On “Against Capital,” by Stuart Lawson

On “Against Capital,” by Stuart Lawson

In the talk “Against Capital,” Stuart Lawson takes aim at the rhetoric of disruption and newness in scholarly communication. They argue that as long as we continue to subscribe to a capitalist and neoliberal higher education system, we will not achieve true progress in democratizing knowledge or reasserting control over the means of academic production. Lawson goes on to demonstrate how neoliberalism manifests in various elements of higher education. They write, “Neoliberalism in education is not just about the overtly financial things like tuition fees, it’s about enforcing a market-like way of thinking about every aspect of our behaviour” (n.p.). Lawson pinpoints technological developments like alt-metrics as tools for further neoliberalist development, rather than opportunities for working in more efficient, creative, or fair ways. They also focus on open access (OA) policy developments in the U.K. that have maintained corporate publisher profit margins or else affiliated OA with burdensome bureaucracy. But scholarly communication doesn’t have to develop in this way. As Lawson states:

… there are ways to move beyond the legacy systems of scholarly communication and use digital technology to open things up and make it easier and perhaps quicker for us to collectively do our work and push the boundaries of knowledge, but we do not need to rely on venture capital and similar methods of finance. (n.p.)

The answer, for Lawson, is straightforward: a socialist approach to scholarly communication.


Work cited

Lawson, Stuart. 2017. “Against Capital.” Proceedings of ReCon: Publishing for Early Career Researchers – Immortalisation, Recognition & Metrics. Edinburgh, Scotland. http://stuartlawson.org/2017/07/against-capital/

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