George Caffentzis — Academic Freedom and the War on Terrorism: A Lobster Tale

          In this paper I will discuss “War on Terrorism’s” impact on academic freedom in the United States. I believe that it is important for defenders of academic freedom to think carefully about this impact for two reasons.

         First, the War on Terrorism is not the hasty invention of the Bush Administration provoked by the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. It initially was the brain-child of the Clinton Administration that launched it after the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the summer of 1998. Moreover, the Bush Administration’s present disarray should not lead us into thinking that the War on Terrorism’s days are numbered. In essence, it is a “bi-partisan” policy that grows organically out of the role the United States plays in the preservation of capitalism throughout the planet. It will continue to be a political presence in the United States for years after 2008. Consequently, we will have to confront it frequently in future struggles in defense of academic freedom.

         Second, the War on Terrorism violently decentered and confused an important struggle between the supporters of a neoliberal concept and a commonist concept of academic freedom that had taken clear shape in the 1990s. This neoliberal/commonist struggle did not “become history” after September 11, 2001, of course, but the War on Terrorism has forced a shifting of alliances and relations of power among the supporters of these two concepts and politics. The field of academic freedom discourse faces the return of an old presence–the capitalist state–(the famous “two ton elephant in the middle of the room”) and we need to assess the changes it has produced after almost a decade of the War on Terrorism to understand the serious challenges to academic freedom today. [Download full PDF]

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