UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Academic economies : scholarship, publishing, capital Pollex, Michael


This thesis explores the growing relationship between the realms of academic knowledge production, scholarly publishing and the capitalist marketplace. Beginning with an early formulation of the goals of the modern university as understood by Immanuel Kant, I examine the extent to which these ideals, which I refer to as academic liberalism, are inadequate to account for academic practices today. Despite several theoretical attempts to justify the autonomy of academic practice, I demonstrate how a contemporary account of academic practice must reconsider it s socio-economic situation. I follow a sociology of knowledge methodology to examine the extent to which our current political economic situation leads to economic crises in academia. Among the more significant of these crises, I argue, is the “crisis of consumption” for academic libraries. In this crisis lies one of the connections of scholarship to the logic and practices of contemporary capitalism. With the loss of academic knowledge's primary consumer, a chain reaction is set off throughout the system of scholarly production where scholarly publishers must scramble for new markets in order to maintain their already modest print runs. Through interviews and institutional ethnographic data, I demonstrate the extent to which the consumer is considered as a factor in the publication of scholarly knowledge. An engagement of scholarship with consumer culture also brings about many significant changes for the academic author. Using the cultural Marxist theories of Jean Baudrillard and Pierre Bourdieu, I examine how publishing in consumer culture leads to a variety of forms of commodification for the academic author. Ultimately, I demonstrate that economic forces penetrate the very practices that are traditionally thought to exist outside of economic determination.

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