Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN18_08: Neoliberalism and the Political Economy of Culture Today
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Marisol Sandoval, City, University of London
Location: UP.4.209
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road

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Chicago Boys 2.0: The Expansion of Universities as New Imperialism in Higher Education

Thomas Allmer

University of Stirling, United Kingdom

Around the turn of the millennium, social theory rediscovered the idea of imperialism. Notions such as the ‘Empire’ (Hardt and Negri 2000), ‘New Imperialism’ (Harvey 2003), and ‘Empire of Capital’ (Wood 2003) appeared discussing in how far contemporary capitalism can be characterised as imperialist. This paper wants to revisit the discussion by applying the theoretical notion of imperialism to the example of global university practices. Universities play a central role in informational capitalism. The realm of academia is a specific subsystem of the information and knowledge sector. Universities nowadays aim to respond to market demands and compete on a global market for students through different practices including international recruitment programmes, satellite branches, and online education technologies (McGettigan 2013). While the official claim is to promote openness, inclusiveness and diversity, it can be considered as a further strategy to access the population of countries such as India, China and Indonesia. This sheds light on higher education as instrumental training for knowledge workers to make them fit for global capitalism (Ross 2009).

The overall aim of this paper is to analyse if and how global universities are engaged in quasi-imperialist practices and to contextualise universities within the global power structure of informational capitalism.

I address these aims based on a critical social theory approach. In particular, the paper firstly engages with different concepts of imperialism. It then analysis if and how global universities are engaged in quasi-imperialist practices by focusing on different case studies. Thirdly, critical education of global citizens is discussed as an alternative potential to the imperialist character of global universities. The paper concludes with a summary and discussion of further implications of the findings.

Risk Factors in Google’s SEC 10-K Filings: Financialisation, Markets and Public Interest

Paško Bilić1, Toni Prug2

1Institute for Development and International Relations, Croatia; 2Independent researcher

Financialisation is key to the development of new business models on the internet (Lazonick, 2009). Risky businesses promise high returns for capital investors, yet actual risk bearing is not proportional to financial awards and profits distributed to capital investors (Lazonick & Mazzucato, 2013). In this presentation, we provide a diachronic analysis of risk assessments reported by Google in its SEC 10-K filings between 2005 and 2017. Formally standardized risk assessments include information about significant risks that apply to companies and their securities. We used a simple “in vivo” document coding procedure to minimize our interpretative interventions and to code risks recorded under section headings (N=58). Based on the diachronic analysis we can discern three periods of Google’s development: (1) post IPO growth and expansion (2005-2008); (2) further growth, strengthening of the market position, and investment diversification (2009-2013); (3) increasing legal struggles and international regulatory scrutiny (2014-2017). Our historical reading shows that while public strategic orientation and investments are a necessary driving force, socializing risks to develop new advanced technologies, the presence of the discourse of public interest in financial regulations and the distribution of financial rewards do not reflect this. Financial capital creates inequalities in risk and reward distribution between actors interested in the economic performance of the company, neglecting actors affected by the business model of the company, ignoring the historical and contemporary aspects of public interest in risks and rewards associated with the development of new technologies.

Challenging the Primacy of 'the Digital' and Examining the Role of 'the Neoliberal' in the Practice and Study of Journalism Today

Isabel Awad

Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, The

Academic volumes and conferences keep telling us that the future of journalism is digital and, consequently, that a (new) technological framework is the key to understand changes in the news and its social impact. This paper argues that, while useful in some respects, this perspective significantly constraints journalism studies. As an alternative, the paper proposes a more thorough engagement with neoliberalism. It makes the case that switching the focus from (primarily) digital to (primarily) neoliberal enables us to deal more productively with crucial contemporary developments in journalism and to better address urgent calls for normative debates.

The first part of the paper examines the primacy of the digital in contemporary journalism studies. Although the literature acknowledges the existence of other socio-political factors shaping the conditions under which journalism operates, the dominant focus on technology obscures crucial socio-political forces. Moreover, the technological explanation tends to be a disruptive one that neglects historical continuities within journalism as well as relevant connections between journalism and other fields.

The second part of the paper underscores the advantages of a neoliberal framework. There have been valuable efforts linking neoliberalism and the news. However, for the most part, journalism scholars have treated neoliberalism as a top-down economic force rather than a rationality of self-government, one that pervades a diversity of spheres and actors of society. The paper shows how the latter conceptualization is particularly useful to understand and critique current developments in journalism, including crucial shifts toward participation, de-institutionalization, innovation and entrepreneurialism (Kreiss & Brennen, 2016).


Kreiss & Brennen (2016). Normative theories of digital journalism. In Witschge, Anderson, Domingo (Eds). The SAGE handbook of digital journalism (pp. 299–315).

Freelance Work in Media Industries: A Comparative Analysis of the UK and Turkey

Ezgi Kaya Hayatsever

Ankara University, Turkey

Freelance work, which involves flexible hours and intermittent contracts, gradually occupies a significant role in media and cultural industries particularly in advanced capitalist countries. However, the significance of freelance work in the labour market differs greatly with respect to an economy’s position in the international division of labour. This difference becomes even more pronounced in media and cultural sectors, in which the vulnerability and precariousness of working conditions vary across countries depending on how their media and cultural industries are located in the global economy. Hence, it becomes crucial to situate freelance work in particular economic and social contexts in order to shed light into the consequences of changing forms of employment.

This study attempts a comparative analysis of the state of freelance work in the UK and Turkey based on a combination of data from preceding studies as well as national and EU statistics. The preliminary survey of the available data will be used to map out the similarities and differences between the place occupied by freelance work as well as appraising the place of the media sector in freelance work in both economies. In the light of this appraisal, the study will try to distinguish in which capacity freelance work is integrated into media and cultural industries and the specific characteristics assumed by freelance work in accordance with the form of integration comparatively in the UK and in Turkey. The study aims to locate and understand the discrepancies between freelance work in media industries in these two economies in order to provide a basis for a cross-national assessment of the extent and significance of social change brought about by new forms of employment.

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