The Knowledge Contract: Politics and Paradigms in the Academic Workplace

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The Knowledge Contract intervenes in the ongoing debates about the changing conditions of higher education in America, with a special focus on English studies and the humanities. This highly original study integrates three crucial concerns: the economic restructuring of higher education, the transformation of disciplinary models of teaching and research, and the rise of the academic labor movement. Whereas most contemporary critiques of higher education have focused on the impact of global economic forces, The Knowledge Contract adds a new dimension to the discussion by addressing the tensions between disciplinary and nondisciplinary forms of academic work. David B. Downing draws on several traditions of scholarship: histories of the university, sociological studies of education, critiques of disciplinary and interdisciplinary forms of work, histories of academic capitalism and the labor movement, and field-specific analyses of the history of English studies. Building on his analysis, Downing develops alternative possibilities to the dominance of disciplinary forms of labor and offers scenarios for creating more equitable working and learning conditions for faculty and students.