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University Distinguished Lecture Series: Professor Michael Burawoy

Starts: 9 June 2011

Distinguished Lecture: Professor Michael Burawoy

Universities in Crisis

Thursday June 9th  2011, Birt Acres lecture theatre, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff University

The University was delighted to welcome Professor Michael Burawoy of the University of California, Berkeley, on 9th June to give the inaugural lecture in its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Professor Burawoy is probably best known for his contribution to three areas of sociology: the study of work and the labour process in organizations across the world; the use of innovative ethnographic methods to develop sociological knowledge about global economy and society; and his development of the concept of ‘public sociology’ to describe new directions and possibilities for the discipline in a rapidly changing educational environment.

Michael was President of the American Sociological Association in 2004 and, since 2010, has been the President of the International Sociological Association.

A magazine article published in 2001 reported: ‘It's the rare academic who can add the title "furnaceman" to his CV. But for the past 20-odd years Burawoy has been sociology's underground man, scribbling field notes from the factory floor and beaming back dispatches against the global grain’.

More recently he has turned his critical attention to his own workplace, the universities.  

In a sparkling lecture, full of ideas, arguments and jokes, Michael Burawoy, argued that the golden age of university autonomy is over and institutions must move forward and reinvent their public mission – ‘universities are in crisis everywhere’, he said.  Professor Burawoy’s lecture explored how universities around the world are subject to intensified regulation and marketization and through these processes ‘the production of knowledge becomes commodified…the university becomes commodified’.  Capitalism has now invaded the university.  How could we have thought that the university would be protected from these processes, as if it were some kind of ‘sacred entity’?  But we cannot return to the past, and we have to re-think the meaning of the ‘public university’.  Describing different models of the university, he insisted that we need to re-vamp the idea of ‘the public’ and generate engagement with different publics in ways which inform the kind of research we undertake as well as the teaching we do.  We have to open up the university to discussion and argument in public settings, emphasizing critical engagement, and resist the growing pressures to turn both universities and knowledge into commodities.

Professor Gareth Williams

Cardiff University news article about the lecture series

Watch - Distinguished Lecture Series: Professor Michael Burawoy


Michael Burawoy Lecture poster 


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Open To: Staff and Students