chapter  9
26 Pages

UNCOMMON CONTROVERSIES Legal Mediations of Gift and Market Models of Authorship

Is a work of scientific authorship a gift or a commodity?1 Perhaps the most vexing feature of authorship in academic science is its ability to instantiate and traverse two visions of scholarly exchange. According to one vision, scientific authors participate in a gift economy, a system of exchange premised on reciprocity, reputation, and responsibility in which the commodification of scholarly work is immoral (Hyde 1983; Hagstrom 1965). Pierre Bourdieu (1988), however, argues persuasively that the academic knowledge economy can be better understood not as a web of moral obligations, but as a system of capital accumulation and investment. In Bourdieus view, the value of that capital depends on the continuing ability of the academy to define and guarantee a market. Taking the laboratory rather than the university as the unit of analysis, Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar (1979) portray authorship as the linchpin of this market, or, more directly, of a “cycle of credit” wherein “knowledge” is made available in exchange for credit (recog­ nition), which can be reinvested in the means of production of more knowledge.