A prominent economic sociologist Mark Granovetter didn’t win (yet) the Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Let’s take a look at his rejection letter.
You may think I’m talking about the Nobel… I’m not. And that makes this even more interesting!
This is the rejection letter a PhD student Mark Granovetter received from American Sociological Review in 1969 regarding an early version of his groundbreaking and seminal “The Strength of Weak Ties” paper. A rejection — not even “revise and resubmit”.
Eventually this pioneering research was published in 1973 in American Journal of Sociology and has become one of the most cited paper in Social Sciences, with about
30,000 40,000 60,000 citations according to Google Scholar.
It could be a heartening opportunity to look at the reviewers’ remarks, such as:
– “…it should not be published. I respectfully submit the following among an endless series of reasons that immediately came to mind.”
– “… I find that his scholarship is somewhat elementary… [he] has confined himself to a few older and obvious items.”
There are more... (a link to the full letter)
Besides, there is an important and instructive point here, as Granovetter pointed out in his email to Shamus Khan: “I’d note also that this rejection illustrates the importance of framing. I framed the original draft [of “The Strength of Weak Ties”], which I wrote in grad school, as a treatment of “alienation”, more or less in response to the ideas of Louis Wirth and others that the city was an “alienating” place. The editor therefore sent the paper to reviewers who seemed to be European-oriented alienation theorists, who rightly saw that I was not talking about alienation as Marx did, but failed to imagine that there might be any other valid way to talk about it, as you can see from their comments. When I later revised the paper for AJS, I pulled all references to alienation out, and it obviously fared much better.”
Let me finish with the conclusion of one of the reviewers: “Finally, if I have taken the liberty of extensive criticism, it is because the paper at least provocative. That is what Author himself hopes for his paper. But it is not enough.“
Well, the lesson of this amazing story is clear: Rejections and objections are an inseparable part in the course of scientific inquiry. So, keep up and keep on!
In 2017, Granovetter published Society and Economy: Framework and Principles, an impressive work of exceptional ambition, presenting and developing the insights into ‘new’ economic sociology, a vibrant branch of knowledge that he actually impelled and inspired with then rejected paper from 1969.