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bav.tivg acaaevia 25
EXHAUSTING ACADEMIA: IN DEFENCE OF
ANTHROPOLOGY, IN SEARCH OF TIME
1
Eeva Berglund
|1|here is almost no language in the audit culture in which to talk about
productie non-productiity. On the contrary, the ery concept o oerload
suggests a management inadequacy on the part o the academic -one
has not paced onesel properly. One should make time or time. 1he result
is a ague, persistent and crippling sense o ailure. 1hat is compounded in
the conlation o management with perormance.`
Marilyn Strathern ,199: 318,.
Proessor Strathern`s writings on measuring perormance in education hae oten drawn on her
ethnography ,Strathern 2000b,. My iews on academic work conditions are not direct outcomes o
anthropological inestigation but they do draw on a key anthropological insight, namely that societies
make some things ery explicit to themseles, while at the same time making inisible certain other
things. One o Strathern`s concerns has been to argue that it is a society-wide loss o trust that uels our
obsessie and constant scrutiny o perormance ,Strathern 2000b,. \hile taking on board that message,
my concern here is a more traditional one, to bring into iew a routinely obscured social reality, namely
the time-consuming work o nurture. Aboe all, I am concerned to remind that nurture is necessary in
uniersities too.
All jobs hae their good and bad points. Uniersities, at their best, are haens o learning,
creatiity and excitement. People can commit to long-term intellectual projects without experiencing the
entrepreneur`s need to sell or the consumer`s addiction to ashion. Unortunately, these conditions are at
risk as goernment policies hae increased bureaucracy within uniersities while at the same time pressuring
academics to proe their useulness. I hae become persuaded that constant perormance monitoring or
audit is at the heart o academics` complaints ,e.g. Shattock 1992, Strathern 2000 ed., Goodlad 2002,
Lriksen 2005, Rinne and Simola 2005,. Alarmingly, audit might also be stiling creatie academic endeaour
,Siikala 2005,.
1o acknowledge that there is a problem, one need not indulge in a nostalgic antasy that the
uniersities were once Iory 1owers protecting a uniied community o humble truth seekers. But to
reduce uniersities to their utilitarian unctions and measure their money-creating potential and then
beliee one has a representation o its alue, is to beliee in iction. No audit can account or the alue
o a uniersity, because uniersities belong to the class o things whose signiicance cannot be measured
,Lriksen 2005,.
It was my own experience o British academia that inspired me to seek more dispassionate
ways o articulating the problem. 1hree years ago I let what had looked like a dream job in a London
Uniersity ,Goldsmiths College, anthropology department. But ater only our years I had my ill o
disillusionment, demoralisation and exhaustion. I was in an eniable position o inancial security, so I
chose to leae. I was soon, howeer, able to consider my situation within the context o a symposium on
\orld Anthropologies organised by the \enner Gren loundation in 2003. I prepared an analysis o the
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changing conditions o work in British anthropology.
2
My contribution ended up symbolising problems
that all the participants, working in thirteen dierent countries, could recognise. At the symposium it
also gae rise to the quip that the UK was at the cutting edge o the rot`. My iew now is that the rot`
is ar deeper, more widespread and more rightening than I had realised.
!"#$%&'#() +,'#"%''
1here is a horrible mismatch between all the talk o innoation, dynamism and wealth in contemporary
\estern society and a reality o sameness, tiredness and unrelenting ear o ailure. Although we celebrate
our unprecedented health
3
and our growing wealth, we are also constantly being told that we must
achiee more in less time. Academia is ar rom immune rom these pressures. In act as a signiicant part
o the inrastructure o a global knowledge economy, uniersities are in a position o renewed economic
and political importance. 1hey are also losing their right and ability to manage themseles.
1he spread and institutionalisation o audit is one aspect o the tendency to treat eerything,
including learning, as a business enterprise. By audit I reer to constant appraisal. It is accompanied by a
culture that normalises transparency` and accountability` and uses the language o the market` and
management` to discuss uniersities ,Strathern 2000: 2,. Adapting to audit means academics must be
productie and be seen to be productie. 1his oten generates shel-loads o output`, sometimes o a
questionable calibre, which ew hae time or inclination to read. As Strathern put it, aboe, there is no
time or time in the uniersities. 1he reasons or this hae already been debated widely ,e.g. Shils 1992,
Strathern ed. 2000, Lriksen 2005, Shore n.d,. lere I want to add to the discussion by highlighting the
act that this is part o a systematic denigration o nurture and care that alicts society ar beyond the
uniersities. I begin rom personal experience.
Once I had made the shit rom post-doctoral researcher to uniersity lecturer, the most draining
experience became the diiculty o itting in adequate research. 1here was neer nearly enough time or
reading, discussion, or proper ieldwork, or or writing. 1his complaint is made by eery social scientist
I know. It was not just my own struggle to manage my time which caused anxiety, but the knowledge that
eeryone else`s energies had also already been stretched to their limits. Prioritising these scholarly pursuits
meant that there was almost no time or lie`, including amily, hobbies or een eating. laing entured
into all kinds o college-related and other academic undertakings, gradually I began to retreat rom
projects I had embarked upon. I I didn`t hae suicient time or energy, I ound that other inoled
parties were too oerextended also to ocus on them properly. lrom management the message we
receied was that sta could, indeed must, be een more committed, more productie. \e were not, so
I was told, in a position to say no`, there is no downtime in academia.
One o the things I miss most in my current lie outside the uniersity is the students. I taught
some ery bright and motiated people. Certainly many were there to gie themseles time to discoer
their passion or to improe their earning potential. In Britain uniersity lecturers are oten disparaged as
liing somewhere other than reality, but the students neer let me orget that I was actually part o a ery
real world o true importance, the world o learning and human growth. During the our years I worked
at Goldsmiths I became exhausted and rustrated, but I neer stopped being amazed at my students` or
my own capacity and will to learn. 1he uniersities are a literally inaluable arena or nourishing those
human qualities.
Beyond a certain point, these cannot be reduced to measurable improements in results. Nor
are they necessarily urthered by the British goernment`s insistence on increasing student intake,
particularly not when the resources to accommodate higher student numbers are missing. As admissions
tutor I tried to be loyal to my institution yet honest to applicants when they asked about the college`s
ability to cater to their circumstances. Inadequate child care probably meant that the college lost many
young parents who would hae had great academic potential.
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bav.tivg acaaevia 27
Copyright restrictions ,based on inancial pressures within the publishing industry, meant a
lack o materials. 1he pressure to take on high-paying oerseas students created its own mixed bag o
problems. Although sta regularly pointed out the diiculties o accepting students with a poor command
o Lnglish, rom a management perspectie more students paying more money was obiously a good
thing. 1he unspoken assumption was that academic sta would put in that little bit extra to ensure that
students` output was not compromised. Many did. Alas, targets based on inancial rather than academic
criteria are more likely to bring academic perormance down rather than up.
Uniersities do still equip people to articulate critical, innoatie and well reasoned ways o
thinking ,Shils 1992, Smyth and lattam 2000,, and passion and excitement still lourish in them. loweer,
the need to serice new administratie requirements, to constantly seek unding and to satisy students
,who are now treated more like customers and who behae accordingly,, make unprecedented demands
on uniersity employees. Sociologist and philosopher o science Stee luller captured the mood when
he wrote that teaching is being reduced to the dispensation o credentials, . research is being priatised
as intellectual property: the one drien by the employment market, the other by the utures market`
,1999: 58,. low distressing to contrast this with a passage reproduced by Michael Shattock rom an
interiew with Lord Bullock, then ice-chancellor at Oxord Uniersity, and which was originally published
in A. Bloom`s Cto.ivg of tbe .vericav Miva ,198,. lor Bullock the task o the uniersity is not to train its
graduates or a particular proession, to gie them ocational training or to ill them ull o specialist
knowledge. It is to educate them: to draw out their powers o thought and imagination in the study o
whateer subjects arouse their interest, to encourage them to penetrate below the surace o the
conentional wisdom and wrestle with the questions to which there`s no simple or single answer, to
recognise the limitations o their knowledge` ,cited in Shattock 1992: 140,. 1he distress comes perhaps
rom knowing that most academics would agree with Bullock`s aims, but would ind it extremely hard to
claim that that is what they are doing.
1homas lylland Lriksen has een claimed that uniersities hae become like actories ,2005,.
\hether one agrees with him or not, they are undoubtedly subject to management as i they were part
o a nation`s ,or trading block`s, trade and industrial machinery. \here knowledge is an asset, inestors
need up-to-date inormation about uniersities` capacity to produce. Arguably it is this, aboe all, which
lies behind the constant stream o ranking lists and indicators o competitieness, not only o uniersities,
but o other elements o a nation`s capacity to sere international capital. Some uniersities and some
countries, including linland, regularly eature at the top o the resulting ranking lists. \hat is striking
about the winners is their constant ear o alling behind. As soon as one round o measurement has
raised spirits and calmed neres, the next opportunity to do less well comes along. In 2002 as soon as the
UK`s much resented Research Assessment Lxercise ,RAL,, that ranks and allocates inances or the
country`s uniersity departments, was oer, the talk was o how to prepare or the next round, to be held
in 2008! My ormer colleagues were demoralised but not surprised.
1he usual justiications or squeezing more and more out o the uniersities are based on the
assumption that they must rejoin the real world. \hen the real world` is inoked in this way, it is, o
course, synonymous with that unwieldy yet all-powerul entity, the economy. 1he economists and business
proessionals who are its sel-appointed experts hae coninced the rest o us that we must be slaes to
it ,while the disposable income o many in the inancial sector deies belie,. laing cut my anthropological
teeth by engaging with matters ecological, I hae no doubt that economics matters. loweer, the iew
that the real world` is necessarily a world o cut-throat competition to which the uniersities and eeryone
else must now adapt, can and must be challenged. Besides ethical arguments, there are ample historical
grounds to do so ,Buck-Morss 1995, Mitchell 1998, not to mention ecological ones ,Martinez-Alier
2002,. In act, gien how willingly economic calculation encourages the destruction o lie-supporting
natural processes and then makes them anish as externalities, the conceit that the economy` equals
reality` is practically scandalous. In their engagement with these processes as they unold in the world,
academics are arguably ar closer to reality than are the inancial experts.
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It is still true, o course, that as a proession, academia tolerates and een encourages a light
rom embodied experience. Perhaps the tendency to lie in their heads also accounts or why lecturers
and proessors are so prone to discount or try to ignore their own exhaustion. But it is not only sta
who are eidently paying with their physical and psychological well-being, student lie is considerably
more demanding than een just ten years ago. Research rom the USA, reiewed in the 1ive. igber
avcatiov vtevevt ,19.10.2004, goes so ar as to claim that today`s students are suering a mental
health crisis. It is made worse by the act that there the resources to attend to their emotional and
physical wellbeing are more oten being eroded than strengthened. UK students are also at risk, gien
the pressures within the uniersity system, but also the tendency in the UK as a whole to work long
hours ,ILO 2004,. Anecdotal and mass media reports rom linland suggest grounds or concern here
also ,e.g. Nurminen 2004,.
\e are accustomed to thinking that the uniersities acquiesced to market pressures because it
happened by stealth and because there was no choice. Besides, eeryone else is drained too ,Siltala 2004,
Lhrenreich 2005,. loweer, we do not pursue these thoughts too ar, since to argue that things, in
general that is, are getting worse, is to attract the charge o doom-mongering, o being a habitual
pessimist or a neo-con supporter awaiting Armageddon. It is possible, howeer, to articulate alternatie
iews and without discounting one`s own experience o reality.
I take inspiration rom 1eresa Brennan. In her books bav.tivg Moaervit, ,2000, and Ctobatiatiov
ava it. 1error. ,2003, she laid out a historically grounded, thorough and imaginatie analysis o the
exhaustion and conlict that characterise work today. She did so by drawing on Marxist political economic
theory and psychoanalytic thought, and marshalled a breadth o empirical illustrations to support her
argument. Similar iews hae been articulated elsewhere, or example by Barbara Adam ,1998, and Joan
Martinez-Alier ,2002,. Brennan`s work is remarkable or the thoroughness o its critique o the dominant
economic ramework, and or a key insight, namely that it entails organising time in a way that exhausts
and consumes without replenishing. ler work proides a platorm or going beyond complaints about
audit into a realm where we can and must question the justiications or the intensiication o labour,
including academic, as well as intensiying sureillance o it.
Brennan`s argument is that not only does business as usual inlict disproportionate and sustained
damage on the usual suspects -the poor, women and nature- it endangers the health and regeneratie
capacity o all ,2003: 148,. 1he catalogue o misery she presents ,in Ctobatiatiov ava it. 1error.,, is oered
as eidence, not only o the bankruptcy o global capitalism but o the impasse into which modern
thought has taken world society. \hat or conenience we call the \est runs a world economy to suit its
own needs, promises good things to eeryone, but deliers waste and ear. Len in the midst o the
plenty child care, education and health care are all being done with ewer and ewer resources. In act it
is possible now to talk o the prohibitie cost o lie` since ater all, rom the point o iew o speedy
proits, reproducing the next generation o workers is too slow ,Brennan 2003: 8,. Robots would be
easier to manage than the pliable bodies and creatie minds o human beings.
Len while society apparently celebrates creatie classes` the standardised measures required
by audit put both bodies and minds at risk ,Kinman and Jones 2004, Kadison 2004,. 1he critics o the
new academic regime tend to agree that time or relection has become a luxury. Perhaps one day it will
be aailable only to those who can aord to buy time or it. \et like nurture and social reproduction
more generally, uniersity work requires time and social interaction, and it requires that people be literally
present to each other ,Sipil 2005,.
1his is so despite the point I made about academic lie being lied in the head`. lace-to-ace
interaction with colleagues and students has always been potentially hugely stimulating and satisying.
1hose who grew into anthropologists in the relatiely conined context o the British institutions described
by Spencer ,2001, are quick to make the point, but American anthropology also enjoys a ibrant collectie
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bav.tivg acaaevia 29
memory o nurturing teacher-pupil relations. Now that inormation oerload and supposedly instant
uniersal access hae become the norm, interpersonal, intense relationships are perhaps een more
important. \hateer one`s iew o the social histories o academia, it is undeniable that teaching,
conerences and, in anthropology at least, the regular seminar, remain undamental to the continuity o
scholarship. \hat they require as an absolutely nonnegotiable prerequisite is time, time to absorb and to
reormulate ,Strathern 199,, otherwise what is going on is not learning but replication.
-./+0.#'0(#/" 0"1 0"(2&/3/./4)
lor the moment it seems unlikely that social sciences and humanities will disappear. I do worry that the
distinctieness o approaches and the delight in in-depth learning are in serious danger because it is not
obious how one would make disciplines like anthropology count` in a way the auditors would recognise
and alue. In general the humanities and social sciences, so awkward to mutate into products that can be
sold on a market, are ulnerable in the new utilitarian uniersity. Many hae responded to the new
circumstances by concentrating on honing skills that can be easily marketed. 1hey are now increasingly
iewed as proiders o transerable skills without which the economy` would grind to a halt. 1his
emerging trend is brilliantly parodied in Margaret Atwood`s 2003 noel Or, ava Cra/e. In the nightmare
uture she paints, career options are diided into those or numbers` people and those or word` people.
lalling into the latter category, the protagonist enters a college oering \ebgame Dynamics, Image
Presentation, Pictoral and Plastic Arts and Problematics, nicknamed Spin and Grin.
4
1hey render
aluable serices to the culture industries or to administrations and corporations wanting data on behaiour.
But rendering serices is a ery impoerished deinition o what uniersities do.
Institutionally the human sciences are trying to mimic the natural and engineering sciences that
are more highly alued by commerce. Lngineers and laboratory scientists work as teams and generally
require practical as well as theoretical engagement with each other. 1his has become a standard to which
the humanities and social sciences are being asked to adapt, een though the beneits o doing so are not
obious, unless one accepts that big projects undertaken by broad international networks o participants
are adantageous as a matter o course. In act, one could argue that there would be greater beneits i
more people did more research in smaller groups with smaller and cheaper machines ,or none at all,
,luller 2005:44,. But alas, such practices do not raise the isibility o an institution or accumulate glory,
and so they are discouraged or oerlooked, allowed to exist in the tangled undergrowth o uniersity lie
which audit and management cannot ully control. In sum, the humanities and social sciences do not
enjoy the same attention as disciplines whose innoations can be proitably commercialised.
One interesting trend in the UK is that the human and social sciences try to present themseles
as haing useul expertise in the domain o culture. Such matters are not limited to the ethnic politics o
multiculturalism, rather culture is now eerywhere as a ocus o management and oersight. Goernment
also regularly uses it an explanation or social problems ,a culture o mismanagement can account or
ailing schools, ethnic cultures are acceptable explanations or under-achieement, iolence and poerty,.
No wonder since to inoke culture is to turn dierence into a oluntary liestyle choice and to make
economics and justice anish. Unortunately, in adapting to these deinitions, anthropology can end up
appearing either like a triial exercise in describing human diersity or as a sinister tool or manipulating
society ,Berglund 2006,.
Culture is thus perhaps one o those words, like race, that one would preer to aoid, but that
one inds indispensable or making sense o reality. lortunately, sustained anthropological ,and doubtless
other academic, enquiry can tolerate such ambiguity. Anthropological analysis is, in act, brilliantly equipped
to indicate where and how cultural dierence is inoked as an excuse or withholding economic and
ecological justice ,e.g. \ilmsen and McAllister eds 1996,. \hat has been less brilliant in the anthropological
tradition recently has been a willingness to incorporate economic questions, ones that preoccupy so
much o the world`s population, into their analyses and to make those analyses aailable in a language
that would make sense beyond academic cliques ,but see Robotham 2005,.
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Globalisation has meant that anthropologists hae been conronted by two broad empirical
challenges to their work. On the one hand are the oerwhelming inluence and real-lie impacts o
standard economics which anthropology is reluctant to take on directly, on the other anthropology has
been challenged by the cultural turn` which has meant the entry o many other disciplines into domains
o ormerly mainly anthropological enquiry. 1he situation gies rise to the kind o boundary talk` that
judges what is and is not anthropological ,Spencer 2000: 11,. At the leel o undergraduate teaching,
cultural studies and media studies hae orced anthropology to relect on what, i anything, distinguishes
it rom these ,Shore and Nugent 199,. Although we appear to be enjoying unprecedented releance,
the eeling in anthropology departments more oten is that one is in danger o losing one`s right to exist.
\hat are needed are the right arguments and the ruitul practices that will change this situation or the
better.
5%.%+&#() 6,.(,&% 0"1 ,"#$%&'#() .#7%
In 2003, the proessional journal .vtbrootog, 1oaa, took up the problem o anthropology`s apparent
loss o nere and printed some iews about what kind o publicity the discipline should seek. Paul
Sillitoe`s ,2003, editorial argued that it ought to be more sel-promoting. 1his, inally, brings me to one
o the eatures o the academic world that ought to be recognised as the damaging thing that it is,
namely the need to inest in raising one`s proile. Uniersity managers desire excellence and public
isibility. CVs and websites need constant updating and upgrading, publications with maximum impact
need to be produced, and possibly, high-proile teaching innoations generated. \here money and
resources are directed by audit to those who can be shown to be productie and successul, high isibility
will truly count and eeryone will know that amous star academics may be a pain, but within the
constraints we hae accepted, they are also an asset.
1his does not come easily to anthropologists. lrom debates about writing culture in the 1980s
and science wars in the 1990s, to what John lytnyk has called crisis-mongerings without purpose`
,2002:30,, anthropologists are liable to expend ast energies on comparing and contrasting diering
approaches to doing anthropology amongst themseles, while being reluctant to pronounce ery much
externally. It is true that anthropologists indulge in disciplinary sel-critique much more than in sel-
assertion, agonising oer ,and sometimes letting students reel in, the discipline`s unediying collaborations,
past and present, with the orces o domination ,Kuper 1988, Rosaldo 1989,.
I it continues to ocus on questioning its own premises anthropology is in danger o becoming
a parody o postmodern anxiety. It risks eroding all possible oundations or supporting its own arguments.
But insoar as ethnographic research orces an engagement with the empirical realities, the social relations
that make up human lie, anthropologists can neer aoid negotiating relationships o accountability
and co-presence. 1hey may not always do this well or in ethically neutral ways, as the CIA`s inolement
in American postgraduate research has demonstrated ,BBC news 2005,, but it cannot aoid conronting
the problem. In other words, anthropological engagement makes any simple claims to irtue or to ice
on the part o a researcher or o the whole discipline, quite untenable. In act it can make its partiality an
asset, as Strathern`s Partiat Covvectiov. ,1991, has inspired so many o us to do.
Constant disciplinary sel-critique can also be ery rustrating or students, particularly i they
are primarily looking or the` correct answers that will gain them the credentials they think they need.
But een where students hae more ambitious goals than to regurgitate teaching, they require conident
premises rom which to proceed. 1hey must also hae the conidence to insist on diiculty and complexity
when it is warranted. 1im Ingold is surely not alone in eeling |w|e hae a huge way to go in training
both ourseles and our students to speak with coniction and authority on anthropological matters`
,2003: 23,. Rather than wishing that our students were able to pronounce eiciently and unambiguously
to the kinds o queries that our ast-paced media world or our measurement-addicted policy world
might pose, it might be more promising to consider teaching them how to be conident about ambiguity,
how to insist on complexity as well as limitations, and how to study lie as process.
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bav.tivg acaaevia 31
But where attention spans are short and where built-in obsolescence is actually a good thing, as
they are in market oriented decision-making, sustained eort and a tolerance or complexity always loses
out to simplicity and high isibility. 1his has epistemological consequences but is also has a direct impact
on the attitudes o students as well as sta. Rigorous, collectie scholarship is giing way to ashionable,
een hyped up interentions` by star scholars, as anyone who has experienced a stampede or plenary at
the AAA gien by some celebrity academic, will know. 1here is substantial eidence that it is also driing
a broader trend or indiidual academics to conduct themseles as celebrities in the making.
\hat American academics recognise as a star system o hiring ,Cohen 1993, has now been
introduced, perhaps unwittingly, into the British uniersity system. Uniersity managers and leads o
Department desperate to ind a USP ,unique selling point, lure prominent scholars to enhance their
external proiles. 1he problem is now so serious that it is being debated in print ,Lipsett and Demopoulos,
Aronauer 2005, as well as among uniersity sta on both sides o the Atlantic. 1he main point is that
what looks good does not always translate into substantie improement. According to Proessor Richard
Bulliet o Columbia Uniersity, interiewed in the Columbia Spectator ,Aronauer 2005,, star academics`
o-campus isibility` harms on-campus alues`, particularly those aspects o running a department
that are not conertible into monetary alues.
1hey do, o course, oer the promise o intellectual excitement and help to draw in the best
students. But rom the perspectie o managers, in the UK at least, their alue lies in their ability to hike
an institution upwards in the ranking lists and to attract high-paying oerseas students. In the British
unding structure it makes sense or leads o Department concerned or the continuity o their own
department to beliee that star academics are necessary. 1hey can, ater all, lit audit ratings particularly
those o the Research Assessment Lxercise that eectiely produces a league table o departments.
Stars are expected to publish as much as they can in high-impact journals while other members o sta
carry disproportionate administratie loads. In the UK some sta hae een been threatened with
demeaning and demoralising teaching-only contracts ,Lipsett and Demopoulos 2005: 1,.
1his also generates income inequalities within departments, as hires rom elsewhere are lured in
with oers o higher salaries as well as attractie working conditions. 1he Columbia Spectator makes the
urther point that the market or scholarship is inluenced by trends in academia. Scholars doing popular
research hae a better chance o receiing an outside oer. Proessors with amilies and ties to their
location hae diiculty making credible threats to leae` ,Aronauer 2005,. 1his kind o jostling or
positions promotes a lexibility within the proession that is also gendered. \here productiity and
isibility are rewarded, those who inest most in nurturing and administratie tasks, whether at work or
outside it, are alued least. Perormance is recognised only with a sell-by date and it is measured in terms
o publications with high impact, a isible conerence presence and possibly spectacular student
satisaction. Meanwhile other sta carry the constantly growing burdens o teaching and administration
while trying to squeeze in what satisying academic enterprise they can.
1he inisibility o so much work is more than an ethical issue. 1he lourishing o the uniersities
as a eature o society depends crucially on the time-consuming work that goes on in the shadows, o
organising, o dealing with periodic crises among students or demoralised sta, o struggling to hold
onto resources and, o course, o keeping abreast o deelopments in the ield. In the mean time, the
eminised work o nurture, which sustains lie both inside and outside the academy, gets completely
oerlooked. 1his allows the so-called creatie class to hijack recognition or creatiity or themseles
while reproducing the structural constraints that rustrate the creatiity o others.
1his biurcation into stars and inisible nobodies is not, o course, unique to academia, but nor
is it simply an import rom the world o media celebrity. Image management has become standard
across corporate lie and all the white collar jobs that are modelled on it, a act that is haing arguably
proound socio-psychological eects. Sociologist Richard Sennett ,1998, and journalist Barbara Lhrenreich
]
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,2005, hae described the pressures o working harder in the USA, but at the same time they hae
described a social enironment where creating an impression o success is undamental to suriing let
alone lourishing in the incessantly audited and relentlessly competitie world o work. Juha Siltala
,2004, has written a similar book about linland. Not only does the speeded up time o inormation
technology exert its pressures so that workers must juggle ceaseless demands or potentially around-the-
clock aailability, it makes it diicult or people to learn about each other. 1hey carry out more and more
tasks as short-term projects as parts o temporary teams and they change jobs with increasing requency.
One result is that there are ewer rewards and in certain situations, een opportunities, or making long-
term plans and commitments. Again, instant time has become the tyrant militating against anything but
supericial relationships and a kind o structural narcissism ,Sennett 1998,.
1his is neither desirable nor sustainable. At the indiidual leel, the demands o a just-in-time,
hyperactie academic lie are, perhaps, possible or a ew star academics to cope with, but they undermine
the long-term health o academic institutions and they erode the quality o and the passion or scholarship.
1o put it another way, embracing audit in uniersities also means embracing a soul-destroying cult o
celebrity whose suitability to academia is highly debatable.
Being amous has, howeer, become an explicit aspiration in the \est as has making the millions
to be able to lie the lie o the international celebrity. Still working relatiely autonomously, academics
enjoy, perhaps, rewards whose alue outstrips the lure o gold. Presumably they also hae the resources
to identiy the laws in the system, and to imagine and propose alternaties. Academics hae, howeer,
acquiesced to a system o workplace relationships that alue image oer trust and short-term goals oer
long-term commitments. 1hey hae done so partly, at least, because o their own proessional alues o
competitieness and the enthusiasm uniersity teaching has always shown or assessing, sel critiques
brilliantly articulated by Strathern ,199,. 1hey should hae known that, in the long run, constant
measurement means constant change or its own sake as well as raising the targets ,aerage, ater all, is
neer good enough,.
I hae argued that what goes on inside uniersities is not unique. \et the act that uniersities
should hae ound themseles struggling with such unsuitable working practices is surely noteworthy.
As usual, the ault is partly to be ound inside, and partly outside. 1he time to correct is, howeer, is now
and the same goes or working practices eerywhere.
80)' /,(
1he source o the malaise within my ormer institution can be ound in the malaise o work and
economic thought around the world. 1he problems hae inally come home to roost. 1he question now
is whether the uniersities can re-engage with the world in a more embodied, emplaced and time-
conscious way. 1o do so they must begin by acknowledging their own exhaustion and treating it as part
o the generalised energy crises o world society.
1hat there is exhaustion in linland is obious to one who is now an outsider, an occasional
isitor obsering what has changed and what has stayed the same. Besides my personal impressions that
people are less satisied with social trends, recent linnish-language literature ,e.g. Siltala 2004, Seppnen
2004, oers support or my assessment that linland is a society under growing strain but, as the signiicance
o image-management would lead us to expect, putting a brae ace on things. linland and linns persist
in projecting an image o happiness and success. 1he economy seems ine, the country still gets to
ritually celebrate its irsts or nearly irsts in international ranking lists, and public serices still operate
more or less as people expect them to, despite years o cuts. But here, as in UK academia, the cost is
crippling.
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bav.tivg acaaevia 33
At least part o the reason has to do with the simple but unutterable act that empirically
speaking, the global market economy is working us and the planet to death. Indicators at global as well
as national leel ,Ralston Saul 2005 and Kiander 2001 respectiely, show entrenched income inequality
combined with haphazard economic policy making oer the last two decades. Most depressingly, there
are ew grounds or indiiduals or communities to beliee that hard work and orward planning might
yield satisying rewards. \hat is perhaps most signiicant is that any correlation between eort and
reward is perceied to hae broken down. 1his is hardly surprising gien the still growing dierentials
between executies` and others` pay. In the linnish case, resentment about the rewards o top executies
hae led to decreased willingness to increase one`s own productiity ,Siltala 2004: 263,. \hat surprises is
that there is not more alarm oer the act that een the creatie classes, like academics, are reporting
exhaustion, rustration and health problems ,Kinman and Jones 2004,.
1he larger costs are yet to be paid as the consequences o turn o the millennium labour
politics mature into coming generations. \hat will become o them when so much time and energy
ormerly inested in reproduction - childcare, social relations, recuperation rom exertion - has been
dierted into the growth o capital Lxhorting all workers to tighten belts and to outperorm the
competitors, states continue to help capital to roam a borderless world and leaders exhort eeryone to
keep up with change ,limanen 2004, Blair 29.9.2005,. As Brennan argued, women, children and the
poor are the irst to suer, and they do so in the responses o their bodies. But those in the rich, or
brain` ,!, countries also hae bodies and these too are being weakened ,2003: 6,. She states the problem
ery clearly: both the new right and the third way promote centralization and globalization at the same
time as they cut back on spending or human needs, rom basic education to welare and healthcare.
1hey cut back just as eeryone gets sicker, and more depressed, and now more paranoid, or ear o
more attacks` ,2003: ,.
1he economists, politicians and managers who claim there is no alternatie to speeding up
production are simply wrong. Len within market capitalism there are elements that still alue things
that are not reducible to a price. I hae seen this clearly in my experience in the oluntary sector in
London since leaing academia. 1he problem is that this kind o work, o care, nurture, imagining
alternaties, what Barbara Adam calls moonlighting` ,1998,, has to lurk in the shadows, the undergrowth.
In those uneniable conditions it tries to patch up the mess let by the oicial economy. 1he waste in
energy is phenomenal, and the dangers while society reuses to accept the cost o its growth antasies
may be deastating.
Academics, particularly in the humanities and the social sciences, must regain their conidence.
1he managers o the utilitarian uniersity are not going to secure the conditions or slow and careul
scholarship or nurturing education. 1heir assumptions must be challenged. 1o begin the task, it is
necessary to recognise and act on the dierence between improement and degeneration and to reuse
to pretend.
9/(%'
1
My title and much o the inspiration or this essay comes rom 1eresa Brennan`s proocatie book,
bav.tivg Moaervit, ,2000,. 1hanks to Karen Armstrong or comments, and to Stee Nugent or
encouragement and suggestions or sources.
2
Arturo Lscobar and Gustao Lins Ribeiro conened the symposium. Besides editing a olume or
publication they hae established an international network o anthropologists, the \orld Anthropologies
Network ,\AN,, http:,,www.ram-wan.org,html,home.htm
3
1he UK media requently oers up stories o the time bombs` ticking in the bodies o younger
generations, rom obesity and lack o exercise to skin cancers. 1he increase in the use o antidepressants
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on both sides o the Atlantic, een among children, suggests that psychological problems are also
widespread.
4
1hanks to Nicola Green or reminding me o this.
:%7%&%"6%' 6#(%1
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