October 28, 2004

More Professional Myopia

Richard Posner has an essay in Legal Affairs bemoaning the pitiful quality of academic legal journals.

Funny thing is, Posner postulates a decline in academic legal publishing standards and practices in comparison to other professional academic disciplines.

After l'Affaire Sokal several years ago, no one can say that humanities journals are genuinely refereed.

And the Confidence Man himself has some insight into the shady theatrics of medical and scientific journals.

The point is, every profession has its cads and bounders, its shady operators and Confidence Men. And professional house organs will always be institutional shills; and, being of necessity shills, their hegemonic imperative will outweigh their capitalistic imperative. That is, academic journals -- especially the house journals of professional organizations -- are loss-leaders. And the business units tasked with producing loss-leaders are institutionally incapable of driving organizational change -- and are generally under-budgeted.

All of which means that the editors of academic journals are underpaid and have very little power.

Which, in turn, means that criticizing academic journals for the shortcomings of a profession is like blaming enlisted men and NCOs for the failings of the chain of command.

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