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Re: <nettime> Douglas Belkin, Caroline Porter: Corporate Cash Alters
Brian Holmes on Mon, 14 Apr 2014 21:48:17 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Douglas Belkin, Caroline Porter: Corporate Cash Alters



On 04/13/2014 03:41 PM, © Robbins wrote:

Actually these "trends" have been recognized as in existence for
far longer . Relative to my own experience on the academy ( in
California, ) their both overt and covert "influence" relative to
the directives of curricula has been exercised since the mid-'90's

Yeah, it would be interesting to hear more about it, how you saw it
happening. I guess there are a lot of avenues.

In the US, corporate influence over curriculum and facilities (labs,
research centers) undoubtedly goes somehow back to the origins of the
giant corporation in the early twentieth century. But it ramped up a
serious notch during WWII. Here's David Noble in his book Forces of
Production:

“By 1944, the government was spending $700 million per year on
research, ten times the 1938 amount. In 1940, 70 percent of government
research took place in government facilities; by 1944 70 percent of
it was being performed in non-government facilities – 50 percent by
private firms and 20 percent by university personnel. Of the two
thousand industrial firms awarded a total of $1 billion in contracts,
eighty-six received two-thirds of that and ten almost 40 percent.
During the war, the Bell Labs received $42 million and General Motors
$39 million in contracts, along with patent rights. Among the academic
institutions, the largest contractors were the elite universities
such as MIT ($56 million), California Institute of Technology ($40
million), Columbia ($15 million) and Harvard ($10 million). For
the people who would come to dominate postwar science, a military
orientation and an indulgent policy of performance at any cost had
become an attractive way of life.”

What Noble is describing is the military-industrial-academic complex
- the three were inseparable during the first half of the Cold War.
By the '60s, students in SDS had identified the degree to which their
universities were instrumental to what was happening in Vietnam, so
you got the bombing of the math building in Madison, and also the
break-in to the chancellor's office during the Columbia strike of
1968, which was done in order to find out about the University's
war contracts. Shortly after that, Carl Davidson wrote a series of
great pamphlets gathered under the title "The New Radicals in the
Multiversity" which offers a look into the best SDS analysis of the
corporate university in the 60's.

As far as I can tell, all that resulted in the switch to a more
stealth approach to the universities by both the corporations and
the government. The Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 made it possible (and
practically necessary) for profs to patent discoveries, and then we
saw the phenomenon of small start-ups that corps would just buy out
when the technology started to get interesting. Another thing was
that agencies like DARPA would deliberately fund what are called
"dual use technologies," so it looks like you're working on something
for a civilian use, but really, the agency has another plan for
that. Outright military and corporate funding did not disappear,
but more and more of the university science apparatus got converted
to corporate ends through this arm's length approach. And then in
the 2000s, when the resistance had completely dissipated, you again
see things like BP or Aventis just practically buying a department
(that happened at Berkeley and Stanford, but you can find a thousand
examples).

The difference is that now, with the budgetary crisis and austerity
measures, the whole structure of the universities is being revamped,
with a move to cut costs, introduce online education and largely get
rid of the troublesome interpretative disciplines where there are no
jobs anyway (since only public funds can produce those kinds of jobs).
That's not gonna happen at the elite universities (rich folks need to
own their culture) but it is happening at state schools where the vast
majority of USians are educated. To understand the theory, you can
read the book "The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher
Education from the Inside Out," by Clayton Christensen. Or better,
don't waste your time, just get some three-page summary and that's the
basic idea.

So there is a specific difference in the present, there really is a
"new trend." But it fits in a long history.

best, Brian




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