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Neoliberalism in a socialist state: Political economy of higher education in Vietnam


The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party state, with the ruling party – the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) – having no opposition parties that are legally tolerated. Although the economy has undoubtedly been liberalized, the state remains a soft authoritarian regime (Thayer, 2010). Vietnam is a lower middle-income country with 97 million people.

Collective chronopolitics

It is always a pleasure to read what Melissa Gregg writes. Her blog Home cooked theory, where she often posted her still raw ideas, including many for this book, was a wonderful treat to read for insight on current cultural studies of work until Gregg closed it down a couple of years ago. Readers of ephemera will be familiar with Gregg’s prior work, in particular her book Work’s intimacy (Gregg, 2011), and her work on affect theory, such as The affect theory reader (Gregg, 2010), which she co-edited with Gregg Seigworth.

On quitting


On May 3rd, 2013, Keguro Macharia wrote a piece for The New Inquiry called ‘On quitting’. It was a courageous, painfully beautiful piece that started with a diagnosis: ‘bipolar disorder, an oscillation between periods of frenetic activity and periods of profound depression’ (Macharia, 2013). This is a condition perfectly compatible with the academic calendar, he added, chronicled by an alternation of almost drug-induced bursts of mental productivity followed by a near-catatonic state of exhaustion and prolonged delays.

The labour of academia

The purpose of the contemporary university is being radically transformed by the encroachment of corporate imperatives into higher education. This has inevitable consequences for managerial interventions, ​​​funding structures, and teaching and research audits. It also impacts on the working conditions of academic staff in university institutions in terms of teaching, research, administration and public engagement.

Total bureaucratisation, neo-liberalism, and Weberian oligarchy

David Graeber’s book on rules and bureaucracy examines the topic from a refreshing standpoint. Much management literature, since at least Bennis (1965), has made the claim that bureaucracy and competitive markets and/or change are somehow incompatible. The world needs to be post-bureaucratic ­­– ‘bureaucracy must die’ (Hamel, 2014), organizations must be more entrepreneurial (Drucker, 1984). These are the refrains we hear – if we are to survive and grow, creativity must be unleashed from the shackles of bureaucracy.

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