On “Publish or Perish!”: A Brief, Positive Reading

If you have heard the mantra “publish or perish!”, it was probably in a context which intended to invoke a sense of negativity concerning some form of academia—at least this has been my experience.  I, however, think that one should consider a positive reading of the maxim. “Publish or perish” is not a mere injunction demanding prodigious output, polemical rhetoric, or simply for the sake of institutional posterity; rather, “publish or perish” is an invitation to discourse within particular communities of distinctly intellectual (but not merely intellectual) individuals that are engaged in (and demand) conceptual rigorousness—this is, of course, simplifying the matter.  That is also to say, “publish or perish” should be read as an injunction for continued evaluative involvement in a particular community; a commitment of the individual academician to be involved in critical discourse with one’s colleagues.

Perhaps we could find some corresponding maxim in Christian communities. Thus, one cannot make dogmatic statements ubiquitously without critical discourse or communal evaluation—this [i.e., rigid dogmatism] is indubitably present (in some form) in most Christian (esp. evangelical-type) communities. Rather than avoiding all critical discourse as anathema, communities should demand (or if you like soft language: encourage) constant, rigorous discourse.


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