The University, Prevent and Cultures of Compliance

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    As Ben Martin argues, recent years have witnessed a decisive move toward centralised, hier- archal, managerialist decision-making structures in UK universities. Likewise, he identifies a central paradox at the heart of these changes. Centralisation, bureaucratisation and the ever greater top-down managerial control of academic life have been paralleled, and legitimated, by the language of decentralisation and freedom. This reflects the ‘fundamental paradox of neoliberalism [where the] use of government intervention to establish and regulate markets’ is masked by the rhetoric of the free hand of the market (Letizia, 2015, p.33; see also Harvey, 2005; Klein, 2007). Likewise, the privatisation of universities, resulting from the wholesale reduction of government funding, is paralleled by an increase of government regulation of what universities do (Docherty, 2015, p.42). Such paradoxes are echoed in the specific focus of this article. As part of the 2015 Counterterrorism and Security Act, passed in April 2015, the current UK government has placed a statutory duty, now enforceable by criminal law, upon a broad range of institu- tional authorities, including departments of social work, hospitals, schools and of course colleges and universities, that in their policies and practices they have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. This is the latest in the tranche of ‘anti-terror’ legislation introduced since 2000 and of the Prevent stream of Contest, the government’s overall counter-terrorism strategy. This paper seeks to explore the likely impact of the ‘Prevent duty’ on the life of the contemporary neoliberal university and the manner in which it enmeshes and deepens further a culture of compliance, restricting inquiry and speech in the name of academic freedom and promoting distrust, inequality and alienation in the name of protection and duty of care. To do so, the paper will therefore examine the two distinct but potentially complimentary threats posed by encroaching cultures of com- pliance within universities evident in and relevant to the Prevent duty. In the first place, I want to argue against the stated purpose of the Prevent policy, that in fact the statutory duty and much of the broader field of government measures of which it forms part, has little or nothing to do with preventing people being ‘drawn into terror- ism’. Rather, they are means to institute a bureaucratised technology of surveillance and compliance directed primarily at a ‘suspect community’ of British Muslims, predicated on a rejection of multiculturalism and the promotion of an integrationist agenda.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-62
    Number of pages14
    Issue number1
    Early online date17 Jan 2017
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jan 2017


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