[URBANTH-L]Political Economy of Academia (especially with regard toSocial Sciences and Humanities)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Sun May 6 22:00:03 EDT 2007

From: George Morgan <george.morgan at uws.edu.au>

I've just read Eric's original posting, much of which I agree with but
some I do not. There is certainly the creation of a secondary academic
labour market and the market model means that more PhDs are being taken
on than can reasonably expect to achieve the genuine academic careers to
which most aspire. Universities are being turned into academic
sweatshops with much teaching being done by pieceworkers who are treated
abysmally. As John says, the academic glass ceiling prevents many
working class kids from achieving their ambitions.

I don't agree with Eric's unequivocal criticism of academic unionism. It
is certainly true that unions can (and in many places do) operate like
professional guilds, working in the interests of tenured staff. Those
interests are served by perpetuating the dual labour market. But it is
not quite so monolithic as Eric implies. In Australia there has been a
concerted effort by the academic union to disproportionately improve the
entitlements of untenured staff, and to seek greater job security. This
has been frustrated by the conservative Federal government's recent
industrial legislation but it is not completely true to say that
academic unions will always favour the interests of the academic elite.
We have had clauses restricting the proportion of casual staff
universities can employ inserted in enterprise agreements. We've also
seen those staff receiving salary increases disproportionately higher
than those secured by tenured staff - a strategy to price
pay-by-the-hour employment out of the market. There have also been
clauses compelling universities to convert long-term contract employees
to tenure (sadly, now annulled by the new industrial laws). These have
all been secured by academic union action.

So I think Eric is unduly pessimistic about indictment of collective
action. What else is there??

George Morgan

Dr George Morgan
Senior Lecturer
School of Humanities/ Centre for Cultural Research
University of Western Sydney
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith South DC
NSW 1797
p 9772 6529
f  9772 6688
e george.morgan at uws.edu.au
Recent Publications
Unsettled Places: Aboriginal People and Urbanisation in New South Wales
(Wakefield Press, 2006) 
Outrageous! Moral Panics in Australia (ACYS Press, 2007) - co-edited
with Scott Poynting
I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of
Einstein's brain than in the near-certainty that people of equal talent
have died in cotton fields and sweat shops.

Stephen Jay Gould

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