Fast Capitalism, Fast Knowledge – Perform or Else!
‘Fast’, associated with speed, is used to theorise ‘fast knowledge’ as part of ‘fast capitalism’ in the new knowledge economy. ‘Fast capitalism’ is an emergent, generic form of capitalism based increasingly on forms of symbolic capital associated with the rise of global finance, and new information and communication technologies. ‘Knowledge capitalism’ is the digitalization of knowledge production processes and the way in which all phases of knowledge production—its creation or generation, its storage and retrieval, its formal and informal acquisition and transmission, and its distribution or circulation—have been speeded up, with significant consequences not only for knowledge production but also, for learning, education and culture (Peters & Besley, 2006). In The McDonaldization of Society, Ritzer (2001) critiques the ‘irrationality of rationality’ and outlines four principles of McDonaldization - efficiency, calculability, predictability and control through technology. The paper elaborates on how these apply to education. Economic, technical and cultural types of performative power intersect in Higher Education, especially when framed by knowledge economy policies based on the transformation of ideas and symbolic resources by means of intellectual, human and social capital. Performance management (PM) measurement systems were first developed by the performance indicator movement and later under New Public Management that drew on principal-agency theory and transactional cost analysis. PM utilizes – ‘soft’ psychotherapeutic technologies alongside traditional peer review mechanisms and collegial exchange, and in combination with simple counts, computer and/or accounting methodologies (including the weighting and the arithmeticization of soft variables like ‘reputation’) to produce departmental, faculty, and institutional performance ‘profiles’, institutional, national & international league tables. Performance needs an audience (a presentation, lecture, seminar, conference paper, book etc). Performance has become the dominant model of social evaluation in knowledge capitalism, where fast capitalism demands us to ‘publish or perish’, to ‘perform or else’!
Peters, M. A. & Besley, Tina (A.C.) (2006) Building Knowledge Cultures: Education and Development in the Age of Knowledge Capitalism. Lanham & Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.
Ritzer, G. (2000) The McDonaldization of Society, New Century Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Keywords: Knowledge Economy, Fast Capitalism, Fast Knowledge, McDonaldization, Performance Management
Prof. Tina (A.C) Besley
Professor, Dept of Educational Psychology and Counseling, California State University San Bernardino