Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) The theory of academic capitalism

Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades's the Academic Capitalism and the New Economy: Markets, States, and Higher Education (2004) is a book that built on Sheila Slaughter and Larry Leslie's (1997) Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University

  • The authors develop a theory of academic capitalism which "explains the process of college and university integration into the new economy." In a neoliberal state, the new economy focuses not on social welfare but on wealth production and on "enabling individuals as economic actors." Which means colleges and universities are integrating with the new economy, shifting from a public good knowledge/learning regime to an academic capitalist knowledge/learning regime. They also note that the academic capitalism has not replaced the public good knowledge regime but the two coexist, intersect, and overlap.
  • Unlike the public good knowledge regime, the academic capitalism knowledge regime values knowledge privatization and profit taking in which institutions, faculty, and sponsoring corporations have claims that come before those of the public. Knowledge is construed as a private good. The academic capitalism model makes the case that science is embedded in its commercial possibilities. This model sees little separation between science and commercial activity. Discovery is valued because it leads to high-technology products for a knowledge economy.
  • The theory of academic capitalism focuses on networks that link institutions as well as faculty, administrators, academic professionals and students to the new economy. These mechanisms and behaviors make up the academic capitalist knowledge regime. In this new regime, colleges and universities seek to generate revenue from their core educational, research and service functions, ranging from the production of knowledge, such as research leading to patents, to the faculty’s curriculum and instruction, like teaching materials that can be copyrighted and marketed. Research, education, and the nonacademic experience of higher education become commodities and consumable items.

This is a talk by Sheila Slaughter about academic capitalism in LRC Future labor conference (2011). Check it out if you have some time:


1. How does the notion of academic capitalism different from other theoretical frameworks for interpretation of academic entrepreneurship (e.g., Mode 2 knowledge production, Triple Helix model)? 

2. We have been discussed about the relations of higher educational institutions' and our society. Even though the authors of the book kept a critical voice on current regime of the academic capitalism but they are saying that "we do not wish to return to the past." It seems like Slaughter and Rhoades do not mourn a lost era but hope that those involved might put the present to positive uses. Academic capitalism, they claim, "could be resisted, or, more likely, alternative processes of integration could be developed." What would be an example of the positive uses of academic capitalism, and what can be done in order to change the academic capitalist regime?

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