Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flexible Accumulation and Academia

Flexible accumulation (a term coined by geographer David Harvey to delimit the Post-Fordist, Keynesian form capitalism manifest in Western countries) is hitting English departments nationally, as more and more the of the professorial workforce is casuallized, made part-time, and eliminated.

Inside Higher Ed reports:

"* Only 42 percent of all faculty members teaching English in four-year colleges and universities and only 24 percent in two-year colleges hold tenured or tenure-track positions.
* Part-time faculty members now make up 40 percent of the faculty teaching English in four-year institutions and 68 percent in two-year institutions. (Part timers are only a subset of those off the tenure track since, for several years now, an increasing share of the adjunct population works full time at a single institution.)
* Huge gaps exist in salaries between tenured and non-tenure track faculty members teaching English, although full-time adjuncts have seen salary growth in recent years. Per-course payments for part-time instructors have been relatively flat over the last eight years."

The humanities and social sciences in particular suffer from these changes in the economy of the university most, not only because they are often produce knowledge and products that are not as easily converted into businesses (as per new models of the neo-liberal university), but also because many of us tend to see our teaching and writing as a kind of radical activism, and thus we tend to feel as if the sacrifices we make personally and financially for academic work are part of some clergical mandate, the lamb we lay at the altar of "the struggle".

It is the extent to which we understand ourselves as "saviors" of our students or, perhaps, history, or even merely the last bastion of the public sphere, that we are all the more exploitable as a workforce for the ends of the late capitalist university.

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