Irma Erlingsdóttir: A Weak Force: The Role and Responsibility of the University
The article explores the role of the university and intellectuals in contemporary society. It points to the relevance of Derrida’s vision of a “university without condition” by stressing the duty of the academic community to “speak up” and to resist diverse forms of power – whether transmitted through the state’s sovereignty claims, economic or ideological hegemony; cultural or religious truths, or media control. Using the recent Icelandic economic collapse as an example, it argues that the university’s immune system has been damaged by market-driven commodification and technocratic inroads into teaching and research. This development has intensified the reification of “professionalism” within the university and had a taming effect on the academic community’s ability to act as a resisting force. To preserve itself as a site of critical creativity, the university has to occupy a space “in-between” institutions, ideas, and discourses. If it succeeds in doing so, it is not only in a far better position to counter those forces of the state and market, which seek to remake it in their own images. It would also signify a step toward the creation of an unconditional, borderless university.
Key words: “University without condition”; Derrida; social criticism and the role of intellectuals; educational commodification; research technocracy; the academic community, and the Icelandic economic collapse.