- Reviewed by
This important book brings together critical scholarship from a range of sources on a variety of topics usually discussed separately. Together they provide a historical and contemporary view of the many faces of ''academic capitalism'' in Canadian universities. Canadian critics of university corporatization such as Axelrod, Innis, Lexchin, Newson, Noble, Polster, Rajagopal, Tudiver, and Turk are all covered. Topics include threats to the university through expansion of vocational programs edging out the liberal arts, university governance as increasingly corporatized, students exploited by tuition fees, and the privatization of intellectual property.
The book traces a change from the 1960s massification when universities were essential to the economic and democratic life of the country through growing fiscal austerity to the current taking up of neoliberal discourses, such as the idea that education is a private good. Competitiveness has replaced public service which is redefined as ''market engagement.'' There are three chapters in the book that present particularly convincing evidence that there is a crisis that needs to be addressed. The first brings together what little is known about the casualization of faculty. It contrasts a 2007 AUCC report denying that full-time faculty numbers were declining with data Brownlee collected after freedom of information legislation was passed; his data showed growing numbers of non-tenured faculty across the social sciences in Ontario universities. The emergence [End Page 103] of a two-tiered system replete with research stars successful in leveraging private money is contrasted with the plight of a growing precariat poorly paid and treated as second class. A second well-documented chapter warns about increasing corruption of research through corporate influences – in particular, the pharmaceutical industry. These developments corresponded with government policies encouraging corporate investments in the university and commercialization of research products along with narrowing of targeted grants that diminished basic science research and excluded ''more than half of Canada's researchers in the social sciences and humanities.'' A series of shocking incidents in biomedical research are described as well as a hidden ghostwriting industry which throws into question the validity of perhaps ''40 per cent'' of biomedical research and writing, threatening the health of Canadians. A third strong chapter documents with specific examples how administrative salaries and the size of university administrations have increased. No longer ''public intellectuals,'' administrators speak a discourse of managerialism. Ultimately, managerialist performance indicators, university rankings, and funding for infrastructure, Brownlee argues, diminish academic freedom.
Another strength of the book is inclusion of students as players in academic capitalism. A chapter discusses students targeted by corporations on campus, student entitlement and faculty disengagement encouraging cheating and grade inflation, and skyrocketing tuition. At the same time, Brownlee suggests that students and the public can address corporatization, not by compromising with it, but by advocating policy changes such as eliminating tuition, as accomplished in Newfoundland. Student movements are envisaged as a force protesting both university corporatization and student consumerism. Brownlee also calls for prohibiting corporate funding where ''the potential for harm is high,'' pointing to responses by prestigious American medical schools pressured by students. And he sees a role for unions in absorbing part-time faculty. I would add that there now exist models such as that proposed by BC union leader COSCO that would reduce incentives to exploit part-time faculty by regularizing them at hiring. Like COSCO, Brownlee also calls for intersectoral alliances among intellectual activists and student movements, relating university struggles to the wider society.
One disappointing omission is the lack of a mention of academic capitalism in Canada's ''community'' colleges. Colleges hire large numbers of contingent faculty, arrange curricula after consultation with industry, and lack academic freedom under management scrambling for funding in a neoliberal climate. More could also have been said about how class, gender, and race are part of academic capitalism, as in the case of the massive recruitment of international students by Canadian postsecondary [End Page 104] institutions and the global rush to offer online courses in other countries. These omissions do not diminish the value of this book, though, which will be welcomed by critical scholars...