Liquid Books: The Post-Corporate University

As I noted here, an interesting online experiment is currently taking place. Entitled The Post-Corporate University (Edited and curated by Davin Heckman), it is the second volume in Culture Machine’s Liquid Books series. The volume is available now online and is open for discussion, contributions and open collaboration.

The first chapter, “Neo-liberal Arts and the 21st century University,” is up. From the opening page, “A Call to Action:”

This project presumes that the University is in crisis and that this crisis has been caused by the social and economic characteristics of “Neoliberalism.” I am far from the first person to identify this crisis. I do, however, feel that it has not been addressed adequately or consistently. And, I am certain that it cannot be adequately or consistently addressed but in a systemic way, by many people, in many settings, with many relationships to the University, through multiple attempts at critique and action. As a result, this project belongs to Liquid Books, a free and open wiki-based publication. While I believe in such things as the “Creative Commons,” this project does not belong to everyone, rather, it can belong only to those who hold it in common. Possession of such a project is not simply a given, rather it can only be had by those who care to make it. Thus, I invite readers to participate actively, to build it from the ground up.

As readers will note, this first chapter provides a bit of personal background, a bit of theory, and concludes with a proposal. What comes next is entirely to be determined. I am not an authority on the University. I am only one person teaching at one school. But I do hope that the limited information in this first chapter is provocative enough to generate additional content, some of which might be incorporated into this first chapter, but much of which will likely result in new chapters. My personal goal with this project is not a unitary answer, but possible answers suggested by a multitude of theories and experiences that can move us beyond the grim prospect of our inert state.

As you read, think about what you might write, and let us give our answers to the question: Is Another University Possible?

I’m hoping to have a closer look and make some more substantive comments, but the whole project looks rather promising.  Please see:

2 thoughts on “Liquid Books: The Post-Corporate University

  1. Interesting stuff Shahar. Over at Larval Subjects I’ve proposed cross-college/university collaborative teaching. I don’t have anything too grand or revolutionary in this idea. Basically the idea would be for professors to teach the same text at the same time over the course of the semester (hopefully from different disciplines, but different philosophical orientations would be fine as well). This could be anything from a single essay to an entire text. On the one hand, it could be something as simple as two or more theorists wanting to read a text together and making use of their time by making it a part of their classroom experience. In this regard it would be an extension of the highly successful Braver reading group that happened here (the only successful online reading group I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve seen many proposals to do such a thing over the years). If collaborators wanted to take it up a notch, they could set aside a portion of the student grade to participate in an online discussion group through wikigroups or yahoogroups that melded the two classes together and required the students to post one comment a week and respond to the comments of two other students. This would be a potentially valuable exercise in students encountering philosophy, theory and literature not at the level of passive reception from professor to student, but in active dialogue with strangers. I think it could potentially be a very fun and productive experiment. The Chronicle of Higher Ed already linked to my proposal on their blog, so who knows, perhaps there’d even be a co-written pedagogical article in the offing of the “non-euclidean” (i.e., non-localized in geographical space) university.

  2. Interesting idea about collaborative/clustered teaching across institutions. I wonder if the active engagement with strangers would serve to encourage more productive thinking. The author of “Neoliberal Arts and the 21st century University” writes:

    I will begin with a dramatization: Every summer, the school assigns a “summer reader” for all incoming, first-year students. In the fall, our new students meet in small groups during orientation week to discuss the novel; I am one of the faculty members who helps facilitate those discussions. While some years and some books seem to get better results than others, there are always a few things I can count on. Some students have read the book and are interested in making a strong first impression. Other students have not read the book and appear eager to make that clear to the group. The rest seem to hide in the middle—some hiding the fact that they have read, and others hiding the fact that they haven’t. I always walk away a bit discouraged by the knowledge that many people enrolling in college do not bother to prepare for their first meeting with a professor. I am a little angry that some students even seem to look around to their peers for approval after unashamedly confessing, “I didn’t read it.” I’m not so much angry at the particular student. I am angry at an educational system and a society that teaches a significant portion of its youth, intentionally or unintentionally, that reading is laughable—so laughable that you can apply for admission into a University, sit down in your first class, and expect your peers to celebrate your public profession of willful ignorance. My guess is that this attitude is repeated at Universities large and small across the United States, with the exception of some of our more elite schools.

    I’m certain we both experience this on a day to day basis. I don’t know, perhaps the type of experiment you are talking about would help a great deal in getting the rubber on the road, so to speak. Our students already come to us as fully developed neo-liberal subjects. The thing is this, it can’t simply be that we academics expose the ideological scaffolding of neoliberalism. Put differently, is the critique of ideology–as a tool we pedagogues to draw on–completely irrelevant in this scheme? What I like about your idea is that–perhaps– it begins to actually think through or beyond the neoliberal arts, or better, ideology critique may actually be co-originary with actual practices that serve to undermine the neoliberal arts.

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