Based on our editorial experience, and acknowledging the regular editor grievances about reviewer disengagement at professional meeting and conferences, in this essay, we argue that the review system is in need of significant repair. We argue that this has emerged because an audit culture in academia and individual incentives (like reduced teaching loads or publication bonuses) have eroded the willingness of individuals to engage in the collective enterprise of peer-reviewing each others’ work on a quid pro quo basis. In response to this, we emphasise why it is unethical for potential reviewers to disengage from the review process, and outline the implications for our profession if colleagues publish more than they review. Designed as a political intervention in response to reviewer disengagement, we aim to ‘politicise’ the review process and its consequences for the sustainability of the scholarly community. We propose three pathways toward greater reviewer engagement: (i) senior scholars setting the right kind of ‘reviewer’ example; (ii) journals introducing recognition awards to foster a healthy reviewer progression path, and (iii) universities and accreditation bodies moving to explicitly recognise reviewing in workload models and evaluations. While all three proposals have merit, the latter point is especially powerful in fostering reviewer engagement as it aligns individual and institutional goals in ‘measurable’ ways. In this way, ironically, the audit culture can be subverted to address the imbalance between individual and collective goals.