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Tag Archives: precarity

Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

Northeastern University adjuncts organized successfully on their own behalf.

There’s a great deal of discussion about the “corporatization” of the university, or about “academic capitalism,” and the infusion of market logics into higher education. Much of this literature has followed the money and –reasonably enough— emphasized the growing academic effort to capture commercially lucrative knowledge, large public grants, or tuition dollars. I myself have contributed to this literature, however modestly. But because I have also held administrative positions, I have access to at least some inside knowledge about the “corporatization” of the academy. And this more experiential form of data convinces me that the study of higher education has been somewhat one-sided, in that it has ignored important changes in budget and accounting systems within the academy (such as “resource-centered management”), or the spread of marketing and institutional “branding,” which have powerfully infused market logics into many leading American universities. Another issue that warrants much closer attention than it has received is what we might call (however inelegantly) the “adjunctification” of the professoriat.

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Arne Kalleberg. 2011. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment. New York: Russell Sage Press.

We are all aware that the work world has changed and continues to evolve. Most of us tell stories in our classrooms and research that suggests that these changes have generated increased inequality and less secure work, but our stories tend to be unsystematic, based on disjointed and partial research. In his new book Arne Kalleberg systematically examines the entire range of change in work in the US since the 1970s. The book is comprehensive in its approach, examining trends in income, security, job complexity and autonomy, and flexibility. In doing so it generates a series of social facts that should become the basic knowledge base for all other stories of social change in employment.

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