Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Lawrence D. Berg, Edward H. Huijbens, Henrik Gutzon Larsen, Producing Anxiety in the Neoliberal University
Forthcoming in The Canadian Geographer/le Géographe Canadien
Special issue on
Critical Reflections on Cultivating an Ethic of Wellness in Geography
Guest edited by Linda Peake, Kate Parizeau, and Beverley Mullings

Draft on

This paper presents a theoretical analysis of the neoliberal production of anxiety in academic faculty members in universities in Northern Europe. The paper focuses on neoliberalization as it is instantiated through audit and ranking systems designed to produce academia as a space of economic efficiency and intensifying competition. We suggest that powerful forms of competition and ranking of academic performance have been developed in Northern Europe. These systems are differentiated and differentiating, and they serve to both index and facilitate the neoliberalization of the academy. Moreover, these audit and ranking systems produce an ongoing sense of anxiety among academic workers. We argue that neoliberalism in the academy is part of a wider system of anxiety production arising as part of the so-called ‘soft governance’ of everything, including life itself, in contemporary late liberalism.

Neoliberalism, Higher Education, Human Capital, Academic Audit Systems, Anxiety and Mental Health

Key Messages:
This article investigates processes of neoliberalization of the academy. It argues that neoliberalism entails shifts from exchange to competition, from equality to inequality, and turns academics into human capital. It suggests that auditing systems are key mechanisms of neoliberalization and produce unhealthy levels of anxiety and stress in the academy

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