Journaltalk - The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010

The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010

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Abstract

The principal author surveyed all Harvard University Press titles published (in first edition) between 2000 and well into 2010, making 10+ years of publication, in the subject areas of Business & Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology, as well as a residual of Law titles. A large number of titles were initially removed from the survey because the book title suggested little connection or platform for political ideology. After making these removals, 494 titles remained, and the ideological outlook of each was assessed. The results show that Harvard University Press leans heavily to the left. In fact, over the 10+ years surveyed only eight of the 494 titles, or 2 percent, had an outlook that was conspicuously either classical liberal or conservative. The results are important for debates about whether academic standards—“Has the candidate published a book with a leading university press?”—are themselves ideologically biased. Linked Excel files provide all the data.

Author
  • David Gordon
  • Per Nilsson
Keywords Harvard University Press, ideology, bias, academic publishing
Volume Number 8
Issue Number 1
File URL The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010
File Format PDF
Access no registration, free access
Publication year 2011

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4 comments

  1. Gordon and Nilsson have attempted a massive review of Harvard University Press books and admit to not carefully reading all 494 of them. I was pleased to see my book, Total Cure: The Antidote to the Healthcare Crisis (2008) made it past their initial screen-out. Their assessment, however, raises some concerns about what must be quick, and in at least one instance superficial, reviews. They categorize my book as “Left” and describe it as “Calls for universal compulsory health coverage that would cover two-thirds of costs. The rest would be dealt with by a voluntary program that would allow free choice of physicians.” That assessment sounds like “Medicare for all with voluntary supplemental coverage.” That is far from what I proposed.

    Even a quick read would indicate that the focus of the book is not on universal compulsory coverage, but rather on changing the medical care delivery system, with a far greater reliance on effective market mechanisms than we have now. While I do believe that universal coverage for major acute and chronic illnesses is critical to avoid gaming and selection, coverage for many things people on the Left feel should be covered is really an equity rather than an efficiency issue. There are better ways to achieve those equity goals.

    I realize that the strict libertarian would argue against any mandated coverage. Until the US citizenry is willing to let people who fail to provide for themselves die on the hospital’s steps, a coverage mandate for major illness is warranted. I raise significant concerns about any major role for government beyond certain minimal things it can do reasonably well. These concerns are problematic for those favoring a single payer solution. I think such an approach would guarantee coverage, but otherwise it would be a disaster.

    My concerns with public solutions arise, however, not from an anti-communitarian perspective, but rather from a recognition that our political system is too responsive to special interests. The appropriate use of market forces (which is quite different from letting existing players exercise their market power) is necessary to overcome that political power.

    Gordon and Nilsson did note that physician choice is critical in my proposal, but this is not as a sop to those who argue for choice in general—as in “free choice of physician” without any responsibility for those choices. Instead, my design uses choice as a core feature allowing individuals (even different members within a family) to choose the style of practice they want, while bearing the full marginal costs implied by their own choices. The plan makes those cost (and quality) implications real and accessible to individuals without unrealistic assumptions about consumer sovereignty and rationality in medical care choices.

    I don’t mind being attacked from both the left and right— that’s usually an honor. If one wishes to critique the literature for an ideological bias, however, it is best to get one’s facts straight.

    (For an example of a review by someone “not on the Left” who read the book more carefully, see this link.)

    posted 24 Jan 2011 by Hal Luft

  2. Quick question about cause and effect… I’m sympathetic to the argument here, and the social psychology literature demonstrates, quite well, that we read things more critically when they run counter to our own ideological perspectives, so clearly conservative books would have a more difficult time in the peer review process. However, I’m wondering if Harvard could defend its publication list by arguing that the number of conservative books published is actually proportional to the number of conservatives in academia. I’m noticing, for example, that some of the numbers here seem to mirror data about the number of conservatives in each discipline. So if field X is comprised of 10% conservatives, and 10% of HUP’s publications in that field fall right of center, couldn’t they argue that conservatives have the same chance of being published as liberals? Is there any way to see a sample of submissions and or rejections?
    April Kelly-Woessner

    posted 25 Jan 2011 by April Kelly-Woessner

  3. My two lines about Professor Luft’s book are perfectly accurate and not disputed by him. He does call for compulsory insurance to cover most medical costs. He thinks that this does not justify classifying his book as “left”, because he limits the compulsory coverage to certain conditions and wishes to rely on market mechanisms for other things. I stand by my classification, but this is a difference of opinion, not a failure on my part to get my facts straight.

    posted 25 Jan 2011 by David Gordon

  4. The percentages in Table 1 are difficult to interpret. There are no 100% totals in this table so we can’t tell if the cell percentages are column percentages or row percentages. With effort, one can determine that all the percentages — except those in the bottom row — are column percentages. Putting 100% totals at the bottom of each column would facilitate understanding. , Showing the prevalence of each subject area could be done in the column titles, in the body or in a separate row below the 100% column totals.
    Figure 1 would have been more useful if the percentages were of “All Ideological HUP Books Surveyed” so the percentages would add to 100%.

    posted 16 Feb 2011 by Milo Schield

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