Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Privilege itself must be weeded out

Higher Education is not the privilege but the proper function of the university: privilege itself must be weeded out.
- National Union of Australian University Students War Policy, 1942

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Gift culture and the competitive ethic: knowledge and the community of scholars after 1987

This is the abstract for a paper I intend to present in Byron Bay in December

I've been a little quiet here lately I know...marking, mostly! I have also started a document called "thesis full draft": it is a little scary.

Here's the paper abstract: Gift culture and the competitive ethic: knowledge and the community of scholars after 1987

The Australian Research Council, formed with the 1987 Dawkins reforms, transferred $65 Million of recurrent funding from the universities and reallocated it in competitive research grants. It was just one event, one policy decision. But it represents a shift in the structure that regulated academic quality.

Several other 1980s changes combined with competitive funding: the decline in academic reputations, the growth of economic imperatives, and a trust in market values to determine quality.

Competitive funding pushed the problem of financial scarcity from government into the universities. Lack of money would be internalised as academic inadequacy: attracting funding became the evidence and source of academic standing.

This competitive ethic disrupted the community of scholars. An economy structured similarly to Marcel Mauss’ gift ethic had long defined membership in the university. The system of gift obligation extended across international networks of scholars, binding disciplines and individuals in productive ways. It relied on the (knowledge) richness of the community and obliged each member to contribute to it.

Individualised competition destabilised this system. Comparing the gift economy to the competitive ethic emerging in the 1980s and 1990s, this paper examines their implications for the community of scholars and the quality of university knowledge.