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Hardcover | $24.95 Trade | £19.95 | 176 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | 1 b&w illus. | February 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036078
eBook | $17.95 Trade | February 2017 | ISBN: 9780262339445
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Knowledge for Sale

The Neoliberal Takeover of Higher Education


A new philosophy of higher education has taken hold in institutions around the world. Its supporters disavow the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and argue that the only knowledge worth pursuing is that with more or less immediate market value. Every other kind of learning is downgraded, its budget cut. In Knowledge for Sale, Lawrence Busch challenges this market-driven approach.

The rationale for the current thinking, Busch explains, comes from neoliberal economics, which calls for reorganizing society around the needs of the market. The market-influenced changes to higher education include shifting the cost of education from the state to the individual, turning education from a public good to a private good subject to consumer demand; redefining higher education as a search for the highest-paying job; and turning scholarly research into a competition based on metrics including number of citations and value of grants. Students, administrators, and scholars have begun to think of themselves as economic actors rather than seekers of knowledge.

Arguing for active resistance to this takeover, Busch urges us to burst the neoliberal bubble, to imagine a future not dictated by the market, a future in which there is a more educated citizenry and in which the old dichotomies—market and state, nature and culture, and equality and liberty—break down. In this future, universities value learning and not training, scholarship grapples with society’s most pressing problems rather than quick fixes for corporate interests, and democracy is enriched by its educated and engaged citizens.

About the Author

Lawrence Busch is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University and the author of Standards: Recipes for Reality (MIT Press)


“More than just a call to arms in the fight against the increasingly pervasive idea that higher education needs to be run like a business, this book lays out a plan for how the fight might be won. It is essential reading for anyone who believes that the only market that has any place in our institutions of learning is the marketplace of ideas.”
Gregory A. Petsko, Arthur J. Mahon Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University
Knowledge for Sale could not have appeared at a more important time. Under attack from market-driven approaches, higher education is surrendering its role as a crucial public good. Lawrence Busch not only provides a crucial rationale for defending higher education as an important public sphere, he also offers one of the most brilliant and detailed maps of the diverse forces at work in corporatizing higher education, transforming it into an institution that mimics the culture of business and the crude imperatives of capital. This book may be the best and most important book yet written on the disastrous effect neoliberalism has had in transforming all aspects of higher education into an adjunct of corporate control defined by agents of privatization, deregulation, and commodification.”
Henry A. Giroux, McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest; author of Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education
“In this beautifully crafted book Lawrence Busch incisively explores how neoliberalism has undercut the freedom of the academy. It is essential reading for all who care about independent thought in a ‘post-truth’ era.”
John Law, Emeritus Professor, Open University
“Lawrence Busch’s Knowledge for Sale is a powerful analysis of the way economic sciences have constructed neoliberalism and consequently restructured colleges and universities worldwide. Busch covers everything from administration to public engagement and extension, while dwelling on education: teaching and research. The book deals with highly complex concepts in a clear and accessible manner. It is a must for individuals and groups that want to change higher learning.”
Sheila Slaughter, Louise McBee Professor of Higher Education, Institute of Higher Education, University of Georgia