Tag Archives: politics

Usurpation: the condition of the university?

Usurpation might better be seen as the condition of the university than as a problem for any particular aspect of that complex phenomenon: higher education today.

Taking Subramaniam, Perrucci, & Whitlock’s (2014) theoretical framework of social and intellectual closure we might see usurpation as – in parts and in places – an ameliorating response to both micro and macro-political movements that lead to closure. I suggest that we might take this further into a space which can only be opened and kept open (rejecting closure) by the usurper who by choice lays him/her self open to being ursurped and indeed facilitates the process of ongoing transformation, which is the driving energy of the academy.

In making this argument I draw on Popper’s (1996) positivism, Kuhn’s (1962) understanding of development in disciplines and Bhabha’s (2004) third space theory.

The pattern of usurpation described by Subramaniam, Perrucci, & Whitlock’s (2014) applies to any attempt to enter a power structure –  a university is a power structure – by agents desiring that power, whether to address wrongs done to them by that power structure and its relatives, or simply to seize more of whatever is going. When the usurpation is successful the usurper assumes the mantle of the power structure and then defends it against subsequent usurpation.

So we see entryism into disciplines of minoritarian or post-colonial themes: Women’s Studies, for example. We see traditional promotion routes to professorship usurped by teaching pathways (an interesting one Subramian et al spotted, which casts me as usurper!). We see the student experience usurping scholarship.

But as Kuhn should remind us: this is the way it works! The English curriculum which is so exercised by usurpation by Media Studies, itself was an entryist program usurping the Classics. And as Popper should remind us, this is to be celebrated. The problem is not usurpation but closure, which might be seen as resistance to being usurped.


  • Bhabha, H. (2004). The Location of Culture. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Popper, K. (1996). The Myth of the Framework: In defence of Science and Rationality. London: Routledge.
  • Subramaniam, M., Perrucci, R., & Whitlock, D. (2014). Intellectual Closure: A Theoretical Framework Linking Knowledge, Power, and the Corporate University. Critical Sociology (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 40(3), 411–430.

An-an-an-archic questions and another 1000 mile journey

I have been having an ongoing conversation with Jock Coats (@jockox3 on Twitter) that veers from face-to-face to Twitter to the blogs. For me it has been an education in the literature of anarchism, particularly that of the libertarian, individualist, mutualist, market sort, to which Jock adheres.in a recent post (http://jockcoats.me/mutualist_monopolies_introduction) jock concludes, “…how difficult it is for monopoly to form without the state’s intervention.” And in a comment on my [late lamented] Posterous blog, reposted here), we got into a couple of chicken/egg circles: which came first, the state or government? And, could there be monopolies without the collusion and facilitation of states and/or governments? These are themselves sustained by – and sustain – monopolies of the power of violence (police/army), money and property.

But, my problem with this is that we start from where we are.

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A journey of a thousand miles problem @jockox3 the limits of my anarchism #ukuncut

I accept a loose notion of the social contract and accept that there are limits on my behaviour imposed on me for the benefits of all – including the payment of levies (taxes) for the provision of services to us all, even if I might prefer those services to be delivered in a different way. I further accept a loose notion of representative democracy as a means of determining and regulating (i.e. governing) those services and levies.However, the notion or idea of the “state” is a problem.

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For-profit higher education – follow the monopoly money

BPP University College (http://www.bppuc.com/) has enrolled 5000 people in the UK this year. Western International University (http://www.west.edu/) is a leading for-profit in the US expanding into Europe, Asia, and South America. Both are owned by the same parent company, Apollo Global (http://bit.ly/cp0mbI). Apollo Global is also the parent of the University of Phoenix (http://www.phoenix.edu/). Apollo is, in turn substantially owned by the Carlyle Group (http://www.carlyle.com/media%20room/news%20archive/2007/item9855.html). Carlyle also owns the Wall Street Institute (http://www.wallstreetinstitute.com/), “…the premier source for English [language] instruction for individuals and corporate clients around the world.” Carlyle is a very large venture capital group, with a particular focus for it’s investments. Carlyle’s mission is to increase private participation in the delivery of public sector services: healthcare, education and the military. Carlyle works at a high political level. Their Board has included many leading (former) government figures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlyle_Group#Political_figures). BPP’s curriculum is focused on Accountancy and Law. WIU’s curriculum is focused on management, finance and organisational psychology. Phoenix’s curriculum is focused on administration, teacher training and nurse training. I wonder what the covert curriculum is in all this?

Posted via email from George’s posterous