Academic Capitalism: Distinguishing Without Disjoining Through Classification Schemes – Higher Education – article

Academic Capitalism: Distinguishing Without Disjoining Through Classification Schemes

Tiago Fonseca Albuquerque Cavalcant Sigahi, Patrícia Saltorato | Higher Education


Academic capitalism (AC) has become one of the most influential lines of research into markets in higher education (HE). However, researchers often use AC only as an umbrella term while key concepts remain superficially explored and intertwined topics treated disjointed. By means of a systematic literature review, our main contribution is the proposal of two classification schemes based on (a) analytical levels (macrostructural, organizational, and individual) and actors, and (b) themes and contributions (Exploration and reflection; Creation of theoretical framework; Research topics and applications; New trends). The idea that underlies both proposals is distinguishing without disjoining. Distinguishing is an operation that researchers can benefit from, while disjoining risks leading to blindness by not capturing the complexity of AC. Distinguishing analytical levels and actors provides a clearer view of how actors position themselves in the field, how they interconnect, and how their actions resonate at other levels. Distinguishing themes and contributions allows categorizing the wealth of research into smaller units for deeper analysis. Both contribute to researchers in positioning their theoretical contributions in the literature. This study may advance research not only on AC, but also in understanding the several ways the neoliberal restructure has been playing out in HE.


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