For a political economy of massive open online courses




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Peer reviewed



In understanding the changes that are impacting the global higher education sector, developing a critique of the relationships between technology and technological innovation, new managerialism and financialisation, and the impact of the secular crisis of global capitalism is critical. Moreover, it is important to critique these changes historically and geographically, in order to understand how political economics shapes the space in which higher education policy and practice are recalibrated for capital accumulation and profitability. This article will argue that educational innovations such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) might usefully be examined in light of the relationships between technological and organisational innovation; the historical tendency of the rate of profit to fall that is affecting competing educational providers; the disciplinary role of the State in shaping an educational space for further capital accumulation; and the subsumption of open networks to the neo-liberal project of accumulation and profitability. Such an analysis then enables a critique of the claims that are made for open networks in delivering new forms of sociability that transcend structures of power and domination. As a result of this political economic critique, the article will situate the emergence of MOOCs inside and against Capital’s drive to subsume labour practices inside technologically mediated forms of coercion, command, and control. It will argue that the ways in which MOOCs and the services that are derived from them are then valorised might offer a glimpse of how the neoliberal educational project is disciplining academic labour and how it might be resisted.



academic labour, MOOC, open education, sociability, political economy, technological innovation


Hall, R. (2015) For a political economy of massive open online courses. Learning, Media and Technology, 40 (3), pp 265-286


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice
Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA)