Andrea Smith on the Academic Industrial Complex

I’m taking a break from writing my essay on Fanon/Arendt to post an interesting essay I read by Andrea Smith on the similarities nonprofit industrial complex and the academic industrial complex. Here’s the link:

Social-Justice Activism in the Academic Industrial Complex, Andrea Smith.

She begins by invoking Althusser and Bourdieu in their commentary in the reproduction of capitalist logic in education / the social capital of the degree:

“Louis Althusser argued that educational systems are an “ideological state
apparatus” by which the capitalist system reproduces itself ideologically. “Education”
is not innocent or neutral, it is designed to teach peoples to be subject to
colonial and capitalist structures. Similarly, as Pierre Bourdieu elaborates, dominating
classes assure their position through not only domination over economic
capital but over cultural capital, a form of domination that enables them to
secure the terms of discourse and knowledge to their benefit. The educational
system is particularly important in the reproduction of symbolic capital under
capitalism.” (141)

She then calls out the bullshit ideological structures of the academic-industrial complex / nonprofit industrial complex:

Just as the academic industrial complex tells us we must devote our lives to the academy,
so too does the nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC) tell us that activism is a
full-time career.
A significant problem for anyone doing organizing work is that
many of the social-justice movements in the United States happen out of the
context of the nonprofit industrial complex. Activists and organizers often have
difficulty conceiving of developing organizing structures outside this model.
At the same time, however, social-justice organizations across the country are
critically rethinking their investment in the 501(c)(3) system.” (143)

  • NPIC 501(c)(3) systems are unsustainable and rely and state mediated capitalist structures, ultimately fucking over people of color, queers, and poor people. It also fucks our organizing efforts by teaching us how to write funding proposals rather than ORGANIZING/SURVIVAL STRATEGIES.
  • The academic industrial complex makes us complicit in the logic of capitalism by seeing the University as a neutral institution. The university teaches us how to MISMANAGE our work, become overwhelmed, anxious, worry about being the best, brilliant, scrutinize our writing, be the next big theorist AS OPPOSED to making a collaborative contribution to the conversation we are engaged in.

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