Cohen P. (2004) '[nb that entire edition of the journal is devoted to thinking critically of the University]
The impression management of knowledge has produced a group of media intellectuals. Can the University survive? For most working academics research is done in the sabbatical, but creativity requires latency, a period of lying fallow. Some academics can cope despite frequent audit and the RAE ( Research Assessment Exercise), but they are diminishing?
We must beware the myth of universities in the past as old scholarly communities, if only because an idealised past co-exists with the managerialist present. These days, classics helps develop advertising slogans. Management are also famously into ancient esoterica .Actual medieval universities were places of dispute, intrigue, politics, and the punishment of heresy. they were always sides of contradiction, if only between socialised forces and individual relations of knowledge production.
Objects are linked to knowing subject by various codes --'webs of storytelling about procedures (alias methodologies)' (14). Cultures, individuals and academic disciplines are involved: (a) the notion of the individual scholar is really a form of medieval scholasticism, involving a search for truth among texts -- rather like modern deconstructionists; (b) the writer is seen as positioned at the location of the clash between 'the creative individual and the phenomenal world' (15), producing encounters with the internalized self or exotic Others, in search of the new. This became forms of discipleship and 'schools', involving initiation rites such as publication in a peer reviewed journal, and a career. These forms produce necessary conflict and schism including generational forms, and existential problems -- to stay independent or to join?
Now, career structures have been dismantled, producing the 'scholar entrepreneur' (16). There are clear connections to the profit motive even for fine art, and the possibility of considerable media attention.
Background to these developments lies in the co-option of 1960s creative culture into 'pseudo non-coercive management based on maximising individual initiative, information networking and peer-group pressure to drive up productivity' (16) --'the "inner foreman"' (16). There is also a peculiar impact arising from postmodernism as a filter of the debates about globalisation. An apparently deep critique seems to have led to an accommodation with a 'fully marketised knowledge economy... at the cutting edge of globalization' (17).
In the Sixties, there was considerable protest against elite knowledge in academies, which were seen as imperialist, and against the transformation of the university into a corporate enterprise. This too had contradictory results. Radicals would attack the ivory-tower and then use it as a prop; students were empowered but as consumers, leading to the marketization of academic disciplines. Expansion led to a critical mass of students to permit research: 'so what was teachable has ultimately come to determine what is researchable' (17). An era of global recruitment has led to some super- universities, while former polytechnics are forced to rely on local talent and students.
The marxism that lay behind much protest soon became deradicalised enough to service business schools. Postmodernism took over cultural studies and attacked the older disciplines, which open the door to connections with the 'market oriented cultural economy outside the University' (18). That kind of cultural studies was not interdisciplinary but cannibalistic [it stripped some of the assets of subjects such as sociology and history]. It became topic focused, niche marketed.
Modularisation helped create new hybrids. Hybridisation of this kind had radical impulses but conservative implications in terms of knowledge organisation. Modularisation encourages 'specialized pedagogic devices which enable teachers to instruct and examine students and the competent performance of routine procedures of knowledge impression management: essay writing and portfolio presentation' (19). It becomes easy to bolt on vocational elements, leading to 'surfing with equestrian studies... the bricolage degree' (20).
Postmodernism did challenge intellectual authority, and did produce a [hermeneutics of suspicion]. There was an attempt to transfer these critical skills to students, but the enterprise was accompanied by dense and 'unintelligible' argumentation (19). Cultural Studies institutionalised postmodernism as a 'corpus of texts' (19). It featured no empirical research. The social became a matter of collective representations, an internalised perspective on the 'ideoscapes and media flows of the global cultural economy' (19) devoid of any politics. Despite the efforts of the old guard trying to preserve an allegiance to Gramsci and Raymond Williams, cultural studies became 'walled up in the library' (19), often 'behind the backs of its most passionate advocates' (20) [mustn't blame Stuart Hall!]. The process is the same as the gentrification of cities -- artists and squatters beautify an area and are then replaced.
Postmodernism assisted managerialism, especially in increasing flexibility. Academics fought to keep local control but at the expense of the university's wider social role. Knowledge is seen as central to the economy, but not particularly to the University, which now faces rivals including on-line archives and think tanks. A new niche has been sought: research universities are for the elite, while knowledge workers go to non-elite ones.
A few eccentric academics are left in order to add colour or bring in money, but otherwise 'evangelical bureaucrats wielding mission statements and checklists and talking in acronyms' (21) dominate. Radicals find themselves paradoxically arguing for a return to the disciplines, even to a pure research culture. Instead, the RAE dominates, institutionalising 'what has been called para - citology -- the authorisation of one's own texts by constant referential and often deferential citation of others' (21). The result is 'a bizarre mixture of monologic pedagogy and compulsive intertextuality' (21). Careerism results in the recruitment of similar researchers and the heavy defence of academic turf.
Having attacked the old professoriat, 60s radicals now are desperate to reinstate it! Culture studies is a good case study -- it is marginalized in elite universities, strongly established in marginal ones, but then subject to vocationalism, often in the form of practical multimedia courses. It should develop instead into a critical dialogue with 'urban planning, tourism, heritage and the environment' (22).
What of counter-currents? Tricksters and cyborgs? These people travel light rather than becoming bogged down with libraries or equipment. They are anti- system, sceptical but engaged with the real [a reference to Ginzberg's applied semiotics page 23]. The work is based on curiosity and applied conjecture, and connotative rather than quantitative results. However, freelance intellectuals are in danger of incorporation -- what of other possibilities?
We need to rethink the University, develop a new 'third way'! Local people are now victims of universities, sources of data, laboratory fodder. Is a bigger part possible for them? Could they set the questions? Pursue their own conjectures? We should transfer research skills to students and let them do research which would be of direct benefit to the community [examples include a university in Sydney which runs applied PhDs, a Danish university which offers problem-solving, requiring students to operate as a kind of think tank]. Inquiry should be interdisciplinary. Only then should conventional disciplines and research develop. Activity like this should be concentrated rather than deployed here and there. We should return pedagogy to the notion of guiding someone on an intellectual journey complete with diversions. This should take place via encounters with the real, and with Others.
[Very idealistic and wishful thinking to end the piece].