Noam Chomsky famously remarked that a common characteristic of letters columns in technical scientific journals is their failure to explain the properties of controlled scientific experiments. The inability of scientists to explain away certain phenomena carried out under controlled conditions inevitably means that a lot of things are going to be unexplained.
Moreover, some things simply cannot be explained. Instead, lay people are prone to search for explanations that reinforce their preconceived notions. This is the basis for confirmation bias. Events have to appear to be controlled by an all-seeing, all-powerful force in order to become understandable – hence the propensity for the kind of conspiracy theories, espoused by the likes of the 9/11 truth movement.
Lay people often have a desire to want to fill in the gaps in scientific knowledge by exploiting coincidences and promoting unsubstantiated theories. Convoluted and complex explanations to unresolved problems that fit a simplified narrative conform to our need to be reassured that the things we see and experience with our own senses embody the real, material world. But, as Karl Marx observed, appearances can often be deceiving. To establish the true meaning of events we need to understand their essence.
A way to grasp this is to use the analogy of human beings’ relationship to the Earth. From our perspective on the planet, it appears that the orb in which we inhabit is stable and the sun revolves around it. But science has proved that in essence, the reverse is true. “If essence and appearance coincided,” Marx astutely remarked, “there would be no need for science.” In order to properly understand phenomena, we need to look beneath the surface of events by evaluating them holistically.
However, implicit to the neoliberal view of the world, is the need to compartmentalize everything into easily understandable ideologically-driven concepts. In business schools, for example, multi-disciplinary and holistic approaches to the subject are often actively discouraged. Instead, a reductionist business ethos is preferred. Taking the argument one step further, professor Martin Parker, author of ‘Shut Down The Business School – What’s Wrong With Management Education’, notes it’s this ethos that is integral to the corporate takeover of universities.
Implicit to the neoliberal view of the world, is the need to compartmentalize everything into easily understandable ideologically-driven concepts.
According to Professor Parker, the world’s business schools are dangerous and corrosive institutions that teach a particular model of capitalism to the exclusion of all other alternatives. Parker argues that the effective privatization of the university sector in the UK and elsewhere has been enabled by the business school which has introduced a set of rigid management practices and ways of thinking about finance that’s gradually come to constitute universities to the point that it now structures them. Universities increasingly regard themselves not only as commercial concerns involved in numerous quasi-business practices, but organisations that use management and business language to explain how they do what they do.
Professor Parker likens business schools to a virus that’s been injected into universities, re-configuring them into their own pro-capitalist image.
Economics in this setting not only privileges a neoliberal conception of the discipline, but also underplays any notion that the economic sphere is inseparable from wider society and politics. Inter-disciplinary or holistic approaches to understanding the world, scientifically, are rejected in favour of the application of a rigid socioeconomic model. Rather than adopting an inclusive approach to business that encompasses democratic socialist alternatives, the role of the business school – and increasingly educational establishments more broadly – is to reproduce regimented neoliberal ways of thinking.
Professor Parker adds:
“What is taught in the vast majority of the 13,000 business schools on the planet is entirely pro-capitalist. Effectively they might as well re-name these things schools for capitalism because that’s what they do.”
The corporate takeover of universities by business schools and the neoliberal ideology that underpins them, is almost complete. Universities are becoming spaces sponsored by corporate benefactors which benefit materially from the kinds of knowledge produced in these spaces. In return for huge sums of corporate cash, the former sing to their paymasters tune by producing a form of knowledge that presents the corporation in a positive light. As such, the pro-business managerialism model for organizing society has become its default position.
The corporate takeover of universities by business schools and the neoliberal ideology that underpins them, is almost complete.
The neoliberal prevailing orthodoxy extends far beyond business, limiting the capacity for humans to exercise their creativity. Arising from the Orwellian ashes, the implication for wider society is terrifying. Under successive Labour and Conservative governments over the last four decades, the state has felt increasingly confident in being able to stampede over all forms of dissent. This process, as John Pilger acknowledges, “has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship.”
The latest manifestation of the establishments growing totalitarian confidence has been the draconian imprisonment on September, 26 of three anti-fracking activists. Independent journalist and former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, noted that the judge in the case, Robert Altham, is almost certainly closely linked to Althams, a company supplying the offshore oil and gas industry.
The imprisonment of the activists is, as journalist Ian Crane noted, the first time in over a century environmental protesters have been jailed for peaceful activism in Britain.
It would appear that repressive, even violent, state power is the order of the day for a Tory government that constantly promotes its dubious democratic credentials whilst condemning a country like Russia for the supposed lack of theirs.
In a perverse statement, judge Altham said: “The defendants have a serious concern for the environment but see the public as necessary and justified collateral damage.”
But as Ian Crane noted:
“This is precisely how the unconventional gas companies view the ten million-plus people who live in the sacrifice zone in the north of England…They [the gas companies] just want to get on and frack the geology with total disregard for the collateral impact on the wider community.”
“The civil liberties people feel they have the right to enjoy are being removed.”
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