Neil Cocks has published a new monograph with Palgrave, Higher Education Discourse and Deconstruction: Challenging the Case for Transparency and Objecthood.
My new monograph is concerned with neo-liberalism and Higher Education. We all have at least some idea that universities are undergoing significant change, and that this is to do with an increase in managerialism. The university is subject to market forces, and these manifest themselves in an audit culture, one that produces change through subtle means: ‘steering from a distance’, as the educational theorist Stephen Ball has it. The problem is often understood in terms of an assault on truth. Neo-liberalism requires old certainties to be dissolved, and post-modernity is taken to be its discourse of choice. As such, it is understandable that there are those that turn to objecthood with positive relief. Self evidence, transparency, materiality: with these we might stem the flood! My monograph counsels against this move. Following the groundbreaking work of Bill Readings, I argue that the new-managerial university is resistant to the discursive, not the apparently self-evident.
Palgrave describe the book as:
‘[…] a critique of neoliberalism within UK Higher Education, taking its cue from approaches more usually associated with literary studies. It offers a sustained and detailed close reading of three works that might be understood to fall outside the established body of educational theory. The unconventional methodology and focus promote irreducible difference and complexity, and in this stage a resistance to reductive discourses of managerialism. Questioning the materialism to which all sides of the contemporary pedagogical debate increasingly appeal, the book sets out a challenge to investments in ‘excellence’, ‘transparency’ and objecthood. It will be of interest to students and researchers in the fields of education, sociology, and literary theory.’
And here is a review from Jan de Vos, author of Psychologisation in Times of Globalisation (2012) and The Metamorphoses of the Brain – Neurologisation and Its Discontents (2016):
‘Have you not always had the suspicion that audit culture and managerialism in higher education have to do with “the sexual, the invisible, the excessive, the linguistic”?, then this fascinating book is for you! Critically engaging with Diane Purkiss’s essay on sexual harassment, Ecclestone and Hayes’s rejection of the discourse on bullying and Nigel Thrift’s Non-Representational Theory, Neil Cocks convincingly shows that these critical voices veer dangerously close to what they attack and are perfectly aligned with neo-liberal managerialism. Cocks’s compelling argument is that when the aim of those critics is to free theory from the tyranny of subjectivity, we are in for a new tyranny: that of the self-evident. This book’s sustained plea to still engage with both irredeemable textuality and the excessiveness of subjectivity should be mandatory reading for scholars and their managers.’
Dr Jan de Vos