Symbiogenic Interaction: The State and University Development Rationalities

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Virginia Tech Publishing


I discuss the changes taking place in higher education in the United States. I argue that the changes in higher education are the result of a distinct development rationality termed academic capitalism by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades and not a neoliberalization dynamic. This process implies a different relationship to the state and society than other analyses would lead us to believe. I employ William Connolly’s concept of symbiogenesis to discuss how the dynamics of this relationship are displayed. Further, I employ Louis Althusser to explain the difference between ideology and rationality and then posit that the changes in higher education and state are not a shift in ideology but in rationality according to Wendy Brown. I argue that: (1) that the changes happening in universities cannot be merely the result of ‘neoliberalization’; (2) the dynamics inherent in the social changes of neoliberalism and academic capitalism are the result of a symbiogenesis as a response to the conditions of the new economy; and (3) neither neoliberalism nor academic capitalism can be understood as ideological shifts but must be understood in terms of rationalities that are redefining the interpretation of extant relationships that are the product of liberal ideology without positing new relationships implied by an ideological shift.




Stubberfield, A.T., 2016. Symbiogenic Interaction: The State and University Development Rationalities. Spectra, 5(2). DOI: