On the abolition of intellectual leadership




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Bloomsbury Academic


Book chapter

Peer reviewed



This chapter pivots around the role of the professor in reproducing the pathological cultures and methodological rhythms the University, in its search for value-for-money, impact, excellence, entrepreneurship and maintenance of business-as-usual. It argues that this role is shaped in relation to the desires of academic commodity production, hierarchical divisions of labour, intellectual property rights and the market. For those who govern, regulate and fund higher education the idealised identity of the professor enables the measurement, sorting and separation of individuals, disciplines, institutions and national sectors. As a result, the reality for many staff is one of intellectual production imminent to the illogic of competition in a prestige economy, which modulates University work. Here, this prestige economy is described in terms of the dynamics of the peloton in professional cycling, in which knowledge production is dependent upon toxic cultures of self-harm that are shaped through demands for endless self-sacrifice and overwork. Thus, in spite of the potential for co-operation, the habitual compulsion to compete drives hopeless academic existences precisely because economic obligations negate humanity. The precarity of the generalised, academic experience is framed against the compulsive tendencies to over-perform idealised in the entrepreneurial professorial identity and its reproduction of hegemonic knowledge production. In arguing that this is a hopeless position, the argument contends that such intellectual leadership needs a new way of being, knowing and doing in the world, predicated upon its abolition. Crucially, without abolition, intellectual work has no way of engaging meaningfully with intersecting crises of social reproduction.



Abolition, Alienation, Competition, Intellectual work, Intellectual leadership, Professoriate


Hall, R. (2022) On the abolition of intellectual leadership. In: Fitzgerald, T., Gunter, H.and London, Nixon J. (Eds.) Intellectual leadership, higher education and precarious times, London: Bloomsbury Academic


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice