Indebted servitude – the work of ‘the calling’ in the new feudal professions

Amsler, Sarah (2012) Indebted servitude – the work of ‘the calling’ in the new feudal professions. In: The Human Significance of the 'Cuts': Reducing the 'Deficit' or Creating Subservient Human Beings?, December 2012, University of Salford.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper argues that, far from supporting an educational ‘calling’ in structural terms, the academic life (like many professions) is both a form of wage labour and, in certain cases, part of a neo-feudal economy in which growing numbers of working people remain permanently indebted to landlords and financial institutions, and increasingly accountable to both markets and the state. At the same time, however, many of those who work as academics in universities continue to cultivate and defend traditional principles of scholarly activity and aspire to pursue what remains for them an intellectual, social or moral vocation. Drawing on recent work about student debt and insights from the New Faculty Majority (a US organisation of adjunct academics), and on the frameworks of economic culture outlined in Weber and Boltanski and Chiapello, the paper asks whether the cultural image of ‘the academy’ as an educational and intellectual institution in fact legitimises market logics and managerial domination within universities, and ask whether there is any chance for it to operate as a critical force against these conditions within the universities themselves. [Paper given at ‘The University, the Scholar and the Student’ seminar series on Thinking the Present with Max Weber, British Sociological Association Max Weber Study Group, University of Salford, December 2012.]

Keywords:Max Weber, professions, academic labour, debt, neoliberalism
Subjects:L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
X Education > X300 Academic studies in Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:25553
Deposited On:06 Jan 2017 11:59

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