Women academic's work identity and the psychic economy of restructured universities

Year: 1997

Author: Blackmore, Jill, Sachs, Judyth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Education has been restructured to more closely fit national economic imperatives. This paper examines how organisational theory has sought to channel a range of energies, intellectual and emotional, towards organisational ends--the human relations movement of the 1940s, to human resource management of 1980s and management by 'stress' in the 1990s. The paper explores Roper's (1994) notion that organisations have psychic economies--a concept which goes beyond the individualised psychological concept of stress or management concept of corporate culture which treats negative emotions (anger fear etc ) particularly manifest in times of radical and rapid change. More negative emotions are treated as psychological pathologies and something to be ignored. In turn, these emotions tap into the gendered construction of emotion and work identity formation. The paper raises issues of alienation and belonging, and how universities, paradoxically, in seeking to exploit the very passions that academics bring to their work are producing psychic economies through a range of disciplinary technologies (eg. performance management) which inhibit not facilitate productivity. In particular, it focuses upon how the psychic economy impacts on decisions by academic women about their commitment to and possibilities for academic careers. The paper draws from a Large ARC on Women, Educational Restructuring and Leadership which has undertaken cross sectoral studies in schools, universities and TAFEs.