This paper reflects on the conditions under which Discourse and social psychology, Common knowledge, and the author's Arguing and thinking were written. These books, which were independently conceived, were not specifically written as contributions to ‘discursive psychology’, for discursive psychology did not exist at that time. Their authors were rejecting conventional approaches to doing psychological research. The paper discusses what it takes for a new academic movement, such as discursive psychology, to be successfully established in the current climate of ‘academic capitalism’. Two requirements are particularly mentioned: the necessity for a label and the necessity for adherents to be recruited. Of the three books, only Discourse and social psychology was outwardly recruiting its readers to a new way of doing social psychology. Arguing and thinking, with its celebration of ancient rhetoric, was much more ambiguous in its aims. It was turning away from present usefulness towards the past. By claiming to be ‘an antiquarian psychologist’ the author was rejecting disciplinary thinking. The paper also considers the intellectual costs of establishing a new specialism or sub-discipline. The ‘first generation’ may have freedom, but success can bring about a narrowing of perspectives and the development of orthodoxies for subsequent academic generations. This applies as much to the development of experimental social psychology as to discursive psychology. These processes are particular enhanced in the present socio-economic situation of contemporary universities, which make it more difficult for young academics to become, in the words of William James, ‘undisciplinables’.