Lefty Academics….Righty CEOs

LEFTY ACADEMICS….RIGHTY CEOs….Are American universities becoming too corporatized? Will academic leftiness, with its untiring criticism of all things capitalist, bring about the very corporatization it disdains? Invisible Adjunct wonders if there might be something to this:

As a lefty-liberal-progressive type, I am increasingly uncomfortable with a certain lefty-liberal-progressive critique of corporatization which links a concern with the problems of the academic labor system with the necessity of, in Burke’s phrase, “the production of opposition to late capitalism.” As if the commitment to resolve some of the problems that beset the university necessarily commits one to an oppositional stance toward the broader culture and society of which the university is a part….The way I see it: either the university is supported by a broader civil society to which the university lends some sort of support (not uncritical or unthinking, of course, but some sort of support), or civil society will cease to support the university.

I think this is the flip side of what I’ve been talking about all week, and yet another example of the bipolar, take-no-prisoners approach to ideology we have today.

If universities become no more than bastions of anti-capitalist fervor, in which everything related to traditional culture and traditional moneymaking is unthinkingly reviled, then yes, civil society will eventually cease to support them.

Likewise, though, if the rich and powerful in America become cut off from the vast world of the poor and middle class, endlessly amassing ever more riches while ceaselessly endeavoring to dispose of any duty to support the less fortunate, then civil society will also cease to support them.

To a large extent, the job of a university is to be subversive and provocative, while the job of capitalism is to harness human greed in order to build businesses that employ people and create wealth. But while this means there’s a natural, perhaps vital, tension between the two, there’s a limit to how far this should go, for both practical and moral reasons. We have reached those limits, and it would be wise for both sides to begin pulling back.

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