Monday, 20 October 2014

Stiegler’s University

On Wednesday the first Sociology / Social Policy research seminar of the new academic year is scheduled. Mark Featherstone will talk about his recent work, 'Stiegler's University':

Wednesday, 22nd October


In this paper I read Stiegler’s work on youth, and especially his discussion of attention from Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, and the decadent society, formulated across three volumes of Disbelief and Discredit, through the lens of the contemporary university in order to develop a theory of the potentially utopian and dystopian conditions of higher education. In the first section of the paper I set out Stiegler’s theory of youth, attention capture, and the decadent society before exploring the ways in which this thesis can enable a critical understanding of the university in neoliberal society. Reflecting upon work by Henry Giroux, Stanley Aronowitz and others on the university machine, I examine the university in terms of the campus, or camp, which refers to a delimited space where particular logics, rules, and regulations apply. Here, I link the campus to ideas of utopia and dystopia, which similarly refer to delimited spaces, in order to argue that the university might be understood in terms of a contained disciplinary space comparable to institutions explored in Foucault’s works such as The History of Madness and Discipline and Punish. Returning to Stiegler’s critique of Foucault’s concept of discipline, I suggest that this is not necessarily negative and dystopian disciplinary control, but rather might be understood in terms of the creation of a self able to concentrate and focus in the name of creation and construction. However, where university education is understood and practiced through neoliberal techno-logics defined by first information overload, rather than knowledge production, and second quantifiable results, rather than qualitative learning, I suggest that we enter the realm of the dystopian university, which forecloses space for creativity, and instead trains labourers, where the labourer is understood in terms of a hyper-rational machine that responds to input, but does not think for itself.

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