Jenga, Kafka, and the Triumph of Academic Capitalism: A Taxonomy of Scholars and their COVID Capital

Cantrell, Kate ORCID: and Palmer, Kelly (2020) Jenga, Kafka, and the Triumph of Academic Capitalism: A Taxonomy of Scholars and their COVID Capital. Axon: Creative Explorations, 10 (2).

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As universities around Australia sever entire schools and faculties, others face collapse entirely. An over-dependence on international revenue and an unhappy marriage with the federal government had many universities already feeling some discomfort before COVID-19 exacerbated the pain. Whether universities rapidly decline, or languish and recover, they will undoubtedly see more violent restructuring as they transition into the recovery and renewal phase. In the meantime, the absence of any tangible assistance from the government, combined with mostly short-sighted cost reduction strategies, mean that a sector-wide crisis has now been left to individual universities to manage alone. As Teresa Tija et al. explain, ‘The immediate response of Australian universities was to defer capital works spending, reduce non-salary expenditure, scale back the use of casual and fixed-term staff, and introduce other short-term measures’ (2020: 3). These emergency surgeries, which in many cases have been performed without anaesthesia, reveal that universities need a more innovative ethical strategy for triaging and treating the many systemic disorders that the virus has not only aggravated but also exposed. As several academics have already observed, Australian universities were sick before the pandemic (Kunkler 2020; Zaglas 2020). Indeed, the commodification and destruction of ‘all the collective institutions capable of counteracting the effects of the infernal machine’ (Bourdieu 1998: 4) ensures that those commodified most — that is, the precariat — can do little to save the university from its self-cannibalising tendencies.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version deposited in accordance with a Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 license.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Creative Arts (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions - Centre for Health Research (1 Apr 2020 -)
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2021 23:54
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2021 23:15
Uncontrolled Keywords: academia; COVID-19; higher education; neoliberalism; the precariat
Fields of Research (2008): 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing > 190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)
Fields of Research (2020): 36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3602 Creative and professional writing > 360203 Professional writing and journalism practice
36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3602 Creative and professional writing > 360201 Creative writing (incl. scriptwriting)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280122 Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies

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