One extended event turned on the submission of a book length monograph, “Inquiry After Modernism,” the third in a series of books by Paul Rabinow (UC Berkeley) and Anthony Stavrianakis (CNRS, Paris). The University of Chicago Press which had published the previous two books, as well as a number of other books by Rabinow (total sales over the years of tens of thousands of copies) declined to consider it, presumably because the other two joint books had not sold well.
In September 2017, the authors submitted the manuscript to Duke University Press. Rabinow had previously had two of his books published by Duke and was pleased with the process and the product. The first confidential readers’ reports were received in December 2017. The senior editor overseeing the process urged us not to respond critically to the reports (which would have been difficult given their lack of substance). We provided him with the requisite humble prose.
In January 2018, Rabinow and Stavrianakis rewrote the manuscript eliminating some 40,000 words. The manuscript was eventually rejected in May 2018. The readers’ reports were mixed and the Press declined to proceed.
We have been informed that readers’ reports are “confidential” and belong to the Press. Here, as elsewhere, the law as well as capitalism, has gained increasing prominence as vectors to the limits of how the “free speech” of accredited and established scholars can be expressed.
A rapid and unofficial request to two other presses (Zone Books, Fordham University Press) were suggested by friends and promptly turned down for reasons not entirely clear although sales might well have been a central factor.
In sum, the increasing economic pressures for short term sales as well as a reigning orthodoxy in the discipline combined to close the door. Granted, other publishing options exist; having waited such a long period of time, and given the reigning ethos, the prospect of enduring yet again several years from submission to publication—assuming that publication was an outcome—was discouraging.
We can only say that if there had been substantive criticisms, and a venue to address them in a timely fashion, we would have been amenable to doing so. Thus, although the “peer reviews” both acknowledged the originality and importance of the problem domain, they ultimately damned the manuscript on essentially micro-political and disciplinary grounds. The overall responses were written in a tone and mood that we qualify, following an observation of Leo Lowenthal, Frankfurt School literary critic, as militantly petit-bourgeois.
Update: we are currently exploring options to self-publish the work and will post further details regarding the availability of the work in due time.