The Death of Public Knowledge?
How Free Markets Destroy the General Intellect
274 pp., 5 x 8 in, 2 b&w illus.
- Published: June 9, 2017
- Published: August 4, 2017
A collection of short, sharp essays exploring the value of shared and accessible public knowledge in the face of its erosion.
The Death of Public Knowledge argues for the value and importance of shared, publicly accessible knowledge, and suggests that the erosion of its most visible forms, including public service broadcasting, education, and the network of public libraries, has worrying outcomes for democracy.
With contributions from both activists and academics, this collection of short, sharp essays focuses on different aspects of public knowledge, from libraries and education to news media and public policy. Together, the contributors record the stresses and strains placed upon public knowledge by funding cuts and austerity, the new digital economy, quantification and target-setting, neoliberal politics, and inequality. These pressures, the authors contend, not only hinder democracies, but also undermine markets, economies, and social institutions and spaces everywhere.
Covering areas of international public concern, these polemical, accessible texts include reflections on the fate of schools and education, the takeover of public institutions by private interests, and the corruption of news and information in the financial sector. They cover the compromised Greek media during recent EU negotiations, the role played by media and political elites in the Irish property bubble, the compromising of government policy by corporate interests in the United States and Korea, and the squeeze on public service media in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States.
Individually and collectively, these pieces spell out the importance of maintaining public, shared knowledge in all its forms, and offer a rallying cry for doing so, asserting the need for strong public, financial, and regulatory support.
Toril Aalberg, Ian Anstice, Philip Augar, Rodney Benson, Aeron Davis, Des Freedman, Wayne Hope, Ken Jones, Bong-hyun Lee, Colin Leys, Andrew McGettigan, Michael Moran, Aristotelis Nikolaidis, Justin Schlosberg, Henry Silke, Roger Smith, Peter Thompson, Janine R. Wedel, Karel Williams, Kate Wright
Democracy relies on the idea that well-informed citizens can make free choices. But what if good information is in retreat? How counter-intuitive that public knowledge might be in decline, in an age where everyone can, in theory, access anything at the click of a mouse. But who controls the information, and how it is disseminated, lies at the heart of this collection of global studies from PERC. If democracy feels in peril, here's one reason why.
Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist
The Death of Public Knowledge? is, paradoxically, an impassioned call for its revival. The contributions cover a broad range of vital social institutions, from libraries to legal firms and financial markets. The writing is sharp, insightful, and often revelatory. A necessary book.
Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University
The truth is a precious thing. While technology has opened up fields of knowledge previously hidden, political and economic forces are actively privatizing and discrediting scientific and other expertise, barring public access to the truth. Fortunately we still have amongst us brave truth-seekers, including the authors of this book, who shine a light on this privatized darkness, and in the process provide readers with the information needed to defend our civilization. If you are a truth-seeker, then this book is a vital read.
Ann Pettifor, Director, PRIME Economics
The erosion of public knowledge is, by definition, an obscure process. The writers here have done sterling work in showing how reliable, timely and pertinent information is being leached from one field of our collective life after another. Truth and politics have always been an uneasy fit. But the fantastical nature of much public speech is becoming impossible to ignore. This collection helps to bring context and clarity to the 'post-truth' movement. It could hardly be more timely.
Dan Hind, author of The Return of the Public: Democracy, Power and the Case for Media Reform