Neoliberalism, Technology, and the University: Max Weber’s Concept of Rationalization as a Critique of Online Classes in Higher Education

In Aaron Stoller & Eli Kramer (eds.), Contemporary Philosophical Proposals for the University: Toward a Philosophy of Higher Education. Springer Verlag. pp. 47-66 (2018)
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Abstract

In this essay, we focus on Max Weber’s concept of rationalization to understand and make sense of the rise of bureaucratic, corporate governance and online learning in higher education. We reveal the distinct disconnect between human interaction and online platforms and how such disconnection is antithetical to higher learning. We also show how Weber’s analysis helps us recognize the uniquely crass commercialism embedded in the very rationalization that makes online learning in universities thinkable and actionable. Our use of online learning is only one illustration of Weber’s concept of rationalization, but it provides an important understanding of the nefarious effects rationalization has on human interaction. The nexus of marketization, technology, and higher education represents, on our view, a juggernaut against faculty autonomy, academic freedom, and humane learning and should be directly challenged. One difficulty this challenge faces is the degree to which online learning has become ubiquitous and taken-for-granted. It has, as Weber clarifies, been rationalized.

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