Dancing with the Devil? Notes on a Free University
‘The Factory’, ‘the Bazaar’, ‘the Temple’, ‘the Oasis’… These are some of the metaphors that seek to capture the essence of the Western university. Such metaphors reflect both defeatist resignation – ‘the Factory’ – and a shimmering vision of a protected zone where knowledge can be sought for its own sake –‘the Oasis’. The more positive metaphors seek to describe a place where the theoretic desire, the desire to theorise without restrictions, is legitimate and is the single driving force. This is the academy where the most learned meet the most curious. Lehr- und Lernfreiheit, as one said in times past in Germany, referring to the freedom of lecturers to deal with what they chose to, and the freedom of students to choose their own courses. In such visions of the university, dogmatic answers are forbidden and only new questions that follow and engender one another are allowed. This is an intellectual culture that transcends private industry’s need for compliant wage slaves and the state’s desire to foster loyal citizens; it is a culture unconcerned with profit, one without demands for results and foolish evaluations and the distribution of stamps of quality. In this view, the university is not equated with a private company, and the education of students is not considered remotely similar to the process of manufacturing sausages.
Keywords: Anti-Intellectualism, Autonomy, Corporate University, Flying University, Free University, Lehr-Und Lernfreiheit, Independence, May 1968, Post-Modern University
Senior Lecturer, University of Gävle
Department of Business, Uppsala University