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Publication Detail
Rationalities of scholarly discourse. A cultural sociological analysis of authorship and publishing in the humanities
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Knochelmann M
  • Date awarded:
  • Pagination:
    1, 439
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL (University College London)
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    Publish or Perish, Humanities, Scholarly Communication, Exzellenzinitiative, Research Excellence Framework, Geisteswissenschaften, Cultural Sociology
Publish or perish is an ever-present topic in academia, but it is much better understood in the sciences than in the humanities. The humanities are historically geared towards a culture of thought articulated by historical-hermeneutical principles. Contemporary academia, however, is increasingly governed by formal rationality which induces a culture articulated by instrumentalization. Authorship and publishing practices are manifestations of these cultures. More and more, formal rationality prevails so that publishing practices become instrumental means for purposes external to scholarly discourse: individuals can advance their careers or institutions enhance their reputation and funding with formal publication records. This cultural shift from scholarly values to formal measurement helps explain why publishing practices are constituted the way they are today, and why many a scholar perceives immense pressure to publish ever more frequently, irrespective of scholarly discourse. I draw on cultural sociological theory as well as on two empirical studies for my analysis. I utilise practice theory to explain the relation of cultures and practices as well as Max Weber’s categorisation of rationalisation to ground my argument. I conducted a quantitative survey with more than 1,000 scholars in Germany and the UK as well as a series of 18 qualitative interviews with humanities scholars to determine characteristics of the empirical situation. There have been many recent claims of a crisis in scholarly communication: my analysis helps see this in a new perspective. It suggests a re-evaluation of the terms on which early career scholars compete, terms on which national policies and mechanisms such as the REF are built, and terms with which institutions and funders seek to legitimate the use of resources. Terms, as the analysis determines, that are increasingly tied to instrumental publishing instead of to thinking, teaching, or scholarship.
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