Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex

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Since 9/11, the Bush administration has pressured universities to hand over faculty, staff, and student work to be flagged for potential threats. Numerous books have addressed the question of academic freedom over the years; this collection asks whether the concept of academic freedom still exists at all in the American university system. It addresses not only overt attacks on critical thinking, but also—following trends unfolding for decades—engages the broad socioeconomic determinants of academic culture.

This edited anthology brings together prominent academics writing hard-hitting essays on free speech, culture wars, and academic freedom in a post-9/11 era. It’s a powerful response to attacks on critical thinking in our universities by well-respected scholars and academics, including Joy James, Henry Giroux, Michael Parenti, Howard Zinn, Robert Jensen, Ward Churchill, and many more.

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This courageous and chilling book reminds us that the Academy is always a context for intellectual exchange and political struggle. Don’t miss it!”

  • Cornel West, Princeton University

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This book takes us into the Corporate University, and it’s not a pretty sight. From firing critical thinkers to putting students in debt, the system is failing America. Time to take it back by fighting for free higher education.

  • Jim Hightower, populist speaker and editor of the “Hightower Lowdown”

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The university should be a place of freedom not a battlefield where the military industrial complex is launching its most violent attack yet on the future of education. Nocella, Best, and McLaren shows us that education must be protected if we want peace and social justice for the world. Read now!

  • Cindy Sheehan, Peace Activist and Founder of “Gold Star Families for Peace”

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To the litany of claims by academics that the university is a safe haven for intellectual and political dissent, this book offers a convincing counter-argument. Academic Repression is a long overdue collective study of the long and sorry history of violations of academic freedom, iconoclastic thought and political dissent in US institutions of higher education. The editors have assembled an impressive group of scholars who, often through personal experience as much as analytic acuity, have supplied us with commentary as much as documentation of the central thesis of the book. This book should be required reading in all of the social sciences, humanities and education courses.

  • Stanley Aronowitz, author of “The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning”

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Absolutely and utterly indispensible as we chart a way forward and attempt to finally turn the page on an era best left in the dustbin of history. It’s a first round knock out.

  • Dave Zirin, author APHOS

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For over half a century, matters of knowledge and education have been central to the political struggles shaping our world, and the university has been a primary battleground. This collection is a chilling and powerful survey of contemporary battles, their stakes and possibilities. We should all be scared, and we should all concerned enough to take a stand.

  • Dr. Lawrence Grossberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Using the tired canards of anti-semitism, terrorism and radicalism, rightwing zealots are carrying out a merciless campaign of ideological cleansing on American campuses, often with the shameful complicity of university administrators. Academic Repression takes you to the frontlines of this fierce battle for the mind, telling stories of purges, institutional cowardice and resistance. Here at last is a strategic plan for how to fight back against the New McCarthyites. Read it twice and then throw the book at them.

  • Jeffrey St. Clair, author Born Under a Bad Sky, co-editor of CounterPunch

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Freedom of speech in the academy is a cornerstone of democracy — fascism always creeps closely behind intellectual repression, and we are not immune from the virus. If you want to understand how rocky our freedoms are today, pick up this book, read it, and join the fight to end censorship in all of its imperialist forms.

  • Joshua Frank, co-author with Jeffrey St. Clair of the forthcoming Green Scare: The Government’s New War on Environmentalism

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The powers-that-be are uncomfortable with academic freedom because when one investigates any political, social, economic or even scientific issue thoroughly, a leftwing analysis will tend to emerge. Thinking is dangerous for them. This book is full of the stories and observations of some of the greatest thinkers alive today.

  • David Rovics, Singer-Songwriter

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The editors have drawn together a diverse and competent group of scholars to assess critically the climate of academic repression. This is an essential book for anyone with a deep concern for the future of the academy. It will help raise awareness of crucial issues that face the universities. We ignore this challenge at our peril.

  • Dr. Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, Director, Center for Ethics, Peace and Social Justice, SUNY Cortland

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As the editors and contributors of this valuable collection make clear, American academia has long been a combat zone, and never more than today. Eternal vigilance, and constant struggle, remain the watchwords if the free expression of thought upon which a good society depends is to be realized.

  • Joel Kovel, author of “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine”

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The history of struggle for academic freedom against repression–from John Dewey and A. O. Lovejoy to Angela Davis, Rik Scarce, Ignacio Chapela, Andrea Smith, and Ward Churchill–gives so much meaning to my own struggle. After being twice tenured, I only regret that I wasn’t fired sooner from my current position, so that my story could be included in this anthology. Your book is a wake-up call to scholar-activists, and the strategies offered for reclaiming democracy in education are politically, economically, and pedagogically savvy.

  • Dr. Greta Gaard, Assistant Professor, English, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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As the editors note in the Introduction, ‘the revolutionary experiment in democracy and equality launched in 1776 never had a chance, taking place as it did amidst the backdrop of the slavery of African people, the repression and impending genocide of the Native American peoples, the disenfranchisement of women, and the exploitation of working classes.’ This book, which has some of the most outstanding scholars from around the world addressing the corporatization of the university, academic repression, and the academic industrial complex, attempts to redress this and help usher in a new era of hope in American politics.

  • Dr. Mike Cole, Director of the Centre for Education for Social Justice, Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, UK and author of “Critical Race and Education: A Marxist Response”

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Academic Repression is an important book, not because it defends academics, but because it successfully connects the fight for academic freedom with the struggle to create a free society. I recommend this book to anybody interested in the convoluted history of ideological repression and it’s contemporary manifestations.

  • Luis A. Fernandez, author of “Policing Dissent”

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If you want academic freedom, cast off your chains and take it. Start by reading this book.

  • Marc Bousquet, author of “How The University Works”

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Universities were once viewed as laboratories for free inquiry and debate. Today they are under siege from privatizers, ideologues and anxious college administrators. This book is an intellectual tour de force in which brave scholars share their struggles and strategies to once again, in Paulo Freire’s words, make education the practice of freedom.

  • Dr. Brian McKenna, Anthropologist, University of Michigan-Dearborn

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People still look to academia as a beacon of what life in the United States might be like, a beacon of difference and utopia. All too often, however, they encounter a world of sameness that reproduces itself. Those of us who still hope for the best have had to confront some harsh realities over the recent past. This volume bids fair to be both a record and a guide–an account of what happened, and a guide to surviving it.

  • Toby Miller, Chair and Professor of Media & Cultural Studies, University of California, Riverside

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We find ourselves at an interesting global crossroads: neo-liberal capitalism is on life support while global warming and environmental destruction threaten to change the biosphere as we know it. Whether and how human civilization moves forward on an economically and environmentally sustainable path will largely depend on our ability to explore alternatives to dominant systems and paradigms. “Academic Repression” highlights the subtile, and sometimes not-so-subtle processes of silencing those who seek these alternatives through scholarship in the US. The editors and contributors to the volume provide excellent documentation of attempts by the state, university, or corporation to surveil, intimidate, and silence university scholars for their work or speech against the dominant ideological grain. Readers will also find strategies and lessons from the experiences of contributing authors that should aid in resisting “academic repression” and creating an open discourse about the future of our shared world.

  • Dr. William T. Armaline, SJSU Justice Studies Department and Director, Sacco and Vanzetti Foundation

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Nocella, Best, and McLaren’s impressive book is an important window into the masculinist culture of control which has laid siege to academic institutions throughout the world. Reading the words of so many courageous and intelligent dissenters in one volume is not only a pleasure for the critical senses, but also a powerful act of counter-resistance.

  • Marti Kheel, Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley and author of “Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective”

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Nocella, Best, and McLaren’s extraordinary book takes on one of the most important challenges of our time: radically confronting the time honored practice of domesticating the transformative and liberating potential of educational institutions. In tracing the variety of ways ruling elites and bureaucratic machines have employed academic and intellectual repression as a tool for reconstituting status quo values in society and culture, this utterly unique collection of essays will both inspire and challenge educators, activists, scholars, and citizens alike.

  • Dr. Clayton Pierce, University of Utah

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In this hard-hitting, incisive volume, radical scholars expose the devastating consequences of the corporatization of higher education from a glocal (global + local) perspective, and issue a rallying cry for the defense of intellectual and academic freedom.

  • Dr. Cesar A. Rossatto, College of Education, University of Texas, El Paso

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Something has to be done soon with the way university is being conceived of nowadays. Unless urgent action is taken, the university is nothing but another appendage to industry and the corporate sector. This book, featuring leading critical pedagogues, offers important insights to reclaim an institution which should be contributing to the strengthening of the public sphere. The book offers an alternative language, rooted in popular struggle, to that of entrepreneurship, business-university partnership, easily measured outcomes (‘performativity’ in Lyotard’s sense), competitiveness and R & D. What a relief!

  • Dr. Peter Mayo, Head of Department, Department of Education Studies, University of Malta

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Drawing on an impressive range of international authors, Reflections from the Academic-Industrial Complex delivers a powerful critique concerned with the ever deeper penetration of wider political-economic agendas into the academic environment, and the devastating implications that this has had for independent and critical voices within the academy. The book makes an impressive contribution to the existing literature, and is certain to reignite many important debates that surround not only the question of academic freedom and free speech, but moreover the troubling implications that a compromised academic environment has for a truly free and progressive society at large.

  • Dr. Richard White, Lecturer of Economic Geography, Sheffield Hallam University

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American universities have served a vital role in a democracy by being hotbeds of discussion and dissent. But now, much like the smear campaigns and loyalty oaths of the Red Scare and other eras of government repression, academics are under attack. This critical work exposes the culture war being waged on college campuses around the country.

  • Will Potter, GreenIsTheNewRed.com

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Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex — Some of the authors whose works are represented in this book have been risking their careers to expose critical suppressed truths for over twenty-five years. They know firsthand the important difference between the meaning of academic freedom and the meaning of academic repression. Is “academic freedom” no longer a relevant concept in understanding social control within and by many American universities? Has the metric of “no child left behind” now reached a critical tipping point in higher education as well? This unique ground breaking work addresses important issues related to these questions. If the socio-political climate in the United States does not change soon, university firings will turn into arrests and unemployment will turn into imprisonment. Information control today represents the control of clean water and breathable air tomorrow.

  • Dr. John C. Alessio, Professor and Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Minnesota State University , Mankato

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A terrifying yet much needed look into the Orwellian world of the corporate university, the book can be seen as a forewarning of the collapse of democracy itself. An eye opening work that debunks the myth of the Ivory Tower and exposes Academia in America for what it is: another legitimating propaganda tool in the service of the elite to maintain their grip on power through control of ideological production and dissent.

  • Dr. John Asimakopoulos, Director, Transformative Studies Institute

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Everything you ever wanted to know about academic repression, but were afraid to ask. Fortunately, this all too timely volume asks the right questions, provides the context, and offers a few suggestions on how we might organize against the monolith.

  • Ramsey Kaanan, PM Press

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David Horowitz and Co. drew a line in the sand. Nocella, Best and McLaren have hereby crossed it. This book puts the lie to the myth of academic freedom and the idea that the university is an unabashed training ground for radicals. If the academic left is not winning the campus war, at least Academic Repression shows they can give as good as they get.

  • Dr. Richard Kahn, Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations and Research University of North Dakota

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The time has come to call “higher learning” what it is – a joke! Academic Repression is a sword that cuts through the bureaucratic bullshit and cries out for education that is free and liberating!

  • John Feldman, Singer of Goldfinger

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A book that will break open the truth about “Corporate University U.S.A.”

  • Owen Hoppe, Owener of New Ethic Cafe, Vermont

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For fear of annoying parents, regents, students and outside influences, university administrators today are stifling freedom in some of its last bastions, higher education. Instead of allowing students to determine their own “truths” of the world, the corporate university is more concerned with producing “manageable widgets” for the corporate society that they are helping to create.

  • Dr. William M. Harris, Chair, Dept. of Environmental Studies, University of St. Thomas

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Academic Repression is a wonderful book for teachers at all levels to expose their students to the concept of “Unacademic Freedom”. Every article allows students from high school to graduate school to become critical thinkers in a world running head long towards fascism.

  • Paulette d’auteuil- EBC-East New York High School for Public Safety & Law & New York City Jericho Movement

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The business of universities and colleges has become far more about training than knowledge – the worst path to be taken in this time desperately in need of knowledge and wisdom. The fact that intellectual disagreement, dissent, criticism and even discussion is being roundly silenced in every discipline, including science and art, does not bode well for any future worth living. This book is the first shot fired in what I hope will be a revolt by those in academia who need to be heard.

  • Dr. Carol Gigliotti, Emily Carr University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

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A powerful intense book that represents an array of experiences and reflections that will make you forever think about teaching and being a student in a whole new light.

  • Journal for Critical Animal Studies

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Academic Repression is a challenge to all that is elitist, sexist, ableist, speciesist, homophobic, classist, and racist in the academy. Read this book and learn the shocking truth about the Academic Industrial Complex.

  • Green Theory and Praxis: The Journal of Ecopedagogy

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A few months ago, an Illinois high school kid was expelled for writing his initials on his notebook – “gang symbol.” Prisoners can and are being gassed, beaten and thrown into the hole (or worse) for receiving their own writing! When Ward Churchill came to DePaul University a couple of years ago, you might have thought Nasrallah had swooped into town! This is an acutely important topic and these are fearless, genuine educators who speak the dangerous truth!

  • Anthony Rayson of South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross

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When the FBI went to my college to talk with my school’s public safety director about my involvement in legal protests hours away from campus, and to compare notes on me, it wasn’t a bit surprising that the school (Hofstra University) was more than happy to cooperate. When repression comes, it doesn’t just fall on those in the streets agitating for change. As we’ve seen time and time again throughout history, repression always extends into the classroom and halls of academia as well. It’s at times like these where the myth of the ivory tower and freedom of thought and expression goes out the window, as universities put income and patriotism above free speech. ‘Academic Repression’ is the first of its kind and a much-needed expose of what is going on in the dirty halls of higher education.

  • Nick Cooney, Director, The Humane League of Philadelphia

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In the current climate of intensified class war from above, neoliberal and neoconservative governments, and the state apparatuses (such as universities) they and their ideologists control in various ways, seek to attack and repress critical thought, oppositional and radical intellectuals, as well as the pay packets of workers and their/our social wage/ benefits. This book powerfully helps inform and arm the resistance to that national and international repression and class war from above.

  • Dr. Dave Hill, Professor of Education Policy, University of Northampton, England, Chief editor, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, www.jceps.com

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“Academic Repression” is an absolute must read for anyone who seeks to understand the pall cast on American academia by post 9-11 surveillance and supression of dissent.

  • Dr. Michael Becker, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, California State University, Fresno

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In the post 9/11 America of sanctioned torture and flag pin controversies, true academic freedom is more endangered and more essential than ever before. Read this book to find out what’s been going on behind closed doors in the academy. Then go out and do something to show solidarity with embattled scholars.

  • pattrice jones, author of Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World

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A brave and timely book…essential reading for anyone concerned about the stifling of dissent and free expression in the academia and beyond.

  • Dr. Uri Gordon, Arava Institute of Environmental Studies, author of “Anarchy Alive!”

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This volume on academic repression promises to be a major contribution to the literature on the politics of higher education. The role of the academic as social critic has been vital in American society, providing alternate views that have enriched public discourse and sometimes influenced public policy. Yet social criticism by academics can entail high professional or personal costs, as powerful interests seek to silence critical voices. This collection of papers will provide first-hand experience and historical accounts from a range of authors, including some from outside the United States. It will enrich our understanding, and at the same time add to the debate about the roles of academics as public intellectuals and social critics. Given that many universities and colleges are seeking increased engagement with the wider society, the appearance of this book is especially timely.

  • Dr. Peter A. H. Castro, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Syracuse University

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These essays are angry like a pen should be: motivated, pointed, ethical, and well-argued. After years of misrepresentation and biased caricaturization of progressives and left radicals by the right and the liberal center, after numerous high-profile, state- and corporate-sponsored attacks on academic freedom, this book will prompt intellectual workers to lay out a new path toward the autonomy that keeps a people alive and well. This book suggests that resistance works, that solidarity is crucial, and that understanding our untold history will empower our efforts to reinvent the university. Take that David Horowitz! This anthology should be required reading for new faculty.

  • Dr. Eric M. Buck, Montana State University, English and Philosophy

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Anyone concerned about the future of academic freedom, or independent thought for that matter, should read this book.

  • Dr. Rich Van Heertum, Visiting Assistant Professor, Education, CUNY, College of Staten Island

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There may be no more important topic in higher education than what ideas and teachers are “safe” for the purposes of education. This book helps to draw out the complex issues of the politics of learning and the political economy of silencing academics.

  • Dr. Maxwell Schnurer, professor of Communication, Humboldt State University

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This important collection documents the growing pressures on academic research in the arts and humanities and the institutionalised conservatism of the academy. It also rightly acknowledges that the university is a contested space, supporting a range of viewpoints, and that it consequently offers possibilities for challenge and change as well as conformity. Without underestimating the significance of the spin that conservatives have put on the discourse of political argument in recent years and the attacks that have been made on individual researchers, the editors offer an empowering analysis of modern academia. And for this they must be congratulated.

  • Dr. Ruth Kinna, Loughborough University, UK

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Today’s version of the 50’s “Red baiting” is “academic baiting:” labeling the scholarly world as elite and even dangerous while ignoring the uncomfortable observations many scholars contribute to the betterment of American society. In Academic Repression we find every major, loud voice on our campuses that dares challenge orthodoxy and that seeks to reinforce and redefine “academic freedom.”

  • Dr. Rik Scarce, Skidmore College, author of the Preface

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Academic Repression gives personal real voice to what it’s like to be silenced inside the belly of the American Leviathan. All of the 37 contributors here have labored within an academic industrial complex that is now almost fully intertwined with the military-industrial complex that undergirds power in America and across the planet. These are the narratives of caring academics who dared to cross the imposed “foul lines” of dissent and have chosen to speak truth to power. They have all suffered repression within the long arc of a mounting clampdown on freedom to think, not just to speak, in the wake of 9/11, and the ever more authoritarian face of American education and its marketization. There’s a war on the workers in most societies, in most walks of life. And on intellectual workers in all corners of teaching and knowledge manufacture. It’s often masked, veiled. This is how what some of us call ‘natural hegemony’ works. When you ask the fish about water, they say: “hey man, what water?!” Hegemony blinds us to the envelopes of power we’ve been schooled and fooled to take for granted. The contributors to this anthology have dared to say: look at that water. Question it. See who controls it. Interrogate the very ontology of its bogus authority. Here are first-hand reports from the frontlines of that war on the knowledge workers — where ideas are being fought over, and the freedom to think them, write them, teach them. To live by them. To call the system’s cockamamie bluff. In the name of people’s democracy, not plutocratic rule. Universities are prime spaces where what some call the “bourgeois class character” of American society –its media, discourse, politics, dream machinery — is exposed, and its structures challenged. This book is all the more pertinent at this extraordinary juncture, with the world capitalist system going Humpty Dumpty, and all the king’s men rushing headlong to patch the guy up. Because ordinary people’s consciousness is being pried open all over the place. You can expect the kinds of muzzling and harassment chronicled here in the heart of Empire to continue and probably get worse as old bases of power begin to unravel. You can also expect ever more folks, on campuses and beyond, to want to listen to those who, in the deepening war on the workers everywhere, think it’s darn time we started calling the shots. Here are some of those voices, loud and clear. They deserve our proactive solidarity, in a world of labor where an injury to one is an injury to us all.

  • Bill Templer, University of Malaya, Malaysia

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“Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic Industrial Complex” is a seminal book at a critical juncture – it exposes the increasing level of oppression on college campuses in a post-9/11 world and the brave voices of those within the academy that continue, despite their unpopularity, to speak truths of consequence and liberation.

  • Dr. Mitch Rosenwald, Associate Professor of Social Work, Barry University

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Academic Repression: Reflections from the Academic-Industrial Complex provides a provocative panorama of analysis of attempts at political cleansing of higher education in the United States . With in-depth background into the history of political repression in the university, case studies of particular acts of repression, and analysis of threats to freedom and democracy in higher education written by critical scholars and activists, the book documents the sundry menaces to academic freedom and a democratic education system in the post-9/11 era. Sure to be controversial, this book should ignite passionate debate over the fate of education at this crucial crossroads in US and academic history.

  • Dr. Douglas Kellner, Philosophy of Education Chair, University of California, Los Angeles

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In the era of neoliberal hegemony in both public and private life, this book seeks to challenge this by including provocative and lucid essays on the nature of repression in the Academy. As repression has been a long standing feature of life under capitalism, this pivotal book is a must read in building resistance towards this hegemonic machine that seeks to squash our creativity, tame our desires, and minimize our ability as human animals in dreaming of new possibilities. Walk, no RUN, and get this book. A critical citizenry cannot live without the constant heartbeat of resistance and critique.

  • Dr. Abraham P. DeLeon, University of Texas at San Antonio

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Academic Repression is a clarion call of warning about the moves in recent years to police academic speech in the name of “Homeland Security” and to further the reformation of academic culture and institutions in the image of corporate America. The Ghost of Free Speech walks the halls again!

  • Dr. Caroline Tauxe, Le Moyne College

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With student after student around the world going into debt for a life-time for a cookie-cutter factory-line education, this book slaps so-called “higher” education in the face with a reality check; it demands that the university should not be a place of production, but a place of intellectual freedom and expression.

  • Sarat Colling, Political Media Review (PMR)

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This book is an instructive overview of how ill-considered policies of sustained disinvestment, outcomes assessment, mission creep, and corporate management are ruining American higher education. Many of the empty suits who have crippled Wall Street and wrecked Main Street also ply their trade on the Campus Commons. While few will agree with everything put forth in this collection, everyone concerned about the future of American colleges and universities should consider carefully each account before ceding more of the academic world’s remaining intellectual freedoms to government surveillance, culture warriors, political correctness, corporate raiders or neoliberal restructuring.

  • Dr. Timothy W. Luke, University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA

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Assailed now for almost four decades by a new McCarthyism — neoliberalism’s ideological road to the high age of mediocrity — universities have seen no comparable zeal since the University of Cervera’s 1830s address to Ferdinand VII, wherein it declared its abhorrence of “the dangerous novelty of thinking”. Public intellectual remains a high-risk occupation. But struggle we must be if Rosa Luxemburg’s call for civilisation to defeat barbarism is to triumph. This inspiring collection by three distinguished theorists and practitioners challenges us precisely as the monster falters. Throughout history public universities have had one central social responsibility: to speak the truth to power. Such a timely volume inevitably entices us one step further: to organise. All courage to its authors!

  • Dr. Robert Austin, Fellow, School of Historical Studies, University of Melbourne

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