Friday, December 7, 2007

The Military-Industiral-Academic Complex Revisited: A Review of `The University In Chains' by Henry A. Giroux

The University In Chains by Henry A. Giroux
(Boulder, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers, 2007)

If you think the links between U.S. universities like Columbia and the U.S. war machine were cut forever after the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, then you probably need to read Henry A. Giroux’s new book, The University In Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex.

In the tradition of Thorstein Veblen’s The Higher Learning In America, Upton Sinclair’s The Goose-Step, and James Ridgeway’s The Closed Corporation, Giroux provides his readers with an updated picture of how the 21st-century U.S. university system has become more closely tied to the U.S. military and the U.S. national security state apparatus and more openly subservient to external special corporate business interests in this post-9/11 “era of permanent war.” In addition, Giroux also describes how academic freedom on U.S. campuses is becoming increasingly endangered, now that well-financed external right-wing pressure groups are targeting U.S. campuses as a place where they feel U.S. right-wing ideological control needs to be established more deeply.

Giroux’s book on the 21st-century U.S. Military-Industrial-Academic Complex consists of an introduction and four chapters. The first chapter “focuses on the growth of militarized knowledge and research, the increasing development of academic programs and schools that serve military personnel and the growing influence of the CIA on college campuses.” The Pentagon, with a budget for research and development of $66 billion a year, funds, for instance, 55 percent of all federally-funded university-based computer sciences research and 60 percent of all federally-funded campus-based electrical engineering research.

Much of the Pentagon-funded university research is for the purpose of developing weapons like micro-wave guns, space-based lasers, electromagnetic guns, holograph designs, electric tanks and robot-type weapons. One of the largest recipients of Pentagon research money, MIT, for instance, is also developing remote sensing and imaging systems to help the Pentagon “nullify the enemy’s ability to hide inside complex mountain terrains and cityscapes,” according to Giroux. In addition, an increasing number of college degree programs are now being offered to U.S. military personnel in the form of on-line courses. At Central Texas College, for instance, “74 percent of its 63,000 students are members of the active-duty military.”

Giroux also provides his readers with some examples of the increasing presence of the CIA and other spy agencies on U.S. campuses since September 11, 2001. A CIA-sponsored program to train 150 analysts in anthropology on U.S. campuses, the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program, was established, for instance, after 9/11. U.S. universities also have been developing high-tech gadgets for the CIA and allowing more and more of their faculty members to work as CIA consultants or become recipients of CIA grants and CIA research contracts.

The second chapter of Giroux’s The University In Chains book provides readers with a 21st-century update of how U.S. corporations have increased their special influence over U.S. campus life since Lawrence Soley published his book, Leasing The Ivory Tower: The Corporate Takeover of Academia, on the same topic in 1995. Giroux observes that “as corporate culture and values shape university life, academic labor is increasingly transformed into the image of a multinational conglomerate workforce.” The University of Illinois, for instance, “plans to launch a whole new college, which would be completely online, operate as a for-profit entity, and consist almost entirely of part-time faculty, with no tenured faculty at all.”

Already in 2004, 44.5 percent of all faculty members on U.S. campuses were just employed as part-time employees by their universities; and less than 40 percent of all U.S. professors were employed in 2004 in a tenure-track academic position. Transnational corporations like BMW and IBM are also being given more direct control over the curriculum and hiring procedures at academic research and training centers which they fund at U.S. universities like Clemson, North Carolina State and UC-Berkeley.

If you’re an anti-war professor at a U.S. university these days who criticizes the U.S. social system from a liberal or left perspective, you’ll probably find chapter 3 of Giroux’s book to be worrisome. Titled, “The New Right-Wing Assault On Higher Education,” the chapter indicates the similarities between the post-9/11 attack on Middle Eastern Studies at universities like Columbia by off-campus right-wing pressure groups and the McCarthyism of the 1950s that threatened academic freedom at that time. The role that right-wing foundation-funded conservative intellectuals like David Horowitz have been playing in recent years to try to pressure U.S. university administrations to replace liberal and left-wing U.S. academics with more politically right-wing academics is also examined in this chapter.

Giroux’s final chapter proposes “a strategy to retake the university” from the U.S. war machine and special corporate interests that pretty much control the current political direction of U.S. higher education. Hopefully, more U.S. anti-war students and U.S. anti-war professors will read The University In Chains soon and then unite in a 21st-century anti-war movement of students, faculty and community activists which fights to end U.S. university complicity with the U.S. war machine in this current “era of permanent war,” before there’s yet another U.S. military escalation in the Middle East in 2008 or 2009.

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