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Neoliberalization and managerialization of ‘education’ in England and Wales – a case for reconstructing education by Andrea Beckmann, Charlie Cooper, Dave Hill
The neoliberalization of education is having profoundly harmful effects on the lives of individuals and society. Neoliberalism represents a shift away from the post-war social democratic notion of universal „citizenship‟ rights/identities toward a system of individual consumer rights/identities. In education, neoliberal reforms have exposed state provision to privatization and marketization, and the ideology of the „new managerialism‟ and its belief in „business‟ management practices.
As Whitty (2000) argues, these developments have been fostered by the belief that the private-sector approach is superior to that traditionally adopted in the public sector - requiring public-sector institutions to operate more like those in the private sector, and encouraging private (individual/family) decision making in place of political and professional judgments.
These changes have made the provision of education services more unequal and selective, intensifying „racial‟, „gendered‟ and class-based hierarchies as a consequence (Whitty et al. 1998). Young people have become increasingly treated as „human capital‟ in need of training for paid work rather than a broad-based critical pedagogy. These policies have been accompanied by cuts in public spending and a discourse of antagonism to local democracy, the public sector, workers and unions. A corollary of this has been more resources being directed into the more expensive mixed economy of provision and the erosion of education workers‟ conditions of service (Lewis et al. 2009.
For global impacts of neoliberalism on education see Hill 2009a, b; Hill and Kumar 2009; Hill and Rosskam 2009). In sum, the English education system has been increasingly impoverished over the last 30 years with detrimental consequences for democracy, equity and workers‟ rights. In this paper we explore the dimensions of and potential resistances to this disenchanting status quo. We begin by outlining the drivers behind the privatization and marketization of education services before then detailing the impact of these changes on the education system (and, as a consequence, society) in England and Wales. This latter section largely focuses on developments within the higher education (HE) sector.
We argue that changes imposed in the name of „efficiency‟ are leading to the increasing production of uncritical thinkers compliant to the needs of the market, where people are treated as mere „human capital‟ prepared for „jobs‟ and where there are increasingly fewer spaces for providing/allowing for the provision of broad-based learning and critical awareness. In setting out an appreciation of these developments we draw on the work of Stefan Sullivan (2002) and his thesis on the enduring appeal of Marxism for understanding developments in postindustrial British society – in particular, the tendency towards banality – and means of resisting these. Setting the context – the drivers behind the privatization and marketization of education Private sector involvement in education services now includes selling services to educational institutions (e.g. cleaning, catering and security), school inspection and student loans, and managing and owning schools and related facilities. Increasingly, schools are being taken out of local democratic control through, for instance, the privately-sponsored academies contracted to take over „failing schools‟. Whilst public- sector unions fought to achieve a Best Value Code of Practice requiring contractors to match the protected rates of transferring staff for newly recruited staff, this does not apply to academies (nor colleges and universities) as they do not have public-sector status but rather are deemed to be publicly-funded private bodies (Lewis et al. 2009).
Moreover, as Wrigley states in reference to the academies: The sponsor has almost absolute power: appointing the headteacher and … other staff; and determining who will be on its board of governors, the nature of the curriculum, the design of any new buildings, and which young people to include or exclude. (Wrigley 2009: 47) Education is being de-democratised and education workers‟ rights and securities eroded. The education workforce has become increasingly casualized and there has been decreased autonomy over the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. These developments have been accompanied by increases in levels of report writing, testing, accountability, monitoring and surveillance both by in-house local management and by government external agencies.
Public service morale and standards of provision have declined. The experience for students has been larger classes and a lowering of standards, such as less contact time with staff (Lewis et al. 2009). The intensification of work (School Teachers‟ Review Body 2002, UNESCO 2004b, TUC 2000, Health and Safety Executive 2000) and more accountability under neoliberalization are having hugely detrimental effects on teachers and pupils/students.
Since 1979 the real autonomy of state education structures in England has diminished substantially as a result of increased surveillance and control mechanisms that include: compulsory and nationally monitored externally set assessments for pupils/students and trainee teachers; publication of performance league tables; a policy emphasis on „naming and shaming‟; the closing or privatizing of „failing‟ schools and local education authorities (school districts); and merit pay and performance-related pay systems for teachers, usually dependent on student performance in tests (Jeffrey and Woods 1998).
This drive toward performance improvement places enormous pressures on teachers and pupils/students.
Teacher disaffection, stress-related illness and early retirement have led to a recruitment crisis. The consequences in terms of lowered morale of schoolteachers and lecturers between 1992 and today are clearly measurable. In 1992, only 10 per cent of teachers and lecturers thought that they had to „work at high speed all or most of the time‟ compared to 18 per cent for other occupations. By the end of the decade, this position was reversed (33 per cent against 25 per cent) with teachers and lecturers experiencing a hefty rise in stress. Over the same period, the proportion of teachers who were „dissatisfied with their job‟ more than doubled, from 6 per cent to 13 per cent (Beckmann and Cooper 2004), with „teachers … driven to burnout‟ (Whitty 1997: 305). Since the 1988 Education Reform Act, England has worked to/ with a centralized School curriculum leading to a loss of professional autonomy which reflects, in part, the deprofessionalization of a vocation that has lost both autonomy and collegiality (Beckmann and Cooper 2004). Schools have become „places where management authority, rather than collegial culture, establishes the ethos and purpose of the school‟ (Jones 2003: 161).
The culture of the „new managerialism‟ in education entails complementary and increasing control by management bodies. Intensified formal assessments require teachers to produce detailed and prescriptive „learning aims and outcomes‟. This managerial approach has direct implications for the work of educators. There is no attempt here to balance issues of professional autonomy with issues of control. „Trust‟ in a teacher‟s professionalism is displaced by a requirement to meet specified performance standards (Alexiadou 2001: 429). Alongside deprofessionalization is the loss of critical thought within a performance culture (Ball 1999, Mahoney and Hextall 2000, Boxley 2003, Hill, 2007).
School principals have become increasingly focused on short-term economic objectives, failing to acknowledge the role of education in promoting a caring, cohesive, democratic society, built on notions of „citizenship‟ where „critical participation and dissent‟ are viewed as desirable (Bottery 2000: 79). In the curriculum, „skills development‟ at universities has surged in importance, to the detriment of the development of critical thought. The rights of education workers to influence the education debate through their representative unions have also been eroded under neoliberalism by the removal of their bargaining rights (Lewis et al. 2009).
School head teachers now have unprecedented levels of authority handed down to them by a government that has weakened almost every other vestige of local democratic choice that parents or elected politicians once enjoyed. Even though there is a consensus from all mainstream political groups that head teachers need to enjoy greater freedoms to manage, it is difficult to imagine what those might be or precisely which freedoms they are lacking. The most pernicious powers in the eyes of many rank-and-file teachers are those whereby the head teacher has simultaneous control over statutory performance management systems as well as an increasingly variegated pay structure. It has become more than it could possibly be worth for an employee to challenge the status quo inside a modern school for fear of being overlooked for annual or additional pay progression. Thus, complicity in many school regimes is often bought rather than earned. Indeed, debate and discussion under certain regimes can be deemed insubordination worthy of disciplinary action (Lewis et al. 2009). In June 2009, the six-year Nuffield review of 14-19 education was published. The report raised serious concerns about the ideology driving British education – in particular, it questioned the prominence in education policy given to a performance-management perspective drawn from business:
„The consumer or client replaces the learner. The curriculum is delivered. Aims are spelt out in terms of targets. Audits (based on performance indictors) measure success defined in terms of hitting the targets. … As the language of performance and management has advanced, so we have proportionately lost a language of education which recognises the intrinsic value of pursuing certain sorts of question … of seeking understanding [and] of exploring through literature and the arts what it means to be human‟. (Cited in Mansell 2009: 5 – emphasis in original) Whilst preparation for work was acknowledged as an important purpose of education by the review team, they also emphasised: … intellectual development, practical capability, community participation and a sense of social justice, self awareness, and … a sense of „moral seriousness‟. Education, it says, has an essentially „moral purpose‟: to help young people to develop as human beings. (Mansell 2009: 5)The present school system is seen to fail to achieve these ambitions because the performance management agenda reduces the school experience to narrow performance outcomes (essentially, test and exam success) rather than the means by which these are achieved (how young people engage with the learning process). A key driver of these developments is the global neoliberalization agenda intent on freeing up trade in services, such as education and health, as goods. The main global mechanism for this is the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The GATS covers four modes of supply of services, including education:
Under GATS‟ rules, WTO members decide which services they will open to foreign competition, under which modes of supply and subject to which limitations (if any). There is also an exclusion clause for „services supplied in the exercise of governmental authority‟ which are outside the scope of the GATS. However, the GATS goes on to define such a service as one „supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more service suppliers‟ (Lewis et al. 2009).
This could imply that where public and private sectors co-exist, as they do in most countries, public services are covered by the agreement. Some argue that public institutions requiring the payment of fees could be deemed to be engaging in „commercial activity‟ and would thus fall outside the GATS exception. Though the WTO and member governments say there is no intention to apply GATS to public education and health services (WTO 2003), the distinction between public and private services is becoming increasingly blurred. In strict legal terms, only when a service is provided entirely by the government does it unambiguously fall outside the rules of GATS. This could make countries vulnerable to pressure in current and future GATS‟ negotiations to open up areas of the state education system.
Once a country commits itself to opening a service to foreign competition it is almost impossible to reverse this. Where a municipality, or a local or national government, wants to take back into public ownership a service that has been privatized and opened to competition under the GATS or a similar free trade agreement, this is almost impossible to do (Lewis et al. 2009). Other drivers of the global neoliberal project include regional and bilateral trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and the European Union (EU).
The World Bank and the OECD are also significant bodies in promoting the liberalized education agenda. They are supported by national and international business organizations such as the International Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors in the United Kingdom, the European Round Table of leading multinational companies and the Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas (PREAL) which comprises public and private organizations. At the same time, there is opposition to free trade in services from trade unions, political parties, civil society groups and some governments.
These recently combined to force the withdrawal, at least temporarily, of the so-called „Bolkestein Directive‟, the EU‟s draft Services Directive seeking to open up trade in services. The draft Directive sought to expose almost all services to market-based competition.
Though public education services were specifically excluded, the draft Directive would have applied to „peripheral‟ services supplied to schools and, like the GATS, was unclear where the line between public and private services would be drawn. Under the „country of origin‟ principle, a company providing services would follow the rules and laws of the country in which it was based or „established‟ rather than the country in which the service was provided. A US education multinational, for example, could „establish‟ itself in, say, Latvia, simply by registering its presence there. It would then be able to trade in the rest of the EU while conforming only to Latvian law on matters such as health and safety, employees‟ rights or environmental protection. Latvia, not the country where the service was provided, would be expected to send inspectors to ensure compliance with its laws.
Critics say the draft Directive would encourage „social dumping‟ since companies would have an incentive to opt for establishment in the least regulated EU member state requiring the lowest standards (Lewis et al. 2009).
In primary and secondary education, in the first three modes of supply, the EU has committed itself not to impose or maintain restrictions which are inconsistent with GATS‟ rules covering participation in the market by foreign-service suppliers. In the United Kingdom, unlike some other EU members, there are no notified „limitations on market access‟. Thus, UK primary and secondary education „markets‟ appear to be open to foreign suppliers.
WTO members committing themselves to opening up primary and secondary education through GATS (as the EU has) must actually show any limitation on access for foreign suppliers which may then be open to challenge through the WTO‟s disputes procedure. The UK (via the EU) also has no limitations on the national treatment provision of the GATS regarding primary and secondary education.
Under this GATS‟ rule, member states must acknowledge any limitation in the treatment of foreign suppliers that puts them in a less favorable position than domestic counterparts. For example, Edison schools (based in the United States) must be alerted to any differences in the way it is treated compared with UK education services suppliers if it enters the UK schools market.
Only in Mode 4 supply, the „presence of natural persons‟ from another country, does some limitation regarding foreign primary and secondary education suppliers possibly apply. Mode 4 is „unbound‟ for EU primary and secondary education, meaning that the EU has made no commitment to open its market or keep it as open as it was when the GATS came into force in 1995. If Edison schools wanted to set up operations in the UK, the company would have to use UK employees, as immigration rules would still apply. It is unlikely that US teachers could just be flown to work in Edison UK schools. However, by the same token, no clear barrier to US teachers being jetted into Edison UK schools is established on the basis of the EU‟s GATS‟ commitments (Lewis et al. 2009).
It might appear from this account that the UK (via the EU) has a more or less open-door policy regarding the foreign supply of primary and secondary education services. This, however, is misleading. Section 5 of the EU‟s Schedule of Commitments for education services under GATS indicates that, in relation to education, the EU is referring to „privately funded education services‟. This suggests that the only education services under threat from the GATS are independent and private schools.
They are in the „education market‟ so must take the consequences and face competing foreign providers. However, once again, the GATS‟ language is cleverly crafted. The Schedule does not pinpoint private education „institutions‟ but privately-funded „services‟. It is not the case that a whole education institution has to be a for-profit outfit for the GATS to apply. Any of its constituent services – e.g. teaching, cleaning, school meals, the school library - could fall under the GATS if private capital is involved. Furthermore, private operators in school improvement, equal opportunities and recruitment, and other school services previously supplied by the local education authority, may also fall under the GATS. One could argue that these services are still „publicly funded‟, even though education businesses like Nord Anglia and school meals providers like Initial Services are delivering the service (Lewis et al. 2009). Several points are relevant here. First, the argument assumes that „public‟ money remains „public‟, even when transferred to a for-profit private-service provider. However, it could be argued that, once the contract is signed to deliver frontline teaching, school management or improvement services, the „public money‟ undergoes transformation into private capital. Second, in the academies, specialist schools and in some education action zones, private finance forms an element of start-up capital. The foundational significance of private capital is even clearer in the case of schools built under the Private A Finance Initiative (PFI), where money to build a school is raised at commercial rates in the money markets by private companies. In all these cases, private involvement opens up schools or, at minimum, educational services to the GATS.
Third, under the Education Act 2002, school-governing bodies can set themselves up as companies. They then have the power to invest in other companies. Furthermore, school companies can merge to form „federations‟ to gain economies of scale, thereby increasing profit-making capacity. In September 2002, David Miliband (then Schools Minister) indicated that business leaders running school federations did not need teaching qualifications (Kelly 2002). Schools can enter into deals with private outfits and can sell educational services to other schools. Finally, under the 2002 Act, around 1000 schools are to be given the freedom to vary the curriculum and change teachers‟ pay and conditions. These powers result from the new „earned autonomy‟ status that top-performing schools can gain. This gives private sector operators some control over staff costs through manipulating teachers‟ contracts of employment. Overall, the 2002 Act provides a regulatory framework for the business takeover of schools, and hence also for the application of GATS throughout the school system. Of course, the Government can still argue that the school system is „publicly funded‟ but, in instances of outsourcing, the PFI and strategic partnerships with companies, public finance is transfigured into private capital. Sponsorship by companies involves injections of corporate cash. Through these mechanisms, schools are exposed to the GATS and school workers to a reduction in their social and economic securities (Lewis et al. 2009).
In the next section, we consider the effects of parallel developments in education on the HE sector in England and Wales and, as a corollary, on society.
Privatization, marketization and the new managerialism, and their effects on HE and social relations In the UK over the last 30 years we have experienced the continuing displacement of critical understanding in the realm of education by managerial information. Moore (2009) states that the British government, in aiming for the „complete internationalization of its labour market‟, is: …deploying higher education to create an army of employable subjects/citizens who are proselytised as having the skills [to] be able to participate effectively in the increasingly privatised global chains of commodity production and services. (Moore 2009: 243)
Neither the broader concern of the perilous state of the UK‟s economy nor the continuing inequalities along the dividing lines of class, „gender‟, „ability‟ and „race‟ are brought into the picture by the British government. Instead, the country‟s unsatisfactory productivity level is represented as a failure of training and education (Leitch Review 2006). The insecurity and limited measurability of the globalised playing field have inspired governments to shift responsibility for workers‟ welfare to workers themselves, by way of the explicit creation of educational environments aimed at training workers towards a new genre of individual employability or entrepreneurialism of the self, which in effect allows ongoing retrenchment of the welfare state. (Moore 2009: 265) Moore (2009) notes that genuine knowledge and critical thought are not the desired outcomes of the deployment of HE to generate „employables‟ which would be a commendable ambition. She refers to Wrigley‟s (2007) observation that capitalism requires workers that are ‘not wise enough to know what is really going on’ (Wrigley 2007, cited in Moore 2009: 244 – emphasis in original). This process is driven by the notion of „employability‟ which is suitably kept vague and empty but is also clearly excluding groups of people (Moore 2009) and prescribes processes of „normalisation‟ that adapt people‟s subjectivities to the shifting shapes of the mantra of „market demands‟.
One set of tools for the micro-management of this reductionist and despiriting process is the obsession with so-called „skills‟.
This myth of transferable skills lies behind the rise of managers as the new Jacobins. They promote the basic category error of conflating such fundamentally different activities as education and training and seek to reduce the status of the former to the latter. If any readers do doubt their innate difference then think about the different parental responses that would accompany a child‟s announcement upon returning home to announce that they had received either sex education or sex training at school. Training is undoubtedly an important part of any advanced economy, but the overwhelming supremacy of its terms in education today is steadily eroding away any basis from which the managerial approach can be criticised. If we all accept that we‟re trainees rather than educated people then the path to power of the managerial cadres is unobstructed. (Taylor 2003a: 8) Moore (2009) pointed out that in order to train people in the so-called transferable „skills‟ a specifically opportune pedagogical approach was suggested by the Pedagogy for Employability Group (2006). This is an approach that operates at an even deeper level of manipulation of the individual‟s subjectivity towards the creation of a market-prostituting and authority-opportunistic personality. People are forced to partake actively in managing to increase their individualised and decontextualised „human capital‟ in the rhetoric of the 2003 European Employment Task Force Report that allows nation states to externalise their responsibilities towards their citizens even more. As Moore (2009) correctly observes: ... it is workers, or potential workers, who are given the most responsibility in this division of labour, and their rights seem to stop at voluntary education schemes which require renumeration. Colonisation of the everyday lives of workers is clearly occurring in this scenario, as workers are expected to embrace their own alienation from their work, and are told that the project of self-employability must become part of their subjectivities and self worth. (Moore 2009: 260)
This was Nietzsche‟s nightmare vision, a context in which people in themselves are constituted as and come to see themselves as „minimal values‟. [M]ankind [sic] will be able to find its best meaning as a machine in the service of this economy - as a tremendous clockwork, composed of ever smaller, ever most subtle adapted gears. (Nietzsche 1968: 463) Neoliberalization is making provision of services more unequal and selective rather than universal.
This is intensifying „race‟-, „gender‟- and class-based hierarchies, reflected in formally or informally tiered systems of schooling. In less „developed‟ countries, services are available mainly to middle-class or wealthier families. In developed countries, the quality and type of schooling is increasingly stratified.
Neoliberalization is further profoundly eroding workers‟ securities and their wellbeing. Hobsbawn (1994) remarked already, over fifteen years ago, that in Britain the bottom fifth of workers were even worse off in comparison to the rest of the workforce than they were 100 years before. There further occurred a problematic shift away from universal citizenship rights and identities based on the provision of services toward a system of individual consumer rights and identities: [New] Labour‟s version of „rights‟ thus becomes transformed to construct an outer frame of „community‟ expectations and supposed needs rather than an outer frame that allows for alternative personalities/types of individuals. (Moore 2009: 253)
According to Leitner et al. (2007), neoliberalism replaces the concept of „common good‟ and the state‟s responsibility for public welfare with the monadic vision of an „entrepreneurial individual‟ whose sole mission and determination is to aim to „succeed‟ within increasingly competitive markets. Therefore neoliberal policies are concerned with: ... supply-side innovation and competitiveness; decentralization, devolution, and attrition of political governance, deregulation and privatization of industry, land and public services [including schools]; and replacing welfare with „workfarist‟ social policies ... . A neoliberal subjectivity has emerged that normalizes the logic of individualism and entrepreneurialism, equating individual freedom with self-interested choices, making individuals responsible for their own well-being, and redefining citizens as consumers and clients. (Leitner et al. 2007: 1-2) In this context, public services such as education, health and prisons are being, or have been, transformed into „tradable commodities‟ (Sandel 2009). These transformations are undertaken and overseen by so-called „new‟ managerialists and the implications for HE are profoundly destructive both for the workers within and their students.
British universities are succumbing to a tsunami of rampant managerialism that has already devastated morale in such other public-sector institutions as the BBC and the National Health Service which are now riddled with one-dimensional managerialist thought. (Taylor 2003b: 1) Managerialism represents a fragmented vision of being, empty of ethical dimensions and only informed by materialism, opportunism and industrialism, thereby excluding non-countable, non-measurable qualities and other forms of relating, evaluating and being. It is a reductionist opportunism that pays for those who „play the game‟ and as such managerialism is subserving any predominant ideology - in this context, capitalism – by complementing it on a practical level. The manager serving the banker or the fascist, depending on which regime is currently in power. Managerialism only follows instrumental rationales that lead sadly to an increasing stupidification of HE in England and Wales, generating „a climate where inherent banality is used as a defence against rational critique‟ (Taylor 2003b: 1). George Scialabba (in Reisz 2009) expressed concern about the threat that the tradition of the politically-engaged public intellectual is under. To him the „subjection of university life, and the rest of professional life, to the disciplines of the market‟ (Scialabba in Reisz 2009: 48) are generating this problem.
When universities have to market themselves, their facilities and their activities, in competition with other universities, to potential funders envisioned as „educational investors‟, and to potential students envisioned as „educational consumers‟, then the result is going to be just what we see in the corporate world: top-heavy management structures, armed with the idiotic ideology of „management science‟, continually fretting about „productivity‟ and demanding measurable results from their „personnel‟. (Scialabba in Reisz 2009: 48)
This development has been a long time coming as already, back in 1996, Davies noted: British higher education policy now turns solely on the enforced internalisation of managerial control mechanisms. Their intention is to displace universalising intellectual comportment by task-orientated technocratic procedures through behavioural conditioning; to make the experience of thinking and learning the sterilized aggregate of specified technical norms. (Davies 1996: 23)
Teaching and research in this context are being redefined in increasingly mechanical and representational ways.
Given this early acknowledgement and warning, one is puzzled that such tendencies and accompanying practices have not been more widely problematized and resisted. This is especially shocking when one looks at examples of managerial inefficiency and misguidedness in UK‟s HE sector as well as management failings in a practical sense (especially in their own terms of so-called „auditing‟ - see Baker and May 2002, Charlton and Andras 2002a, 2002b in Taylor 2003a). Taylor offers one interesting answer to this wonderment and presents also some of its most dramatic consequences:
The inability of managerialism to provide demonstrable evidence of its own success leads to an attempt to make everything part of its frame. Its hitherto successful strategy seems to be that if it is in a state of constant movement no one will notice its fatal flaw (as if in a glass-topped carriage the naked emperor hurtles past too quickly for his nudity to be proved). This produces an educational variant of the economic theory known as Gresham's law which states that bad money drives out good. Thus, the number of First Class degrees awarded by universities is used as a performance measurement in university league tables, yet politicians disingenuously express indignation if anyone has the temerity to highlight the subsequently perfectly logical market-driven tendency of universities to increase their number of Firsts to improve their marketability. As A-Level students have recently found out to their cost, „quality‟ becomes an actuarial category to be manipulated rather than actually achieved. (Taylor 2003a: 6)
Under the heading „Now is the age of the discontented‟, Frank Furedi discusses the impact of consumer culture on HE. The „consumer model of education‟ implies the generation of a „consumerist ethos‟ on university campuses that has student surveys as their vanguard. However, instead of really facilitating a more democratic and quality enriched process of studying, „what surveys tend to indicate is how well customers‟ expectations are managed rather than the quality of academic life‟ (Furedi 2009: 32). The human interaction between student and tutor has been perverted by the injection of an element of artifice into the „learning process‟ – i.e. since the introduction of student fees, attaining a degree becomes the product of a market interaction rather than creativity and critical dialogue. Increasingly, university managers strive to give the student, now reconfigured as a „customer‟, „satisfaction‟ rather than an intellectually challenging academic experience: Courses … are modified and made customer friendly [alongside] … the promotion of a culture of complaint … . The internalisation of this culture by universities has created an environment where managing the expectations of students takes priority over intellectually challenging them. … In the end, the culture of complaint undermines the unique potential for academic collaboration and dialogue and heightens the sense of conflict of interest. (Furedi 2009: 35)
Apart from integrating and transforming, managerialism survives, as already indicated, via constant shape-shifting. Fisher illustrates this obsession with the example of so-called „restructuring‟: ... the school has been restructured on several occasions, pervaded by the language of „enterprise‟, „customer focus‟ and the „needs of industry‟ and, in common with other British HE institutions, characterised by new forms of surveillance and control, exemplified by the teaching quality assessment (QAA) [now a two strikes and Hefce is in exercise papertrail - see the Times Higher Education, 10th September 2009, p.13] and the research assessment exercise (RAE) [now the even cruder and more opportunistic research excellence framework (REF)]. This regime of new managerialism with its emphasis upon costs, budgets and targets, its links to ideas of „hard‟ Human Resource Management and its unitarist perspective on the employment relationship has been embraced by the most senior managers of the Business School and the university. (Fisher 2007: 505) Institutions of higher education are under increasing pressure to be more „efficient‟ and to do more with fewer resources. A so-called „New Labour‟ slogan „Less is more‟ epitomizes this state of affairs. As less staff have to work through thicker layers of audit-bureaucracies and then have to work with larger cohorts of students while also being urged to be research active, the work-load levels become excessive and, as Broadbent (2006) observed in the context of the discipline of law:
There is some evidence to suggest that, for example, law schools evidence a male macho culture (Cownie, 2004), in which it becomes difficult to admit to being unable to cope with the pressures, as this may be taken as a sign of weakness (Henkel, 2000). The observable response to the widely acknowledged (for example Henkel, 2000; Rolfe, 2002; Morley, 2003) increases in workload amongst many colleagues has been akin to that of Boxer, the shire horse, in George Orwell‟s Animal Farm, whose mantra was „I will work harder‟. The trouble is, we know what happened to Boxer in the end. (Broadbent 2006: 1)
As state funding and contributions to institutions decrease, competition for sparse resources and funds increase among and within institutions. Higher education processes and practices are in response to such competitive reductionism compared with those in business (Callan and Finney 1997). In response to continuing and intensifying pressure to find their own resources, institutions of higher education frequently engage in highly problematic and often unethical partnerships with businesses, thereby transforming themselves into and being run like businesses themselves (Fairweather 1988). „The relocation of higher education in the discourse of commerce has also been significant in bringing about shifts in the way in which universities both see [themselves] and are seen (Scott 2001)‟ (Broadbent 2006: 1).
Taylor observed a complete conflation of academic and business values in the language used and so-called „qualities‟ searched for in job advertisements for HE positions (Taylor 2003a). This problematic shift in the language of academia turned „students‟ into „customers‟ or „key-stakeholders‟. This is not just a game of words but impacts on the relationship between tutors and their students profoundly: „... the customer model‟s implicit assumption of a conflict of interest between client and service provider inexorably erodes the relationship of trust between teacher and student on which academic enterprise is founded‟ (Furedi 2009: 33). The importance of the shift in language is important to emphasize and attack – note several HE institutions substituted the term „induction-week‟ with „welcome week‟ in 2009, while Taylor applies a similar technique by referring to Time Higher Education as the UK‟s higher education trade magazine (Taylor 2003b). Taylor (2003a) also points to another practical consequence of the spread of managerial language – i.e. a diminution of substantive political discourse grounded in ethical values. „The dominant language of the Academy now disproportionately resides in management meetings replete with the cabalistic incantations of PowerPoint presentations consisting of one part alliteration to two parts bullet point‟ (Taylor 2003b:1). Genuine communication and critical engagement are avoided at all cost in this corporate context as:
Managerialism produces manipulative communication. Communication produced by managerialist elites is inherently one-dimensional because it is skewed in favour of whichever section of the managerialist elite is driving that communicative system. (Louw 2001: 100)
Driven by the ever present „imperative of auditing‟, league tables, performance indicators and „increasing bureaucratisation‟:
Academic staff are forced to devote considerable energy and time to pointless bureaucratic exercises. Many departments charged with bringing in money end up reducing the resources they devote to teaching, research and the pursuit of scholarship. (Furedi 2009: 35)
This culture of auditing and inspecting kills creativity and reflection in favour of performance targets and constructed performance indicators (McLaughlin and Muncie 2006), and they are, after all, more or less an „institutional process of lying‟, a collection of paper trails that are „legitimised‟ and „sanctified‟ by managerial platitudes whereby „Ultimately unjustifiable and illogical parallels between dissimilar concepts and values are sustained by mere repetition …‟ (Taylor 2003b: 3).
Apart from the mind-numbing stupidity of generating paper trails (and thereby destroying many trees in turn), existing inequalities appear to be reinforced as:
Micro-level analysis of the effects of the audit and evaluative state seem to suggest that hegemonic masculinities and gendered power relations are being reinforced by the emphasis on competition, targets, audit trails and performance (Morley 2003)‟. (Fisher 2007: 508)
Taylor (2003b) calls the working environments for HE academics in the UK „conditions for anti-educational behaviour by academics‟ generated by „bureaucratic/managerial structures [that] create a distance from ethical concerns‟ and in which „procedural answers are given to ethical questions‟ (Taylor 2003b : 3). Such an unreflective, non-ethical context is especially problematic in terms of under-resourced research environments in which systematic 'encouragements' to engage in funded research become increasingly commonplace and ruthless, amounting often to not much more than a mere 'pimping' of academics and their work and resistance to such day-to-day practices is sadly very rare. It is unsurprising, given this educationally deprived and depraved environment for students, that “Students are felt to have become more vocationally and instrumentally orientated and less interested in the substance of the subject they are studying (Rolfe, 2002)‟ (Broadbent 2006: 1).
While the labourers in HE are more and more forced to prostitute their „hearts and minds‟ for external funding, students are increasingly selling their bodies in an attempt to cope with rising university tuition fees and lack of maintenance grants. Milne, writing in 2006, points out that: University tuition fees, first introduced in 1998 at £1,000 a year, have risen to £3,000 this year at all but a few universities. The average student loan at graduation last year was £8,948, but NatWest Bank said that once private debt was factored in, students now in their first year could expect to graduate with liabilities of more than £14,700. ... Dr Ron Roberts, a health psychologist who was the lead author of the study, said: „Our figures represent a 50% increase in the prevalence rates for student prostitution since 2000. ... [G]iven the increasing financial problems experienced by students, this is in line with what we would predict‟. (Milne 2006: 1)
This pressure to prostitute while being „pimped‟ without consenting, and within the confines of the forthcoming REF in order to receive funding in a competitive environment, obviously runs counter to ethical values as well as any spirit of socio-political purpose towards society. In this climate of bidding and hunting for external funding, Mike Presdee, who sadly died in 2009, had expressed his fears in respect of his discipline, criminology. He believed criminology was losing its critical edge and that criminologists were moving more and more towards uncontentious research: Academics are witnessing a shift in emphasis from their role as critic and conscience of society to that of service provider where the state has become a client ... . The amount of contract research academics are doing is increasing. Contract research legally binds academics to provide information to clients or stakeholders. As such it is capable of restricting academic freedom. If academic criminological research shies away from critiquing the role of the state for fear of losing future government contracts; if it becomes little more than information gathering, used to formulate government policy, then we academics are at risk of becoming co-conspirators in the policing of knowledge. (Presdee, cited in Utley 1998: 1) An „academic capitalist knowledge and learning regime‟ has emerged, replacing an ideology of a „public good knowledge‟ (Slaughter and Rhoades 2004). In this context of the commodification of culture, Louw (2001) refers back to the insights of the Frankfurt School whereby: The audience is, in effect, „cretinized‟. Instead of participating in an active dialogue, commodified culture immerses people into one-dimensional, „affirmative culture‟, where they are offered a pre-arranged „false‟ reconciliation of social contradictions, that is reconciliations serving the interests of the hegemonically dominant. (Louw 2001: 97) McLaren also underlined the importance of addressing commodification: The whole process of commodification should be more central in discussions and practices of pedagogy. These commodities, these reifications, are not illusions but objective social processes. Commodification regulates our social lives. (McLaren 2006: 279) McLaren goes on to refer to Paula Allman‟s work which provides a „bodily‟ reading of Freire‟s ideas: ‘…dialogue enables us to experience the alternative or certain aspects of it for a period of time and in a specific context.’ The structure of society resides in the structure of experience. We carry this in our musculature, in our gestures, our emotions, in our dreams and desires. Our subjectivities are commodified. (McLaren 2006: 279 – emphasis in original) In such a context, „intellectuals ..., including those with oppositional ideas, are forced to sell their skills to the culture industry‟ (Louw 2001: 97). On a broader level, one can observe a decline in the quality of work within HE and of HE students who are, as mentioned earlier and in other work by two of the authors (Beckmann and Cooper 2004, 2005), moulded into uncritical but „skilled‟ and „docile‟ bodies. Matching these developments in HE in England and Wales are the UK‟s A-level assessments which also stay clear from intellectual and critical engagement. According to one think tank „exam modules have created a “learn and forget culture” - which it likens to using a sat-nav rather than map-reading skills‟ (Sellgren 2009: 1). Unsurprisingly, the think-tank‟s researchers found that „academics reported today‟s students as having inferior reasoning skills to those who started courses in the 1990s. They complained of “high maintenance” students who sought constant advice‟ (Sellgren 2009: 1)
The corporatization of universities leads to an increase in management of sparse resources which translates into an attempt to minimize the costs of an already under-resourced system. Meanwhile, management is focussed on maximizing revenue. Frequently, especially in the so-called „New Universities‟, a genuine research environment is substituted by the pretence of a „research culture‟ (no or rarely sabbaticals, no or limited conference funding) but there is no less pressure to publish, to bid for research funding and to attend research seminars of dubious relevance in the context of a lack of time for reflection.
Support for research is minimal and resented in some quarters. For most academics, the „real business‟, and in fact the most relentless pressure of the academic job, is to survive heavy teaching loads and an emerging 24/7 working environment where managers and students expect them to be constantly „on call‟. (Fisher 2007: 505)
Educational missions are sacrificed in the name of increasing efficiency (Levin 2001), very much like the steps taken to „rationalise‟ a National Health Service that is already totally under-resourced and that runs counter to its former mission to improve health and save lives. HE entrepreneurialism with regards to research is leading to a narrowing of academic freedom - e.g. what is regarded as fundable and what is considered permissible to be published under funding agreements (Mendoza 2007). However, given the fact that a lot of these developments are pushed through under the mantra of competing in the new information economy, these implications are totally counterproductive as „Any attempt to block ... creativity will undermine the information economy itself. In essence, communicative openness becomes necessary for economic growth‟ (Louw 2001: 103). Yet market-conformism continues to be favoured over academic creativity:
Arguably genuine creativity has been the greatest victim of new regulation, as more rule-bound and quota-driven forms of competitiveness are superimposed on an already competitive profession. It would appear that universities have become „enterprises‟ to be managed by business principles, not by collegiality. (Fisher 2007: 508)
The way in which research opportunities offered to workers in the HE industrial complex were structured via the RAE (and equally likely under the revamped REF) further fostered academic competitiveness and substantively reinforced patriarchal hierarchies by being a highly „gendered‟ exercise whereby, in effect, so-called „females‟ were in receipt of less research grants than so-called „males‟ (Wellcome Trust 1997, cited in Fisher 2007: 506). Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) and Slaughter and Leslie (1997) offer many additional fitting examples to illustrate and problematize the consequences and implications of „academic capitalism‟ (e.g. the commodification of knowledge and the notion of students as consumers of knowledge whereby their tuition revenue must be maximized). „Students are not only consumers, they are also casualties of a perverse production process. They therefore become casualties of history‟ (McLaren 2006: 278).
The intensity stakes of this „casualty‟-status of students is, however, threatened to rise even further as:
The Confederation of British Industry said students should bear the brunt of a proposed funding overhaul to deal with a growing crisis in university finance. Under the plans, they face a triple blow of increased loan interest, fewer grants and higher tuition fees. One figure mooted is for annual tuition fees to rise to £5,000. (Curtis 2009: 1)
It is abundantly clear, therefore, that, due to its increasing exposure to neoliberalization, changes in the education system in England and Wales have had profoundly harmful implications for teachers, pupils/students and the society we live in. Education services are becoming increasingly „Americanized‟ through policies and processes based on privatization and marketization, and the imposition of managerialism. As a consequence, education provision has become more unequal and selective, with the intensification of „racial‟, „gendered‟ and class-based hierarchies, reflected in tiered systems of education with differential experiences and outcomes. As Hirtt observes, contradictory elements driving the neoliberalization of education – „to adapt education to the needs of business and at the same time reduce state expenditure on education‟ - are resolved by the polarization of the labour market. Thus, from an economic point of view, it is no longer necessary to provide high-level education and general knowledge to all future workers.
It is now possible and even highly recommendable to have a more polarized education system … . [E]ducation should not try to transmit a broad common culture to the majority of future workers, but instead it should teach them some basic, general skills. (Hirtt 2004: 446).
In other words, manual and service workers are treated as „human capital‟ and receive cheaper, inferior, transferable-skills education and knowledge, in contrast to the elite workers, who receive more expensive, superior education. Thus, the outcome of neoliberalization is a more hierarchical school system that militates against the principles of equity and social justice. At the same time, neoliberalization is eroding workers‟ pay, rights and securities; promoting individual consumer rights and identities over solidaristic social relations; and militating against critical thought and, as a consequence, democracy.
Alongside evidence of increasing uncertainty for the many in contemporary times – in Britain, confirmed by the existence of increasingly unhappy childhoods, poverty, widening social inequalities and growing community tensions (Cooper 2008, Wilkinson and Pickett 2009) and globally, by ecological destruction, disease pandemics, ethnic genocide and war – these developments in education in England are testament to the harmful effects of neoliberalism and the inability of free-market capitalism to deliver universal wellbeing. They are also testament to the enduring appeal of Marxist thought and its utility in the 21st Century for understanding how neoliberal free-market societies continue to generate barriers to freedom by privileging individualist consumerist values over human values and, thereby, distract attention away from the need for more solidaristic forms of social relations.
The enduring appeal of Marxist thought and its relevance for contemporary times
Marxism owes much to Feuerbach‟s philosophical critique – something Marx considered to be the wellspring of socialism – and his belief that modernity breeds egoism and an intolerance of „the other‟ (an argument that continues to be presented today by Bauman and others). Feuerbach‟s theory of alienation and his belief in the need for humanity to rediscover community remains a central concern today. Feuerbach argued that this rediscovery – or more specifically, the rediscovery of „love‟ - was something that the modern law prevented:
The law condemns; the heart has compassion even on the sinner. Law affirms me only as an abstract being – love, as a real being. Love gives me the consciousness that I am a man, the law only the consciousness that I am a sinner, that I am worthless, the law holds the man in bondage … love makes him free. (Cited in Sullivan 2002: 12)
For Feuerbach, love represented „the true ontological proof of an existence of an object apart from our mind‟ (cited in Sullivan 2002: 13) and which could only be cultivated „in community‟.
The community of man with man [sic] is the first principle and criterion of truth and generality. The certainty of the existence of other things apart from me. That which I alone perceive I doubt; only that which the other also perceives is certain. (Cited in Sullivan 2002: 12)
Feuerbach‟s aim was to present a secular perspective on the meaning of life which replaced the divine notion of „God‟ with the idea of „love in community‟.
Over the last 30 years in Britain, deindustrialisation, welfare retrenchment and the centralisation of political power has been responsible for a breakdown in interdependence and, with this, a decline in empathy (love) for others. This decline in empathy led to „popular‟ electoral support for political projects favouring less solidaristic social policies (including competition between schools) - weakening the efficacy of the state to manage social tensions through social welfare measures. Instead, governments are increasingly turning to legalistic authoritarian sanctions – e.g. school exclusions and asbos - in response to what were previously seen as young people‟s welfare concerns – i.e. learning difficulties and lack of leisure opportunities (Cooper 2008).
Whilst Marx rejected Feuerbach‟s notion of „love‟ in his own critique of capitalist social relations – he found it too vague and emotional for his purpose and focused instead on „labour‟ – it can be argued that it remains pertinent to contemporary times. However, equally significant to the present – a time where paid work and consumption are held up as the key human virtues – is Marx‟s concept of alienation from our labour (which he believed should be a vehicle for our self realisation) and his ideas on the corrosive effects of materialism (where the accumulation of private belongings replaces all other sensibilities). For Marx, we had become separated from our humanity by exploitation and consumerism. „Marx laments the collective human soul that has gone astray, a soul seduced by material wealth and the gratification of egoistic needs‟ (Sullivan 2002: 17-18). The task is, therefore, to rediscover our humanity. Whilst this analysis remains insightful and appealing, there remains within Marxist thinking the equally enduring conundrum about how we arrive at an alternative, more humane, social system.
Whilst it is absolutely crucial to acknowledge and problematise the brutal experiments of the twentieth century conducted in the name of Marxism, western
Marxists sought to retrieve crucial elements of Marx‟s legacy by appealing to his humanistic philosophy and critique of alienation as this helps us understand inherent immanent violences of rationalization/new managerialism. At the heart of this attempted recovery was the work of the Frankfurt school – exemplified in the ideas of Gyorgi Lukács on „reification‟ (which suggests we have become distanced from meaning in our lives) and Max Horkheimer on the „end of reason‟ (where reason has been used to legitimise mass destruction and systematic genocide). For the Frankfurt school, the „Enlightenment‟ had become „reduced to a paradigm of domination‟ (Sullivan 2002: 45). The Frankfurt school sought to broaden the debate on alienation by focusing less on economic determinism (alienation at work) and more on the cultural consequences of capitalism (alienation at play). Our desires are increasingly being shaped by the culture industry and what Marcuse described as the production of „false needs‟. Moreover, our ability to realise this has become increasingly obscured „by the persistent propagation of a myth, namely that liberty is synonymous with the vacuous choice between various brands and gadgets‟ (Sullivan 2002: 49).
For Marcuse, the culprit of advanced capitalism is no longer class antagonisms or belching smokestacks of the Industrial Revolution; it is rather the psychologically destructive illusions of freedom created by the culture industry. For the critical theorist, whose job it is to expose this illusion, it nonetheless proved difficult to problematize an exit: „If the individuals are satisfied to the point of happiness with the goods and services handed down to them by the administration, why should they insist on different institutions for a different production of different goods and vices?‟ [Marcuse 1968]. ... In short, if no one feels alienated, how can one have a revolution? (Sullivan 2002: 49-50) Sullivan addresses this impasse by focusing inter alia on the banality of the situation and the cultural and spiritual alienation it produces.
What’s to be done? Exposing illusions of ‘freedom’ Sullivan reminds us of how Marx distinguished between having and being, and the corrosive impact of materialistic desires. „Private property has made us stupid and partial, that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when it is directly eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., in short utilized in some way‟ [Marx 1966].
Instead, we realize our true human potential not through the possession of material objects, but through productive, creative activity, through the expression of our unique individuality by which we achieve recognition and spiritual satisfaction. (Sullivan 2002: 56-57) Exposing this reality would, Marx believed, generate the anger and outrage necessary for the oppressed to forge a plan of action for social change. Aside from its tendency to perpetuate social injustice, the dehumanising effects of capitalism also contain the seeds of social transformation (Sullivan 2002). It is essential for us to retain this fundamental tenet of Marxism – i.e. „the potential for self-empowerment among the masses, based on the conviction that they can bring about change‟ (Sullivan 2002: 75).
Key to such a transformation is education or (more specifically) an education that facilitates self-awareness of the structural determinants of oppression and social injustice, and the formation of a cohesive political strategy for social change. Through education, Marx believed that the proletariat would come to realise the way capitalism distorted „the communication and exchange of authentic qualities‟ (Sullivan 2002: 142), and that this would lead to political action for social change and the emergence of human relationships free from the corrupting influence of „commodity fetishism‟ (Sullivan 2002: 142).
As this paper demonstrates, commodity fetishism has increasingly infiltrated public services in Britain. For three decades, public services have been subjected to increasing deregulation and market incentives in the belief that markets are the best mechanism for achieving the public good. As Michael Sandel states, since the 1980s we have seen: … the expansion of markets and market values into spheres of life traditionally governed by non-market norms. We‟ve seen, for example, the proliferation of for profit schools, hospitals and prisons; the outsourcing of war to private military contractors. We‟ve seen the eclipse of public police forces by private security firms, especially in the US and the UK where the number of private guards is more than twice the number of public police officers. (Sandel 2009: 5)
This development has led to what Sullivan (following Lukács) describes as „the perversion of value‟ (Sullivan 2002: 143).
[T]he perversion of value is the symptom of a trend by which economic relations replace social relations, and the intrinsic value of goods is replaced by their external commodity value. Under capitalism, „Everything ceases to be valuable for itself or by virtue of its inner (e.g., artistic, ethical) value; a thing has value only as a ware bought and sold on the market‟. (Sullivan 2002: 143)
As we have seen, this development has been evident throughout the British public sector and particularly the English education system.
As Sullivan infers, placing services which earlier defied commodification (such as education) within a business context „lends itself easily to the language of prostitution and debasement because the violated value of the woman, her inner sanctum, is a powerful image of the debasement of value in general‟ (Sullivan 2002: 143). The intrinsic value of education – the love of learning and critical debate in a safe, mutually-respectful environment – has been debased. However, despite its contamination, education remains central to any political strategy for social transformation. More specifically, as Sullivan remarks, Marx saw possibilities for generating, through education, creators rather than consumers which would, thereby, challenge the force of consumer society.
By becoming creators rather than consumers, … the more able we are to affirm our own identity. In that respect alone, education is the best weapon against the patronizing cynicism of the advertising industry, one that assumes that its target audience can only expand its personal identity by association with consumer products. That aspect of Marxist cultural theory is still relevant. (Sullivan 2002: 149)
As Sullivan argues, social change rests on the belief that humans can develop themselves sufficiently to create their own authentic worlds counter to the commodified extensions of their identity. It also rests on the need to resist the influence of market values over the public sphere – particularly in education for „education allows us to create ourselves‟ (Sullivan 2002: 158). We need, therefore, to build political support for a state- subsidised education system geared to fostering human emancipation, love and compassion rather than merely serving the interests of commerce. Such support needs to build on the platform of successful struggles such as the campaign of non-compliance with Home Office guidance on monitoring the employment and education of non-EU nationals (initiated via the email listing of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control and later endorsed by UCU Congress) – a directive that has generated an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust in universities, including visits by anti-terror police seeking out „(Muslim) students whose work shows signs of “radicalisation”‟ (Singleton et al. 2009: 27) – or that by students at a recent knowledge-transfer conference demanding „an end to the close relationship between universities and business‟ (Fearn 2009: 12).
The problematic commercialization of the cultural and public sphere alongside the increasing corporatization/managerialization of education has destroyed the very basis of democracy in Britain as spaces for dialogical communication and for the generation and articulation of alternative opinions and options are lost. The dogma of performativity borne out of managerialism only fosters opportunism and manipulation instead of genuine critical engagement, creativity and authentic communication.
In response to this development, Kahn and Kellner (2007) argue the need to reconstruct education: Education, at its best, provides the symbolic and cultural capital that empowers people to survive and prosper in an increasingly complex and changing world, and the resources to produce a more cooperative, democratic, egalitarian and just society. (Kahn and Kellner 2007: 440) Louw (2001) refers to Garnham‟s 1986 work in suggesting that the market allocation of cultural (and in effect material) resources, together with the destruction of a public service media, was threatening forms of „public communication‟ that are fundamental to democracy.
Yet we stubbornly believe that the chants of „there is no alternative‟ must be challenged for they offer as a fait accompli something about which progressive leftists should remain defiant - namely, the triumph of capitalism and its political bedfellow, neo-liberalism, which have worked together to naturalize suffering, undermine collective struggle, and obliterate hope. (McLaren 2006: 125)
This article has demonstrated that the neoliberalization and managerialization of education reinforces inequalities within countries; reduces the quality of education; is detrimental to democracy; decreases workers‟ pay, rights and conditions, not least by the managerialist excesses and surveillance that result in the deprofessionalisation and intensification of education workers‟ work/lives, and increases stress, anxiety and alienation. From Taylor‟s point of view, „non-academic managerial vandals; former academics who have crossed over to the managerial dark side, and supinely acquiescent academics‟ (Taylor 2003b: 1) are responsible for this disgraceful state of affairs. Taylor suggests that UK academics have been so far predominantly morally myopic and/or complicit in the „managerial complex‟ and he adds: An unwillingness to question fundamentally the intellectual credibility of both the dogma and its proponents lies behind the ability of managerialism to superimpose itself on the professional standards of not just academics, but also such groups as over-managed doctors (see Loughlin and Seedhouse, 2002). (Taylor 2003b: 2)
The dogma and practices of the new managerialism have to be seriously challenged as the framework of corporationalism is entirely inadequate for processes of pedagogy. As Furedi argues: ... one of the most distinct and significant dimensions of academic and intellectual activity is that it does not often give customers what they want. Academic dialogue and instruction does not provide the customer with a clearly defined product. It does not seek to offer what the customer wants, but attempts to provide what the student needs. That is why forcing universities to prove themselves to their customers fundamentally contradicts the ethos of academic education. (Furedi 2009: 33)
We should not therefore become complicit in this attempt, as Furedi (2009) states, to culturally transform the meaning of a university student into a customer that merely consumes education as a commodity that has to represent „value for money‟. For, as Taylor states: The spread of managerialism within higher education provides a particularly vivid example of the „Emperor's got no clothes‟ type of collective psychosis that can be achieved by the strategic use of inherently banal but nevertheless extremely destructive concepts. The fact that professional academics, trained to deconstruct and reflect upon the ways in which power is exercised, have failed to call managerialism‟s bluff is particularly worrying and again cause for concern. (Taylor 2003a: 2) One possibility to resist this „psychosis‟ is, therefore, active engagement in deconstruction, thereby revealing the banalities and veiled destructiveness of managerial accounts. „Critical revolutionary pedagogy, for me, adopts a perspective that knowledge is praxis; it is transforming action‟ (McLaren 2006: 125). This transformative potential of critical revolutionary pedagogy is also crucial for the future labourers in what has been left over of academia. A whole generation of young academics has grown up aping their elders‟ collaborationist attitudes and averring their commitment to meaningless managerial concepts whilst potentially powerful bodies within the university sector have chosen the path of least resistance and most eventual harm. The roots of academic barbarianism lie in our own actions: so does the solution. (Taylor 2003b: 5) For Taylor, „Academics and former academics now in management positions need to seek common cause in the protection of education from parasitical operators‟ (Taylor 2003b: 5). One strategy of resistance lies, thus, in the day-to-day practice of pointing to linguistic slippages - e.g. „customer‟ instead of „student‟, as well as stupidifying notions such as „remind me to “action” this‟! - and to question diverse initiatives on the basis of their own managerial/budgetary terms. Taylor offers another set of helpful questions:
What are the qualifications of those who are redefining the professional status of academics? What is the exact meaning behind glib-sounding managerial phrases? What is the contribution of university operators to the bottom-line profitability of a university? What are the implications of standardised matrices for professional discretion and real learning? (Taylor 2003b: 6) In contrast to mainstream opportunism and the anti-educationalist trends that have emerged, Kahn and Kellner (2007), referring to Hammer and Kellner‟s 2001 work, suggest that „Teachers and students ... need to develop new pedagogies and modes of learning for new information and multimedia environments (Hammer & Kellner, 2001)‟ (Kahn and Kellner 2007: 442). They argue the need to democratise and reconstruct education in ways: … envisaged by Dewey, Freire and Illich, where education is seen as a dialogical, democraticizing and experimental practice. New information technologies acting along the lines of Illich‟s conceptions of „webs of learning‟ and „tools for conviviality‟ (1971, 1973) encourage the sort of experimental and collaborative projects proposed by Dewey (1997), and can also involve the more dialogical and non-authoritarian relations between students and teachers that Freire envisaged (1972, 1998b). (Kahn and Kellner 2007: 442) Especially important here is Taylor‟s warning: For those elsewhere in Europe who have not yet felt the full effects of managerialism, failure to heed and resist the warning signs may exact a heavy cost in future. Perhaps there is ground for optimism in the fact that the demise of the „heavy touch‟ QAA regime was hastened by the decision of the academic board of the London School of Economics to withdraw from it and that, significantly, „all five of the senior academics who led the LSE revolt had non-British backgrounds‟ (Wolf, 2003: 13). (Taylor 2003b: 7)
Jun 17, 2021 | johnmenadue.com
Australia's tertiary education system is large, complex, and poorly regulated. Its government funding sources, governance structures and annual reporting requirements lack transparency and are inconsistent between and within jurisdictions. Distorted government priorities and discredited ideological fixations have created a dysfunctional system that devalues the work of academics and professional staff while imposing ever higher burdens on students to pay more for less.
Since it was returned to power in 2019, the Federal Coalition Government has made clear its determination to transform Australia's higher education system into a commercially focused entity whose primary function is the generation of economic growth through patents and intellectual property .
On the research front, Liberal Senator Jane Hulme recently summarised the Coalition's policy as 'patents, not publications'. On the teaching front, federal education minister Alan Tudge told delegates to a Universities Australia conference that he wants 10 million foreign students enrolled in Australian universities within a decade. He proposes this should be done through a mixture of online, hybrid and on-campus models that will create 'new revenue streams' at 'different price points for different customer segments'.
These statements and others like them reinforce a widely held perception that the Coalition is focused solely on higher education's economic contribution to the nation. At the same time as it has raised its expectations of commercial outcomes from higher education, it has imposed a wide range of additional funding cuts to teaching and research.
It is therefore clear that it is not the Federal Government that will primarily bear the burden of its tertiary education ambitions. That burden will continue to fall squarely upon Australian academics, students and professional staff. The ways governance and funding are currently structured virtually guarantees such an outcome.
The governance and funding of higher education are split between state and federal governments. The states are responsible for the governance provisions, constitutions and auditing of public universities as well as TAFE colleges . The Federal Government, on the other hand, imposes a wide range of legislative controls over public universities, including tuition fee-setting , ' quality assurance ', research grant funding , and the number of students universities are permitted to enrol .
Both federal and state governments provide funding for the TAFE system , around half of which comes from the states and territories. The largest proportion of public university funding comes from the Commonwealth .
However, the overall contribution to the higher education system from the Federal Government has halved over the last thirty years, from around 80% to less than 40% . It has been able to do this by clawing back a much higher proportion of universities' teaching costs from domestic students. Most of this transfer of the cost burden to students has happened under the Coalition.
Even though total government funding for the higher education system grew 114% in real terms since 1989, increasing from $5.6 billion to $12 billion in 2018-19 , the number of domestic students in the system grew by 165%, increasing from around 410,000 in 1989 to 1,087,850 in 2019 .
In 2017-18, total operating revenue for public universities was $31.5 billion, while total Federal Government expenditure on higher education was $13.86 billion . According to Universities Australia, total government outlays in higher education rose from $6.7 billion in 1989 to $18.4 billion in 2018-19 . It is important to note that most of that growth was in HECS-HELP loans (formerly known as HECS), which students are required to repay through progressive taxation upon graduation. Student loans increased as a share of total government outlays from less than 16% in 1989 to almost 40% in 2017.
Allocated funding for higher education in the 2019‒2020 Federal Budget was $17.7 billion. But again, this included funding of $5.8 billion for HECS-HELP loans. Therefore, actual government funding was only $11.9 billion out of total revenue for the higher education system of $36.73 billion for that financial year. In other words, less than a third of the system's total revenue was provided by the Commonwealth that year, yet it continues to behave as though its contribution is far higher.
Between 2011 and 2017, the overall contribution from domestic and international students went up, from 23% to 29%. In the wake of the Coalition's latest 'reforms' of student tuition fees, cost-shifting from the Government to students has become even more egregious. As of this year, the average student contribution to course-related revenue has been increased from 42% to 48% , while the contribution from the Commonwealth has been reduced from 58% to 52% .
The ongoing effects of COVID on student enrolments are mixed. While domestic student enrolments have seen a nationwide increase of around 6% in 2021, international student commencements across Australia are down around one-third, while re-enrolments have reduced by an average of 16% . Across the board, the March 2021 higher education commencement figures were down 21%, while total enrolments were down 12% . Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that international tuition fees totalled $3.3 billion in 2020 : approximately the same level as ten years earlier , but one-third of their 2019 peak .
The combination of reduced revenue from domestic tuition fees due to government funding cuts and from international students due to COVID has inevitably forced all of Australia's public universities to cut expenditure over the last twelve months.
The majority initially responded by reducing spending on capital works, significant projects, travel, consultancies and marketing, all of which have seen major increases over the last decade. Several also pressured staff to accept wage freezes and reduced leave conditions for two years as job protection measures .
By late March 2020, however, cost savings in the core functions of teaching and research were being sought by university executives, even though the full financial implications of the pandemic were still far from clear.
COVID has subsequently been used as a pretext for further 'rationalisation' of the number of staff, faculties, schools, courses , subject offerings and programs . The stated reasons for these moves have ranged from the obvious downturn in international student revenue to government funding cuts for local students . However, vice-chancellors have also drawn on more traditional, managerial justifications, such as 'too complex' , ' too niche ' or ' not financially viable ' to axe that which has been deemed surplus to requirements.
It is nevertheless ironic that the same standards of performance and budgetary rectitude are rarely applied reflexively by executives and senior management . On the contrary, they have grown significantly in numbers while awarding themselves enormous salary increases and shielding themselves from accountability to staff, students and the public .
Because labour costs have sat at around 57% of total university expenditure for the last decade, they are always at the top of managerial priorities for cost-cutting, rather than their own inflated wages or latest pet projects . Executives have imposed early retirement and redundancies on thousands of staff with little or no consultation. Many more casual and contracted staff have been laid off or had their positions terminated at the end of their contracts. All the indications from university executives are that many more jobs are on the chopping block .
Universities made at least 17,000 full-time equivalent positions redundant in 2020 . This constitutes around 13% of the total tertiary workforce. However, given that around half of that workforce is employed casually or on contract , and has been for at least a decade, the total job losses probably translate to around 50-60,000 in total. In other words, these job cuts need to be grasped in the context of the massive casualisation of university teaching and administration over the last few decades.
The academic workforce has been casualised to such an extent that casuals now do more than 70% of teaching at some of our universities . In 2010, just over half of all university employees (51.4%) had continuing employment on an equivalent full-time basis. That situation has continued to worsen over the last decade. It has encouraged the worst kinds of management excesses. For example, at least ten Australian universities have been engaged in wage theft from casuals, and have recently been forced to repay what they had stolen.
According to Universities Australia (UA), there was 130,000 full-time equivalent staff directly employed in the system in 2017 . However, like the universities themselves, UA is unwilling to publicly acknowledge the number of casuals working in the system. In 2018, there were 94,500 people employed on a casual basis at Australian universities . It would seem reasonable on that basis to conclude that as many as half of all casuals have either totally lost any work they had, or have had their work hours significantly reduced. However, most universities steadfastly refuse to make employee headcount data public, so the data we do have is inaccurate.
This has been borne out by a recent study of Victorian public university job losses in 2020 published by accounting professors James Guthrie and Brendan O'Connell. They have found that even in Victoria, where universities are obligated to publish their casual workforce figures, universities used inconsistent terminology and different techniques for recording their staffing numbers at the end of 2020 . One estimate from early May that 7,500 university employees in Victoria lost their jobs in 2020 is therefore almost certainly an underestimate. Guthrie and O'Connell also found that universities are using accounting losses to justify reducing employment.
The release of twenty-one university annual reports over the last few weeks strongly reinforces their observations. UTS professor John Howard argues that the figures reported in these annual reports raise serious questions about the extent to which the financial crisis of the tertiary system has been exaggerated . He points out that all but one of these universities recorded cash surpluses, which averaged around 3% of total revenue. However, eight of them posted deficits after they included 'non-cash' expenses such as depreciation, amortisation and changes in investment valuations: none of these categories of 'expenses' constitute tangible revenue losses. The bulk of university 'losses' were in decreased returns on investments (around $600 million) and the depreciation of assets, which totalled more than $1.4 billion.
Howard also points out that Australian universities had accessible cash or cash equivalent reserves of $4.6 billion at the beginning of the pandemic . Their own estimates indicate revenue losses in 2020-21 of $3.8 billion. In other words, most of Australia's public universities have ample financial assets at their disposal to offset any short- to medium-term loss of revenue.
However, rather than focusing on their core business of teaching and research, and saving operating surpluses for contingencies such as COVID, university executives have engaged in imprudent expenditure on new buildings and facilities, and the creation of offshore and satellite campuses. At the same time, they have poured vast financial resources into international marketing and public relations efforts to improve their universities' international rankings . Many universities have leveraged high debt levels to fund these activities and are already being forced to unload some of their property assets due to liquidity problems from reduced international student revenue.
Depreciation, amortisation and finance costs have seen the most significant growth in 'expenses' over the last decade. According to Deloitte, this category of expenses has seen the highest growth, at 7.5% as a year-on-year average . Universities' adoption of accrual accounting has enabled them to write off the value of fixed assets more quickly to inflate their expense claims every year. These inflated expenses are used as an excuse to sack staff and cut programs. Howard argues that if public universities did not use this business accounting convention, none of the twenty-one universities he studied would have recorded any earnings deficit in 2020 .
It should therefore be clear that the main problem public universities face is not a lack of revenue, or a lack of disposable assets to ride through a crisis. Their main problem is a lack of transparency and accountability at the executive level which has enabled them to misallocate financial resources, together with a corporate governance regime that has empowered executives to behave in this fashion. These two issues need to be front and centre of reform of the Australian higher education system.
This will be the topic of my third contribution.
Dr Adam Lucas is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong. Adam's contemporary research focuses on energy policy responses to anthropogenic climate change and obstacles to a sustainable energy transition.
Jun 18, 2021 | johnmenadue.com
The corporatization of Australia's public universities has been driven by government funding cuts and regressive changes to how universities are governed. The rationale for corporatization was that it would encourage universities to become more entrepreneurial by turning vice-chancellors into CEOs and governing bodies into corporate boards. The resulting hybrid has been very successful at promoting university 'brands' to international students but has utterly failed to maintain a supportive and collegial work environment for staff and students on university campuses.
Pandemic-related border closures have forced an abrupt reassessment of universities' internationalization ambitions . But they have not yet led to any acknowledgement that the exploitative culture that now dominates the management and organization of Australian universities also needs to change.
In the wake of the current crisis, university leaders have, on the whole, demonstrated no willingness to question any aspect of the dysfunctional forms of funding and governance that have been imposed on Australia's higher education system over the last three decades. They have been almost totally silent in response to the Coalition's latest efforts to reshape higher education and the commercialization of research . They have likewise shown very little willingness to question or criticize the additional funding cuts to the system announced in last month's Federal Budget .
While it is indisputable that most Australian universities have experienced huge growth in international student revenues over the last decade, the billions of dollars in 'operating surpluses' that have flowed through the system during this time have not been invested in expanding and developing academic workforces, or lowering staff-student ratios , or increasing teaching and learning support for students. Instead, those responsible for making these decisions have spent billions of dollars on construction and marketing programs that laud their institutions' world-class status (usually in the techno-sciences), while systematically degrading the working conditions of academic and professional staff and the quality of education received by students.
High levels of casualization , widespread wage theft , less face-to-face time between academics and students, and steadily increasing workloads for academic and professional staff characterize the contemporary Australian university . A constant churn of pseudo-consultations, new bureaucratic procedures and online administrative platforms maintain employee compliance.
Resources critical to the performance of a wide range of tasks and initiatives are regularly withheld for no good reason. Hiring freezes and the imposition of annual staff performance assessments further contribute to the general atmosphere of fear and anxiety promoted by senior management, who never appear to have the same performance metrics applied to them. Student and staff services that had previously been free or subsidized have been monetized and privatized. Professional services and expertise that could easily be sourced 'in-house' are routinely outsourced to external consultants.
In the Brave New World of 'digitally-enhanced learning', online delivery and 'new revenue streams' not only has there been more casualization of teaching over the last decade , but academics are also being required to teach larger classes over fewer weeks in each semester. They are also being forced to move lectures, tutorials and seminars online, not just during COVID, but permanently .
Few of these negative trends are captured in the metrics senior management regularly deploy to spruik the virtues of their universities to students, parents and potential donors. Preoccupied with 'cost recovery', 'performance metrics' and 'efficiency dividends', senior managers and executives have reconstructed staff and students as revenue-generators who are surplus to requirements if not producing financial surpluses and/or 'measurable outcomes' that contribute to improved university rankings. International league tables, performance monitoring, teaching and research excellence awards, and all the other 'metrics of excellence' with which university executives and managers are currently obsessed are means to these ends.
At least ten public universities failed to put aside sufficient reserves in the event of an external crisis and are now highly vulnerable financially. At least twenty others achieved modest operating surpluses at the end of 2020 , if the inclusion of depreciation, amortization and employee redundancy costs is omitted.
It has become very clear from the operating results that even those universities with adequate reserves to ride through the loss of revenue from international students still made cuts to staff levels, degree programs and coursework offerings .
In the wake of COVID, most universities, including those that were not struggling financially have combined or dissolved a number of their own faculties, departments and schools. Hundreds of programs, courses and subjects have been or will be deleted . A number of university executives and senior managers have nevertheless seen fit to further inflate their already excessive salaries while subjecting their employees to the harshest of austerity measures.
It is therefore inaccurate and misleading to describe the current situation as a financial crisis, when it is, in fact, a governance crisis.
But what few people realize is that the secretive, punitive and authoritarian management culture that now dominates most contemporary universities has been nurtured and institutionalized through a series of legislative changes by state and federal governments over the last thirty years .
These legislative changes have been primarily motivated by a long-held belief within the Coalition and certain elements of the Labor Party that universities should be run like corporations. Those who have embraced this belief are convinced that business and industry provide the best models for university governance because they always perform better than public sector institutions.
Following the Dawkins reforms of Australia's higher education system in the early 1990s, this item of faith has been progressively embedded in all of the administrative and managerial functions of universities. As successive state and federal governments have continued to reduce funding to the system they have sought to graft an increasingly Frankensteinian model of 'corporate governance' onto Australia's public universities.
Under the traditional collegial model of university governance , which still operates in many European universities , academics and students are democratically elected by their peers to represent the common interests of the university, while also fulfilling the institution's broader responsibilities to improve society and enrich culture . But according to the main architects of the current higher education system, John Dawkins and Brendan Nelson , academics are too 'self-interested' to govern universities sensibly. They argued that, under the old collegial model, the parochial interests of individuals, disciplines and schools too often conflicted with the broader goals of the university.
Consequently, one of the unspoken goals of the enabling legislation incorporated into state-based university acts has been to reduce elected staff and student representation on university governing bodies . These bodies, generally known as university councils, are supposed to exercise scrutiny over executive proposals and decisions. In practice, executives have played a major role in selecting and appointing most members of council , who therefore have no incentive to disagree with executive decisions, and who are more often than not given insufficient information about major decisions by their executives to make informed judgements.
The vast majority of corporate appointees to most of Australia's current governing bodies have no history of working in tertiary education and no experience in teaching or research . The Coalition has been particularly active over the last decade in undermining a diversity of representation on academic boards.
For example, in 2012 the NSW Coalition Government inserted specific clauses in the enabling NSW legislation concerning university governance and finances which specify that appointed members require financial and management experience, while those sub-clauses specifying requirements for tertiary, professional and community experience have been removed. Similar changes to university acts were made by the WA Coalition Government in 2016 .
Corporatization is primarily aimed at empowering university leaders with the autonomy to run universities like corporate CEOs. These changes continue to be justified on the basis that the vice-chancellors of Australia's largest universities run enormous, multi-billion dollar enterprises that involve tens of thousands of people. Granted they now have to raise half of their operating costs due to government funding cuts, but their remuneration is not benchmarked to their performance . Furthermore, Australian vice-chancellors earn twice the average salaries of their UK counterparts . Many of those currently in office are originally from the UK.
In a public corporation, the executive is accountable to shareholders and the board of directors. Poor performance is questioned, and senior executives and managers can be removed if the board or shareholders are unhappy with that performance. However, unlike corporate boards, which are answerable to their shareholders, and to some extent, the public as 'clients' or 'consumers' of their goods and services, the accountability of university governing bodies is effectively restricted to financial issues.
The auditors-general of each state and territory are empowered to annually scrutinize the financial accounts of all universities under their jurisdiction . Even so, it is highly unusual for them to call universities to account for anything other than minor infringements of accounting rules and standards. They have rarely shown any willingness to delve deeply into university finances under their jurisdiction, despite some clear cases of maladministration, mismanagement and even corruption . There is no evidence that any audits have ever uncovered wrongdoing, conflicts of interest, or incidents of malfeasance, even though we know from our own colleagues in administrative positions at multiple universities that such behaviour is not at all uncommon.
Likewise, state tertiary education ministers are able to fall back on the 'autonomous institution' argument when quizzed about their knowledge of such practices and the lack of accountability of university leaders . This is because the legislation – which in many cases they helped to create – enshrines both university autonomy and restricted external accountability.
Universities, therefore, have the worst of both worlds as far as their governance is concerned. Staff and students have little or no say over how priorities are set and strategies are pursued. They are subject to the whims of management, who generally regard academics as an obstacle to the efficient running of 'their' universities, and who have no legitimate contributions to make as far as they are concerned. They rarely admit to having made mistakes or demonstrate any willingness to learn from them.
To illustrate this point, in the wake of COVID, it would make sense to proportionally cut back on staffing and resources in those areas that had the highest proportions of international students, and those related to their support and recruitment. However, there is no evidence from any decisions made to date by university executives that these disciplines or activities have borne the brunt of 'cost savings'. On the contrary, even prior to the current pandemic, the arts, humanities and social sciences have been targeted for job cuts, including non-replacement of tenured academics that have retired or resigned. In most of these instances, the financial cases for these cuts have been based on decisions that have little or no evidence to support them.
Many academics and students feel that senior managers target disciplines in these fields because those who work and study in them are willing to speak out against management and executive excesses. Critical thinking, teaching and research is deemed by university leaders to be acceptable within those contexts, but not when reflexively applied to their decision-making .
Academics who dare to call out lax admission standards for international students and other questionable practices which undermine academic integrity are punished with litigation and threats of termination . Not only does such behaviour constitute an attack on academic freedom , it indicates that those who initiate such measures are deluded if they believe they are acting in the best interests of the institutions employing them.
All of the distorted priorities that universities manifest today are an outcome of the inappropriate and dysfunctional corporate governance and reporting models that successive governments have imposed on universities throughout the country over many years. It is noteworthy that Coalition governments throughout the country have made successive changes to university acts that have the clear intention of disenfranchising staff and students from any meaningful input into university governance.
It should be abundantly clear from all this that the existing legislation concerning university governance is deeply flawed. It is an obstacle to better university governance and degrades the value and quality of education for our young people and the next generation of professionals. It also devalues the work of academic and professional staff and demonstrates no capacity for critical self-reflection. It is therefore completely inadequate to the task of confronting the enormous challenges that humanity faces in the twenty-first century.
We need to start a national conversation about the kinds of changes that are needed to bring about genuine reform of Australia's higher education system. A good start would be to focus on the ways in which university governing bodies are organized and constituted, with a particular focus on how and why different categories of members are selected and represented.
Democratic accountability and transparency should be embedded in every new process and structure.
These three articles are the product of many discussions, comments and feedback from colleagues at more than a dozen universities over the last several years. They are intended to provide background for a national campaign for reform of Australia's higher education system involving Academics for Public Universities , the Australian Association of University Professors , the National Higher Education Action Network and the National Tertiary Education Union . Please feel free to contact any of these organizations if you are interested in becoming involved.
Dr Adam Lucas is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong. Adam's contemporary research focuses on energy policy responses to anthropogenic climate change and obstacles to a sustainable energy transition.
Apr 02, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com
Mrcool PREMIUM 17 minutes ago
America does not have any teachers ? America has information transfer agents !
It that regard what is the diff between waitress and teacher [under neoliberalism] ? NOTA !
Mar 28, 2021 | www.msn.com
In 2015, you wrote extensively about your concerns over neoliberalism in academia, calling it the worst threat to education. You wrote: "In order to offset the lack of public funding, administrators have raised tuition with students becoming the primary consumers and debt-holders. Institutions have entered into research partnerships with industry shifting the pursuit of truth to the pursuit of profits." To accelerate this "molting," they have " hired a larger and larger number of short-term, part-time adjuncts ."
This has created large armies of transient and disposable workers who "are in no position to challenge the university's practices or agitate for "democratic rather than monetary goals."
Yes, neoliberalism is hegemonic. It affects all minority communities...
Mar 22, 2021 | www.moonofalabama.org
Patroklos , Mar 21 2021 18:58 utc | 34
In the Spectator article linked -- thank you b and all -- Kimball quotes a canny friend who said "I'd rather be ruled by the Chinese than the Yale faculty". Yes, I thought, that is how the west is now.
I am a teacher in Australia's oldest university whose new vice-chancellor (CEO) is a pure technocrat without academic background or a PhD.
This is the strange norm now: grey neoliberal managers are rushed into areas that require specialists in order to 'streamline' or 'set up structures of accountability' or simply hollow out the joint. This guy sees 'tech' as the answer, so will accelerate the pedagogical catastrophe taking place across the world (Zoom-'teaching') whose implications are dystopian, psychologically alienating and frankly depressing.
He is the Yale faculty at the local level; Blinken is the Yale faculty on the diplomatic stage: a recognisable and familiar type of manager from no particular background whose career is made leap-frogging from bureaucratisation process to bureaucratisation process.
He berates the Chinese thinking that they are the old faculty resisting the newspeak of neoliberal managerialism, an empty meaningless feedback loop of tickboxing. The 'rules-based order' is some imaginary thing produced in the mind of grey men to obscure their self-aggrandisement in a vacuum; zero time has been invested in any thought about it. The 'Biden-Doctrine' is a vacuum of intellectual reflection. In short, Blinken simply doesn't care about his job, he just cares about ticking a box on his CV as he sets himself up for the promotion/next job. Where once we had career specialists dedicated to the actual job (like Chas Freeman) now the whole world is run by these empty people. The consequences are very depressing.
Fyi , Mar 21 2021 19:54 utc | 44lysias , Mar 21 2021 19:59 utc | 45
University administrators need not have doctoral or other academic achievements. What is needed, in any enterprise, is the commitment to the health and to prosperity of that enterprise.
In America, they promoted men who promised lower taxes and easier money. Men with dubious loyalty to the long term health and well being of that country or her population. The results is there for the world to see. Same in Italy; Mr. Berlusconi would promise to cut taxes, and would omit to also mention that he would also cut state services. And foolish plebians would vote for him.
When the late Mr. Khomeini came to power in Iran, one of his observations was that he could not find enough men with integrity to put them in executive positions.
I would like to respectfully suggest to try to preserve what you can but do not try to be a lean department or program. Maintain the "fat" so that you van save as much of the scholarly muscle as you can when the cutting times come.
Also, reach out to the public and the alumni and ask for whatever help you can obtain. Use Kung-Fu approaches, never attack directly. Keep trying to find alternative careers for your older or newer faculties. Take any and all positive action and try to preserve Learning and Scholarship for the future generations.
The late Joseph Stalin observed: "Cadres decide everything."
May be you cannot stop this, but you can delay and dlelay and derail, thus buying time for people to adjust to their new circumstances.
That would be Mark Scott as Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney? What a decline from when Enoch Powell was Professor of Greek at Sydney. I greatly admire Powell's scholarly work on Herodotus and his edition of Thucydides (one of my set texts when I was at Oxford). How much of that work did he do at Sydney?
Mar 14, 2021 | www.wsj.com
Why has it taken so long for professional-services firms in the U.S. to adopt a bespoke graduate-degree approach ( "Employers Customize Business Degrees," Business News, March 5)?
The former president of the University of Limerick, Edward Walsh, was way ahead of the game in this regard. Dr. Walsh arguably created a new norm in Irish third-level education back in the early 1970s, from the university's modest beginnings in the "White House" as the building was and is still known, to a now very impressive campus with a proud record of innovation in education and excellence in research and scholarship. Dr. Walsh customized our degrees to match the requirements of Irish companies and industry.
My bespoke electronics-production degree was customized because the electronics industry in Ireland at the time found that many electronic-engineering grads applying for production-oriented positions weren't suitably qualified. As a graduate in engineering, I believe it made my finding a job much easier than some of my counterparts in other universities, both in Ireland and abroad. Our degrees opened many doors for my class in a lot of different industries, and I believe they still hold us in good stead today when changing our careers or setting up indigenous businesses.
Maurice D. Landers
Since inception in 2011, the Commercial Banking Program in the Mays Business School of Texas A&M University has joined with the banking industry in implementing and teaching a required commercial-banking curriculum that is designed to position our graduates for successful careers in commercial banking. The banking industry provides us with valuable input on essential training and skills they require of our students to be considered for employment. In addition, selected parts of the program curriculum are taught by senior banking executives from our advisory board of directors. Students receive current, relevant banking-industry training taught by banking executives positioning them for successful careers in commercial banking. Banks find our graduates are trained according to industry requirements and are productive sooner than their peers, and the Commercial Banking Program is helping alleviate the shortage of trained talent within the banking industry.
W. Dwight Garey
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Jan 27, 2021 | www.amazon.com
This book considers the detrimental changes that have occurred to the institution of the university, as a result of the withdrawal of state funding and the imposition of neoliberal market reforms on higher education. It argues that universities have lost their way, and are currently drowning in an impenetrable mush of economic babble, spurious spin-offs of zombie economics, management-speak and militaristic-corporate jargon. John Smyth provides a trenchant and excoriating analysis of how universities have enveloped themselves in synthetic and meaningless marketing hype, and explains what this has done to academic work and the culture of universities – specifically, how it has degraded higher education and exacerbated social inequalities among both staff and students. Finally, the book explores how we might commence a reclamation. It should be essential reading for students and researchers in the fields of education and sociology, and anyone interested in the current state of university management.
If we are to unmask what is going on within and to universities, then we need to look forensically at the forces at work and the pathological and dysfunctional effects that are placing academic lives in such jeopardy -- hence my somewhat provocative-sounding title 'the toxic university 5 .
One of the most succinct explanations of what is animating me in writing this book was put by Lucal (2015) -- echoing arguably the most significant sociologist ever. Charles Wright Mills (1971 ) in his The sociological imagination -- when she said: ...neoliberalism is a critical public issue influencing apparently private troubles of college [university] students and teachers, (p. 3)
... ... ...
Pathological Organizational Dysfunction
Just on 40 years ago, for all of my sins, I studied 'organizational theory and 'management behaviour' as part of my doctorate in educational administration. I cannot remember encountering the term, but in light of mv subsequent four decades of working in universities around the world, I think I have encountered a good deal of what 'pathological organisational dysfunction" (POD) means in practice. I regard it is an ensemble term for a range of practices that fall well within the ambit of the 'toxic university 5 . The short explanation is that what I am calling POD has become a syndrome within which the toxic university has become enveloped in its unquestioning embrace of the tenets of neoliberalism -- marketization, competition, audit culture, and metrification. In other words. POD has become a major emblematic ingredient of the toxic university, which as Ferrell (2011) points out looks fairly unproblematic on the surface:
Higher education on the corporate model imagines students as consumers, choosing between knowledge products and brands. It imagines itself liberating the university from the dictates of the state/tradition/aristocratic self-replication, and putting it in the hands of its democratic stakeholders. It therefore naturally subscribes to the general management principles and practices of global corporate culture. These principles -- transparency, accountability, efficiency -- are hard to argue with in principle.
(p. 166 emphasis in original)
What is not revealed in this glossy reading of neoliberalism is the way in which it does its work, or its effects, as Ferrell (2011) puts it in relation to universities, the way it has 'wrecked something worthwhile" (p. 181).
John Gatto. an award-winning teacher of the year in New York, comes closest to what I mean by POD in his description of'psychopathic 5 organizations. Gatto (2001) says that the term psychopathic, as applied to organizations, while it might conjure up lurid images of deranged people running amuck, really means something quite different; he invokes the term to refer to people 'without consciences' (p. 303). The way he put it is that:
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone working in a UK university today. Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 30, 2019
Reviewers of this book seem to conflate the price of, and access to, this book in an ironic context. This isn't fair as this is very much a book written from a formal academic perspective. In that sense the book is probably priced reasonably.
However, as I don't work in this field I found that I had to read around some of the topics in order to get a deeper understanding of the issues raised by the book. So one thing I think that author could do is to almost re-write the book in a more "journalistic" sense and this would make it more accessible to a wider audience.
As it stands, however, this book is right on the money. Reading almost every page brought from me nods of agreement at familiar practices from university "leaders". This book is therefore absolutely correct in its findings and this then makes it profoundly depressing as the book describes, in my view, the dismantling of the university system as we know it. Every chapter details things I have witnessed or heard about from other universities. The "rock star" academics section, usually focusing on "dynamic" researchers, is the highlight as I know enough people who fit the descriptions given - people who would sell their mothers to get a grant or get slightly higher up the greasy pole.
The critique of university leadership, marketing functions and financial (mis)management are also spot-on.
Overall, get past the formal academic nature of this book (it is not a book designed for a wide audience, which is a pity) and it is excellent, timely and deeply depressing.
PHILIP TAYLOR 5.0 out of 5 stars
Forensic Analysis of The Toxic Neo-Liberal University Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 19, 2019
A brilliant exposition of the toxic neo-liberal University
May 23, 2020 | discussion.theguardian.com
DrMidnite , 10 Apr 2019 17:04"Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education."
Boy do they. I work in Business/IT training and as the years have rolled on I and every colleague I can think of have noticed more and more people coming to courses that they are unfit for. Not because they are stupid, but because they have been taught to be stupid.
So used to being taught to the test that they are afraid to ask questions. Increasingly I get asked "what's the right way to do...", usually referring to situation in which there is no right way...
I had the great pleasure of watching our new MD describe his first customer-facing project, which was a disaster, but they "learned" from it. I had to point out to him that I teach the two disciplines involved - businesss analysis and project management - and if he or his team had attended any of the courses - all of which are free to them - they would have learned about the issues they would face, because (astonishingly) they are well-known.
I fear that these incurious adult children are at the bottom of Brexit, Trump and many of the other ills that afflict us. Learning how to do things is difficult and sometimes boring.
Much better to wander in with zero idea of what has already been done and repeat the mistakes of the past. I see the future as a treadmill where the same mistakes are made repetitively and greeted with as much surprise as if they had never happened before.
We have always been at war with Eastasia...
Sep 19, 2019 | www.amazon.com
Originally from: Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More The Last Soviet Generation (In-Formation) by Alexei Yurchak
A general shift at the level of concrete ritualized forms of discourse, in which the formal dimension's importance grows, while the
informal, substantiative dimension opens up to new meanings, can and does occur in different historical and cultural contexts.
Consider an example from the contemporary United States. Today a number of private universities, colleges, and schools in several states require teachers and professors to take a "loyalty oath" to ensure that they do not "hold or foster undesirable political beliefs....
While the statutes vary, [these institutions] generally deny the right to teach to those who cannot or will not take the loyalty oath" (Chin and Rao 2003, 431 -32). Recently, a sociologist of law took such a loyalty oath at a Midwestern university when her appointment as a professor began.
From a political standpoint she disagreed with the practice of taking loyalty oaths, and later, in her role as professor of the sociology of law, she voiced political positions counter to those mentioned in the oath and challenged the oath-taking practice itself.
However, before she could do this, she first had to take the oath, understanding that without this act she would not be employed or recognized by the institution as a legitimate member with a voice authorized to participate in teaching, research, and the institution's politics (committees, meetings, elections, and so forth), including even the possibility to question publicly the practice of taking oaths.
Here, the informal, substantiative dimension of the ritualized act experiences a shift, while the formal dimension remains fixed and important: taking the oath opens a world of possibilities where new informal, substantiative meanings become possible, including a professorial position with a recognized political voice within the institution. In the sociologist's words, "The oath did not mean much if you took it, but it meant a lot if you didn't." 3 ^
This example illustrates the general principle of how some discursive acts or whole types of discourse can drift historically in the direction of an increasingly expanding formal dimension and increasingly open or even irrelevant informal, substantiative dimension. During Soviet late socialism, the formal dimension of speech acts at formal gathering and rituals became particularly important in most contexts and during most events.
One person who participated in large Komsomol meetings in the 1970s and 1980s described how he often spent the meetings reading a book. However, "when a vote had to be taken, everyone roused -- a certain sensor clicked in the head: 'Who is in favor?' -- and you raised your hand automatically" (see a discussion of such ritualized practices within the Komsomol in chapter a).
Here the emphasis on the formal dimension of organizational discourse was unique both in scale and substance. Most ritualized acts of "organizational discourse" during this time underwent such a transformation.
Participating in these acts reproduced oneself as a "normal" Soviet person within the system of relations, collectivities, and subject positions, with all the constraints and possibilities that position entailed, even including the possibility, after the meetings, to engage in interests, pursuits, and meanings that ran against those that were stated in the resolutions one had voted for.
It would obviously be wrong to see these acts of voting simply as informal, substantiative statements about supporting the resolution that are either true (real support) or false (dissimulation of support). These acts are not about stating facts and describing opinions but about doing things and opening new possibilities.
Sep 12, 2019 | thenewkremlinstooge.wordpress.com
Mark Chapman September 3, 2019 at 12:23 pmAmazing; I had no idea Betsy Voss – advocate of for-profit charter schools (privatizing education) and The New Curriculum – and Eric Prince (advocate for privatizing war) are brother and sister. Blood will tell.Jen September 3, 2019 at 2:58 pm
Profiteering is naked and in the open now in the west, and public systems increasingly favour the wealthy – if you want better, you should be ready to pay for it. I guess that's what all those tax cuts were about – shifting a burden off of the wealthy, so that now public services are pay-as-you-go because the government can't afford to provide them for everyone. However, tax cuts also favoured the wealthy – gee, it almost makes you think the class system is coming back, dunnit?I recall Jeremy Scahill mentioning in his book on Blackwater (before it started changing its name faster than you can change your socks) that Erik Prince was related to Betsy deVos. This was long before Scahill turned his own name and reputation into mud when he walked out of a London conference back in 2012 or 2013 because the Syrian nun Agnes Mariam de la Croix, who was known to support President Assad at the time, was a guest speaker at the conference.
Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
noonespecial , August 23, 2019 at 7:12 pm
Neoliberalism and Education
(To borrow a term often seen here at NC term – more evidence of "crapification")
In the new issue of the American Affairs Journal, the following article may be of interest to those who tune into scholastic matters. Two quotes are posted here in case the paywall obstructs.
"Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education"
1. "But the technology pushed into schools today is a threat to child development and an unredeemable waste. In the first place, technology exacerbates the greatest problem of all in schools: confusion about their purpose. Education is the cultivation of a person, not the manufacture of a worker. But in many public school districts we have already traded our collective birthright, the promise of human flourishing, for a mess of utilitarian pottage called 'job skills.' The more recent, panicked, money-lobbing fetish for STEM is a late realization that even those dim promises will go unmet [E]ducational technology is a regressive political weapon, never just a neutral tool: it increases economic inequality, decreases school accountability, takes control away from teachers, and makes poorer students more vulnerable to threats from automation and globalization."
2. "Dumping gadgets on children is a win-win proposition in poor school districts. It's a win for tech billionaires looking to buy progressive indulgences (e.g., Mark Zuckerberg in Newark), and it's a win for local mayors wanting to gesture toward needy schools without changing the underlying economic reality (e.g., Cory Booker in Newark, Pete Buttigieg in South Bend) The meanest trick of all is when funds allocated to bring struggling students "into the future" are used instead to banish them into the realm of for-profit programs called "online charter schools," which consist mostly of children watching lecture videos all day instead of being taught by a teacher. Online charter schools are a worsening catastrophe. Compared to the performance of peers in traditional public schools with similar income, race, gender, and first-language characteristics, the impact of online charter attendance on student reading is so bad, it's like missing 72 days of school each year. In math, being afflicted by an online charter school is like being absent for 180 days!"
Jun 26, 2019 | www.nytimes.com
C Wolfe Bloomington IN Jan. 23@Midwest Josh
I don't think that's entirely accurate, and even if true, leaving students to the predations of private lenders isn't the answer. Although I'm willing to entertain your thesis, soaring tuition has also been the way to make up for the underfunding of state universities by state legislatures.
At the same time, there's been an increase since the 70s in de luxe facilities and bloated administrator salaries. When administrators make budget cuts, it isn't for recreational facilities and their own salaries -- it's the classics and history departments, and it's to faculty, with poorly paid part-time adjuncts teaching an unconscionable share of courses.
So universities have been exacerbating the same unequal division between the people who actually do the work (faculty) and the people who allocate salaries (administrators) -- so too as in the business world, as you say.
Apr 11, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com
FionaMcW , 11 Apr 2019 06:36Schools are teaching to the test. As someone who recently retrained as a secondary science teacher - after nearly 30 years as a journalist - I know this to be true.Olympia1881 -> Centrecourt , 11 Apr 2019 05:46Education is a prime example of where neoliberalism has had a negative effect. It worked well when labour was pumping billions into it and they invested in early intervention schemes such as sure start and nursery expansion. Unfortunately under the tories we have had those progressive policies scaled right back. Children with SEND and/or in care are commodities bought and sold by local authorities. I've been working in a PRU which is a private company and it does good things, but I can't help but think if that was in the public sector that it would be in a purpose built building rather than some scruffy office with no playground.DrMidnite , 10 Apr 2019 17:04
The facilities aren't what you would expect in this day in age. If we had a proper functioning government with a plan then what happens with vulnerable children would be properly organised rather than a reactive shit show."Schools teach to the test, depriving children of a rounded and useful education."
Boy do they. I work in Business/IT training and as the years have rolled on I and every colleague I can think of have noticed more and more people coming to courses that they are unfit for. Not because they are stupid, but because they have been taught to be stupid. So used to being taught to the test that they are afraid to ask questions. Increasingly I get asked "what's the right way to do...", usually referring to situation in which there is no right way, just a right way for your business, at a specific point in time.
I had the great pleasure of watching our new MD describe his first customer-facing project, which was a disaster, but they "learned" from it. I had to point out to him that I teach the two disciplines involved - businesss analysis and project management - and if he or his team had attended any of the courses - all of which are free to them - they would have learned about the issues they would face, because (astonishingly) they are well-known.
I fear that these incurious adult children are at the bottom of Brexit, Trump and many of the other ills that afflict us. Learning how to do things is difficult and sometimes boring. Much better to wander in with zero idea of what has already been done and repeat the mistakes of the past. I see the future as a treadmill where the same mistakes are made repetitively and greeted with as much surprise as if they had never happened before. We have always been at war with Eastasia...
Jun 21, 2019 | dissidentvoice.org
A Slow Death: The Ills of the Neoliberal Academic
by Binoy Kampmark / June 20th, 2019Any sentient being should be offended. Eventually, the Neoliberalization of the academic workforce was bound to find lazy enthusiasts who neither teach, nor understand the value of a tenured position dedicated to that musty, soon-to-be-forgotten vocation of the pedagogue. It shows in the designs of certain universities who confuse frothy trendiness with tangible depth: the pedagogue banished from the podium, with rooms lacking a centre, or a focal point for the instructor. Not chic, not cool, we are told, often by learning and teaching committees that perform neither task. Keep it modern; do not sound too bright and hide the learning: we are all equal in the classroom, inspiringly even and scrubbed of knowledge. The result is what was always to be expected: profound laziness on the part of instructors and students, dedicated mediocrity, and a rejection of all things intellectually taxing.
Neoliberalization, a word that says much in, and of, itself, is seen as analogue of broader outsourcing initiatives. Militaries do it, governments do it, and the university does it. Services long held to be the domain of the state, itself an animation of the social contract, the spirit of the people, have now become the incentive of the corporate mind, and, it follows, its associated vices. The entire scope of what has come to be known as outsourcing is itself a creature of propaganda, cheered on as an opportunity drawing benefits rather than an ill encouraging a brutish, tenuous life.
One such text is Douglas Brown and Scott Wilson's The Black Book of Outsourcing . Plaudits for it resemble worshippers at a shrine planning kisses upon icons and holy relics. "Brown & Wilson deliver on the best, most innovative, new practices all aimed at helping one and all survive, manage and lead in this new economy," praises Joann Martin, Vice President of Pitney Bowes Management Services. Brown and Wilson take aim at a fundamental "myth": that "Outsourcing is bad for America." They cite work sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (of course) that "the practice of outsourcing is good for the US economy and its workers."
Practitioners and policy makers within the education industry have become devotees of the amoral dictates of supply and demand, underpinned by an insatiable management class. Central to their program of university mismanagement is the neoliberal academic, a creature both embraced and maligned in the tertiary sectors of the globe.
The neoliberal academic is meant to be an underpaid miracle worker, whose divining acts rescue often lax academics from discharging their duties. (These duties are outlined in that deceptive and unreliable document known as a "workplan", as tedious as it is fictional.) The neoliberal academic grades papers, lectures, tutors and coordinates subjects. The neoliberal provides cover, a shield, and an excuse for a certain class of academic manager who prefers the calling of pretence to the realities of work.
Often, these neoliberal academics are students undertaking a postgraduate degree and subject to inordinate degrees of stress in an environment of perennial uncertainty. The stresses associated with such students are documented in the Guardian's Academics Anonymous series and have also been the subject of research in the journal Research Policy . A representative sample of PhD students studying in Flanders, Belgium found that one in two experienced psychological distress, with one in three at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. Mental health problems tended to be higher in PhD students "than in the highly educated general population, highly education employees and higher education students."
This is hardly helped by the prospects faced by those PhDs for future permanent employment, given what the authors of the Research Policy article describe as the "unfavourable shift in the labour-supply demand balance, a growing popularity of short-term contracts, budget cuts and increased competition for research sources".
There have been a few pompom holders encouraging the Neoliberalization mania, suggesting that it is good for the academic sector. The explanations are never more than structural: a neoliberal workforce, for instance, copes with fluctuating enrolments and reduces labour costs. "Using neoliberal academics brings benefits and challenges," we find Dorothy Wardale, Julia Richardson and Yuliani Suseno telling us in The Conversation . This, in truth, is much like suggesting that syphilis and irritable bowel syndrome is necessary to keep you on your toes, sharp and streamlined. The mindset of the academic-administrator is to assume that such things are such (Neoliberalization, the authors insist, is not going way, so embrace) and adopt a prostrate position in the face of funding cuts from the public purse.
Neoliberalization can be seen alongside a host of other ills. If the instructor is disposable and vulnerable, then so are the manifestations of learning. Libraries and research collections, for instance, are being regarded as deadening, inanimate burdens on the modern, vibrant university environment. Some institutions make a regular habit of culling their supply of texts and references: we are all e-people now, bound to prefer screens to paper, the bleary-eyed session of online engagement to the tactile session with a book.
The neoliberal, sessional academic also has, for company, the "hot-desk", a spot for temporary, and all too fleeting occupation. The hot-desk has replaced the work desk; the partitions of the office are giving way to the intrusions of the open plan. The hot-desker, like coitus, is temporary and brief. The neoliberal academic epitomises that unstable reality; there is little need to give such workers more than temporary, precarious space. As a result, confidentiality is impaired, and privacy all but negated. Despite extensive research showing the negative costs of "hot-desking" and open plan settings, university management remains crusade bound to implement such daft ideas in the name of efficiency.
Neoliberalization also compounds fraudulence in the academy. It supplies the bejewelled short cut route, the bypass, the evasion of the rigorous things in learning. Academics may reek like piddling middle class spongers avoiding the issues while pretending to deal with them, but the good ones at least make some effort to teach their brood decently and marshal their thoughts in a way that resembles, at the very least, a sound whiff of knowledge. This ancient code, tested and tried, is worth keeping, but it is something that modern management types, along with their parasitic cognates, ignore. In Australia, this is particularly problematic, given suggestions that up to 80 percent of undergraduate courses in certain higher learning institutions are taught by neoliberal academics.
The union between the spread sheet manager and the uninterested academic who sees promotion through the management channel rather than scholarship, throws up a terrible hybrid, one vicious enough to degrade all in its pathway. This sort of hybrid hack resorts to skiving and getting neoliberals to do the work he or she ought to be doing. Such people co-ordinate courses but make sure they get the wallahs and helpers desperate for cash to do it. Manipulation is guaranteed, exploitation is assured.
The economy of desperation is cashed in like a reliable blue-chip stock: the skiver with an ongoing position knows that a neoliberal academic desperate to earn some cash cannot dissent, will do little to rock the misdirected boat, and will have to go along with utterly dotty notions. There are no additional benefits from work, no ongoing income, no insurance, and, importantly, inflated hours that rarely take into account the amount of preparation required for the task.
The ultimate nature of the Neoliberalization catastrophe is its diminution of the entire academic sector. Neoliberals suffer, but so do students. The result is not mere sloth but misrepresentation of the worst kind: the university keen to advertise a particular service it cannot provide sufficiently. This, in time, is normalised: what would students, who in many instances may not even know the grader of their paper, expect? The remunerated, secure academic-manager, being in the castle, can raise the drawbridge and throw the neoliberals to the vengeful crowd, an employment environment made safe for hypocrisy.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Read other articles by Binoy .
This article was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019 at 9:00pm and is filed under Neoliberalization , Education , Universities .
Jun 06, 2019 | journals.sagepub.com
In this article, we explore commodities and consumption , two concepts that are central to critiques of the neoliberal university. By engaging with these concepts, we explore the limits of neoliberal logic. We ground this conceptual entanglement in Marxist and post-Marxist traditions given our understanding of neoliberalism both as an extension of and as a meaningfully different form of capitalism. As colleges and universities enact neoliberal economic assumptions by focusing on revenue generation, understanding students as customers, and construing their faculty as temporary service providers, the terms commodity and consumption have become commonplace in critical higher education literature. When critiques concerning the commodification and consumption of higher education are connected with these theoretical and conceptual foundations, they not only become more effective but also provide a more meaningful guide upon which current and future scholars can build.
Mar 08, 2009 | blogs.nytimes.com
Here is an often cited definition by Paul Treanor: "Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services . . . and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs." ("Neoliberalism: Origins, Theory, Definition.")
In a neoliberal world, for example, tort questions -- questions of negligence law -- are thought of not as ethical questions of blame and restitution (who did the injury and how can the injured party be made whole?), but as economic questions about the value to someone of an injury-producing action relative to the cost to someone else adversely affected by that same action. It may be the case that run-off from my factory kills the fish in your stream; but rather than asking the government to stop my polluting activity (which would involve the loss of jobs and the diminishing of the number of market transactions), why don't you and I sit down and figure out if more wealth is created by my factory's operations than is lost as a consequence of their effects?
As Ronald Coase put it in his classic article, "The Problem of Social Cost" (Journal of Law and Economics, 1960): "The question to be decided is: is the value of the fish lost greater or less than the value of the product which the contamination of the stream makes possible?" If the answer is more value would be lost if my factory were closed, then the principle of the maximization of wealth and efficiency directs us to a negotiated solution: you allow my factory to continue to pollute your stream and I will compensate you or underwrite the costs of your moving the stream elsewhere on your property, provided of course that the price I pay for the right to pollute is not greater than the value produced by my being permitted to continue.
Notice that "value" in this example (which is an extremely simplified stand-in for infinitely more complex transactions) is an economic, not an ethical word, or, rather, that in the neoliberal universe, ethics reduces to calculations of wealth and productivity. Notice too that if you and I proceed (as market ethics dictate) to work things out between us -- to come to a private agreement -- there will be no need for action by either the government or the courts, each of which is likely to muddy the waters (in which the fish will still be dying) by introducing distracting moral or philosophical concerns, sometimes referred to as "market distortions."
Whereas in other theories, the achieving of a better life for all requires a measure of state intervention, in the polemics of neoliberalism (elaborated by Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek and put into practice by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher), state interventions -- governmental policies of social engineering -- are "presented as the problem rather than the solution" (Chris Harman, "Theorising Neoliberalism," International Socialism Journal, December 2007).
The solution is the privatization of everything (hence the slogan "let's get governments off our backs"), which would include social security, health care, K-12 education, the ownership and maintenance of toll–roads, railways, airlines, energy production, communication systems and the flow of money. (This list, far from exhaustive, should alert us to the extent to which the neoliberal agenda has already succeeded.)
The assumption is that if free enterprise is allowed to make its way into every corner of human existence, the results will be better overall for everyone, even for those who are temporarily disadvantaged, let's say by being deprived of their fish.
The objection (which I am reporting, not making) is that in the passage from a state in which actions are guided by an overarching notion of the public good to a state in which individual entrepreneurs "freely" pursue their private goods, values like morality, justice, fairness, empathy, nobility and love are either abandoned or redefined in market terms.
Short-term transactions-for-profit replace long-term planning designed to produce a more just and equitable society. Everyone is always running around doing and acquiring things, but the things done and acquired provide only momentary and empty pleasures (shopping, trophy houses, designer clothing and jewelry), which in the end amount to nothing. Neoliberalism, David Harvey explains, delivers a "world of pseudo-satisfactions that is superficially exciting but hollow at its core." ("A Brief History of Neoliberalism.")
Harvey and the other critics of neoliberalism explain that once neoliberal goals and priorities become embedded in a culture's way of thinking, institutions that don't regard themselves as neoliberal will nevertheless engage in practices that mime and extend neoliberal principles -- privatization, untrammeled competition, the retreat from social engineering, the proliferation of markets. These are exactly the principles and practices these critics find in the 21st century university, where (according to Henry Giroux) the "historical legacy" of the university conceived "as a crucial public sphere" has given way to a university "that now narrates itself in terms that are more instrumental, commercial and practical." ("Academic Unfreedom in America," in Works and Days.)
This new narrative has been produced (and necessitated) by the withdrawal of the state from the funding of its so-called public universities. If the percentage of a state's contribution to a college's operating expenses falls from 80 to 10 and less (this has been the relentless trajectory of the past 40 years) and if, at the same time, demand for the "product" of higher education rises and the cost of delivering that product (the cost of supplies, personnel, information systems, maintenance, construction, insurance, security) skyrockets, a huge gap opens up that will have to be filled somehow.
Faced with this situation universities have responded by (1) raising tuition, in effect passing the burden of costs to the students who now become consumers and debt-holders rather than beneficiaries of enlightenment (2) entering into research partnerships with industry and thus courting the danger of turning the pursuit of truth into the pursuit of profits and (3) hiring a larger and larger number of short-term, part-time adjuncts who as members of a transient and disposable workforce are in no position to challenge the university's practices or agitate for an academy more committed to the realization of democratic rather than monetary goals. In short , universities have embraced neoliberalism.
Meanwhile, even those few faculty members with security of employment do their bit for neoliberalism when they retire to their professional enclaves and churn out reams of scholarship (their equivalent of capital) that is increasingly specialized and without a clear connection to the public interest: "[F]aculty have progressively . . . favored professionalism over social responsibility and have . . . refused to take positions on controversial issues"; as a result they have "become disconnected from political agency and thereby incapable of taking a political stand" (McClennen, Works and Days).
... ... ...
Stanley Fish is a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, in Miami. In the Fall of 2012, he will be Floersheimer Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Duke University and the University of Illinois, Chicago. He is the author of 15 books, most recently “Versions of Antihumanism: Milton and Others”; “How to Write a Sentence”; “Save the World On Your Own Time”; and “The Fugitive in Flight,” a study of the 1960s TV drama. “Versions of Academic Freedom: From Professionalism to Revolution” will be published in 2014.
May 06, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Hugh: , July 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Lobbying and campaign finance are two forms of legalized bribery. Citizens United legalized political corruption for corporations and showed the complete corruption of the Supreme Court which decided it. Astroturfed political organizations, the manufacture of "popular consent", are another form of corruption in politics. The hiding of contributors to these and other groups gives cover to their corruption.
The media are corrupt, even a lot of the blogosphere is. It is all propaganda all the time, just segmented and tailored to different audiences of rubes.
Universities are corrupt. They no longer fulfill an educational mission rather they are purveyors of the status quo. They are corrupt in their corporate structure, in their alliances with other corporations, and in their foisting of debt on to their students.
Academia is corrupt. There is the whole publish or perish thing that results in most of academia's research product being worthless and useless. This is even before we get to the quack sciences like economics. Academic economics is completely corrupt. The dominant politico-economic system of our times is kleptocracy. Yet almost no academic economist will acknowledge it let alone make it central to their point of view.
The judicial system and the judiciary are corrupt. How else to explain our two-tiered justice system? The great criminals of our times, the largest frauds in human history, are not only not prosecuted, they are not even investigated. And how can anyone take the Supreme Court to be anything but corrupt? This is an institution that except for a couple of decades around the Warren Court has, for more than 200 years, always been on the side of the haves against the have-nots, for the powerful, against the powerless, pro-slavery, pro-segregation, and anti-worker. How can anyone take decisions like Bush v. Gore or Citizens United to be anything other than corrupt, politics dressed up as legal thinking?
In a kleptocracy, all the institutions, at least those controlled by the rich and elites, are put into the service of the kleptocrats to loot or justify and defend looting and the looters. So corruption is endemic and systemic.
Feb 12, 2019 | thefamiliarstrange.com
June 14, 2018
Trigger warning: This post contains the discussion of depression and other mental health issues, and suicide. If you or anyone you know needs help or support for a mental health concern, please don't suffer in silence. Many countries have confidential phone helplines (in Australia you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, for example); this organisation provides worldwide support, while this website compiles a number of helpline sites from around the world.
I am writing today from a place of anger; from a rage that sits, simmering on the surface of a deep well of sadness. I didn't know Dr. Malcolm Anderson, the senior accountancy lecturer from Cardiff University whose death, after falling from the roof of his university building, was last week ruled a suicide . I obviously have no way to know the complexity of his feelings or what sequence of events led up to his decision to end his own life. However, according to the results of an inquest, we can know what Dr. Anderson wanted his university to understand about his death – that it was, at least in part, because of the pressures of his academic work.
The media reports that Dr. Anderson had recently been appointed to Deputy Head of his department, significantly increasing his administrative load. Nonetheless, he was still teaching 418 students and needed to mark their work within a 20-day turnaround. To meet that deadline, he would have needed to work approximately 9 hours a day without food or toilet breaks, for 20 days straight, and not do ANY other kind of work during that time (such as the admin that comes with being a Deputy Head). Practically impossible, given he was also a human being, with a home life, and physical needs like food, in addition to work responsibilities.
His wife, Diane, has been quoted saying that Dr. Anderson worked very long hours and often took marking to family events. She has said that although he was a passionate educator who won teaching awards every year, he had been showing signs of stress and had spoken to his managers about his difficulty meeting deadlines. A colleague told the inquest that he was given the same response each time he asked for help, and staffing cuts had continued.A Marked Problem
... ... ...And look, I get it. To someone outside the academy, I'm sure the perception remains that academics sit in leather armchairs, gazing out the gilded windows of our ivory towers, thinking all day.
That has not been my experience, nor that of anyone I know.
My colleagues and peers have, however , experienced levels of anxiety and depression that are six times higher than experienced in the general population (Evans et al. 2018). They report higher levels of workaholism , the kind that has a negative and unwanted effect on relationships with loved ones (Torp et al. 2018). The picture is often even bleaker for women , people of colour , and other non-White, non-middle-class, non-males. So whether you think academics are 'delicate woeful souls' or not, it's difficult to deny that there is a real problem to be tackled here.
Obviously, marking load is only one issue amongst many faced in universities the world over. But it's not bad as an illustration, partly because it's quantifiable . It's somewhat ironic that the neoliberal metrics that we rail against, the audit culture that causes these kinds of examples to happen, could also help us describe to others why they are a problem for us. So quantifiability brings us to neoliberalism. How did neoliberalism become so pervasive that it's almost impossible to imagine how the world could look different?Neoliberalism, then and now
These last two weeks I've been working out of the Stockholm Centre for Organisational Research in Sweden, which, by coincidence, is where Professor Cris Shore , anthropologist of policy and the guest on our next podcast episode is currently based. I was chatting to him the other day about the interview we recorded last December, which centres around many of the ideas I'm discussing in this blog post. I had to admit, I hadn't realised until we did that interview how angry many people still feel towards the Thatcher government for introducing neoliberal ideologies and practices into the public sector. Despite doing a Ph.D. about modern university life, it hadn't fully registered for me that events of the past , specifically the histories of politics and economics in 'the West', were such active players in the theatre of higher education's present .
To understand today's neoliberal universities, let's explore a little history in the UK and the US, two of the biggest influencers in the global higher education sector today. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher rose to power on a platform of reviving the stagnant British economy by introducing market-style competition into the public sector. This way, she claimed, she was ensuring, that "the state's power [was] reduced and the power of the people, enhanced" (Edwards, 2017) . For universities, this meant increased "accountability" and quality assurance measures that would drag universities out of their complacency .
Meanwhile, in the US, Ronald Reagan was also arriving at neoliberalism via a different path. Americans historically don't trust central government (Roberts, 2007) , so in 1981, Reagan introduced tax cuts (especially for the rich) for the first time in American history, therefore "protecting" the American people from the rapacious spending habits of the state (Prasad, 2012) . In American universities, this manifested over the next 30 years in reduced public spending on higher education, transferring the costs for tuition to student-consumers, and encouraging partnerships with industry and endorsements from philanthropists (often with agendas) to cover research costs (Shumway, 2017) .
Then in the 90s, there was a moral panic about the public sector caused by scandals such as " the collapse of Barings Bank in 1995 , the failures of the medical profession revealed by investigations into the serial murders by Dr Harold Shipman , and the numerous cases of child abuse that have plagued the Catholic Church " (Shore, 2008) . Frankly, it seems pretty understandable that people were looking for greater transparency, a bit of accountability, and a whole lot less of, "leave it to the professionals, they seem like alright blokes, don't they?" from their public sector.
However, an ideology that had originally looked so promising to the public began, over time, to create a new set of problems. As Cris Shore points out in his seminal 2008 article, ' Audit culture and Illiberal governance: Universities and the politics of accountability ':
The official rationale for [neoliberal ideologies and actions] appears benign and incontestable: to improve efficiency and transparency and to make these institutions more accountable to the taxpayer and public (and no reasonable person could seriously challenge such commonsensical and progressive objectives). The problem, however, is that audit confuses 'accountability' with 'accountancy' so that 'being answerable to the public' is recast in terms of measures of productivity, 'economic efficiency' and delivering 'value for money' (VFM).
The trouble with neoliberalism and its offshoot, New Public Management , is that much like the Newspeak of Orwell's 1984 , the words that were used to sell it – quality, accountability, transparency etc. – in practice, mean the opposite of what they appear to mean. For example, as Chris Lorenz (2012) points out in an article that convincingly compares New Public Management in universities to the outcomes of a Communist regime , there has been no evidence, statistical or otherwise, that increasing 'quality control measures' in universities has actually improved quality in universities by any objective criteria – and often just the opposite.
What has "improved" in universities because of neoliberal practices is efficiency, often through measures like restructures and reviews. Again, taking steps to save money and time sounds like a positive. However, the problem with 'efficiency' is that, unlike its counterpart 'effectiveness' (the ability to bring about a specific effect), 'efficiency' has no end point – it is a goal unto itself. As Lorenz phrases it, "efficient, therefore, is never efficient enough," (2012, p. 607).
Bringing this back, then, to issues of mental health and increasing workloads on campus. Liz Morrish of Academic Irregularities pointed out last week that when tragedies such as the death of Malcolm Anderson occur in universities, the most common response is for said university to announce a review. As anticipated, two days after the results of Dr. Anderson's inquest were first reported in the media, Cardiff University announced that they would be reviewing the 'support, information, advice and specialist counselling' available to all staff, but also urged any academic "who has any concerns regarding workload, to raise them with their line manager, in the first instance, so all available advice and support can be offered."
This platitude has been taken by many online as exactly that – a platitude. Several commenters on Twitter have pointed out that providing more mental health support doesn't actually reduce workload, while others have noted that there has been no discussion by Cardiff U of attempting to fix the underlying cause. I agree with them, and it's part of the reason I'm so angry. Malcolm Anderson could easily be any one of us.
Yet, I have to admit, I'd also hate to be part of the executive team at Cardiff University right now. Can you imagine the anguish of knowing that someone had taken their life, and held you directly responsible? You'd have to feel so helpless, so powerless in the shadow of neoliberal forces that permeate every last aspect of the global higher education sector. I don't know, I haven't been a Vice Chancellor, maybe you wouldn't have to feel that way. But it's easy to imagine how one could.The path to neoliberal hell is paved with good intentions
So, what's the answer? I wish I knew. What I do know is that anthropological thinking has a lot to offer in the exploration of big immutable mobiles 2 like neoliberalism. As Sherry Ortner asks in her 2016 article " Dark anthropology and its others: Theory since the eighties ", who better to question the power structures inherent in 'dark' topics such as neoliberalisation or colonialism than anthropologists? Yet, she urges an approach that also acknowledges the possibility of goodness in the world, quoting from the opening to Michael Lambek's Ordinary Ethics as rationale:
Ethnographers commonly find that the people they encounter are trying to do what they consider right or good, are being evaluated according to criteria of what is right and good, or are in some debate about what constitutes the human good. Yet anthropological theory tends to overlook all this in favor of analyses that emphasize structure, power, and interest. (Lambeck, 2010, p. 1)
And this is where I have to deviate from the majority of the neoliberal university critiques I've read. In these pieces, it's all too common to read criticisms of academic managers, or administrators, or university 'service providers' as if they are The Reason that neoliberal ideologies get enacted in university contexts. But usually, they're just human beings too, also subject to KPIs and managerial demands and neoliberal ideologies.
Having worked at different times as an educator, a researcher, and a communications manager in various universities for more than 10 years, and now having conducted fieldwork at a university for my PhD, I have had the chance to observe and conduct research on at least nine different university campuses, in at least five countries. Based on those experiences, I am in complete agreement with Lambek: the majority 3 of non-academics that I have encountered, in every type of department, and at every level of universities from Level 1 administrative officers to Presidents and Vice Chancellors, "are trying to do what they consider right or good" (2010, p. 1).
They demonstrate, both through words and their actions, their beliefs that education is valuable, and that students are important as human beings, not just as cash cows. They are often working long hours themselves, trying to keep up with the demands that neoliberal university life is placing on them. I just can't get on board with the idea that they are, universally, the villains of the neoliberal horror story.
It seems much more likely, to me, that neoliberal ideologies continue to get enacted and reinforced by academic managers because these practices have become the norm. Throughout and because of the historical growth pattern neoliberalism has experienced, these ideologies have put down roots, and these roots have become so entangled with other aspects of university life as to be inseparable. For many working-aged people, neoliberalism is the water we were born swimming in. Even presented with its inadequacies, it's difficult to imagine an alternative.
What I can agree with the critics about, however, is that non-academics often don't understand or appreciate – or perhaps remember (if they had worked in that capacity in the past) – the demands of being an academic, just like academics don't tend to understand or appreciate the demands that non-academics within the university are facing.
In their recently published book Death of the Public University (2017), Susan Wright and Cris Shore refer to the idea of 'Faculty Land' – a place synonymous with 'La La Land', where non-academic employees of universities think academics live. This really resonates with what I saw on fieldwork at an international university in Vietnam, but not only from administrators – academics too.
As I've said in a previous post , all the actors in universities are trying to abrogate responsibility sideways or upwards until they can only blame 'the neoliberal agenda', and once they get there, all they can see is a towering, monolithic idea , and it becomes like trying to have a fist fight with a cloud. Most people don't ever get to that point though, because the world feels more controllable if we believe that there is another human to blame .
The thing is though, blaming others almost never works . It doesn't make things better, it just creates a greater divide between groups, encourages isolationism and othering, and decreases the likelihood that either side will ever want to work together to fix the problem.
Dr Anderson's tragic death, and the similarly tragic statistics that tell us that the collective mental health of our academics is in crisis, should be a wake up call to all of us who work or study in universities, in any capacity. Whether it will be remains to be seen.
Again: If you or anyone you know needs help or support for a mental health concern, please don't suffer in silence . Sometimes talking about things with an objective outsider can help.
- If you work in a university with a counselling service, consider seeking them out. Many have emergency sessions set aside each day.
- Many countries have confidential phone helplines (in Australia you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, for example).
- Befrienders.org provides worldwide support.
- The International Bipolar Foundation has compiled a number of helpline sites from around the world .
- If you (or your department) have the financial means, psychologists who specialise in working with HDR students and academics, such as Dr Shari Walsh of Growth Psychology sometimes offer Skype appointments. (I have had Skype sessions with Shari myself; she's lovely. PS. I don't get anything out of plugging her services, I just think what she offers is valuable.)
Yes, I know, this is a structural problem and we shouldn't have to take care of it as individuals (see Grace Krause's moving poem about this here ). But in the meantime, while we work on that, please seek help if you need it .
Feb 12, 2019 | www.nupoliticalreview.com
Last month at Northeastern University, the adjunct union reached a tentative agreement with the university administration to avert a planned walkout after more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations. Those familiar with the adjunct campaign know that adjunct professors are contingent workers who comprise more than half of the teaching staff at Northeastern and are paid a couple thousand dollars for each class that they teach. From a budgetary standpoint, contingent workers are economical because they are easily replaced and therefore can be paid less. Still, at a school like Northeastern University with an operating budget of more than $2.2 billion, it is hard to argue that more than half of all professors need to earn poverty wages for the school to remain profitable.
In today's neoliberal landscape -- a term which refers to the coordinated effort by capital and financial interests after the 1980s to privatize public institutions and deregulate markets -- Northeastern is not unusual in its treatment of adjunct professors. The neoliberal university model of high tuitions, bloated administrative departments, and upscale student facilities -- along with assaults on the job security and pay of professors -- is the new norm. It is the image of a thoroughly financialized economy that has transformed the relationship between universities and the state.
From the 19th century through the 1970s, the relationship between universities and the state remained constant. There was an informal arrangement of mutual independence: Academics operated autonomously with state funding on the understanding that they were willing to pursue research in which the state had an interest, such as medicine or space exploration. Underlying this arrangement was the assumption that as a social good, education should drive public research and development.
The story of how universities became neoliberalized begins with the economic crisis of the 1970s and the subsequent free-market discourse that invoked capitalism's insatiable need for economic growth in order to equate the interests of working people with the interests of financiers.
In the three decades after World War II, the U.S. established economic hegemony over the global capitalist world. The Fordist compromise between strong manufacturers and a strong, suburbanizing working class yielded unprecedented wage growth. However, the Fordist model could not last forever. As a general rule, whenever compound economic growth falls below three percent, people begin to get scared . In order to sustain three percent compound growth, there must be no barriers to the continuous expansion and reinvestment of capital.
The suburbanization of postwar America did sustain high demand for American-made automobiles and home products, but reinvestment in manufacturing eventually became difficult for capital because a widely-unionized and militant working class created a labor shortage (i.e. near-full employment) which drove up wages and hurt profitability. To the extent that productivity could be improved by technological innovations, organized labor insisted on "productivity agreements" that ensured that machines would not be used to undermine wages or benefits. To make matters worse for U.S. manufacturers, monopolies like the Big Three auto companies were broken by foreign imports from a newly rebuilt Europe and Japan.
In The Grundrisse , Karl Marx remarked that "every limit [to capital accumulation] appears as a barrier to be overcome." For Marx, sustained capital accumulation requires an "industrial reserve army" to keep the cost of labor (i.e. wages) from impeding profitability. To restore profits, American capital had to discipline labor by drawing from the global working population. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 addressed U.S. labor scarcity by abolishing immigration quotas based on nationality so that cheap labor would flood the market and drive down wages. However, it proved more effective for manufacturing capital to simply relocate to countries with cheaper labor, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s capital did just that -- first to South Korea and Thailand, and then to China as wages in those countries became too high.
"Globalization" entailed removing barriers to international capital relocation such as tariffs and quotas in order to construct a global market where liquid money capital could flow internationally to wherever it yielded the most profits. Of course, wage suppression eventually lowers consumer demand. The neoliberal solution was for financial institutions to sustain middle-class purchasing power through credit. In The Enigma of Capital , David Harvey writes that "the demand problem was temporarily bridged with respect to housing by debt-financing the developers as well as the buyers. The financial institutions collectively controlled both the supply of, and demand for, housing!"
The point of this history though, is that the financialization of the American economy, through which financial markets came to dominate other forms of industrial and agricultural capital, served as the backdrop for the transformation of higher education into what it is today. Neoliberal ideology reframed the social value of higher education as a tool for building the next workforce to serve the new "information economy" -- a term that emerged in the midst of globalization to describe the role of U.S. suburban professionals in the global economy. Simultaneously, finance capital repurposed universities as points of capital accumulation and investment.
The discourse around the information economy sought to rationalize the offshoring of manufacturing from the U.S. The idea was that due to globalization, America has reached a stage of development where its participation in the global economy is as a white-collar work force, specializing in technology and the spread of information. In this telling, there is nothing to critique about the deindustrialization of the American economy because it was inevitable. It was then simple to realign the social goals of universities with the economic goals of Wall Street because the state repression of radical civil rights movements on the Left and the emergent free-market discourse of the Right formed a widespread perception of the state as inherently problematic . State research and development at universities was easily dismissed as inefficient, which cleared space for a neoliberal redefinition of higher education.
Neoliberalism has transformed education from a social good into a production process where the final product is a reserve army of workers for the information economy. What David Harvey calls the "state-finance nexus" pushes universities to play the part by withholding state funds until they expand their enrollment and increase the number of college graduates entering the workforce. In 2012, the Obama Administration identified increasing the number of undergraduate STEM degrees by one million over the next decade as a 'Cross-Agency Priority Goal' on the recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
At the same time that neoliberalism transforms education into a production process for high-tech workers, it transforms the university itself into a site for surplus capital absorption through the construction of new labs, facilities, and houses to draw wealthy students and faculty capable of attracting federal grants. In December 2015, Northeastern filed a letter of intent with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to propose building a residence hall for approximately 800 students. The Boston Globe reported that the project is currently under review by American Campus Communities, the largest developer of private student housing in the U.S. To an economizing university administrator, private developers are very appealing because they assume the debt generated by construction projects. The circular process whereby a large university endowment comprised of financial assets is used to contract a debt-financed independent developer reveals how neoliberalism integrates universities into the circulatory system of capital as circuits of accumulation and investment.
The present relationship between the university and the state flows from the dynamics of financialization. As financialization transforms the role of the United States in the global economy, it appropriates higher education to suit the needs of finance capital. Compared to the ever-expanding administrative apparatus responsible for managing contracts and investments, programs outside of STEM and business fields are considered superfluous. Humanities programs are often downsized and tenure tracks closed to push professors into permanent part-time employment arrangements. Meanwhile, schools like Northeastern and MIT are surrounded by high-tech and business firms that rely on students and research facilities for cheap labor and productive capital.
The position of financial and credit institutions as the financiers of America's productive infrastructure has far-reaching consequences for social institutions like universities with the potential to absorb surplus capital in the form of credit or produce the 21st-century 'information' workforce. Students, and faculty at universities like Northeastern will struggle against market pressures on universities to attract outside investors while downsizing education for as long as the U.S. economy is dominated by finance.
Sep 14, 2018 | mg.co.zaMany of the students I have taught in Britain and South Africa see higher education as a place where they "invest" in themselves in the financial sense of the word. "Going to university," one student said, was a way of "increasing" his "value" or employability in the labour market.
This perception of the university has not arisen by chance.
Capitalism entered a new phase with the Thatcher and Reagan governments in Britain and the United States during the 1980s. The managerial practices used to run businesses were applied to the public sector, in particular to education and healthcare.
This reform of the public sector (called "new public management") introduced a new way of thinking about the university.
Higher education was being made to conform to the norms of efficiency, value for money, customer service, audit and performance targets. One of the consequences of this was the substitution of the authority of the academic, which is based on his or her professional knowledge of the discipline, for the authority of the line manager.
Since then, everything has come to depend on audits and metric standards of so-called quality assessment (student satisfaction, pass rates, league tables, et cetera). Academics have little, if any, say on whether departments should continue to exist, what degrees and courses should be on offer and even what kind of assessment methods should be used.
I don't think that there has been a more sinister assault on academic freedom than this colonisation of higher education by neoliberalism. It justifies itself by calling for "transparency" and "accountability" to the taxpayer and the public. But it operates with a perverted sense of these words (since what it really means is "discipline and surveillance" and "value for money").
Its effect, if not its aim, has been to commodify higher education and produce a new kind of social identity. This is the identity of the self as entrepreneur.
Let me explain. One of the central aspects of neoliberalism is the disappearance of the distinction between the worker and the capitalist. In the neoliberal setting, the worker is not a partner of exchange with the capitalist. She does not sell her labour-power for a wage.
The labourer's ability to work, her skill, is an income stream. It is an investment on which she receives a return in the form of wages. The worker is capital for herself. She is a source of future earnings. In the neoliberal market, as Michel Foucault remarks, everyone is a capitalist.
Neoliberalism has converted education from a public good to a personal investment in the future, a future conceived in terms of earning capacity.
How did we get to this situation?
The modern university came into existence at the start of the 19th century as an extension of the state. The aim of the state during the colonial and imperial age was to constitute the identity of the national subject. As a public institution, the university was designed to teach students to see their life in a specific way. They would learn to see that it is only as members of a national community and culture that their individual life has a meaning and worth. This was the aim of the educational programme that German philosophers such as Wilhelm von Humboldt and Johann Gottlieb Fichte envisaged for the University of Berlin. For them, science was in the service of the moral and intellectual education of the nation.
Established in 1810, the University of Berlin was the first modern university. It was founded on the principles of academic freedom, the unity of research and teaching, and the primacy of research over vocational training. It functioned as the prototype for universities in both the United States and Europe during the second half of the 19th century.
Once transnational corporations started to control more capital than nation-states in the 1980s, the university ceased to be one of its principal organs. It lost its ideological mission and entered the market as a corporation. It started to encourage students to think of themselves as customers rather than as members of a nation. This history shows that the university is today the site of two competing social identities.
On the one hand, because of globalisation, the student who enters university sees herself as someone who is there to increase her human capital, as an enterprise to invest in.
It must be remarked that, for the entrepreneur (taken as a social figure) who invests in herself, differences of class, religion, ethnicity or race are phantasms of a bygone age. The differences in the name of which wars were waged and social movements organised in the past have no more meaning in her eyes than cheap advertising.
There is, for her, something improper or inauthentic about them, as Giorgio Agamben says of the new petty bourgeoisie in The Coming Community. Like Britain's former prime minister, David Cameron, she is sceptical of multiculturalism.
On the other hand, the university has not ceased to draw on its modern role as a producer, protector and inculcator of national identity and culture. Much of what is going on today in South African universities under the name of decolonisation and Africanisation draws on this heritage and understanding of the modern university, even if tacitly. That is why students will politicise themselves by identifying with an ethnicity or nationality.
Nationalism was an emancipatory political project during the anti-colonial struggles of the second half of the 20th century. It was not tribalist or communalist.
According to Eric Hobsbawm in Nations and Nationalism since 1780, its aim was to extend the size of the social, cultural and political group. It was not to restrict it or to separate it from others. Nationalism was a political programme divorced from ethnicity.
Is this political nationalism a viable way of resisting neoliberalism today? Can it gainsay the primacy of economic rationality and the culture of narcissist consumerism, and restore meaning to the political question concerning the common good? Or has nationalism irreversibly become an ethnic, separatist project? It is not easy to say. So far, we have witnessed one kind of response to the social insecurities generated by the global spread of neoliberalism. This is a return to ethnicity and religion as havens of safety and security.
When society fails us owing to job insecurity, and, concomitantly, with regard to housing and healthcare, one tends to fall back on one's ethnicity or religious identity as an ultimate guarantee.
Moreover, nationalism as a political programme depends on the idea of the state. It holds that a group defined as a "nation" has the right to form a territorial state and exercise sovereign power over it. But given the decline of the state, there are reasons to think that political nationalism has withdrawn as a real possibility.
By the "decline of the state" I do not mean that it no longer exists. The state has never been more present in the private life of individuals. It regulates the relations between men and women. It regulates their birth and death, the rearing of children, the health of individuals and so forth. The state is, today, ubiquitous.
What some people mean by the "decline of the state" is that, with the existence of transnational corporations, it is no longer the most important site of the reproduction of capital. The state has become managerial. Its function is to manage obstacles to liberalisation and free trade.
Perhaps that is one of the challenges of the 21st century. How is a "nation" possible, a "national community" that is not defined by ethnicity, on the one hand, and, on the other, that forsakes the desire to exercise sovereign power in general and, in particular, over a territorial state?
The university is perhaps the place where such a community can begin to be thought.
Rafael Winkler is an associate professor in the philosophy department at the University of Johannesburg
Dec 12, 2018 | www.amazon.com
Despite tthe fact that necoliberalism brings poor economic growth, inadequate availability of jobs and career opportunities, and the concentration of economic and social rewards in the hands of a privileged upper class resistance to it, espcially at universities, remain weak to non-existant.
The first sign of high levels of dissatisfaction with neoliberalism was the election of Trump (who, of course, betrayed all his elections promises, much like Obma before him). As a result, the legitimation of neoliberalism based on references to the efficient
and effective functioning of the market (ideological legitimation) is
exhausted while wealth redistribution practices (material legitimation) are
not practiced and, in fact, considered unacceptable.
Despite these problems, resistance to neoliberalism remains weak.
Strategics and actions of opposition have been shifted from the sphere of
labor to that of the market creating a situation in which the idea of the
superiority and desirability of the market is shared by dominant and
oppositional groups alike. Even emancipatory movements such as women,
race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation have espoused individualistic,
competition-centered, and meritocratic views typical of ncolibcral dis-
courses. Moreover, corporate forces have colonized spaces and discourses
that have traditionally been employed by oppositional groups and move-
ments. However, as systemic instability' continues and capital accumulation
needs to be achieved, change is necessary. Given the weakness of opposi-
tion, this change is led by corporate forces that will continue to further
their interests but will also attempt to mitigate socio-economic contra-
dictions. The unavailability of ideological mechanisms to legitimize
ncolibcral arrangements will motivate dominant social actors to make
marginal concessions (material legitimation) to subordinate groups. These
changes, however, will not alter the corporate co-optation and distortion of
discourses that historically defined left-leaning opposition. As contradic-
tions continue, however, their unsustainability will represent a real, albeit
difficult, possibility for anti-neoliberal aggregation and substantive change.
Connolly (2016) reported that a poll shows that some graduated student loan borrowers would willingly go to extremes to pay off outstanding student debt. Those extremes include experiencing physical pain and suffering and even a reduced lifespan. For instance, 35% of those polled would take one year off life expectancy and 6.5% would willingly cut off their pinky finger if it meant ridding themselves of the student loan debt they currently held.
Neoliberalism's presence in higher education is making matters worse for students and the student debt crisis, not better. In their book Structure and Agency in the Neoliberal University, Cannan and Shumar (2008) focus their attention on resisting, transforming, and dismantling the neoliberal paradigm in higher education. They ask how can market-based reform serve as the solution to the problem neoliberal practices and policies have engineered?
It is like an individual who loses his keys at night and who decides to look only beneath the street light. This may be convenient because there is light, but it might not be where the keys are located. This metaphorical example could relate to the student debt crisis. What got us to where we are (escalating tuition costs, declining state monies, and increasing neoliberal influence in higher education) cannot get us out of the SI.4 trillion problem. And yet this metaphor may, in fact, be more apropos than most of us on the right, left, or center are as yet seeing because we mistakenly assume the market we have is the only or best one possible.
As Lucille (this volume) strives to expose, the systemic cause of our problem is "hidden in plain sight," right there in the street light for all who look carefully enough to see. We only have to realize that the emperor has no clothes and reveal this reality. If and when a critical mass of us do, systemic change in our monetary exchange relations can and, we hope, will become our funnel toward a sustainable and socially, economically, and ecologically just future where public education and democracy can finally become realities rather than merely ideals.
Indeed, the approach our money-dependent and money-driven legislators and policymakers have employed has been neoliberal in form and function, and it will continue to be so unless we help them to see the light or get out of the way. This book focuses on the $1.4+ trillion student debt crisis in the United States. It doesn't share hard and fast solutions per se. Rather, it addresses real questions (and their real consequences). Are collegians overestimating the economic value of going to college?
What are we, they, and our so-called elected leaders failing or refusing to sec and why? This critically minded, soul-searching volume shares territory with, yet pushes beyond, that of Akers and Chingos (2016), Baum (2016), Goldrick-Rab (2016), Graebcr (2011), and Johannscn (2016) in ways that we trust those critically minded authors -- and others concerned with our mess of debts, public and private, and unfulfilled human potential -- will find enlightening and even ground-breaking.
... ... ...
In the meantime, college costs have significantly increased over the past fifty years. The average cost of tuition and fees (excluding room and board) for public four-year institutions for a full year has increased from 52,387 (in 2015 dollars) for the 1975-1976 academic year, to 59,410 for 2015-2016. The tuition for public two-year colleges averaged $1,079 in 1975-1976 (in 2015 dollars) and increased to $3,435 for 2015-2016. At private non-profit four-year institutions, the average 1975-1976 cost of tuition and fees (excluding room and board) was $10,088 (in 2015 dollars), which increased to $32,405 for 2015-2016 (College Board, 2015b).
The purchasing power of Pell Grants has decreased. In fact, the maximum Pell Grants coverage of public four-year tuition and fees decreased from 83% in 1995-1996 to 61% in 2015-2016. The maximum Pell Grants coverage of private non-profit four-year tuition and fees decreased from 19% in 1995-1996 to 18% in 2015-2016 (College Board, 2015a).
... ... ....
... In 2013-2014, 61% of bachelor's degree recipients from public and private non-profit four-year institutions graduated with an average debt of $16,300 per graduate. In 2011-2012, 50% of bachelor's degree recipients from for-profit institutions borrowed more than $40,000 and about 28% of associate degree recipients from for-profit institutions borrowed more than $30,000 (College Board, 2015a).
Rising student debt has become a key issue of higher education finance among many policymakers and researchers. Recently, the government has implemented a series of measures to address student debt. In 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (2005) was passed, which barred the discharge of all student loans through bankruptcy for most borrowers (Collinge, 2009). This was the final nail in the bankruptcy coffin, which had begun in 1976 with a five-year ban on student loan debt (SLD) bankruptcy and was extended to seven years in 1990. Then in 1998, it became a permanent ban for all who could not clear a relatively high bar of undue hardship (Best 6c Best, 2014).
By 2006, Sallie Mae had become the nation's largest private student loan lender, reporting loan holdings of $123 billion. Its fee income collected from defaulted loans grew from $280 million in 2000 to $920 million in 2005 (Collinge, 2009). In 2007, in response to growing student default rates, the College Cost Reduction Act was passed to provide loan forgiveness for student loan borrowers who work full-time in a public service job. The Federal Direct Loan will be forgiven after 120 payments were made. This Act also provided other benefits for students to pay for their postsecondary education, such as lowering interest rates of GSL, increasing the maximum amount of Pell Grant (though, as noted above, not sufficiently to meet rising tuition rates), as well as reducing guarantor collection fees (Collinge, 2009).
In 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008) was passed to increase transparency and accountability. This Act required institutions that are participating in federal financial aid programs to post a college price calculator on their websites in order to provide better college cost information for students and families (U.S. Department of Education |U.S. DoE|, 2015a). Due to the recession of 2008, the American Opportunity Tax Credit of 2009 (AOTC) was passed to expand the Hope Tax Credit program, in which the amount of tax credit increased to 100% for the first $2,000 of qualified educational expenses and was reduced to 25% of the second $2,000 in college expenses. The total credit cap increased from $1,500 to $2,500 per student. As a result, the federal spending on education tax benefits had a large increase since then (Crandall-Hollick, 2014), benefits that, again, are reaped only by those who file income taxes.
Aug 24, 2016 | www.amazon.com
From: Amazon.com Neoliberalism's Demons On the Political Theology of Late Capital (9781503607125) Adam Kotsko Books
Every academic critique of neoliberalism is an unacknowledged memoir. We academics occupy a crucial node in the neoliberal system. Our institutions are foundational to neoliberalism's claim to be a meritocracy, insofar as we are tasked with discerning and certifying the merit that leads to the most powerful and desirable jobs. Yet at the same time, colleges and universities have suffered the fate of all public goods under the neoliberal order. We must therefore "do more with less," cutting costs while meeting ever-greater demands. The academic workforce faces increasing precarity and shrinking wages even as it is called on to teach and assess more students than ever before in human history -- and to demonstrate that we are doing so better than ever, via newly devised regimes of outcome-based assessment. In short, we academics live out the contradictions of neoliberalism every day.
... ... ...
On a more personal level it reflects my upbringing in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan, a city that has been utterly devastated by the transition to neoliberalism. As I lived through the slow-motion disaster of the gradual withdrawal of the auto industry, I often heard Henry Ford s dictum that a company could make more money if the workers were paid enough to be customers as well, a principle that the major US automakers were inexplicably abandoning. Hence I find it [Fordism -- NNB] to be an elegant way of capturing the postwar model's promise of creating broadly shared prosperity by retooling capitalism to produce a consumer society characterized by a growing middle class -- and of emphasizing the fact that that promise was ultimately broken.
By the mid-1970s, the postwar Fordist order had begun to breakdown to varying degrees in the major Western countries. While many powerful groups advocated a response to the crisis that would strengthen the welfare state, the agenda that wound up carrying the day was neoliberalism, which was most forcefully implemented in the United Kingdom by Margaret Thatcher and in the United States by Ronald Reagan. And although this transformation was begun by the conservative part)', in both countries the left-of-centcr or (in American usage) "liberal"party wound up embracing neoliberal tenets under Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, ostensibly for the purpose of directing them toward progressive ends.
With the context of current debates within the US Democratic Party, this means that Clinton acolytes are correct to claim that "neoliberalism" just is liberalism but only to the extent that, in the contemporary United States, the term liberalism is little more than a word for whatever the policy agenda of the Democratic Party happens to be at any given time. Though politicians of all stripes at times used libertarian rhetoric to sell their policies, the most clear-eyed advocates of neoliberalism realized that there could be no simple question of a "return" to the laissez-faire model.
Rather than simply getting the state "out of the way," they both deployed and transformed state power, including the institutions of the welfare state, to reshape society in accordance with market models. In some cases creating markets where none had previously existed, as in the privatization of education and other public services. In others it took the form of a more general spread of a competitive market ethos into ever more areas of life -- so that we are encouraged to think of our reputation as a "brand," for instance, or our social contacts as fodder for "networking." Whereas classical liberalism insisted that capitalism had to be allowed free rein within its sphere, under neoliberalism capitalism no longer has a set sphere. We are always "on the clock," always accruing (or squandering) various forms of financial and social capital.
Oct 20, 2018 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Creating A-Plus Conformists By Rod Dreher • October 19, 2018, 12:20 PM
Reader Alice comments on the hyperpoliticization of college students:MrsDK , says: October 20, 2018 at 10:19 am
Understand: they *arrive at universities thinking this way*.
Our US students have been taught since at least grade 6, but mostly since school began, that there are only certain acceptable ideas, and genuflecting to those ideas is what makes you the Top Student, the Front Row kid, the one who checks all the boxes to get into Brown or Oberlin or Yale.
The "best and brightest" accepted to these schools are kids who, consciously or unconsciously, have learned to excel in places by accepting as true the acceptable ideas and never bringing up the unacceptable. Some thoughts are just too dangerous to have. Trajectories that are good for one's future to the Ivies don't allow you to engage these unacceptable ideas. So in school and in other places where one deals with adults, these front row kids learn to believe, or at least be comfortable with parroting, these acceptable ideas. Just as there's a correct answer to a calculus question, there's a correct answer to questions such as why one country is more successful than another, why there are measurable differences in incarceration rates by race (even as there's also a contradictory answer to the question of what is a race), what a nation owes non-citizens vs. citizens, how much training can alter [ ], are sex differences on average innate, are there two sexes, etc.
Meanwhile, if you hear something unacceptable, you've also been equipped with the trump card to demolish the argument: arguer is racist, sexist, bigot. So the Overton window is big for trans rights and little for the role of, say, duty to ones' elders, big for microaggression but little for the personality differences of men and women.
Whether they believe it or not at the beginning is irrelevant. They make the appropriate verbal gestures, they get a reward. After 6-12 years of doing so, they're not capable of engaging in debate or rhetoric, argument from evidence, even following a line of reasoning or recognizing a fallacy. They've never done it, and anyone who tried was actively shut down either calls of "my truth".
On the past, ignorance and obnoxious self regard were demolished by profs rather quickly. What's changed is college profs no longer push back on this crap. They no longer demand argument, reason, and counter argument. They simply are stunned that they share no overlap of consciousness with the students they bequeathed to themselves. They are afraid of them and afraid to stand up to the students or spineless weasel administrators.I live on the east coast and can only tell you what we see. The public schools teach gender identity ideology, starting in elementary. I didn't even know what that is until our autistic daughter suddenly decided that she's "really a guy", along with a cluster of her school friends, when she was 16. They are 19 now, and two of her friends have had irreversible surgery which has made them sterile.Chris - the other one , says: October 19, 2018 at 12:51 pm
My brother is a biology professor at an elite liberal arts college in the Midwest. He uses no pronouns with his students, as the demands escalate and change daily. A whole cluster of young female students in the physics department have suddenly declared themselves trans. The mantra of "supporting women in physics!" swiftly changed to "supporting transgender people in physics!"
He says that it is impossible -- absolutely impossible -- to question what is happening in society concerning the abandonment of human biological facts or to have a rational debate about any of this on campus, either among the faculty or with the students.
The unthinkable has happened. An ideology which would have been laughed at as ridiculous on college campuses in the 1980s is now driving social, legal, and medical practice throughout our entire country. If you haven't been affected by this yet, then you will be. Soon.This is 100% correct and also the result of our K-12 education system doing what it was designed to do: engineer certain social outcomes.Ted Rose , says: October 19, 2018 at 12:54 pm
Conservative calls to "de-fund college" over this are misplaced.
Also, the reason that college professors don't stand up to this is because they know that the administration won't have their back if a student accuses them of being racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic. And the administrator won't have their back due to the desire to avoid bad press and students protesting on campus. Give the (vocal) students what they want so everyone stays happy.You could correlate this to the rise of the NPC meme, too, and why the left is so upset by it: they know it's true.Shelley , says: October 19, 2018 at 12:58 pmI could not disagree with this more strongly. This is the false argument of broad generalization. The vast majority of schools are not en masses teaching radical SJW thought control. They are doing their best to teach AT ALL given the federal over reach into state public education and the excessive focus on testing and scores and the impact that has on funding.Blake , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:02 pm
And certainly anecdote does not equal accumulative data but our personal experience of high school
For our children is that there is zero indoctrination of SJW values coming from the teachers of the institution. Certainly the peer group has SJW people and activities but I'm here to declare that not one teacher or one principal in my district has for e fed my children any SJW dogma. In fact I can list multiple examples of Tim's when I've wondered how teachers got away with things like singing Christian or Jewish music at a choir concert or teaching the Our Father prayer in German or studying the great schism and having my kids present the Orthodox side of the story in World History.
Who knows. Maybe I live in an anomaly. But I wonder if the hyping of crazy SJW stories of abuse in schools has created an image in people's minds that ALL schools are crazy SJW hotbeds.
It's just not true. Public education IS in crisis due to ridiculous over testing and funding that is abysmal. And the majority of people who work in public ed are really just hanging on by their fingernails trying to do their best and make rent!!!
Sure there's a crazy teacher, waka-doodle principal or spineless superintendent that makes the news. And certainly the NEA is an bastion of left leaning ideas, but to make this huge sweep that the kids arriving at University were indoctrinated by their 1st grade teacher and on up through their childhood is just absolutely not true.
It is fear monger it.It's the NPC meme.Retired debater , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:07 pmA hundred years or so ago, I was in high school debate. One of the good things about that is we had to learn how to argue either for or against the same thing with equal conviction. Because we were young and inexperienced, i.e. stupid, most of us were pretty liberal, but the idea that there was only one way to think about a problem was completely foreign.Siarlys Jenkins , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:10 pmWell, the writer of that comment paints a picture. But that assumes facts not in evidence. I don't have a statistical overview of all the high schools in the country, but I know enough about enough students at enough of them to question whether the above description is The Truth About The Meaning Of Life And Everything.Andrew in MD , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm
I grew in a period of suffocating conformity, the dregs of the Cold War hysteria that communists are hiding under your bed and in your anxiety closet to burst out and turn your local church into a museum pretending that a Russian invented the telephone.
Somehow, quite a few of us found the means to stand up, to challenge, to question, to dismiss, to lampoon, and most of all, to turn back mindless adjectives accusing us of Thining The Wrong Way. I doubt that any generation coming up now is so mindlessly conformist as the writer insinuates.
There are two answers to being reflexively called "racist, sexist, bigot."
1) So what?
2) Prove it.
I prefer the second option, but there are other adjectival nouns I would respond to with the first.This situation will not last. The Social Justice canon is too clearly false and modern people are too rebellious to shoulder it for long. One of the characteristics of liquid modernity is that the pendulum swings more freely than it ever has before. It will be interesting to see, when the Social Justice narrative finally collapses, how much of our foundational mythology goes along with it.Ready for the Apocalypse , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:25 pm
As far as I can tell, our modern dysfunction is a very consistent and rational result of one simple foundational lie: "All men are created equal." The intent of this lie may have been noble but it is self-evidently false. And the Social Justice narrative rests very comfortably upon it. I can't see how it survives the collapse of Social Justice no matter how badly we desire to maintain it.
P.S. I understand the reflexive anger and distrust that most readers will feel upon reading this post. This is certainly a painful idea to grapple with. It is embedded deeply into our many intersecting identities. But what would you say to someone claiming that all pots are created equal? Would you posit that anyone denying this claim is a wok supremacist? No. If two things are not interchangeable, then they are not equal. But this does not mean that one is ultimately superior to the other. Human equality is a comfortable illusion. But we can find better reasons to treat one another with the proper respect and kindness. And in the process we might build a more perfect civilization.I don't know if it's deliberate on your part, but the picture on your post reminds me of the new "NPC meme" that is causing outrage among liberals:SammyF , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/us/politics/npc-twitter-ban.htmlAndrew-joel , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:35 pm
The natural follow up for those in power to saying "Some men are more equal than others" is to say "therefore the better men are the ones in power."
No. Being born poor makes it much, much harder to succeed. Having connections puts incompetents and immoral people in power. We need to understand that the rich and powerful *are* usually born with silver spoons in their mouths. Injustice is real. Face it.College students today are the first generation in US history to have grown up with openly gay friends and neighbors. They know, from lived experience, that there is nothing wrong with gay people. They know it in their bones.Mccormick47 , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:41 pm
So, yah, they think differently than we do on sexual issues, and they tune us out when we say things they know to be false."Kids, I don't know what's wrong with the kids these days".TA , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:55 pm
So a reader send this in without citing any Support for her conclusions and you tack on a headline about conformism and print it.
One could easily write a companion piece about homeschooled kids going off to some evangelical college where they set aside all reason and accept creationism and the Bible as the sole arbiter of truth. But those kids aren't going to get into "Brown or Oberlin or Yale".
That's where Alice tips her hand. This has nothing to do with the brainwashing or indoctrination of our youth, but that the Brown, Oberlin and Yale graduates are going to end up running this country, while Alice doesn't get, and isn't in anyway entitled too, tell them what to think.Our US students have been taught since at least grade 6, but mostly since school began, that there are only certain acceptable ideas, and genuflecting to those ideas is what makes you the Top Student, the Front Row kid, the one who checks all the boxes to get into Brown or Oberlin or Yale.S , says: October 19, 2018 at 1:58 pm
There has never been a time in history that this hasn't been true.Rod, the comment is okay, but seems to lack an actual article written around it. Looks quite incomplete both from a literary perspective and from the perspective of the idea.Pogonip , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:08 pmI differ with Andrew. Modern people seem much more submissive than when I graduated in 1977.Matt in VA , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:31 pmThis may sound mawkish, and it's based on just a few years teaching undergrads when I was in grad school, but I think there are a lot of college students who want to be able to say or write something more than the party line, but often they don't know how and have managed to go through high school without having read anything. My students, of both sexes and all races, included a good number of kids who, once I made it clear enough that I didn't want to hear any canned "diversity is excellence" crap or whatever, seemed pretty happy that they could try writing about something else for a change.Raskolnik , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:35 pm
There are always the sycophantic apple-polishers whose whole shtick is regurgitating the conventional wisdom at every opportunity, but people hate that kind of person (see Hillary Clinton).Public education IS in crisis due to ridiculous over testing and funding that is abysmal.anon_parent , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:37 pm
Found the NPC"Maybe I live in an anomaly"LFC , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm
You could spend some time reading your kids' AP World History and AP US History textbooks to discover the "analytical" grid that everything is rammed through. Good for you/your kids if your local teachers don't teach it in that manner, but trust me, the AP test questions are geared toward certain ideological answers.
Also, when Alice mentioned "My truth" I wondered if she has also had a kid in an elite college prep school. If so, it sure sounds like she and I have come to the same conclusions from experience.Working in IT I get to talk to a lot of young people coming out of college with a variety of degrees. Most have no idea what Alice is talking about. Perhaps if you go for something like a sociology or general liberal arts degree at the most liberal schools in the nation this is true but real students are worried about their fields of study (business, software, UX design, etc.) and the courses that might teach these types of things are fluff electives they skate through and ignore as much as possible.TOS , says: October 19, 2018 at 2:59 pm
I also find it ironic that a piece called "Creating A-Plus Conformists" is published by the author of "The Benedict Option". I can't think of a greater force for creating conformity than religious orthodoxy.This post is one big exercise in confirmation bias. There are no facts, just assertions stated firmly enough to convince the already-convinced. I expect better from The American Conservative.Some Wag , says: October 19, 2018 at 3:07 pm
The fact that it's supposedly an example of other peoples' conformity is just the ironic icing on the non-self-aware cake.Andrew in MD:lee , says: October 19, 2018 at 3:14 pm
"But what would you say to someone claiming that all pots are created equal?"
That pots are objects with objective value and none inherent, while people are subjects who invest value in objects and possessed of inherent worth that is not objectively comparable, so we shorthand render it "equality". You know, the reason conservatives are supposed to hate 'borshun.How can this be true when the be all and end all of our culture is radical individualism?Jesse , says: October 19, 2018 at 3:41 pmActual studies shows actually, what happens in college is professors move left-wing students slightly to the right and right-wing students slightly to the left.Alice , says: October 19, 2018 at 4:00 pmHi Rod, sorry about the typos in the original! Thanks for the raising the comment. I hope it's fruitful.Brian in Brooklyn , says: October 19, 2018 at 4:19 pm
To some folks saying 'this is an overgeneralization', my comments were in the post re: what's happening at the elite institutions, and so were directed to the set of kids on k-12 that intend to get to such institutions. Those elite univs are more likely to select students with this SJW profile on the first place, yes. But again, the kids intending to go to such places know this is the profile.
To those questioning whether every k-12 school is like this, I ask you to look at the required courses in teaching colleges and master's programs that credential teachers. It's SJWism everywhere all the time, in every single discipline. Math class is about racial equity. Reading class is about gender equity. There's no other lens through which teachers are taught, so this is the lens through which they teach. Read the journals in teaching and see the articles.
To those questioning whether every college is like this, I suggest you look more closely at your community college's bookstore.
I'm in a southern state that voted for Trump. The big city cc offers this required English class,
ENG-111: Writing and Inquiry
'This course is designed to develop the ability to produce clear writing in a variety of genres and formats using a recursive process. Emphasis includes inquiry, analysis, effective use of rhetorical strategies, thesis development, audience awareness, and revision. Upon completion, students should be able to produce unified, coherent, well-developed essays using standard written English. This course will also introduce students to the skills needed to produce a college-level research essay.'
Seems a reasonable course, right? Freshman English.
The Reader for the course in 2017:
- Sex Ed
- Family Values
- Oh, Come On, Men Aren't Finished
- Wonder Woman by Gloria Steinem
- Sex, Lies and Conversation: why Is It So Hard to Talk to Each Other?
Again, you can claim I'm cherry picking, but you will find this in every city in every state.
I'd suggest spending some time reading Haidt and Lukianoff (Coddling of the American Mind) and some of Haidt's blog posts about his talks at high schools. This one is rather an object lesson:
Or read about Edina, MN. https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/07/left-wing-indoctrination-in-the-schools-its-worse-than-you-think.php
Or just listen to vacuous comments of middle school admins. Look at when districts give days off to kids to bus them to anti Trump rallies, and ask yourself if such a place is real pushing a socratic discussion about these points of view.
If you listen closely, you will understand this is everywhere.Andrew in MD: "If two things are not interchangeable, then they are not equal." Is interchangeability the sole criteron of equality? Could a person argue that since all people are sinners/fallen, they are, therefore, equal? Or are some more sinning or fallen?MikeS , says: October 19, 2018 at 4:28 pm
The Buddha demonstrated that all people are empty of self – why cannot that suffice for the establishment of equality?Andrew in MD: some great American (John Randolph?) once said "I do not believe that all men are equal, for the simple reason that it isn't true". So, nothing anger-producing in your post. If giving up this noble lie is what is needed to consign SJWism to the ideological trash bin along with other totalitarian ideologies like Maoism, then out it goes.Sid Finster , says: October 19, 2018 at 4:36 pmWhen I was, in my late college years through my first ten or so years in The Real World, I was a doctrinaire conservative Republican, although not a member of any church or religion.cka2nd , says: October 19, 2018 at 5:17 pm
In a way, this did me some good, because I was attending some elite, some not-so-elite, and all very leftish educational institutions. Often my grades suffered, but I had to learn to marshal facts and formulate arguments that people did not want to hear. Often this was pretty easy, because the people I was arguing with had never really thought about what they believed or why, much less the unspoken assumptions underlying those beliefs, and they had never heard them challenged.
Usually the response was sputtering outrage, but that's a poor substitute for logical argument, especially when I am almost autistic in how little I care what other people think of me. In fact, if you react by being even calmer and more logical, the other person will dissolve into a spitting mad Donald Duck meltdown.
If I had simply gone with the flow, all that was necessary was to recite the correct dogmas and platitudes with adequate conviction and I would have been greeted with hosannas.
They say that a person becomes more conservative as they get older, but the opposite happened to me. I suppose because I enjoy challenging my own beliefs, finding facts that don't fit my own theories and then trying to make sense of them.
I learned that theory didn't always apply in real world conditions and pat answers don't always translate into solutions. (Apply "markets in all the things" to healthcare, for instance.)
They also say that a person becomes more conservative as they become more successful, but that wasn't the case for me either. I suppose to a certain extent, I am successful because I was lucky.
Whatever.Honestly, what Shelley wrote sounds more accurate than what Alice did, although I think there is at least a grain of truth in Alice's post, too. And the poster at another one of Rod's pieces who put more of the blame on the Internet than on schools and teachers at any level made sense, too.G , says: October 19, 2018 at 5:35 pmCount me skepticalKevinS , says: October 19, 2018 at 5:46 pm
As much as I find the content on AmCon to be generally thought provoking, the complaint expressed by "Alice" is a recurring sentiment that I think "conservatives" use to cover up shoddy arguments
"I have all these really great ideas and deep insights about race and gender, but every time I try to express them, I get called a bigot, and I'm totally not a bigot, but those dastardly liberals won't even let me make my argument because they are always shouting me down and calling me a bigot, so me and the vast majority of ordinary folks who also agree with me are effectively silenced a shrill few elites, which is totally unfair! Anyone else feel this way? Sad!"
Something doesn't jive about the general premise. Summarizing Alice's post as "All the kids today are totally brainwashed by SJWs, and everyone mindlessly goes along with whatever the PC police say". On a related note, last week's major news item was essentially "ordinary Americans were recently polled and 92% of them don't support political correctness and they are totally sick of identity politics and fed up with SJWs -- #WalkAway #RedWave #MAGA"
Am I missing something? Because those don't seem to make sense to be occurring in the same place at the same time. "The kids are totally brainwashed by identity politics and are just a bunch of useful idiots for the Left", BUT "they also see right through it, see that it's a sham, and they thoroughly reject it". Also, "The ordinary folks are cowering in fear, there's nothing they can do about it, the situation is beyond hopeless because the SJWs have effectively silenced all dissent", BUT "there's a revolution about to burst forth because so many ordinary people are mad as hell and not going to take it any more and in November they are going to vote hardcore against all this identity stuff and kick these knuckleheads out of power."
Doesn't make sense. It's one or the other, not both.
I don't instinctively believe that all Republicans and Conservatives are bigots. I'm a Conservative. I don't think I'm a bigot. But I do get a little skeptical of a particular handful of my fellow conservatives who always seem to be running around complaining "everyone's always calling me a bigot, everyone's always calling me a bigot, I'm totally not a bigot, but everyone's always calling me a bigot when I express my ideas".
Well, okay, what exactly are these wonderful, totally not bigoted ideas that you have? Would you like to share them with us?
For example, Alice (or anyone else), please illuminate us with the answer to one of the questions that you raised in your post, one of those off-limits questions where people are always unfairly saying that your answer is racist: why there are measurable differences in incarceration rates by race?
Help me to understand, in your own, totally not-bigoted words, what is the answer that we all need the hear, the answer that the SJWs won't let us hear? I promise, promise, promise that I will not call you a racist. This is a safe space for you.I have no idea who Alice is. But as a college professor, I find this to be (and this is being charitable) exaggerated nonsense. Has Alice actually ever stood in front of and talked to class of college freshman?John , says: October 19, 2018 at 6:04 pmThe upside is that all the good little Maoists will starve, come some real crises in our society. Good for them that they can make up micro aggressions out of nothing, not so good for them that they won't be able to feed their soy faces when things begin to break down in this nation.Ray Woodcock , says: October 19, 2018 at 6:07 pm
I figured we'd already gone around the useless bend with these people years ago when I was trapped someplace and MTV was playing. Some yoyo on the TV was talking about a show he was producing and soooooo scared that it wasn't going to go right and freaking out and all this, basically over nothing. I then noticed more and more of this type of behavior once I started looking for it. Lots of younger and younger people living in fear of absolutely nothing just fear for its own sake.
Learned fear and helplessness, nothing less or more. You have an increasingly large number of kids who are raised up as sheltered as possible and who have no real will or ability to take care of themselves. Couple that with the ideological vampires that roam higher education these days and you wind up with people who don't really care about whatever cause they're promoting, or what they're protesting, but it becomes all abut trying to drive out any dissenting sound from a basis of fear.
The soy boys are wretched creatures at best, and the harpies who lead them about by the nose are just as pitiful. Kinda dangerous, but only to a point, because all of them value their own skin more than real confrontation or principles (this is kinda true of the alt-right, too, which is why the media always suffers meltdowns at violence that wouldn't even merit a mention in Freikorps-riddled Germany, where the Browns and Reds duke it out regularly and Hitler brandished a pistol, not a Twitter hissy fit).
There's really no upside, just the irritation of living with these people on a daily basis and trying to tune out their BS. Maybe the social credit system will get rolling here and some point, which will be a clue to move to the sticks and learn how to raise organic produce and enjoy the simpler things. Lord knows, none of them are going to want to risk getting mud on their hipster work boots by being in the real country.I'm sure Reader Alice is identifying a real phenomenon, but it's funny to see a traditional Christian publishing it. Are we saying the other side is a haven of consistently rational debate ?Cato , says: October 19, 2018 at 6:57 pmI teach high school kids for a living. My school is in a high income area and nearly 100% of the kids are college bound, many of them to very selective universities. My experience is that our stronger students take challenging and reasonably balanced courses – they do not arrive to college as leftist zombies. Our weaker students sometimes find a home with the leftists and realize that they can be praised by adults and sometimes even given high grades in politicized but low level classes. These are the ones I worry about. I have a good view of the next generation, and from where I sit the most capable 17 year olds are for more influenced by Lin Manuel Miranda than by Ta Nehisi Coates – and I find that fairly encouraging.Bob Loblaw , says: October 19, 2018 at 7:13 pmI taught high school English in the California Bay Area and even there, I encountered only a couple teachers who could be said to have any kind of liberal agenda and to have included it in the classroom. My 3 kids have gone to California public schools (2 of them are currently in high school), in the Bay Area and the Sacramento regions, and we haven't experienced any of what the writer of this post describes. It's been my experience that kids get their political leanings these days mostly from their peers, their media heroes and social media.charles cosimano , says: October 19, 2018 at 7:17 pm
Now, college is another matter entirely, but I don't need to tell anyone here that.Ah the joys of high school.Old West , says: October 19, 2018 at 7:20 pm
I remember well the time I made the perfectly wise and rational statement in history class that "might makes right," which of course it does. My poor teacher, at his usual loss for words in dealing with my divine wisdom sputtered some foolishness to the effect that, "Hitler had might. Was he right?'
To which I responded, as the Young Voice of God, "Hitler lost."
The look on the poor man's face was worth the price of admission for he had chosen exactly the wrong example to use. He slumped back, defeated, for he had proven me right.
Fear not. The young will grow up and, as their compatriots in Christian schools will, learn to see past the platitudes, knowing that the very idea of justice is a vile thing, incompatible with their personal freedom, and they will end up despising it from their very bones.
That is why the future is Cosimanian Orthodox.Jonathan Haidt has pointed out a key reason why we get such mixed messages about what is really happening.RATMDC , says: October 19, 2018 at 7:21 pm
Millennials get blamed for a lot of this, but most of this stuff is actually the arrival of the first of the immediate post-millennial generation at college, just within the last couple of years.
He points out that this is the first generation to have gone through formative late childhood/early adolescent years experiencing the destructive impact social media throughout their development. (Previous generations encountered it after they were just that bit older and more emotionally stable.)
I can look back at my kids, who were born smack-dab in the middle of the millennial generation, and their high school experience wasn't remotely like anything described above. Granted, they grew up in Old West country, but it was at a very large high school–and as this blog repeatedly points out, nowhere is sheltered from the modern diseases. Their teachers were certainly overwhelmingly liberal, as is true pretty much everywhere these days, no matter how red the state.
If Haidt is right, the experience my millennial kids had (and the experiences that many readers of this blog will be appealing to) is *completely* irrelevant. There is something brand-new just arrived on the scene, and only in the last 2-3 years.
We can argue about whether teachers caused it, culture caused it, social media caused it, parents caused it The question is what we are going to do about it.I find this really, really hard to believe. Also, I think I can state (with some degree of confidence) that Alice does, in fact, believe that there is only one answer to her questions about incarceration, national success, etc.Seoulite , says: October 19, 2018 at 9:41 pm
The "best and brightest" come in a few different flavors. A lot of them are the kids who do everything absolutely right, don't seem to rock any particular boats, and are often pretty conservative in various ways, including politically.
Others are those fueled by a desire for justice and reforms, because they've been on the receiving end of injustice, or they've witnessed it and felt sympathy/empathy. These are the ones who often clash with administrators and/or the more entitled demographics among their peers. They're the ones standing by their controversial school newspaper articles, the ones organizing the gay-straight (etc.) alliances in the face of often serious threat, and so on. This isn't happening because they've been indoctrinated, though they may have been inspired by that one English or History teacher.
I know what you think of them.As others have said Rod, you've stumbled across the NPC meme. No doubt someone will be along to tell you about how you are dehumanizing people, because having an NPC avatar will get you banned from twitter but calling white people dogs will get you on the editorial board of the NYT.JimDandy , says: October 19, 2018 at 9:44 pm
For those unfamiliar with it, NPC means Non-Player-Character. It comes from video games, although I've read that it appeared in DnD before that. In any case it is mostly relevant to RPG games here. In an RPG game, the player will encounter many NPCs who have a few scripted responses that they will repeat whenever the player talks to them. The meme is that SJWs do not think for themselves, and simply respond to everything with a few scripted responses to any political debate, usually some variation of an 'ist' or an 'ism' or white privilege or lived experience. It has been an effective meme for mocking the left, which is why twitter moved so quickly to shut it down.
So the Overton window is big for trans rights and little for the role of, say, duty to ones' elders, big for microaggression but little for the personality differences of men and women.
This is exactly right, and is actually the reason why the experience of becoming "red-pilled" can be so exhilarating and freeing for many people. Suddenly there are huge areas of discussion and debate that you can explore. It is especially potent because often these areas were once filed under "common sense" or "fairness". Examples include the differences between men and women which are evident to most toddlers, or the intrinsic unfairness of judging people guilty for crimes that were committed hundreds of years before they were born.
The euphoria of this rediscovered freedom can lead people to over-correct, and go very far into conspiracy theories in search of more "truths" which have been considered off-limits. I've seen this in an acquaintance who went far down the rabbit-hole of holocaust denial theories and neo-nazism. I think it became a rush for him to go where others fear to tread, and I think it is somehow connected to the red-pill experience.
[NFR: I found the graphic when I typed "conformity" into Shutterstock's search engine. -- RD]Shelley, I don't mean this as an insult, but you are 100% completely out of touch on this issue. My sense is that you don't want to know the truth. This is evidenced by statements like this:redbrick , says: October 19, 2018 at 10:58 pm
"For our children is that there is zero indoctrination of SJW values coming from the teachers of the institution. Certainly the peer group has SJW people and activities but I'm here to declare that not one teacher or one principal in my district has for e fed my children any SJW dogma."
First of all, this is anecdotal. Secondly, I can ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEE you that your absolutist statement is wrong. Your assertion that you know every single thing that teachers/administrators have "fed" to your children shows how unserious you are about soberly assessing/investigating the situation. You are operating on selective evidence and faith.
We are living in a time where our schools, the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, high ed, and The Democratic party are united in a vitriolic, hysterical insistence that citizens of all ages support The Narrative, OR ELSE.
I think your mindset is shared by many who simply can't accept the fact that what should be the fringe rantings of the occasional "waka-doodle" has become the norm in the leftist controlled institutions I listed above. I hope you all wake up, and see the extremist agenda and actual violence that the left is supporting. If you don't, we will descend into actual civil war. That probably sounds crazy to you, too. I wish you were right.Andrew in MDSelvar , says: October 20, 2018 at 12:01 am
"This situation will not last. The Social Justice canon is too clearly false and modern people are too rebellious to shoulder it for long."
Agree ..I would call it the social justice Koran though ..but unlike the Islamic Koran (Qu'ran) it keeps changing all the time.
One day you're an "ally" the next day you find yourself a "nazi"
Seriously ..just go around campus today saying lines from Obama speeches back in 2008 ."I believe marriage is between a man and a woman" and "immigration must be controlled and the violence on the southern border must be stopped"
Thats now "hate speech"
At least the wahhabis tend to stick to one set of rules.As someone who has spent most of my life in education and higher education, it is not my experience that there is some sort of universal SJW indoctrination. In reality what basically happens is this:Seoulite , says: October 20, 2018 at 2:55 am
- Certain professions at the commanding heights of the culture (journalism, entertainment, academia etc ) are inherently cosmopolitan and tend to disproportionately appeal to liberals/leftists.
- Therefore, most college profs, students, and academic types end up being Nice Moderate Liberals. Most are not dogmatic or hateful, and are willing to entertain rational argumentation (to a point). Many–especially the students–are apolitical.
- However, centrist liberal hegemony is largely defenseless against radical SJWs, especially if they are ethnic minorities/women making accusations of racism/sexism, and the Nice Moderate Liberals get bullied (sometimes quite literally) into going along with the SJW agenda.
So, for instance, during the big SJW freakouts in places like Yale and Evergreen State, the SJWs were not protesting and shutting down conservatives (too few of them to really matter). They were protesting/assaulting/shutting down moderate liberals.[NFR: I found the graphic when I typed "conformity" into Shutterstock's search engine. -- RD]Laurie Wolpert , says: October 20, 2018 at 7:10 am
I was referring more to the content of the post than the picture, although the picture itself is not dissimilar from the meme.I was and still am a teacher (worked in public schools). Some teachers are liberal, some are conservative. Personal politics does not come into the classroom unless a teacher brings it in. However, standardized testing, funding, and infrastructure spending are all political realities that affect teachers.Mark VA , says: October 20, 2018 at 7:22 am
The idea that there are teachers indoctrinating your children is a conservative boogeyman. There are a few bad teachers, but they are usually apathetic, not passionate. There are also a few doctors who have sexually abused their clients, but that doesn't demonize the whole health profession.
If parents are so concerned about transmitting values, they are free to homeschool, but it would involve living on one income and re-prioritizing their finances. Many people are not really that concerned about it, but it's easy to decry the fictional bad teachers they imagine are stalking the schools. If public schools did not exist, all of these parents would be forced to educate their own children, and they would realize a small sampling of what teachers contend with on a daily basis.
Please stop painting a false picture of the profession. Public education is a genuine good of democracy. If it disappears completely, people will one day realize what they have lost.Alice:JonF , says: October 20, 2018 at 8:11 am
I would like to echo reader G's sentiment – paraphrasing G, you've stated your arguments in a detached way, without giving any samples of your own thinking. It's as if you seek some implied consensus on conclusions you are, for some reason, unwilling to share. Your arguments seem to be:
(a) Grade and high school age students are being indoctrinated into "certain acceptable ideas", which they carry to the university;
(b) Universities confirm and deepen this indoctrination: "Some thoughts are just too dangerous to have";
(c) Science and engineering fields lead to objectively correct, singular solutions to given questions. The humanities try to mimic them, by insisting that there are singular solutions to more complex questions as well;
(d) Here you do give us a few hints of these complex questions: some countries are more successful than others, incarceration rates vary by race, what is the correct treatment of non-citizens, the number of sexes, and possibly, a question on IQ;
If I've misunderstood any of your arguments, please correct me. I would also like to echo G's invitation for you to provide a sample of your own thinking on any of these questions. Should you respond, I too promise not to engage in polemics. To encourage you, Alice, for what it's worth, these are my early thoughts on why "one country is more successful than another":
At an individual's level, the basic idea of "success" is biological survival and procreation. At the level of a country (and by that, I mean a nation which embodies a certain culture), it is cultural survival, and handing down of its culture to succeeding generations for preservation and improvement. Thus, at this basic level, the most successful countries are those that faced adversity, even dissolution as states (some for several generations), and still managed to preserve, improve, and pass on their culture till more favorable times. This is one proof, perhaps the strongest, of cultural resilience;
Other measures of "success" are more ephemeral. All countries, if they survive long enough, experience cycles of economic and military ups and downs, cultural rots and regenerations, and demographic changes, to list a few examples. Thus, history decrees that in these matters, no country can expect to be "number one" in perpetuity. In my mind, such passing things are not good indicators of "success". For countries, success depends on those cultural factors that are transmittable and willingly accepted (even embraced and cherished) by succeeding generations. It also depends of each generation to have the wherewithal to continuously adapt and improve them. The next question would be, what are these factors?Has anyone considered that these kids (who are certainly no where close to a majority) might be picking up these values at home? Leftwing people also have kids.Raskolnik , says: October 20, 2018 at 9:11 amRATMDC , says: October 20, 2018 at 9:40 am
from where I sit the most capable 17 year olds are far more influenced by Lin Manuel Miranda than by Ta Nehisi Coates – and I find that fairly encouraging.
That's supposed to be REASSURING???You know the way Leah Anthony Libresco first (I think) appeared in the prominent headlines, right?
Publicly standing up against the Bush administration was not the sort of thing that was an unthinking default at the time. I don't think it was the way to get into the best universities. I don't think it was a path prescribed by teachers and the corporate media (though lots of conservatives claimed otherwise).
It represented a struggle for social justice, and an unpopular one at that.
Sep 16, 2018 | democracyeducationjournal.org
Goodlad, et al. (2002) rightly point out that a culture can either resist or support change. Schein's (2010) model of culture indicates observable behaviors of a culture can be explained by exposing underlying shared values and basic assumptions that give meaning to the performance. Yet culture is many-faceted and complex. So Schein advised a clinical approach to cultural analysis that calls for identifying a problem in order to focus the analysis on relevant values and assumptions. This project starts with two assumptions:
- The erosion of democratic education is a visible overt behavior of the current U.S. macro-culture, and
- This is a problem.
I intend to use this problem of the erosion of democratic education as a basis for a cultural analysis. My essential question is: What are the deeper, collective, competing value commitments and shared basic assumptions that hinder efforts for democratic education? The purpose of this paper is to start a conversation about particular cultural limitations and barriers we are working with as we move toward recapturing the civic mission of education.
... ... ...
Neoliberalism's success in infiltrating the national discourse shuts out alternative discourses and appears to render them irrelevant in everyday American culture (R. Quantz, personal communication, Summer 2006). If we care about the prospects of democratic education, we must take neoliberalism's success seriously, for it is a philosophical framework in which freedom and democratic education are mutually exclusive. Dewey (1993), in all his wisdom, warned:And let those who are struggling to replace the present economic system by a cooperative one also remember that in struggling for a new system of social restraints and controls they are also struggling for a more equal and equitable balance of powers that will enhance and multiply the effective liberties of the mass of individuals. Let them not be jockeyed into the position of supporting social control at the expense of liberty [emphasis added]. (p. 160)
Yet, that is exactly the situation in which we find ourselves today. Democratic education is viewed as a social control policy, as an infringement on the supremacy of the [neoliberal] freedom. We witness a lack of democratic citizenship, moral, and character education in our schools. We see a lack of redistributing resources for equality of educational opportunity. We observe a lack of talk about education's civic mission, roles, and goals. Democratic education is viewed as tangential, secondary, and mutually exclusive from the prioritized value of "liberty." How can we foster alternative notions of freedom, such as Lincoln's republican sense of liberty as collectively inquiring and deciding how we rule ourselves?
We must intentionally challenge the neoliberal notion of the value freedom and the usefulness of its associated philosophical assumptions.
skippy , April 20, 2018 at 3:47 pm
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Economics conducted a curriculum review of 174 modules at 7 Russell Group universities -- rightly or wrongly considered the 'top' universities in the UK -- and we found that the uncritical acceptance of one type of economics begins with education. Under 10% of modules even mentioned anything other than mainstream or 'neoclassical' economics; in econometrics, over 90% of modules devoted more than two-thirds of their lectures to linear regression. Only 24% of exam questions required critical or independent thinking (i.e. were open-ended); this dropped to 8% if you only counted the compulsory macro and micro modules that form the core of economics education.
We have previously called this 'indoctrination', and while this may seem dramatic the dictionary definition of indoctrination is to "teach a person or set of people to accept a set of beliefs uncritically", which we think adequately characterises the results of the review, as well as our own experience and many widely used economics textbooks. Given this education, it is no wonder that economists remain wedded to the fundamental precepts of choice models and linear regression no matter where they turn their attention. By putting the method first, the implicit assumption becomes that answering a question using this framework is prima facie interesting, and critical evaluation of these tools against others is made unthinkable.
Jim Haygood , , April 20, 2018 at 11:01 am
For nearly thirty years after the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) became received gospel in the mid-1960s, the claim that stock prices exhibited momentum (which shouldn't be true in a perfectly efficient market) was roundly mocked by mainstream economists.
Then in 1993, Jegadeesh and Titman published a paper titled "Returns to Buying Winners and Selling Losers: Implications for Stock Market Efficiency" in the Journal of Finance . Its evidence for a momentum effect was impossible to refute.
So economists bolted en masse to the opposite side of the boat. Today there are thousands of papers on momentum, often presenting some fairly trivial arithmetic that home-based amateurs have long used. But it's formulated into equations with Greek letters, and a [totally boring] statistical panel appears in the Appendix to prove some statistical significance.
A few professors actually exploited their discoveries to get rich. Cliff Asness, a U of Chicago PhD (but a practitioner, not a professor) offers some light-hearted commentary on his mentor Eugene Fama:
Of course the book The Fama Portfolio also contains contributions by other authors (or how the heck did I get in there?) that reflect, directly or indirectly, on Gene's work.
Being able to read Gene's originals and some of the major papers by others that explore his work in one volume is both a treat and incredibly useful (these contributors, unlike John Liew and myself, are themselves serious academic luminaries!).
OK, enough shilling. If you love finance and don't immediately pine for this book, I can't help you any further☺
Synoia , April 20, 2018 at 11:33 am
If it was only like the movie THX1138.
Where the police were call off their pursuit, when within a finger nail of – helping – their subject. Because the economic perimeters their models produced, with the help of computational machines, gave a ridged defined view of the operation. Seems the subject was operating outside the econometric perimeters due to mental illness – was a patient whom escaped at the time.
Alas we never get to see what he saw when he popped out on the surface, save a blinding orb.
In retrospect did they do the underground thingy to better control, could nature itself be a threat to the model, hence the need to control every aspect of environment for behavioral reasons.
Anywho I'll just leave this on my way to work:
"If we accept that we need fundamental reform, what should the new economics -- "de-conomics" as I'm calling it -- look like?
First, we need to accept that there is no such thing as "value-free" analysis of the economy. As I've explained, neoclassical economics pretends to be ethically neutral while smuggling in an individualistic, anti-social ethos " – Howard Reed
Chris , April 20, 2018 at 12:22 pm
Linear regression is economists' preferred empirical technique
That's really a powerful tool in a world which is chaotic.
The trouble with embracing chaos and catastrophe theory is the "chaos" part of predicting the future. But economists, being human and liking their paychecks, are not interested in any predictions which do not cater, or pander, to the needs of their bosses or paymasters.
Why, that might suggest the boss is wrong! Such heresy leads to a quick execution!
Fundamentally, economics is a religion, with priests, high priests, creed, dogma, punishment for heretics, and all the other trappings of a religion. But the pay is good, so Clive's rule for middle class jobs applies.
Disclaimer: My view of Religion is similar: Why?
1. You'll get your reward in the afterlife, after you are dead!
2. We know this is true, because we've never had a complaint.
Synoia , April 20, 2018 at 1:53 pm
Linear regression certainly is a powerful tool for examining linear distributions, but it essential to first confirm that the distribution is linear, and to remember that on occasion, samples drawn from random (unrelated) distributions can show a spurious correlation.
blennylips , April 20, 2018 at 2:40 pm
but it essential to first confirm that the distribution is linear
Very true, but how is this proven? In nature and economics are there any linear distributions? If so over what range?
I notice a preponderance of using straight lines instead of growth curves. I also notice chaos, or noise, in behaviors, coupled with a complete non-understanding of entropy.
In nature linear behavior is unlikely. If it were linear we'd see straight branches on trees, rainfall evenly distributed and the wind would always blow at constant speed, with predictable eddies.
I suppose a rock dropped would exhibit linear behaviors until it hits the ground, and at that point in time the "dropping rock" system become decidedly chaotic, from stuck in the mud, to bouncing in a random direction, to bursting into pieces, pieces who's destiny is completely uncertain.
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man."
Nassim, I think covers all this better than anyone else. Would love to hear of similarly comprehensive works.
Fooled by Randomness covers problems with assumed linearity and normal distributions.
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
marku52 , April 20, 2018 at 3:57 pmhemeantwell , April 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm
Stumbling and Mumbling has a good riff on this topic:
". Economics, for me, is not about armchair theorizing. It should begin with the facts, and especially the big ones. The facts are that share buy-backs do usually matter, so thought experiments that say otherwise are wrong from the off. Similarly, the fact that wage inflation has been low for years (pdf) is much more significant than any theorizing about Phillips curves."
The comments are good as well:
"That's a category error: you don't define "Economics", tenure committees define it, and they award tenure to people who have a long record of publishing "internally consistent" ("armchair theorizing") papers."
"I found myself sitting next to a very likable young middle-aged academic tenured at an elite British university, whom henceforth I will refer to as Doctor X and whose field is closely associated with this blog. Every year I publish papers in the top journals and they're pure shit." Doctor X, who by now had had a glass or two, felt bad about this, not least because "students these days are so idealistic and eager to learn; they're really wonderful." Furthermore Doctor X could and would like "to write serious papers but what would be the point?" "
http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2018/04/facts-vs-hand-waving-in-economics.html#commentsApe , April 22, 2018 at 3:32 am
Yeah. I'm inclined to think the author needs to curb his enthusiasms and take up dejected drinking.
The nub of his presentation was a model in which consumers, due to cognitive limitations, were unable to fully examine every single product they purchased. The result was that regulations guaranteeing a certain standard of safety, quality and the like could improve competition by giving people more time to shop around instead of having to devote so much time to investigate specific products. Thus, regulation would improve markets and competition
This is Nobel-level work? It amounts to finding a way to pitch a product to anti-regulation dogmatists. I'm sure that you could find similar arguments being made during the Progressive era regulatory push. Only they would have been framed more as "people will have more time to shop around if they're not killed by previous ingestion of the product."Larry Motuz , April 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm
Dude – they aren't actually doing fancy math. Linear regression – like it's 1850!
Most of their important proofs are irrelevant crap with wholes. The math is mostly undergraduate math! The emperor has no clothes!
The problem isn't just math trickery – it's not even proper ingenuity.
Just read a Summer or Krugman paper – it's 70 pages of words, 3 graphs of imaginary numbers and stats 2 equations. That's not mathematization.Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:08 am
What I mean by 'mathemagics' is the misuse of mathematics –even simple mathematics -- to create the illusion that 'utility' or 'indifference curves' actually pertain to real concepts. In reality, they 'mathematize' gobbledygook passed off as coherent concepts. There is nothing so conceptually barren as 'utility' or 'indifference curve' analytics. The notion that one can derive any coherent 'demand' analysis for any one consumer that is individual human being (or life form of any kind) for any product, or that one can aggregate these up is mathematical junk.Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:09 am
The Classical Economists used the broader political economy rather than today's narrow economics.
The Washington Consensus dreamed of a world run by the laws of economics.
The laws of economics worked in China's favour and the Western economies got hollowed out.
Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)
Maximising profit required minimising wages.
The minimum wage is set when disposable income equals zero.
The minimum wage = taxes + the cost of living
China had it made and the West had tilted the playing field against itself.
The US eventually woke up the geopolitical consequences of a world governed by the laws of economics that had worked in China's favour.
Trump has just made things worse with his tax cuts.
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages.
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages in Asia where they can make more profit. They can then ship the stuff back here increasing Western trade deficits.Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:17 am
"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. " Warren Buffet, 25 May 2005
Did your class think about the geopolitics?
I don't think so.
William White (BIS, OECD) is on board for the benefits of the broader political economy.
May 12, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
... By William Lazonick, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Lowell. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking websiteHow the U.S. New Economy Business Model has devalued science & engineering PhDs This note comments on Eric Weinstein's, " How and Why Government, Universities, and Industries Create Domestic Labor Shortages of Scientists and High-Tech Workers ," posted recently on INET's website.
At the outset of his paper, Weinstein argues that:
Long term labor shortages do not happen naturally in market economies. That is not to say that they don't exist. They are created when employers or government agencies tamper with the natural functioning of the wage mechanism.
The contention, written from the perspective of the late 1990s, is that in the first half of the 1990s an oversupply ("a glut") of science and engineering (S&E) labor that depressed the wages of PhD scientists and engineers was primarily the result of the promotion of a government-university-industry (GUI) agenda, coordinated by the National Science Foundation under the leadership of Erich Bloch, head of the NSF from 1984 to 1990. Beginning in 1985, the NSF predicted a shortfall of 675,000 S&E personnel in the U.S. economy over the next two decades. According to a study by the NSF's Policy Research and Analysis (PRA) division, quoted by Weinstein, salary data show that real PhD-level pay began to rise after 1982, moving from $52,000 to $64,000 in 1987 (measured in 1984 dollars). One set of salary projections show that real pay will reach $75,000 in 1996 and approach $100,000 shortly beyond the year 2000.
Weinstein argues that the GUI agenda (inspired by Reaganomics) sought to prevent these salary increases. He contends that the legislation that enabled this oversupply was the Immigration Act of 1990 that expanded the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and instituted employment-based immigration preferences. Given that most of these foreigners came from lower-wage (Asian) nations, it is assumed that they were attracted to work in the United States by what for them were high wages, whereas Americans with S&E PhDs began to shun S&E careers as the salaries became less attractive.1
There is a lot missing from Weinstein's perspective, which is also the perspective of demographer Michael Teitelbaum, who Weinstein cites extensively and who was at the Sloan Foundation from 1983 to 2013, rising to Vice-President in 2006. Weinstein and Teitelbaum view the salaries of scientists and engineers as being determined by supply and demand on the labor market ("the natural wage rate" and "the natural functioning of the labor market"). From this (neoclassical) perspective, they completely ignore the "marketization" of employment relations for S&E workers that occurred in the U.S. business sector from the mid-1980s as well as the concomitant "financialization" of the U.S. business corporation that remains, in my view, the most damaging economic problem facing the United States. This transformation of employment relations put out of work large numbers of PhD scientists and engineers who previously had secure employment and who enjoyed high incomes and benefits as well as creative corporate careers. The marketization of employment relations brought to an end of the norm of a career with one company (CWOC)-an employment norm that was pervasive in U.S. business corporations from the 1950s to the 1980s, but that has since disappeared. 2 The "financialization" of the corporation, manifested by massive distributions to shareholders in the forms of cash dividends and stock buybacks, undermined the opportunities for business-sector S&E careers.
The major cause of marketization was the rise of the "New Economy business model" (NEBM) in which high-tech startups, primarily in information-and-communication technology (ICT) and biotechnology, lured S&E personnel away from established companies, which offered CWOC under the "Old Economy business model" (OEBM). As startups with uncertain futures, the New Economy companies could not realistically offer CWOC, but instead enticed S&E personnel away from CWOC at Old Economy companies by offering these employees stock options on top of their salaries (which were typically lower than those at the Old Economy companies). The stock options could become extremely valuable if and when the startup did an initial public offering (IPO) or a merger-and-acquisition (M&A) deal with an established publicly-listed company.
The rise in S&E PhD salaries from 1982 to 1987, identified in the NSF study that Weinstein quotes, was the result of increased demand for S&E personnel by New Economy companies, with some of the increase taking the form of stock-based pay, which in the Census data drawn from tax returns is lumped in with salaries.3 Competing with companies for S&E personnel, the rise of the NEBM in turn put pressure on salaries at Old Economy companies as they tried to use CWOC to attract and retain S&E labor in the face of the stock-based alternative. By the last half of the 1980s, this New Economy competition for talent was eroding the learning capabilities of the corporate research labs that, in many cases from the early twentieth century, had been a characteristic feature of Old Economy companies in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries. 4
The CWOC norm under OEBM had provided employment security and rising wages from years-of-service with the company and internal promotion of S&E personnel (significant proportions of whom in science- based companies had PhDs). As I show in my book Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? , the beginning of the end of CWOC was the transformation of IBM, the world's leading computer company, from OEBM to NEBM from 1990 to 1994. In 1990, with 374,000 employees, IBM still bragged about its adherence to the CWOC norm (calling it "lifelong employment"), claiming that the company had not laid off anyone involuntarily since 1921. By 1994 IBM had 220,000 employees, and, with senior executives under CEO Louis Gerstner themselves getting fired for not laying off employees fast enough, CWOC was history. Over the course of the 1990s and into the 2000s, other major Old Economy companies followed IBM's example, throwing out of work older employees, many of them highly educated and with accumulated experience that had previously been highly valued by the companies.
Already in the early 1990s, the marketization of employment relations was responsible for a precipitous decline of employment at the corporate research labs that had underpinned the twentieth-century growth of Old Economy high-tech companies, of which IBM was an exemplar. In 1993, a conference held at Harvard Business School decried the "end of an era" in industrial research, with papers from the conference appearing in a volume Engines of Innovation , published in 1996.5 In the introductory chapter, entitled "Technology's Vanishing Wellspring," conference organizers and volume editors Richard Rosenbloom and William Spencer argued that industrial research (as distinct from product development) of the type that had been carried out by corporate labs in the "golden era" of the post- World War II decades "expands the base of knowledge on which existing industries depend and generates new knowledge that leads to new technologies and the birth of new industries." In the more competitive environment of the 1980s and 1990s, however, in the new industries of "biotechnology, exotic materials, and information products (and services based on them)", Rosenbloom and Spencer observed that it was more difficult for companies "to keep new technologies fully proprietary", and hence "research activities have been downsized, redirected, and restructured in recent years within most of the firms that once were among the largest sponsors of industrial research." 6
There is little doubt that S&E PhDs were major victims of this transformation. But the problem that they, along with most other members of the U.S. labor force, have faced is not simply the marketization of employment relations. For reasons that I have fully described in my publications cited above, the transition from OEBM to NEBM was accompanied by the "financialization" of the U.S. business corporation as, from the last half of the 1980s, U.S. boardrooms and business schools embraced the ideology that, for the sake of superior economic performance, a business enterprise should be run to "maximize shareholder value" (MSV). Instead of retaining employees and reinvesting in their productive capabilities, as had been the case when CWOC had prevailed, MSV advocated and legitimized the downsizing of the company's labor force and the distribution of corporate revenues to shareholders in the forms of both cash dividends and stock repurchases. 7
With the demise of CWOC, older employees were the most vulnerable, not only because they tended to have the highest salaries, but also because the shift from OEBM to NEBM was a shift from proprietary technology systems, in which employees with long years of experience were highly valued, to open technology systems that favored younger workers with the latest computer-related skills (often acquired by working at other companies). Under CWOC, older employees were more expensive not because of a "natural wage rate" that was the result of supply and demand on the S&E labor market, but because of the internal job ladders that are integral to a "retain-and-reinvest" resource-allocation regime. The salaries of S&E employees tended to increase with years of experience with the company, with a defined-benefit pension (based on years of service and highest salary levels) in retirement. These types of secure employment relations, and the high and rising pay levels associated with them, were the norm among established high-tech companies in the mid-1980s, but, as exemplified by IBM's transformation, started to become undone in the early 1990s, and were virtually extinct a decade later, as Old Economy companies either made the transition to the NEBM, or disappeared.8 The culprit in the weakening in the demand for, and earnings of, S&E PhDs from the early 1990s was the demise of CWOC-a phenomenon that Weinstein (and Teitelbaum) entirely ignore.
With the rise of NEBM, companies wanted employees who were younger and cheaper , and that was the major reason why at the end of the 1980s the ICT industry pushed for an expansion of H-1B nonimmigrant visas and employment-based immigration visas. It is not at all clear that an influx of PhDs from foreign countries via these programs was undermining the earnings of S&E PhDs in the early 1990s. Most H-1B visa holders had Bachelor's degrees when they entered the United States. At the same time, large numbers of non-immigrant visa holders entered the United States on student visas to do Master's and PhD degrees, and then looked to employment on H-1B visas to enable them to stay in the United States for extended periods (up to seven years).9 It was in response to the availability of advanced- degree graduates of U.S. universities that in 2005 an additional 20,000 H-1B visas were added to the normal cap of 65,000. Without the influx of foreign students into U.S. S&E Master's and PhD programs, many of these programs would not have survived. Through this route, the H-1B visa program has made more foreign-born PhDs available to corporations for employment in the United States. But I posit that it has been the demise of OEBM and rise of the NEBM, not an increased supply of foreign-born PhDs, that has placed downward pressure on the career earnings of the most highly educated members of the U.S. labor force.
Besides giving employers access to an expanded supply of younger and cheaper high-tech labor in the United States, the H-1B visa along with the L-1 visa for people who had previously worked for the employer for at least one year outside the United States have another valuable attribute for employers: the person on the visa is immobile on the labor market-he or she can't change jobs-whereas under NEBM the most valued high-tech workers are those who are highly mobile. This mobility of labor can boost the worker's pay package but is highly problematic for a company that needs these employees to be engaged in the collective and cumulative learning processes that are the essence of generating competitive products. Under OEBM, CWOC was the central employment institution for college-educated workers precisely because of the need for collective and cumulative learning. But it was the rise of NEBM, not the Immigration Act of 1990, that undermined CWOC. The growing dominance of NEBM with its open systems architectures then led employers to make increased use of H-1 and L-1 visas in the 1980s, prompting them to get behind an expanded cap for H-1B visas in the Immigration Act of 1990. 10
Once OEBM was attacked by NEBM, with its offer of stock-based pay, these corporations became fertile territory for the adoption of the ideology that a company should be run to "maximize shareholder value" (MSV). This momentous transformation in U.S. corporate governance occurred from the late 1980s, legitimizing the transition from a "retain-and-reinvest" to a "downsize-and-distribute" corporate- governance regime. In the 1990s and beyond, this corporate-governance transformation laid waste to CWOC across corporate America, knowledge-intensive companies included. 11 With corporate research eroding as high-tech personnel responded to the lure of stock-based pay from NEBM companies- including not only startups but also those such as Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Cisco Systems that during the 1990s grew to employ tens of thousands of people, most of them with stock- based pay-senior executives at the Old Economy high-tech companies began to see their company's stock price as not only key to the size of their own stock-based pay packages but also as an instrument to compete for a broad-based of high-tech personnel. As exemplified by IBM in the 1990s and beyond, a company's stock price could be raised by laying off expensive older workers and using the resultant "free" cash flow (as the purveyors of MSV called it) to do stock buybacks. 12
As I have documented in detail, over the past three decades this legalized looting of the U.S. business corporation has only gotten worse. As shown Table 1, driven by stock buybacks, net equity issues by U.S. nonfinancial corporations were, in 2015 dollars, minus $4.5 trillion over the decade 2006-2015. In 2016 net equity issues were minus $586 billion. Net equity issues are new stock issues by companies (in this case nonfinancial corporations) minus stock retired from the market as the result of stock repurchases and M&A deals. The massively negative numbers in recent decades are the result of stock buybacks. I have calculated net equity issues as a percent of GDP by decade to provide a measure of the value of buybacks done relative to the size of the U.S. economy. In both absolute inflation-adjusted dollars and as a percent of GDP, buybacks have become a prime mode of corporate resource allocation in the U.S. economy. Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation.
Table 1: Net equity issues of nonfinancial corporations in the United States, 1946-2015, by decade, in 2015 dollars, and as a percent of GDP
Decade Net Equity Issues,
Net Equity Issues
as % of GDP
1946-1955 143.2 0.56 1956-1965 110.9 0.30 1966-1975 316.0 0.58 1976-1985 -290.9 -0.40 1986-1995 -1,002.5 -1.00 1996-2005 -1,524.4 -1.09 2006-2015 -4,466.6 -2.65
Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Statistical Release Z.1, "Financial Accounts of the United States: Flow of Funds, Balance Sheets, and Integrated Macroeconomic Accounts," Table F-223: Corporate Equities, March 9, 2017, at https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/z1/current/ .
Over the years 2006-2015, the 459 companies in the S&P 500 Index in January 2016 that were publicly listed over the ten-year period expended $3.9 trillion on stock buybacks, representing 53.6 percent of net income, plus another 36.7 percent of net income on dividends. Much of the remaining 9.7 percent of profits was held abroad, sheltered from U.S. taxes. Mean buybacks for these 459 companies ranged from $291 million in 2009, when the stock markets had collapsed, to $1,205 million in 2007, when the stock market peaked before the Great Financial Crisis. In 2015, with the stock market booming, mean buybacks for these companies were $1,173 million. Meanwhile, dividends declined moderately in 2009, but over the period 2006-2015 they trended up in real terms.
Among the largest repurchasers are America's premier high-tech companies. Table 2 shows the top 25 repurchasers over the decade 2006-2015. Among the companies that one would expect to employ large numbers of S&E PhDs are Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, Pfizer, Oracle, Intel, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips. We do not know the historical numbers of S&E PhDs at these companies, but I hypothesize that numbers would be much higher than they are if the companies were not financialized. Many of America's largest corporations
routinely distribute more than 100 percent of net income to shareholders, generating the extra cash by reducing cash reserves, selling off assets, taking on debt, or laying off employees.13 As I have shown, the only logical explanation for this buyback activity is that the stock-based pay that represents the vast majority of the remuneration of senior corporate executives incentivizes them to manipulate their companies' stock prices, leaving most Americans worse off. 14
Table 2: The 25 largest stock repurchasers among U.S.-based corporations, 2006-2015, showing net income (NI) stock buybacks (BB), and cash dividends (DV)
The Weinstein-Teitelbaum focus on a GUI design to expand the supply of S&E PhDs ignores the transformations of corporate governance and employment relations that have decimated career employment for this group of workers over the past three decades. At the same time, the channeling of trillions of dollars of value created in U.S. nonfinancial corporations to the financial sector has opened up jobs on Wall Street that can provide quick income bonanzas for highly-educated members of the U.S. labor force, many of whom might have otherwise pursued S&E careers. Among the wealthiest of these Wall Street players are corporate predators-euphemistically known as "hedge-fund activists"-who have billions of dollars in assets under management with which they can attack companies to pump up their stock prices through the implementation of "downsize-and-distribute" allocation regimes and, even if it takes a few years, dump the stock for huge gains.15
In the case of Apple, we have shown how Carl Icahn used his wealth, visibility, hype, and influence to take $2 billion in stock-market gains by buying $3.6 billion of Apple shares in the summer of 2013 and selling them in the winter of 2016, even though he contributed absolutely nothing of any kind to Apple as a value-creating company.16 Apple CEO Tim Cook and his board (which includes former U.S. Vice President Al Gore) helped Icahn turn his accumulated fortune into an even bigger one by having Apple repurchase $45 billion in shares in 2014 and $36 billion in 2015-by far the two largest one-year stock buybacks of any company in history. Imagine the corporate research capabilities in which Apple could have invested, and the S&E PhDs the company could have employed, had it looked for productive ways to use even a fraction of the almost unimaginable sums that it wasted on buybacks.17 From 2011 through the first quarter of 2017, Apple spent $144 billion on buybacks and $51 billion on dividends under what it calls its "Capital Return" program. But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO. 18
A number of "hedge-fund activists"-Nelson Peltz of Trian, Daniel Loeb of Third Point, and William Ackman of Pershing Square are among the most prominent-have been able to put up one or two billion dollars to purchase small stakes in major high-tech companies, and, with the proxy votes of pension funds, mutual funds and endowments, have been able put pressure on companies, often by placing their representatives on the boards of directors, to implement "downsize-and-distribute" regimes for the sake of "maximizing shareholder value."19 In the summer of 2013, Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management bought DuPont stock worth $1.3 billion, representing 2.2% of shares outstanding. In May 2015 Peltz lost a proxy fight to put four of his nominees on the DuPont board, but in October 2015 DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, who had opposed Peltz, resigned, and the new management began to implement Peltz's plans to cut costs and hit financial targets, to be done in the context of a merger with Dow Chemical, which had fallen into the hands of another corporate predator Daniel Loeb. Meanwhile, in October 2015, Peltz bought 0.8 percent of the shares of General Electric (GE), and began to pressure another iconic high-tech company to cut costs and increase its stock price. GE was already a financialized company that had done $52 billion in buybacks in the decade 2006-2015 (see Table 2)-a massive amount of money for the purpose of manipulating its stock price. Undoubtedly responding to additional pressure from Peltz, during 2016, GE, with profits of $8.0 billion, paid out $8.5 billion in dividends and spent another $22.0 billion on buybacks. This financialization of U.S. high-tech corporations undermines, among other things, the employment of S&E PhDs.
We need research on this subject to quantify its impacts. I submit, however, that such a research agenda must focus on transformations of regimes of corporate governance and employment relations. Relying on the neoclassical economist's notion of a "natural wage rate" determined by the interaction of supply and demand, Weinstein, a mathematician, and Teitelbaum, a demographer, missed the transformations in corporate governance and employment relations that marked the late 1980s and early 1990s-and beyond-and as result, in my view, failed to understand the changing fortunes of S&E PhDs in the marketized, globalized, and financialized New Economy. Given the dominance of what I have called "the myth of the market economy"20 in the thought processes of economists, Weinstein and Teitelbaum were by no means alone in erroneously focusing on supply and demand on the PhD labor market while failing to recognize the centrality of corporate governance and employment relations in determining the earnings and career prospects of S&E PhDs. It is time for new economic thinking on these critical questions.
- 1 The Weinstein paper appears to have been published prior to the adoption of the American Competitiveness and Workforce
- 2 William Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity in the New Economy? Business Organization and High-Tech Employment in the United States, W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2009; ; William Lazonick, "The New Economy Business Model and the Crisis of US Capitalism," Capitalism and Society, 4, 2, 2009: article 4; William Lazonick, Philip Moss, Hal Salzman, and Öner Tulum, "Skill Development and Sustainable Prosperity: Collective and Cumulative Careers versus Skill-Biased Technical Change," Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution Working Paper No. 7, December 2014, at https://www.ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/research-papers/skill-development-and-sustainable-prosperity-cumulative-and-collective-careers-versus-skill-biased-technical-change ; William Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty- First Century: The Top 0.1% and the Disappearing Middle Class," in Christian E. Weller, ed., Inequality, Uncertainty, and Opportunity: The Varied and Growing Role of Finance in Labor Relations, Cornell University Press, 2015: 143-192.
- 3 Almost all gains from exercising employee stock options and the vesting of employee stock awards are taxed at the ordinary income-tax rate, not at the capital-gains tax rate, with taxes withheld by the employer at the time that options are exercised or awards vest. Hence these stock-based gains are reported as part of "wages, tips, other compensation" on IRS Form 1040.
- 4 Matt Hopkins and William Lazonick, "Who Invests in the High-Tech Knowledge Base?" Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution Working Paper No. 6, September 2014 (revised December 2014) at www.ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/research-papers/who-invests-in-the-high-tech-knowledge-base
- 5 Rosenbloom and Spencer, Engines of Innovation . Richard Rosenbloom was David Sarnoff Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, while William Spencer was CEO of SEMATECH.
- 6 Ibid., pp. 2-3.
- 7 William Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity: Stock Buybacks Manipulate the Market and Leave Most Americans Worse Off," Harvard Business Review , September 2014, 46-55; William Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks: From Retain-and-Reinvest to Downsize-and-Distribute," Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institution, April 2015 at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick.
- 8 Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity , ch. 3. For an important case study that includes the fate of the once renowned Bell Labs, see William Lazonick and Edward March, "The Rise and Demise of Lucent Technologies," Journal of Strategic Management Education , 7, 4, 2011.
- 9 Lazonick, Sustainable Prosperity , ch. 5.
- 10 Ibid., ch. 2. Note that the H-1 visa for workers in specialty occupations was renamed the H-1B visa in 1990 after the H-1A visa was created specifically for nurses.
- 11 Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks"; Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty-First Century."
- 12 Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity"; Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks."
- 13 Lazonick, "Labor in the Twenty-First Century": William Lazonick, "How Stock Buybacks Make Americans Vulnerable to Globalization," Paper presented at the Workshop on Mega-Regionalism: New Challenges for Trade and Innovation, East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, January 20-21, 2016, at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2745387
- 14 Lazonick, "Profits Without Prosperity."
- 15 Rachel Butt, "Here are some of the 10 biggest activist money managers and some of their most impressive bets," Business Insider , June 17, 2016, at http://www.businessinsider.com/top-10-biggest-activist-investors-2016-6. Matt Hopkins, William Lazonick, and Jang-Sup Shin are engaged in research on the methods and gains of these predatory value extractors.
- 16 William Lazonick, Matt Hopkins, and Ken Jacobson, "What we learn about inequality from Carl Icahn's $2 billion 'no brainer,'" Institute for New Economic Thinking Ideas & Papers, June 6, 2016, at https://ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/blog/what-we-learn-about-inequality-from-carl-icahns-2-billion-apple-no-brainer .
- 17 See William Lazonick, "What Apple should do with its massive piles of money," Harvard Business Review Blog , October 20, 2014, at https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-apple-should-do-with-its-massive-piles-of-money
- 18 William Lazonick, "Numbers show Apple shareholders have already gotten plenty," Harvard Business Review Blog , October 16, 2014, at https://hbr.org/2014/10/numbers-show-apple-shareholders-have-already-gotten-plenty
- 19 With Matt Hopkins and Jang-Sup Shin, I am involved in project on how the U. S. SEC has accommodated and even encouraged the corporate value extractors who call themselves "shareholder activists" or "hedge-fund activists."
- 20 William Lazonick, Business Organization and the Myth of the Market Economy , Cambridge University Press, 1991
Tom_Doak , May 12, 2017 at 10:08 amDavid McClain , May 12, 2017 at 10:10 am
It was indeed a tough article to read to the end, but this nugget near the end was worth it:
"But the company is "returning" capital to shareholders who never gave the company anything in the first place; the only time in its history that Apple has ever raised funds on the public stock market was $97 million in its 1980 IPO."
Wow!tony , May 12, 2017 at 10:44 am
As one who actually lived this process, I can tell you that the premise of this article must be basically true.
Back in the early '90s I set out to fill in the gaps of my own computer science background (I'm actually an astrophysicist). And my classes were filled entirely by people from Asia, except for myself and one other Anglo. Job ads in the journals were already beginning to ask for PhD level CompSci with emphasis on, e.g., voice recognition, for a pay rate of $26K (1992 !). That was definitely appealing to the foreign students and unappealing to American STEM students.
During that period, the only job market for native PhD STEM students became the American Defense and Intelligence agencies, because they required security clearances and US Citizenship. I found myself driven in those directions too.
Now, after many years doing my own thing, I look around at the STEM marketplace and I am shocked to find large numbers of compatriots being pressured into the GIG Economy, and pay rates are appalling by former standards. There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.flora , May 12, 2017 at 10:49 am
There is a serious lack of expenditure on research and development today.
From another perspective this is just over investment in education. Technology for the most part is just increasing complexity and increasing complexity has diminishing returns. With energy becoming less available, we probably need a lot less complexity.Ranger Rick , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm
"American Defense". hmmm, wonder if sending the jobs and know-how to China and India in the belief both will always be the US's willing subcontractors is such a good idea (from a US national defense point of view).Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 10:21 am
I wouldn't say that there is a lack of R&D - it just isn't done in-house any more. Gone are the Bell Labs and the Xerox PARCs; welcome to the brave new world of university partnerships and non-profit R&D shops (most famous: the Southwest Research Institute).Expat , May 12, 2017 at 10:39 am
Basically the rich are waging class war. That's the problem no matter how you slice and dice this one. This whole "New Economy" has been one big war on wages. I mean look at the collusion too between Google, Apple, and Intel to keep wages low.
Considering how slap on the wrist this was, what incentive is there to not do it again? They know they can get away with this. Not to mention, this H1B and L1B program has become a way to keep wages low in the technology sector. In many sectors, there really isn't a "shortage" of Americans. Oh and for all the talk of these companies being "innovative", if they are prioritizing money on stock buybacks over R&D, that's not really innovative as much as it is trying to boost salaries by capitalizing on the huge cash reserves they get for being the dominant companies in their sector. Same could be said about Exxon. Not much being spent on R&D means that they are more about rent seeking rather than innovation. Perhaps not yet as blatant as those patent trolls, which are little more than shell companies that sue other companies over patents, but that is their ideal business model.
I think that at the end of the day, even though many engineers in the tech companies are in the top 10% in terms of income percentile, their interests are closer aligned with working class people. The other issue is that I bet when many of these engineers turn into their 40s, they are going to witness first hand the very real age discrimination that exists in the technology industry.
Basically it comes down to, the rich are really greedy. The issue right now for the rich is that they are desperate to keep the looting from happening, while people are increasingly aware that the system is against them. Bernie Sanders got a lot of support in the Valley and while it is a very Democratic leaning area, I cannot imagine that Trump's anti-H1B and L1B stance would have been opposed by the average employee. I think that the rich are not going to concede anything and that there needs to be some sort of solidarity union amongst all workers.Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 11:12 am
Is there a single person here who has worked on Wall Street (writ large) who can convince us that his job or his company had an overall positive effect on the US and/or world economy over five years, ten years, or twenty-five years?
I'll go first: three investment banks under my belt and one was a giant financial and moral sucking machine called Citi. The other two were wannabe's but certainly did not add value.mary , May 12, 2017 at 11:30 am
While "maximizing shareholder value" is the huge problem wrecking our economy, having watched the genesis of New Economic Paradigm through the experiences my wife and most of my friends going through the Silicon Valley start-up Tulip-mania from the mid-'80's through the first decade of th e 2000's, the author is hitting important points while over-simplifying and missing other equally important points, such as the role of the "Peace Dividend" in the collapse of aerospace and research funding, and the role of the Reagan and Clinton "tax reforms" in driving stock-based compensation systems.
Early on, the use of stock-based compensation drove down wage-based compensation and increased the role of financial speculators. Today, the speculators get the stock, but wages remain suppressed and only foreign workers will accept them. The author is correct: the causes are complicated, but the result drove down wages and job security for STEM workers.JDS , May 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm
I got my Ph.D. in biology in 2000. It was absolutely the worst decision in my life. In fact, it actually destroyed my life, reducing me to near homelessness and starvation because-GASP--regular employers (like office jobs, retail etc.) will not hire Ph.D.s. There there is the lovely student debt that has grown exponentially, as my wages could not make the smallest dent. Convicted felons make more that I do. So to make a long story short, I started a small on-line business 9 years ago and got the FFFFF OUT of the rotten POS United States and moved to Ecuador, one of the most progressive countries in the world. I cannot believe how the US abuses its national treasures-is is truly a POS and I do not miss it for one day. I hope the US crashes and rots in hell.visitor , May 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm
Good for you! I wish I could do the same that is, leave the country!fritter , May 12, 2017 at 11:40 am
Out of curiosity: what happened to your student debt when you emigrated?nycTerrierist , May 12, 2017 at 12:21 pm
Its not just PhDs. I know several Engineers who advise their children to do something else. It's just not worth the amount of effort that is required to be put into it and there is no future hope of a turn around. As bad as it is for graduates today, it's only going to get worse.B1whois , May 12, 2017 at 1:14 pm
They're catching up with us arts and humanities majors. Sad!cr , May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm
I am a civil engineer and one of my daughters is studying to become a structural engineer. I would not have advised her to go into engineering because of the problem with the H-1B visas.
But who am I to advise? Who can know the future? The world is just changing too fast now to really be able to advise our children on what careers to take. Besides, one of the advantages of studying engineering as you can work anywhere in the world.
I bought houses for each of my children and told them if they wanted to go to college they could trade the house in for the education. I personally think they should have considered keeping the house and working minimum wage jobs that they enjoy. But both of them are pursuing educations, my son to be history teacher!Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:20 pm
Post WWII labor overplayed its hand by the 1970's. Corporations and their decided they had had it. Corps and management proceeded to change the rules of the game on everything -- courts, trade, taxation and regulation. These countermeasures have had disastrous long term consequences. Corporations now run the country in a fascist manner. Government capture has created myriad problems beyond financialization, only one tool in the corporate quiver. Oligopolies across most to all industries comes to mind. Rail, air, health insurance, banking, defense, telecom, entertainment .
But this paper is also lamenting a lack of business capex, which is directly correlated to public investment. When you decided to offshore manufacturing and fail to invest in infrastructure you get a double whammy that hits business capex. Increasing regulation and taxation on small and midsize companies has lead to consolidation. Approximately 5000 public companies have likely been consolidated. Sarbanes-Oxley added millions to compliance costs making it highly uneconomical to be a public company with less than $300 million in revenue. Dodd-Frank has created increases in cost for financial firms that had nothing to do with the crisis. In fact, the big banks have benefited enormously from implementation of this legislation.Altandmain , May 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm
For anyone else who was confused by the terminology, as I was briefly, capex = capital expenditure.tony , May 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm
Not sure about the labor part overplaying their hand. They just wanted an even wage and productivity rise. It is capital IMO that has overplayed its hand and the rise of neoliberal economics which has led to declines in public R&D spending. There isn't anything like the Space Race anymore.Sluggeaux , May 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm
Frankly, labour underplayed its hand. At one point it had capital by the throat, and should have finished it off then. If peace is not an option, you should utterly and permanently destroy your enemy.allan , May 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm
Labor did NOT overplay its hand after WW2 - Taft-Hartley was a HUGE smack-down to labor after the privations of the Depression followed by the war effort. The decent wages during the post-war period were part of a concerted effort to convince workers that they didn't need unions and to be complacent.
Labor leadership certainly became corrupt from all the money sloshing around without global competition due to war devastation of Europe and Japan, the Cold War, and the death throes of colonialism, but this was not due to "overplaying" their hand.Vatch , May 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm
Reply to cr@May 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm
The trends described in the post predate by decades the communist tyranny [/s] imposed by those bills.
The wholesale closing or offshoring of corporate research labs already started in the 1980s,
driven in part by corporate raiders like Milken, Pickens and Icahn.
IBM, GM, Kodak, Xerox, GE they all had labs that provided jobs to STEM graduates
and a stream of discoveries and inventions to generate more jobs.
Now these are largely gone or substantially off-shored.
What has happened to corporate R&D shouldn't be used as an excuse to make life easier
for the Wall Street culture largely responsible for it.visitor , May 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm
Yes, any burdens imposed by Sarbanes Oxley are the fault of numerous unethical business executives over recent decades, and not the fault of people in government.Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm
When I was a student in IT, the shining stars at the firmament of industrial computer science and engineering R&D were Xerox PARC, DEC SRC, ATT Bell Labs and IBM Yorktown Heights.
They are gone or a shadow of their former selves.Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm
Contrary to popular belief, in aggregate U.S. corporations fund the stock market, not vice versa. Note that almost all of the buybacks in the decade 1976-1985 occurred in 1984 and 1985 after in November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation.
William Lazonick, "Stock Buybacks: From Retain-and-Reinvest to Downsize-and-Distribute," Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institution, April 2015 at http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick .
See Lazonick's footnoted paper for many loving particulars. Especially note the details of how Rule 10b-18 offers no protection from abuse and (no news to NC readers) is a pillar of general corporate asset-stripping .David Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm
P. S. pages 10 and 11 of Lazonick's pdf lay out Rule 10b-18 in full.Socal Rhino , May 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm
Thanks. Tremendous article!Arizona Slim , May 12, 2017 at 2:19 pm
Engineering long-term career arc has been an issue since at least my father's generation (those born during WWI). Longer tenure (mid to late mid career) engineers were being eased out for young grads. When I was in a ChemE program in the 70s, advice was to follow the engineering degree with either law or a business degree because the odds of a long career doing engineering was not great. No one advised going for a PhD in engineering.shinola , May 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm
My father had a PhD in chemical engineering.
When I asked him why he got the degree, which didn't seem necessary for someone who spent much of his career in industrial R&D, he said, "I'm like Mallory climbing Mount Everest. I got that degree because it is there."
So, there you have it. My old man getting that degree because he wanted to. And because my mother was willing to support both of them while he worked on it.nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm
To me, this is the money quote (literally):
"Many of America's largest corporations routinely distribute more than 100 percent of net income to shareholders, generating the extra cash by reducing cash reserves, selling off assets, taking on debt, or laying off employees the only logical explanation for this buyback activity is that the stock-based pay that represents the vast majority of the remuneration of senior corporate executives incentivizes them to manipulate their companies' stock prices "
This not only applies to the STEM sector, but nearly every large corp. in America. "Earnings quality" (i.e stock price) takes precedence over everything else leading to the crapification of products & services and devaluation of employees.
Thank gawd this type of thinking wasn't around when Jonas Salk was working on the polio vaccine.Jim Haygood , May 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm
Which begs the question: what discoveries are we missing out on now because of this short sighted approach?Science Officer Smirnoff , May 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm
" In November 1982 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adopted Rule 10b-18 that gave license to massive buybacks, in essence legalizing systemic stock-price manipulation and the looting of the U.S. business corporation. "
How can you have "looting" without lootees? The stockholders aren't complaining. If any party is being disadvantaged by borrowing to fund stock buybacks, it's existing bondholders. As David Swensen describes in an extended example in Pioneering Portfolio Management , managers compensated by stock options tend to treat corporate debt holders quite shabbily by piling on more debt, compromising the interest coverage ratio.
High tech companies use stock buybacks to offset their widespread granting of stock options which - absent Rule 10b-18 - would badly dilute existing stock holders over time.
Trying to paint the well-disclosed practice of stock buybacks as "looting" is histrionic ax grinding on Lazonick's part. Over-leveraged companies are going to regret it in the next recession. But that's a lamentable social phenomenon in a bubble-driven economy. Those who disagree with it are free to sell short over-leveraged stocks - perhaps a more meaningful way of expressing dissent than scribbling academic screeds.fritter , May 12, 2017 at 2:22 pm
And political dissenters are free to emigrate.Alejandro , May 12, 2017 at 2:38 pm
Well Jim, ponzi schemes work pretty well for those at the top. I suppose we shouldn't worry about it until we start getting complaints..
Actually though, watching the train wreck that is the outlook for the youngest generation today, provides some grim amusement. For instance noting that the "bubble-driven" economy composed of companies desperate to prevent their stock becoming "badly diluted" by having fire sales on capitol and expertise that probably took their predecessors decades to build can really only have one outcome. Depression, misery, socialism. Maybe we skip the Mao route this time, maybe not.oho , May 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm
Here's some related "histrionics" of your channeling D.D . an excerpt of a debate about "creative destruction" (emphasis mine) from 1991(context), chronologically, roughly following the tandem of Ronnie and Maggie.
Gregory Peck: "The Robber Barons of old at least left something tangible in their wake - a coal mine, a railroad, banks. THIS MAN LEAVES NOTHING. HE CREATES NOTHING. HE BUILDS NOTHING. HE RUNS NOTHING. And in his wake lies nothing but a blizzard of paper to cover the pain. Oh, if he said, "I know how to run your business better than you," that would be something worth talking about. But he's not saying that. He's saying, "I'm going to kill you because at this particular moment in time, you're worth more dead than alive." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJRhrow3Jws
Danny Devito: "Let's have the intelligence, let's have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future "Ah, but we can't," goes the prayer. "We can't because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?" I got two words for that: WHO CARES? Care about them? Why? They didn't care about you. They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, "We know times are tough. We'll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3QDavid Barrera , May 12, 2017 at 2:09 pm
IBM. Poster child of everything wrong at the executive-level and the shareholder-level.Trout Creek , May 12, 2017 at 3:23 pm
Yes, the IBM reference is interesting.The author gives an ordinal lead to IBM as a mover from the OEBM to NEBM. I ask myself if, from a mere one large corporation managing perspective, this was IBM's 11th hour response to the by then devastating rise of its competitors like Apple & Microsoft.
Also the irony that it did not help IBM at least in the midterm. So, IBM was the prime mover to initiate some aspects of a model change -change which every major player adhered to- in response to a new technological disadvantage vs. competitors, and in turned did not seem to do much for IBM in the immediate years. Although, if I recall well, IBM was immersed in many political battles and internal problems, legal and otherwise. Nevertheless, I doubt there was a historic inevitability on IBM's ordinal force. Outstanding work by LazonickSue , May 12, 2017 at 6:12 pm
Let me quote a noted tech analyst on IBM :
"IBM is the poster child for shenanigans. Last month, IBM reported its 20th quarter in a row of declining year over year revenues .. a 13% drop in earnings, profit margins that declined in every business segment ( much worse than expected ), free cash flow that plummeted over 50% year over year and an earnings "beat" of 3 cents per share. How could this "beat" happen? .. a negative tax rate of -23% . This is why they pay the CEO Rometti the big bucks ( estimated at $50 to $65 million last year)."
And this is one of the Bluest of the Blue Chip companies in the world.Thomas Williams , May 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm
I read IBM spent a fortune at that time defending itself against monopolistic claims litigation. This was happening while Microsoft and Apple were clearly consolidating their oligopolistic empires. I read reports stating Oracle initial breakthroughs were taken from IBM's research work.nowhere , May 12, 2017 at 2:35 pm
Really fine piece, thanks. Also, the quality of the readers' comments is some of the highest I've seen in years of following NCWisdom Seeker , May 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm
Not sure if anyone watches "Silicon Valley", but here is a quote that seems fitting:
Season 2 – Bad Money
Richard: Once we get a few customers and start a subscription-revenue model.
Russ: What? Revenue? No, no, no, no, no. No. If you show revenue, people will ask "How much?" And it will never be enough, but if you have no revenue, you can say you're pre-revenue. You're a potential pure play. It's not about how much you earn, it's about what you're worth. And who's worth the most? Companies that lose money. Pinterest, Snap chat No revenue. Amazon has lost money every fucking quarter for the last 20 fucking years, and that Bezos motherfucker is the king.Smitty , May 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm
Just wanted to point out that there is one more link in the chain to be followed: the financiers would not have such an easy time playing Nero with our economy, if the banking sector were still properly constrained by a gold standard (=limited supply of printed credit), the risk of bank runs by outraged consumers, the Glass-Steagall separation of commercial from investment banking, personal rather than corporate punishment for fraud and abuse, antitrust enforcement, etc.
In addition, the rise of 401(k) based investing, in which workers are tax-incentivized to buy in to the corporate stock scheming, but lack the normal shareholder voice in corporate governance, has taken the chains off the looters as well.
It's time to end the impunity. The government has been corrupted by the corporations, so only a populist uprising will produce reform. The uprising will require sacrifices of time, income, security. It will require boycotts of products that people like, but whose producers and vendors are evil. The products will not disappear while demand persists – but the producers and vendors must be brought to heel.
Consider the following inductees into the Corporate Hall of Shame:
- Wells Fargo – customer abuse
- United Airlines – customer abuse
- UBER – employee abuse; legal system abuse
- Mylan (Epi Pens) – Monopolistic price abuse
- Hewlett Packard (spyware on laptops) – customer abuse
pick an industry, you'll find a Hall of Shame candidate. Hit them all in the wallet until they reform.
The impact on the Grads was secondary a byproduct of a larger agenda which included the transfer offshore and consolidation of "IP" of the entire American, EU and Asian industrial economies along with the withdrawl of capital, while at the same time intentionally sabotaging future innovations with the handicap of diversity. Who got the loot and capital? Usual suspects.
Apr 04, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.comRGC , April 03, 2017 at 06:36 AMKarl Marx vs Henry George
by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall / August 12th, 2013
Why do American children study Karl Marx, the villain we love to hate, in school? Yet Henry George, whose views on land and tax reform gave rise to the Progressive and Populist movements of the 1900s, is totally absent from US history books.
During the 1890s George, author of the 1879 bestseller Progress and Poverty, was the third most famous American, after Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. In 1896 he outpolled Teddy Roosevelt and was nearly elected mayor of New York.
In Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem Against Henry George (2007), University of California economist Mason Gaffney argues that George and his Land Value Tax pose a far greater threat than Marx to America's corporate elite.
America's enormous concentration of wealth has always depended on the inherent right of the wealthy elite to seize and monopolize vast quantities of land and natural resources (oil, gas, forests, water, minerals, etc) for personal profit.
Adopting an LVT, which is far easier than launching a violent revolution, would essentially negate that right. What's more, every jurisdiction that has ever implemented an LVT finds it works exactly the way George predicted it would. Productivity, prosperity, and social wellbeing flourish, while inflation, wealth inequality, and boom and bust recessions and depressions virtually vanish.
When Progress and Poverty first came out in 1879, it started a worldwide reform movement that in the US manifested in the fiercely anti-corporate Populist Movement in the 1880s and later the Progressive Movement (1900-1920). Many important anti-corporate reforms came out of this period, including the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), a constitutional amendment allowing Americans to elect the Senate by popular vote (prior to 1913 the Senate was appointed by state legislators), and the country's first state-owned bank, The Bank of North Dakota (1919).
The Corporate Elite Strikes Back
As with any major reform movement, the corporate backlash was predictable. In Neo-classical Economics, Gaffney reveals that this backlash took two main forms. The first was the Red Scare (1919-1989), overseen by J Edgar Hoover as Assistant Attorney General and later as FBI director.
The second was more insidious and involved the deliberate reframing of the classical economic theory developed by Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo as so-called neoclassical economics.
The latter totally negates Adam Smith's basic differentiation between "land", a limited, non-producible resource. and "capital", a reproducible result of past human production. Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo all held that individuals have no right to seize and monopolize scarce natural resources, such as land, minerals, water, and forests. They believed that because these resources are both limited and essential for human survival, they should belong to the public.
Neoclassical economics, which first developed in the 1890s, was based on the premise that growth and development can only occur if a handful of rent-seekers are allowed to monopolize scarce land and natural resources for their personal profit. Henry George, who publicly debated the early pioneers of neoclassical economics, claimed the science of economics was being deliberately distorted to discredit him. Gaffney agrees. Because George's proposal to replace income and sales tax with single land value taxed is based on logical concepts of land, capital, labor, and rent advanced by Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo, they all had to be discredited.
Gaffney believes neoclassical economic theory undermines George's arguments for a single Land Value Tax in two basic ways: 1) by claiming that land is no different from other capital (ironically Marx made the identical argument) and 2) by portraying the science of economics as a series of hard choices and sacrifices that low and middle income people must make. Some examples:
If we want efficiency, we must sacrifice equity.
To attract business, we must lower taxes and shut libraries and defund schools.
To prevent inflation, we must keep a large number of Americans unemployed.
To create jobs, we must destroy the environment and pollute the air, water, and food chain.
To raise productivity, we must fire people.
Gaffney's book traces the phenomenal public support Georgism enjoyed before the tenets of neoclassical economics took hold in American universities. In addition to inspiring the Populist and Progressive movements, an LVT to fund irrigation projects in California's Central Valley made California the top producing farm state. In 1916 the first federal income tax law was introduced by Georgist members of Congress (Henry George Jr and Warren Bailey) and included virtually no tax on wages. In 1934 Georgist Upton Sinclair was almost elected governor of California.
Gaffney also identifies the robber barons whose fortunes financed the economics departments of the major universities who went on to substitute neooclassical economics for classical economic theory. At the top of this list were
Ezra Cornell (owner of both Western Union and Associated Press) – founder of Cornell University
John D Rockefeller – helped fund the University of Chicago and installed his cronies in its economics department.
J. P Morgan – investment banker and early funder of Columbia University
B&O Railroad – John Hopkins University
Southern Pacific Railroad – Stanford University
The final section of Gaffney's book lays out the tragic economic, political, and social consequences of allowing the Red Scare and neoclassical economics to stifle America's movement for a single Land Value Tax:
The corporate elite has privatized, or is privatizing, most of the public domain (including fisheries, the public airwaves, water, offshore oil and gas, and the right to clean air) without compensation to the public.
The rate of saving and capital formation continues to fall rapidly. This is the main reason there is no recovery.
Although profits soar, corporations have no incentive to invest in expansion and jobs. Instead they invest their profits in real estate, derivatives, and commodities speculation.
American capital is decayed and obsolete. The US has lost much of its steel and auto industries. Power plants and oil refineries are ancient and polluting. Most public capital (infrastructure) is old and crumbling.
The number of American farms has fallen from 6 million in 1920 to 1 million in 2007.
The USA, once so self-sufficient, has grown dangerously dependent on importing raw materials and foreign manufacturers.
The US financial system is a shambles, supported only by loading trillions of dollars of bad debts onto the taxpayers.
Real wage rates have continued to fall since 1975,
Unemployment has risen to chronically high levels.
Inequality in wealth and income continues to increase rapidly.
The corporate elite has nullified all the Progressive Era electoral reforms by pouring money into politics and "deep lobbying," at all levels of government, including our institutions of higher learning and our public schools.
The corporate elite continue to pour ever more of our tax money into prisons.
Homelessness has risen to new heights, in spite of decades of subsidies to home-building and, favorable tax treatment of owner-occupied homes
Hunger is rampant.
Street begging, once rare, is everywhere
Americans have experienced a sharp loss of community, honor, duty, loyalty and patriotism.
In the shadow world between crime and business there is now the vast, gray underground economy that includes tax evasion, tax avoidance, and drug-dealing.
The US which once led the world in nearly every endeavor, has fallen far behind in infant survival, in longevity, in literacy, in numeracy, in mental health.
American education no longer leads the world. Privatized education in the form of commercial TV has largely superseded public education.
Mar 23, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.comewmayer , March 22, 2017 at 7:29 pmSynoia , March 22, 2017 at 10:12 pm
Received a "new academic programs" missive from my alma mater in today's mail, containing the following:
How to Make Innovation Happen in Your Organization
The Certified Professional Innovator (CPI) program is intended to develop the competency of high potential leaders in the theory and practice of innovation. It is rooted on the principle that innovation can only be learned by doing and through many short bursts of experimentation.
The certification is comprised of a 12-week curriculum with specific syllabus and assignments for each week, including videos, workbook assignments, and reports. During the program, participants, functioning as a cohort, communicate and collaborate with each other and faculty through a series of webinars and discussions. The program culminates in project pitches.
"It is rooted on [sic] the principle that innovation can only be learned by doing and through many short bursts of experimentation" - OK, fine there, but it is also rooted in the notion that such creativity can be taught in a formal academic setting, here monetized and condensed into a 12-week program. As for me, I'm gonna hold out for the following surely-in-development mini-courses:
o Certified Professional Serial Disruptor (CPD)
o Certified Professional Innovative Thought Leader (CPCTL)
o Certified Professional Smart Creative (CPSC)
I love the smell of money-greased credentialism in the morning.
Certified Real Accounting Professional.
Certified Real Estate Experienced Professional
Feb 27, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : February 24, 2017 at 05:00 PM , 2017 at 05:00 PMhttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.htmlanne -> anne... , February 24, 2017 at 05:00 PM
February 23, 2017
Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
By Kevin Carey
The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation's highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.
But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling - the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.
While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay * published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economics. Because "a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens," Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.
But, he argued, that doesn't mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for "approved educational services" provided by private schools, with the government's role limited to "ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards."
The voucher idea sat dormant for years before taking root in a few places, most notably Milwaukee. Yet even as many of Mr. Friedman's other ideas became Republican Party orthodoxy, most national G.O.P. leaders committed themselves to a different theory of educational improvement: standards, testing and accountability. That movement reached an apex when the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 brought a new focus on tests and standards to nearly every public school nationwide. The law left voucher supporters with crumbs: a small demonstration project in Washington, D.C.
But broad political support for No Child Left Behind proved short-lived. Teachers unions opposed the reforms from the left, while libertarians and states-rights conservatives denounced it from the right. When Republicans took control of more governor's mansions and state legislatures in the 2000s, they expanded vouchers to an unprecedented degree. Three of the largest programs sprang up in Indiana, Louisiana and Ohio, which collectively enroll more than a third of the 178,000 voucher students nationwide.
Most of the new programs heeded Mr. Friedman's original call for the government to enforce "minimum standards" by requiring private schools that accept vouchers to administer standardized state tests. Researchers have used this data to compare voucher students with similar children who took the same tests in public school. Many of the results were released over the last 18 months, while Donald J. Trump was advocating school choice on the campaign trail.
The first results came in late 2015....
The Role of Government in Education
By Milton Friedman
The general trend in our times toward increasing intervention by the state in economic affairs has led to a concentration of attention and dispute on the areas where new intervention is proposed and to an acceptance of whatever intervention has so far occurred as natural and unchangeable. The current pause, perhaps reversal, in the trend toward collectivism offers an opportunity to reexamine the existing activities of government and to make a fresh assessment of the activities that are and those that are not justified. This paper attempts such a re-examination for education.
Education is today largely paid for and almost entirely administered by governmental bodies or non-profit institutions. This situation has developed gradually and is now taken so much for granted that little explicit attention is any longer directed to the reasons for the special treatment of education even in countries that are predominantly free enterprise in organization and philosophy. The result has been an indiscriminate extension of governmental responsibility.
The role assigned to government in any particular field depends, of course, on the principles accepted for the organization of society in general. In what follows, I shall assume a society that takes freedom of the individual, or more realistically the family, as its ultimate objective, and seeks to further this objective by relying primarily on voluntary exchange among individuals for the organization of economic activity. In such a free private enterprise exchange economy, government's primary role is to preserve the rules of the game by enforcing contracts, preventing coercion, and keeping markets free. Beyond this, there are only three major grounds on which government intervention is to be justified. One is "natural monopoly" or similar market imperfection which makes effective competition (and therefore thoroughly voluntary ex change) impossible. A second is the existence of substantial "neighborhood effects," i.e., the action of one individual imposes significant costs on other individuals for which it is not feasible to make him compensate them or yields significant gains to them for which it is not feasible to make them compensate him-- circumstances that again make voluntary exchange impossible. The third derives from an ambiguity in the ultimate objective rather than from the difficulty of achieving it by voluntary exchange, namely, paternalistic concern for children and other irresponsible individuals. The belief in freedom is for "responsible" units, among whom we include neither children nor insane people. In general, this problem is avoided by regarding the family as the basic unit and therefore parents as responsible for their children; in considerable measure, however, such a procedure rests on expediency rather than principle. The problem of drawing a reasonable line between action justified on these paternalistic grounds and action that conflicts with the freedom of responsible individuals is clearly one to which no satisfactory answer can be given.
In applying these general principles to education, we shall find it helpful to deal separately with (1) general education for citizen ship, and (2) specialized vocational education, although it may be difficult to draw a sharp line between them in practice. The grounds for government intervention are widely different in these two areas and justify very different types of action....
Feb 08, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.comHow Universities Are Increasingly Choosing Capitalism Over Education Posted on February 7, 2017 by Yves Smith Yves here. Some further observations. First, the author neglects to mention the role of MBAs in the reorientation of higher education institutions. When I went to school, the administrative layer of universities was lean and not all that well paid. Those roles were typically inhabited by alumni who enjoyed the prestige and being able to hang around the campus. But t he growth of MBAs has meant they've all had to find jobs, and colonizing not-for-profits like universities has helped keep them off the street.
Second, this post focuses on non-elite universities, but the same general pattern is in play, although the specific outcomes are different. Universities with large endowments are increasingly hedge funds with an educational unit attached.
By Henry Heller, a professor of history at the University of Manitoba, Canada and the author of The Capitalist University. Cross posted from Alternet
The following is an excerpt from the new book The Capitalist University: The Transformations of Higher Education in the United States since 1945 by Henry Heller (Pluto Press, December 2016):
The fact that today there are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States represents an unparalleled educational, scientific, and cultural endowment. These institutions occupy a central place in American economic and cultural life. Certification from one of them is critical to the career hopes of most young people in the United States. The research produced in these establishments is likewise crucial to the economic and political future of the American state. Institutions of higher learning are of course of varying quality, with only 600 offering master's degrees and only 260 classified as research institutions. Of these only 87 account for the majority of the 56,000 doctoral degrees granted annually. Moreover, the number of really top-notch institutions based on the quality of their faculty and the size of their endowments is no more than 20 or 30. But still, the existence of thousands of universities and colleges offering humanistic, scientific, and vocational education, to say nothing of religious training, represents a considerable achievement. Moreover, the breakthroughs in research that have taken place during the last two generations in the humanities and social sciences, not to speak of the natural sciences, have been spectacular.
But the future of these institutions is today imperiled. Except for a relatively few well-endowed universities, most are in serious financial difficulty. A notable reason for this has been the decline in public financial support for higher education since the 1980s, a decline due to a crisis in federal and state finances but also to the triumph of right-wing politics based on continuing austerity toward public institutions. The response of most colleges and universities has been to dramatically increase tuition fees, forcing students to take on heavy debt and putting into question access to higher education for young people from low- and middle-income families. This situation casts a shadow on the implicit post-war contract between families and the state which promised upward mobility for their children based on higher education. This impasse is but part of the general predicament of the majority of the American population, which has seen its income fall and its employment opportunities shrink since the Reagan era. These problems have intensified since the financial collapse of 2008 and the onset of depression or the start of a generalized capitalist crisis.
Mounting student debt and fading job prospects are reflected in stagnating enrollments in higher education, intensifying the financial difficulties of universities and indeed exacerbating the overall economic malaise. The growing cost of universities has led recently to the emergence of Massive Online Open Courses whose upfront costs to students are nil, which further puts into doubt the future of traditional colleges and universities. These so-called MOOCs, delivered via the internet, hold out the possibility, or embody the threat, of doing away with much of the expensive labor and fixed capital costs embodied in existing university campuses. Clearly the future of higher education hangs in the balance with important implications for both American politics and economic life.
The deteriorating situation of the universities has its own internal logic as well. In response to the decline in funding, but also to the prevalence of neoliberal ideology, universities-or rather the presidents, administrators, and boards of trustees who control them-are increasingly moving away from their ostensible mission of serving the public good to that of becoming as far as possible like private enterprises. In doing so, most of the teachers in these universities are being reduced to the status of wage labor, and indeed precarious wage labor. The wages of the non-tenured faculty who now constitute the majority of teachers in higher education are low, they have no job security and receive few benefits. Although salaried and historically enjoying a certain autonomy, tenured faculty are losing the vestiges of their independence as well. Similarly, the influence of students in university affairs-a result of concessions made by administrators during the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s-has effectively been neutered. These changes reflect a decisive shift of power toward university managers whose numbers and remuneration have expanded prodigiously. The objective of these bureaucrats is to transform universities as much as possible to approximate private and profit-making corporations, regarded as models of efficient organization based on the discipline of the market. Indeed, scores of universities, Phoenix University for example, have been created explicitly as for-profit businesses and currently enroll millions of students.
Modern universities have always had a close relationship with private business, but whereas in the past faculty labor served capital by producing educated managers, highly skilled workers, and new knowledge as a largely free good, strenuous efforts are now underway to transform academic employment into directly productive, i.e., profitable, labor. The knowledge engendered by academic work is accordingly being privatized as a commodity through patenting, licensing, and copyrighting to the immediate benefit of universities and the private businesses to which universities are increasingly linked. Meanwhile, through the imposition of administrative standards laid down in accord with neoliberal principles, faculty are being subjected to unprecedented scrutiny through continuous quantified evaluation of teaching and research in which the ability to generate outside funding has become the ultimate measure of scholarly worth. At the same time, universities have become part of global ranking systems like the Shanghai Index or the Times Higher Education World University Rankings in which their standing in the hierarchy has become all important to their prestige and funding.
Several intertwined questions emerge from this state of affairs. In the first place, given the rising expense and debt that attendance at university imposes and declining employment prospects especially for young people, will there continue to be a mass market for higher education? Is the model of the university or college traditionally centered on the humanities and the sciences with a commitment to the pursuit of truth compatible with the movement toward converting the universities into quasi- or fully private business corporations? Finally, what are the implications of changes in the neoliberal direction for the future production of objective knowledge, not to speak of critical understanding?
Universities during the Cold War produced an impressive amount of new positive knowledge, not only in the sciences, engineering, and agriculture but also in the social sciences and humanities. In the case of the humanities and social sciences such knowledge, however real, was largely instrumental or tainted by ideological rationalizations. It was not sufficiently critical in the sense of getting to the root of the matter, especially on questions of social class or on the motives of American foreign policy. Too much of it was used to control and manipulate ordinary people within and without the United States in behalf of the American state and the maintenance of the capitalist order. There were scholars who continued to search for critical understanding even at the height of the Cold War, but they largely labored in obscurity. This state of affairs was disrupted in the 1960s with the sudden burgeoning of Marxist scholarship made possible by the upsurge of campus radicalism attendant on the anti-war, civil rights, and black liberation struggles. But the decline of radicalism in the 1970s saw the onset of postmodernism, neoliberalism, and the cultural turn. Postmodernism represented an unwarranted and untenable skepticism, while neoliberal economics was a crude and overstated scientism. The cultural turn deserves more respect, but whatever intellectual interest there may be in it there is little doubt that the net effect of all three was to delink the humanities and social sciences from the revolutionary politics that marked the 1960s. The ongoing presence in many universities of radicals who took refuge in academe under Nixon and Reagan ensured the survival of Marxist ideas if only in an academic guise. Be that as it may, the crisis in American society and the concomitant crisis of the universities has become extremely grave over the last decade. It is a central contention of this work that, as a result of the crisis, universities will likely prove to be a key location for ideological and class struggle, signaled already by the growing interest in unionization of faculty both tenured and non-tenured, the revival of Marxist scholarship, the Occupy Movement, the growing importance of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and heightening conflicts over academic freedom and the corporatization of university governance.
The approach of this work is to examine the recent history of American universities from the perspective of Marxism, a method which can be used to study these institutions critically as part of the capitalist economic and political system. Despite ongoing apologetics that view universities as sites for the pursuit of disinterested truth, we contend that a critical perspective involving an understanding of universities as institutions based on the contradictions of class inequality, the ultimate unity of the disciplines rooted in the master narrative of historical materialism, and a consciousness of history makes more sense as a method of analysis. All the more so, this mode of investigation is justified by the increasing and explicit promotion of academic capitalism by university managers trying to turn universities into for-profit corporations. In response to these policies scholars have in fact begun to move toward the reintegration of political economy with the study of higher education. This represents a turn away from the previous dominance in this field of postmodernism and cultural studies and, indeed, represents a break from the hegemonic outlook of neoliberalism. On the other hand, most of this new scholarship is orientated toward studying the effects of neoliberalism on the contemporary university, whereas the present work takes a longer view. Marxist political economy demands a historical perspective in which the present condition of universities emerged from the crystallization of certain previous trends. It therefore looks at the evolution of the university from the beginning of the twentieth century, sketching its evolution from a preserve of the upper-middle class in which research played almost no role into a site of mass education and burgeoning research, and, by the 1960s, a vital element in the political economy of the United States.
In contrast to their original commitment to independence with respect to the state up to World War II, most if by no means all universities and colleges defined their post-war goals in terms of the pursuit of the public good and were partially absorbed into the state apparatus by becoming financially dependent on government. But from start to finish twentieth-century higher education also had an intimate and ongoing relationship with private business. In the neoliberal period universities are taking this a step further, aspiring to turn themselves into quasi- or actual business corporations. But this represents the conclusion of a long-evolving process. The encroachment of private business into the university is in fact but part of the penetration of the state by private enterprise and the partial privatization of the state. On the surface this invasion of the public sphere by the market may appear beneficial to private business. We regard it, on the contrary, as a symptom of economic weakness and a weakening of civil society.
The American system of higher education, with its prestigious private institutions, great public universities, private colleges and junior colleges, was a major achievement of a triumphant American republic. It provided the U.S. state with the intellectual, scientific, and technical means to strengthen significantly its post-1945 power. The current neoliberal phase reflects an America struggling economically and politically to adapt to the growing challenges to its global dominance and to the crisis of capitalism itself. The shift of universities toward the private corporate model is part of this struggle. Capitalism in its strongest periods not only separated the state from the private sector, it kept the private sector at arm's length from the state. The role of the state in ensuring a level playing field and providing support for the market was clearly understood. The current attempt by universities to mimic the private sector is a form of economic and ideological desperation on the part of short-sighted and opportunistic university administrators as well as politicians and businessmen. In our view, this aping of the private sector is misguided, full of contradictions, and ultimately vain if not disastrous. Indeed, it is a symptom of crisis and decline.
The current overwhelming influence of private business on universities grew out of pre-existing tendencies. There is already an existing corporate nature of university governance both private and public, as well as an influence of business on universities in the first part of the twentieth century. In reaction there developed the concept of academic freedom as well as the establishment of the system of tenure and the development of a rather timid faculty trade unionism. This underscores the importance of private foundations in controlling the development of the curriculum and research in both the sciences and humanities. In their teaching, universities were mainly purveyors of the dominant capitalist ideology. Humanities and social science professors imparted mainly liberal ideology and taught laissez-faire economics which justified the political and economic status quo. The development of specialized departments reinforced the fragmentation of knowledge and discouraged the emergence of a systemic overview and critique of American culture and society. There were, as noted earlier, a few Marxist scholars, some of considerable distinction, who became prominent particularly in the wake of the Depression, the development of the influence of the Communist Party, and the brief period of Soviet-American cooperation during World War II. But the teaching of Marxism was frowned upon and attacked even prior to the Cold War.
The post-1945 university was a creation of the Cold War. Its expansion, which sprang directly out of war, was based on the idea of education as a vehicle of social mobility, which was seen as an alternative to the equality and democracy promoted by the populism of the New Deal. Its elitist and technocratic style of governance was patterned after that of the large private corporation and the American federal state during the 1950s. Its enormously successful research programs were mainly underwritten by appropriations from the military and the CIA. The CIA itself was largely created by recruiting patriotic faculty from the universities. Much of the research in the social sciences was directed at fighting Soviet and revolutionary influence and advancing American imperialism abroad. Marxist professors and teaching programs were purged from the campuses.
Dating from medieval times, the curriculum of the universities was based on a common set of subjects including language, philosophy, and natural science premised on the idea of a unitary truth. Although the subject matter changed over the centuries higher education continued to impart the hegemonic ideology of the times. Of course the notion of unitary truth was fraying at the seams by the beginning of the twentieth century with the development of departmental specialization and the increasingly contested nature of truth, especially in the social sciences in the face of growing class struggle in America. However, the notion of the idea of the unity of knowledge as purveyed by the university was still ideologically important as a rationale for the existence of universities. Moreover, as we shall demonstrate, it was remarkable how similarly, despite differences in subject matter and method, the main disciplines in the humanities and social sciences responded to the challenge of Marxism during the Cold War. They all developed paradigms which opposed or offered alternatives to Marxism while rationalizing continued loyalty to liberalism and capitalism. As if on cue, sociology, psychology, literature, political science, and anthropology all took sides by explicitly rejecting Marxism and putting forward viewpoints opposed to it. History itself stressed American exceptionalism, justified U.S. expansionism, minimized class conflict, and warned against revolution. Indeed, this work will focus on these disciplines because they defended the capitalist status quo at a deeper cultural and intellectual level than the ubiquitous mass media. As Louis Althusser pointed out, the teaching received by students from professors at universities was the strategic focal point for the ideological defense of the dominant class system. That was as true of the United States as it was of France, where institutions of higher learning trained those who would later train or manage labor. Criticizing the recent history of these disciplines is thus an indispensable step to developing an alternative knowledge and indeed culture that will help to undermine liberal capitalist hegemony.
The approach of this work is to critically analyze these core academic subjects from a perspective informed by Pierre Bourdieu and Karl Marx. Bourdieu points out that the deep involvement of the social sciences (and the humanities) with powerful social interests makes it difficult to free their study from ideological presuppositions and thereby achieve a truly socially and psychologically reflexive understanding. But such reflexive knowledge was precisely what Marx had in mind more than a century earlier. Leaving a Germany still under the thrall of feudalism and absolutism for Paris in 1843, the young Marx wrote to his friend Arnold Ruge that
reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form but, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.
His task as he saw it was to criticize the existing body of knowledge so as to make it as reasonable as possible, i.e., to undermine its illusory and ideological character and substitute knowledge which was both true and helped advance communism. Such a project entailed deconstructing the existing body of knowledge through rational criticism, exposing its ideological foundations and advancing an alternative based on a sense of contradiction, social totality, and a historical and materialist understanding. It is our ambition in surveying and studying the humanities and social sciences in the period after 1945 to pursue our investigation in the same spirit. Indeed, it is our view that a self-reflexive approach to contemporary knowledge, while woefully lacking, is an indispensable complement to the development of a serious ideological critique of the crisis-ridden capitalist society of today.
Marxism is still regarded with suspicion in the United States. As a matter of fact, anti-Marxism in American universities was not merely a defensive response to McCarthyism as some allege. Anti-communism was bred in the bone of many Americans and was one of the strongest forces that affected U.S. society in the twentieth century, including the faculty members of its universities. An idée fixe rather than an articulated ideology, it was compounded out of deeply embedded albeit parochial notions of Americanism, American exceptionalism and anti-radicalism. The latter was rooted in the bitter resistance of the still large American middle or capitalist class to the industrial unrest which marked the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and which had a strong bed of support among the immigrant working class. Nativism then was an important tool in the hands of this class in fighting a militant if ethnically divided working class. Moreover, the anti-intellectual prejudices of American society in general and the provincialism of its universities were ideal terrain for fending off subversive ideas from abroad like Marxism. Later, this anti-communism and hostility to Marxism became the rationale for the extension of American imperialism overseas particularly after 1945. The social origins of the professoriate among the lower middle class, furthermore, and its role as indentured if indirect servants of capital, strengthened its position as inimical to Marxism. Just as careers could be lost for favoring Marxism, smart and adroit academics could make careers by advancing some new intellectual angle in the fight against Marxism. And this was not merely a passing feature of the height of the Cold War: from the 1980s onward, postmodernism, identity politics, and the cultural turn were invoked to disarm the revolutionary Marxist politics that had developed in the 1960s. Whatever possible role identity politics and culture might have in deepening an understanding of class their immediate effect was to undermine a sense of class and strengthen a sense of liberal social inclusiveness while stressing the cultural obstacles to the development of revolutionary class consciousness.
This overall picture of conformity and repression was, however, offset by the remarkable upsurge of student radicalism that marked the 1960s, challenging the intellectual and social orthodoxies of the Cold War. In reaction to racism and political and social repression at home and the Vietnam War abroad, students rebelled against the oppressive character of university governance and by extension the power structure of American society. Overwhelmingly the ideology through which this revolt was refracted was the foreign and until then largely un-American doctrine of Marxism. Imported into the universities largely by students, Marxism then inspired a new generation of radical and groundbreaking scholarship. Meanwhile it is important to note that the student revolt itself was largely initiated by the southern civil rights movement, an important bastion of which were the historically black colleges of the South. It was from the struggle of racially oppressed black students in the American South as well as the growing understanding of the anti-colonial revolutionaries of Vietnam that the protest movement in American colleges and universities was born. Equally important was the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. Indeed, it is the contention of this work that the issues raised at Berkeley over democracy in the universities and the free expression of ideas not only shaped the student movement of that time but are still with us, and indeed are central to the future of universities and intellectual life today.
At the heart of the Berkeley protest lay a rejection of the idea of a university as a hierarchical corporation producing exchange values including the production of trained workers and ideas convertible into commodities. Instead the students asserted the vision of a democratic university which produced knowledge as a use value serving the common good. It is our view that this issue raised at Berkeley in the 1960s anticipated the class conflict that is increasingly coming to the fore over so-called knowledge capitalism. Both within the increasingly corporate neoliberal university and in business at large, the role of knowledge and knowledge workers is becoming a key point of class struggle. This is especially true on university campuses where the proletarianization of both teaching and research staff is in process and where the imposition of neoliberal work rules is increasingly experienced as tyrannical. The skilled work of these knowledge producers, the necessarily interconnected nature of their work, and the fundamentally contradictory notion of trying to privatize and commodify knowledge, have the potential to develop into a fundamental challenge to capitalism.
1. Paul Fain, "'Nearing the Bottom': Inside Higher Education," Inside Higher Education , May 15, 2014.
2. Raymond A. Morrow, "Critical Theory and Higher Education: Political Economy and the Cul-de-Sac of the Postmodernist Turn," in The University, State and Market: The Political Economy of Globalization in the Americas , ed. Robert A. Rhoads and Carlos Alberto Torres, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006, pp. xvii‒xxxiii.
3. Perry Anderson, "Components of the National Culture," New Left Review , No. 50, July‒August, 1968, pp. 3–4.
4. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature , New York: Columbia University Press, 1993, pp. 86–7.
5. Karl Marx, Letter to Arnold Ruge, Kreuznach, September 1843, Letters from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher , at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/43_09.htm
6. Larry Ceplair, Anti-Communism in Twentieth-Century America , Santa Barbara: Clio, 2011, pp. 1–2, 12.0 0 30 1 1 This entry was posted in Banana republic , Free markets and their discontents , Guest Post , Politics , Social policy , Social values on February 7, 2017 by Yves Smith . Subscribe to Post Comments 31 comments Jim , February 7, 2017 at 1:57 amTrout Creek , February 7, 2017 at 3:18 pm
Capitalism requires that total strangers be on the hook for student loans? And if this is Capitalism then why didn't this trend emerge 100+ years ago? Why now?Steve Sewall , February 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm
It is a function of the adaption of NeoLiberalism as a governing principle which you can basically start around the time of Reagan.schultzzz , February 7, 2017 at 1:58 am
Because a) the market for a college degree is vastly bigger today than it was 100+ years ago b) tuitions were affordable so there was no way for high-interest lenders ("total strangers") to game the system as they do today.
Plus I wonder if the legal system or tax code would have let them get away with anything like what they get away with today.Arizona Slim , February 7, 2017 at 8:57 am
I agree with everything dude says, but the way he says it is so deathly dull and needlessly technical . . .
it's a shame that someone so openly critical of the university system and culture nonetheless unquestioningly obeys the tradition of: "serious writing has to turn off 99% of the people that might be otherwise interested in the subject."John Wright , February 7, 2017 at 9:59 am
And here I thought I was the only oneArizona Slim , February 7, 2017 at 11:06 am
Yes, his writing caused this reader to do a MEDGO ("my eyes doth gloss over")
It was technical in its assertions, but has few metrics to quantify the trends such as inflation adjusted administrative cost or inflation adjusted government college funding now vs then.
There is a mention that the USA government has touted the "upward mobility" or excess value, AKA "consumer surplus", of a college degree to students and their families for years.
The US government further encouraged the student loan industry with guarantees and bankruptcy relief de-facto prohibited.
The current system may illustrate that colleges raised their prices to capture more of this alleged consumer surplus, a surplus that may no longer be there..
If one looks at the USA's current political/economic/infrastructure condition, and asserts that the leaders and government officials of the USA were trained, overwhelmingly, over the last 40 years, in the USA's system of higher education, perhaps this is an indication USA higher education has not served the general public well for a long time.
The author mentions this important point "These so-called MOOCs, delivered via the internet, hold out the possibility, or embody the threat, of doing away with much of the expensive labor and fixed capital costs embodied in existing university campuses. Clearly the future of higher education hangs in the balance with important implications for both American politics and economic life."
Maybe the MOOCs are the low cost future as the 4 year degree loses economic value and the USA moves to a life-long continuous education model?Pete , February 7, 2017 at 1:58 pm
ISTR reading that the completion rate for MOOCs is pretty low. As in, 10% of the students who start the course end up finishing it.JustAnObserver , February 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm
And that rate doesn't even mention what scores they achieved. MOOCs are hopeless especially since college is now less about getting an education and more about a statement about a young person's lifestyle or identity.
http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2015/10/college-as-part-of-lifestyle.htmljulia , February 7, 2017 at 10:31 am
Now sure about the `now' bit. I maybe a bit cynical but I've always thought, even when I was at one, that colleges/universities major function was as a middle-class finishing school for those unable to afford the real deal in Switzerland.John Wright , February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm
I do not agree and it is deathly dull and needlessly technical. In fact it remains me off the marxistic education I enjoyed growing up in East Germany.
Maybe it is time to rethink after school education. Physical Labor should loose its stain of being for loosers and stupid people. A whole lot of professions could be better taught through apprentiships and technical college mix.( many younge people would maybe enjoy being able to start qualified work after only 3 additional years of education).
And do we really need 12 years of standard school education? There are so many kids that do not function well in school.
Universities should be for the really eager and talented who want to spend a big part of
their youth learning.
I guess we need a lot of new ideas to get away from the old paradigma ( anti- marxist or marxist)Steve , February 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm
I took a couple of classes at the local junior college in automotive smog testing and machining.
One of the instructors told me the JC administration viewed this Junior College as having two parts, College Prep + vocational education.
He suggested the administration looked down on the vocational education portion, saying "But we get the jobs".Altandmain , February 7, 2017 at 2:10 am
I don't know how you read other works from academics if you think that this was dull.
Do you or anyone thinking this was "dull" have any examples of academic essays or books that contain useful knowledge but also consider them "shiny?"
Personally, I thought this was a very good essay as it explains some things I've been thinking about American higher education and quite a few things about my personal university education at a tier-1 research school.James McFadden , February 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm
Basically universities have become a cog in the machine of neoliberalism.
Rather than anything resembling an institution for the public good, it has taken on the worst aspects of corporate America (and Canada). You can see this in the way they push now for endowment money, the highly paid senior management contrasted with poorly paid adjuncts, and how research is controlled these days. Blue skies research is cut, while most research is geared towards short-term corporate profit, from which they will no doubt milk society with.
I tremble when I think about what all of this means:
1. Students won't be getting a good education when they are taught by adjuncts being paid poverty wages.
2. Corporations will profit in the short run.
3. The wealthy and corporations due to endowment money have a huge sway.
4. Blue skies research will fall and over time, US leadership in hard sciences.
5. The productivity of future workers will be suppressed and with it, their earning potential.
6. Related to that, inequality will increase dramatically as universities worsen the situation.
7. There will be many "left behind" students and graduates with high debt, along with bleak job prospects.
8. State governments, starving for tax money will make further cuts, worsening these trends.
9. Anything hostile to the corporate state (as the article notes) will be suppressed.
10. With it, academic freedom and ultimately democracy will be much reduced.
What it means is decline in US technological power, productivity gains, and with it, declining living standards.
All of these trends already are happening. They will worsen.
I'd agree that a more readable version of this should be made for the general public.Jason , February 7, 2017 at 2:14 am
But your description suggests an inevitable bleak dystopic future – a self-fulfilling prophesy. The future is not written – we can help determine its course. It starts with grass roots movement building in your neighborhood and community. And I can't think of a more rewarding task then creating a better future for our children.
But perhaps my farmer's work ethic, my inclination to side with the underdog and stand up to the bully capitalists, are notions that most Americans no longer possess. Perhaps Cornel West is correct when he states: "The oppressive effect of the prevailing market moralities leads to a form of sleepwalking from womb to tomb, with the majority of citizens content to focus on private careers and be distracted with stimulating amusements. They have given up any real hope of shaping the collective destiny of the nation. Sour cynicism, political apathy, and cultural escapism become the pervasive options."
However, it is my observation that Trump's election has woken this sleepwalking giant, and that his bizarre behavior continues to energize people to resist. So why not rebel and help bring down the neoliberal fascists. Is there any cause more worthy? And for those who won't try because they don't think they can win, consider the words of Chris Hedges: "I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists."Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:30 am
I'm going to complain about your headline. A lot of stuff on this blog is obviously relevant only to the USA, and when it's obvious it doesn't need to be mentioned in the headline. But it's not at all obvious that this topic is only about the USA (or North America, since the author is in Canada?), so maybe you could edit the headline to reflect that it is in fact only about the USA?
My observation of Australian universities is that they have similar problems, although maybe to a lesser extent. But I doubt the same things happen in all countries. I'd be interested to know more about mainland European universities, and ex-Soviet-bloc universities, and Chinese universities, and Third World universities.
As for "Universities with large endowments are increasingly hedge funds with an educational unit attached", I think the rich universities in the UK (i.e. the richer residential Oxbridge colleges, if you count them as universities – Oxford and Cambridge Universities themselves are not particularly rich – plus maybe Imperial College?) have very little invested in hedge funds and a lot in property. Can anyone confirm or deny that?Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:38 am
Thank you, Jason.
In the past two decades, the UK's top universities, often called the Russell Group after the Russell Hotel in Russell Square where they met to form a sort of lobby group, have made money and started hiring rock star academics. I don't know how much these academics teach, but they often pontificate in the media.
Big business, oligarchs and former alumni (often oligarchs) donate money, allowing them to build up their coffers. Imperial is developing an area of west London.
Oxbridge colleges own a lot of property. Much of the land between Cambridge and London is owned by Cambridge colleges. This goes back to when they were religious institutions and despite Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries.
London Business School has expanded from its Regent's Park base to Marylebone as the number of students, especially from Asia, grow. I have spoken to students from there and Oxford's Said Business School and know people who have guest lectured there. They were not impressed. Plutonium Kun has written about that below.bmeisen , February 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm
Correction: number of students grows :-)Winston Smith , February 7, 2017 at 3:07 am
Oxford and Cambridge are British state universities as I understand it. The Russell Group consists primarily of state institutions that have assumed / been given / been restored to an elite role in the British system of higher education, which is overwhelmingly public. Oxford and Cambridge are at the peak of a relatively flat hierarchy of elite public higher education. Higher ed's role in the constitution of British elites is characterized by 3 features: association with an institutional reputation and thereby access to a network, a financial hurdle, and a meritocratic process of selection. Of these the financial hurdle is the least problematic – tuition is still peanuts compared to that at American elite institutions.
Things have gotten better – you no longer have to be a male member of the church of England to get in – and the system is more democratic than the French system of elite public higher ed, i.e. the ruling elite in the UK can be penetrated by working people, e.g. Corbyn.Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:35 am
My son is half Japanese and half American and holds a passport with both countries, he is still in elementary school, but my wife and I are encouraging him to go to school in Japan or to Germany (ancestral home) and seek his fortunes outside of the US as the crapification of the US roller coasters out of control.
Japanese universities are still affordable compared to the US and it's administrative layer, modestly paid, isn't run by MBAs, corporate hacks and neoliberal apologists and others who would better serve the public by decorating a lamp post somewhere with piano wire tightly wrapped around their necks!
My niece attended Kyoto University, one of the best schools in Japan and it cost her and her parents about 7500.00 a year. She commuted from Nara City and Finished her degree in just under three years and had a job waiting for her in the middle of her third year.
Now, I agree that Japanese universities have their fare share of problems and insanity, but the thought of dealing with US universities nauseates my wife and me.
The only school in the US that I would want my son to attend would be Caltech, if he could ever successfully get accepted. They still do great science there, much of it blue sky research. LIGO is still running!
* disclaimer, I used to be a Caltech employee.Arizona Slim , February 7, 2017 at 9:00 am
An increasing number of British students are going to the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Germany for courses taught in English and for under EUR2000 per annum. Leiden and Maastricht are particularly favoured. Apparently, some Spanish universities are cottoning on to that market.
Half a dozen years ago, a clown masquerading as a BBC breakfast news reporter went to have a look and condescend. Her concluding remark was, "The question is are continental universities as good as British ones."Jake , February 7, 2017 at 8:04 am
I have studied at a Spanish university. The courses were excellent.schultzzz , February 7, 2017 at 2:40 pm
But but Japan has sooooo much government debt and must cut cut cut unless it implodes!
Out of curiosity, may I ask you to elaborate on what you mean when you say japanese universities have 'their fare share of problems and insanity'?PlutoniumKun , February 7, 2017 at 3:55 am
re: japanese universities.
The university system is not set up for education. it's a reward to the conformists who studied 12 hours a day all through jr high/highschool to pass the university entrance exams (which notoriously don't test for any useful knowledge). The idea being that if you waste your whole childhood studying for a phoney test, you won't dare question the system once you're in the workforce, as it would mean admitting your whole childhood was wasted!
Since college is viewed as a reward, rather than a challenge, there's very little learning going on. it's about developing relationships (and drinking problems) with future members of this elite class.
So most Japanese corporations wind up having to teach the grads everything on the job anyway.
A Japanese degree doesn't mean 'i know things' it means 'i have already by age 20 sacrificed so much that i don't dare ever rock the boat', which is exactly how the corporations and govt bureaucracies want it.
You might say "oh but science! Japanese are good at that!"
But my wife, a nurse, says that it's considered rude to flunk an incompetent student, providing she/he's respectful of the professor. There are doctors who routinely botch surgeries, but firing them would be rude. These doctors would have flunked out of regular (i.e. non-Japanese) universities.
End rant!templar555510 , February 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm
Having on more than one occasion suffered through management restructuring organised by MBA's which did nothing other than reduce productivity in favour of meaningless metrics and increase the power of managers who had no idea how to actually do the job, I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that the MBA was a clever invention by an anarchist determined to create a virus to undermine capitalism from within. At least, thats the only possible theory that makes sense to me.Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 4:19 am
I agree . Putting it more bluntly the MBA is a clever con to get would-be students to sign up in the belief it'll teach them something that can't be taught – how to make money. I've said this on this blog before – the ability to make money is a knack ; it doesn't matter what the field is it's all akin to someone selling cheap goods on a market stall .David Barrera , February 7, 2017 at 6:20 am
Thank you, Yves, for posting.
Some observations from the UK:
Many UK universities are targeting foreign, especially Asian, students for the purpose of profit, not education. Some universities refer to students as clients.
Some provincial universities are opening campuses in London as foreign students only want to study in London.
There are many Chinese would be students in London this week. Some universities have open days at the moment. When the youngsters and their parents are not attending such days, they go shopping at Bicester Village, just north of Oxford. It's odd to see commuters arriving from Buckinghamshire at Marylebone for work and Chinese and Arab tourists going shopping in the opposite direction, and the reverse in the evening.
The targeting of rich Asian students, often not up to academic standard, has led to a secondary school in mid-Buckinghamshire, where selective education prevails at secondary / high school, to take Chinese students for the summer term and house them with well to do (only) local parents. The experiment went well for the "grammar" school, i.e. it made money. As for the families who housed the kids, not so much. There were complaints that the children could speak little or no English, which is not what they expected, so the host families could barely interact with the visitors. The school wants to repeat the programme and expand it to a full year. That is the thin end of a wedge as the school will scale back the numbers of local children admitted and probably expand the programme to the entire phase of secondary / high school. It's like running a boarding school by stealth. The school is now an "academy", so no longer under government control and similar to charter schools, and can do what it wants.Colonel Smithers , February 7, 2017 at 6:38 am
I like your introduction to the article. "Universities with large endowments are increasingly hedge funds with an educational unit attached" A recent and very simple but eye opener interview on the subject-Richard Wolff-http://www.rdwolff.com/rttv_boom_bust_for_profit_schools_are_making_money_but_failing_the_grade
As Henry Heller mentions Bourdieu, I can not find among his bibliography much on the specific increasing dominance of the "free market" over learning institutions. The Field of Cultural Production focuses mainly on the opposition market/art,cultural field and the rules of art. Some of his other works elaborate very well on the transformed reproduction of social agents with different economic and cultural capital weights. His major works on higher learning are The State Nobility and Academic Discourse, which are about the homologies between the hierarchy of higher learning centers and the market position occupiers which the latter produce. All of it within the French context. The great late Bourdieu certainly denounced the increasing free market ideology presence and dominance on "everything human"(i.e Free Exchange, Against the Tyranny of the Market and elsewhere); yet not much in that regard-to my knowledge-on the centers with the granted power to issue higher learning degrees. I guess my point is that Heller's reference to Bourdieu strikes me as a bit odd here.
Nevertheless, I like Heller's article. Just as incidental evidence: my town's community college President is a CPA and MBA title holder, the Economics 101 class taught does not deviate the slightest from economic orthodoxy doctrine and I must add that, despite-or because of- a 75% tutoring fee increase in the last eight years, the center has consistently generated a surplus aided by the low wages from the vastly non-tenured teachers.Left in Wisconsin , February 7, 2017 at 10:45 am
The students from China, Singapore and the Middle East often live in the upscale areas of London, often at home rather than rent. Parents are often in tow. They also drive big and expensive cars.
It's amazing to see what is driven and by whom around University, Imperial and King's colleges and the London School of Economics in central London. This was remarked upon by US readers a couple of years ago. Parking is not cheap, either.
A friend and former colleague was planning to rent at Canary Wharf where he was a contractor. He put his name down and was getting ready to move in. The landlord got in touch to say sorry, a family from Singapore was coming and paying more. Apparently, Singaporeans reserve well in advance, even before the students know their exam results.
A golf course was put up for sale near home. The local authority tipped off some upscale estate agents / realtors from London. A Chinese buyer has acquired the thirty odd acre property. Without planning (construction) permission, the property is worth £1.5m. With planning permission, it's worth £1m per acre. A gated community / rural retreat for the Chinese student community is planned. Oxford, London, Shakespeare Country, Clooney Country and Heathrow are an hour or less away.cojo , February 7, 2017 at 11:52 am
My favorite line:
Marxism is still regarded with suspicion in the United States.
I love a good Marxist and I know that a totalizing perspective such as Marxism requires a certain amount of generalization, but I found more to criticize in this post than to recommend it. Apparently entire disciplines have agency ( As if on cue, sociology, psychology, literature, political science, and anthropology all took sides by explicitly rejecting Marxism and putting forward viewpoints opposed to it. History itself stressed American exceptionalism, justified U.S. expansionism, minimized class conflict, and warned against revolution. ).
It is clearly true that the modern university is overly focused on money-making – both the university enterprise itself and the selling of higher ed to students – but, from my long experience with one big Tier One and lesser knowledge of several others, it is wrong to say that the modern university looks to operate as a business. Indeed, the top heaviness of bureaucratic administration in the modern university is not very business-like.
IMO what declining public funding has done is allow/force the modern university to aim it's giant vacuum sucker in any and every direction. By the way, if Wisconsin is any example, there are enough Chinese students interested in American university degrees to keep it in business for quite a long time.
But my biggest complaint is with the history. After first laying out an ideal (but not very) historical vision of the utopian university, in contrast with today's money grubber, he later admits that the mid-century university was not all that open to leftism. Then the miracle of the 1960s, which seems to spring from social protest alone. The real story of the 1960s was the huge expansion of higher ed in the U.S., which led to considerable faculty hiring, which allowed a lot of leftists to get hired in the 1960s and early 1970s (often at second or third-tier schools) when they would not have in the 1950s. This was always going to be a one-time event.
The author also seems to suggest that universities owe it to Marxists to hire them if their analysis is good. This is a weird argument for a Marxist to make, seemingly entirely oblivious to the overall political economy he otherwise emphasizes. It ends up sounding more than a bit self-serving. I'm not sure lecturing in History on the public dime is Marx's idea of praxis.
The same can be said about administrative costs in medicine. Seems the parasitic infection is everywhere!
Jan 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.comsanjait : Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 11:31 AMThis is tremendous.
If the world were sane, this is the kind of thinking that would be taking place about inequality. Rather than jumping to simple conclusions based on heavy priors (which is where too much of the "debate" starts and stops), one starts with a broad, open minded and contemplative review that seeks to identify primary causal factors.
That said ... there is a lot that could be quibbled here.
One, it's not always the case that identifying primary causes leads one directly to solutions. Sometimes the solution has little to do with the cause. If, for example, changing climate causes an increase in forest fires, we should consider that as another factor in our evaluation of climate economics, but in terms of strategies for addressing forest fires, we have to find proximate solutions.
Although in practice, certainly we will often have a better understanding of what solutions might be possible and might be effective when we carefully analyze causes. The endeavor of identifying causes is absolutely worthwhile for that reason.
Another quibble, the defining of inequality by the single metric of share of income of the 1% is a bit reductive, though only a bit.
Last note ... I notice international trade is not mentioned here. That doesn't mean it isn't a primary driver, although as I've said many times, I don't think it is a primary driver, and it appears Kenworthy didn't think it even worth mentioning.
sanjait -> sanjait... , January 25, 2017 at 11:41 AMAlthough my biggest quibble is that I think Kenworthy missed the big cause entirely: the effect technology has had in making workers fungible.sanjait -> sanjait... , January 25, 2017 at 11:42 AM
IT has made communications almost free and made micromanagement of business systems ubiquitous. As a result, firms are no longer dependent on long-tenured workers, or even teams of workers in a particular place. Anything and anyone can be replaced and outsourced (in the broadest sense of the term, not just offshoring to foreign workers), and when costs are high companies do this aggressively.
This change has immeasurably changed the nature of work and the relative bargaining powers of individual workers and even teams of workers. That, I believe, is why education is rising, and doing so in the countries that are most adept and aggressive about business process solutions implementation across many sectors. If I'm right, we will see this trend accelerate very soon in countries that are laggards in this domain, as they finally start operating as resource planned enterprises.
Because this effect is not measured and difficult to measure ... I think it gets overlooked. But if I were a researcher in this field, I'd be looking at ERP adoption trends vs within firm inequality trends and looking for correlations. This would get confounded by firm size but I bet there are ways to tease out the effect."why education is rising" supposed to say "why INEQUALITY is rising" ...libezkova -> sanjait... , January 25, 2017 at 06:44 PMSanjait,
"the effect technology has had in making workers fungible."
Yes, this is a very good point. Especially computer revolution and related revolution in telecommunications. Starting from "PC revolution" (August 12, 1981) the pace of technological innovation was really breathtaking. Especially in hardware.
Regular smartphone now is more powerful then a mainframe computer of 1971 which would occupy a large room with air conditioning (IBM 360/370 series). So say nothing about early 1960th ("Desk Set" movie with Katharine Hepburn, which was probably the first about displacement of workers by computers, was produced in 1957)
"This change has immeasurably changed the nature of work and the relative bargaining powers of individual workers and even teams of workers. That, I believe, is why education is rising..."
The nature of work in "classic" human fields (agriculture, steel industry, electrical generation, law, etc) was not changed dramatically but the "superstructure" above them did.
Sometimes I think that the success of neoliberalism would be impossible without computer revolution.
Bargaining power was squashed by neoliberalism by design. So this is not a "natural" development, but an "evil plot" of financial oligarchy, so to speak. In this sense dissolution of the USSR was a huge hit for the US trade unions.
Education is now used as the filter for many jobs. So people start to invest in it to get a pass, so to speak. With the neoliberal transformation of universities it now often takes pervert forms such as "diploma mills" or mass production of "Public relations" graduates.
Neoliberal transformation of universities into profit centers also played the role in increasing the volume -- they need "customers" much like McDonalds and use misleading advertisements, no entrance exams, and other tricks to lure people in.
So university education now is a pretty perverted institution too.
Nov 18, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. :http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2016/11/privatization-of-public-infrastructure.html
PGL on Chicago's parking meters. Yes Democratic Mayor Daley made a bad deal. If Trump does invest in infrastructure is this the kind of thing he'll be doing, selling off public assets and leasing them back again, aka privatization?
Seems like two different things. Here's an In These Time article from January 2015 by the smart Rick Perlstein.
How To Sell Off a City
Welcome to Rahm Emanuel's Chicago, the privatized metropolis of the future.
BY RICK PERLSTEIN
In June of 2013, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a new appointment to the city's seven-member school board to replace billionaire heiress Penny Pritzker, who'd decamped to run President Barack Obama's Department of Commerce. The appointee, Deborah H. Quazzo, is a founder of an investment firm called GSV Advisors, a business whose goal-her cofounder has been paraphrased by Reuters as saying-is to drum up venture capital for "an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards."
GSV Advisors has a sister firm, GSV Capital, that holds ownership stakes in education technology companies like "Knewton," which sells software that replaces the functions of flesh-and-blood teachers. Since joining the school board, Quazzo has invested her own money in companies that sell curricular materials to public schools in 11 states on a subscription basis.
In other words, a key decision-maker for Chicago's public schools makes money when school boards decide to sell off the functions of public schools.
She's not alone. For over a decade now, Chicago has been the epicenter of the fashionable trend of "privatization"-the transfer of the ownership or operation of resources that belong to all of us, like schools, roads and government services, to companies that use them to turn a profit. Chicago's privatization mania began during Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration, which ran from 1989 to 2011. Under his successor, Rahm Emanuel, the trend has continued apace. For Rahm's investment banker buddies, the trend has been a boon. For citizens? Not so much.
They say that the first person in any political argument who stoops to invoking Nazi Germany automatically loses. But you can look it up: According to a 2006 article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, the English word "privatization" derives from a coinage, Reprivatisierung, formulated in the 1930s to describe the Third Reich's policy of winning businessmen's loyalty by handing over state property to them.
In the American context, the idea also began on the Right (to be fair, entirely independent of the Nazis)-and promptly went nowhere for decades. In 1963, when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater mused "I think we ought to sell the TVA"-referring to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the giant complex of New Deal dams that delivered electricity for the first time to vast swaths of the rural Southeast-it helped seal his campaign's doom. Things only really took off after Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's sale of U.K. state assets like British Petroleum and Rolls Royce in the 1980s made the idea fashionable among elites-including a rightward tending Democratic Party.
As president, Bill Clinton greatly expanded a privatization program begun under the first President Bush's Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Hope VI" aimed to replace public-housing high-rises with mixed-income houses, duplexes and row houses built and managed by private firms.
Chicago led the way. In 1999, Mayor Richard M. Daley, a Democrat, announced his intention to tear down the public-housing high-rises his father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, had built in the 1950s and 1960s. For this "Plan for Transformation," Chicago received the largest Hope VI grant of any city in the nation. There was a ration of idealism and intellectual energy behind it: Blighted neighborhoods would be renewed and their "culture of poverty" would be broken, all vouchsafed by the honorable desire of public-spirited entrepreneurs to make a profit. That is the promise of privatization in a nutshell: that the profit motive can serve not just those making the profits, but society as a whole, by bypassing inefficient government bureaucracies that thrive whether they deliver services effectively or not, and empower grubby, corrupt politicians and their pals to dip their hands in the pie of guaranteed government money.
As one of the movement's fans explained in 1997, his experience with nascent attempts to pay private real estate developers to replace public housing was an "example of smart policy."
"The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace," he said. "But at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts."
The fan was Barack Obama, then a young state senator. Four years later, he cosponsored a bipartisan bill to increase subsidies for private developers and financiers to build or revamp low-income housing.
However, the rush to outsource responsibility for housing the poor became a textbook example of one peril of privatization: Companies frequently get paid whether they deliver the goods or not (one of the reasons investors like privatization deals). For example, in 2004, city inspectors found more than 1,800 code violations at Lawndale Restoration, the largest privately owned, publicly subsidized apartment project in Chicago. Guaranteed a steady revenue stream whether they did right by the tenants or not-from 1997 to 2003, the project generated $4.4 million in management fees and $14.6 million in salaries and wages-the developers were apparently satisfied to just let the place rot.
Meanwhile, the $1.6 billion Plan for Transformation drags on, six years past deadline and still 2,500 units from completion, while thousands of families languish on the Chicago Housing Authority's waitlist.
Be that as it may, the Chicago experience looks like a laboratory for a new White House pilot initiative, the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD), which is set to turn over some 60,000 units to private management next year. Lack of success never seems to be an impediment where privatization is concerned.
Aug 24, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.comBy Lambert Strether of Corrente .
I haven't posted on higher education before, and a series of posts on credentialism really should focus on the institutions where those credentials are, in the main, granted. But rather than a serious analytical piece on the state of the university, this will be a light-hearted romp through some spectacular examples of executive malfeasance at NYU, Baylor, and Penn State. (Tomorrow I'll look at the adjunct system, and potential effects of yesterday's NLRB decision . And there will be more posts to come on this topic, as I come to understand it better.)
Before I begin, though, let's recall Zephyr Teachout's definition of corruption. Not a quid pro quo - that's the Citizen's United doctrine, now supported by the Clinton campaign - but the use of public office for private ends. What does corruption look like in a university setting, given that some universities are private to begin with, and that "ends," in the ancient and tricky academe, may not always be immediately evident?
Here's a story from the University of Maine, Maine's "flagship" university. Our last President, Robert Kennedy, gave the contract for sports broadcasting to ClearChannel, thereby moving the profits out of state, because he took the contract away from Stephen King's radio station (yes, that Stephen King). Naturally, this ticked King off, and King - up to that point the university's largest donor, and the funder of many good works round the state, like dental clinics and libraries - decided he would no longer give to the university. (Kennedy then rotated out to the University of Connecticut, for a hefty salary increase, where he was shortly axed by the Regents for a cronyism scandal . Dodged a bullet, there, Maine!)
Dollying back to the larger picture, King came up through the much despised and derided English Department, in the humanities, which powerful institution forces in the administration and the Board of Trustees are shifting resources away from, in favor of more pragmatic, "business-friendly," corporate majors (graduates, that is, that they themselves can hire. Even though King was the university's largest donor.)
Is there corruption here? I would argue yes, but I'm not sure that Teachout's definition quite meets the case. The corruption I'm going to describe seems more along the lines of converting a public institution to serve private purposes (assuming higher education to be a public institution, which I do, because education is a public good). This is evident from the King story in two ways. First, Kennedy is only one of many university administrators who stay a couple years at an institution, punch their ticket, and move on to a higher salaried position elsewhere. Second, optimizing university curricula, grounds, personnel decisions, etc. for corporate ends is about as corrupt as you can get (as are the concomitant rationalizations and cover-ups that occur when scandal breaks). Now, human nature being what it is, a certain amount of empire-building and concern for one's rice bowl has always been inevitable, but when greed for one's self, or one's class, becomes the institutional driver, it's time for a thorough cleansing.
With that, let's look at the case of John Sexton, once President of NYU. (NYU is an important nexus for the Democrat nomenklatura , so we'll have more to say about NYU in the future.)
John Sexton, NYU
John Sexton (salary: $1.5 million ) was President of New York University from 2002 to 2015, and for a portion of that time doubel-dipped as Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For the connoisseur of corruption, his long tenure provides an embarrassment of riches - the union busting , the faculty no-confidence votes , the Abu Dhabi debacle (among other issues, the campus was built using slave labor ), the lavish compensation packages , the tacos made from endangered shark meat - but I'm going to focus on just one. The apartments. No, I don't mean the faculty apartment NYU remodeled for Sexton's son :
NYU gave president's aspiring actor son apartment on campus
Jed Sexton, whose sole affiliation with NYU was his status as the president's son, for years enjoyed a spacious faculty apartment while the university experienced a "severe" housing shortage, The Post has learned.
In spring 2002, NYU ordered that a pair of one-bedroom apartments normally reserved for law school faculty be combined into a lavish, two-story spread in the heart of Greenwich Village, property records show.
The Harvard-educated Sexton, who was a 33-year-old aspiring actor at the time, shared the new duplex with his newlywed wife, Danielle Decrette, for the next five years, according to documents and people briefed on the situation.
That's despite the fact that NYU officials, just weeks earlier, had warned in a written report of a "severe housing shortage" for faculty, "especially of larger units."
How cozy! No, I mean the vacation properties, plural, that NYU under Sexton doled out as perks to insiders :
NYU Offers Top Talent a Path to Beachfront Property
New York University students carry some of the highest debt loads in the nation, a fact they are bound to remember through gritted teeth when they read the New York Times report about the school's loans to top faculty for vacation homes in places like Fire Island and the Hamptons. The loans, which have gone to at least five faculty members in the medical and law schools as well as university president John Sexton, sometimes get forgiven over time as their recipients continue to work at the university. Mortgage loans apparently aren't unheard of as compensation packages for professors and executives in tight real estate markets, but they're usually for homes, not vacation properties.
From the New York Times , which broke the story, it seems that Sexton gifted himself a house, an "an elegant modern beach house that extends across three lots":
The house, which is owned by John Sexton, the president of New York University, was bought with a $600,000 loan from an N.Y.U. foundation that eventually grew to be $1 million, according to Suffolk County land records.
Others, too :
Since the late 1990s, at least five medical or law school faculty members at N.Y.U. have received loans on properties in the Hamptons or Fire Island, in addition to Dr. Sexton.
NYU's Chief Financial Officer Martin Dorph argued that arrangements like this are necessary to retain top personnel :
While that feeling is understandable, it is important to note the economic truth that the markets for different positions often dictate different levels of compensation, whether that is embodied in salary payments, loans, or an overarching agreement about terms of employment. And, when we commit to provide such compensation, we do so only when we are sure
that the benefit to the University far exceeds the cost.
First, CEO compensation and shareholder returns are inversely correllated ; even if we grant Dorph's premise, and a corporate model for the university, it's just not clear that top compensation means top talent. Second, why doesn't NYU simply pay its talent more? Why complicate matters by bringing in vacation housing? Why not just write a fatter check? The answer can only be arbitrage of some sort: NYU giving access to property that otherwise isn't on the market, tax advantages of some kind, a better rate on the mortgage, or whatever; some way in which NYU uses its muscle on behalf of the compensated. But that is, precisely, converting a public institution to serve private purposes. Not to mention Sexton openly using NYU facilities to house his son and for his own vacation home on Fire Island. Come on. Why is that not self-dealing? And the rest of looks suspiciously like powerful faculty members feathering their own nests. "Why not? We deserve it."
Naturally, NYU has learned nothing, and is in fact doubling down: " N.Y.U. President's Penthouse Gets a Face-Lift Worth $1.1 Million (or More) ." For Sexton's successor, Andrew Hamilton (salary: not disclosed):
The 19th and topmost floor of the building will be turned into a master-bedroom suite, where Dr. Hamilton will have private exits - one from the bedroom and one from the bathroom - onto a terrace overlooking Washington Square and, to the south, the financial district skyline, according to documents filed with New York City.
"Private exits." Perhaps he'll need them.
Ken Starr, Baylor University
We now turn to the simpler case of Baylor President Ken Starr (salary: $1 million ), last seen unloading a dumpster-load of lascivious footnotes onto the steps of Capitol Hill during the Lewinsky matter (thank you, Monica, for helping to save Social Security from Bill Clinton ). Former Manhattan assistant DA Bennett L. Gershman has a good summation, in full "What did he know, and when did he know it?" mode:
Baylor University, the country's largest Baptist university and a bastion of Christian values, has just been denounced in a blistering report by the University's Board of Regents for "mishandling" - covering up might be a more apt description - credible allegations of horrific sexual violence against female students, especially alleged assaults by members of the football team. The Board of Regents said it was "shocked," "outraged" and "horrified" by the extent of the acts of sexual violence on the campus, which covered years 2012 through 2015, and the failure of the University to take appropriate action to punish violators and prevent future violations. The Board issued an "apology to Baylor Nation," fired the football coach, and "transitioned" (the Regents' term) Baylor's President, Kenneth Starr, to the role of Chancellor. Starr also was allowed to retain his lucrative Chair and Professorship of constitutional law at Baylor's law school .
As Baylor's president from 2010 to 2016, the vexing question is the level of Starr's culpability for the "shocking," "outrageous," and "horrendous" sex scandal. What exactly did Starr know? The allegations of sexual violence on the campus were rampant and notorious, especially by the football players. Starr had to know something about the extent of the University's response to the complaints, and most likely the failure to address these complaints properly. Indeed, there were several Title IX investigations by the Justice Department at the time that Starr must have known about. Moreover, there are plenty of egregious examples of sexual violence on the campus that had to have been reported. In one egregious case, an All-Big 12 football player was accused in 2013 of sexual violence against a student. Although Waco police contacted university officials, nobody in the university investigated the case until two years later, after a Title IX investigation was underway, and media reports highlighted the case. This was after several other Baylor football players were indicted and convicted of sexual assaults. It was only then that the University hired an outside investigator. Notably, the headlines also prompted a public outcry, and a candlelight vigil at Starr's residence.
The Board of Regents Report describes the breadth of the independent investigation into the university's failure to properly address the University's dereliction. The investigators interviewed numerous University officials, but there is no mention whether they interviewed Starr, and if so, what he may have said. Starr may have claimed to be unaware of the repeated failures of university officials to investigate these complaints, but is that contention credible? Starr presumably had to know that aggressively investigating these allegations - indeed, as aggressively as he investigated the sexual misdeeds of President Clinton - might have interfered with his intensive multi-million dollar fundraising efforts to build a new and lavish football stadium, which opened in 2014. And Starr may have believed that getting too deep into the mud of the roiling sexual scandal would undermine the public perception of Baylor's "Christian commitment within a caring community" - again the Board of Regents' description - as well as compromise the heroic efforts of the Baylor football team to win a national championship.
So Starr is no longer the university's president. To be sure, it's a demotion of sorts. He was allowed to keep his Chancellorship, which he just relinquished, but he still gets to keep his Chair and Professorship at the Law School. One might think this is not a very harsh result, certainly not if Starr knowingly violated federal law, or by his deliberate indifference allowed serious criminal conduct to take place at the university he led.
Alternet is, as one would expect, a bit more direct in connecting the dots :
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but Ken Starr is accused of ignoring sexual violence at Baylor University mostly because doing something about it would have jeopardized a cash cow.
(Note that the disgraced Baylor football coach's salay, $6 million , was six (6) times college President "Judge Starr." Starr will also retain his position on the faculty. Priorities!) The New York Times says what Alternet says , in its own more muffled language:
[Baylor] also fired the football coach, Art Briles, whose ascendant program brought in millions of dollars in revenue but was dogged by accusations of sexual assault committed by its players - an increasingly familiar combination in big-time college sports.
"Was dogged by." What we have here is a football team acting as a standalone, dominating entity , rather like a parasite controlling the behavior of the host univeristy:
Among the firm's findings was that football coaches and athletics administrators at the school in the central Texas city of Waco had run their own improper investigations into rape claims and that in some cases they chose not to report such allegations to an administrator outside of athletics.
By running their own "untrained" investigations and meeting directly with a complainant, football staff "improperly discredited" complainants' claims and "denied them a right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation."
Starr wanted the revenues. Briles wanted the revenues, the facilities, the salaries, the ticket to be punched, etc. Again, this is quite directly converting a public institution to serve private purposes. And like NYU, Baylor appears to have learned nothing. Starr still has a job, and was never censured. The full report was never released. And from an ad taken out by Baylor alumni : "Thank You Judge Ken Starr - For your integrity, leadership, character and humble nature."
Eric Barron, Penn State
Finally, we come to Eric Barron, President of Penn State (salary: $1.2 million with incentives ). I'm not going to focus on whether Penn State hiring Barron in the wake of his dubious handling of a festering rape scandal at Florida State was odd , or not. And I'm not going to focus on climatologist Barron's relationship with Koch Brothers funding . Or his conflation of "incredulous" with "incredible"; who among us, etc. No, I'm going to focus on this amazing piece of puffery. From an interview with Barron on "entrepreneurship" and "proactive leadership" :
ERIC J. BARRON: We actually have launched a whole program, which is titled " Invent Penn State ," and there are several different elements of this. One is to do more to incentivize people on campus to get their ideas out into the marketplace. We have many, many student events that are competitions and have scholarship funds at the end of it. The second part of it is to add more visibility to our intellectual property. A third part is to build an ecosystem around our campuses that promote startups and partnerships with communities.
A general view, in my opinion, is that many universities are focused on this topic as a source of revenue, not as educational experiences for students and opportunities for them to do startups. We have a lot of effort on the student side. The minors have expanded. I think we have six or seven entrepreneurship minors now that are embedded in curriculum for different colleges if you want. Last year, we started having any student with any major to be able to get all the credits equivalent to a minor in business. There's a lot on that side plus startup weeks and other activities with a scholarship side of it.
We have funded but have not yet cut the ribbon on a total of 20 incubators and accelerators around the state of Pennsylvania associated with our campuses. In March, we cut the ribbon on what's called Happy Valley Launch Box, which is here in State College, with the idea of having 30 startups in there at any one time. I think we had about 15 before even 30 days. All of these have gone through some sort of vetting process or competition for which they were winners. It's growing just left and right. Many of them, we've given them seed money and they've gotten many times more money from their community and other partners that want to enable the students.
Never mind converting an entire student population into "winners" and "losers." Never mind that 90% of start-ups fail . Never mind that when startups succeed, it's as much a matter of luck, and especially the luck of having been born into the right social network. Thomas Frank has already described Barron's program, and where it leads. This is the innovation cult ! Quoting Frank once more:
I just finished Thomas Frank's excellent Listen, Liberal , and he has a great rant about "innovation," of which I will show a great slab here, from p 186 et seq. Frank even helpfully quotes the more egregious bullshit tells, so I don't have to highlight them! Do read it in full. After visiting hollowed out mill town Fall River, Frank goes to Boston:
Let's also leave aside the issue of whether "innovation" culture increases "income inequality." Suppose Penn State structures its curriculum to optimize for startups (and not for education as such; critical thinking skills, the construction of narratives, the sciences, research, even (relatively) humdrum majors like accounting). What happens to the students when 90% of their startups fail, as history tells us they will? What will they have to fall back on, if everything has been optimized for startups, and the rest of the university's assets have been stripped?
The future lies ahead on that question. For now, I'm uncertain whether "the innovation" cult is corrupt as such, or not. Certainly it provides almost limitles opportunities for backscratching, logrolling, bezzle creation, and so forth. And Barron seems to conceive of it as a big revenue generating opportunity for Penn State (rather like the football team, if it comes to that). If the program fails, and is seen to fail, will Penn State learn from the experience? It's hard to know, but Barron's handling of the fallout from the Sandusky matter does not inspire confidence .
So, what we've got here is an NYU President handing a New York apartment, meant for faculty, to his son, and what looks rather like powerful faculty members feathering their own nests with cheap housing; we've got a Baylor President not wanting to cross a powerful and wealthy football team, even to the extent of failing to handle a rape scandal; and at Penn State we've got a President who's a member of the "innovation cult," when it's not at all clear this will benefit the student body as a whole. Have any of these institutions learned from these experiences? No. Are these college Presidents personally responsible for corruption at their universities - for converting a public institution to serve private purposes? Sexton and Start, yes. For Barron, the jury is still out.
And these are the institutions of higher education that are granting credentials. Not a good look. More examples from readers welcome!
pretzelattack, August 24, 2016 at 1:11 pm
-  I should disclose my priors and/or prejudices: I'm a university brat with a humanities background. Family tradition mandates that I instinctively distrust college administrators, Big Football, fraternities, and sororities (and, my parents would urge, for very good reasons). Only the first two will be at issue here.
-  That is, they're creating hires, as opposed to creating graduates some of whom might be creative enough to come up with businesses that compete with their own.
-  If you think that implies that neoliberalism is intrinsically corrupt, since it will put everything up for sale, including itself, you're not wrong.Anonymous, August 24, 2016 at 1:12 pm
iirc starr's work as independent counsel helped (was the biggest factor maybe) in getting the job at baylor.trent, August 24, 2016 at 2:47 pm
'First, Kennedy is only one of many university administrators who stay a couple years at an institution, punch their ticket, and move on to a higher salaried position elsewhere.'
I think this perfectly describes what I've observed with public school superintendents also. They are like 'The Music Man.' Selling dreams that our children will be smarter, better looking, and above average if we just get with the program. While our school district has a local in charge who appears to be here for the long term, a neighboring district had a 'Music Man' or rather, woman, who got the city to float a $10 million bond issue so every fourth grader could have an I-Pad. She then left to do the same (for a higher salary) in another state. Another, much poorer, district nearby wanted to get rid of a super who had allegedly threatened subordinates with bodily harm: they bought out her contract for $300,000. In a county with a population of 20,000 and ten percent unemployment.
It is not only at the college level that those in charge are engaging is questionable behavior. It is a society wide problem.Anonymous, August 24, 2016 at 3:06 pm
'The Music Man.'
so fraud?Jagger, August 24, 2016 at 8:51 pm
For willing dupes.Arizona Slim, August 24, 2016 at 1:12 pm
It is not only at the college level that those in charge are engaging is questionable behavior. It is a society wide problem.
That is my impression as well-corruption is a society wide problem from top to bottom. The small town mayors, courts, police, newspapers, insiders, etc may be playing with small potatoes but corruption is corruption whether it is $1000 or a $1,000,000. I know it can't be everyone with a little power but way too many. Makes you doubt the whole system.a different chris, August 24, 2016 at 1:43 pm
Greetings from one of those coworking spaces that Mr. Frank took to task in Listen, Liberal .
Let me tell you a dirty little secret about this place. And, no, I'm not talking about who left a lunch in the fridge for too long. This is an even dirtier secret. Here it is:
Most of us are not innovators.
That's right. I said it.
The truth is, most of us are working on things that are, well, pretty run of the mill. Guy behind me is doing digital marketing work for his out-of-state employer, an ad agency. Lady over there is doing marketing for a resort in Mexico. Oh, and the guy who's my best friend here? We're both photographers. His other main hustle is graphic design and mine is writing for business.
We have a handful of what could be described as startups, but those businesses are definitely in the minority.Wait, we pay you enrich yourself?, August 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm
Well we don't need a sh&t pot full of "innovators" . we need people that can do what they do well. Does everybody have to create something "new"?? I don't think so.* Edison wasn't the greatest guy in the world overall, but as he said getting something up is 99% perspiration and only 1% inspiration – I think he would have spit at the word "innovation", btw.
In fact, he has another lesson for the "innovators" in that a lot of his perspiration was generated due to his efforts in stealing ideas from other people. Which is going to happen to almost all of the (if we take their optimistic slices) 10% that do come up with something anybody cares about.
*For a good example, I love the improvement of the American pub scene over the past few decades. But the best beer and grub isn't the best because it is "innovative" - sometimes it is a bit different, sometimes not - but because it is very, very well done.Arizona Slim, August 24, 2016 at 4:00 pm
Slim, in your home town town there is one of the perfumed princes that could have fit nicely into Lambert's post. Us AZ residents are paying neoliberal scumbag a premium price for their "talents" of enriching themselves.
Super scum: https://www.azpm.org/p/featured-news/2016/4/6/85310-arizona-lawmakers-call-for-ua-presidents-resignation-following-board-appointment-to-for-profit-college-company/
Oh, and if you are referring to the same work space, I worked for a total pump and dump "startup", there.Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 4:46 pm
Oh, brother. Ann Weaver Hart. Don't get me started.
Okay, I am started. So, here goes
A couple of summers ago, I was meeting with a longtime acquaintance and potential client on the University of Arizona campus. Madame Presidente was about to move her office into Old Main, which is the UA's oldest building. It's revered as this sacred space. Or something like that.
Any-hoo, I was in a pretty spacious office in a building near Old Main. But my meeting host told me that Ann Weaver Hart's Old Main *bathroom* was bigger than that office.
Oh, as for the work space, were you involved in the one that had a pirate theme? Because that place was - and is - full of pump -n- dump startups.Jim Haygood, August 24, 2016 at 1:23 pm
I considered writing Anne Weaver Hart up, but the other ones were worse. There's only so much one can do to shovel back the tideLambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 2:50 pm
'King came up through the much despised and derided English Department, in the humanities.'
Although not a product of the English department at my alma mater, Whatsamatta U., I knew some professors in the department.
To a naive student with no experience in institutional politics, their stories of resentment, gossip, backbiting, and the politics of personal reputational destruction were like a glimpse into an unimagined world.Wait, we pay you to enrich yourself?, August 24, 2016 at 3:04 pm
I know, I know. So totally unlike the corporate environment.Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm
It used to be that there was a saying in academe: the competition is so great because the stakes are so low. But, if there is a path to six or seven figures, now I see that there is serious cash to be banked to justify working in the university racket.Uahsenaa, August 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm
And if you're an administrator, you can redistribute the budget to your own advantage by screwing the faculty, especially adjuncts.DanB, August 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm
Nowadays I bristle when someone describes me as "faculty," even though it's technically correct, because it papers over the fact that some of the people doing the exact same job as me have full employment, a full salary, and fringe benefits, where the people in my position get paid per credit with no benefits. We are "permitted" to buy into university health insurance, at full cost, but that's the extent of our bennies.
If you're getting to the employment situation in a further post, I'll save my more extensive comments for that.Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 2:51 pm
Update: one of the articles cited in this essay says Ken Starr resigned from Baylor Law School and severed all ties with the university this past Friday.
As someone who has a university background, as a grad student in three different universities, and short stints as a faculty member and an administrator (I was shoved out/left in disgust from administration)- I attest that this kind of neoliberal thinking, which automatically generates converting public responsibility to private advantage, is commonplace. As readers here know, the university is a place where one must strive to present oneself - and simultaneously fool oneself - as creative and independent-minded within the confines of the matrix. This is most pronounced in the professional school because they are most beholden to corporate money. A final note: you will find the best to the worst of humanity in universities.Torsten, August 24, 2016 at 6:45 pm
So, karma works. Thanks for the update.allan, August 24, 2016 at 2:35 pm
David Riesman: "I would never advise anyone to go into teaching because the people are so nice."Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 2:53 pm
One more for the honor roll: West Virginia University's former president Michael Garrison, who ordered the granting of an M.B.A. to
moral leperMylan CEO and Epi-Pen price optimizer Heather Bresch in 2007,
even though she had fewer than half the credits required.trent, August 24, 2016 at 3:04 pm
Blue Dog Joe Manchin's daughter . All things work together for good, don't they?DrBob, August 24, 2016 at 4:17 pm
seems like she's only where she is because of daddyallan, August 24, 2016 at 4:37 pm
This particular CEO (and Senator's daughter) has a history of using Congress for favorable outcomes:
https://theintercept.com/2016/08/24/epipen-uproar-highlights-companys-family-ties-to-congress/KurtisMayfield, August 24, 2016 at 3:21 pm
To paraphrase Harry Reid, Joe's with us on everything except
the warbasic human decency.Torsten, August 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm
You forgot to mention she was a Senator's daughter. That one is a combo of both government, corporate, and university corruption. Well done!Ulysses, August 24, 2016 at 3:48 pm
I have to repeat my favorite historical anecdote here (h/t the late, great Paul Goodman, from his Compulsory Miseducation, I believe).
It seems that in the summer of 1650, while the faculty was away helping in the fields, Henry Dunster sold Harvard to a group of Boston businessmen, creating the first Corporation in the New World, and making himself "President" thereof.
Now Wikipedia claims that Dunster "set up as well as taught Harvard's entire curriculum alone for many years, graduating the first college class in America, the Class of 1642". So perhaps Dunster was simply ahead of his time in creating the prototype for Trump University.ekstase, August 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm
Administrators in academia hold themselves to the same high ethical standards as officials in government. In other words, they do whatever they can get away with, and then sputter about future "transparency," and "doing better," when their misdeeds come to light.
This blather from Austin, Texas, could just as well have come from Washington, D.C.:
"I've read the report a half-dozen times in totality, and I found no willful misconduct , no criminal activity on the part of any of the folks at the University of Texas at Austin, and have told the Board of Regents that I intend to take no disciplinary action," he said.
"Can we do things better? You bet," he continued. "Should we have been more transparent? Absolutely. Are we going to get this fixed? No doubt about it."
Mr. Powers pushed back against the report's suggestion that he had not been forthcoming, saying he had been "truthful and not evasive" in his dealings with investigators.
Investigators took a different view . "
http://chronicle.com/article/Admissions-Report-Chips-at/190021/Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 4:48 pm
Just a hypothetical question: what would one do if they felt they were losing some of their idealism?Foppe, August 24, 2016 at 4:22 pm
I very rarely laugh out loud; thanks, it's good for the health!Foppe, August 24, 2016 at 4:44 pm
My $2c; apologies that they're a bit unpolished: One question you/we might ponder is how (a desire for) obvious nepotism engenders privatization, versus more "principled" demands for privatization of public goods/services. To give a very brief summary of the developments since WWII inspired by my reading of David Harvey's The Enigma of Capital : privatization became important once western economies 'matured', because of how this meant that there were ever fewer (obvious) opportunities for growth. And secondly because, once more and more people started getting degrees, there was an explosion in the number of people who were "trained" (only) for middle/upper management positions; for who there was fairly little demand in public institutions, probably because workers had decent unions/voice, so that the people who ran those places couldn't easily justify managerial metastasis and the taking away of job-related autonomy (to create demand for "decision-makers") by creating cultures of institutionalized distrust (via yammering about the importance of "accountability"). (Though the latter was/is still an issue, it gets worse the more neoliberalized the organizational mode gets, because of neoliberalisms implicit (rational-actor) misanthropic world view.) Those developments strike me as separate from the more narcissistic ( professional class/meritocratic-reasoning )-related forms of corruption/grift/etc. that you discuss above, though.Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm
(To clarify, Harvey doesn't talk about professionalization; that's just me combining observations made by Graeber with those made by Tom Frank in Listen, Liberal .)Foppe, August 24, 2016 at 5:22 pm
Graeber, or Harvey? The Harvey book looks interesting.petal, August 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm
Harvey's book is great; as for Frank & Graeber, I was thinking of Graeber's remarks about what he (in Debt) calls the crisis of inclusion (which he's also talked about elsewhere, e.g. in the Army of Altruists essay in Revolutions in Reverse ). Graeber there (as I assume you recall) only talks about the fact that those who don't belong to what Frank calls the professional class (and those who self-identify with them), only have the army and the church open to them if they wish to pursue goals other than accumulating money/power; yet the higher-ed explosion must've also had enormous consequences for the supply of people with managerial and similar training. But I only started pondering that question recently, after reading Frank woke me up to the obvious.Lord Koos, August 24, 2016 at 4:37 pm
Ugh can we tack The World Bank's Jim Kim(former Dartmouth pres) on there, too?Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 4:51 pm
How about Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha - who managed to screw up the school's endowment that had been in place since 1859. Check out the movie "Ivory Tower".Fool, August 24, 2016 at 4:38 pm
See here .Lambert Strether Post author , August 24, 2016 at 4:54 pm
NYU is a school run by money, and it's so transparent that for a board populated by billionaires, run by a press-shy guy who helped a lot of them become billionaires, that they prop up the flamboyant Sexton's supposed fundraising abilities and "imperial" presidency. Fortunately for Sexton and NYU, he's paid enough money to take the press's lashings like a good boy.
But surely such a mediocre pedant isn't the mastermind behind the bloated, technocratic, real estate development company and vanity project (which also offers classes, which are taught by #publicintellectuals).Michael Fiorillo, August 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm
New York real estate is a clean business, right? No story there .relstprof, August 24, 2016 at 7:41 pm
NYU: a real estate development company with a tax-exempt higher education subsidiary.Carolinian, August 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm
http://columbiaspectator.com/spectrum/2016/04/07/concerned-residents-push-back-against-jts-uts-plans-sell-property-developersAnon, August 24, 2016 at 6:37 pm
Pam Martens has written several posts at Wallstreetonparade talking about NYU's corruption, connections to Wall St, and Jack Lew. Don't have links handy but easy to Google.relstprof, August 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm
I would like to point out that Chancellors Linda Katehi (UC Davis)and Nicholas Dirks (UC Berkeley) have both recently resigned under pressure from UC Top Honcho Janet Napolitano. It seems Administrator transgressions (impunity and self-dealing) are finding its way into the "sunlight".Knute Rife, August 24, 2016 at 8:56 pm
Good stuff. Really looking forward to future posts.
Some people starting up can get "small loans" of $1,000,000 from the old man and have those kinds of resources to fall back on if they flop. The other 99.99% of us? Not so much. How is this innovation dogma supposed to work for those of us who can't buy our way into the Creative Class?
In 2004, a housecat named Colby Nolan was awarded an "Executive MBA" by Texas-based Trinity Southern University. The cat belonged to a deputy attorney general looking into allegations of fraud by the school. The cat's application was originally for a Bachelor of Business Administration, but due to the cat's "qualifications" (including work experience in fast-food and as a paperboy) the school offered to upgrade the degree to an Executive MBA for an additional $100. As a result of this incident, the Pennsylvania attorney general has filed suit against the school.
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