Monday, March 09, 2009

Fish on Neoliberalism in the University

Stanley Fish opines in the NYT on why neoliberalism is hated:
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.”)
This logic, according to the critics of neoliberalism, somehow is embedded into universities and narrows their function as merely instrumental, commercial, and practical. And because the universities are privatized (under neoliberalism agenda, they accuse), their faculty members becomes more and more in favor to professionalism over social responsibility and taking position in controversial issues.

Fish makes his own defense on its effect on academic freedom issue and you better read his excellent essay yourself.

My two cents is, in Indonesia, it's the other way around. The state universities are underfunded, partly because they can not freely adjust tuition fee to its actual cost. As a result, most faculty members, who are underpaid, could not develop their professionalism. Facing this problem, they end up taking too much social responsibility (in non academic-related jobs) and making up sloppy position in controversial issue (and funny commentaries) without, alas, adequate scientific professionalism.

I shall add that the university's social responsibility is to provide high quality higher education and academic research, which, in case you don't realize it, is quite costly. This higher education itself, if done properly and professionally, would have huge social impact.

OK, I know what's in your mind. Some of your baristas here are perhaps guilty as charged, too.

That we admit we blog too much.

1 comment:

  1. on the contrary, i think too many economists are too wary to speak freely. they might be wrong now and again (like everyone is) but speaking freely will give people a better understanding in the long run.