Thought bubble: neoliberalism and the politics of knowledge

Autumn / Winter 2013

This essay addresses the issue of neoliberalism and knowledge from two distinct yet related perspectives. The first part argues that the continuation of neoliberal policies after the crash of 2008 is not an epistemological problem or a matter of false consciousness but an ontological problem. Using the work of Martin Heidegger the essay proposes the reason we might continue with a system shown to be fatally flawed is because awareness of the flaw produces an experience of such anxiety that rather than face the issue head on and create an alternate world we find greater ‘security’ in the attempt to rebuild the one that is broken. Secondly, neoliberalism has become increasingly dogmatic and is currently the only theory permissible. To this end the institution most closely tied to the production and distribution of knowledge, the university, has to be brought into the group-think that supports both plutocracy and oligarchy at the expense of democracy. Currently the only social institution questioning the truth of neoliberalism the university is increasingly being disciplined by customer service, internal competition and privatization in order to ensure conformity to market credo. The essay then closes by readdressing the importance of the university as a democratic counter to such dogma. It argues that the humanities in particular has always been a site for the contest of worldviews and theories of the human condition and facilitates an exposure to different ways of being-in-the-world that is essential if we are to challenge the systemic closure currently taking place.

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NF 80/81 Neoliberal Culture