We are a team of sociologists at UC Berkeley studying transformations to public higher education from the perspective of graduate student workers. 

The Extractive University Project

What is the Extractive University?

The extractive university is a university that is hollowing itself out. It is a university that in pursuing strategies to keep itself financially afloat, undermines the conditions of its own existence. It is a university that extracts more from undergraduates and, at the same time, they receive less. It is a university that shuffles the increasing burden of its teaching mission down to the street-level educators, among them TAs. The university depends on their silent cooperation in the face of mounting demands, silent cooperation that is increasingly interrupted by work stoppages. When speaking of the neoliberal university or academic capitalism or the commodification of knowledge commentators focus on the distorting effects of budget constraints, on privatization, or on corporatization. While acknowledging the importance of these invading market forces, we are focused on the internal conditions of teaching and learning, the conditions for the extraction of pedagogic labor on the front line. Just as Marx followed workers from the noisy sphere of exchange into the sphere of production, thereby uncovering capitalism's hidden secret, so we follow TAs into the sphere of pedagogic labor, there to reveal the mechanics of the extraction of unpaid labor. 

"Toward A Labor Theory of Pedagogy" is online now

Read our first invited commentary by Sarah Mason (UC Santa Cruz), on the challenge of organizing student researchers

A running compilation of articles about the 2022 UAW strike at UC and other academic labor strikes


Contact extractiveuniversity@gmail.com to get more information on the project