Posts Tagged ‘pseudomarket’

… There was an acceptance amongst managers of the inevitability that education would increasingly be modelled on business. Some managers would typically introduce new procedures by explicitly saying that they didn’t themselves think they were a good idea, but what could you do? This was how things were to be done now, and the easiest option all round would be for us to go through the motions. We didn’t have to believe it, we only had to act as if we believed it. The idea that our ‘inner beliefs’ mattered more than what we were publicly professing at work was crucial to capitalist realism. We could have left-wing convictions, and a left-wing self-image, provided these didn’t impinge on work in any significant way! This was ideology in the old Althusserian sense – we were required to use a certain language and engage in particular ritualised behaviours, but none of this mattered because we didn’t ‘really’ believe in any of it. But of course the very privileging of ‘inner’ subjective states over the public was itself an ideological move …

one manager would cheerily present us with each new initiative, openly saying that he didn’t think it was of much value, but that we should do it to make our lives easier. He once told our team that we weren’t sufficiently critical of ourselves in one of our performance reviews – but not to worry because nothing would happen on the basis of any criticisms that we made. I don’t know what was more demoralising here: the fact that we were required to denigrate ourselves as part of our job, or the fact that the criticisms we made were a purely empty exercise. Some of the affective consequences of this self-surveillance regime are amply demonstrated here: anxiety, accompanied by a sense of the meaninglessness of the activity about which one is anxious. The word ‘Kafkaesque’ is enormously over-used, but it fits this existential situation perfectly. So, bureaucracy becomes immanent to the fabric of work in general, not something performed by a special kind of worker.

… neoliberal bureaucracy is quintessentially ideological. It not only naturalises and normalises the language and practices of business; it makes the ritualised performance of this naturalisation a condition of workers retaining their jobs. The second role that managerialist bureaucracy plays for neoliberalism is a disciplinary function: it subdues and pacifies workers. The anxiety that neoliberal bureaucracy so often produces should not be seen as an accidental side-effect of these measures; rather, the anxiety is something that is in itself highly desirable from the perspective of the neoliberal project. The erosion of confidence, the sense of being alone, in competition with others: this weakens the worker’s resolve, undermines their capacity for solidarity, and forestalls militancy.

So it seems to me that the politicizing of managerialist bureaucracy could be extremely fruitful from the point of view of the struggle against neoliberalism.


Mark Fisher

Posted: January 22, 2016 by zombieacademy in Research
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Academic sell-out: how an obsession with metrics and rankings is damaging academia