The university as ideological state apparatus: Educating to defend the corporate status quo?


  • Ken Udas University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Adrian Stagg The University of Southern Queensland


university, theory of the state, instrumentalism, corporate liberal democracy, neoliberalism, advanced capitalism, corporate ideal, common good, private good, academic capitalism, ideological state apparatus, academic freedom, corporatisation


The function of the university in serving the state is the reproduction and legitimization of state functions and behaviours. Theorized in this manner, the university is observed as an internal auxiliary agent of the state that is made subordinate to dominant class interests and not as an independent agent able to critically and selectively respond to state policy and industrial incentives. The paper argues for the application of an instrumental theory of the state to frame the relationships between the contemporary university and the state in corporate liberal and neoliberal democracies. By offering a critical application of state theory, the authors provide a conceptual framework from which to build methodological approaches that explain why universities in advanced, capitalist societies have so thoroughly adopted neoliberal structures and behaviours. While previous research has offered critical approaches that tend to document how phenomena such as managerialism have become commonplace, this paper reviews an instrumental theory based on the power structure in which the university is cast within the state as part of the ideological state apparatus. Current critical research documenting the corporatization of the university is first considered then aligned with a theory of the state that not only accommodates academic capitalism but also points to the reasons for universities’ inability to engage in a serious critique of corporate liberal democracy.

Author Biographies

Ken Udas, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Dr. Udas has served in a variety of teaching and management roles at universities including Comenius University, Slovakia, the University of Maryland, University College, the Open Polytechnic of NZ, the State University of New York, PennState World Campus, UMassOnline, and the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Ken is the co-founder of the Educause Constituency Group on Openness, and the Jasig 2-3-98 project that are focused on the emergence and adoption of open and agile practices, policies, and initiatives. Ken is a student of history and his research interests include the history of higher learning and intellectual emigration.

Adrian Stagg, The University of Southern Queensland

Adrian Stagg is currently the Manager (Open Educational Practice) for the University of Southern Queensland. His career both public and academic libraries, as well as positions as a Learning Technologist and eLearning Designer.  Adrian holds a Master of Applied Science (Library and Information Management), and he is a confirmed PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania. His research areas include the ecology of open educational practice and higher education policy as it relates to and supports, open educational initiatives.  He is an active member of the open education community through the OERu, Creative Commons, the OER World Map.






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