Academics No Longer Think: How the Neoliberalization of Academia Leads to Thoughtlessness

by Justin Pack

Institution: University of Oregon
Year: 2016
Keywords: Hannah Arendt; Neoliberalism; Research University; Thoughtlessness
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2066024
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/19727


In my dissertation, I argue that the neoliberalization of higher education results in the university becoming less and less a place of wonder, self-cultivation and thinking and instead more and more a place to specialize, strategize and produce. This is a result of the volatile infusion and mixing of the logic of calculative rationality at work in consumer capitalism with the logic of scientific instrumental rationality already hegemonic in academia. This adds to the demands of the academic world of production the demands of the world of consumption. Now the academic (and also the student) is interpellated not only as a producer of knowledge but also as an object of consumption (to be consumed by others). These new pressures, previously kept at a distance from academia, explosively accelerate the already rapid process of rationalization of which science is already a key part and increasingly structure higher education as a field of strategic action in which students no longer have the time to think and to develop good judgment. I worry this undermines the opportunity for students to develop into good citizens that can truly think critically and judge carefully. Thinking and judgment are, according to Arendt, the only things that can save us if the powerful machines of science or capitalism begin to work in ways they should not. Arendt saw Nazi Germany use the newest science and the best economic management to systematically kill six million Jews. She saw the disturbing inability of the populace and the intellectuals to capably resist the Nazi machine once it got rolling. I argue than unless checked, neoliberalization threatens to turn the university into a place that discourages thinking and the development of judgment in favor of hyperspecialization and strategic action. Advisors/Committee Members: Mann, Bonnie (advisor).