Between the discourse of ‘resilience’ and death by committee – Reclaiming collective spaces for academic resistance
A new series on academic capitalism
In the coming weeks, Social Science Space will publish a series of interviews on academic capitalism and academic resistance. These interviews pertain to the event “Between the discourse of ‘resilience’ and death by committee – Reclaiming collective spaces for academic resistance,” organised by the Early Career Forum of the British Sociological Association and hosted by Newcastle University. This event will take place on May 4, and we will publish interviews with its organizers and speakers surrounding that date.
The ECF event takes place at a crucial moment in the history of British universities — right after a long strike that laid bare the often acrimonious relationships between academics and their managers, and it precedes what is likely to be a new stage in British academic capitalism, marked by the ever more far-reaching privatization of academic life, the ever more precarious nature of academic employment, and the ever deeper restraints placed on academic labor by audits and managerial regimes.
The interviews collected in this series reflect on these issues in a frank and thoughtful manner. Crucially, they also address the important problem of academic resistance. Academics are a professional group with little public visibility and little by way of a public and political lobby, a few star scientists and public intellectuals aside. Thus, the scholarly voices that have been speaking out against academic capitalism for years and decades have been easy to ignore. For this reason, a sustained discussion of new strategies for academic resistance seems essential at this stage. Both the interviews and the ECF’s event make an important contribution in that regard.
The first interview, featuring interdisciplinary social scientist Audrey Verma, one of the organizers of the conference, has published alongside this post. You can reach it by clicking below. The subsequent interviews will go live in the following days, and may be reach by clicking below as they are accessible.
To summarize broadly, the neoliberal university is one built around a primacy of free market values, despite its irrationalities, failures and incompatibilities with learning, democratic citizenship and knowledge production.
“Many universities have been colonized by managerialism, gradually generating a distance from the academic values, that many who have entered the university believe in. This means that the space for sociological labor has both changed and contracted”
“It is quite shocking to see how normalized the reforms are, and how a lot of colleagues get totally imbued into the logic imposed by managers even while they criticize it openly.”
David Webster and Nicola Rivers: ‘We Need to Recognize that Educators Can’t Solve Neoliberalism’
” The issues we have identified in the Academy are symptoms, and one view might be that the root causes are political and need larger political solutions.”