Academic research in the global knowledge economy: boundaries and power 

Eliel Cohen – The Policy Institute, King’s College London

November 15th, 2pm, UK time

Recording Available Here


The global knowledge society promotes the greater interaction and integration of universities with a range of non-academic actors and sectors, especially economic. Some see this as a desirable situation that allows academia to realise and enact its distinctive value and values. But others see this as evidence of universities’ subservience to powerful political and industry actors. Does the intensified crossing and blurring of academic boundaries suggest an undermining of academia’s true identity, distinctiveness and autonomy? Or is it evidence of the kind of flexibility and porosity that academic boundaries must be able to demonstrate if they are to thrive and survive in an age where universities must necessarily share power and control over the production and distribution of knowledge? In this presentation, I approach this debate through the metaphorical lens of academic ‘boundaries’, drawing on neo-Durkheimian concepts advanced by Mary Douglas and especially Basil Bernstein, with his conceptual triad of ‘boundaries’, ‘power’ and ‘control’. I also suggest a future line of Bernsteinian theory-building that supplements his notion of ‘power’ – which is explicitly grounded in the construction, reproduction and regulation of social boundaries – with Arendt’s notion of power in The Human Condition (Chapter 28).

Speaker Bio

Eliel Cohen is a sociologist focused on higher education. His research interests include: disciplinary identities and practices in teaching and research; the sociology and politics of academic knowledge; widening participation; the research-teaching relationship; curriculum theory; interrelations of student agency, belonging and well-being; the ‘impact agenda’; and critical realist social science.