Career stage and publication in American academia

  • Andrew Abbott University of Chicago, Chicago, United States of America
Keywords: sociology, disciplinary demography, scholarly careers, publication


This paper first outlines a processual approach to social life and then applies that approach to the changing social structures of American academia. Substantively, it argues that transient demographic patterns in the early and mid twentieth century shaped our ideal picture of academia: small disciplines, expanding rapidly in the face of seemingly infinite student demand, meant young disciplines, a seller’s market for PhDs, and a lack of publication pressure. The end of demand expansion meant rapid aging, a buyer’s market for PhDs, publication pressure, excessive publication, decline of reading, and consequent disciplinary confusion.