The Journal of the APA will be launching this coming spring. It is crucial to the success of the journal that it represent research done by the many different intellectual constituencies of the APA. The editorial board is highly sensitive to this fact.--Sally Haslanger
That seems to me the primary danger for the journal, not what is crucial to its success. Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could this possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.)--Brian Leiter
It is a remarkable fact in contemporary professional philosophy that the side that purportedly defends "quality" tends to attribute political motives and political machinations to its opponents -- in this post, for example, Leiter talks of journal 'capture' by special "interest groups" --, while often recycling the Meme that the status quo institutions of professional philosophy are primarily epistemic in nature. (Often the defenders of the status quo imply that they are not engaged in politics; just to avoid confusion, this is not so of Leiter--he is very clear about his political aims and he is often most forthright when his domain, "continental philosophy," is at stake.)
We know from citation and publication data that the most prestigious journals in professional philosophy exhibit intellectual and demographic patterns of exclusion; they publish a remarkably narrow range of topics and methods; even folk trained within the PGR ecology (in say aesthetics, political philosophy, various areas of history, applied areas, and non-Western traditions, etc.) often have a sense of exclusion (witness the recurring commentary over the Philosopher's Annual). We also know that these same top journals have extremely high rejection rates (which causes predictable anxieties and tough strategic choices among junior faculty, who depend on the right publications for tenure). These two facts have been widely discussed. Less widely discussed, but familiar to those willing to reflect on it, is that these very same journals have been slow to adopt, shall we say, best practices that reduce intellectual nepotism/favoritism to insiders (yes, I know, some are better than others, and there have been reports that things are improving).
We also know that in many areas of intellectual life, competitive emulation can produce good consequences. So, professional philosophers ought to welcome experiments that might produce a better professional publishing landscape that can simultaneously reduce the existing lottery element in publishing and make more excellent work visible in the profession. (That can be done in ways that need not threaten the existing professional status quo at all.) Given that the APA is supposed to represent the interests of all its members the founding of the APA journal is a remarkable burst of energy for an association that has long been ridiculous in the face of the dire professional circumstances of a considerable number of its members and (lost-forever) would-be-members. (One is tempted to say, 'what took it so long?')
I am not a 100% sure that I understand Leiter's comment quoted above about MIT's faculty (including Haslanger), but I assume he means to be saying that granted that it is an excellent department, the composition of its faculty interests is relatively narrow (although I think less so now than a few decades ago) even within -- and relative to -- the standard composition in, what I call, the PGR ecology. I don't say this to castigate (we should all be so lucky to have MIT's problems!); I am not an expert on MIT's institutional history, but given its location within an institute of technology and the intellectual stewardship of Dick Cartwight, the current faculty represents a surprisingly rich intellectual environment (perhaps also due to the significance of Chomsky at crucial junctures) within relatively narrow confines. It would be absurd to deny this. But the key for present purposes is that MIT's philosophy department is in addition to idiosyncratic and contingent human factors, itself the product of institutional (and financial) constraints and MIT's historical development (which, in many ways, is exceptional Stateside). So, to point to MIT's faculty composition, admirable as it is, is to point at a product of a rich and fascinating historical and political legacy (I am not claiming it is overdetermined by it), not the pure form of a professional philosophy department.
To return to the main point. As regular readers know I am a product of the PGR ecology and proudly so. I have benefit from it intellectually and professionally. But when you are in the periphery, as I am (I like to say that I work at a provincial university in a small country that cannot decide if it wants to stay unified), one can also discern parochialism, insularity, and fashion (yet another paper on grounding, one more on buck-passing, etc.) in the PGR ecology; many of our very best philosophers are engaged in rather narrow set of philosophical projects, methods, and topics. It is -- as many have noted -- also a remarkably homogeneous demographic population. It is unclear in what direction the causal arrow goes, but we should all welcome efforts that make us more receptive to the previously overlooked, marginalized, and excluded. Nature abhors a vacuum and so, perhaps, the APA's stewardship of an inclusive journal may create the demand for more excellent work (even by Leiter's lights) in areas that have been struggling.
While I believe that analytical philosophy has a sponge-like willingness to absorb new ideas and outside influences as well as a plastic capacity at self-reinvention (even Williamson's Philosophy of Philosophy is in many ways a rejection of the previous tradition), it often does so at glacial pace; to pick an example close to Leiter's heart, Carnap nods at Nietzsche in the Aufbau, but it took several generations -- including Leiter's efforts -- before Nietzsche became salonfähig. While it is unlikely that Derrida will ever become domesticated and absorped by analytical philosophy, one suspects that the moves, insights, and sensibilities of Deleuze, Foucault, and (gasp) Judith Butler may well get assimilated eventually. But did it really need to last several decades and be accompanied with polemical demonizations?
Leiter says that "what will actually be crucial to the success of JAPA is that it publish high quality work, not that it represents every "constituency"." Given that Leiter often articulates what the 'sociological haves' in the profession think privately and -- given his influence on the profession through his blog and the shaping of the PGR--, one wishes for the health of the discipline and general atmosphere, a bit more tentativeness in his judgments of quality. There is now a huge scientific literature on expert over-confidence, tacit bias, and the role of non-truth-tracking heuristics in our intellectual judgments. So, I would think the real worry goes in the other direction: a journal that publishes more of the (let's stipulate Leiter approved) high quality same, me-too-research, while welcome in many ways and not to be judged an outright failure, certainly ought not count as a "success" from the point of view of the APA's membership (and counterfactual would be memberships). This result would also not count as a 'success' from the point of view of the long-term interests of professional philosophy.
The balance of cultural and financial power is shifting in the world. In some ways these trends are favorable to Anglophone professional philosophy (the bachelor degree from a private university is the gold-standard, North America is still welcoming to immigrants, etc.), but in other ways it is clear that many of our existing themes reflect a more parochial historical trajectory unresponsive to the calls to philosophy and the needs of global society. It is not obvious that we are generating enough philosophical innovation and conceptual tools at a fast enough rate to remain relevant and the source of critical reflection. The APA's journal is an extremely modest, baby-step to open the windows and to try to find a space to nurture some of the existing, but marginalized talent in our midst alongside the familiar analytical 'core;' maybe that talent will connect us to the much broader international trends and demographics. Let's wish the journal good judgment, and luck.