In The Rise of Neoliberal Philosophy: Human Capital, Profitable Knowledge, and the Love of Wisdom, Brandon Absher argues that the neoliberal transformation of higher education has resulted in a paradigm shift in philosophy in the United States, leading to the rise of neoliberal philosophy. Neoliberal philosophy seeks to attract investment by demonstrating that it can produce optimal return. Further, philosophers in the neoliberal paradigm internalize and reproduce the values of the prevailing social order in their work, reorienting philosophical desire toward the production of attractive commodities. The aim of philosophy in the neoliberal university, Absher shows, has become the production of human capital and profitable knowledge.
Brandon Absher is associate professor of philosophy at D’Youville College.
Chapter 1: Philosophy in the Neoliberal University
Chapter 2: The Performativity of Neoliberal Philosophy
Chapter 3: The One-Dimensionality of Neoliberal Philosophy
Chapter 4: Diversity and Neoliberal Philosophy
Chapter 5: Toward an Alternative Paradigm
"This is an important book that should be part of a national conversation at APA conferences and in all philosophy departments. Professional philosophers ought to ask ourselves what kind of philosophy we support and when (not if) will marginalized, especially BIPOC faculty, move to the center to reconceptualize the discipline from below.
As someone who hosts a large philosophy for children’s project at various educational sites, including a forest school for unschooled children, I was pleased to learn that such an initiative is validated as 'two-dimensional' philosophizing.
In fact, as Brandon Absher argues, the Neoliberal University tolerates only one-kind: one-dimensional philosophy that performs its performativity for optimization of ROIs, which, of course, is nothing short of sophistry in our late capitalist era. With a stirring call for action, he deftly critiques the monochromatic content and demographics of most philosophy departments and implores us to engage in a pedagogy of discontent."
"Brandon Absher offers an important and timely update to John McCumber’s argument that American philosophy sold itself out to the political needs of Cold War America, except now it has succumbed to profit hungry neoliberalism. The author shows how this has fundamentally altered and adulterated what it is to do philosophy, further shifting it away from love and wisdom towards profitable knowledge."
"Drawing upon thinkers such as Hebert Marcuse, Wendy Brown, and Jean-François Lyotard , The Rise of Neoliberal Philosophy diagnoses the many ills that have befallen philosophy in the contemporary market-driven university while proposing a radical cure. Returning to the roots of philosophy in the figure of Socrates, Absher argues that philosophy must work together with the oppressed masses that neoliberalism forgot in order to show how another world is possible."
"Brandon Absher offers a thoughtful treatment of the effects of neoliberalism on the discipline of philosophy. While many in the humanities attempt to make the case for their discipline’s value to neoliberalism, Absher challenges us to chart a new path. After analyzing the transition from Cold War Philosophy to Neoliberal Philosophy, he imagines new possibilities for the practice of philosophy that are more capacious, inclusive of diverse publics, and liberatory. The Rise of Neoliberal Philosophy will be of interest to those outside the field of philosophy, as well, as Absher presents a helpful framework for understanding many of the troubling changes within higher education over the past century."
"Absher rightly argues that the Neoliberal University has become 'one-dimensional' in adjusting us all to 'the prevailing social order.' We know that our social order has hurled us into global warming and that to stay our course is a 'suicide pact.' We need new philosophies and new theories of the university. A future is only possible if we become different, which begins with thinking differently."
Absher’s writing is clear and his argumentation is solid. The focus of most books on neoliberalism and academia is on the university in general, but Absher narrows the attention to the discipline of philosophy. For philosophers this brings the analysis much closer to home. It enables the author to turn a critical eye to the language and practices of key institutional powerbrokers like the philosophical gourmet and the APA…. As Absher correctly notes, neoliberalism tends to suck everything into itself. Frankly it is not clear that academic philosophers have the integrity to do what needs to be done. Further analysis is needed on why not: if philosophers are thinkers, why does there seem to be so much thoughtlessness and inaction about neoliberalization? Of course, that the book leads to further questions is an indication that it is asking important ones. Hopefully it will be widely read and inspire change.