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FRIDAY FORUM: “Knowledge For Sale, The Neoliberal Takeover of Higher Education,” With Dr. Lawrence Busch

September 15, 2017 @ 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Lawrence Busch is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University. He has been on the faculty at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Lancaster University (UK), and what is now the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement. He is (co)author or (co)editor of 15 books and 150 other publications. He is past president of both the Rural Sociological Society and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole, an elected member of the Académie d’Agriculture de France and recipient of a doctor honoris causa from the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa.

He will talk about his new book with commentary by Drs. Alyssa Dunn, MSU Department of Teacher Education and Stephen Gasteyer, MSU Department of Sociology.

Knowledge for Sale: The Neoliberal Takeover of Higher Education

A new philosophy of higher education has taken hold in institutions around the world. Its supporters disavow the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and argue that the only knowledge worth pursuing is that with more or less immediate market value. Every other kind of learning is downgraded, its budget cut.

In Knowledge for Sale, Lawrence Busch challenges this market-driven approach.The rationale for the current thinking, Busch explains, comes from neoliberal economics, which calls for reorganizing society around the needs of the market. The market-influenced changes to higher education include shifting the cost of education from the state to the individual; turning education from a public good to a private good subject to consumer demand; redefining higher education as a search for the highest-paying job; and turning scholarly research into a competition based on metrics including number of citations and value of grants. Students, administrators, and scholars have begun to think of themselves as economic actors rather than seekers of knowledge.

Arguing for active resistance to this takeover, Busch urges us to burst the neoliberal bubble, to imagine a future not dictated by the market, a future in which there is a more educated citizenry and in which the old dichotomies—market and state, nature and culture, and equality and liberty—break down. In this future, universities value learning and not training, scholarship grapples with society’s most pressing problems rather than quick fixes for corporate interests, and democracy is enriched by its educated and engaged citizens.


September 15, 2017
10:30 am - 12:00 pm


Neoliberalism in Higher Education


61 Kellogg Center
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824 United States
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