Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy Rothschild
301.459.3366 ext. 5615


When Jeff Schmidt's supervisors at Physics Today magazine saw his new book on the politics of work, they hustled the 19-year employee out of the building and told him never to come back "at any time, for any reason." They were less than pleased by the insubordinate tone of DISCIPLINED MINDS: A CRITICAL LOOK AT SALARIED PROFESSIONALS AND THE SOUL-BATTERING SYSTEM THAT SHAPES THEIR LIVES (ISBN 0-8476-9364-3; 304 pages; $26.95 cloth; distributed by National Book Network).

The magazine, which is published by the American Institute of Physics, deemed it unacceptable that Schmidt had used his spare time at the office to work on the book, forgoing more common workplace diversions such as surfing the web, playing computer solitaire and making personal phone calls. In fact, to set a subversive tone, Schmidt opens his book with a dramatic statement about its origin. With a nod to Abbie Hoffman's 1971 classic, Steal This Book, DISCIPLINED MINDS begins, "This book is stolen. Written in part on stolen time, that is."

Schmidt continued to do his job while he was writing the book, and he always received above-average or satisfactory performance ratings. But in firing him on May 31, the managers said the book shows that he was not "fully engaged with the magazine." "In fact you were stealing from the order to write your book," Schmidt's supervisor told him.

"Writing personal e-mail on company time is not likely to get you fired," Schmidt says. "But writing something radical on company time is a different story." Schmidt sees his firing as further proof of the book's thesis -- that management's paramount concern is always the political content of the work -- even spare-time work. Because of the economics of intellectual life in corporate America, "most books are written in part on stolen time," says Schmidt. "But this book -- because it is a radical look at work itself -- says so openly, for dramatic effect."

Schmidt sees his firing as a threat to "the right to write." "Employers, especially employers of journalists, traditionally are tolerant of employees who are writing books, so long as they continue to do their jobs," he notes. Ironically, at the time of his firing, Schmidt was two months ahead in his work and was hoping to take a vacation, having just completed his annual work quota in ten months' time.

He is asking for his job back.