Originally published in Engineering Culture: On ‘The Author as (Digital) Producer.
Edited by Geoff Cox & Joasia Krysa (New York: Autonomedia, 2005).

The advent of ‘Academia Inc.’, aka ‘Corporate U’, is no longer an ominous prospect but an accomplished fact. Over the last twenty-five years, the universities of advanced capitalism have been metamorphosed, the shell of the ivory tower broken, and higher education firmly entrained to market-driven economic growth – in particular, to the development of high-technology industries. Universities are now frankly conceived and funded by policy elites as research facilities and training grounds for the creation of the new intellectual properties and technocultural subjectivities necessary to a post-Fordist accumulation regime. Academic traditionalists and faculty activists alike have clearly identified the dangers of this development: while the formal liberal democratic protections of academic autonomy – from tenure to civil rights guarantees – remain in place, opportunities for the practical exercise of such freedoms contract, as programme funding, research grants and curricula structuring are determined by their utility to the knowledge-for-profit economy (Newson & Buchbinder 1988; Aronowitz 2000; Ruch 2001; Slaughter 1999).

Warranted as such condemnations are, they often, however, overlook an obverse aspect of Academia Inc., a verso of which their critiques are actually symptomatic. For recent years have seen the emergence within universities of new movements and modes of struggles against marketisation, provoked by cognitive capital’s expropriation of the university, mobilising the very constituencies of students and faculty commercialisation has summoned into being, and reappropriating the same technologies – especially digital networks – for which Academia Inc. has been an incubator. Continuing a discussion of these ambivalent dynamics begun several years ago in my Cyber-Marx, and recently independently renewed by Tiziana Terranova and Marc Bousquet, this essay examines the changing configuration of academia through the lens of some theoretical categories of autonomist Marxism: ‘general intellect’, ‘cognitive capitalism’, ‘immaterial labour’, ‘biopower’ and ‘multitude’ (Dyer-Witheford 1999; Bousquet & Terranova 2004). Its analysis is inevitably coloured by my situation as a professor of information and media studies in a mid-sized Canadian university, but I hope to extrapolate general tendencies relevant to a European as well as a North American context; I say ‘hope’ in all senses of the term, since my ultimate argument is that the success of business in subsuming universities paradoxically opens the campus to intensified confrontation between cognitive capitalism and the emergent forces of what I term ‘species-being’ movements.

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