[Marxism] Fwd: New book on changes in American higher education and the role of the intellectual @insidehighered

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 11 06:03:19 MST 2014

Q: You repeatedly characterize the casualization of academic labor — 
i.e., the scarcity of tenure-line jobs and the rise in the use of 
adjunct faculty — as one of the most pressing issues in higher education 
today. Do you see any indications that this trend might be reversed? If 
so, how?

A: One thing we need to be absolutely clear about is that the 
evisceration of decent academic jobs is not a result of “supply and 
demand.” If you look at the statistics, college attendance has increased 
through every decade of the past century, from about 4 million in 1960 
to 15 million in 2000 and more than 20 million now. There have been 
small fluctuations, but it has always gone up. So the demand has, 
without any doubt, risen. The change is in the design and imagination of 
teaching jobs, and that has been a result of policy, perhaps ad hoc but 
nonetheless deliberate.

I would like to rid the air of a lot of smog about this: this was the 
choice of people, not the economic weather. So it can be changed, as any 
policy can be. If suddenly university administrators across the country 
came to a consensus that it was inhumane to employ people in the shabby 
ways that many do, this would change immediately. Or if there were a 
governmental policy regulating academic labor, as there is in France, 
where there are much stricter regulations on contingent positions, and 
where there is less inequality than we have, then it would change. It 
used to be a goal to attain full employment. We have phenomenal wealth 
and productivity has risen over the past two decades, so our structure 
of unemployment and underemployment is managed in this inequitable way. 
There are groups like COCAL and the New Faculty Majority that have 
proposals, but I think we need to regain the imperative for and good of 
full employment for college teachers.


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