European Journal of Social Theory 23 (3):350-369 (2020)

This article offers a critical theoretical exploration of the transformation of academic life that is currently taking place under the sign of ‘neoliberalization’. The main aim is to differentiate appropriation from exploitation as strategies of surplus labour dispossession, to identify the growth of appropriative techniques in academic life, and to situate the proliferation of such techniques in the broader transformations of global political economy. Alloyed with poststructuralist social theory, the historical materialist thrust of the article demonstrates how, in the technologically articulate ‘social factory’ of advanced capitalism, the spatial operations of these techniques of dispossession have a particularly ‘aesthetic’ character that is immanent to their appropriative operation, and which renders their workings both more discreet and effective. The article aims: to problematize the neoliberal concepts of efficiency, transparency, and autonomy, in terms of practical outcomes; to stimulate reflexive consideration of the ‘positioning’ of academics themselves in the reproduction of these techniques; and to ask how these techniques might generate new ‘historical subjects’ of struggle and organization in academic life.
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DOI 10.1177/1368431019854998
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