Emerging neoliberal academic identities: Looking beyond Homo economicus

Claire Skea*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article, I deal with the notion of ‘academic identity’ holistically, seeking to bring together the teacher and researcher roles of academics in the neoliberal university. The article begins from the perspective of early-career academics who occupy the majority of fixed-term, teaching-only contracts in Higher Education, arguing that such casualisation of academic labour entrenches the role of the academic as Homo economicus. Drawing on the work of Foucault, I demonstrate how a neoliberal governmentality is now not only exerted upon academics from without, but increasingly they are subjecting themselves to the logic of efficiency and effectiveness too. The neoliberal governmentality of the university thus influences and shapes academic subjectivities, such that what it means to be an academic is confined to this marketised logic. Despite the pressures placed on academics to ‘produce’ measurable outputs and demonstrate their impact, I argue that moving beyond Homo economicus is possible, arguing instead for a re-claiming of ‘the academic’ as Homo academicus. The idea of Homo academicus can only be supported when three conditions are present: collegiality is afforded greater importance than competition; the discourses of ‘productivity’ and performativity are balanced against simply ‘doing good work well’ (Pirrie in Virtue and the quiet art of scholarship, Routledge, London, 2019), and; academics are mindful to practice the ‘quieter’ intellectual virtues, including the virtue of ‘unknowing’ (Smith in J Philos Educ 50:272–284, 2016).

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Early online date26 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • academic identity
  • early-career academics
  • Foucault
  • Homo economicus
  • unknowing


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