The Inner World of Research

The Inner World of Research

On Academic Labor

By Stefan Svallfors
Translated by Neil Betteridge

A book about the misery and joy of life as a researcher, and on the role of emotions and social relations in research based on the author’s reflections from a life as a researcher and on interviews with leading scientists about their work and careers.

Hardback, 142 Pages


February 2020

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

The Inner World of Research is a book about the misery and joy of life as a researcher. It deals with essential but rarely spoken of topics in the everyday life of a researcher, focussing in particular on the role of emotions and social relations in research. It stretches from the individual researcher, to the ‘micro-cosmos’ of the research team and to the broader policy environment in which research takes place.

The book is to a large extent based on autobiographical material from the author’s long career as a leading social scientist. But it also derives from extended interviews with researchers from a variety of disciplines, and with authors, artists and musicians. It delves into the mysteries of creativity; the joys and frustrations of collaboration; and the role of fear, anger, and boredom in the life of a researcher. It is driven by a quiet fury about how research as a practice is so little understood and so poorly administrated and communicated.

Neither a standard research monograph nor a typical memoir or autobiography, The Inner World of Research belongs to the academic essay genre. It is a book based on the author’s frustrations, experiences and curiosity but all through written in dialogue with colleagues supported by adequate scholarship. It is personal and self-reflexive yet authoritative and offers significant insights into the heaven and hell of contemporary academic life in general. And in contrast to many other contemporary books on ‘the decline of the university’, this book is not only critical but also self-critical and constructive.


‘The Inner World of Research offers illuminating insights into the joys and sorrows of contemporary academic life. Unlike other books on “the decline of the university”, it is not only critical and pessimistic but also self-critical and constructive. A must-read for both scholars and research policy makers.’
—Christer Nordlund, Professor of History of Science and Ideas, Umeå University, Sweden

‘Stefan Svallfors takes us on a journey to places where research is not merely a rational exercise, but culture, passion and lifestyle. An eye-opening book full of imagination and reflection by a great scholar.’
—Steffen Mau, Professor of Sociology, Humboldt-University zu Berlin, Germany

‘Profoundly insightful and beautifully written. A must-read for everyone embarking on an academic career. A must-read also for those already in the midst of it and sometimes fearing for their sanity.’
—Jens Beckert, Director, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany

Author Information

Stefan Svallfors is a sociologist and a research professor at the Institute for Futures Studies in Stockholm. He is the Secretary General for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Swedish Research Council, and a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.


Anthem Series on Politics and Society After Work

Table of Contents

The cathedral on the plain; I: Alone together; The body as knowledge receptacle; Perceiving research objects; The good space; The bad space; A big imposter; Research policy as knowledge barrier; II: In the corner; Inside but outside; Born on the margins; Stand in the corner; Be each other’s margin; Look after your enemies; Don’t get drawn in; Movements in space; III: Darkness and light; The heart of darkness; Being just scared enough; Boredom is the mother of creation; The quiet fury; Self-contempt and revanchism; Angst is neighbours with euphoria; Learn to fail; Index.


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