Solidarity, now! Care, Collegiality, and Comprehending the Power Relations of "Academic Kindness" in the Neoliberal Academy

Sarah Burton


Alongside scholarship on the distressing and damaging effects of the neoliberal academy there is now also increasing attention paid to the concept of “academic kindness”. This article examines ideas of un/kindness and their operation within the frameworks of the neoliberal university and theorises these in relation to already recognised structures of power and ideas of solidarity and care in the neoliberal academy. Rather than allowing kindness to remain a flat concept or simple salve to the problems of academic life, the article suggests that kindness operates in multiple forms – sometimes as a technology of dominant, hierarchical power and sometimes as resistance and solidarity. Looking at these varied forms of kindness in relation to central features of the contemporary neoliberal university, the article reveals the intimate ways that certain performances of kindness can function to uphold paradigms of neoliberalism and block solidarity. The article closes by questioning if the specific focus on “kindness” is useful when it comes to comprehending the harmful effects of neoliberal policies and work cultures and outlining how we might productively move away from “kindness talk” and towards modes of care which more radically resist and destabilise the unequal power hierarchies of the neoliberal university. 


academia; care; kindness; neoliberalism; power

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