Mika Pekkola: Neoliberal Politics of Innovation and its Opposition at the University: The Case of Finland (PDF)

Mika Pekkola: Neoliberal Politics of Innovation and its Opposition at the University: The Case of Finland (PDF)
The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2009)

The current struggle waged for the control of education is of utmost importance for the Establishment bent on reshaping society according to market needs and ideals. No longer can we live under the illusion that higher education is a marginal phenomenon of importance only to those inside the academia; on the contrary, the new capitalist economy sets new standards for the exploitation of knowledge. As the neoliberal form of globalisation pushes industry to countries with cheap production costs and weak labour rights, universities have an important social task to fulfil: to provide material for “innovations” through research so that economic growth can be sustained. Geared to the corporate demands, these “knowledge factories” occupy a central role in the economy based increasingly on immaterial production. However, the appeal to the “social role” of the universities is, nothing more than manipulative rhetorics to hide the fact that it is not society as a whole which benefits from this state of affairs, but corporations seeking strategic advantages over their competitors on the markets.

However, as the implications of the marriage between the university and the corporate world are becoming more and more obvious, a global opposition is rising. This opposition acknowledges that universities have always had their social roles to fulfil and that, for example, under State guidance academic freedom was similarly repressed. However, there is a growing consensus that the current neoliberal reforms represent a new kind of threat to universities. Some critics appeal to the traditional educational role of universities; others seek to redefine the tasks and aims of the coming universities in a more radical fashion.[1] Furthermore, student movements across the world are engaged in building conditions for the democratisation of universities.

The case of Finland offers an illustrating example of both the systemic attempts to reform higher education along the lines of neoliberal politics of innovation and the growing opposition against this trend. According to the plans of the current centre-rightist government Finland is supposed to be the leading country of innovation in the near future. Given the long tradition of bureaucratic consensus politics and the relatively low degree of citizen activism, the elites have a fairly good chance to realise their vision. However, a resistance is rising also at the Finnish universities against the elites’ plans. In this article an attempt is made to highlight certain details and implications of the global struggle for the control of education through the understanding of the Finnish case.

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Neoliberal Politics of Innovation and its Opposition at the University - The Case of Finland.pdf117.73 KB