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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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There is a proud tradition in many fields of the humanities of critical thinking. Linked to the Enlightenment Humanist tradition, this critique achieves its positivity (better citizens, better societies) through negation: we criticize and think critically because only in negating those wrong aspects of the world can we hope to put things aright. One of the key focal points of this critique has been upon globalization and neoliberalism, be it in the post-colonial critique that routes through Foucault, Said and Spivak, in the Frankfurt School's critical theory or in the post-Marxist frames of Hardt and Negri.

Simultaneous to these developments has been, though, an equally strong recognition of the university's complicity in the replication of these structures. Even where there has been ineffectual resistance, the liberal arts disciplines have still been caught up in the market and have almost universally ceded, under coercion, to demands for quantification, measurement and instrumental reason.

As usual, though, there are areas that we still wish to imagine as pure. Among the foremost of these is humanities research. Be it archival or theoretical, we like to imagine that the dissemination of our autonomous research is, at least partially, disconnected from these structures of capital. The Open Access movement has done well at unmasking some of the problematic entanglements of labour (within the academy) and profit, while mechanisms of assessment, such as the UK REF and its predecessor, the RAE, have inadvertently shown the quantification and measurement aspects. Let us add another aspect to this, though: multi-national publishers outsource their tedious editorial work to poorer countries (this term is problematic, but it's less problematic than using the IMF's term "developing economy/country", which implies a uniform route towards market forces, a grim inversion of historical materialism), particularly India.

There have been reports on this, but they mainly take up the issue from the perspective of the outsourcer: does this lower our quality? Are we getting value for money? What we need to ask next, instead, is: are our critiques of neoliberalism and globalization radically undermined by this naïve immanence? Of course, it is impossible to find a point from which one can speak to critique that totally escapes the object of that critique, but it seems that most are not aware of their ensnarement. As Rousseau puts it: "There is no subjection so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom".

This is but one issue among many. Can eco-critique, for instance, really be said to be ethical if it doesn't take account of its own green credentials in its material, or virtual, production? Does the Humanities' purported radical disconnection from structures of capital actually serve to introduce the neoliberal agenda by stealth? (As Naomi Klein notes as an aside in The Shock Doctrine, centre-Left institutions are often more effective at introducing market rule than those on the centre-Right.) These thoughts are not new and perhaps they resonate with a LaTourian perspective on hybridity that many want to cast aside as old hat. However, as the discipline of critical university studies emerges, it is becoming clear to me that this field must become integrated holistically with other critical humanities disciplines as, ultimately, it seems to examine their conditions of possibility. What matter who's speaking? Great matter, even if indeterminable, for it determines what we can, with any sense of self-consistency, say.