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Title: The structure of a university : a Karatanian interrogation into instrumentalism, idealism and community in postwar British higher education, 1945-2015
Author: Lee, Soo Tian
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 8408
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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In this thesis, I endeavour to rethink the history of higher education in the United Kingdom after the Second World War through a framework generated using the work of Kojin Karatani. It explores three distinct perspectives – instrumentalism, idealism and community – which I argue form a triadic structure which, when grasped, opens the way to a heterodox reading of the postwar British university. This tripartite formulation draws from Karatani's work on the “triad of concepts” he locates in different spheres of philosophy, and is developed through a “trans-genealogical” methodology inspired by the historical-philosophical approaches of Michel Foucault and Karatani himself. The thesis can be divided into three parts. In the first part the thesis' methodology is elucidated from the aforementioned work of Foucault and Karatani. In the second part, I trace the development of each of the three perspectives or “questions” in the British university in order to present a counter-narrative to popular accounts which generally divide it into two phases, each characterised by a rupture: first, a social democratic rupture oriented by a principled, idealist vision, and, second, a neoliberal rupture characterised by an economistic and instrumentalist mentality. Contrary to this “two rupture thesis,” I argue for a view which posits an underlying continuity between the two phases, in that the essence of the later phase can, in fact, be found in the earlier phase, which laid the foundations for an instrumentalist university, the first perspective in the triad. Following this, the roots of idealism, the second perspective which appears opposed to the first, are untangled and revealed to be tainted by instrumentalism and fundamentally untenable. The third perspective of community is then investigated, with a focus on its contemporary manifestations. To end this second part, an alternative vision of higher education, which I call an associationist university, is explored and found to be a productive horizon to be approached but less helpful for immediate action. In the final part, I propose a way of dealing with the co-existence of the three questions or perspectives within the university at present. This way is founded upon the idea of vocation. Various tensions, such as that between partiality to one or more of these perspectives and attempts at integration, are interrogated. To flesh out these dynamics, the sphere of British critical legal theory is taken as a case study. The thesis concludes with a plea for a university that is grounded on the principle of transcritical oscillation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available