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The Scholars Progress

The Scholars Progress

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Published by: Alf Rehn on Sep 07, 2011
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Alf Rehn

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New York Lincoln Shanghai

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.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 . Suite 100 Lincoln. NE 68512 www. recording.iuniverse. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means.THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ESSAYS ON ACADEMIC LIFE AND SURVIVAL Copyright © 2006 by Alf Rehn All rights reserved. including photocopying. iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse 2021 Pine Lake Road. graphic. electronic. or mechanical.

28 Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Essay: The Moral Economy of Method . . . . . 76 References . . . . 50 A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars . 37 Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students . . . . . . . . . . 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 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 The Importance of Journals. . . 10 On Alternatives and Heresies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Essay: On the Research Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 v . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


and advice regarding a career in academia. having written a dissertation on gift economies and software piracy. In other words. and that there are differences when compared to the system in the United States. Clearly. who took me on as a doctoral researcher and later as a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. I do not see myself as an expert in careers.Introduction The following text is a collection of my thoughts. vii . ideas. and I realize I can say very little about making your way in academia on the natural sciences-side of the reservation. I should also point out that even though I believe there is much wrong with the old notion of the “two worlds” argument. My personal road through the wilds of academia has been a bit odd. These are simply my own personal observations and include everything from my thoughts regarding academic ethics to some advice regarding publishing. I was seen as frightfully young to be a full professor. I do. I earned a masters of science degree from a small Finnish university. Later. think that there are things that exist on a level of generality that trump these differences. tenured professor at age 31. I then applied for the chair in organization and management at my old alma mater. I had. I’m talking about the academia I know. however. and my grades weren’t that great. nor do I think I have all the answers. I was then the youngest full professor in Finland. befriended a mentor. Even in a European context. however. Particularly there are important differences career-wise. Professor Claes Gustafsson. No. where the humanities and the social sciences belong to a different way of thinking compared to the world of technology and the natural sciences. I still believe that there are important differences. and may still be the youngest full professor in the field of business and management in Scandinavia. I was appointed as a full. I have written this text because I think I have something to say. Note: I know my experience with academia is mostly European. I got my PhD of Industrial Management at this institution. but I do not think that my views should be understood as even an attempt at a dogmatic viewpoint. I earned the title of Docent (similar to the German Habilitation) from the same institution. and got it. Sweden.

One could argue that I am fundamentally unsuitable to write a book such as this since I haven’t come across enough hardship.viii THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS So. Far from it. Instead. but mostly it’s been smooth sailing. I’ve seen some things during these years. I want to present a series of essays regarding things I feel strongly about. I’ve had a few bumps in the road. I hope I have succeeded. —Alf Rehn. and I’ve had more than my share of friends in dire academic straits. I’ve led something of a charmed academic life. so I believe I may still have something to say. and I make no claims to cover everything there is to be said about the academic career. It should be noted that the following essays cover different kinds of issues in different kinds of ways. tenured professor-at-large . On the other hand.

in this chapter I will try to outline what I believe are the most important points for a scholar (or an academic. these “commandments” constitute what I believe are necessary for having a meaningful life. we have to ask if a life unexamined is worth living. So. As odd as it seems. Two. not truths or necessities for others. even fight for them. most people working in academia are not there for any love of knowledge or sense of intellectual adventure. Simply put.1 Ten Commandments for Scholars I always wanted to make my own statement as to what being a scholar means. but I will stake a claim as to their importance. and as in so many endeavors. therefore. a life all too few actually enjoy. and just shuffle through eight hours a day like a zombie. Love what you do. I have not attempted to create an orthodox set of rules for the academic life. in academia. These are my own commandments. a way to look for meaning in a profession that frequently seems devoid of meaning. our ethical stance. They act like ghosts who haunt the corridors or the classrooms. but then. These people can often be some of the saddest individuals you’ll come across. 1. This. One could call this an attempt at outlining ethics for researchers. They are there because they just happened to get stuck in an academic environment and do not know what else to do. One. rather than a torpid existence. terms I use interchangeably) to follow. Certainly. is the foundation of our research. but rather wanted to note some of the things I believe to be important in academia. Anything is preferable to this. There are two ways to handle it. is a declaration of how to live the good life in academia. many people in academia live by other rules and heed other principles. Our statement. and I believe that this is important for any academic. The most important commandment for any academic is also the most ignored. many people in academia are miserable and do not really want to be there except to pick up a paycheck. love the 1 . stop caring.

and times when the work contains infuriating and boring elements. think about your reasons for choosing this path. And just as in life. The most important thing. there is no manual. And if you don’t love it. to have something of substance to bring to the discussion. Be original. There are no courses that teach you this. I am saying that if you want to be in this field. In order to be original. Were it not for that. you must be able to go. In order to be a true academic. academia can be a fun place. the easiest way to get published is to be carefully unoriginal. the inevitable crush of academia will eventually destroy you. To be proud of one’s academic work. in scholarship as in life. What you must do is find the reasons you still want to do this strange thing. is love.2 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS research and truly be passionate about academia. you have to find your own passion. I would have gotten out a long time ago. Those are horrible reasons to get into the grind. Sadly. in a world I want to be a part of. 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. you will have invested too much time. at least in part. because soon you’ll realize it’s not really worth it. So love what you do. however. Loving the work. consequently. love it or leave it. 2. you have to . and getting out will be hard. not because it sounds cool or makes your mother proud. Happiness can be found in so many places. I believe it is critical to find a way to be original. Most people cannot and should not. the rage to fight that which kills the soul and the passion that will drive you onward. This. By then. For your own sake. and this business will kill you if you let it. Before you enter academia. and times when I feel I want out. your own reason to love it. the writing. however. never really challenging anything. however. Most people do alarmingly well by never doing anything original and by generally just agreeing with other people. If you have the passion for it. Being original. Science builds on original insight and thrives on conflict. a good place. Obviously. never trying out anything even remotely adventurous. I am not saying that you have to love academia. But so does every job. there are times I dislike it. most of what is published in the social sciences is completely unoriginal. and I know that the passion I have for academia and scholarship is the thing that will keep me afloat. and an enjoyable place. against the grain. and the thinking is critical to having a good life within academia. but because you feel sure it is what you want to do. is both strenuous and difficult. I am blessed because I am doing what I truly want to do. does not mean that one should follow this path of least resistance.

thus. You cannot start out as an original thinker. The fact that greed exists in every sphere dominated by humans is almost assumed. 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. 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. This is a big mistake. 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. Originality is not a case of singular activities. In fact. 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. of course. This step often bothers people. Original thinking is born out of someone trying to be a serious thinker. one must start by trashing everything that came before. for it often seems that truly original thinkers just turn up fully formed. To be original is a question of having a serious intellectual project and to be able to say something engaging based on this. and your original statements should spring from an original project rather than from individual insights. 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 one that will make one a lesser scholar. It may bring down some rightful spite on unoriginal thinking. Too many people in academia are greedy. 3. This is. 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. Be generous. It is also a . Originality is not the same as formalistic criticism. on the other hand. is often looked upon with bewilderment by academics. and too few realize that this is a bad idea. Generosity.Ten Commandments for Scholars 3 understand your field. in order to be original. Being original is a process. and its nefarious influence can be seen all over academia. one comes across the mistaken idea that. But scratch a little and you will find a lot of hard work underneath the ease and elegance of originality. but that’s about it. for all the benefits it can bring. Often. my essay on the research economy). go to boring conferences and generally do a lot of foundation work. read tons of bad studies and hackneyed papers. you become one through hard work and the paying of dues. a good way to get an audience but has precious little to do with actual original thinking. But it is my conviction that greed is one of the greatest dangers in academic life. Personally. and.



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



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-

The easiest way to stop questioning is to believe yourself to be above it. In fact. You start assuming that you’re always right. making any real development a lot more difficult in the future. Research. You can survive in academia for a long time on your old work. consequently. Quite often. And wouldn’t you rather have some fun than play the po-faced adult? 9. and others can distinguish the real from the phony. and you shouldn’t spoil it for short-term benefits. But this habit makes you a lesser scholar and hurts academia as a whole. Academia needs constant questioning. Do so. science. many of the ills of the academic world—the xenophobia. Real intellectual work is always a reflection of your identity. Forget becoming too serious minded. It is rather sad to see how few aca- . Being a scholar is a long-term project. 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. critical thinking. but on progress. and scholarship depend not on sticking to dogma. rather than in some outside idea of propriety. your thinking suffers. None of this is a good or beneficial thing for a scholar. forget playing intellectual dress-up. 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. and you lose the ability to look critically at your work. 8. you’ll also start thinking that others are beyond reproach. An ironical attitude about yourself and your project shouldn’t be confused with selling yourself short or in not having pride in your work. are responsible only to themselves and their personal career paths. the egomania—are the direct result of this kind of erroneous belief in the completeness of a project. I see it as a kind of humility and a desire to continue and a warning against becoming complacent and lazy. Once you’ve started to think your project is beyond reproach. but be humble.Ten Commandments for Scholars 7 plish. Don’t take yourself too seriously. a serious scholar knows it’s the journey that’s important. This is not merely a question of adhering to a research ethic but one of your place in a larger context. Have pride in your work. you lose sight of the big picture. Take responsibility. When you start taking yourself seriously. While a mediocre thinker may need the accouterments. and in this way cliques are born. The most dangerous thing in the world is to believe your own hype. the cult of the academic superstar. and you will not only become a bore but a lesser scholar. and many are happy to milk their old projects for as long as humanly possible.

Academics could be a productive. Jean-Paul Sartre. socially engaged. be a structure that would support this. An academic can. is to think about the ways in which you will affect (or not affect) the world. Academia can be a horrible place. If you’ve decided to be an academic. not does it need more listless. And if more scholars would live in accordance with this. take some time to think about what responsibilities might come with this. make sure that you’ll make a difference. Think through what kind of difference you want to make. as a group. you do have a certain power. As an academic. but all too few actively work toward such a goal. very few feel like they can actually make a difference. It needs active. you will have a far better chance to speak to the media. regardless of whether you utilize your potential or not.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. politically important. the very world might actually be a little bit better. The important thing. and could. If we could all remember this. make a difference. Taking responsibility. Even though most academics will privately talk about the potential of scholars. Taking responsibility does not have to mean affecting politics or taking a stand in the media. passionate scholars. individual project. the world is far from perfect. Academia should. 10. How will you use this opportunity? Although the individual academic will probably feel pretty powerless. it is important to reflect on this. who said “hell is other people. and how you can make it part of your academic life. . and to actually be taken seriously. both as individuals and as a group. generally important force in society. comment on policy. So I say: If you’re going to be a scholar. and it needs them now. As an academic you have the freedom to try new things and speak your mind. think about how it ties to your project. to support the notion of scholars as active and productive agents in the world. being a scholar should be about something more than just your own. The world doesn’t need any more bad scholars. might be only part of the solution. engaged. therefore. Regardless of the way you choose to use your potential in the world. and we should all do our part. Make a difference. That’s why it would be important for us. What such a reflection can do is to awaken a sense of responsibility.” Also. the university might be a better place for all. 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. although important. and it might not be mere coincidence that it was an academic. unengaged ones. In my view. and should.

and this is the reason I’ve tried to create a list. You may have other commandments you adhere to. or that this would be anything even remotely like a complete list. commandments are unnecessary. some form of sense that it is more than a salaried job. is that you reflect on your life as an academic. in your heart of hearts. and other priorities. They’re not. If you do. 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. . The important thing is to realize that you have to have a point with your academic life. and it isn’t. and this is OK. and try to make this into a version of the good life. What is important.

Some venerable journals (such as Theory.2 The Importance of Journals For the modern scholar. Also. rewriting. Culture & Society) seem to lack a logic altogether. journal is always a happy event in the life of an academic. Consequently. submitting. take years of intense study to truly understand the publishing logic of some journals. It should also be noted that the author isn’t a great believer in the journals. being rejected. Each journal has its own language. or even a minor. nor is he widely published therein. An understanding of a particular journal requires a serious engagement with it and takes time and effort. A well-received article in a top journal can start a career. the importance of the academic journal cannot be exaggerated. Lastly. in some cases. journals in the social 10 . writing. resubmitting. that is. not eternal truths or natural law. therefore. Getting published in a major. there are certain technical facts that may seem trivial but that are often unknown to a young scholar just starting in academia. There are rituals to follow and unwritten rules to abide by. they do make a difference in an academic’s career. there are some peculiarities that at first make little sense. there are things to be learned from observing the process in its entirety. and we have to relate to them. I learned the hard way. The little I now know. in more ways than one. journals take time. and so on. and doing so by proxy may help a beginning scholar. Still. I will here refer to the kind of journals I know. Further. It can. I was actually raised in a culture that didn’t rate journals highly. and a lot of things about publishing in them cannot be learned except through a long process of reading. and not getting into a journal can be a career-breaker. and what is written here should be interpreted as my understandings of the game. nobody taught me how to write for the journals. there are aspects of the general process of being published in a journal that can be taught. In part. and idiosyncrasies. but still have to be kept in mind. and instead emphasized the monograph as what scholarship was all about. quirks. Regardless what we think of journals.

Different journals put different emphasis on this section. they can be a good place to publish conceptual ideas. but they shouldn’t be frowned upon. designed to be read in a certain way. but most of what I know seems to hold across the social sciences (journals in the natural sciences is another world. such as notes. From a career perspective. Review articles are often seen as slightly less “important” than empirical or theoretical papers. empirical papers are normally the easiest ones to get published. Thus. Empirical papers are judged on the stringency of the analysis and whether the study highlights something interesting. which is a good thing. essays. These are basically not ranked at all and carry no real weight as research. a lot of these papers tend to be fairly monotonous reviews of what someone else (such as a philosopher) has been saying. “fun stuff. theoretical papers putting forth an argument. and some lack it altogether. you are expected to do this kind of work. Still. Usually. an editor commissions these reviews although you can contact the editor and suggest one. too. A theoretical.The Importance of Journals 11 sciences. As these sections put less emphasis on form. although original theoretical works can be wellreceived. In addition to the articles. Articles fall into three main categories: empirical papers presenting findings. sometimes known as a conceptual. and usually contains several parts. Obviously. . The main content of a journal is the scholarly article. Contents of a Typical Journal The first thing to realize is that a journal isn’t just a wrapper around a series of articles. generally regarded as the meat of the journal. and review articles that condense a wider discussion and/or literature. paper normally will be judged on originality and whether it brings something new to the debate. Of these three categories. there is a ritualistic quality to a certain kind of theoretical papers and in reality they are not viewed as particularly original. too. but they are important for the scholar’s general visibility—and if you expect to be published.” if you will. so it is important to check the journal beforehand. most journals include a section of less “rigorous” texts. these texts are not ranked as highly as scholarly articles. this is often a lot easier than conceptual development. and case studies. one I can say very little about). The latter are normally written by senior professors. The third part of the typical journal is dedicated to book reviews. A typical journal is structured in a specific way. with the richness of the outside world. Book reviews can be added to your list of publications. I have been mainly published in organization studies.

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. one talks of a normal issue. Since the article is supposed to be double-blind reviewed. Subsequently. an “anonymous” title page). The Basics Here are some basic pointers for creating and submitting an article to a journal. always remember that any kind of text that publishes your name in a journal is far. it is often ignored.000 to 8. This. almost all journals publish special issues. and when one talks generally of a journal. Submit your article double-spaced with wide margins.000 words although this may vary depending on the journal. normal and special. however. but. Regardless of the many ways of rating the importance of a specific contribution. far better than not getting the visibility at all. All journals have some form of “Instructions for Authors” that details submission guidelines. most journals will not indulge you. 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 . Not doing so makes you seem sloppy. First. is true only by the slightest imaginable margin and should not be a factor when one is thinking about submitting articles to special issues. In addition. 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. so don’t use footnotes unless you absolutely have to. Read these guidelines and follow them to the letter. Very few journals like footnotes because they make page layout difficult. so use photographs sparingly if at all. limit the word-count to 5..e. surprisingly. unprofessional. The normal issue can have material from a wide range of perspectives and approaches. Be sure to check the preferred method of formatting and referencing your article before you submit it. Most journals are printed in a way that does not really support photographs.12 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Journals normally have two kinds of issues. This point seems like such an obvious thing. Be sure also to spell-check and proofread your text before submitting it. being published in a special issue is seen as slightly less meritorious than being published in a normal issue. and do not try to be “creative” with layouts. which are issues where one specific theme forms the framework for the issue (such as “Foucault and female prisons” or “Consumption and trust”). Minimize the amount of graphics and tables overall. These issues have guest editors and often spring out of a conference or a workshop.

be patient and be prepared to wait. its own style. he or she may send out even a badly structured paper to reviewers). whether your preferred journal will accept digital submissions. Learn to expect this possibility and accept it. there is no way to mess up. no more than one page. If the editor cannot open your document for some reason. It is important to understand that journals are. its own vernacular. there are corroborated stories about reviews taking a year. an RTF or a PDF copy will be greatly appreciated. Three months is quite normal. almost criminal. and sometimes this means that the journal (or even the publisher) has a Web-based submission system. Each journal will have its own requirements. possibly with a portable document format (PDF) copy to boot. In fact.e. your article may well be rejected. In the former. Sometimes this means that you can e-mail your article. a journal may blacklist you. the second page should contain the title of the paper without your name. In a worst-case scenario. and its own idiosyncrasies. submission is pretty easy. ever—submit the same article to more than one journal at a time. In submitting an article to the editor.The Importance of Journals 13 uninterested in the journal. you will alienate the editor. and you do not want to take that risk. Do not ever—repeat. This is really unnecessary. The first page of the article should contain your contact details and the title of the paper. your reputation will suffer a severe blow. the traditional way is to submit it by mail with three to five good quality paper copies.. If you get caught doing so (it’s called multiple submissions). It can take a long time to become familiar with the specifics of a certain journal. cultures unto themselves. The cover letter should be very polite and very brief. With the advances in technology. you have to at least try to read the journal. You need to check. At the very least. Once you have submitted your article. it is considered proper to submit the article as a Word document or a rich text format (RTF) file. start working on another article. To stay positive. in a way. In order to write for a journal. You also have to understand how the editors and . but often you will get your paper back with a curt note about re-editing according to journal’s guidelines. many journals now accept digital submissions. In the latter case. and you send it anyway. To do so is considered bad form. because if they don’t. the editor will not be happy with you. Receiving a response will take much longer than you think. and it may take six. A good editor will accept a good paper for review regardless (i. a data CD (if your article is typed on a computer). And there is a good chance you will wait in vain. You can never go wrong with submitting in several formats at the same time. and a cover letter to the editor. however.

particularly for a junior scholar. Publication in one of these journals is a major career event and can. To be published in these journals is desirable even to senior. and calling it the B-list is. as five-star journals. Since a journal is much like a protracted conversation that takes place over a long period of time. . This practice will also give you a picture of what kind of papers more generally get published in the journal. make an entire career. The top tier of the journals is sometimes referred to as A-journals or. Below this top tier is another group of journals. others would say five). They have a standing. If you hope to be published in a certain journal. it is important to have some form of mental map of how this conversation has evolved and what has been said. one which you have read and studied thoroughly. and try to behave. Below this level are the bread-and-butter journals. and which you follow closely. it’s just that there are even greater ones. they are read. know at least something about your audience. Succinctly put. and a general feel of the rules for moving about (Saigon requires a different approach than Stockholm). This group of journals consists of the three to five “best” journals in a given field. well-published professors. I believe every scholar should be intimately familiar with at least one journal. usually more specialized. and there are great differences both in standing and in style. Consequently. 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. Just as finding your way in a city involves learning something about the transportation system. including several years of back-issues. Different Kinds of Journals All journals are not alike. that constitutes the B-list. These are great journals. and they are a good avenue to publish in. a group that contains titles so strictly in a niche that they basically exist for just a small group of scholars. a bit misleading.14 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS contributors of the journal think and the way in which the journal exists as a discussion. the ones everyone reads and where the most-cited papers appear. sometimes. journals that have to work to get good papers. Below these journals is a wide range of weak journals. One of the most important aspects of journals is their ranking. learning a journal involves similar tacit understandings. you also have to have some concept of the general discourse of that journal. We often talk about there being at least four different levels to this ranking (some would say three. Think of it as going to a party and talking with people. the journal thing is pretty easy: do the background work. in some cases.

Aiming too high is just silly. The publication Theory. reject a great many submissions. but often this will prove difficult. Still. there are a number of possibilities we should think through when working with these issues. so the likelihood of getting a detailed and constructive review increases with the level of the journal. Culture & Society is universally seen as a top journal. A more experienced scholar will.The Importance of Journals 15 A young scholar should. This does not mean that you should send everything to the A-journals first but. In fact. Journals such as Sociology or Journal of Management Studies tend to rank very highly. The general journals often look for broad theoretical arguments and are very aware of the need to be perceived as top quality. a top journal will use very good reviewers. often feel that they are devoid of choice. They are also more prone to demand several rounds of rewrites after which they may still reject the paper. I believe this is a mistake. rather. normally. and the time that a review will often take is not in your best interest.e. the number of manuscripts they reject) high and will.. It is general to the extreme. Getting published in such a journal is often very difficult. feeling that they’ll have no chance. This is the way of the world today. that you should aim reasonably high. therefore. most young scholars would be happy to be published anywhere. but it is important to think about the level one wants to go for. Seasoned veterans of the publishing wars know how to pick their battles. is that the more general a journal is. without hesitation. 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. They will have weaker papers they’ll send to low-ranking journals and pick up a quick publication. They’ll have strong papers they try to get into top journals and take the time to develop them and work the system. For instance. They will normally also have a strategy—an implicit or even subconscious one—about how to handle this mix of publications. The difficulty in writing for such journals is that there are a limited number of general topics and many schol- . Another way to separate journals is their level of generality. therefore. of course. Aiming too low is a good way to get published but not a good way to maximize the impact of your research. I also know that less experienced researchers often feel so unsure of themselves that they don’t even submit articles. the higher it is ranked. You should always try to find the best possible journal in which you think you have a fighting chance to be published. is one of balance. with a few exceptions. if not impossible. They will strive to keep their rejection rate (i. attempt to be published in the A-journals. Although I know that it can be very difficult indeed to get into the pages of top journals. Junior researchers. The issue. but success can really make the career for a young scholar. A rule of thumb. however.

Others are intimately tied to a conference or a network. which increases the amount of potential authors. the latter rarely is. try to publish in such journals. separate between those who have a specialized area and those who have a specialized group in mind as authors. and so on. it generally will not be very highly considered outside this group. and some are so narrow they seem meant for only a very small set of research groups. In contrast to the general journals. of course. but even in this category. Again. understanding the reasoning and logic behind a journal is an important step in developing your publishing strategy. serious journals now have an online presence. a journal that covers all of a specialized field may be viewed as a general journal. partly because most. Whereas the former may well be highly ranked. and the general journals. If a journal seems parochial and will publish only what is accepted in the narrow confines of specialized groups. if not all. Online journals are. we can also mention the new phenome- . at some point in your career. Sometimes a journal like this will attempt to break with tradition and become more open and accepting. the online journal is a valid avenue for publication and should not be overlooked by young academics. You should. 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. 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. cheaper and simpler to maintain than their paper equivalents. Most online journals do. sometimes more so than the more traditional journals. Clearly. “specialized” is a question of context—since most researchers work in specialized fields.16 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ars who perceive themselves competent to write on them. at least. These journals also have a much wider reading public. as they are making quite a lot of money off them. a new kind of journal has emerged—the online-only journal. Still. but it seems more likely that a specialized journal will become even more dogmatic. so the competition is often fierce. pay a lot of attention to their reviews and editorial processes. These journals were originally seen as merely experiments but now seem to have become accepted alternatives. potential critics. some journals are more focused than others. Having said that. therefore. tend to give very incisive reviews. top journals exist. which prompts many scholars to consider them as somehow less valid. But you should remember that a good paper deserves a good journal. In connection to this. We can. specialized journals are often seen as less prestigious. however. As of late. One always has to remember that publishers have a vested interest in keeping the paper journals alive. so even though it doesn’t carry quite the same prestige as its traditional counterpart.

Right now. Is there an editorial board. indexing. To this I also have to add a word about the journals I have sometimes referred to as the “International Review of Social Theory. that are affiliated with no one. but a no to all of them should be seen as a warning sign. 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). open access journals adhere to stringent double-blind review. and . particularly not for an academic starting out. abstracting. 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. and so forth? An answer of no to one of these questions doesn’t necessarily mean anything. the published authors pay a fee. and only after you’ve passed the review are you allowed to be published. Also.The Importance of Journals 17 non of “open access” journals. Does the journal list things like associations. Do you recognize the publisher? 2. remember the old rule that something calling itself international. and that make claims they simply cannot live up to. In the same way as online journals. and do you recognize the names on the board? 3. It isn’t always simple to know what constitutes a “proper” journal. Knowledge and Change” journals. professional. Here are some things you should check before submitting to a journal you haven’t heard of before: 1. Some of these journals are online journals. 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. This is a fairly new development and one I am sure will change the world of journals quite extensively. or academic probably isn’t. These journals abide by the principle that no one should have to pay to get access to scientific findings. In order to make publication feasible. but one should be wary of journals that seem to come out of nowhere. it is too early to say how this development will play out in the coming years. 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. This practice turns the earnings-logic of the traditional journal upside down. Does the journal have a professional Web site with online access to articles? 4. however. In an age when all manners of printing have become much cheaper and easier.

18 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS where there are a lot of desperate academics out there. This leaves the two last points.” Some measure this aspect by looking at things such as frequency of quotation or impact factors. So try to stay away from journals that have difficulty keeping up an academic front. On the contrary. such as whether it is seen as furthering the field and getting people engaged in an issue. will start questioning whether one. 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. Others. somewhere. the fact is that the academic world still thinks that an article gains merit by being published in a top journal. Somebody. Although the contribution of the article really should be what counts. due to people assuming that the level of the journal guarantees the scholarly level. there are differences. myself included. quantifiable measurements that some see as the sine qua non of journals. a merit that is detached from the article itself. due to the vagaries of academic fashion. this perception is. but active academics will still have a pretty good feel for what constitutes an important article. For the fledgling academic. but this is a very dangerous assumption. merit accrues both through the quality of the content and the perceived quality of the medium. This does not necessarily mean they should be avoided. may seem a bit out-of-the-way and bleak. The Question of Articles and Scholarly Merit Any published article is a merit for an academic. Obviously. of your articles might be shady. it is a waste of time and paper to submit it somewhere that can only hurt your reputation. they may be efficient ways to achieve publication. (2) The level of the journal it is published in. This is not as easy to measure. Sometimes. I will assume that the first of these points requires no additional explanation because the quality of an article should speak for itself. The third aspect of an article’s merit is the way in which it furthers discussion on a topic—I call this “network effects. would rather look to the more general reactions. that there are many perfectly proper journals that. however. Still. Still. or more than one. 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. Although submitting an article to a journal you later realize churns out almost anything sent to it isn’t necessarily a career breaker. and this is not something you want to invite. a market for what fraudulently attempts to establish academic credentials will emerge. it is good to note all three . in part. and (3) The discussion that the article raises.

at the same time. special issues are just as meritorious as general issues—for now. that being either affirming or critical. This said. but as there often is a greater emphasis on one or the other. empirical. Sometimes they can be more important. These types of articles usually condense a complex theoretical issue into the limited space of a journal . even though they are important and tend to appear in the major. such as when a previously overlooked field by way of a review article is brought into the spotlight. and since most academics have. regardless of the finer points. This is clearly a good thing but. the difference seems small. We can perhaps separate empirical papers into two categories according to the way in which they target the prevailing logic/theory in the field. making this a divisive issue seems petty. Empirical articles may be slightly easier to get published than purely theoretical ones. and theoretical). but generally they tend to be overviews with little to no original scholarship. not very original. at the same time. as it clearly brings in an original viewpoint. are not seen as bringing great additional merit to the author. general journals.The Importance of Journals 19 of these. Affirming empirical papers try to show that a hypothesis derived from earlier works can be shown to be correct. These articles also are normally written by established figures in the field and can perhaps best be understood as political delineations. therefore bolstering it with evidence. they are viewed as slightly less important than theory-type pieces. Obviously. Theoretical articles are notoriously difficult to write. this much can be said: Review articles. at least for the academic starting out. and are seen as carrying slightly less merit. Such a paper is often seen as meritorious. Critical empirical papers can perhaps best be understood by way of Karl Popper’s thesis of falsification. The question of whether articles in special issues are less meritorious than ones in general issues is difficult to answer. but. for even when one cannot guarantee impact it should serve as a model for what articles are supposed to do. They try to look at the consensus in the field (or some fair approximation thereof) and bring in evidence against this. It stands in the shadow of some earlier statement and merely acts as an affirmation thereof. Such articles tend to have a lesser standing. When looking at the three kinds of articles usually published (review. By showing that reality works in ways not covered by theory. Although usually it is easier to get published in a special issue. the best articles carry a combination of both. but it may strike the casual observer as odd since it isn’t very difficult to find such empirical data. quite reasonably. such empirical papers can further theorization and the field. been published in special issues. I will here treat them as separate entities. at one point or another. most junior researchers simply want to get a publication. So.



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



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-

In a way. The tricky bit is to correctly read a “revise and resubmit” letter. Regardless. There may be subtle signs as to one or the other of these interpretations and finding these subtleties takes some skill. This basically means they’re thinking about accepting it and means you really should try to meet the stated deadline. in part. In another way. If the letter says the manuscript has been accepted. Then rejoice some more. rejoice and see how much work they want you to put into it. There’s nothing you can do about it. on the other hand. that’s it. for neither the instructions nor the comments tend to be very clear. It is important to understand that reading these comments takes some adjustment. revise. Just read the comments and decide if they help in any way. this is the easy part. a rework. in part. may just be a rant against a specific method or an insistence that you should have referenced different people. These comments can also be immensely helpful. Read. and you just have to play the cards you’re dealt. Reading reviewer’s comments can be both painful and traumatic. Good comments are like roadmaps to a published paper. the next step is the revision process. A revision is. If the kindest thing the letter says is that the general topic of the manuscript was interesting. where it all begins. and . Revise and Resubmit Assuming your manuscript has been neither accepted nor rejected straight off. this can mean they really disliked the manuscript or that they actually want to publish it. and learn from them. 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. they might as well have rejected it (as most topics are. Bad comments. by definition. Remember. with point-by-point ideas about how to develop the paper. and there is no point in railing against the fact that they may have misunderstood you. 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. If the letter states that your manuscript has been rejected. of course. interesting). an improvement and. Most reviewers want to be helpful. it is a difficult part. Reading the editor’s letter is. One could say that comments are generally a gamble. Reading a reviewer’s comments is easier as these tend to be straightforward and to the point. One thing to look out for is whether the letter mentions a date by which they’d like to see a revised manuscript.The Importance of Journals 23 sion (one of the above) and will receive at least two sets of comments.

you shouldn’t grovel. but to try to improve it. There are times when a reviewer’s comments may be completely superfluous to the rewrite. Normally. Two. no matter how entangled or illogical the suggestion is. Although you should be courteous. It is your paper. even explaining why you’ve ignored some comments. you should. Your job is then not to revise the paper but to completely rework it.24 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS you’ll soon realize that the paper may change considerably during the process. 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. Sometimes the end-result looks nothing like the original idea. You never know what kind of comments you will receive. you should write a letter to the reviewers. you have to fix these. Then again. Others pick sides and simply ignore those comments that contradict what they want to do. Some scholars try their best to do everything the reviewers say. This doesn’t need to go into exacting detail but should give a broad outline of your revision. It is considered good manners to include three documents in your resubmission. One. A common question is what you should do if the two (or three) reviewers have diverging or even contradictory views and suggestions. Remember. you should write a new letter to the editor. The reviewers aren’t there to write the paper. If one of the reviewers cannot help in this. send your revised manuscript. but reviewers are not infallible and not everything they say is brilliant. explaining how you’ve dealt with their recommendations. explaining how you’ve reworked and improved the paper. There are. of course. Sometimes you will find that reviewers misunderstood the point you tried to make. not merely follow them. then it is permissible to ignore the comment. I feel that the latter strategy is better. The trick is to use the reviews as guidelines. and this may be both a good thing and a sad thing. and it is seldom a good idea to pervert what you are trying to say by forcing it into paradox. Obviously you have to pay heed to what the reviewers say. however. you are still in charge. your job is to explain the point and make the paper communicate better. and your prime task is to let them. the latter two documents are then sent to the reviewers again. some things to keep in mind. who are . First among these is realizing that it is still your paper. 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. it is also permissible to explain why you’ve not done something. and if they have identified mistakes or logical inconsistencies. In that case. Here. Other times you will find that reviewers were confused by the amount or type of information within the paper. Three. This is not true. Personally.

as in love. Some scholars even see submitting to journals as a kind of lottery. At times. but these people tend to have a lot of problems. “Dirty Tricks” Here are ten more tricks of the trade: 1. Most of the time. and this can always be used to improve the next paper. The good news is that this all becomes easier and more normal the more you do it. Others take each rejection as a personal slight. To be successful in academia you need to make the process of publication a continuous and normal part of your working life. Sometimes. Find a statement that you feel you can criticize either theoretically or empirically and make this your starting point. also. that editors do have the right to accept—or reject—the article at this stage. Preferably. working from the premise that every paper needs to get rejected a set number of times before it gets accepted. get rejected. in fact. After a while. So the second line of defense is to have several papers processed at the same time.The Importance of Journals 25 then supposed to say whether they believe that the article now meets the standards of a publishable article. Be aware. Most papers do. Again. you’ll even start telling others how to do it. It’s a fact of life. In exceptional cases. The first line of defense is to be prepared for rejection. have patience. The important lesson is to learn from the experience and try to move forward. Getting Rejected and Doing it All Over Again In journals. “It has sometimes been argued that the ontological position of . a rejection will come with at least some explanation as to why your paper didn’t make it. you’ll be published three times in a decade. indeed. this process can go on for two or three turns. is not to make this a one-time affair. however. Instead. The trick. the explanation will make no sense to you. find such a statement/article in the journal you’re writing for. work on several papers at the same time so that you’re working on one when waiting for comments on the other. If you just wait for a reviewer’s comments each time you submit something. if you’re lucky. of course. An article can very well start with. a rejection. It is usually easier to get an article published if you can point to someone or something you disagree with. up to five rewrites can precede an acceptance or. constantly juggling at least two or three papers. but such is life. you will be rejected from time to time.

Sometimes. so they are a “soft target.g. even bad blood. a good thing and is in the best interest of the journal. energized theoretical engagement. playing it close to the deadline (when it comes to rewrites. rejoinders. a new journal will not necessarily have as many quality papers they need. 6. Making a statement is. too. the pool of potential authors has been . This is due to the fact that you’ve already written a treatment on the subject. too. This practice can sometimes be strategically useful. therefore. not get you exactly the reviewers you want. 8. the abstract. for example) can be beneficial. 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. Editors are sometimes lazy. A catchy title that carries the promise of dialogue or controversy is always a good thing. Johnson et. of course. they are in the idea business. editors will look through the title. 7. and so on.26 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS widgets must be understood as relational (see e. Leek 2001. 5. A manuscript that comes in through the proverbial door at the last minute will seem like a godsend. you know the editor. This is by no means a sure thing. Controversy can be your best friend. I’m not saying you should always send in manuscripts late. 4. but it can tweak the probabilities ever so slightly. and the references of your manuscript and try to think of someone who’s interested in similar things.” 2. but sometimes timing can be your friend. than by way of submitting to an open issue. al 2005). When choosing reviewers. and the editor may well be more lax about triple-checking your arguments. 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. An editor may well look kindly on a piece that will raise a lot of debate. Journals are not in the consensusbuilding business. as this guarantees replies. They’re human. but you can still keep the interests of the journal in mind when planning your article. 3.” Similarly. A journal that has a reputation for publishing empirical articles may well be up for a theoretical synthesis or review.. 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. For instance. Remember that journals have their problems. Editors like to see their own articles referenced in a manuscript. 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. An editor will sometimes be pressed to fill out and finish an issue and may not have a suitable finished piece available.

Your manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect when you send it off.The Importance of Journals 27 radically limited. leads to a situation where women publish less than men. Don’t send in manuscripts written in all sans serif (Arial. men seem to take this advice easier than women. This. Call it psychological warfare or call it an intelligent use of the review process. Think about how different it feels to read pleasantly laid out text versus muddled and badly thought through text. 10. Think about your use of space. not when you feel every single letter is perfect. it is done and it can be efficient. unfortunately. and this 50 percent can be extended indefinitely. Look at it before you send it. who send in sub-par stuff and get it published regardless… . 9. Keep away from Times New Roman as well. the reviewers will know the subject more intimately. women seem more reticent to send in stuff that is less than perfect. Learning at least the basics of layout can’t hurt you. does it looks typographically inviting? Under no circumstances should you make it look like you’re practicing with new fonts. Some scholars swear by sending in material they feel is only 80 percent there so that the reviewers will feel they have input. Although it should be free of obvious mistakes and you should have spell-checked it beforehand. There is no point in making your manuscript difficult to read. Specifically. neither should you use decorative fonts. or Helvetica). learn to submit a manuscript when you feel it communicates. Often (but not always) guest editors for special issues will also consciously try to include more junior researchers. For some reason. and so on. Verdana. Since 50 percent of the work for an article is in the polishing. the reviewers are there to help you make it better.

I published a small. 46s. 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. 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. For all our access to computers and digital technology. and the field feels poorer due to this. 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. we still feel most content when we keep to the hard-to-fuck-up word processing program. 448–450 & 12m. 8) Some time ago. occupying a space somewhere between the experiment and the documentary. Sam Warren’s article on 28 . sticking to the original message. I wrote the following text: The following is a short movie. (]i\ek 2001. So I have started to play around with digital video. a project that has resulted in the publishing house Dvalin (http://www. It is born out of a long-term research project I’m conducting regarding alternative forms of academic publication and expression. To accompany the film. it is odd to note that most academics still seem to find even photography threateningly “arty” and “odd” (cf. 5(3). and thus clearly an idea looking for a home. Most scholars still seem stymied by technologies beyond copiers and email. finally. and have started to think about the possibilities of documentary film in the field of organization studies. experimental film in an online journal (ephemera: theory & politics in organization. it HAS to compromise its founding radical message—and the ultimate “heretics” are simply those who reject this compromise. but also to mess around in the borderlands of both thinking and seeing.dvalin.org/) and various other mutations. With our stated love of the ethnography.3 On Alternatives and Heresies [P]erhaps.).

there is a stillness. So I wanted to see if the image of an empty corridor would jolt something in me. This is a documentation. So perhaps this is a methodological comment. I’m still pondering this. but it is not a provocation. that which exists in the spaces we do not immediately recognize as interesting. and that it is intentionally constructed in a way that at times may feel boring or uncomfortable. a question. but I want to leave a space for the viewer to make her own sense of it. which after all is the most common form of life (or non-life) is seen as uninteresting. if we can even reach it. and a mundaneity that we fail to acknowledge and engage with. to the extreme activity of contemporary capitalism. 1995). . Just as an organization. which looks like the one in Sydney. jetting from conference to conference. nor do I make any claims to be an artist. I realized I was inspired by Marc Augé’s Non-places. That would be foolish. The lounge in Stockholm looks like the lounge in New York. a hiss. has often not been studied at all. the continuous mundaneity of it all. but I do think we should attempt to. But so do the offices of the academics. Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (New York: Verso Books. Studies of violent oppression and extraordinary strategies abound. It tries to provoke some form of reaction. But this piece is also born out of a feeling I have. It may be urging organizational scholars to explore the medium of digital film and the documentary. 2(3): 224–245). Whereas most social science seems occupied with documenting the extremes—or even creating it through sensationalism or ideology—the everyday. in that I wanted to look to the ways in which we try to imbue places with meaning that may not be there. Note that this is not art. I’ve long been interested in the less obvious stasis of modern life. but the mundane. Why is this? So I walked through an abandoned office. 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. Somewhere behind the mad activity of the contemporary world. a case study. and can thus be viewed as a methodological note. a sense that we pay far too much interest to the hustle-bustle of modern life. thinking about the traces and the absences of organizational behavior. It should be noted that the film plays around with this.On Alternatives and Heresies 29 photography in ephemera. with my digital videocam. I do not know how this should be inquired into.

Many young academics also feel that the only way to get ahead is to accept the hegemonic structure and do as you’re told. My belief is that for a practicing academic. therefore. Together. if academia is to be a living. Obviously. One of these is a hallowed field and questioning it (in a way that deviated from the normal criticism) is a form of heresy.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. one that tries to keep to the status quo and enable those in power to remain in control. particularly so when we acknowledge that digital video seems a particularly unacademic form of media (unless you’re in media studies). To state that academia is an inherently conservative and uncreative atmosphere is. it is a bit silly to publish an experimental short film when you are supposed to be a serious scholar in organization theory. Many a young scholar rarely has the financial or institutional security that would enable him or her to go on fighting. regardless of whether it fit with earlier ways of looking at things. most simply give in. There has always been an oppressive side to science. 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. nothing new. and far too many scholars are merely agents of this. it is important to question and probe the prevailing order of the field. This is far more dangerous than heresy. Whereas the original message of academia was the relentless pursuit of knowledge. something through which we can inquire into what deviation in scholarly practice would mean. But how does one achieve the position of the heretic? There are. the structure of academia effectively hinders change. of course. What defines many a department is not a healthy debate but a crushing and mind-numbing orthodoxy. The other is a field that is seen as deeply problematic and one that an academic is not supposed to engage in too deeply. today a contrarian position will be looked on with suspicion. And as those who are most likely to introduce alternatives tend to be those who are most susceptible to the pressure to conform. Still. but I do believe two specific things deserve extra mention: publishing and media. of course. critical even. Consequently. such heresies are important. I believe heresy is an important aspect of keeping academia healthy. many ways. these form a kind of test case for academic tolerance. . meaningful activity.

In part. it is difficult to say what a good alternative would be. In order to break with this thinking. alternatives seem necessary if we are to keep academia alive and relevant in the contemporary age. In part. Alternatives to these two approaches are astonishingly difficult to find. but. playing around with settings and thinking about different ways of thinking about academic distribution. in its day. All the while. The possibility of setting up a site with your own texts for the world to download was. A research group I helped organize started its own series. In part this may be a question of culture (i. as it truly has changed scientific communication in remarkable ways) files to distribute texts. at the same time. So I played around with Web design and taught myself Adobe Acrobat. a huge thing for me. trying to engage with technology. this was due to my interest in software. An important issue here is technology. but as a worthy undertaking in itself. Playing with new programs made me want to try out new things. Some pieces even . and suddenly we found that the stuff we wrote for our own amusement was actually being read all over the world. 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. publishing everything over the Internet. and put them out. Yes. there is the tradition of publishing conference papers in proceedings. Originally. and my advisor actively promoted writing short essays and putting them out as working papers. I’ve worked on a project on alternative methods of publishing. Most academics are afraid of technology or otherwise shy away from it. and this aligned with my interest in publishing. 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. So I wrote my little pieces. I was brought up in an environment where working papers were held in some esteem. as well as the existence of working papers and series of such.. mind you. Academically. but these are normally seen as intermediate steps toward “real” publishing—which always means one of the two aforementioned things. a technology that hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. that technophobia is seen as something academics simply should adopt). and a lot of people acknowledge this. Alternatives seem few and hard to come by.On Alternatives and Heresies 31 Alternative Forms of Publishing When academics talk about publishing.e. not as steps to something greater. I was just fascinated with the potential of using the Internet and the versatility of Adobe’s PDF (portable document format. Locking ourselves into such rigid institutional forms cannot be healthy for the development to the field.

Now. and developing manuscripts. in fact. a “house” might be overstating it. Well. In my fascination for everything connected to text and computers. Still. 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. these methods are not alternative methods. And I started wondering how one could learn from this. digital technologies were ushering in a new era for scholarly communication. I had also learned some layout. a self-contained book-production facility—with the actual printing outsourced as and when needed. I had been published in online journals (and quite a few offline ones). I realized that the trip from manuscript to printed book actually could involve as little as my getting a file. was not to pretend to overthrow the traditional publishers. after the dwarf who. Obviously. disrupt the system itself. I thought a lot about this. quoted. 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. Having always loved books and typography. and built upon. During this process I was amazed by the craft behind it. 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. invented the runes.32 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS got referenced. nor to create a vanity . working it on my computer. long before everyone did it. how my laptop was. I had the run of a working paper series. something I’d also practiced by designing books for some friends. in fact. a registered company that published books might be a better term. editing. and they are crucial in the commercialization process. this is not meant as a disparaging comment on publishers. I had taught myself book design. Quite a few academics do similar things. I even blogged (short for Web logged). The point of starting a publishing company. and getting a box of nice books by return mail. and I had learned a little bit about the publishing industry from the books I had done. and stopped once I realized how limited it was (but man. according to Norse mythology. I loved the technology behind it). it actually depended on whether you were interesting or not. but also by the fact that publishers seemed to do fairly little when it came to the trip from manuscript to published text. Whereas the old working paper series were cumbersome and expensive (prohibitively so if you wanted to distribute them). sending off another file to a printing shop. And it got me thinking: How far could one take all this? Clearly. What I am getting to is that I started a publishing house. and that when it came to distribution. I named it Dvalin. I decided. for they can do wonderful things when it comes to organizing the process.

I like writing. Some asked me for advice and obviously started thinking about their own alternatives. this was seen both as an alternative and as a political statement. People mailed me and congratulated me for doing such an off-the-wall stunt. mostly as downloadable PDF files. The book got referenced some and got a bit of fame in the circles I work in as a cool project. Others have then taken the idea and have tried to accomplish it on a somewhat grander scale. created a logo. Obviously. I also decided that Dvalin would always distribute the books it did for free. and informed some friends of the Web site. the thought of doing things with . at the same time. Clearly. I started wondering about alternatives to text. I knew how to work with printers. a Web site. My first problem was having something to publish. as were things such as getting an ISBN number. but still. some of these were just downloads by the idle and the curious. and thus the distribution. which was exactly what I wanted to accomplish with the project. they had been seen. and the layout a couple of days. so arranging for printing was actually simple. and a lot of the small things I decided I would just deal with when and if needed. the traditional thing of journal publishing and the like. Printers today are used to short print runs and delivery by mail or FTP (file transfer protocol). Having worked in text all of my professional life. after checking the blogs. but to show that it could be done. So I registered it. One day I just drove to the printers. the publisher-thing and. Since I had played around with design already. Suddenly. In fact. Fortunately. I realized that more than a thousand copies had been downloaded. picked up the forty-two copies I had had printed (each one numbered and signed). but also having a dedicated interest in popular culture. A little later two of my friends. The same goes for setting up the Web site. many of whom were big names in the field. 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. although the writing took some time. sent some of them out. Doing the layout was relatively easy. everything went so smoothly that I could hardly believe it myself. I started to think about media. I wrote a short book called The Serious Unreal and got to work. I knew enough about books to design them myself. which were then distributed for free at some of the central conferences—to some consternation of the big publishers. Pretty soon.On Alternatives and Heresies 33 project. a micro-publisher was tenable again. and a story line around it. What people rarely understand about publishing is that it is the dearth of publishable material that plagues the industry. Having done the Web-thing. They also got funding for printing 800 copies. to write manifestos about the business school of tomorrow (Jones & O’Doherty 2005).

This way. So I filmed empty corridors. Obviously. and. generally. 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. so in connection with this. the heretical way. this is not accepted in the way it should be. Alternatives should not be done indulgently nor be seen as ends unto themselves. a heretical act. and tried to see whether this could produce a reaction. This form of publishing used to be called vanity publishing and was not favorably looked upon by academia. it will turn up as an item on Amazon. I was just interested in making an epistemological point. At the moment. Now. What was important about academia early on was that it tried new things. 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. in itself. my attempt at another minor insurrection. It is. it fit into my project of studying the alternatives to business as usual in the academic world. I never wanted to create video art. I want to emphasize that I am wary of people making claims about the “natural affinity” between science and art. as it does not tie itself to the way things are normally done nor to dogmatic ideas about propriety and scholarly praxis. but that would have been far less fun. So I believe in the importance of exploring alternative avenues. something I’m still pretty lousy at. which pleased me (although I don’t think it turned out to be that great). I had to learn to edit video. thus. this book will be published by a self-publishing print-on-demand company. If things go the way I’ve planned. if you excuse the hyperbole.com. Often this has been a way for researchers to engage in self-indulgent projects. Publishing this book through such a system is. Some. that is. .34 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS images and video came pretty naturally. In the end. but not many. but these days. manage to combine the two forms. For a small fee. and. I could have pushed this book through a “serious” publishing house (I even had an offer to do so). For a long time I had thought about the possibility of using documentary films in the social sciences. It still isn’t. academic life without alternatives is just another form of intellectual death. It got some attention. This book is an important example in itself. I am pondering a book of photography and possibly an extension of my video project. juxtaposed this with quotes from social theory. makes the very endeavor of academic work feel more worthwhile. I bought a relatively inexpensive digital video camera. but the video did get made and it did get published. more of an adventure. producing things that are neither particularly good art nor particularly interesting research.

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). it is not the enemy of social science. this becomes even more pronounced. The media is not the enemy of research. and instead stated my personal feeling on the subject: Academics are paid to ponder. Academics are a kind of free agents of thinking. given space precisely to be able to serve the public. At the same time. Assumedly. I can quite assuredly state that most academics look down on media. to be an acronym!). I’ve happily worked with media—newspapers. either a managed one or just the caricature conveyed by media about academics in general. and a communication . the media should be a natural and even normal milieu. better known as BHL (oh. however. we have a plethora of less than wholesome ones. academics need to think about their relation to the outside world. Personally. they are basically hired by the state to be a class of people who are less fettered to the grind of corporate life and. prepared to comment on any and everything and gladly pouncing on every chance to get into the spotlight. does not mean popularizer or pleaser of crowds. in a good position to comment on the social world. 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. radio. a way to make academia meaningful. Academics that regularly appear on talk shows tend to be seen as gadflies or pundits. The flamboyant Bernard-Henri Lévy. For regardless of whether you like it or not. In all these cases. And for every case of a successful cross-over. find this a limited and damaging view. each academic has a media presence. but as public intellectuals. and TV—and feel no less of an academic for this. Instead it represents a possibility for a more entrenched engagement with society.On Alternatives and Heresies 35 Media and the Modern Academic To all this we can add the issue of media. and the way in which they want to portray themselves in the media. often by close friends. and. Instead it is a question of engaging with society. of becoming something of a talking head. to research. and there is an implicit assumption that being in the media makes you less of a scholar. thus. particularly. I have been accused. is a case in point. and to teach. particularly popular media. 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. such as myself. and when it comes to academics in media. however. for a contemporary academic. I’ve always found this a bit unfair. Others. not as hermetic high priests or civil servants. thinking the intellectual project beyond the circles of academic culture. Public here.

Rather. and instead persist in their version of deep Catholicism. and the later sectarian attitudes would be very strange to our intellectual forefathers. as it breaks with the notion that only academia can truly understand academia. media can be a powerful reminder for the scholar that the insular world of the university is not all there is. in fact. an engagement with media can be understood as part of the original academic event—free thinking in engagement with the world. But academia is not the one true religion. But it is also a perfect case of how academia has gone wrong. a discussion of the ages.36 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS with those whom academia is supposed to serve. each academic has to develop her own version of heresy. ecclesia non sitit sanguinem… . Still. a healthy relationship with media can be both an arena for developing new ideas and a test bed for old ones. Remember. When the sciences were developing. Instead. Yet far too few scholars are prepared to take on the role of the Cathars. It can also be an excellent space to train yourself to communicate your research. communication with the outside world was not only normal. it follows quite logically that heresy is actually at the heart of true scholarly engagement. be a return to an earlier. Heresy …should be a natural part of academic life. it is a continuous questioning. Media is a form of heresy. and its very lifeblood should be the alternative interpretation and the heretic’s outlook on the world. more original academic ethic. the important part is actively finding one’s own heresies. Obviously. In much the same way as alternative forms of publishing may. as formulaic questioning is no questioning at all. As heresy is simply shorthand for not accepting dogma and dogma is the enemy of any critical engagement with the world. accusing anyone who breaks with this of vulgar apostasy. Most importantly. it was crucial.

It took me years to learn how to just let the text flow and to write down what I was pondering.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. 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. both as an activity and a craft. that’s it. I’ve also learned that a standard book manuscript is about 80. The computer’s “word count” feature does it for me. then I thought it was wise. The image of the scholar as a person ensconced in a utopian world. Simply put. and detached from the mundane reality of manual labor is persistent but also dangerous. what amazed me. One of the things I’ve learned in academia is just to write. quick and dirtylike. and what I had seen. I’ve come to understand what Lawrence Block meant when he said. Do you think plumbers get plumber’s block?” At first I thought this comment was funny. 37 . It might sound like a little thing. It might not be the kind of work that makes you sweat (except for deadlines. “When I hear people talking about writer’s block I only get annoyed. It took me years to learn just to sit down in front of my laptop computer. Text doesn’t write itself. There isn’t anything mysterious or ethereal to it. engaged in thinking. open up the document. I now know that it is my job to produce words. just work and more work. and just write. It sums up what I think about writing. let me point to some of my own experiences.000 words. perhaps). To dispel this notion. I now know that it’s unnecessary to count the pages of a document. You write. and now it is kind of a koan for me. I had to learn to weave arguments together and to edit and rework. but it really isn’t.

Now. and the paths not taken. What had once felt like finalized theory showed itself on the page as quite tentative and slipshod. the shoddiness. research is filled with clichés and shibboleths. which academia has romanticized and even afforded an air of mysticism. to the extent that I knew how. and as time pressures forced me to abandon intense selfreflection and self-criticism. quick and dirty. When it comes to writing. I also started to realize that the more I wrote. The impurity. Write for acceptance. the gaps in my argument. in turn. obviously I do not mean that it took me six months to become a PhD. This last platitude is of particular interest to me in writing this book.” and most are not shy to tell you. to me this is far more interesting than the rather sterile world of ideas often idealized by scholars. seems to be one of those things scholars always have an opinion on. First say what you’re going to say. and this goes particularly for the act of academic writing. that when I had written ten pages. I found this absolutely fascinating. Some even have a motto. most “actually know how to do it.38 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS When I started writing seriously. then say what you’ve said. Thoughts I had treated as separate entities became combined when placed upon a page. those words. The worst research is the kind that doesn’t get written up. then say it. then jostled new thoughts and created new connections. I suddenly saw fifteen new pages that I could write. and I was made aware of their constant niggling presence. When I mentioned this to my Doktorvater. the better my thinking became. Those errors had to be fixed. he just smiled and said I had started to write like a scholar—and not a moment too soon. which is often portrayed as a bit of boring drudgery. I started seeing the flaws of my thinking. Just do it. I wrote my doctoral thesis in about six months. I found I could write with something akin to confidence. I realized. Simply put. rather than hide behind the potential text I had yet to write. The very act of writing. Don’t make it too difficult. I also discovered I simply couldn’t capture everything in text. I realized I had to take a stand in my text. What I mean is that one day I decided that I was going to write the Book. As in any human activity. Such writing. is both undertheorized and underrated as a highly interesting form of manual labor. get it written. Thoughts seemed to take on a life of their own as those words spilled onto the page. and that I five months later I had a manuscript that to a great extent looks like the published work on the basis of . Well-meaning people say a lot of things: Don’t get it right. and the sheer viscerality of writing.

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. These outputs are then transferred onto paper and later fed into other machines such as reviewers and thesis advisors. what kind of activity did I engage in. with nothing written and nothing really prepared. and a story to tell. some reading under my belt. that thinking is a special kind of activity. for I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I’d gotten it all straightened out inside my head. Ten months later I had a book in my hand and a PhD. I started from a clean slate. For reasons that are of no interest here. thumbing through a stapled bunch of papers. For what is it they think within the skull. and that we can talk about it in the same . unless you count four pages of scribbles in longhand. there it was. But where did the book come from? The Only Thing I Know about Research Research does not take place inside your head. Matters were further complicated by the fact that this process prompted me to completely abandon my earlier thesis plans. The process in its entirety. and I recognized the words I had written. anyway? And on what do they base this belief? We seem to think. I didn’t have a single page of written text. says Wittgenstein. I also remember being surprised. and the UK). 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. 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. Was it typing? That sounds…mechanic. This is the sum total of my research experience. I literally started from scratch. at least. This is a fallacy. some data collected. Still. I had a book I wanted to write. and suddenly realizing that this (by golly) was a thesis. quick and dirty-like? Was it research? That sounds very vague and far too abstract. I remember sitting cross-legged on a bed. Quick and dirty.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 39 which I was awarded a PhD. Seemingly. one that takes place within the head.S. But what was it that I had done. Ignoring this. took about ten months. or. 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. a pretty good draft of one. Heaton and Groves 1996). and a dangerous one. In less than a year.

but in the second. On the other hand. 318) . braked by the words. What?—What what?—What are you writing?—Well…OK.40 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS manner as we discuss eating dinner. as she looks very troubled and/or constipated. The wrinkled brow and the somewhat forced breathing seemingly mean that you are thinking. (Wittgenstein 1958/2001. —Now I know exactly what my book will look like. 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. 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. of how a thought goes through one’s head like lightning. one does speak of the speed of thought. the thought seems not to be separate from the expression. however. And at the same time. 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. and that woman’s thinking hard. 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 so on. 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. as we normally do—we shall not in general say that we think quicker than we talk. I got it all up here. I mean I know what I’m going to write. it’s private. That guy is eating.—OK.—Don’t all those pages up there bother you? Does it hurt?—Don’t be silly. how problems become clear to us in a flash. too and difficult to transfer out of the head. But what then when we think about something. bit by bit. as it existed before its expression? (Wittgenstein 1958/2001. this thinking is not only internal. to the question: “What did the thought consist in. sec.’ So that in the first case the clockwork runs down all at once. sec.

The mythological version simply makes for a better. sex. however. They seek a thought. as a direct consequence. I believe that thoughts are created in their capture. one can still find lots of nearly unreadable garbage in the form of “stream of consciousness” writing. or thought long and wrote quickly. is created right there—in writing. We could compare with the way in which more than a few writers have been inspired by a developed addiction to alcohol. Kerouac wrote quickly. But what does it matter anyway? My point lies in the writing. an idea. just like all other myths. this is not synonymous with research. All this might seem contradictory. if not all. of the book can be found in draft form in a number of manuscripts and notebooks. Take Jack Kerouac as an example. has mostly been ignored. writing on a single roll of paper so as not to have to break for changing sheets. 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. And. produced over a period of five years. and others who’ve been threatened with physical violence). hinder it. This fact. Thinking. more inspirational story. emulating the Beat authors. or whatever else they think lies at the base of research and seemingly think that writing would. a theory. in the moment they are written down. created in a single. three week. rather the opposite. but I think that the same goes for the assumedly intellectual parts of research as well. the lightning-fast snap-crackle-pop of biochemical madness in the brain. The trivial and often internally contradictory thoughts I tried to convey to increasingly skeptical audiences .Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 41 Even though there is a distinct pleasure to be had in rapid thinking. 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. or drugs without this meaning that their work would be a direct consequence of heroin or martinis. However counterintuitive it may seem. and even though many a scholar is hopelessly addicted to the high this can produce. His On the Road (1957/1998) has become mythologized as a kind of perfect writing. Similarly one can often find researchers in various states of either ecstasy or despair. My experience in writing has never been one of brilliant insights being transferred onto paper. Later research into Kerouac has shown that most. looking for the illumination they assume is the primus motor of scholarly work. Benzedrine-fuel marathon session at the typewriter. in the words of Wittgenstein. This is also why I feel that research is primarily a case of manual labor rather than abstract and mental. become “braked by the words” this.

edit later. often due to sheer lack of time was forced to write them down before I’d had the pleasure of “thinking them through. “Yeah. Rather. see where your reasoning doesn’t work. and I wrote even more. think then. manually. long passages that simply didn’t work. in the sense I’m talking about it. who work primarily by writing (or. is not a question of who writes the fastest or about the number of words per minute you can write. I’ve found that the less time I use to plan writing. and ditched drafts. if there is anything of value at all to my thinking. even though this might be another consequence. and actually save those thoughts that deserves saving. always onward. in some cases. this value was added through the manual work of writing. I would fail. nowhere else. . I wrote. 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.” someone might interject. well. I just wrote any and everything I could think of that might have something to do with the subject. and that was all I knew. to me. The fact is that in the same way that a book becomes real in the process of writing. To be quick to subject your arguments to the friction of the paper means that you’ll discover the flaws of your thinking faster. Text. See. Quick. I deleted. The resistance Wittgenstein (1958/2001) describes as happening in writing is. the art of being able to put words on paper without thinking about it too much—write first. is born in writing. I gathered literally hundreds of odd scraps that somehow congealed into bigger wholes. are born. I moved. a description of what happens when thoughts work and when they.42 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS became something entirely different when I. or because he had some metaphysical “it” lodged in his brain. And I don’t mean that you’ll just write faster. On the Road (1957/1998) was a great book because it had been worked on. if I didn’t produce enough words. Instead. but that your actual argumentation will develop more quickly. Marx turns up in the most surprising contexts… Jack Kerouac wasn’t a good author due to his passion for literature. work with their brains rather than with their hands. or because he drank a lot. But the work entailed in producing the texts might not differ that much. So I didn’t plan or draft or create outlines. a thought becomes a living thing when it is created onto a page. The more you write. in a manner of speaking. Still we often think that academics.” Succinctly put. the quicker it goes. in labs). It was created through a thousand attempts. I wrote onward. any text. it is the speed to write I am referring to. Back then. the faster it goes. “it ain’t the same kind of text!” And partly they might be right (see Czarniawska 1999 on organizational research as genre).

and so on. a lot of what (social) scientists do starts looking like a form of cleaning up—a hygiene function. arrange it in the lonely room of your head. and some spices for flavor). But what is crap? In her brilliant Purity and Danger (1966/2001). No matter how much I think about order. some theory. The other fear.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. the fear of writing. such as the fear of data. as do many of the natural sciences. One fear that is particularly important within the scope of this essay is. the fear of producing crap. which isn’t completely detached from the first. it never becomes orderly. the antithesis of order. and perhaps. ongoing). and then output the now well-ordered. Sociology and political science often try to create highly ordered images of the world. In fact. cleaning everywhere (a not a thing to think). the antithesis to knowledge itself? Thinking about it. a fear of what might happen once you start writing since actually writing stuff down can often lead to new avenues. which is an illogical and very unscientific flaw in thinking. Despite this. You input things in your brain (a little bit of data. Cleaning. This is connected to the notion of research as a mental activity. 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. which comes in at least two shapes. particularly when it comes to thinking the sacred and the strive towards clarity and certainty.” and it would seem most proper that research and the products therein should be well-ordered and structured. unexpected results. which has been conclusively proven in an extensive study I’ve made of my desk (Rehn. obviously.” Douglas analyzes what it is in the category of “filthy” or “impure” that so offends our sense of order. many scholars think that their job is reducing the inherent complexity of the world into something more easily handled. Organization theory looks a lot like a form of meta-cleaning. The problem is that we’ve then created a dangerous blend of different kinds of activities. the fear of presenting research (What if they laugh?). it is fear of the unknown. prop- . Fear can take many forms. On one hand. as does philosophy. the fear of finishing (What should I do now?). a lot of people are confident in their belief that research is supposed to be a hygienic activity. Because isn’t this what dirt/filth/crap is. therefore. Mary Douglas presents her well-known and seminal theory of impurity and the role of it in human thinking. Observing cleaning is not the same thing as cleaning up. is the fear to write badly. Science seems to be all about “matter in its place. and even contradictions. Developing William James’s classical definition of dirt as “matter out of place.

by definition. “(i) frenzied. you’ll be writing crap. (l) et cetera. and ponders why some things are declared impure. pragmatic statements. since Linneaus.” And impurity is transcending this. those odd things that are neither fish nor fowl. 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. 27)?” After debating the issue. xi. tried to create finalized taxonomies and categorizations of the natural world (Bowker and Star 1999).44 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS erly hygienic result. 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. or any. say. where one has. and texts written on it might well contain snippets from and references to journalistic text. which try to understand and interpret a world that is. There is a marked difference between the natural sciences. But this is actually something different from the impurity Douglas finds and particularly so in the social sciences. list of “matter in its place. If you fail in this. unclear and in flux. alternatively the line between productive interpretations and foolish ones. and dirty limericks. and the social sciences. Research into the social world simply cannot create meaningful general models. she comes to the conclusion that it seems to be a principle stating that unity is synonymous with holiness that orders this thinking. and the crocodile all seem to have “hands” (i. I like to call it the “the brain as a washer” mode of thinking. and fine literature (Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux 1994).” This would indicate that impurity in academic writing might be defined by a stepping outside of the boundaries of proper science.e. literature. but something in-between. Leviticus. At the same time. The division of the world can take any number of forms. (m) having just broken the water pitcher. Phenomena with characteristics from more than one thinkable unity are impure.. consultant’s tomes. you have to guard the border between truth and fiction. the mole. 42–58) are the hybrids. . But should academic texts be purified? And purified from what? What interests Douglas most (1966/2001. moles and crocodiles got in common that they should be listed together (Lev. if you can’t get the washer to run the right program. those demarcations that separate an academic text from. maybe even a poem or two. the chameleon. She looks to one of the oldest normative texts of our Western culture. (j) innumerable. (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush. their paws look like hands) but use these to walk with. journalism. the mouse. The social might be best understood as a hybrid unto itself. seemingly without an underlying logic: “Why should the frog be clean and the mouse and the hippopotamus be unclean? What have chameleons. For example.

If you reduce the field to a set of functions such as production. Maurice Godelier (1978) has remarked that the separation of a specific field. and most importantly of all. but it can be. “always already” (with apologies to Judith Butler and G. and even without making trivial statements regarding the “social construction of everything” (cf. F. you will neglect phenomena that are actually needed to grasp the field. and neither . a temporary state of affairs. such as “the economy. and consumption. not to be ignored. W. including everything that might play a role. But is this enough? To exemplify. a continuous engagement with our own Augean stables. the absolute fact that you never can know. It is a monster. the perspective you adopt. the ideas you want to convey.S. this hybrid we social scientists study. distribution. It may be highly relevant when companies try to convey their messages. Taking economic phenomena. 55).Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 45 The fact is that social world is defined by impurity and paradox.” Research. in an essay on economic anthropology. And. it is somewhat important to companies that publish poetry. one that excludes poetry. Hacking 1999). systemic view. But if you try to adopt a more holistic.” (Godelier 1978. Eliot. For what do social scientists study? We all have our favorite definitions. or when a CEO has a thing for T. Thus writing the impure is a part of the field. until the latter opens on to other social realities and finds there that part of its meaning that it does not find in itself. at best. the role of poetry in publishing. such as. Social scientists write about the impure. social such. the social sciences are interested in a field that works differently and where truths take different forms. which are often assumed to be definite and easier to model than. turn up in company narratives. Poetry isn’t always relevant for an economic analysis. as it all depends on context. you will lose sight of the field of interest. they quickly turn out to be impure indeed. becomes a continuous balancing act between delimitation and inclusion and the task of research to “analyse both this external and this internal aspect. Hegel). Thus it is not always the case that you can exclude poetry from social science. for our own favorite fields. no text in social science is ever complete and purified.” by necessity leads us into a paradox. 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). and start studying “everything. Nor can you know beforehand exactly what should be included and excluded. in this sense. one can state that order in this world is. So whereas theoretical physics may have cordoned off a relatively “pure” field for itself. say. and to penetrate to the depths of the domain.

notes.” texts have to be as unattractive as possible. this is an impure method to clarify one’s message.46 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS is the field. So what should a text in social science look like? The very question is wrongly put. rather. Such a language game can so easily devolve into nothing more than a scholastic nitpicking and word-play. If one is interested in science. But looking at the beautiful. “But that’s the same thing. why not? Obviously. And I guess you might think that. the important issue is not the arranging and ordering of the world. or moments caught in a haze. with his Return to Reason (2001). 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. Well. and there are those who seem to agree with me. But I think it isn’t as easy as that. overheard conversations. pencil sketches. something he’s done with some success. The fields we study are not simple or rarified. in this sense. a mistake. one of creating interesting descriptions. where one is more interested in looking the part than actually doing science. is to cross borders. A text about social phenomena can never be complete and can never be completely devoid of gaps and potential impurities. to make a productive mess of things. and Richard Rorty . Wittgenstein is one. particularly if you mean an insecurity as to what can “fit” the discourse of the social sciences. The social sciences are interesting precisely because they discuss phenomena in the social world with all the impurity this brings with it. photographs. Stephen Toulmin. In my own case. teeming mass of images that exists in the social world and comparing these to the trivial illustrations that exist on the pages of research.” I can imagine someone shouting. The fear of producing crap is. snippets of text captured at a printer. but. Pierre Guillet de Monthoux once rhetorically asked me why so few researchers illustrate their own works. Thus the ideal in these sciences shouldn’t be an issue of creating perfect models. 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. and the processes we study are messy. part of any scholar’s work. An academic can save a lot of unnecessary grief by not even attempting to write purified scholarship. particularly if you believe understanding is a setting on your internal washer. but the effort to understand it. one is struck by the fact that many a social scientist obviously believe that in order to be pure and “scientific. Instead. sudden asides. one might come closer to the phenomenon one studies by deliberately going for impure forms of representation—creating collages of quotes. I crossed the borders between organization studies and economic anthropology as well as the borders between commodities and gifts (Rehn 2001).

Rather.Quick and Dirty—Scholarship as Manual Labor and Impure Activity 47 (1989. and seldom more than that. I am actually talking. handling it head on. however. Churning out text does not mean one has exchanged thinking for production. wears them down. the unstable tuft on which we can precariously balance as long as we don’t stand still. This romanticized notion that research is the thinking of deep thoughts that are documented a posteriori. the form and the content. It is also a symbol for judgment as a critical skill in scholarship. It is rather something like an oscillation between states. 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. destroys people. understanding isn’t a simple. and the level of purity desired. and shouldn’t be romanticized more than absolutely necessary. about the opposite. academic work is work. it means you have to reflect a lot more and think a lot harder. Despite the sudden sense of well-being it generates. Consequently. This is why I’ve increasingly started to view research as a form of manual labor. an acceptance of limitations and the impossibility of eternally stable knowledge. and through the crafting of a text or an argument. 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. engaging with it rather than treating it as some sort of metaphysical illumination in the world. one where only results count and where science and the search for truth become abstract and pointless concepts. And this is something that cannot be learned except through the work itself. but the opposite. through the act of writing and thinking. I was locked into this mode of think- . a position where humility and active engagement becomes an integral part of the search for truth. Accepting the impurity of reality does not mean cutting corners. for too long. straightforward phenomenon. However. petrified. Even though it lacks the sweat and filth of a factory floor. this “enough” is not an argument for sloppy work or lazy analyses. 1998) are two others. the amount of impurity needed. it is an ethic. In order to do good academic work. This “enough” is what I believe is at the very heart of research. You understand “enough” to manage. a search where disparate bits of information are imperfectly woven together into a tentative whole you may have an engagement of understanding to. It means working on your thinking.

The forbidden and the impure have great difficulties with fitting into such a mode of thinking science.” Easier? There is not much worth saving in science if “easy” has validity as a criterion. and some actually constitute environmental crimes. Often this seems to hinge on academics in their anxiety not to step over some imagined boundary of propriety. A comment I’ve often heard that enrages me is variations of “but if you’re unsure. be girded by a scientific and academic attitude to the world. namely sterility. Learning to write taught me precisely how writing quick and dirty can. obviously. It was a depressed despair that finally made it possible for me to write academically. The problem. We often seem to think that academic writing is a question of combining these two elements. if at all. I admit that this has a political dimension. as the ink and paper spent on them clearly aren’t warranted. the notion that research is supposed to be done in a specific way and supposed to hold to a specific look. my worst break with the academic code. when every sentence is . an observation that might be far more interesting than it seems at first. The sad fact is that most publications are rarely read. but I never did think that hard about the way a publication was “supposed to look. And since form is easier to replicate than thinking. there are still ways to enact change. writing in a style that is almost criminally stilted and uninteresting. And I haven’t even touched upon my most extreme impurity. you will often find that they are written in an entirely different manner. possibly due to personal insecurities among the senior researchers. and a slowness like the flow of molasses.48 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS ing for a long time. If you read monographs written by more prominent researchers. nor were my impure techniques a way to avoid stringency. The thoughts I’ve tried to handle in this essay deal with two issues: the nature of thinking and the form of science. is that this leads to an extreme form of hygiene. the academic world often accentuates this. but academia is no place for the fearful. in fact. it takes courage. pressing scientific thinking into an acceptable form.” Instead. it seems to be. and it was a crisis. it’s easier to write the way everyone else does. I never did write for publications. I tried to get what I wrote accepted and into publications. The difference might not seem that huge. Writing quickly didn’t mean that I compromised my science. I tried to do research. but looking at most of the things published in the social sciences. But even taking all this—conservative seniors and the general lack of well-written social science—into account. Yes. So the effort becomes to imitate some ideal form for the academic text and to follow the cut of this year’s model. It seems like a lot of people simply work in environments where anything beyond the most stunted text is looked upon with suspicion.

but one principle can never be ignored or forgotten—it is supposed to be a case of independently scientific work. also note that Mary Douglas states that concepts of impurity are mostly religious. Wittgenstein 1958/2001). And.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. isn’t scientific either. formulated. We can. the resistance of the page that can only be bridged by manual labor. and communicated. Research can take many forms. Form. Before this barrier is breached. You are merely performing synaptic gymnastics. in connection to this. when it fights against the material resistance of the audience and the world. Simply put. in its guise as something to be dogmatically followed. science is something that has to be given form. to continuously question itself. you’re not doing social science. of course. It can only become so when it meets the friction of the world. what we have here is a dynamic notion of writing. and contains transgressions and the breaking of taboos as a matter of course. 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. Science is not a sterile concept. as a wholly internal happening. isn’t scientific. the first and foremost material resistance. therefore. the braking Wittgenstein identifies. sterile isolation. 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. Thinking that that happens in splendid. 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. but do not purify. . Write.

as any input of energy into academia is something to cherish and rejoice over. I decided I would take the opportunity to play the role of the “bad boy” (Similar to the angry young man. In accepting to do so. 1. Obviously there are some things that are not explained enough in the field. then. What follows. 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. posed by doctoral students all over. So I decided to write my thoughts down. Every 50 . particularly since the panel consisted of nice and knowledgeable people. except for the last one.” A senior researcher can look at unfinished work and say whether it cuts the mustard or doesn’t. but this is just the way things are. it also made me think. but with less quotations and a penchant for one-liners. are some remarks for doctoral students.). A common question. They are in no particular order. but these may also take away from the issue at hand.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. however. Also. is a variation of “how can I make sure it will be good enough?” The answer is. They are not meant as feel-good sentiments nor are they malicious ones. they are almost as scared as you are. Your advisor doesn’t have all the answers. Although I greatly enjoyed the discussion. they will only have the slightest inkling about how other people manage this. Anger and confusion are wonderful things. “no one knows. but no one in the whole world can give you a surefire model that will guarantee that the work will turn out right. Senior researchers will know how they manage to write something they feel is scientific or scholarly. This may seem strange since these same people will be able to tell in an instant once they see the finished work.

they may be told not to pick too ambitious a project. There are no clear demarcations. a tangled web with confusing and twisted spheres of thought and influence. I disagree with this claim. and thus be written with the integrity that only going for the jugular (of the field. For instance. This doesn’t mean that ambitious projects aren’t difficult. The very notion is tainted by an idea of some metaphysical dividing line in the world. as it were) can give. 2. in the social sciences. There is no honor in making things ridiculously simple for yourself. to find a definite focus and to then keep to that. such a line or such a point does not exist. There is nothing wrong with ambition. is a really bad idea. But then again. What is “good enough” in research? I don’t know. Marcus Lindahl. don’t hide behind a tiny. then you can make choices and focus on cer- . research should be. Your advisor can guide you. Every project in research should be ambitious. but you need to find your own answer.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 51 researcher is scared about whether or not their stuff is up to scratch. and no one else does either. Research is an ongoing discussion. in the end. One definite upside to a good frontal lobotomy is focus. The problem is that a lot of people have problems discerning between ambition and lack of thought.” The research community will either accept it or not. just gray zones. and this is why it is important. ambition becomes the patsy when insufficient reading and lack of thought should be attacked (I want to acknowledge that it was my friend. On the contrary. one that separates good research from bad. They are. Unfortunately. To really hammer the point home. really bad advice. 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. focus. who pointed out this discrepancy to me). This is about as bright as driving blindfolded during rush hour in a major city and navigate according to a memorized map from 1973. and you should keep this in mind when an advisor talks about focus early on. Sometimes doctoral students get really. un-ambitious question. merely that you have to make it clear what discussion you are a part of and what you are bringing in. Asking your advisor will not be of much help. Consequently. but the accomplished ones get better at hiding it. Another way in which people try to battle the problem of fear and confusion is to invoke the notion of “focus” or “research question. just you and your claim that “this phenomenon exists. Under-ambition and excessive focus is a fine recipe for stupid. There is no predefined level of “scientificness” that you have to reach. Once you’ve started noticing patterns in your material/data. This is utterly idiotic. There is.” Some will claim that this is the way to do research.

winning Nobel Prizes in the process. You don’t need any more bad advice. 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. You will be hindered enough in your thinking by the social demands of academia. however. Once you’ve started to write things up. then you need to focus in order to keep the extraneous stuff out.52 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS tain things. seemingly. Everett Hughes and Herbert Blumer both advised a number of the finest sociologists of an era and. Two. Be original and try to say something important. cared not a whit about the fact that sometimes their students actually learned a lot from them. a number of important researchers worked hand in hand with their advisors. Examine things in the world and think about them. There is very little to be . focus is just another way to turn into a bad researcher. they might think your work stinks and want somebody else along to share the blame. Besides that. 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. Obviously. This might very well be true if one imagines that writing a thesis is similar to painting a house. 3. A sure sign is that they will talk to you about getting an additional advisor. 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. 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. where extra help is always a good thing. Advisors sometimes don’t want to take any responsibility for you. but don’t be focused. such a notion is built on the assumption that more comments and “help” will improve the thesis. In other words. The argument is less persuasive if we imagine that one aspect of doctoral studies is to develop into a thinker. This discussion can mean two things. Having a lot of people butting in just confuses the process. and get editorial help or a few good references from a number of friends. one advisor is more than enough. not even with following this advisor pretty closely. when an advisor suggests extra advisors. If we perceive it thusly. this means they want enough people along so that no one can be blamed. So be ambitious. but don’t get two advisors. and she is still referenced. and used this in their own work. seventy years later. they may think that you are immature and easily led and thus likely to follow one person blindly. There is nothing wrong with working with one advisor. by all means. Talk to people. One. In the natural sciences. they think you are a bad student.

of course. a classic. You are battling it out to be better than other PhD-students. An indicator of not good enough is that you either don’t know what you went for. Learn to live with it. period. Remember. the happier you will be. you are the one responsible for your thesis. If you see nothing wrong with that. No. accustomed to explaining away our choices and predilections. and the fact that some things are set in stone goes against the whole ethos of our era. There are two kinds of thesis: the bad and the lousy. you’re not ready to be a doctor. ambition and humility aren’t mutually exclusive. If you can find joy in the fact that you can (and will) be attacked for your work. If you feel like blaming someone else. an advisor is there to help you develop into an independent thinker. You will only get some of the fame (your advisor wants a cut). A part of this is taking full responsibility. You are responsible for every single word of your thesis. children. While it is natural to wish for different kinds of certainties and possibilities for blamesharing. It is not a group endeavor. get help. you should try to write a seminal work. it is your own fault. a piece of scholarship . That’s why you get the accolades. the same thing goes. or believe you’ve done something you haven’t done. In fact. We are. you are the only one who can fail your thesis. It is supposed to be good enough. you are. When it comes to the science-bit. 4. There are many things in life that may hinder you—a death in the family. The faster you get to terms with this. research is hard. it only has to show that you were striving for brilliance. Nevertheless. But you will just have to face these obstacles like everyone else does and handle them as best you can. or illness. 5. One reliable test of good enough is that you tried for something but didn’t get all the way there. ambition and realism are not mutually exclusive. A thesis is supposed to be an independent scientific work. Yes. Of course. developing into a scholar. in fact. An advisor isn’t there to write your thesis. Having two advisors is like having two priests or two psychiatrists. That’s why you get the lofty title. but you will take all the blame. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. and actually becoming an independent one. these simply shouldn’t exist. The harshest lesson for any doctoral student is this: When all is said and done. In the end. and no one else is. and your advisor really shouldn’t have too much to do with it. not better than the finest works in the field. no one can really do that part for you. a thesis is not expected to be a masterwork. It is also reminiscent of having two mothers. Writing a thesis is a question of growing as a researcher.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 53 gained from having two. Regardless of what anyone will tell you.

Get a great job. Still. the laws. It does not help you pick up strangers in bars. this is true. You will fail in this. “What a damn shame. Don’t think that a thesis is where it’s at. You don’t have to finish your thesis. They don’t want to be the one about whom people say. Sometimes. so has everyone else. being one. he really can’t write poetry.” or. “He didn’t finish. the vernacular. “That Alf guy. Not only do you have to be able to observe and think. and most of your friends will not understand what the fuss is all about. Unfortunately. but no one thinks it is particularly negative to say. but is that negative? Why do people think that everyone can write a thesis? Most people can’t write poetry to save their lives. It’s a book. give up. And then you have to learn how one . 6. you probably think I’m lying. giving up is the smart thing to do. it may. Now. “I miss having her around. it doesn’t bring fame. can save you a lot of heartache.” Now. Aren’t people saying things like. in fact. The point to finishing a thesis. work for ten or fifteen years trying to polish their thesis. A thesis does not bring happiness. Personally. plant a tree. is allowed to fail. make a difference in the world. we believe that research is something everyone should be able to do. I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about someone who dropped out. There is no need to finish. Your parents will be proud. keep you from getting a decent job. and it sure as hell doesn’t bring fortune. as compared to writing it. nothing more. the social rules. and although most people have a book in them.” In some cases they’ll say. That’s okay. and the way the traffic flows. the grammar.” Obviously. A lot of people suffer far too much during the process for it to be worthwhile. On one level. This type of thesis rarely becomes a masterpiece. the simple realization that a thesis is a serious work and. lies in this realization. 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). They’ll say things like. Some will never come to terms and. “He didn’t feel he could do it.” Actually. have a child. Anyone can observe and think about things. I think a lot of people finish their thesis just because they’re afraid.” or. If all else fails. you have to learn the language. “He wasn’t up to it”? Sure they do. but they’re impressed by the fact that you learned to walk and managed to eat without getting food all over your face. “I think it was best for all. and there should be far less of a stigma to giving up. research is another country. You can do a lot of things with your life that are both more productive and bring more joy than writing a thesis. it isn’t necessarily a thesis. He seems a lot happier now. consequently.54 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS so astounding that your advisor isn’t worth to comment on it.

Sometimes a parent will say something like: “If at first you don’t succeed. “Fuck you!” to your advisor might be the best decision you’ll ever make. I would just be parroting sentences. try. A long time ago. You don’t have to finish your thesis. Not because they aren’t smart enough but because they can’t see the point or don’t care enough.Six Dispassionate Remarks Directed at Doctoral Students 55 behaves naturally within this tangle of tacit rules. you need to realize what I’m actually saying. But it is not so in academia. The same goes for academia. . saying.” This is good advice for learning how to ride a bike. I remember thinking that if I decided to learn without rethinking. feel-good advice. it is because they cannot comprehend just how much of a culture research is. 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. In this harsh world. how one breaks the rules. Sometimes. try again. For many. and how one curses in a natural and effortless way. This is positive advice. this hill is too steep to climb. There is nothing wrong with not finishing. Although this may seem like the most mean-spirited comment in a series of fairly nasty remarks.

Some simply have a monstrously long page containing their curriculum vitae (from here on referred to as CV) and little else. We no longer think 56 . This is true for almost all people under the age of thirtyfive. Some scholars have pages that are tacky with cringe-worthy graphics and zero accessibility. Today an increasing amount of people see the Internet as the first place they look for information. almost every academic. the really useful scholar’s Web site is a very rare beast. This is not a general manifesto for the relationship between the scholar and society seen as audience. remarks on a special aspect.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. an aspect that today is so common that there should be no need for critical comments of this kind. And this is a problem. instead. but the academic does. and so on. and the notion that visibility is synonymous with shallowness should be abandoned. should be a question of honor for a scholar. A lot of active academics have no Web presence apart from a short and often out-ofdate piece on the department page. Others have pages that say “Under Construction” and were last updated in 2000. It is. the online situation in academia borders on the tragicomic. What I am talking about is a Web site. have a certain responsibility to enable the outside world to learn of the work the scholar has accomplished. every journalist. rather than obscurity. Visibility. I feel. This chapter will not be a design guide or a coding guide. Although the personal Web site has been around for more than a decade and its importance is generally and universally accepted. In fact. but I will offer some ideas about the underlying logic of the personal academic Web site. A serious scholar does not need to constantly appear on talk shows or try to get media attention.

and that you can turn into a way of communicating what it is you do. we are. and I’m getting radical here. Third: Visibility. 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. By hampering the way in which single academics could become approachable for those interested in engaging in wider discussions. your classroom number. Terms such as central argument. the respect of your peers. This shouldn’t be something you do when you have a spare moment but something you set aside time for. in fact. In fact. Although the statement smacks of 1990s puffery. Actually. that you can update. You need a Web site that you control. transparency. it should be viewed as just as important as the CV and the updated list of publications. I’m in favor of appending it to your contract with the university. . You must have some idea about why you have one. we just Google it. who might read it. but you must have some idea in your head what visibility means to you. it should be. The site that the department has of you—the one with the bad photo. The personal Web site should be seen not as an optional extra for the professional academic. or a date. is actually part of your job. It is. even in the limited form of constructing a Web presence. A Web site that isn’t capable of communicating ideas actually questions the academic veracity of the academic. At least. but if you don’t.A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars 57 about where one might get information for some specific thing. making academia more insular and less important. but you must have a conscious idea about what the goal of your Web site is. and what you want to gain from it. You may be looking for speaking gigs. post-structuralist thought. say. more important than publishing yet another paper. Second: There must be some point to your Web site. Consequently. Toward the Visible Academic First: You must have a personal. and some extraneous information—is not enough. usability and internal logic should not be scary to a scholar even to one engaged with. get one. you should have one already. the fact that most academics do not have a professional Web site is part of the marginalizing of academia. It’s quite okay to communicate just to other academics (although I think you’re doing academia a disfavor). like writing a paper. clarity. professional Web site. so what I am proposing here should in no way be particularly radical. the qualities that make for good science are the same qualities that make for a good Web site.

you can and should be visible. 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. If you know little or nothing about layout and design. award-winning design. and you can keep to your preferred self-image. Don’t get cute or try to be funny. Most departments have someone who knows enough to create a design that won’t make you look foolish. A simple. and traditional. until you can handle more. just the important stuff. somber. in the way you prefer to be seen. of course. but to avoid bad design. Your name. your affiliation. The important thing is not to have a perfect. Keep to a single typeface until you learn enough about typography. When you have a Web site. It is okay to have a site that is just a calling card. Minimum Requirements Obviously.” Someone who is checking up will be interested in specifics. What information should be on your Web site? Basically. You don’t have to turn into a huckster salesman. Keep to simple color-schemes (white and black probably suffice). In fact. so you should include at least detailed keywords (“labor. make sure that you have some kind of consistent design for the site. It is still important to plan even these minimal features. The point is that regardless of what you do. the minimum requirement is actually having a personal Web site.” . you’re better off having no site at all. if you can’t be bothered to make the pages within your site look decent. But there is more to this than merely having some HTML (hypertext markup language) thrown up on a server. black-on-white Web site that is pleasant to look at and that is easy to navigate is all you need. and your general area of research are good for starters. but in every case. but this is. just the absolute minimum. communicates something about you. Here are some simple rules to follow: Keep each page small enough to be viewed on a screen without scrolling. If you see yourself as serious. So a first rule of thumb could be: Make sure that your visibility doesn’t make you look bad. as paradoxical as this sounds.58 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Fourth: The way you make yourself visible. your contact information. Such a page will make it possible for people to find you and get in touch with you. or invisible for that matter. this does not mean that you cannot make this image visible. Don’t use images until you’ve thought them through. Don’t try to use technologies you can’t handle. ask for help. that contains no usability. There is no point in stating that your area of research is “economics” or “English literature” or “theoretical physics. this image can and should be communicated.

Having a selected list of publications. having long pieces. To a certain extent. and such a list will communicate what it is you do. and I do not think that it can be emphasized enough.” “Hungary”) and the full titles of those publications that describe you best. even books. a way to present yourself. To this you could add some general descriptions of research projects and their aims as well as links to groups you are affiliated with. and how you do it. with a few of your favorite pieces linked as PDF files. This practice also creates transparency in research. I feel that the old notion of scholars as disembodied minds belongs to the trash-heap of . should be part of anyone’s professional site. it should be as an optionally downloadable PDF (portable document format) file. Still. downloadable creates usability and an actual point to the site. Instead. might be the bare-bones of your site. Having a nice photo is also a way of communicating who you are so that people can recognize you. You will need to think through what it is you want to do with your Web presence and how this can best be achieved. in this age of ubiquitous digital cameras. The academic is a writing animal.” “econometrics. there are several important things I believe should go into the Web site of a professional academic. This is not a question of vanity but one of making it easier for magazines.A Short Manifesto for E-visible Scholars 59 “poverty. I usually think that you don’t have to have a complete CV on your Web site. combined with a selected list of works and a few downloadable papers. your university probably has a photographer that can take a print-quality (300 dpi) photo of you for downloading purposes. the minimal features of an actual page. low-quality snapshots. Preferable Features of a Web Site If you actually want some visibility. and publishers to run your photo in case they interview you. where you do it. which is a good thing. include a list of publications. When it comes to the list of publications. minimalism will not be enough. Because a lot of text on a Web site creates clutter. For this reason. 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. Tell people what it is you do. and that. and I don’t mean one of those tiny. I do not believe such a list has to be a complete listing. Think of your Web site as a showcase. I believe you should have a photo of yourself on your Web site. in many cases (particularly if you have a lot of publications) a selected list of your best works will be preferable. First. if you do. newspapers. The PDF file is a godsend to the academic. a good idea is to have at least some of these accessible.

or if it is impossible to tell when the site has been updated. You should update your Web site.edu/ fak/hf/depecan/staff/hhrnoss/index.html for as little as ten dollars a year. If a visitor cares enough to check your site. really. but I do believe that the skill of a good journalist is to make complex issues a little less intimidating.60 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS history and that even scholars are allowed to have an identity. though. but once every three or four months seems fair.alfrehn. A full-body shot with you in trunks or a bikini might be overdoing it. just out of courtesy to your visitors. or even monthly. Also on your Web site. Even if you have no news. the first screen of your site). and things such as a new book or having changed universities are things that you should communicate. but a short name is easy to remember and increases the chance of somebody actually finding it. As to the domain name that you select. You should also make it clear when the page has been updated. An internet service provider (ISP) enables anyone to get a domain name (such as mine. a sample of the interview belongs on your Web site. This gives the Web site some topicality. a visitor may assume that you haven’t achieved anything noteworthy in the last year.com) and forward this to their http://www. . Hosting your Web site yourself isn’t that expensive. but one or two good media representations of your work fits well with a professional site for an academic. If you haven’t updated your site in a year.universityoutthere. A long. Show me how “fresh” it is. and increases clarity by having the important stuff up front. It is a simple thing. 2006” and keep this date fairly recent). If you’ve been interviewed for a magazine.. I don’t mean that you have to update your site weekly. The people that visit your site want to get information.e. confusing name is cumbersome. A photo is a good way to convey your identity. in such a way that you convey something about your research. a lot. you should have an inconspicuous line of text somewhere on the home page that states: “Last updated: May 14. www. either. I do not think that you should make the site a collection of press clippings. This might be seen as boasting. preferably on your home page (i. and a good interview may help laypeople (and colleagues) get a better understanding of what it is that you do. you should list important professional news. you should care enough to update it every few months. I do believe that you should put some effort into this. update the date on your Web site (for instance. also.

cannot be included in their entirety. I did not send it away to be published and. This path would be challenging to maintain and would require some skill so as not to end up in massive clutter. such as . One possible development path would naturally be to make it as complete a record as possible of your research life. and so on. I’ve had a blog. Get acquainted with creativecommons. I do it because I like it. But that’s just me. and because I think it is a fun idea. One can imagine a number of fanciful extensions.org. A completist would want to have an allinclusive list of publications with PDF files of all texts. and I couldn’t keep it updated enough. 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. blogs (short for Web logs) seem to be all the rage. However. instead. Of course. and I tried to write in it pretty regularly. Like many other people. 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. going into cute tricks is a problem. Start simply and build something that is both simple to use and useful. as it became a bit stale. Don’t show off your skills at animation and graphics until you have good content and enviable design skills.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. the way you want to use your site and the amount of work you want to put into it. a complete CV with lots of links. for some reason (such as copyright). 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. Look through your files and drawers. quite a few photos and press clippings. put it on my site under a Creative Commons-license as a way to enhance the “value” of my site. there are few limits to what could be put into one. however. only your personal creativity is the limit. one connected to my Web site. and do something a bit different. This very text was originally written as a “Web special” on my own Web site. Obviously. I think that the technology underlying blogs. Both serve as a form of transparency and might actually increase interest in your work. One thing that can spruce up a page considerably is including PDF files of works-in-progress and excerpts from works that. I did however decide to end it. My blog was named Nasty Scholar. Personally.

but is pretty good contentwise. get your basic Web site up to scratch before you attempt to improve it with an extra layer of technology. in my opinion.62 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS the system of direct publishing itself and the related technology of RSS (rich site summary). I feel that my own Web site.net/∼hsbecker/. • Management professor Henry Mintzberg has a pretty good site at www. His site demonstrates how a simple design keeps clutter away.ac. His site can be found at http://www.org. far from it. a showcase of bad Web design. Learn from the content and stay away from the layout. about whether to recommend blogs for everyone.earthlink. mintzberg.se/. It could be aesthetically enhanced. Good and Bad Examples • Obviously. at http://www.ox.alfrehn.edu/∼rrorty/. it is somewhat beyond the basics I’ve described but not crammed with stuff.dobers. go ahead. On the whole. but it suffices and I’m pleased enough with it. particularly if one updates often. which is a treasure trove of contents and.uk/∼dawkins/) should be ashamed of himself.stanford. • Bruno Latour’s Web site is remarkably good (although the slightly chaotic design and the bilingual confusion is a bit disconcerting). If your idea about your own Web presence is in line with the logic of blogs. I am torn. • Sociologist Howard Becker has a site that combines the best and the worst of academic Web sites at http://home. but on the whole it seems more a complement to a site (as understood here) than a platform.ensmp. which has a lot of updated items and works-in-progress.com/ is a good site. however. • Richard Dawkins (http://users. I do not feel that it is perfect. you have to have a good idea why you would take up a blog instead of just jumping on the bandwagon. • Richard Rorty has a sparse Web site at http://www.fr/∼latour/ . but very efficient. Otherwise. I feel that blogs can be a good way to uphold a Web page. • My former colleague Peter Dobers has a good academic page at http:// www. Again. which is not beautiful or communicative. is fabulous.

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. Not surprisingly. apes. there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City. they contrived here to set up a fair. And. silver. has. knaves. closely attending to the possibility that someone. perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made. masters. bawds. if that. pearls. as whores. as houses. Apollyon. 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. precious stones. bodies. reflection has become something of a meta-methodology. titles. plays. lives. husbands. as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub. somewhere. countries. and delights of all sorts. which is the gaze of the one reflecting. what is seen? Reflection in social studies. has not yet had their subjectivity properly mulled. and that of every kind. children. honours. a fair wherein. blood. as it is usually discussed. lusts.” many shudder and shy away. servants. and what not. always meant one of two things: methodology or autobiography. kingdoms. In the latter. peculiarly enough. wives. moreover. fools. with their companions. souls. should be sold all sorts of vanity. and Legion. places. 63 . lands. and that it should last all the year long: therefore at this fair are all such merchandise sold. pleasures.7 Essay: On the Research Economy Almost five thousand years agone. In the former case. trades. at this fair there is at all times to be seen juggling cheats. and rogues. that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity. preferments. when academics brandish the word “reflection. gold. (Bunyan 1678) What is reflected in reflection? In the gaze of vanity. games.

or the very possibility of such a foundation. 2000) has discussed the ideological. of course. “See my faults. my whole delightful being!” Such blatant exhibitionism. obviously does something that pleases the average researcher. my manifold of ways. this kind of reflection depends on our ability to talk about a phenomenon within a novel framework. does however distract us from the more important and thought-provoking aspect of it all. Just as a mirror uses available light to throw back an image of what’s in front of it. at the same time. since the performative aspects of ideology will always be. Consequently. this very word is taken altogether too literally. not to mention the personal feelings of the academic would in any way be interesting to the reading public). reflecting surfaces. 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. and we can here see a connection to the way in which Slavoj ]i\ek (1993. Not only is the creation of such fractures fiendishly difficult. Such a device of. and. Often. but . and thus stimulate a new way to talk of the phenomenon. so that the reflection of which we speak is understood as that of a mirror.64 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS In this chapter. I will attempt to do something slightly different while still keeping to the notion of reflection. this is seldom possible. Basically. that is. 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). To reflect. to re-engage with some mode of thinking or expression. in part. much of what is written in the name of reflection is written to glorify the writer. an act of reframing. Reflection is closely related to vanity. gives the researcher the possibility to bask in his or her own glory once more. thus. namely portrays him or her anew. This. an identity project (see also the discussion on “interpassivity” (]i\ek 1998)). yes. A recasting of this kind would. However. reflection casts new light on something and illuminates it from another angle. Such a perspective is close to the thinking of Richard Rorty. 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. 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. making the familiar unfamiliar. then. is.

Rather. realizing that these will always play a part in the act thereof. Thus. by discussing research as an economical activity I do not wish to reduce it. in other words. be plagued by their triviality. Now. it represents a hybrid economy where gift-giving and post-industrial capitalism are merged and intermingled. any attempt at reflexivity needs to reflect on the issues of vanity (Vanitas vanitatum. 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. the following will be an attempt to reflect on (social science) research by recasting it. and the aporia created by the notion of academic life as defined by hybridity. throughout the . The putative field of “the economy of research” can be said to have been instantiated by Charles Sanders Peirce. Whereas most analyses of research look to the social and personal aspects thereof. particularly if by “economic” we mean something more complex than simple analyses of transaction costs or similar hackneyed models from economics. The chapter will conclude with some remarks regarding the economic nature of reflection in the social sciences. the less likely it is that it will be understood and comprehended. the following analysis of the academic draws primarily on economic anthropology and attempts to place research activity into a more social framework of exchanges. even though there is an aspect of the self-evident to this. it is quite astonishing to realize that little attention has been paid to the economic nature of research. arguing that this admittedly simple recasting can still shed some light on the complexities of the research life. et omnia vanitas…) and triviality. whereas. I will here discuss the economic nature of research. who saw notions such as limited resources and efficiency in inquiry as paramount for the development of science. and there exists a large literature of economic analysis of the research process. The idea that research has an economic side is not new. Starting from a discussion of research as a hybrid economy. to a degree. we have. Consequently. comprehensible reflections will always. This said.Essay: On the Research Economy 65 the nature of this process is such that the better one crafts such a recasting. We are thus caught in a double blind—truly important reflections will not be seen as reflections. In this vein. the paper will cover issues such as the commodity-nature of contributions as well as gifts and sociality in research. I want to point out some of the processes that exist in the background of even the most reflective research.

but that we instead must conceptualize a hybrid economy to make sense of this. but intermingle and reinforce each other—capitalist production enables and aids the function of the ritual economy. 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. Here. burns money at burials and in other ways squander and waste this surplus (cf. invalidate it as an analytical category. for instance. 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. this can. Instead. For instance. see also Yang 2000). instead. . however. it is the very intermingling of different logics that defines this economic nexus. study the fluid intermingling of various systems. be seen in the process of writing grant applications where statements regarding the benefits of the proposed research are often given a prominent place. for example. since its internal logic is that of inherent contradiction and performing a paradox. in her study of economic behavior in Wenzhou. This does not. The most developed notion may be that suggested by J. 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. 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. Douglas 1966/2001). a hybrid is always already an impure monster (cf. Further. Bataille 1967/1991). had a constant production of cost/benefit-analyses and calculations regarding the economic benefits of research. Rather. none of this is pertinent to the argument that I attempt here. they argue that in order to understand economic systems. Hybridity in the sphere of the economic is a concept that has been suggested by a number of authors. Yang argues that this is an example of a hybrid economy. However. a kind of a third space (Bhabha 1994) for the economic where the limited models thereof are shown as untenable. Gibson-Graham (1996. and a rhetorical analysis of such statements could probably generate highly interesting findings. two economies with fundamentally different structures do not simply co-exist. Looking to the life of individual academics. and this again drives people to greater engagement with capitalism.66 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS 20th and 21st centuries. we have to relinquish the idea of stable and total such and. as it is this very aporia that can be used to explain specific logical flows not reducible to efficiency or other mono-logical concepts. where hybridity is presented as an analytical alternative to the common assumption that capitalism represents a completely penetrative and all-encompassing imperialistic function.K. Rather.

even though this should be understood as merely a simplification and an epistemological shortcut of sorts. however. Whereas there is much discussion about the social and socio-psychological aspects of life within the ivory tower. that of the idealized market. Mauss 1924/1990. Sahlins 1972. by a reference to the economy. 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. at the very least. seem to marginalize these. To refer to economic aspects seems to be to debase the research life. Godelier 1999) . out of ideological reasons. 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. I shall. then. there is little similar reflection on the economic aspects thereof. are talking about one of its facets. economic anthropology. 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. the irreducible complexity of these spheres intermingling constitutes academia as a hybrid economy. seem fairly prevalent (cf. Claims that academia is a gift economy are not unheard of. treat them in parts. however. I’ll return to the issue of hybridity. integral and central to academia although we often.Essay: On the Research Economy 67 The central claim of my argument. this still seems to be the case. at least taking this latter definition as a starting point. has for the last thirty years or more (cf. in fact. While it is not possible to delimit behaviors therein as purely being part of one or another. help us to create at least a tentative order of economic behaviors. At the same time. After considering these three constitutive parts. the three spheres do. a social economy. there still exists an assumption that we. we can state that this. Although it is well known that the notion of the economic cannot be reduced to merely a caricature of bourgeois capitalism. The reason for this is easily deduced. and a market economy. 1976) operated with the assumptions that the economic is a complex manifold where several potentially conflicting logics worked in concert to structure exchange. Taken together. among several other disciplines. namely. and. Berking 1999. consists of three interlocking economic spheres: a gift economy. Thus the claim that recasting a phenomenon as an economy would. The traditional definition of a gift economy (cf. is that academic work can be understood as a hybrid economy. particularly if more polemical statements are taken into account. therefore. Looking at academic life as an economy. Hyde 1979). These aspects are.

can talk about academia as a gift economy. Much of what is produced in a university is given away. and active senior researchers will often be inundated with such engagements. Important research findings. patshatl) and the kula. 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. that is. we are invoking something similar. and the need to reciprocate (cf. Keeping just to the process of academic publishing. a gift economy meant that in order to be a member of society. but this is an illustrative example. with publication being just one. one had to give specific ritual gifts. a social economy is organized through relations. at least in part. Mauss 1924/1990. such as the potlatch (or to use Chinook jargon. This structure can be contrasted with another structure that I like to call the social economy. findings. are distributed through the academic journals without the scholar receiving any monetary compensation. results. we normally assume that economic behavior is chiefly ordered around three functions or requirements: the necessity of giving. We can start by exemplifying. thus. This culture created a circulation of gifts and counter-gifts that defined the economic nexus for the societies engaged herein. references. and our new publication can. but it may enable us to discuss some of the more intangible aspects of organized economic behavior in academia. be seen as a form of reciprocity. which is very tenuous. and reciprocates. In fact. one where the gift rather than the priced commodity is seen as the default unit of economic action. Likewise. at some point. or. When we refer to academia as a gift economy. In such a structure. and this means that we. when we do so we acknowledge (receive) similar gifts given before by referencing important contributions and the like. undertake some reviewing. a person had to accept a gift given to them. This distinction. the requirement to receive. The element of gifting in academia can be manifested through a number of channels. for example. Of course. Much of what goes under the label of academic work is arranged as a process of gifting (advice. to the more arduous processes of assessing thesis manuscripts. All gifts had to be reciprocated in some way (Derrida 1992 offers a critique). receives.68 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS describes this as an economic structure where gift-giving is seen as the most characteristic form of exchange. All active academics will. Rehn 2001). and so on). This will entail everything from the relatively simple job of refereeing articles or books. In classic gift economies. Whereas some form of symbolic entities structures the gift economy. in a worst-case scenario of sorts. we can read this as a kind of ongoing spiral of gift-giving where every member of the community continuously gives. should be understood merely as an orienting device. to assessing the work .

and thus.g. within the structure we are discussing. the market economy of academic work cannot be discounted. there is a difference. in part. This is. hard work. 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. reputation. 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. but this does not fully describe this operative logic of favors. 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.. of course. it would be naïve to discount such a fact. This point is somewhat trivial. The social economy. Still. perhaps. also work in a way that masks the existing market structures of universities. Ledeneva 1998). positions. wanting to gain in standing. we cannot be blind to the fact that there is also a very tangible market structure to academia. therefore. and honor. Referring to gifts and the social can.Essay: On the Research Economy 69 of several prominent scholars who have applied for the same chair. it . Whereas it is clear that there is an aspect of gift-giving and social relationships to scholarly work. and where competition for grants. and tenure are fierce. constitutes what could be called its economy. there is an element of quid pro quo here. We could. say that our continuing existence within the field of academia requires and builds on certain social processes that will form our behavior within it. but important when re-considered in the context of hybridity. I will take on work due to the fact that I know I will need similar favors in the future (e. but I contend that. as favors of the kind discussed here could be understood as a form of gifts (cf. securing people to appraise doctoral students). 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. 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. 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. In a situation where an increasing amount of particularly junior academics and postdoctoral researchers get by on short-term financing. however. instead. The difference to the gift economy may seem tenuous. Clearly. and normally it is done either pro bono or for a nominal fee not in line with the work entailed. Whereas gifting is tied to a productive logic. In fact.

Articles form commodities. we usually ignore these aspects. Instead. as previously stated. But when we start to talk about reflecting on our academic practices. and our embodied sense of academic life is well equipped to take care of these matters. we are. in order to form a reflective understanding of academic economy. as I assume these are mostly well known. making sense of it simply by living it. By saying that academia is a hybrid economy. inherently paradoxical logics to make sense of it. we must deploy a complex set of understandings.70 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS would be fairly easy to describe the activities of a scholar as direct utility maximization. in their turn.” Sometimes this refers merely to a ritualistically repeated question in seminars. traded on one market (the journals) for publication points. and that we at all times must pay heed to the dialectical flow within which our understandings are constituted. through their place in the social structure and the market economy of the university system. 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. we cannot simply refer to such embodied understandings but must instead deploy more overt explanations. Within the structure that has developed over the ages. This is the logic of the hybrid. Here hybridity can help. is that economic activities within academia must be considered but that they cannot be reduced to one single conceptualization of the economic. that we can only understand phenomena in parts. On one level. a number of logics co-exist that cannot be understood in isolation. I will not here detail the market properties of university life. 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. which can then be used in negotiations on another market (work opportunities). which. Contributions and Reflection as Commodities An issue often raised among social scientists is that of the “contribution. of course. My argument. Rather. 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 . if one was so inclined. I am stating that my understanding of its economic nature is one of irreducible complexity and that we must be able to deploy several. at the same time. and these logics can thus be interrogated only in part as solitary phenomena. could build on the notion of academia as a hybrid economy. merely point to this third economic sphere and move onto the issue of hybridity. But as this seems a very harsh way to view scholarly publishing.

as the individual works gain their standing by the way in which they further the aims of the community at large. a necessary show of sacrifice that has to be understood as a form of ritual relinquishing of identity and immersion into the greater community. have more of interest to it. the word comes from the Latin contribuere. the social cohesion implied in the notion of “con-tribution” thus strengthens the aspect of sacrifice and the common good. so that we can pay tribute to a beloved colleague or to a rock band. and they represent the fact that the social life-world of research is one which can never be complete. again. This requires of the participants to abandon their own standing and accept that the greater project supersedes the individual ones. despite this. we clearly do something more than simply write a text or suggest something. but the issue does. but when we exist as contributors. and the ever-present desire for completion (cf. carries the name of the author and. it is a question of partaking in a shared activity. The contribution. we have to note how contributions are something beyond gifts and how they stand as over-determined signifiers of the academic condition. When we give. It would be easy to psychoanalyze the obsession with contributions in organization studies. it seems that ascribing it merely to such a psychopathology would be too simple. There can never be closure and never an end to the activities. read as a gift. which means “to pay tribute together. lack of community. Observing the communal nature of many such tributes. 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. Whereas we in the iterative process of ongoing publication of research can find traces of a gift economy. even a most symbolic one of praise. Originally this meant something paid to a ruler or a figure of power for protection (often from the power itself). if you will. is an offering.Essay: On the Research Economy 71 remotely sensible. When we contribute. thus. but has later begun to be understood as any offering. is.” A tribute. A contribution is not merely something brought to the party. At the same time. a public function. references to the “contribution” of a specific text or spe- . however. In part. we appear as parts of a defining whole—truly social. we can even state that the academic economy by necessity is socialistic. an offering. Thus. as this clearly is a symptom of lack of cohesion. in part. ]i\ek 2000). The publication. brings honor to the author. The social nature of contributions determines their standing in the economy of academia. we stand as individuals taking part in a structural exchange. Instead. Etymologically. as the preoccupation with this phenomenon is so clearly an aspect of the social order of academia.

We could even say that there exists a form of “moral coinage” in research. in fact. On its own. when we should be saying that these three processes are simultaneous and enmeshed. the contribution can then be turned into something that can be treated as a commodity on a market. but in order to realize its economic potential. so that one leads to another in something akin to a chain reaction.. so that the invocation of specific modes (reflection. of course.e. for example) is seen as the mark of a morally aware and upstanding researcher. The hybrid nature of contributions further shows us something about reflection.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. but rather on reflection as a function in the aforementioned. If this succeeds. for example). This again problematizes the nature of academic reflection by casting (i. this does not mean that reflection cannot be engaged with as an object (indeed. reflecting) this as partly an economic process. the discourses of social studies posit reflection as an upstanding and honest activity. but it will suffice for now. Specifically I want to note some things regarding the moral economy of the concept. and dialogue. If we turn our reflective gaze not on research or researchers. It can only gain meaning by being contextualized. in a manner of speaking. it must also be accepted within the sphere of the social economy as something more (or. We will now turn to this last part. as a commodity. Using the concept of hybridity. critique. toadying. Speaking from a perspective of logic. I am increasingly thinking about academic reflection as a Lacanian objet petit a). this is.. say that the contribution may start out as a gift. characterizing a good researcher. this description suffers from the fact that it treats these processes as serialized. Normally. by existing in a relationship with something. and reinforcement of egos). it is an empty ritual. we can.e. less) than a gift. therefore. the commodification of reflection. highly irrational. Whereas reflection is often viewed as an intrapersonal process. Still. in and of itself. Reflection. is seen as a good thing. 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. one must first establish that it has use-value within the social economy. Obviously. but from a structural viewpoint this makes no difference. we can note some things about it that might otherwise be obscured. . Such a view would emphasize not reflection as a relation but as a signifier deployed for economic reasons. prima facie. reflection is meaningless. i. be socially accepted in order to be viewed as reflection. the social nature of reflection as a contribution signifies the way in which reflection must.

to ignore these less wholesome but still existing aspects of it. 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. or. in fact. as. have clear economic consequences. and fostering whole cadres of similarly reflection-touting acolytes. engaging in a dogmatism unworthy of a considered academic life. Sloterdijk 1983). be viewing a reaction to market demand—or a case of supply-side economics. the increasing popularity of publishing texts on it. Even if we can agree on the ethical impetus for reflection. and the seemingly humble confessional could be studied as the peddling of vanities (or in the case of editors. In a situation where the deployment of reflection is seen as having the function of improving ones chances to get published—and. In this way. therefore. avaricious motives. or more to the point. 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. does. an utterly logical move for homo academicus œconomica. The moral coinage of reflection is. we might. 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. . say. be viewed as callous cynicism (cf. In order to think through the process. publishing on reflection. in fact. By noting how reflection. secure a job. of course. in fact. When we see to the increasing interest thereof. 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. Such a perspective does not invalidate reflection in the social sciences. but I would insist that it is also a case of realism. we are. but it does raise a problem as to the moral stance we often take. more to the point publishing texts ostensibly about reflection. we may. Such an understanding will. we must also pay heed to those frameworks that may make such considerations paradoxical and contradictory and accept the conflict of thinking. keep a more reflective stance on reflection. the use of reflection in the social sciences could succinctly put be understood as a restricted economic action. peddling indulgences). to deny the market function at play here seems to be the fundamentally unreflective thing to do. in fact. thus. As it is apparent that there are scholars who have made their entire career by extolling reflection.Essay: On the Research Economy 73 Referring back to my previous point about the market economy of the university. not unrelated to more mundane forms of coinage.

but by paying heed to the numerous light-effects. we seemingly turn inward to understand the world. we seem more than happy to live our lives with logical disjunction and even revel in the paradox of social existence. the changing patterns and interlaced effects. 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. By doing so. We could further state that although the field of organization studies has been interested in reflection in organizing. Even more peculiar is that the economic nature of academic work seems to be a blind spot. we often fail to acknowledge the same processes in our own behavior (Redde Caesari quae sunt Caesaris…). we are more than happy to engage in the fantasy of pure reflection. In the same way. a lacuna. the shadows. ]i\ek 1993). When we engage in reflection. There can be no clear conclusions in a state of hybridity. Aporia One of the important aspects of hybridity is that it by necessity constitutes conclusions as an aporia. as hybrids never can reach a final. 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. and this is why an engagement with hybridity is necessary. a study of the economic that builds upon the notion of hybridity will not go looking for casual explanations or reducible models. as the very nature of the monster is one of irreducible conflict.74 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS In the End. We cannot present a final word. one where the easy agreements have to give way to greater awareness of the ideo- . But the alternative to pure reflection (which is always a one-way affair)—reflected reflection—instead creates something more akin to a prismatic effect. Reflection is a case of specifically such a contradiction. Sloterdijk 1983. but in the fact that this aporia does not condemn us to eternal doubt (cf. Rather than viewing our own behavior as fundamentally economic. internal contradiction. but. Rather. total state. Life can well be understood as a continuous. will explore the jouissance of economic miscegenation and mutation and the marvels of mixes and fluid dynamics. Such an approach does not work by casting light. Whereas we social scientists are quick to analyze economic agency in others. one where the certainties of moral goods (sic) are cast in doubt. And this blinds us to many of the complexities of the academic life. or a case of the ]i\ekian Real. and the marvel of social life lies not in the few moments of consensus. But this is true of all kinds of existence. it is oddly unaware of the organization of reflection. It delights in the moiré-patterns and odd optic effects of the non-continuous reflections created by natural light in unnatural circumstances. instead.

escape its current ethos of guarded self-control and truly become emancipatory. possibly. reflection might be able to break with reflection. .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. And then.

People you hardly trust enough to watch your coat seem perfectly at ease with asking personal questions such as. “I don’t really have one. I don’t like methodology. then?” without feeling the least bit intrusive. The mere idea of methodology frightens me. Why? 76 . I really don’t like methodology. Conferences are the worst. whose contribution to the development of organizations studies is rarely acknowledged. it is true. This chapter. It is described as the natural meeting the artificial. 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. then. but I don’t really know. 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?).8 Essay: The Moral Economy of Method Marcel Mauss (1924/1990). 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. research. Simply put. In a more general sense. It’s supposed to be an empirical field. it will be an attempt for me to find a way to think about method that does not scare me witless. sitting pretty in the field of organization and management. And when I answer. And the methodology? This is supposed to be a chapter on methodology. Strangely enough. and the classic Cartesian dichotomy. methodology frightens me. right? We’re smarter now. aren’t we? Still. “What’s your methodological standpoint. In part. We’ve learned to avoid that. by provisionally introducing aesthetics into a discussion on methodology. discusses it from a somewhat different standpoint. You see.” they laugh nervously and say something about the coffee. the intellect meeting the body. I would like to find other ways of thinking about method and thus. things do get weird sometimes. it will try to address some issues regarding how methodology is viewed.

You’re either right or. And I think this is a question of language. Silverman 1985. thus. into operations analysis. Such a claim would. because a lot of the time it seems like methodology stands in the way of research. has led qualitative studies into a cul-de-sac of condemnation and confusion. instead. 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. better. but because of it being fundamentally anti-inquiry. In arguing that aesthetics could be incorporated in the methodological discourse. and so as not to be misunderstood before I have had the chance to explain myself. 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. Bryman 1992. one comes away feeling as if one were to try to lose one’s virginity immediately after reading Henry Miller. Taking a cue from Norbert Elias (1978). Although most reflective scholars share some notion of cultural and social relativism. as the winding path of the epistemological sage. and an absurd dependence on quantitative methods. as academics. 1993). scolding the reader for an inability to choose.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 77 Well. . completeness. 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. I’m struck by an immense sense of dread.” (Heidegger 1959) As I’ve said. Let’s face it. A series of mutually exclusive recipes are laid out and argued for and against. I have to stress the following: I do not believe researchers to be akin to artists. and. scary not only because it is presented as a hermetic mystery. A never-ending list of problems. when reading what is normally written on the question of method. inaccuracies. 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. faults. The “physics envy” that led the social sciences. functionalism. this has not had much of an impact on meta-methodology. in general. leading to a state where different schools mostly resemble papal states. not only be trite but disdainful to research. dead wrong. be discussed as a path towards aesthetically pleasing. and rigor. it would seem that we. After a careful reading of any standard textbook on methodology. Talking about methodologies as aesthetic practices is here presented as a way to enliven the discussion about research and make methodology meaningful. research. 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. Searching for coherence. methodology is scary. in my mind. metaphorically. as a roadblock “[o]n the [w]ay to [l]anguage.

.”) might allow for a more diverse discussion. The Origin of the Work of Art When it comes to aesthetics. that is. Curiously. All that is more than this are Zeug. innit?”) rather than approval (“That’s a well done bit of discourse analysis. The following should. By incorporating his earlier analysis of the ontological position of things. the way in which a work of art is a “mere” thing. one which produces artifacts that can be aesthetically appreciated. not at all. but you’ll just have to bear with me). the possibility of a more fundamental set of moralizations already present in the very fabric of research is seldom expressly discussed. a clod of earth. therefore. and organizes schools of practice. organizes research. just these end-products of our scholarly endeavors are quite routinely ignored (cf. Heidegger shows how different types of things show us their being in different ways. increasing attention to its ordering qualities would seem important. which could be translated into tool or equipment. to some extent. To further confuse the issue. as if the path was already decided. the notion of a known and communicable way of conducting research. The following will also consequently by its very nature be a blunt instrument taken to a fine weave. not be read as a finished argument but as a slightly bewildered look at the idea of “method” in research. raises specific questions. Recapitulating his argument. “a stone. Because method is a practice that by its very nature organizes data. Being somewhat naive. Mere things are here the basest elements. like a pair of peasant shoes that “is half thing…[and]…at the same time it is half artwork” (Heidegger 1936/1993. and is that of which we acquire knowledge (of its being) through using it. the question of method. which. he first approaches the thingness of art. But I’m not talking about art. an organizational theorist taking on the organizing of that which makes him one. Czarniawska 1999). I happen to believe that appreciation (“Nice. organizes disciplinary boundaries.78 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Still. Martin Heidegger is at his most lucid in The Origin of the Work of Art (1936/1993). in many ways. And whereas the importance of a research ethics is routinely brought forth. is his easiest work. The work deals with nothing less difficult than finding the source where art springs from. Becker 1986. 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. 147). 155). a creative process. a piece of wood” (Heidegger 1936/1993. as if our texts were mere coincidental effects of the “real deal” of scientific inquiry. particularly in the field of organization theory. research is.

demagogues. whether they are researchers. the praxis of doing research becoming self-contained and the scripture of methodology working as the researcher’s handmaiden. it is broached only in the epistémè. perilously—pointing out the need for less philosophy. The artwork works through the unconcealment of the Being that served as the inspiration for it. famously (and. such as official reports or returned questionnaires (the latter being a wonderful example of the reduction of organization. as it is imbued with the world in which it is to exist. lacking a more elegant name. to my mind. Ever since Marx scribbled down his thoughts on Feuerbach.” the scholar’s Cartesian split between doing and thinking about doing has been difficult to uphold. less metaphysics. the way of the intellect. the sun on the peasants back. 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. We can also attempt a Zeug-like description. “Thinking is what we already know we have not yet begun. 161). All this should be well known. this would also entail a reduction of the praxis of research. and simultaneously the very organizing of organizations). This would be. tool-like. blisters. But if we are to go beyond this. We can tell of the things that are immediately at hand.” (Derrida 1976/1997. the smell of the earth. Heidegger in his Letter on Humanism (1947/1993) tries to ask this question. are constantly at risk to fall into their own closed practice. measured against the shape of writing. or ideo-logicians. telling of organizational praxis and the like. 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. intellectuals. 93) . The problem is. aesthetic research. Returning in his writings again and again to the non-thought. the mere matter of the organization. or as Jacques Derrida reframes him.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 79 The Zeug is that which contains a necessity of purpose. The artwork no longer contains the thingness of what it depicts. Heidegger becomes a paradox. particularly turning to the possibility of thought prior to a distinction between theory and practice. Problematically enough. 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. but instead “is the disclosure of what the equipment [Zeug]…is in truth” (Heidegger 1936/1993. contrast this with the way descriptions of organizational life can be attempted. Now. instead of the rational path towards available answers (the way of method). the poverty of over-intellectualizing—and we are always there. thinking that is its use.

The engagement with the world that is present in the use of equipment. shows us the tool. In such a reading. 1998) has called for a new approach to research. And Heidegger doesn’t argue for art. is that the invocation of the word “aesthetics” often makes people go into conniptions of a particularly ugly sort. making the aesthetication of research an important question. obstinately hold on to their magnificent Icarian pose. The Economy of Method and Its Ironies To complement his pragmatic and anti-foundationalist view on epistemological questions. in his case. but thinking reveals it and the world within which it exists. The process of aesthetication then becomes just another instrumentalization. and farther. namely. order. 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. The later Heidegger was consequently occupied with battling an attitude toward the world he called “technological” (Heidegger 1954/1993). the artwork referred to ceases to be a specific cultural form of expression and stands for expression more generally. imagining that the mere aura of art is sufficient to carry or stand in for argumentation and/or analysis. goes from the thing-ness of the world toward praxis. 39) The difficulty. the expression of thinking. of course. . having become the laughing-stock of those who have seen close up a sorry and shabby failure. poetry) and the revealing of the true nature of Being that an aesthetication of the world can bring. believing that we could approach the communicative powers of the artwork? And even if we could. Richard Rorty (1989. This tendency is. Technology in the sense used here is not a question of engineering but of the tendency to rationalize. he argues for thinking. then. (Bataille 1985. For Heidegger the path to escape this totalizing and reductionism is art (specifically. It is this reductionism and effort toward totalization that also continuously endangers the researcher. as a phenomenological naturalism. improve upon. what is it we are attempting? All claims from below have been scurrilously disguised as claims from above: and the surrealists. another moral goal to be attained. inherently present in the modern view of science (Toulmin 1992) and has been criticized by a fair amount of scholars. But is the path from technè to poeisis tenable in anything except a metaphoric way? Are we merely romanticizing research.80 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS The path then. the stroll through the thickets of metaphysics towards the Lichtung of thinking. and structure the world. instrumentalize. whether a hammer or the sun.

the ironic attitude could be seen as complementary to the post-empiricist school in the philosophy of science (Bohman 1991). It places the world as available and free to be manipulated. By allowing a certain amount of holes in defenses. Then the lack of irony has become pathological. 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. Mostly these researchers are merely buffoons. Textbooks and articles on methodology almost always show that. killing and maiming (textually. thereby taking a moral standpoint.). is a technological concept. Not that they don’t accept that there are many ways to skin a cat. the ironist makes science a little more interesting. In some instances. as it is presented in learned books on the subject. seemingly cannot exist without positing itself in relation to others. it frames the world. and claiming victory. they just seem to insist that some of these ways are right and some others wrong. for neither trust nor doubt longer holds an edifying position towards the other. In extreme cases. I am in awe of the seemingly unending amount of evil that other researchers partake in. as it is usually talked about. an application. establishing hegemony. To reiterate. The postmodernist’s continuing skepticism is as much a mistake as the positivist’s incorrigible trust in final truths. however tentatively. 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. In this sense. Ironic thinking is fluid but with a certain rigor. a little more dangerous. . Stated otherwise. 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. 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. some of us have been doing things wrong. revels in the possibility of someone destroying his or her argumentation. Methodology. these other researchers turn out to be homicidal maniacs. Reading texts on methodology. this view builds upon the researcher being able to balance two opposing forces in thinking. A method. instead. an ironist could be seen as a thinker who does not take him or herself wholly seriously but. sort of like properly chilled vodka. clumsy and insufficiently subtle. of course) with their evil ways of bad methodological conduct. namely. both believing in the validity of “final vocabulary” and being able to constantly question and doubt the same.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 81 an approach he calls ironic. until now. until the publication of this text. So maybe methodology lacks irony.

This economic unconscious of research enables us to talk intelligibly about “good” or “bad” methods. the correct tools of knowledge. If method is viewed as a technology. indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. We call it the standing-reserve [Bestand].82 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS Just as Heidegger showed that the essence of technology would. in such a view. For what is method if not the organizing of the world? Even without turning to the machinic theories of Deleuze/Guattari. naked and despairing. a set of tools. and those who wander poor in the world. Is your junk pure enough? This is where my argument. as we by this seem to mean more or less efficient way of producing the aforementioned science-values. Method is. a productive function and posits the world as a supply of data. turns to economy and organization theory. and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. it makes that-which-is-studied a subject. in the sense of a challenging-forth. […] Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by. in return. It organizes research into the do-rights and dowrongs. Method. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. creating efficient divisions between orthodoxy and the great unwashed. frames the world and makes it a commodity for the academic potlatch. distributed. and nothing is to be had. 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. what is stored up is. as a technique and a tool. to be immediately on hand. Such challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked. This is the path of technology where everything becomes-for something else. Use the wrong tool. Method produces results and contributions and improves data.. […] It designates nothing less than the way in which everything presences that is wrought upon by the revealing that chal- . in its totality. The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon. a reserve. what is unlocked is transformed. some of which can efficiently be turned into scientific value. 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. Those who have the method-capital. what is transformed is stored up. Use the right tool and the world is yours. methodology usually posits the world as a surface to be penetrated and mined. leave the world as standing reserve that can be roused for the technological apparatus (Heidegger 1954/1993). with nuggets of knowledge to be had as long as the tools are kept sharpened.

but instead of trying to enhance our understanding of a phenomenon by looking at it in a different manner. thereby.” but ugly. one introduces a vocabulary that can either be adopted or rejected by a community. as in any strategic movement. In a sense this makes Rorty a hacker of epistemology. (Heidegger 1993. I’m not going to butt heads with Gareth Morgan (1983) and Alan Bryman (1992). through this fundamentally economic. 321–322) The specific modes of organizing that method conceived of as a tool creates are not neutral or natural ones. Not “bad. grounded theory is a good way to study motivation. This has made the discussion regarding method moral insofar as it discusses how such production can be optimized and made more efficient. I have no interest in discussing whether. Maybe I do mean “bad. but either way. and unoriginal. tentatively. Much as the ironist can skirt around the metaphysician. What is more.” But not bad in the sense that I can . recontextualization (in Rorty’s sense) aims at changing the phenomenon itself by altering the language game. By playing with concepts. one forces people to think about their language. We know that research has a political side and that this should be acknowledged. By presenting a new way to talk about things. as in overblown. ethical to the core) and a discourse where accumulation and the efficient use of resources reigns supreme. and this observation has been made repeatedly. But method also has its economic side. piddling. This is similar to the use of metaphor. It’s kind of like a form of “Wittgensteinian reengineering” (a term I am fond of and wish to copyright). with less efficiency in the generation of research immediately perceived as a undesired state. Conceived of in the way it is usually done. namely recontextualization. boring. pretentious. 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.Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 83 lenges. an inherent quantification of value that might pervert the interpretative project. Rorty encourages the circumvention of those discussions that one no longer feels to be fruitful. method does things and is. My small. Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over us as object. I could now refer to another one of Richard Rorty’s weapons. personal hack in this vein tries to bring in aesthetic concepts to a place where moral ones have reigned supreme. but a lot of the research I see is pretty ugly. rerouting around what he does not feel like attacking head on. The way in which such teleological argumentation is used renders any statement regarding the way to conduct research ethical to the core. I won’t and I haven’t. say. I’ll skirt around them. it makes method an economy (and.

elegance. In addition to this. inviting that final ogre of research—absolute relativism? Rorty has.. 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). such as shock value. (The problem with aesthetics within the research field of management and organizations might actually be that it is perilously close to becoming an industry. The heresy of non-rational (i. 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.. Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux 1994. art criticism instead of ontological criticism might. Take the foolish notion of discussing research through aesthetics. It is not that this isn’t already done to some extent through notions with certain resemblances: creativity. to me. be both more interesting and more edifying. Rather. Siena in 2000) and journal special issues as visible manifestations. Strati 1998. making Rorty (and. 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. Rorty never claims that a recontextualization can take place instantaneously. then. for example. repugnant. One should always be wary about a perspective that’s in fashion. And there has been a lot of attention on aesthetics recently. intuition. tentative and incomplete. according to his critics (Brandom 2000). style. a way of dismissing any criticism by calling it uninteresting.84 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS point to any distinct flaw in reasoning or conduct. with several conferences (Bolton in 1999. could all be utilized in the discussion of methodology. etc. Such critique is quite understandable but misses the mark somewhat. A discussion of method that would work in the manner of. grotesque. waving off any substantive critiques by a witty remark or snide put-down. Words. cute. Recontextualization seems like the perfect dodge. The point lies in the juxtaposition of arguments. rather bad in the sense as displeasing. By recontextualizing in this way. I guess. and their difference to the logical analysis of data-gathering could infuse the .e. just another little circle of friends. and sophistication. myself—gosh!) a dandy. we’ve seen several books that in some way approach the question (Wiesmann 1989. far less so that it could take place in a total fashion. different contexts can and do exist simultaneously.) Making claims strictly about aesthetics and trying to create a niche for this is fundamentally futile. forcefulness. been accused of never standing still long enough for anyone to get off a decent shot. Am I not. 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. in an intellectual version of the evolutionary primal soup.

Here Schiller tries to show the importance of aesthetics in the life of a balanced individual. Schiller is prone to discuss things by invoking opposites. Friedrich Schiller holds a special place in the history of aesthetics. They have stuff. empirical. and the ways in which an aesthetic sensibility is a necessity for freedom and the possibility to create (cf. clumsily translated as “judgment” in English. I know when I like what others have written. This work stands as one of the most important popularization’s of aesthetics ever. namely. at least. I just don’t always know why. His argument is. obviously. Postscript As both a devoted student and aggressive critic of Immanuel Kant. cherished methods with which they get into journals (My Precious!). I just don’t understand what people are talking about when they discuss method. or. we need reason. Savile 1987).Essay: The Moral Economy of Method 85 field with a certain dynamic. It is born out of the poverty of my thinking. Less highfalutin theory and more ordinary writing. positioning spirit against matter and chaos against form. we do not mean a magic eye able to penetrate into something that ordinary minds cannot apprehend. Of particular interest to Schiller are the two opposites of form and matter and the two forces that steer man. Now the truth can be told. later publishing these as Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen (Schiller 1995). 181–182) We need fewer discussions on method and more discussions on thinking. he wrote twenty-seven letters on the need for aesthetics. 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. we mean something perfectly ordinary. This article shouldn’t be read as forming an argument. By distilling some of Kant’s theories of aesthetics and spicing them up with some of his own. (Toulmin 2001. the propensity . Kant’s third critique names it Urteilskraft. an exchange. We might need a poverty of method. pained. battling. then. more aleatory scholars. a meeting point. It could be called Erziehung. that in between these pairs of opposites there exists a field that functions as a crossroads. So what do I have? I know when I like what I’ve written. and quasi-aesthetical in the way it works. We do not need method. I don’t think I do. Stephen Toulmin refers to a lecture given by Isaiah Berlin: We mean nothing occult or metaphysical. I have none.

the sterile endpoints of letting either one of the forces take over.86 THE SCHOLAR’S PROGRESS towards either form (Formtrieb) or matter (Stofftrieb). . Here we can find the pure aesthetics and it is here that beauty can come into being. a place created by the Spieltrieb. the two are in harmony with neither taking a dominant position. the task of thinking. They are not necessarily moral categories. By utilizing this drive. 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. In the space of Spieltrieb. The way Schiller says that we can live with these two extremes is through Art. What is further. form or matter. here one cannot talk of progress in the systemic sense but only of development (Erziehung). It is a lived process. but extremes that have to be lived with in some way. Stofftrieb draws us towards the material in the world. the one who is disassociated from all that would make his surroundings meaningful. Formtrieb draws us toward the pure abstractions of the mind. toward our basest instincts and the immersion in the world of things. The Hegelian space that is formed in battling both barbaric matter and soulless form is not a given method. the drive to play. These two forces are the frame of humanity. toward “dogmas and empty formalism” (Guillet de Monthoux 1993). the person who has no connection to the world he lives in but only to the meaningless logic of his thinking. or even the state of becoming learned (Bildung). This is the world of the bureaucrat. This is the world of the barbarian.

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