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Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing, and the Eclipse of Scholarship [Paperback]

Lindsay Waters
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

May 24 2004
Why should books drive the academic hierarchy? This controversial question posed by Lindsay Waters ignited fierce debate in the academy and its presses, as he warned that the "publish or perish" dictum was breaking down the academic system in the United States. Waters hones his argument in this pamphlet with a new set of questions that challenge the previously unassailable link between publishing and tenure.

As one of the most important and innovative editors in the humanities and social sciences, Waters has long witnessed the self-destruction occurring in the academic world because of the pressure to publish. Drawing upon his years of experience, he reveals how this principle is destroying the quality of educational institutions and the ideals of higher learning. It is time for scholars to rise up, Waters argues, and reclaim the governance of their institutions.

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"Eye-opening, deeply troubling, eloquent, and compelling."--Luc Sante, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and author of Low Life

(Luc Sante Luc Sante 2004-09-15)

"Enemies of Promise is a humdinger about the crisis in academic publishing, where the 'publish or perish' imperative has created towers of books that no one reads, even the professoriate. Author Lindsay Waters . . . paints an alarming picture of a bloated assembly line fueled by careerism and dedicated to mediocrity."--Bill Marx, WBUR Boston Public Radio

(Bill Marx WBUR Boston Public Radio 2004-12-16)

"With great vigor, Enemies of Promise takes on the commericalization of the university generally and publishing specifically."--New York Times

(Russell Jacoby New York Times 2004-08-01)

"Waters has done the world of ideas a service in writing about its infrastructure frankly, thoughtfully, and for the most part, readably . . . I recommend it to every academic, including scientists."--Times Higher Education Supplement

(Andrew Robinson Times Higher Education Supplement 2004-04-09)

"Waters gives pained and expert attention to a major crisis in higher education. It is relevant not only to scholarly practise but to the conduct of academic publishers. The enemy is large and menacing, but the fight is a noble one."--Sir Frank Kermode

(Frank Kermode 2004-01-01)

"A thought-provoking study of a different kind."--Irish Times
(Andreas Hess Irish Times 2005-05-24)

"Lindsay Waters, executive editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press, has issued a challenge to academics and publishers: to publish less, with more relevance. . . . Waters criticizes the 'publish-or-perish' mentality that has produced an avalanche of books of little or no importance."--Estados


(Estados 2007-09-16)

About the Author

Lindsay Waters is Executive Editor for the Humanities at Harvard University Press, where he has been since 1984. From 1978 to 1984, he was an editor at the University of Minnesota Press, where he developed the theory and History of Literature series. His books Against Authoritarian Aesthetics appeared in putonghua from Peking University Press in 2000.

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Most helpful customer reviews
Enemies of Promise offers a prodding and lucid intervention into the glut and glamor of the over-production system and managerial model of corporate values that has taken hold in US academia and threatens to ruin creativity and block the future. As a series of polemics and reflective musings, the extended "essay" holds up very well and should have a broad and lucid impact, as parts of it already have had on the MLA and in UP circles. I liked the sustained and situated use made of Kantian 'judgment,' and the appeal to the ethical and aesthetic individual make-up of that judgment via Kierkegaard, Augustine, and Emerson. The way Enemies of Promise invokes Fish and Rorty, these anti-theory forces do look like 'covering cherubs' blocking vision and the 'new spirit' future from coming in, in the Blakean poetic and political sense. The work stays timely, and offers much good council to the young and to the over-professionalized and administered unto death, which here in the UC system say I feel strong doses of as "becoming production." Plus, the work offers some ways and tactics of value to move forward. In short, this is a real and bracing work of moral courage and aesthetic-political provocation that holds up very well as an intervention and over-view of a 'world gone wrong.'
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good critique of academic culture Dec 12 2007
By Khatarnaak Khatun - Published on Amazon.com
A publisher at Harvard University Press, Waters is the right person to offer this critique. He ruthlesly criticizes the coroporate, quantifying mentality that has crept into academics, destroying the authority and prestige of scholarly book publishing.

The last chapter is the best to read. There are nice quotes such as "Thinking is not like watching a lightning storm but more like catching lightning bugs."

Unfortunately, the book is hobbled by its own old-fashioned views. Too many books are being published, true. But Waters is part of the problem. He begins by saying that he has "an inordinate love of books." Well, so do tenure committees. At inordinate and unhealthy levels.

He criticizes the academic's unwarranted garrulousness. But he doesn't realize that this worship of the book (good, bad or ugly) has origins in the West's worship of books, texts, great books and great authors, as displayed in his own comments that "works of art spring us forth into momentary glory" and that the function of the humanities is to connect us to "great works of art." Waters elsewhere makes much of his aesthetic preoccupations, but does not acknowledge how restricted his account of the aesthetic experience is. His account of aesthetic experience is a text-obsessed, cognition-oriented, book-loving version. Pure eurocentric high-culturalism.
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