Universities’ direct subordination to capital’s accumulation

Séminaire ACIDES du 16 janvier 2018, Cecilia Rikap (Université de Buenos Aires et IFRIS) et Hugo Harari-Kermadec (IDHES, ENS Cachan)

It was not until recently that universities became direct participants of capital’s accumulation processes, even if they had historically contributed to the reproduction of capitalism. Our aim in this article is precisely to contribute to acknowledge this transformation by further developing a theoretical explanation integrated to a Marxist analysis of today capitalism. In particular, following Levín (1997), we distinguish that a portion of world’s social capital has monopolized the capacity to plan and profit from innovation. The wide gap between capitals’ innovation capacity leaves those non-innovative with no other option but to accept being dominated and planned. It is in this context that we will suggest that universities’ integrate to direct capital’s accumulation structures. To do so, we will conceptually distinguish two successive transformations of universities: 1) the internal transformation of academic labor, adapting itself towards capitalist production processes, and 2) their adoption of capital enterprises’ characteristics resulting in exchanges of their products (teaching and research results), including the different bargaining power they have to decide the conditions of those exchanges. Considering the latter, we argue that universities’ adoption of capital enterprises’ characteristics can be better understood as a differentiated process. We suggest three types of differentiated market-university, according to the different capital enterprises in Levín’s (1997) typology. Our concluding remarks refer to a further research and political agenda triggered by the general framework developed throughout the article.

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