Saturday, March 10, 2007

The consumerism of universities

From the blog posthegemony

"I'm reading Bill Readings's The University in Ruins (for which see also Dominick LaCapra's review, as well as Peter Cramer's).

Readings argues that the operative principle of the University is now "excellence," a concept that replaces the previous guiding concept of "culture," which itself succeeded the Kantian vision of "reason."

But the characteristic of the University of Excellence is that it lacks any concrete referent: "excellence has no concept to call its own" (24); "excellence is clearly a purely internal unit of value that effectively brackets all questions of reference or function" (27).

Whereas the University of Culture was tied to the nation state and to national culture as its object and the national subject as its product, the University of Excellence is contextless and its students merely "consumers" (53); the university's goal is now that "of producing a subject who is no longer tied to the nation-state, who can readily move to meet the demands of the global market" (49).

At the same time, therefore, ideology is replaced by administration: "the University is no longer primarily an ideological arm of the nation-state but an autonomous bureaucratic corporation" (40). Accounting becomes the sole measure of accountability: "the language in which global discussions are to be conducted is not that of cultural conflict but of economic management" (30).


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