Readers and Critics needed

36 posts / 0 new
Last post
Darker
Readers and Critics needed

No idea if anyone is going to be interested or up for this, but I need some help. I'm in my (hopefully) last year of Ph.D. work and currently am suppose to be writing my dissertation. However, I find myself having issues writing. Mostly because I typically develop thoughts in dialog and am currently pretty isolated from other students and faculty (I live 2 hours away from the University I was taking courses at and am no longer going there for courses since I'm ABD. I was thinking of posting something on Facebook, but honestly, you guys are pretty insightful and this forum elicits much better conversation than Facebook does. Anyway, so what I need is 1) Heavy criticisms and probing questions about what I'm doing, why, etc. If you are knowledgeable about the methodologies, critique those as well. Right now I still have to defend my proposal and they are going to ask all types of stuff I might not think of... and 2) if you have ideas, resources, etc -- those would be very helpful as well. If anyone is interested, I'll start posting stuff to bounce ideas from. It's not going to be formal stuff to start with, but just thoughts as notes to get things organized and figured out.

I guess it would help if I briefly describe the project. I'm looking at the concept of neoliberalism as an ideology and how it affects discourse in higher education. If you are interested but have no idea what that sentence was, don't worry. Part of the challenge of this is my ability to break things down into common language, which is currently something I'm also having issues with. Anyway, so is anyone interested in having a conversation around this?

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

Sure. My wife is a History Professor, so we've always spent a lot of time around graduate students. I've been called in to help with academic papers I've had no understanding of before diving in.

So yeah, I'm in.

Darker

Excellent! This is the kind of motivation that will keep me going! I'm going to see if anyone else wants to join, but it's not like they can just do it at any point. What do you think is the best format? A single thread (like keep using this one) or multiple threads in a forum category?

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

I think a single thread is best. It might be necessary to break out a particularly detailed conversation at some point if we're literally having two different conversations, but since it all relates back to the paper, that shouldn't be likely. I mean, down the road maybe we'll need a thread on 'proper footnote format', but I really hope not! I say, just dive in.

I just read this article for my homework.

Cronono
Cronono's picture

I'd be happy to help.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I'm in.

Are you at the point yet where you can tell us a little bit about the scope of the project you're embarking upon with the dissertation, or is it too soon for that?

Similarly, if you have a short list of authors and works that you know are going to be a major part of your critical apparatus, it'd probably help the rest of us get up to speed with where you are. I know you've read a lot of Chomsky in the last couple of years, and some Lacan. Chomsky has plenty of relevance as a particularly harsh left-wing critic of neoliberalism, so he's obviously relevant. But who else is informing your work?

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Talanall wrote:

Chomsky has plenty of relevance as a particularly harsh left-wing critic of neoliberalism, so he's obviously relevant. But who else is informing your work?


Chomsky indeed one of the informers, along with Giroux, Foucault, Harvey, and Olssen. There are many more, but those are more of the well-known names that you may have read. I'm leaving Lacan out of this, at least initially. His work on discourse may become very relevant to the project, but I don't want to use it as a foundation.

Talanall wrote:

Are you at the point yet where you can tell us a little bit about the scope of the project you're embarking upon with the dissertation, or is it too soon for that?


That is exactly where I am and the primary reason I think a discussion format would be great to help me further firm up the edges of the project's scope. I'll go over much of this in more detail, but essentially, here is what I am doing:

I've read most of the above (Chomsky and the others) and get a great sense of neoliberal doomsaying from them all. Most of the social science stuff out there is harsh, left-winged stuff. And I don't necessarily disagree with anything they are saying; however, I think most of their evidence of the disaster that is neoliberalism is circumstantial or anecdotal. One of the big institutions right now that is being put in the spotlight is that of education, particularly higher education. My project is to examine the effects of neoliberalism on institutions of higher education in a more methodological manner. Working on the basic premise that dominant ideologies often are displayed in discourse, I'm looking to examine various types of discourse associated with higher education to find evidence of neoliberalism.

The project is made of three studies, each examining a different type of discourse. The first will look at internal institutional discourse, in the form of mission and vision statements. The next one will look at external discourse in the form of media and advertising. The last will look at the reproduction of discourse in the form of student and alumni stories and testimonies. That's the project as I see it so far. You are free to comment on this and what I'll be posting next is the basic rundown on what I'm using as "neoliberal" regarding this project.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Darker wrote:

I've read most of the above (Chomsky and the others) and get a great sense of neoliberal doomsaying from them all. Most of the social science stuff out there is harsh, left-winged stuff. And I don't necessarily disagree with anything they are saying; however, I think most of their evidence of the disaster that is neoliberalism is circumstantial or anecdotal. One of the big institutions right now that is being put in the spotlight is that of education, particularly higher education. My project is to examine the effects of neoliberalism on institutions of higher education in a more methodological manner. Working on the basic premise that dominant ideologies often are displayed in discourse, I'm looking to examine various types of discourse associated with higher education to find evidence of neoliberalism.

The project is made of three studies, each examining a different type of discourse. The first will look at internal institutional discourse, in the form of mission and vision statements. The next one will look at external discourse in the form of media and advertising. The last will look at the reproduction of discourse in the form of student and alumni stories and testimonies. That's the project as I see it so far. You are free to comment on this and what I'll be posting next is the basic rundown on what I'm using as "neoliberal" regarding this project.

How and where will you address the political dimensions of discourse about the academy? I think that this is arguably a fourth discursive category that is distinct from but touches upon and both informs and is informed by the first two. In Lacanian terms, the mission and vision statements you'll be looking at are addressed to more than one "other." Certainly one intended audience is internal, but those things also are responses to the political discourse surrounding what universities are for and how their economics work. I think there's indisputably cross-talk between these two discourses, but the political discourse also has the same distinction of being addressed both to academics and to a separate political audience that does not share the academy's interests and concerns.

On a related note, I think that arguably the political discourse regarding higher education is included in the "media and advertising" category, at least in part. But I also think there's reason to be concerned that if you go down that road it may be difficult to defend the category, because it will become an unmanageable and disorganized catch-all. It's already at risk of such, because "media and advertising" is a big net to cast, potentially embodying the traditional mass media/mainstream media as well as social media.

You'll want to hack out a stricter definition for what you mean when you talk about media and advertising. I'm nervous of the idea of treating them as if they are a discrete, well-defined discursive space, but there's probably some hay to be made here if you tighten down to a specific type of media, through a specific outlet or set of closely-related outlets, and then apply your critical framework to that narrowly defined set of test cases.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

So I should explain that what I am doing is not a large “mega” paper/study in the tradition of most American dissertations, but rather a European style or what is sometimes called a dissertation by publication. I’ll complete a series of related, but smaller studies that build on a similar theme but also stand alone. As a dissertation, they will be preceded by a larger introduction and literature review and followed by a discussion of the results of all three studies and any joint significance that I find. But each study will have its own summary and review of research relevant to that particular project. In the end what I want is not my magnum opus, but rather three separate journal quality studies that are easily publishable.

Talanall wrote:

How and where will you address the political dimensions of discourse about the academy? I think that this is arguably a fourth discursive category that is distinct from but touches upon and both informs and is informed by the first two. In Lacanian terms, the mission and vision statements you'll be looking at are addressed to more than one "other." Certainly one intended audience is internal, but those things also are responses to the political discourse surrounding what universities are for and how their economics work. I think there's indisputably cross-talk between these two discourses, but the political discourse also has the same distinction of being addressed both to academics and to a separate political audience that does not share the academy's interests and concerns.

Interestingly enough, it was a Lacanian theorist writing about the discourse of the Capitalism versus the discourse of the University that got me onto the idea for the dissertation in the first place. I’ve followed Žižek and think he’s got a solid path I could follow for this entire thread of thought. Early on, I started to pursue the idea; however, I decided against writing a Lacanian theoretical dissertation for a number of reasons that aren’t completely relevant to the conversation. Instead of using a Lacanian theoretical framework, I’m instead relying on a Foucauldian/Marxist one that examines the dynamics of ideology and discourse. I completely agree with what you are saying and in a way, that is exactly what I am examining, but I’m purposely narrowing the scope and definitions and saving the Lacanian explanations for future work. It makes for a great theoretical paper, but the purpose of this project is to bring a solid methodology to the issue and find evidence to prove or disprove the neoliberal theorists. In the end, I needed a framework that was more accessible.

Talanall wrote:

On a related note, I think that arguably the political discourse regarding higher education is included in the "media and advertising" category, at least in part. But I also think there's reason to be concerned that if you go down that road it may be difficult to defend the category, because it will become an unmanageable and disorganized catch-all. It's already at risk of such, because "media and advertising" is a big net to cast, potentially embodying the traditional mass media/mainstream media as well as social media.

You'll want to hack out a stricter definition for what you mean when you talk about media and advertising. I'm nervous of the idea of treating them as if they are a discrete, well-defined discursive space, but there's probably some hay to be made here if you tighten down to a specific type of media, through a specific outlet or set of closely-related outlets, and then apply your critical framework to that narrowly defined set of test cases.

I agree with you here as well. This is one of the reasons I chose to go the three studies route. Each one of the examinations will be a self contained study using a mix of critical discourse analysis and content analysis. Part of the methodology will require a narrower definition of all the sources of data I am using. For example, I may look at only marketing flyers, only billboards, only radio advertisements, or only TV commercials. I’ll likely briefly talk about different ways I could define this category and what it would include, but ultimately I’ll pick something that has a solid presence in the literature to make the choice easier to rationalize. I’ll need to defend my choice, but I’ll be making a case for future studies picking up the others and to what extents results from the medium I choose may be used to make inferences about the others (using studies that have made the same cases in past publications).

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Are you taking an historical approach here? Foucault is at his best when you apply him into an "archaeology of knowledge" situation, which is somewhat ironic given how much flak he gets (some of it deserved) for being so loosey-goosey with his history.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Talanall wrote:

Are you taking an historical approach here? Foucault is at his best when you apply him into an "archaeology of knowledge" situation, which is somewhat ironic given how much flak he gets (some of it deserved) for being so loosey-goosey with his history.

No archaeology in the true Foucauldian sense, but there will be a lot of history in the overview of the project. Foucault is lending his ideas of governmentality and commentary on early neoliberalism. Foucault is key in showing how the shift away from Keynesian economics turned neoliberalism into a socio-political ideology rather than another economic system. Basically in Foucauldian terms, the shift into liberalism was more of a true hands-off economic approach that lead to the rise of economic power and the downfall of the sovereign. During the early 20th century, economic downturn saw a revival of the sovereign of sorts in the form of Keynesian economics. However, the push into new liberalism was driven by political policy, but Foucault saw the shift not as a release of power, but rather a shift in what the power was being exercised over. Foucault wrote how neoliberal ideology not only was a new economic system, but how instead of the power structure controlling the economic system directly, instead the power was exerted onto the individuals within the power itself; instead of a obvious control through governmental policies and regulations, instead it represented subtle control over our lens of experience. This is primarily what I am taking from Foucault.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Okay, so you're piggybacking off of the kinds of things he was up to in History of Sexuality and Birth of the Clinic. The line of inquiry into how knowledge is created and then co-opted as both the means to exert power, and also a justification for same?

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Yep, pretty much so. Governmentality, biopower, and mind control politics and all that. This is all being used to firm up the assumption that a present ideology will be seen within the discourse of an institution in that it has influence.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I think that it would be fascinating if you could do a longitudinal study of how those university mission and vision statements have changed over time. But the record-keeping on that stuff probably is going to be poor to nonexistent. Could get something interesting out of mashing them up into a single archive and then polling them via text searches to see what words are most commonly used by university admins to talk about the mission of academia.

Ditto for proximity searches to see if there are patterns where specific words are used in combination with specific other words. Instances where, for example, "educational" and "economic" are used within 10 to 15 words of each other. You'd have to break them back up and hit them individually for prox searches, but it's still a pretty quick way to pop out test cases that will support your thesis.

I like Foucault's basic methodology for this stuff, but at heart he was a theoretician writing in the 60s through 80s in France, and I think you can do better than him if you take a big enough sample of texts on something like this and apply some empirical rigor to it.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

You've stumbled on one of my first ideas for the study. So originally I wanted to look at how ideology in mission statements had changed, using coding for neoliberal and liberal ideas in University mission statements. This came from reading all the previously mentioned doomsayers and making the assumption that there was already empirical evidence to support their theories. However, during the review of the literature, I found a gap -- that was that very few studies had been done to determine whether or not either type of ideology was present at all. My on informal pilot studies testing my methodology confirmed that analysis could confirm it and my committee members suggested that I should start at the beginning since there was a gap in the foundation that should be addressed. So, first use solid methodology to determine whether or not neoliberal ideology is present, then a future study can focus on tracking the change or shift. The first study in of itself is publishable, later studies in the same area would be able to use the same data and analysis to piggyback off of it.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I don't think that there has been any meaningful work done to support these theories, at least in the specific niche you're looking at. I could be wrong, of course. But during my own graduate studies, we certainly did our fair share of navel-gazing about what we were doing, and why, and what might be its value to the academy in a larger sense. Less with regard to what our endeavors were worth to anyone who wasn't already an academic. It was not empirical, though. Philosophical/theoretical wankery for the most part. I don't know how things work in psych, but in the humanities it's pretty customary for there to be some kind of introductory seminar that has mostly to do with the whys and wherefores of what we do.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that you've found evidence that neoliberal and liberal ideology can be detected in those statements. And from a methodological standpoint that's probably worthwhile on its own. I'm skeptical, though, that it will be feasible for you to expand on this line of inquiry in future papers, though, because of the issues I raised about a the documents you'd need for a longitudinal study. A retrospective analysis needs a paper trail to operate on, and that's going to be hard to get for something like this. If you're looking at it as something you'd like to track for change from the present onward, I think that's probably doable, but it'll require a lot of effort and a lot of elapsed time.

If you're interested in developing this methodology because you want to model it on the mission/vision statements as proof of concept and then push it over to the alumni and student testimonies or the media/ad narrative, then it doesn't matter as much that you're only getting a snapshot image of the academic admin discourse.

But I'd still want to be able to read something like this and be able to get a sense that you were able to demonstrate some degree of change over time for at least one of these archives of data. It seems to me that the low-hanging fruit would be to look at something like the U. S. News and World Report guides to top colleges and universities in the USA, since that's something that recurs every year on this topic, and it stretches back for literally decades if you're prepared to spend time buried in a print periodical archive that includes those issues.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

So yes, the whole historical examination, while extremely interesting, was going to be much more of a headache in comparison to what I'm doing now. I was told over and over to pick something accessible that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time and save the rest for future research if I'm not completely sick of the topic by then.

As a side note since you mentioned, what I'm planning on using is content analysis with a mix of thematic analysis overlaid with a priori coding. My codes are developed from the theoretical words of my informing works -- after all, if I'm looking for empirical evidence that they are right, I feel I should use their descriptions to formulate codes for what I'm looking for. For example, Olsson states that one of the effects of neoliberalism is that universities allow their curriculum to be driven by market needs rather than by academic experts. He states that liberal universities allow faculty to determine what is taught and what is important, while neoliberal universities rely on the job market and economy to determine what should be taught and what is important (and then in turn the academic experts are told what to teach). So, one of my neoliberal codes would be “external market-driven curriculum” and liberal codes would be “internal faculty-driven curriculum.” Mission statements would be coded to identify themes that match using qualitative analysis (with interrater reliability testing) and then the instances of the codes would be counted and calculated. The methodology has been used to examine other types of ideology in various mediums, so the foundation for the method is solid.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Has this methodology's results been qualified against any other methodology? The fact that it's been used elsewhere is good, but I think the acid test for data of this kind is that it should be congruent with what is discoverable by other methodologies. I think you could cover this by pulling an interdisciplinary thread from sociology, linguistics, or both.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

To expand on that, the methodology you're describing is familiar to me, and I know it's internally consistent. If you can pull a couple of sources that use another methodology that is well understood and use them to inform this project, even tangentially, then that's probably a good thing in terms of providing a sanity check on your own results.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

That is a solid idea and the literature review has a good number of variations. For example, there is a study that uses critical discourse analysis on mission statements of community colleges to uncover neoliberal ideology. However, the sample size was tiny (as necessary by that methodology) and the participants much more narrow (only looking at community colleges).

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Right. It's probably worth going a couple of steps into disciplines that are allied to yours, on this basis. It needs to be stuff like sociology, maybe linguistics or something like that. Stuff where you're still capable of adequately vetting the methodology, but far enough afield that their techniques are going to be slightly alien. It'll give you a broader base to check your own results, and it doesn't hurt that it'll help to situate your work within not only an ongoing critical discussion in your own discipline, but also within a larger discourse that crosses disciplinary boundaries.

It's true that you can get away with dissertation work that is exploratory in nature more readily than you can do with later material, where you are always looking at it in terms of how well it will serve as grist for your CV's publication list. But we've already established that you're looking at the European format because you are trying to produce something that you can split up for independent publication as journal articles.

If I were sitting where you are, and it were my dissertation, I'd want to do what I could to take that a step further and try to ensure that my output is going to be something that I know is going to contribute to a critical discourse that will allow me to get into desirable publications on an ongoing basis. I think that a small amount of interdisciplinary work in this vein might be a good way to do that.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

All that is true. This dissertation itself is already planned to be multidisciplinary, as it's going to touch on economics, higher education, political economy, and sociology. I do plan on pulling in methodology support from business (who commonly use content analysis to review mission statements, marketing discourse, and other company documents) and political economy (where I've found studies that examine ideology with content analysis). It's perhaps most common in education, where it's used to examine textbooks and other educational material.

Cronono
Cronono's picture

Why does this topic interest you?

Darker

Because I'm a Marxist and a Foucauldian social constructivist. I'm fascinated by the way that ideology shapes experience and in turn influences discourse (which in turn shapes experience) and that the ideology at play is being generated from a capitalist/elite power society.

Cronono
Cronono's picture

Forgive me if I'm being dense, but your first sentence doesn't actually answer the question, just the second. Is that right? This jargon is very different from the jargon I use in my daily life and I'm trying to make sure I understand terms.

Darker

Well, from the way I see this a person can have many reasons why something interests me. For me, I had to consider this question because my initial instinct is to say it interests me because it does. But why? Because of who I am and the way I think about the world -- which is why the first part does answer the question. I think as an academic, I'm interested in looking for answers to questions which align to my theoretical leanings. Being a social constructivist, I believe that our culture and society shape how we view and experience things. Ideology is that "lens" in which we see through. I have several sections of the paper that will talk about idealogy in greater detail and I'm really intending to make this as accessible as possible... after all, if I can't explain this in lay terms, I don't know it as well as I think I do.

What I plan to do is start going through my terms and topics to explain in better detail what I mean by them and how plan to interpret and use the terms and ideas. That will serve as the first several chapters and the literature overview. So I'm really glad you are on board to stop and tell me when something is so jargony that it's indecipherable to others.

Cronono
Cronono's picture

Do you want us to read for style, grammar, substance, or some combination of the above? Do you want us to adopt a particular view point?

I'm not an academic and am poorly suited to the task of helping you structure a point. From my point of view, your interactions with Talanall suggest he can help you there. I am, however, an attorney. I'm more than happy to tell you if your argument makes sense.

I'm also more than happy to insist on the use of the Oxford Comma. MLA style is fatally flawed by forbidding its use.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

The Oxford Comma is unnecessary if the author of a sentence has taken appropriate care to use unambiguous syntax. The famous "We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin" example is not, as commonly believed, a testament to the utility of the Oxford Comma. Rather, it is an example of sloppy syntax. Try this alternative construction: "We invited Louis C. K., Harvey Weinstein and the strippers." Hurrah! A good time is had by all! Or possibly not. The point is that the serial comma is effective only in removing ambiguity from text; crisp syntax also is effective in spoken language.

In any case, reading for style and grammar is premature at this stage of Darker's dissertation work. That must be among the last steps in drafting, in order to prevent duplication of effort from errors that are addressed and then reintroduced in the course of revision. Style guidelines for his academic discipline probably are going to be some variant of APA 6th edition, because scientific publications almost always use that. Those that do not almost always use Chicago 17th edition/Turabian. His dissertation advisors are better qualified than us to tell him which of these standards is most appropriate for his purposes, but it's unlikely that they'll suggest MLA style.

I think that it might be very productive at this point to suggest that Darker try to write an outline of his dissertation's structure. When I was still in graduate school, I found outlining extremely helpful in clarifying not only how I would structure my argument, but in forcing myself to condense my thoughts into a collection of short, pointed statements.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Cronono wrote:

Do you want us to read for style, grammar, substance, or some combination of the above? Do you want us to adopt a particular view point?


Yes and no for the first question. Tal is partly correct. While simple proofreading for grammar will not be necessary at this point (and will be difficult in this medium on the forum), style and substance are. While so far I'm just explaining out things, I tend to write in stages and once we're done with the questions of scope and such, I'll start with actual content. Then, it's important to say "This doesn't make sense the way you phrased it" or "You just rephrased this three different ways rather than actually getting to the point" because I'll copy those notes inline to my document to review on the next version. As a warning, my writing as far as grammar goes is pretty awful, but I use several programs to help me generate something that's not so error-riddled that it's illegible. Feel free to mention if it's so awful that you can't make sense of it.

Cronono wrote:

I'm also more than happy to insist on the use of the Oxford Comma. MLA style is fatally flawed by forbidding its use.


I'll be using APA 6th edition formatting and style, with some small differences for specific things that my institution or ProQuest wants. APA supports the use of the Oxford Comma and I personally use it and pretty much automatically write it. So that's going in there.
Darker

Talanall wrote:

I think that it might be very productive at this point to suggest that Darker try to write an outline of his dissertation's structure. When I was still in graduate school, I found outlining extremely helpful in clarifying not only how I would structure my argument, but in forcing myself to condense my thoughts into a collection of short, pointed statements.


There's good here. I've gotten one of these and worked pretty closely with my committee to get it down on paper. Now, don't be terribly insulted if I don't make drastic changes at this point based on feedback... I and the committee is fairly happy with it, but certainly, want to hear what you think and will consider all advice. However, what I'm doing right now is just writing the proposal part and what I am having a hard time is narrowing down what should be 100+ pages into a simple 20-25 page proposal. So if you have suggestions on the outline for that, I'd love to hear them. The forum does not keep my nested formatting very well, but this should give you an idea. Anyway, here's what I've gotten so far:

Working title: Neoliberal Ideology within University Discourse

Chapter 1: Introduction (Overview of the entire dissertation)
Introduction of the goals of the overall research
Why is it important?
Why now?
Introduction of the studies
Brief purpose
Rationale
How they fit together
Overview of the structure of the rest of the document

Chapter 2: Neoliberalism
What is it?
Conceptual history and definitions
A Brief Lesson in Economic History (Mercantilism, Adam Smith/Liberalism, Keynesian Economics, Neoliberalism (Hayek, Thatcher, Reagan), re-emergence of Keynesian in late 2000’s,
Neoliberalism Emerging as more than just an economic philosophy (Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics)- e.g. What does the idea of “living in a neoliberal age” entail?
Economic theory to sociopolitical ideology
Ideology
Differences between neoliberalism and liberalism
Key Discussion of neoliberal and liberal values which will be used later in studies
How does neoliberalism influence everyday life?
How does neoliberalism inform subjectivity?

Chapter 3: Higher Education in the United States
History in the United States
First Universities
Purpose (creating democratic, critical, and free thinking citizens)
Politics and State Funding
Rising Cost of Tuition
Changing socio economic and political landscape
For-profit Institutions
History
GI Bill (1940’s)
Higher Education Act of 1965
Market norms and competition
The university as an Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser, 1970)
Ideological State Apparatus vs. Repressive State Apparatus
Reproduction of Ideology
Neoliberal ideology in higher education
Institutional changes
Students-as-consumers

Chapter 4: Discourse and Discursive Practices
What is Discourse
Examples
Discourse and Power
Types of Discourse
Institutional and Organizational Discourse
Internally and Externally focused Discourse
Neoliberalism in discourse
Neoliberal discourse in and outside higher education settings
University Discourse - "What alternative discourses are available/possible for university setting?"
Methodologies for research of discursive practices
Content Analysis for Institutional Discourse
Common use Uses and Limitations
Why is it right for this project?
Critical Discourse Analysis (IF used for 3rd study)
Common use Uses and Limitations
Why is it right for this project?

Chapter 5: Presentation of Research
An overview of three studies together
What does each study aim to accomplish
How do these studies build on each other?

Study 1: Neoliberal Ideology in Mission and Vision Statements (Internally Focused Discourse)
Introduction (purpose and questions)
Literature Review
Studies about Neoliberalism in Higher Education - What is the history there? What have other studies found? What are the signs of the transformation? What does theory say the effect is (i.e. what should we “see” if they are right).
Studies about Mission Statements in Higher Education - When did we start using these? What is the purpose? What have other studies said/been done in the area? How effective is examining mission statements? Why should we do it? Defend the choice? What are the limitations?
Development of Themes - Where are we getting our a priori thematic categories (values) from?
Methodology
Content Analysis of Mission and Vision Statements
50-100 Universities from SACSCOC
Attempt to sample across institutional types (ownership, size, age, and level of degrees granted)
Which Universities are we looking at and why? Why divide them up by category (and which to use)? We can ask several questions-Is there more in newer universities? Smaller ones? Private ones? For Profit ones?

Study 2: Neoliberal Discursive Practices in Institutional Media/Metanarratives (Externally Focused Discourse)
Introduction (purpose and questions)
Literature Review
Studies about Advertising in Higher Ed - When did it start? Why? How much is spent? Why is this important?
Studies about Neoliberal Discursive Practices - What are they? Why is this important? “Commonsensical” Represent power structures.
Methodology
Content Analysis of University Marketing Media (Commercials and Ads)
Sample similar or identical to previous sample for comparison between studies

Study 3: Reproduction of Neoliberal Ideology through Student Stories (Reproduction of Discourse)
Introduction (purpose and questions)
Literature Review
Studies examining the university as an ISA
Reproduction of Ideology in Education
Reproduction of Ideology in Media/Marketing
Studies about Using Customer Stories/Narratives for Marketing
Use of Narratives in Marketing and Advertising
Anything particular to “student stories”
Where did the idea for “Student Stories” come from?
Methodology - Content Analysis OR Critical Content Analysis of “Student Stories” (Student stories or narratives of university experiments used in marketing)
For CA - Sample similar or identical to previous sample for comparison between studies
For CDA - Smaller sample examining critical analysis of discourse within small sample of student stores

Chapter 6: Overall Discussion and Results (All pending results of individual studies)
Synthesis of study results
Differences and similarities of findings across all studies
Do results of each study align to the body of theory and literature?
Possible theoretical discussion -- The Ideological Cycle - The university is co opted as an neoliberal ISA, establishes itself through ideology in mission, recruit students using the neoliberal metanarrative, students reproduce the metanarrative through narrative.

Chapter 7: Conclusion
Implications - So what? Why is this important?
Students-as-consumers
Possibility of “resisting”
Critical Pedagogy
Service Learning
Policies
Marketing
Retention
Limitations
Are the results skewed by the unique political structure of the south (using SACSCOC)?
Methodological Limitations
Further Research
Interview staff, faculty, and students after they review mission statements and marketing materials

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Okay, so the following is a suggestion that I THINK will help you clarify your thoughts. It's not meant as a revision to your outline as it was submitted to the committee. It's a tool for you. If you decide that it gives you an output that your committee needs to see, then that's great, but really I am offering it as a technique that will help to make it easier for you to lay out your ideas. I hope Cronono will chime in and let us know whether he thinks it would be helpful, since he has a couple of extra steps of distance by virtue of not being an academic.

Your outline as presented here includes a lot of questions. Let's take an example from your points for Chapter 2: "How does neoliberalism inform subjectivity?"

It's useful to know that at this point in the dissertation, you will be discussing that topic. But I don't know what your argument is, because you're asking a question. Can you turn this into a declarative statement? "Neoliberalism informs subjectivity by _____." Or, for a slightly different twist, "The neoliberal subject is characteristically _____." Fill in the blanks.

It may be that you have a list of several ways that neoliberalism informs subjectivity. If so, then try to break it out into bullet points. The exercise of so doing will provide a few benefits. First and foremost, it will FORCE you to develop a thesis for that section of the chapter. Questions are useful as invitations to speculate, but you're getting past the time when speculation is appropriate. As you said, if you can't explain it to a layman, maybe you don't know it as well as you should. And if you can't declare a position, then maybe you don't have one, and those questions are really a warning sign of incipient writer's block.

I realize that this advice sounds simplistic, and probably drudge-like but simplicity and drudgery do not make it less effective.

This exercise also provides you with a way to pin down your ideas and critique them. I've had the experience, myself, of forcing out a declarative statement through this process, and then saying to myself that my idea sounds stupid now that I say it straight out.

Finally, I think that if you execute this process on your question-based outline points, it's going to help you with the scoping issues you've complained of, regarding the paring down of your 100+ page dissertation down to a 20-25 page proposal.

I notice that Chapter 1 of your dissertation is devoted to the whys and wherefores of what you're doing in this project. It seems to me, perhaps wrongheadedly, that your proposal is going to be concerned with essentially the same issues. They're not totally the same thing, because your proposal also is going to be concerned with addressing possible methodological and practical hurdles. But they're closely related.

I also notice that Chapter 1 is the vaguest of the outlined chapters. Lots of questions there. Lots of placeholders. If you can firm that that up, I think you're going to have a better time writing your proposal.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
Cronono's picture

I tend to agree with Tal, but the very first bullet point is the goals if the research. Is there already a goal besides "earn a doctorate," and if so, do the following chapters work to satisfy that goal?

As it is currently structured, it doesnt look like you have any points to make until Chapter 7. I am not sure because they don't appear to be listed here.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

I think that Chs. 2-3 are short on Darker's arguments because they're necessarily concerned with bringing the reader up to speed with the general topics of neoliberalism and higher education in the USA. They're likely going to be devoted to an explanation of what, exactly, he means when he uses the word "neoliberal," and how neoliberal ideas first entered the university setting as anything other than the theories of Austrian and Chicago economists.

I'm not really expecting a lot of overt argument in those chapters, although Darker will have ample chances to exercise some subtler forms of persuasion if he's of a mind to do so.

Chapter 4 is where he sets out his apparatus critici proper. So once he gets that fleshed out a little better, I expect that this is where we're going to see him perform a synthesis of the ideas articulated by the thinkers he was talking about here: Giroux, Chomsky, Foucault, etc. I'm not intimately familiar with all of these, but I know Foucault very well because I used his work when I was still an academic myself. Chomsky also is known to me, but primarily through his earlier work on grammar, linguistics, and artificial intelligence (none of which is especially ideological). I think most people know him now as a "libertarian socialist" or "anarcho-communist" activist, with the labeling applied to him depending somewhat on how you feel about his ideas on property and labor rights. His Manufacturing Consent is a major work that is relevant to most discussions of how American journalism functions as a vehicle for political propaganda, and I would be shocked if it's not on Darker's list of critical sources. But I have not read it; it's far outside of the scope of my academic interests.

Without getting too far afield of the current line of discussion, Foucault was sort of an historian of intellectualism. His big project was to "genealogize" knowledge. So to give an example of a Foucauldian project, he would have been interested in mapping out and critiquing the process by which homosexuality became conceptualized as a psycho-sexual disorder. That's a diagnostic position that has now been debunked, but for much of Foucault's career it would have been current with the prevailing standards of diagnosis and treatment among medical professionals. Foucault's interest was in demonstrating that medical knowledge is constructed via an empirical, "scientific" process that purports to be objective, but in reality is heavily informed by sociological/cultural mores. If we consider the conversion therapy treatments that still are used by some on the Evangelical Right in an attempt to "cure" homosexuality, we're really looking at the relicts of this older medical viewpoint on homosexual behavior. The GLBT community often uses Foucauldian arguments as a way to fight against social conservatives' attempts to pathologize their behavior. There are other ways to use Foucault's ideas (example: before I reconsidered the sensibility of getting a Ph. D. in the humanities, I was gearing up to use Foucault to reassess the evolution of divine right monarchy in 800s-1100s A.D. England), but this example is 1) quick and easy, and 2) one of the more common applications of his work.

Anyway. The studies in Chapter 5 should (once they're actually completed) demonstrate whatever thesis Darker states in his introductory material in Chapter 1. But to argue effectively, he's going to have to do additional set-up in his apparatus critici, situating each of the three studies in terms of a "metadiscourse" that presumably is in progress within the academic literature on their individual topics. One of the great ironies of academic study is that it's a net weakness if your work is not clearly related to other ongoing projects. If you do something that's so original and ground-breaking that there never has been anything like it before, you may have trouble getting published, or even taken seriously.

So for example, in Study 1, the "literature review" section is about situating his work in terms of other publications in the periodical literature for psychology, and leading the reader through a survey and critique of other studies that have been performed regarding mission/vision statements. The slew of questions in that part of the outline probably is indicative that Darker has not completed his review and synthesis of critical literature on this study's topic. Somewhere in there, though, he's going to make an argument that I'm going to (probably) over-simplify and render tendentiously as, "Neoliberal ideologues have co-opted the American university system, converting it into an ideological organ of the Market-as-State."

I do think that it would be helpful if Darker could provide a clear declarative statement of what he expects to prove with each of those studies, but I'm not mystified about the general nature of what he's going to do there because I have the advantage of my own experience of participation in academic discourse.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Talanall wrote:

I notice that Chapter 1 of your dissertation is devoted to the whys and wherefores of what you're doing in this project. It seems to me, perhaps wrongheadedly, that your proposal is going to be concerned with essentially the same issues. They're not totally the same thing, because your proposal also is going to be concerned with addressing possible methodological and practical hurdles. But they're closely related.

I also notice that Chapter 1 is the vaguest of the outlined chapters. Lots of questions there. Lots of placeholders. If you can firm that that up, I think you're going to have a better time writing your proposal.


No, I think you are pretty right on most counts here. Chapter 1 is pretty much a large portion of my proposal. The rest is a brief lit review and rationalization of my chosen my studies and methodology. I was told that I want to write enough methodology that it's obvious what I'm going to do, but not so much that I've wasted time if it gets changed. I was told the biggest changes are usually in the form of methodology revisions after the proposal defense.
Talanall
Talanall's picture

That's consistent with what I believe to be the case for dissertations in the humanities, too, although I'm not sure how much that counts for. Since the theoretical underpinnings of your work look familiar, I'm guessing that you're probably in some kind of hybrid situation that is recognizably related to both the hard sciences and arts and letters.

It makes sense that you're being encouraged to provide enough information, but not too much. Your advisors want to be sure that they understand what you're doing in sufficient detail to know that it's practical for you to complete the project you describe, and they want to feel assured that you've adequately considered any potential obstacles or setbacks.

Anyway, fewer questions would be a good thing for your outline as it's presented here. It's not that I don't think you have answers to some of them, but I learned from bitter experience that when I had a question mark in my outlining for a seminar paper or other relatively long composition, it was a sign that I had not adequately codified my thoughts, and that I would find myself staring at the wall with a case of writer's block if I didn't make up my mind about something in that section of my argument.

Hence the suggested exercise. If I were you, I'd also consider Chapter 7 as a mirror of Chapter 1, because at the end of the day your dissertation is really going to go:
1) I think <X>. I'm going to tell you all about the <critical reasoning> and <studies> that prove I'm right about <X>.
2) Here are some of my critical sources. Look at how critical they are! Lookit!
3) <Y> has some preceding history that you might not know about, and you need it in order to understand my arguments adequately.
4) <Critical Reasoning> 2: the Criticizing.
5) I did <studies> to gather original evidence to support my thesis.
6) The results of <studies> indicate <X>.
7) I just told you all about the <critical reasoning> and <studies> that prove I'm right about <X>. I would like my doctorate, pls. Kthx.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Those steps are pretty damn useful. Though I know the basic structure to follow, this makes me think a bit more about it and in a different way. Thank you for that.

I've got some of the proposal written and working on more. Very rough drafted stuff. I'll start posting a bit at a time from the start. If I start a new thread, I'll tag you all in it. In the mean time, feel free to keep any questions/advice coming in this thread.