Home > The Economics Profession > Economics journals—what are they good for?

Economics journals—what are they good for?

from David Ruccio

What are mainstream economics journals good for? Like war, absolutely nothing.

Actually, R.A. quotes Marc Thoma to argue that journals like the American Economic Review have one purpose in the new corporate university: 

Journals really only do one thing now — help us to make tenure and promotion decisions. Nobody reads the journals themselves much anymore, but where a paper hits is critical for promotion decisions. That’s where the pecking order is established. The sciences are trying to break out of this, to some extent, but econ is a long ways from doing that.

The curatorial value of the journals may not be of much benefit to readers (who, after all, now have many ways to find out about and access papers). But it seems to be of real benefit to universities, who appear to rely on journals to do their talent evaluation work for them.

As I’ve argued before, the new corporate university is based on the pseudo-value of scholary work: the value of research based on where articles are published and how many times they’re cited. Thus, lazy academic administrators don’t have to actually read the work and assess its quality; all they have to do is look at the rankings and add up the citations. The work itself is done by the journals and the Thomas Reuters Web of Knowledge.

In other words, academic journals have less and less to do with actual scholarship. They’ve become the marketplace of the new corporate university.

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