A special issue on Neoliberalism, Technocracy and Higher Education is being published in Social Epistemology vol. 33 issue 4 this autumn. This special issue had its origins in two symposia organised by the CPT, which were: ‘The Digital University in a Neoliberal Age’ in November 2017 and ‘The Neoliberal Imagination’ in February 2018. The first symposium had talks by Jana Bacevic, Mark Carrigan, Gary Hall and Liz Morrish, and the second had talks by Ross Abbinnett, John Narayan, Paula Schwevers and Myka Tucker-Abramson.
The interest in organising these symposia stemmed from a concern with the way neoliberal political economy is a political project not only engaged with constructing markets to meet the needs of corporate capital, but also with the reconstruction of subjecthood and the way the social and democratic subject is being nudged into becoming a subject defined by an increasingly ubiquitous market rationality. Neoliberals seek to present corporate capitalism as a form of post-expert technocracy whereby contrary to the rhetoric of markets serving individuals, once state bureaucracy is ‘rolled back’, individuals have to adapt to serve ‘objective’ market forces, with the price signal providing individuals with the epistemic basis for such adaptation. Experts may seek to model market scenarios but experts ought not to interfere with markets because no-one can gain sufficient information to regulate let alone reform market forces. Technology comes to play a key role here because it is used increasingly to render ‘transparent’ the working practices of individuals and to subject them to intensified audit regulation. Audit data is used to rank departments within public and private organisations, with such data on public organisations being used create a market based environment which is transparent to the public now defined in terms of self-interested market consumers. Universities play a central role here not only because they are increasingly subject to such processes which in turn shapes the knowledge produced but also because they are coming to present education itself as a process of human capital investment.
It was decided to broaden the debate out following the success of the two symposia by organising a special issue in the journal Social Epistemology which is concerned with the social, institutional and technological mediation of knowledge production and the political ramifications of these.
This special issue has articles by:
Bob Antonio on the contested nature of the public sphere and the rise of authoritarian populism under neoliberalism
Richard Hall on the way to challenge the marketized and authoritarian practices within universities by turning to decolonise epistemologies
John Holmwood and Chaime Marcuello-Servós on the way digital technology is creating a more marketized and thus more oppressive and precarious working environment in universities
Elio di Muccio on the way core HR technologies are used to render work relations transparent to allow managers to capture and control workers’ knowledge
Justin Cruickshank on the way the recent changes to English higher education exemplify the use of audits to construct markets and harm individuals by forcing them to become adaptive functionaries serving corporate capital
Liz Morrish on the way the Teaching Excellent Framework and its justification are based on the state’s attempt to construct students as neoliberal market actors reducing knowledge to human capital consumption
Ross Abbinnett on the way technology is presented by neoliberals as being a means to pursue unlimited demands for ever increasing performance
Jana Bacevic on the role of academic critique in the neoliberal university where all knowledge production is being instrumentalised and commodified.