The function and field of speech and language in neoliberal education
journal contributionposted on 05.08.2015, 08:36 by Ian A. Parker
This article explores the role of psychoanalysis in contemporary neoliberal management of higher education, as a critical resource and as an aspect of the problem it describes. The marketisation, privatisation and financialisation of the university sector is the context for a brief case example in which we see the logic of fantasy staged in a particular organisation, and this case example is followed by a review of the distinctive forms of management of subjectivity in higher education which sustain the context for such events. I bring aspects of Lacanian psychoanalysis to bear on the development of current neoliberal management strategies in universities and then methodological principles are extracted from Lacan’s 1953 foundational text ‘The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis’; the principles concern the application of psychoanalysis, the place of speech as site of truth, language conceptualised here as psychoanalytic discourse, the gap between speech and language manifested in alienation and symptoms, resistance expressed in jokes and the formation of specific domains in which psychoanalytic reasoning is operative today. I argue that neoliberal management realises the worst aspects of the problems Lacan identifies in his text; knowledge as grounding for education and interpretation, treatment underpinned by charitable concern and the performance of expertise tied to power. I focus on Lacan’s warnings about the popularisation of psychoanalytic discourse and conclude with comments on the way ‘analysis’ now takes place outside the clinic.