The neurotic academic: Anxiety, casualisation and governance in the neoliberalising university

Loveday, Vik. 2018. The neurotic academic: Anxiety, casualisation and governance in the neoliberalising university. Journal of Cultural Economy, 11(2), pp. 154-166. ISSN 1753-0350 [Article]

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Based on empirical research conducted with academic staff working on fixed-term contracts, the article explores the subjective experience of anxiety in the UK’s ‘neoliberalising’ higher education (HE) sector. As HE undergoes a process of marketisation, and the teaching and research activities of academics are increasingly measured and scrutinised, the contemporary academy appears to be suffused with anxiety. Coupled with pressures facing all staff, 34% of academic employees are currently working on a fixed-term contract and so must contend with the multiple forms of uncertainty associated with their so-called ‘casualised’ positions. While anxiety is often perceived as an individualised affliction for which employees are encouraged to take personal responsibility, the article argues that it should be conceptualised in two ways: firstly, as a symptom of wider processes at work in the neoliberalising sector; and secondly, as a ‘tactic’ of what Isin (2004) refers to as ‘neuroliberal’ governance. The article concludes by proposing that the figure of the ‘neurotic academic’ is emblematic of the contradictions facing the contemporary academy.

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This work was supported by the British Academy [SG142753].


Anxiety, casualisation, governance, higher education, neoliberalisation

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4 January 2018Accepted
5 February 2018Published Online
March 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

09 Jan 2018 12:23

Last Modified:

04 Jun 2019 01:26

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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