The pursuit of success in academia: Plato’s ghost asks “what then?”

By: Andrew J. Hoffman, A. R. Elangovan

Elangovan, A. R., & Hoffman, A. J. (2019). The Pursuit of Success in Academia: Plato’s Ghost Asks “What then?” Journal of Management Inquiry.


What do we pursue as we seek success in academia? For most, the path to academic success focuses narrowly on A-level journal publications, which has caused a stealthy but steady erosion in the very essence of academia. In this essay, we explore that erosion by drawing on the poem by William Butler Yeats titled “What then?” to highlight the questions, doubts, and perils that lie at each of the four stages of academic life: doctoral student, junior professor, senior professor, and professor emeritus. We then offer a new set of questions that academics may ask at each stage to remain true to their sense of scholarly identity and calling. Our hope is to shine a critical spotlight on the modal journey and inspire a confident and courageous few to deviate from that well-trodden path and chart a course that is truer to the essence, purpose, and potential of academia.