History of Political Economy Annual Supplement to Volume 34 (2002) 190-207
[Access article in PDF]
Heaven Can Wait:
Gatekeeping in an Age of Uncertainty, Innovation, and Commercialization
Steven G. Medema, José Luís Cardoso, and John Lodewijks
The position of journal editor provides a unique vantage point from which to view the status of and future prospects for the history of economic thought. Obviously, much of the scholarly work being done in the field flows across our desks. Moreover, because of the increasing resistance to publishing work in the history of economic thought among prominent mainstream economics journals, the role of specialist journals in the subject has taken on added importance.
In what follows, we will attempt to provide our assessment of the state of and issues facing our subject. We do not necessarily place the same weight on each of these issues, but then we do not necessarily face identical situations, either. While the history of economic thought is a worldwide field of study, our differing geographical locations and associated academic cultural milieus—in part reflecting different historiographic traditions in our respective cultures—belie attempts at homogenization. Nevertheless, we hope that our discussion here provides some useful insights into the challenges facing our subject.
A Bit of History
The first specialized journal in the field, History of Political Economy (HOPE), was founded in 1969. The history of economic thought remained a one-journal field for some fifteen years until the research annual Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology [End Page 190] (RHET&M), edited by Warren J. Samuels, was established in 1983. In the late 1980s, the History of Economics Society Bulletin evolved into a refereed journal, and the name was changed to the Journal of the History of Economic Thought (JHET) in 1990. The History of Economic Thought Society of Australia's Bulletin became a refereed journal, History of Economics Review (HER), in 1991, and the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought (EJHET) and History of Economic Ideas (HEI) were established in 1993.1
At least some of the rationale for the establishment of all of these new journals in the field in the latter part of the century parallels that for the proliferation of specialist journals in the economics profession at large and no doubt relates to the spread of the enormous pressures toward refereed publication throughout the profession. But for a field that often perceives itself and is perceived by others as under attack, on the run, and in decline, there may well be more to the story—particularly given that the close of the millennium witnessed, simultaneously, a heightened sense of insecurity within the field and a mood of innovation on multiple fronts, including journals publication.
The creation and launch of the European Journal of the History of Economic Thought in 1993 sought to achieve two main objectives. The first was to underline the need for historians of economic thought to maintain an unequivocally assertive attitude in relation to the importance of their discipline. Such an attitude was justified by disturbing evidence of the removal of the history of economic thought as a compulsory, or even optional, subject in both graduate and undergraduate courses in economics. Further evidence of this marginalization of the subject emerged from the growing reluctance of general economics journals to publish articles on historical themes. The creation of a new journal thus represented an attempt to present the inevitable specialization between the various subfields of economics as an accomplished fact, opening up a new space for publication that would be available to a significant number of authors committed to demonstrating the importance of the history of economic thought. This objective continues to justify our readiness to find the most suitable solutions for preserving the future of the discipline. [End Page 191]
A second objective that the EJHET has attempted to pursue since its inception is that of affording greater visibility to the research activities undertaken in the field of the history of economic thought...