similar to the use of metaphor. pretentious. Not “bad. and this observation has been made repeatedly. My small. 321–322) The speciﬁc modes of organizing that method conceived of as a tool creates are not neutral or natural ones. Maybe I do mean “bad. thereby. tentatively. ethical to the core) and a discourse where accumulation and the efﬁcient use of resources reigns supreme. By playing with concepts. In a sense this makes Rorty a hacker of epistemology. By presenting a new way to talk about things. say. rerouting around what he does not feel like attacking head on. but either way. recontextualization (in Rorty’s sense) aims at changing the phenomenon itself by altering the language game. I could now refer to another one of Richard Rorty’s weapons. but instead of trying to enhance our understanding of a phenomenon by looking at it in a different manner. The way in which such teleological argumentation is used renders any statement regarding the way to conduct research ethical to the core. I have no interest in discussing whether. Much as the ironist can skirt around the metaphysician.” but ugly. through this fundamentally economic. But method also has its economic side. grounded theory is a good way to study motivation. with less efﬁciency in the generation of research immediately perceived as a undesired state. but a lot of the research I see is pretty ugly. Rorty encourages the circumvention of those discussions that one no longer feels to be fruitful. boring. It’s kind of like a form of “Wittgensteinian reengineering” (a term I am fond of and wish to copyright). We know that research has a political side and that this should be acknowledged. it makes method an economy (and. Right now I’m thus expected to say that this is not how methodology should be done and that I have a brilliant idea that will solve this problem forever.” But not bad in the sense that I can . one introduces a vocabulary that can either be adopted or rejected by a community. one forces people to think about their language. personal hack in this vein tries to bring in aesthetic concepts to a place where moral ones have reigned supreme. Conceived of in the way it is usually done. as in overblown. an inherent quantiﬁcation of value that might pervert the interpretative project. Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over us as object. piddling. (Heidegger 1993. What is more. as in any strategic movement. namely recontextualization. I’ll skirt around them. and unoriginal. I won’t and I haven’t.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 83 lenges. This has made the discussion regarding method moral insofar as it discusses how such production can be optimized and made more efﬁcient.
Rather. Siena in 2000) and journal special issues as visible manifestations. Rorty never claims that a recontextualization can take place instantaneously. we’ve seen several books that in some way approach the question (Wiesmann 1989. such as shock value. Words. rather bad in the sense as displeasing. style. with several conferences (Bolton in 1999.84 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS point to any distinct ﬂaw in reasoning or conduct. then. Playing with language in such a way is not a quick ﬁx for anything at all but a move in the game of competing discourses... intuition. could all be utilized in the discussion of methodology. far less so that it could take place in a total fashion. In addition to this. a way of dismissing any criticism by calling it uninteresting. in an intellectual version of the evolutionary primal soup. The point lies in the juxtaposition of arguments. (The problem with aesthetics within the research ﬁeld of management and organizations might actually be that it is perilously close to becoming an industry. Linstead and Höpﬂ 1999) and it seems to be increasingly difﬁcult to organize a conference without some smart-alec wanting to incorporate aesthetics in at least a sub-theme. I guess. for example. aesthetic) method has no strength at all until it is posited as a perspective on method as fundamentally a moral economy (a trade in values and the attaining hereof). By recontextualizing in this way. tentative and incomplete. etc. cute. making Rorty (and. Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux 1994. different contexts can and do exist simultaneously. art criticism instead of ontological criticism might. It is not that this isn’t already done to some extent through notions with certain resemblances: creativity. we can try to bring irony (as aesthetic concepts might not function in the same totalizing manner as moral ones do) into the discussion and to enable other forms of the same. elegance.) Making claims strictly about aesthetics and trying to create a niche for this is fundamentally futile. just another little circle of friends. and sophistication. And there has been a lot of attention on aesthetics recently. inviting that ﬁnal ogre of research—absolute relativism? Rorty has. The heresy of non-rational (i. to me. grotesque. Such critique is quite understandable but misses the mark somewhat. Strati 1998. been accused of never standing still long enough for anyone to get off a decent shot. waving off any substantive critiques by a witty remark or snide put-down. Take the foolish notion of discussing research through aesthetics. Recontextualization seems like the perfect dodge. forcefulness. and their difference to the logical analysis of data-gathering could infuse the . according to his critics (Brandom 2000). One should always be wary about a perspective that’s in fashion.e. A discussion of method that would work in the manner of. repugnant. be both more interesting and more edifying. Am I not. myself—gosh!) a dandy.
I don’t think I do. 181–182) We need fewer discussions on method and more discussions on thinking. Friedrich Schiller holds a special place in the history of aesthetics. namely. This article shouldn’t be read as forming an argument. that in between these pairs of opposites there exists a ﬁeld that functions as a crossroads. battling. more aleatory scholars. It is born out of the poverty of my thinking. This work stands as one of the most important popularization’s of aesthetics ever. Just as the existence of the poor can serve as a perspective on bloodless economic theory and the neo-liberals Panglossian idea of ours as the best world possible. the propensity . then. We might need a poverty of method. I know when I like what others have written. I have none. or. cherished methods with which they get into journals (My Precious!). we do not mean a magic eye able to penetrate into something that ordinary minds cannot apprehend. later publishing these as Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen (Schiller 1995). and quasi-aesthetical in the way it works. Now the truth can be told. So what do I have? I know when I like what I’ve written. It could be called Erziehung. Less highfalutin theory and more ordinary writing. We do not need method. pained. he wrote twenty-seven letters on the need for aesthetics. Postscript As both a devoted student and aggressive critic of Immanuel Kant. positioning spirit against matter and chaos against form. (Toulmin 2001. clumsily translated as “judgment” in English. Of particular interest to Schiller are the two opposites of form and matter and the two forces that steer man. Here Schiller tries to show the importance of aesthetics in the life of a balanced individual. Stephen Toulmin refers to a lecture given by Isaiah Berlin: We mean nothing occult or metaphysical. a meeting point. at least. Kant’s third critique names it Urteilskraft. His argument is. I just don’t always know why. Savile 1987). They have stuff. obviously. Schiller is prone to discuss things by invoking opposites. an exchange. empirical. I just don’t understand what people are talking about when they discuss method. we need reason. By distilling some of Kant’s theories of aesthetics and spicing them up with some of his own.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 85 ﬁeld with a certain dynamic. and the ways in which an aesthetic sensibility is a necessity for freedom and the possibility to create (cf. we mean something perfectly ordinary.
What is further. This is the world of the barbarian. a place created by the Spieltrieb. the one who is disassociated from all that would make his surroundings meaningful. but extremes that have to be lived with in some way. This is the world of the bureaucrat. or even the state of becoming learned (Bildung). In the space of Spieltrieb. the sterile endpoints of letting either one of the forces take over.86 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS towards either form (Formtrieb) or matter (Stofftrieb). the task of thinking. Here we can ﬁnd the pure aesthetics and it is here that beauty can come into being. By utilizing this drive. The Hegelian space that is formed in battling both barbaric matter and soulless form is not a given method. It is a lived process. These two forces are the frame of humanity. the artist can overcome the hindrances present in staying ﬁxed at either of the poles. In between the two there exists a space where something fecund can happen. . toward “dogmas and empty formalism” (Guillet de Monthoux 1993). The way Schiller says that we can live with these two extremes is through Art. toward our basest instincts and the immersion in the world of things. Stofftrieb draws us towards the material in the world. here one cannot talk of progress in the systemic sense but only of development (Erziehung). the two are in harmony with neither taking a dominant position. the person who has no connection to the world he lives in but only to the meaningless logic of his thinking. They are not necessarily moral categories. the drive to play. Formtrieb draws us toward the pure abstractions of the mind. form or matter.
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978-0-595-39158-5 0-595-39158-3 .
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