Medieval or Modern Status in the Postindustrial University: Beyond Binaries for Graduate Students

  • Gary Rhoades


The postindustrial university is neither post-structural nor post-modern in the pressure and convergence of distinctively modernist structures of social relations—whether feudal, professional, or capitalist—on the lives of graduate students. In this understanding of the restructuring of universities and professional labor, I am, as I have written elsewhere, unabashedly modernist and structuralist (Rhoades and Slaughter, 1997). However, I am also convinced that for faculty, and graduate students, adopting a modernist stance in the context of current U.S. higher education is to ensure defeat in the struggle to improve the terms and conditions of professional work. As higher education privatizes, it would be well to recognize that the modernist struggle between employers and employed has already been played out in the private sector, to the definite disadvantage of employees. Thus, in challenging the prevailing patterns of social relations in the postindustrial university, I believe that a post-structural, post-modern stance makes sense, to the extent that it is built on an understanding of the powerful modernist forces at play.