‘The Crisis and Academia (or) The Crisis in Academia’
In Ireland, as elsewhere, various actors and institutions have been pilloried for their failure to anticipate the collapse of the economy and/or related social and political consequences. Targets for opprobrium include academics, such as economists, sociologists and political scientists. A major criticism following the 2008 global financial crash and subsequent Great Recession is that academics have failed to provide coherent explanations for what is happening. In 2012 Guardian journalist Aditya Chakrabortty implied that in this respect the social sciences are well on their way to irrelevance,[i] which provoked a strong formal response from the British Sociological Association.[ii] Against this backdrop, the Limerick workshops will examine the following themes: how the social, economic political crises of our time have been interpreted by academics; the (constrained) opportunities for critical scholarship and academic freedom in an age of austerity and increasing inequity (e.g. in terms of class, gender and ethnicity); the commercialisation of higher-level education and its long-term consequences; the impact on staff (i.e. job security and conditions) and students (i.e. student fees and student debt); the potential of academics to challenge the powerful and/or give the powerless ‘weapons to fight with’. The Limerick Workshops will highlight related issues in Ireland, and will link/contrast these with developments in Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus and the UK through contributions from participants in the wider project as well.
[ii] In response to Chakrabortty’s Guardian article, the British Sociological Association (BSA) put together a long response, summarising the work of UK and US sociologists on the financial crisis and its origins, this is available to download as a Word document from the BSA website.
Session 1: 'Interpreting the Crisis'
Questions: (a) How can/should academics theorize/conceptualise/research the crisis? (b) here has academia succeeded in shedding light on the crisis? Where has it failed? (c) What is the proper role of academics in a time of crisis? Public intellectual? Defender of the status quo? (d) Does academia have a responsibility to act as a watchdog on power?
Session 2: 'Corporate control of higher-education'
Questions: (a) Can a case be made for corporate funding of higher education in a time of crisis? (b) Is the commercialisation of higher education compatible with its perceived public function? (c) Who (dis)benefits, domestically or internationally from the commercialisation of higher education? (d) What are the consequences for scholarship? What are the consequences for students? (e) Are there implications for gender equity?
Session 3: 'Academia Under Austerity'
Questions: (a) Are academics agents of neoliberalism? (b) What working relationships exist between academics and other agents/institutions, such as the media, government? (c) What are the implications for academics that wish to promote, challenge or debate austerity? (d) How does this manifest in different national contexts?
Session 4: 'Scholarship and Activism'
Questions: (a) Is it possible to advance egalitarian theory and practice within institutions that are anti-egalitarian? (b) Can radical academics presume to speak for the working class? Can the working class find a voice within academia? (c) Is it possible for self-auditing academics to develop emancipatory forms of research? (d) Is it possible/necessary to develop radical education, scholarship and research-based activism outside of/apart from professional academia?
Session 5: (In)equality within and without academia
Questions: (a) Is it possible to advance egalitarian theory and practice within institutions that are anti-egalitarian? (b) Can radical academics presume to speak for oppressed groups? (c) Is it possible for self-auditing academics to develop emancipatory forms of research?
Session 6: Roundtable: Solutions? What now?
Questions: (a) What have been the main issues/problems raised over the last three days? (b) Are these issues/problems resolvable? (c) What are the obstacles? Are there worthwhile strategies?
You can find the workshop programme here.