Regimes of performance: practices of the normalised self in the neoliberal university

Morrissey, John
Morrissey, John. (2017). Regimes of performance: practices of the normalised self in the neoliberal university. In Stephen Ball (Ed.), Foucault and Education: Putting Theory to Work. New York: Routledge.
Universities today inescapably find themselves part of nationally and globally competitive networks that appear firmly inflected by neoliberal concerns of rankings, benchmarking and productivity. This, of course, has in turn led to progressively anticipated and regulated forms of academic subjectivity that many fear are overly econo-centric in design. What I wish to explore in this paper is how, emanating from prevailing neoliberal concepts of individuality and competitiveness, the agency of the contemporary academic is increasingly conditioned via ‘regimes of performance’, replete with prioritised claims of truth and practices of the normalised self. Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s writings on governmentality, and Judith Butler’s subsequent work on subjection, I use findings from a series of in-depth interviews with senior university managers at National University of Ireland, Galway to reflect upon the ways in which academics can respond effectively to the ascendant forms of neoliberal governmentality characterising the academy today. I contemplate the key task of articulating broader educational values, and conclude by considering the challenge of enacting alternative academic subjectivities and practices.
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