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Mass Intellectuality of the Neoliberal State. Mass Higher Education, Public Professionalism and State Effects in Chile.



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Fleet Oyarce, Nicholas Gregory 


How does the massification of higher education shape the neoliberal state in Chile? Our research looks at the state effects of the mass intellectuality spawned by the recent expansion of the university system. The significance of this group hinges on the dissemination of orientations of public professionalism, which attach political meaning to state work beyond the instrumental rationality typically attributed to the bureaucracy. While the massification of professional work is incorporated within the enlargement of the public administration, the universities as ideological apparatuses are articulated with the public administration as state apparatuses. The political consequences of mass higher education are manifested in the autonomy of a mass of public professionals in the state. The research is broken into two parts. Firstly, it deals with how the neoliberal transformation of higher education affects the ideological reproduction of a mass intellectuality. Drawing on public data and interviews with academics, the segmentation of the university system illustrates the differentiation of sites of political socialisation of professional work. Then, it looks at how the massification of professional work shapes the autonomous rationality of the state bureaucracy and relates to political change. With data produced from administrative information of the state personnel, the professionals’ positioning and rotation in the public administration are associated with the changes of governmental coalition in 2010-2014 – actually, the first changes of governmental coalition since the restoration of democracy in 1990. Complementarily, interviews with professional state workers discuss the effects of public professionalism on state policy. Three theses on the mass intellectuality of the state are formulated. First, the divisions of the university system underlie the differentiation of public professionalism. Universities segmented for the elite and also public-oriented mass universities socialise public professionalism as expectations of political leadership through professional work. In most cases, such sites of politicisation were activated with the 2011 student movement – as the largest social mobilisation in two decades – to affirm the public value of intellectual work against neoliberal policy. Second, the massification of professional work is not randomly distributed in the public administration but configures political affinities, both in dominant and subordinated roles, along with the changes of government. Expressing the condition of state autonomy in a stage of mass intellectuality, changes of state policy take place through reconfigurations of the professional composition of the public administration. Third, the professionals’ autonomy in the state not only engenders effects of control but also of production of meaning linked to the representation of subaltern identities. Thereby, professional workers might also influence the direction of state policy, consummating the political relevance of the mass intellectuality of the state.





Lehmann, David


Neoliberal state, Mass intellectuality, Student movement, Public administration, Public professionalism, State autonomy, Mass higher education, Chile, Bureaucracy, Professional configurations


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
CONICYT - Becas Chile