On March 4, 2023, Taavi Sundell, a researcher in the MIGDIA project, defended his doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. The dissertation is titled “Contingent Logics of Capitalism in Contemporary Academia: A Case for a Post-Foundational Political Economy of Higher Education” (Unigrafia, Helsinki 2023). You can read the full article-based dissertation on the subject here.
Across the world, universities are increasingly seen as institutions primarily meant to promote economic goals, ranging from individual students’ income levels to global economic competitiveness. This shift has often been argued to require the economisation of universities and their activities.
In his dissertation, Sundell develops a Laclauian post-foundational approach to the political economy of higher education. He applies this approach to critically analyse this theme in three research contexts: Finland, Jordan, and the international debate surrounding scientific open access publishing and the Plan-S initiative. The dissertation consists of a theoretical-methodological introduction and four published peer-reviewed scientific articles.
Overall, the dissertation argues that critical research on universities, the economy, and their relationships should focus more on the struggles over their meaning, especially the multiplicity of possible meanings which can be attributed to them and how these produce various significantly different academic worlds. From its post-foundational perspective, the dissertation asks not so much “what” universities, the economy, and their relationships mean but “how” they have come to mean what they do.