These words by Jill Blackmore (2017) open a new Finnish-language volume Huiputuksen moraalijärjestys (The moral order of top performativity) that came out this week. The editors Karin Filander, Maija Korhonen and Päivi Siivonen emphasize that this phrase captures the Zeitgeist of the current working life which glorifies top individuals, top teams and top results. Since the top can be reached only by few, the rest become categorized as failures, useless and unfit. The book criticizes the excessive demands directed to individuals and explores the affective implications of the working conditions under which nothing is enough.
The editors consider the current entrepreneurial university as a Mecca for the constantly increasing pressures and demands of working life. The rhetoric of world-class, excellence and cutting-edge has become overpowering and pervasive in academia. This has alluring and seducing features – who wouldn’t want to be excellent and successful. At the same time, it enforces adaptation to externally imposed success criteria and creates a normative ideal that is extremely difficult for anybody to attain.
The harsh university reality has become obvious also in our interviews with Finnish female academics in bio and health technology. The excessive demands have been one of the key reasons why some of our interviewees have left academia. Although they love research work, they are not willing to give their whole life to it.
Moving out is one option to try to escape the massive requirements in academia but then again, the question arises whether it is any better elsewhere. The book chapters tell about gloomy stories of unemployment, burn-out and mental health problems, among other things, outside the research and innovation field too. Therefore, it would be crucial to develop working life in general into a more human and sustainable direction.
Blackmore, Jill 2017. Gender work and entrepreneurial universities: from a gift to a gig economy. Presentation at a research seminar, 31.8.2017, Tampere University.
Filander, Karin, Korhonen, Maija & Siivonen, Päivi (eds.) 2019. Huiputuksen moraalijärjestys. Tampere: Vastapaino.