Tied Knowledge: Power in Higher Education

First published in 1998 on the web at http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/98tk/

Brian Martin


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Tied Knowledge is a book designed to provide a practical conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics of higher education. Using examples primarily from Australia, Britain and the United States, it examines power structures both outside and inside academia and how they interact and shape knowledge. These structures include hierarchy, disciplines, patriarchy, the state, capitalism and professions. Academia as a system of power itself both resists and accommodates these other power systems. The key resource used by the academics to promote their interests is the power to create and legitimate knowledge. By its form and content, this knowledge is tied to both the interests of academics and to those of powerful groups in society.

The book is neither pro nor anti-academia. Instead, it focusses on the structural factors shaping academic behaviour so that initiatives can strengthen and broaden the positive features of academia while trying to overcome the negative features. A key portion of the book is an examination and assessment of the main strategies that have been used to reform or challenge the nature and uses of academic power.

Full text in pdf, designed for printing

Print from front to back, double-sided, then fold it over like a booklet. Depending on your printer, you may need to invert every other page. Thanks to Dana Williams for preparing this version.



1 Introduction Motivation of the study. Summary of arguments. Personal background.

2 Academics Tied knowledge as a strategy for academics, and the many consequences of this for the nature of academia. Academic 'reforms'.

3 Hierarchy The internal power structure of academia. The consequences of academic hierarchy and competition. The external and internal beneficiaries of academic hierarchy. The Spautz case. Age discrimination. Challenges.

4 Disciplines The social construction of knowledge and knowledge boundaries. Specialisation. Academic power struggles. Interdisciplinary studies. Marxism.

5 Patriarchy Patriarchy as a social institution. The expression of patriarchy in academia. Challenges and alternatives.

6 The subjugation of students Sources of staff power. Alternatives.

7 Beliefs Standard academic beliefs about academia: individualism, neutrality, privilege and status quo.

8 The state The state takeover of higher education. The state as mediator of influences on universities. Specific uses of academic knowledge by the state. Academic adaptation to state funding. Trends influencing state-higher education relations. Alternatives to state funding.

9 Capitalism Capitalist influence on staffing, research, teaching and ideas. The limited impact of capitalist influence. The Ollman case.

10 Professions The nature of professions, and their links to other powerful groups. The case of nuclear knowledge. Alternatives to professional power.

11 Towards democracy? Problems with higher education. Self-management. The potential role of students, staff and outside groups.

12 Policy changes Examination of strategies for change via internal representation and via pressuring elites. Equal employment opportunity.

13 Critical teaching and research Examination of strategies for change via changing the content or form of teaching, and research. Staff and student initiatives.

14 Building alternatives Building alternative education outside existing organisations. Examples. Limitations.

15 Social movements The potential for retying knowledge by linking educational efforts with social movements.

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Over the years, I have gained insights about academia through discussions and correspondence from so many people that it is impossible to name them all. In addition, it is impossible to name all the authors whose writings have stimulated my thinking and increased my understanding about higher education. Suffice it to say that academic culture sustains a significant self-critical element on which I have drawn extensively.

Here I will name only those individuals who have provided specific help and advice in the writing of this book. The following people helped through extensive discussions of their views about aspects of higher education or providing advice and references: Alex Anderson, David Biggins, John Buchanan, Jean Buckley-Moran, Clare Burton, Jane Connors, Alastair Crombie, Cheryl Hannah, Ann Hone, Andrew Hopkins, Katherine Jensen, Ian Lowe, Simon Marginson, Jill Matthews, Elizabeth McKenzie, Val Plumwood, Larry Saha, Ariel Salleh, Marian Sawer, Ian Watson and Lance Worrall. Jill Bowling helped enormously by listening to me describe the outline of each chapter before writing it, and by offering numerous helpful suggestions. Valuable comments and corrections on selected chapters were offered by Gay Baldwin, Jeff Masson, Bertell Ollman, Mike Spautz and Barbara Watson. Detailed comments on the entire manuscript were provided by Phil Anderson, Gabriele Bammer, Jill Bowling, Clyde Manwell, Helen Modra and Wendy Varney. Barbara Ferigo put an enormous effort into converting the text from one computer system to another.

To the very many others not named here who have provided insights, inspiration and support in all sorts of ways, I also say: thank you.