When the public has restricted access to published material, this is no longer publishing in the literal sense of ‘to make public’, it is ‘privating’.
There is a tightening grip on the throat of radical and critical thinking. Traditional spaces of thought have become weakened and constrained. Parties and newspapers lurch to the right, academic journals overwhelmingly lie behind pay-walls and academic monographs seem to spiral ever upwards in price. The space for critical thought outside the university is closing, and within the university it is disciplined by the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ and tenure boards. Scholars come to the radical critiques of law with an impulse to challenge structures of power and domination. Yet the public voice of ideas has become increasingly governed by shallow economic imperative rather than the political exigencies of thinking.
In 2009 we set up Critical Legal Thinking (CLT) as an informal and open platform to enable critical legal scholars to make public interventions. A major focus has been the radical critique of new legal forms and the analysis of emergent resistant subjects, movements and ideas. We have tried to bring to light complex and interrelated forms of injustice — legal, economic, cultural, political, etc. — in the hope of promoting democratic mobilisation. In terms of reach, readership and resonance, CLT has proven a great success. But we feel we can do more.
Today, we would like to announce the creation of a new, not-for-profit, open access publisher of books that will provide critical legal scholars and allied theorists, philosophers, and other trans/inter-disciplinary academics an alternative to traditional book publishers. We have named this new publisher Counterpress.
In addition to printed books offered at reasonable prices and purchasable via traditional and virtual bookshops, we will provide e-book versions on a pay-what-you-can basis. A full open access option will also be made available. In short, our books will be part of the global commons, accessible to all regardless of personal wealth.
Counterpress will hopefully appeal to academics and students, but as with CLT, we would also like to reach beyond this traditional audience. We will publish three types of books, emphasizing radical political and theoretical engagements with the world:
- The first type of project will be a ‘supplements’ series. These will be shorter books, aimed at a broad audience, much like an extended pamphlet or pocket-book.
- The second type of project will be an ‘exchanges’ series. These will involve direct confrontations or cooperations between a number of thinkers, on a particular topic or body of thought.
- Finally, we will pursue the more traditional style of academic publications: edited collections, readers, textbooks and monographs on radical philosophy, legal and critical theory.
We already have a number of excellent book proposals, a selection of which you can read on the Counterpress website. We invite further proposals and/or full manuscripts, which, to ensure the highest quality, will be subject to peer review by our editorial board.
We are very excited about this new initiative. By its very nature it poses a challenge to the privatizing of academic knowledge, the possessive individualism of copyright, and the access restrictions to learning materials in a world of uneven globalisation. Counterpress is our contribution to the ‘Academic Spring’. We hope you will join and support us. For more, please visit counterpress.org.uk.
Illan rua Wall, Gilbert Leung and Stephen Connelly are the directors of Counterpress