The neoliberal academic: Illustrating shifting academic norms in an age of hyper-performativity

Bruce J Macfarlane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
182 Downloads (Pure)


Neoliberalism is invariably presented as a governing regime of market and competition-based systems rather than as a set of migratory practices that are re-setting the ethical standards of the academy. This article seeks to explore the way in which neoliberalism is shifting the prevail- ing values of the academy by drawing on two illustrations: the death of disinterestedness and the obfuscation of authorship. While there was never a golden age when norms such as disinterestedness were univer- sally practiced they represented widely accepted aesthetic ideals associated with academic life. By contrast, neoliberal academics embrace a new set of assumptions and norms that stand in sharp relief to many of the values that were previously espoused. Practices that might have been regarded as ethically dubious by earlier generations of academics, such as grantsmanship, self-justificatory expressions of interestedness and tangential claims to authorship, are now regarded as legitimate and positive virtues in a more aggressive age of hyper-performativity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2019

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Knowledge, Culture, and Society
  • SoE Centre for Higher Education Transformations


  • Neoliberalism
  • performativity
  • academic norms
  • disinterestedness
  • grantsmanship
  • research-active


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