German Publisher De Gruyter Fires Philosophy Editor, Eliminates Philosophy Dept (Updated)


Walter De Gruyter, the large German academic publishing firm responsible for a variety of philosophical publications, including the Kant and Leibniz Academy editions, the complete works of Nietzsche, and authoritative editions of many other canonical authors, along with many journals, has fired its longtime philosophy editor, Dr. Gertrud Grünkorn, and has eliminated philosophy as its own department, consolidating it under “Classical Studies.” In response, a number of philosophers (currently more than 120) have signed on to a letter to De Gruyter objecting to these developments.

The letter states:

We are surprised and dismayed to learn of the dismissal of Dr. Gertrud Grünkorn as Editorial Director of Philosophy at De Gruyter. As philosophers publishing with De Gruyter we have been working together very successfully with Dr. Grünkorn for many years, building a relationship based on trust. Dr. Grünkorn has an impressive network in academic philosophy, especially in Germany, but also in the US. She has always ensured that publication projects of great importance to the publisher as well as to the academic community at large, such as critical editions of collected works, monographs, edited volumes, book series and academic journals, are handled with exemplary care from acquisition to publication. For us as authors and editors publishing with De Gruyter, the dismissal of Dr. Grünkorn is therefore an extremely disturbing sign.

We have also learned that the editorial department of philosophy has lost its independence and was reassigned to the department of classical studies. This restructuring is very worrying to us. If philosophy is assigned, or even subordinated, to another department, the competent professional support of our publications no longer seems to be assured.

With Dr. Grünkorn’s dismissal and the internal restructuring it is feared that De Gruyter will not be able to serve as the home to nationally and internationally acknowledged philosophical publications it has been in recent decades. It is difficult to avoid the impression that the publisher will give philosophy less space and importance in its future program. This prospect is all the more worrying as De Gruyter, after the market concentration of recent years, is one of the few remaining renowned companies publishing German-language philosophy in an internationally visible way. We fear that with the dismissal of Dr. Grünkorn an important forum for the publication of philosophical writings could be lost. For these reasons, we would like to ask the publisher Walter de Gruyter to rethink and reverse its decision to dismiss Dr. Grünkorn.

The letter was brought to my attention by Robin Celikates, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and a book review editor at the De Gruyter journal, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophiewho authored the letter along with several other philosophers whose work has been published by De Gruyter.

You can view the letter here. If De Gruyter has published work of yours, you may write to Professor Celikates to add your name to the list of signatories.

UPDATE: Eric Merkel-Sobotta, who works in Communications at De Gruyter, submitted a comment which I thought was worth including here in the post:

An open letter currently circulating, which regards organizational changes at De Gruyter, has come to my attention through various social media channels.

The sentiments expressed by the authors of this letter confirm that De Gruyter is an important partner for the Philosophy community – particularly because of our international reach and professional in-house editorial staff. We are indebted to our contributors from the scholarly community who have allowed us to build this reputation.

In addressing the concerns of this community, there are a number of misleading statements in the open letter that we would like to rectify. Although we cannot comment on internal personnel issues, we would like to stress that this internal reorganization in no way means “less space and importance” or the loss of an important forum for the Philosophy community.

We can assure you that De Gruyter´s longstanding commitment to scholarship in Philosophy remains undiminished. De Gruyter is home to a broad range of disciplines in the Humanities and we will continue to support, nurture, and promote Philosophy as we always have.

We will also continue to provide all authors writing across the broad spectrum of the academic fields with a home for their important books, journals and editions by editorial staff trained in their disciplines.

In order to guarantee our independence far into the future, we must adapt to the changing academic community, and this includes changes to how we are organized internally. A strengthened position will enable us to offer the international Philosophy community the best publishing environment for their work.

As one of the few independent publishers in Philosophy and the Humanities and Social Sciences, we are determined to maintain our key role in academic discourse. We encourage you to support us in this endeavor by continuing to entrust us with your valuable scholarly contributions.

 

 

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Patrick Stokes
Patrick Stokes
4 years ago

This is very alarming news. WdG provides an avenue for a lot of work that simply wouldn’t happen otherwise. In Kierkegaard Studies, we have two key publications, Kierkegaard Studies Yearbook (disclosure: I’m on the advisory board for KSYB) and Kierkegaard Studies Monograph Series that depend on de Gruyter; the latter series includes monographs in German that would struggle to find a home without WdG.Report

dennis
dennis
4 years ago

same with Kant scholarship: Kant-Studien, Kant Yearbook, Kant-Studien Ergänzungshefte, and most importantly the academic edition of Kant’s works (the Akademie Ausgabe). Kant-Studien, one of the oldest and most prominent philosophy journals in any language, is unlikely to disappear overnight, but one wonders what will happen without the enthusiastic support of the publisherReport

Bianca
Bianca
4 years ago

Please note that you can ONLY sign the letter if you’ve published something with De Gruyter!
I hope this’ll save Prof. Celikates from having to answer a lot of emails like my own. 😉Report

Greg Gauthier
4 years ago

The economics of print publishing is very dire. With the advent of the internet, the proliferation of digital research tools, web-based mass media, and the popularity of ebooks, it’s really only a matter of time before all print silos will run out of money. My wife works for a major British newspaper, and tells me that the print side of their operation has perhaps 5 years left, before all the money runs out. So, it’s really no surprise that academic publishing in Europe is taking a beating financially, and needs to cut costs. It’s just unfortunate that philosophy is typically high on the list of things to get rid of first.Report

Javier Cumpa
Javier Cumpa
4 years ago

Under the guidance of Gertrud Grünkorn, De Gruyter has been very supportive with the publication of analytic philosophy books and journals. In particular, book series such as ‘EIDE: Foundations of Ontology’ and journals like ‘Metaphysica’ have been doing a genuine job for the expansion of the area of analytic metaphysics in continental Europe thanks to the support of Gertrud Grünkorn. As an editor of ‘EIDE: Foundations of Ontology’ and the journal ‘Metaphysica,’ I hope that the editorial decisions of De Gruyter’s new team does not affect this historically important expansion of analytic metaphysics in Europe.Report

Eric Merkel-Sobotta
4 years ago

Just to let the Philosophy Community know that Dr. Anke Beck, Managing Director of De Gruyter will be responding individually to the signatories of the open letter with the following message: Given that it is the end of the week and the fact that we were not sent a copy of the letter, it may be a few days before the signatories receive their direct and personal Response from Dr. Beck.
Sincerely,
Eric Merkel-Sobotta, Communications, De Gruyter

An open letter currently circulating, which regards organizational changes at De Gruyter, has come to my attention through various social media channels.
The sentiments expressed by the authors of this letter confirm that De Gruyter is an important partner for the Philosophy community – particularly because of our international reach and professional in-house editorial staff. We are indebted to our contributors from the scholarly community who have allowed us to build this reputation.
In addressing the concerns of this community, there are a number of misleading statements in the open letter that we would like to rectify. Although we cannot comment on internal personnel issues, we would like to stress that this internal reorganization in no way means “less space and importance” or the loss of an important forum for the Philosophy community.
We can assure you that De Gruyter´s longstanding commitment to scholarship in Philosophy remains undiminished. De Gruyter is home to a broad range of disciplines in the Humanities and we will continue to support, nurture, and promote Philosophy as we always have.
We will also continue to provide all authors writing across the broad spectrum of the academic fields with a home for their important books, journals and editions by editorial staff trained in their disciplines.
In order to guarantee our independence far into the future, we must adapt to the changing academic community, and this includes changes to how we are organized internally. A strengthened position will enable us to offer the international Philosophy community the best publishing environment for their work.
As one of the few independent publishers in Philosophy and the Humanities and Social Sciences, we are determined to maintain our key role in academic discourse. We encourage you to support us in this endeavor by continuing to entrust us with your valuable scholarly contributions.Report

Robin Celikates
Robin Celikates
Reply to  Eric Merkel-Sobotta
4 years ago

This is just to let readers know that the open letter has now been sent to De Gruyter. We wanted to wait until the beginning of the week, as a lot of authors were still emailing over the weekend in order to add their signatures to the list. By now more than 200 authors have signed the statement.
I am not a spokesperson for the signatories, so let me just react to two points made in De Gruyter’s preliminary response in my own name:
– Although I am happy to hear that De Gruyter is willing to address the concerns articulated in the letter and to continue to uphold its commitment to philosophy as a discipline, the response does not address the two main reasons for our concern: the abolishing of philosophy as an independent editorial department and the dismissal of the editorial director of philosophy. While it is understandable that the publisher cannot comment on internal personnel issues, I hope the restructuring and its effects will be explicitly addressed in the future.
– The response suggests that the letter contains “a number of misleading statements” – it is not clear to me what this is supposed to refer to. If it refers to our statement that “[i]t is difficult to avoid the impression that the publisher will give philosophy less space and importance in its future program”, then this statement is not misleading at all as it is refers to an impression that is indeed widely shared by the signatories (and not contradicted by the publisher’s assurance that the “reorganization in no way means ‘less space and importance'”). Since the response refers to “a number of misleading statements”, I would also be interested to learn which other statements in the letter are regarded as misleading by De GruyterReport

Perry Bennett
Perry Bennett
4 years ago

De Gruyter’s Nietzsche-Online is priced at 37.349,00 € (https://www.degruyter.com/view/db/nietzsche). Let the bastards fail!Report

Leszek Wronski
Leszek Wronski
4 years ago

I’m reading the de Gruyter reply as “We’ll go forward with what we’ve planned; but hey, sure, let me offer you some placating expressions”.Report