Careering through academia: securing identities or engaging ethical subjectivities?

Clarke, Caroline A. and Knights, David (2015). Careering through academia: securing identities or engaging ethical subjectivities? Human Relations, 68(12) pp. 1865–1888.



This paper reflects upon careering, securing identities and ethical subjectivities in academia in the context of audit, accountability and control surrounding new managerialism in UK Business Schools. Drawing upon empirical research, we illustrate how rather than resisting an ever-proliferating array of governmental technologies of power, academics chase the illusive sense of a secure self through ‘careering’; a frantic and frenetic individualistic strategy designed to moderate the pressures of excessive managerial competitive demands. Emerging from our data was an increased portrayal of academics as subjected to technologies of power and self, simultaneously being objects of an organizational gaze through normalizing judgements, hierarchical observations and examinations. Still this was not a monolithic response, as there were those who expressed considerable disquiet as well as a minority who reported ways to seek out a more embodied engagement with their work. In analyzing the careerism and preoccupation with securing identities that these technologies of visibility and self-discipline produce, we draw on certain philosophical deliberations and especially the later Foucault on ethics and active engagement to explore how academics might refuse the ways they have been constituted as subjects through new managerial regimes.

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