Academic culture is a set of rules (norms and values) regulating the institution of the university. The central component of academic culture is autonomy both in the sense of independence from external interference and the capacity to decide on research, teaching and organization of the university. Autonomy is endangered by the interference in academic culture of other cultural complexes characteristic for modern society: corporate culture, business culture, bureaucratic culture, financial culture, consumer culture. The resulting cultural clash is the reason for current crisis of the university. The defense of autonomy is the ethical and professional duty of scholars.
American higher education work in an era of academic capitalism. Addressing the financial support to students, not to universities and accreditation of colleges by private institutions create mechanisms of that capitalism. It is a strategy of financial revolution in higher education. There are more and more university presidents from the “managerial class”. All academics have lost their professional security. Students are academically adrift and their learning is limited. For that reasons universities have to fulfill partly new roles: sorting students. Weaving them and cooling those, who were promised to much.
The author reviews the main elements of Richard Münch’s academic capitalism theory. By introducing categories like “audit university” or “entrepreneurial university,” the German sociologist critically sets the present academic management model against the earlier, modern-era conception of academic research as an “exchange of gifts.” In the sociological and psychological sense, the latter is a social communication structure rooted in traditional social lore, for instance the potlatch ceremonies celebrated by some North-American Indian tribes which Marcel Mauss described. Münch shows the similarities between that old “gift exchanging” model and the contemporary one with its focus on the psychosocial fundamentals of scientific praxis, and from this gradually derives the academic capitalism conception. His conclusion is the critical claim that science possesses its own, inalienable axiological autonomy and anthropological dimension, which degenerate in result of capitalism’s “colonisation” of science by means of state authority and money (here Münch refers to Jürgen Habermas’s philosophical argumentation). The author also offers many of his own reflections on the problem, which allows Münch’s analyses to be viewed in a somewhat broader context.