Paradoxes of ‘career’ and ‘progress’ in the neoliberal university: a self-critique and deconstruction

Gee, Ricky, Lundy, Craig, Oldridge, Louise and Brown, Steven D. (2023) Paradoxes of ‘career’ and ‘progress’ in the neoliberal university: a self-critique and deconstruction. International Journal of Human Resource Development: Practice, Policy and Research, 7 (2). pp. 38-54. ISSN 2397-4583


This paper takes a person-in-context approach to explore how the neoliberal university, embroiled in discourses of ‘progress’, influences academics’ narrativization and navigation of career. Whilst aware of the role ‘progress’ plays in framing a ‘traditional career’, academics find themselves having to navigate the contours of the university – where matrices shout to the tide of ‘progress’ and where what gets measured supposedly gets done. Such matrices, providing a violent quantification of reality (Gee, 2020), reduce pedagogy to lustful percentages of satisfaction, research to star status – mirroring the aspirations of a McDonald’s ‘Diningroom Server’ - and community engagement to a hurtful simile of impact. This research engages in dialogical-biography to provide insight into career turning points and meaning-making, with attention to broader contextual and conceptual dimensions. The paper explores tensions between ‘social justice’ and ‘progress’ with the aim of furthering debate within career-studies on the paradoxical relations of ‘career’ and ‘progress’ in academia today and considering the implications for human resource development.

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