September 03, 2004

Prickly Paradigms under a bushel?

It's interesting to contrast Kerim Friedman's recent Anthropology News article with this this 2002 piece on Marshall Sahlins' efforts in connection with Prickly Paradigm Press. Professor Sahlins decided to become a publisher about four years ago. He had trouble finding a publishing outlet for his own pamphlet Apologies to Thucydides, which "strayed beyond his discipline, using baseball and the Elian Gonzalez affair as examples".

Sahlins is quoted as saying that

"Pamphlets are an important genre for academics who have something they want to get off their chests. It gives them freedom and encourages creativity. So many academics have a lot to say that they don’t want to write as a piece with scholarly apparatus, footnotes and a bibliography."

The article closes with Sahlins' hope the "the pamphlet genre will become popular with a general intellectual audience":

"There is a possibility that the short, edgy, critical, sometimes cantankerous pamphlet’s time has come."

Well, yes. Its time has come, and its place is on line, where hundreds of thousands of people every day read short, edgy, critical and sometimes cantakerous weblogs. They read longer documents as well, usually because a link is featured on weblogs and discussion forums.

I'm not against paper -- I own more books than I can fit into two houses and four offices, and I keep buying more of them. But if Professor Sahlins wants his pamphlets to reach a large audience -- and to sell enough copies to keep the press afloat financially -- it's time to start using the web.

He could start with Michael Silverstein's Talking Politics, which will have particular relevance over the next couple of months, and is now selling all of one copy a month or so via I suppose that Talking Politics was produced from some sort of digital document format, and in that case it could be on line in a few minutes. In the unlikely event that it was typeset by hand, it could be still be scanned into Pdf or DjVu format in an hour or so.


[Update 9/22/2004: a .pdf of Silverstein's pamphlet is now available here. ]

Posted by Mark Liberman at September 3, 2004 08:29 AM