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Palgrave Macmillan

The Alienated Academic

The Struggle for Autonomy Inside the University

  • Book
  • © 2018


  • Uses Marx's critical theoretical domain of alienation and applies to the identity of the academic
  • Reflects on the possibilities for reproducing autonomy and new forms of subjectivity against and beyond the neoliberal University
  • Links to wider debates of financialisation and marketisation of the higher education sector

Part of the book series: Marxism and Education (MAED)

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About this book

Higher education is increasingly unable to engage usefully with global emergencies, as its functions are repurposed for value. Discourses of entrepreneurship, impact and excellence, realised through competition and the market, mean that academics and students are increasingly alienated from themselves and their work. This book applies Marx’s concept of alienation to the realities of academic life in the Global North, in order to explore how the idea of public education is subsumed under the law of value. In a landscape of increased commodification of higher education, the book explores the relationship between alienation and crisis, before analysing how academic knowledge, work, identity and life are themselves alienated. Finally, it argues that through indignant struggle, another world is possible, grounded in alternative forms of organising life and producing socially-useful knowledge, ultimately requiring the abolition of academic labour. This pioneering work will be of interest andvalue to all those working in the higher education sector, as well as those concerned with the rise of neoliberalism and marketization within universities.

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Table of contents (9 chapters)

  1. The Terrain of Academic Labour

  2. The Terrain of Academic Alienation

  3. A Terrain for Overcoming Alienation


“I believe this book to be written for a specific audience, one that is, just like academia in the UK continues to be, predominantly white and male. … the book appears to be a significant contribution in understanding the alienation of academics, the role academic labour plays in it, and how a categorical critique of the nature of academic labour is crucial to move beyond it.” (Svenja Helmes, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, February 11, 2020)

“It covers a lot of ground in 270 pages, drawing widely from contemporary Marxist theory as well as an extensive engagement with Marx’s original work. It provides a useful survey of the concept of alienation and argues for the continuing and contemporary relevance of Marxist theory and its basic categories of labour, value, the commodity, subsumption and soon. … For these reasons, this is a unique and ground-breaking monograph in the field of critical university studies.” (Joss Winn, Postdigital Science and Education, January, 2, 2019)​

Authors and Affiliations

  • De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom

    Richard Hall

About the author

Richard Hall is Professor of Education and Technology at De Montfort University, UK, and a UK National Teaching Fellow.

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