What the banks are to money, the universities have become to knowledge. Over eight hundred years or so, the power of universities has increased so that – perhaps with some parallels to the medieval church – its authority over knowledge is very nearly absolute. The university built an economy based on knowledge: as it was produced, knowledge was reinvested into the community of scholars, its surplus value ever-enhancing the university’s monopoly over knowledge. As centuries passed, other communities and institutions lost their purchase on knowledge as the university’s control of knowledge grew. The church, the state, trade guilds, patenting offices, commercial laboratories even academies of science all lack the legitimacy possessed by the university. The university decides what knowledge is, who may have it and benefit from its fruits. Modern nation states have been built on the power knowledge has provided. Democracy itself depends on flourishing and widespread knowledge. In the second half of that most violent of periods, the twentieth century, knowledge was the object of great bloodless battles as the state, industry and commerce tussled for its control. That battle is the subject of this thesis.
Draft opening paragraph, 14/12/2010