[Marxism] On the coup at O&E

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 29 07:16:03 MDT 2012

Coup at Environmental Journal?
October 29, 2012 - 3:00am
By Scott Jaschik

The incoming editors of the journal Organization & Environment have 
posted on its website a notice in which they suggest that authors may 
want to hold off on submissions until December, when they will start to 
review pieces.

The notice reflects a reality that this isn’t a standard transition – 
but a shift in editorial direction for the journal that has its fans 
outraged and has led its editorial board to resign en masse. The 
editorial board members are charging that SAGE Journals (the publisher) 
is engaged in "an editorial coup" designed to displace environmental 
sociology and a leftist critique of environmental issues with an 
emphasis on the more business-friendly concept of sustainability. SAGE 
says that its changes for the journal have been misunderstood, and were 
designed to help the journal.

A joint statement from the editorial board members who have quit says 
that the changes are "a gross violation of academic freedom, scholarly 
standards, scientific responsibility, and business ethics." The 24 
editorial board members quitting include professors at leading 
universities in the United States along with academics from Australia, 
Austria, Canada and Mexico.

The editorial board members said in their statement that SAGE "used its 
ownership rights to carry out a behind the scenes shift in editorial 

One of the resigning board members – John Bellamy Foster of the 
University of Oregon – recently wrote to the environmental section of 
the American Sociological Association of the damage he said the shift 
would cause. Foster wrote that over the last decade, environmental 
sociology has flourished in part because of the commitment of 
Organization & Environment to publish such work. Prior to this work by 
Organization & Environment, many environmental sociologists had 
difficulty finding appropriate homes for their work, he wrote.

"O&E is being transformed from a self-designated ‘eco-social’ journal 
with strong links both to critical organizations theory and 
environmental sociology to one in which environmental sociology will be 
excluded, in favor of a sustainability-management (or green-capitalist) 
policy orientation," Foster writes. "This represents a major setback for 
environmental sociology, if not environmental social science as a whole."

This is not the first time SAGE has been accused of an editorial coup of 
a scholarly journal. Similar statements were made in 2009 by supporters 
for a political science journal managed by the publisher, which disputed 
those accounts.

Bob Howard, executive director for journals publishing at SAGE, issued a 
statement Sunday in response to questions about the resignations at 
Organization & Environment. He said he was "deeply concerned" about the 
resignations, but that they were based on the publisher's actions being 

He said that SAGE saw environmental sociology as "an important 
sub-discipline" but that "the number of scholars publishing in this 
field is small. As a consequence, the journal does not have strong copy 
flow and many issues publish late."

Howard added, "Our intervention was solely about maintaining the 
journal's quality and impact over the longer term.... I believe that by 
broadening the journal's remit, we can grow its reach and impact and 
that this will benefit the articles it publishes in environmental 
sociology, as well as in other related areas. Publishing without this 
broader remit was looking increasingly limiting to the journal's 
future." He said that the journal will continue to welcome pieces in 
environmental sociology, even as it moves into "other approaches."

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