“Efficient” creativity and the residue of the humanities

Lai Tze FAN, York University


The humanities are having a hard time as a disciplinary field, increasingly having to prove themselves as necessary or useful. This reality occurs as the academy undergoes a neoliberal institutionalization, which involves the privileging of hard “proof” and the pressure to produce useful, valuable, and practical research—what Bill Readings in The University in Ruins (1996) calls “excellent” knowledge and what Alan Liu in The Laws of Cool (2004) calls “knowledge work.” The academy today operates at the intersections of information culture, the cultural dominance of technology, and capitalist craze. In this way, it resembles Neil Postman’s theory of the technopoly: founded on principles of industrial invention (42), technopoly favours progress over tradition with the belief that “what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value” (51). Shaping and controlling societies and institutions, technopoly informs contemporary neoliberalism; through the neoliberal restructuring of the university and its research, the technopological academy is realized.