You Have the Right to Remain Silent: How Social Work Academics Cope with the Neoliberal University

Guy Feldman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In recent years, a vast and sprawling body of literature has shown that academic institutions have adopted market principles and practices. Scholars have commonly called these processes “the neoliberalization of higher education’ or ‘academic capitalism’. Yet, studies have given less attention to the neoliberalisation of higher education from the bottom-up, reflecting the views of faculty. The discipline of social work, which represents social values and objectives that are incompatible with the neoliberal transformation of higher education, offers a valuable case in point. The current study examines how social work academics experience and confront the ongoing neoliberalisation of higher education. We address this question by drawing on in-depth interviews with thirteen social work faculty members in all five universities across Israel. Findings highlight three main themes: (i) perceptions of the academy and higher education; ii) the tension between freedom and discipline in everyday academic life; and (iii) coping strategies with the neoliberal university. Findings indicate that social work academics’ opposition to the economisation of higher education is marginal and, in most cases, non-existent. We draw on Foucault’s concepts of ‘technologies of domination’ and ‘technologies of the self’ to illuminate our findings regarding neoliberal dynamics in higher education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3305-3322
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volume53
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023

Keywords

  • Critical Social Work
  • Higher Education
  • Neoliberalism
  • Social work research

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