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Publication Details

Davies, Bronwyn  (2006) The (Im)possibility of Intellectual Work
in Neoliberal Regimes.  : 1-15.

In this paper a critique of neoliberal regimes within universities is developed. Neoliberal discourse is deconstructed and the dangers of it for intellectual work are considered. Neoliberal subjects (those subjected through neoliberal discourses) are defined and guidelines for thinking about education within (and against) neoliberal regimes are developed.

Don Watson (2003) describes the all-pervasive language of neoliberal managerialism
as ‘‘unable to convey any human emotion, including the most basic ones such as
happiness, sympathy, greed, envy, love or lust. You cannot’’ he says ‘‘tell a joke in this
language, or write a poem, or sing a song. It is a language without human provenance
or possibility’’ (p. 15). Yet it is the language through which most organizations
currently define themselves, including universities. In adopting this neoliberal
language we don’t know, and we haven’t known for some time, whether we have
just adopted some superficial and laughable language that will appease government,
or whether the professional knowledge that guides and informs teaching and learning
is reshaped in neoliberal terms. I suggest in this paper that it is very risky to buy into,
uncritically, the language of those who would govern us through the manipulation of
funds and the tying of dollar values to each aspect of our work. In speaking ourselves
into existence as academics, within neoliberal discourse, we are vulnerable to it and
to its indifference to us and to our thought. It can become the discourse through
which we, not quite out of choice and not quite out of necessity, make judgements,
form desires, make the world into a particular kind of (neoliberal) place.

A necessary step in refusing these new conditions of our existence is to be aware of
the discourses through which we are spoken and speak ourselves into existence. We
must find the lines of fault in and fracture those discourses. And then, in those spaces
of fracture, speak new discourses, new subject positions, into existence. As Butler
(1992, p. 13) says, the ‘‘subject is neither a ground nor a product, but the permanent
possibility of a certain resignifying process’’

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