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Title: 'Knowledge as development' : a critique of the knowledge economy
Author: Salam, Umar A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 702X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The aim of this thesis is to provide a theoretical critique of the Knowledge Economy discourse, the dominant discourse in which development is equated with the economic exploitation of knowledge. The nature of the critique is political in the sense that the problem with 'building a knowledge economy' as a model for development is that the accounts (such as they are) of how to go about doing so seem fatally undermined by their neglect of questions of power and politics - questions which this thesis will argue are essential to understanding the relationship between knowledge and development. The emergence of the discourse itself and the way in which its ideas are implemented can also be seen in political terms, in that the depoliticisation of development that it entails is itself a political position. The thesis is structured as an introduction followed by three main parts and a conclusion. In the Introduction and Part 1, I explain the nature of the research and the methods used, and provide a genealogy of the Knowledge Economy (KE) discourse, which includes the empirical element of this research, namely a series of interviews with key actors in the emergence of the discourse. In so doing, I historicise the discourse within the specific institutional history and politics of the major organisations (World Bank and the OECD) which have done the most of any to promote it. From this I identify the key theoretical ideas (Human Capital Theory, Innovation Systems, Hayekian Neoliberalism, Information Economics and Endogenous Growth Theory) which underpin the discourse and which are then the subject of critical analysis in Part 2. I make the case that the Knowledge Economy should not be understood as a robust analytical framework, empirical methodology or policy template, but instead as the reconceptualisation of 'questions of knowledge' in terms of markets. Specifically, the discourse depends upon a number of qualitatively different ways in which knowledge can be represented in, and transformed by, the operations of markets. These representations derive from three main schools off economic thought. I describe how each offers a critique of the others and yet how the Knowledge Economy is obtained as a synthesis of the three. In Part 3, I firstly illustrate a case of the Knowledge Economy discourse in action, namely Higher Education reform in India. I explain how the approaches that were studied in Part 1 and which were developed at the World Bank and the OECD in the late 1990s and early 2000s were applied in practice in India in the mid 2000s. I argue that these applications illustrate the claims of Part 2 regarding knowledge and markets. I then describe the politicised nature of Indian Higher Education and argue that no satisfactory account can be given without an engagement with these political economy factors. Following on from this, I then consider how adopting a KE approach of conceptualising knowledge in terms of markets might be subject to various forms of political analysis and develop a political economy critique that synthesises three theoretical approaches: (a) the politics of markets; (b) commodification; and (c) governmentality. From this I conclude that the KE approach is fundamentally flawed as an account of development.
Supervisor: Harriss-White, Barbara Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Knowledge economy ; Education and globalization