Adam Kotsko on work, productivity and overwork

Adam Kotsko reflects on work, productivity and overwork in a post entitled ‘Workohol‘ at An und für sich.

This resonated with me given the multiple projects I have running in parallel at the moment. Almost all of these are books – authored or edited. There is an article in development, but I see that very much as an outline of a book project. I’ve been debating writing a post on why I prioritise books over articles, even in the era of research assessment we live and work in. I’ve been holding back on writing that because it risks being read as something written from a position of privilege, but there are perhaps some more general issues which might be of wider interest.

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4 Responses to Adam Kotsko on work, productivity and overwork

  1. JPMelo says:

    Hi Stuart, always enjoy your blog, which is of unique interest as I am a Ph.D. student (2nd year, at Stanford’s Modern Thought and Literature program). I would be interested in reading your article about why you prioritize books over articles. More to the point, I would be interested in hearing what you recommend Ph.D. students in my position do. Should we focus on publishing a few good pieces in solid journals during our Ph.D. careers? Or should we focus mainly on treating the Ph.D. as an opportunity to design and develop, through the dissertation, our first academic book?

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks for the reply and I’m glad the blog has been useful. I’m not sure that a piece on books and articles would be advice, and I’m hesitant to give a recommendation. You should of course be speaking to your advisors and other colleagues in the field. But since you ask… I would think that in your area, like mine, a first book is the major statement, and if you can put together a draft as a dissertation then that would be good. Few publishers – at least the ones you’d want to work with – will publish a dissertation, or something that looks too close to one. So treat it as an early draft, one that you either rework parts or supplement at a later stage, or replace a chapter or two. Articles are important, and one of the things that drives my current thinking is that I’m in a position where I don’t need to worry about them so much. But it wasn’t always this way for me, and earlier in my career I wrote a lot of articles. If you can find a way to get a couple of articles out during or shortly after the PhD work, then that’s great. They can be parts of the PhD, or spin-offs from it, but just be warned that if you publish too much of the PhD then publishers will be less likely to consider it as a book. I published two articles from the PhD in its late stages, and one book chapter which developed its themes in a slightly different way. I was then able to turn it into a book – in my case with not a huge amount of work. I reworked the introduction, dropped the first chapter and used some parts of it in other places, and improved some of the references.
      Good luck with it – it can be a tricky balance.

      • JPMelo says:

        Thanks for the thoughtful response Stuart. At this point I am in the process of outlining the dissertation project in broad strokes. It is therefore helpful to think how it might break up into an article or two that can be reworked into a solid dissertation, and eventually a first book project. To reiterate, your blog is an excellent resource for those of us who are thinking about the dimensions and intricacies of academic work, in the context of the present-day university. Also, your work on Foucault and Lefebvre is already informing much of my work, given the centrality of these thinkers to my project. Just diving into your latest Foucault book.

      • stuartelden says:

        Glad it was a little help. I’m glad the blog is useful and that you’ve got something from my work on Foucault and Lefebvre – continuing to work on both of them at the moment.

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