The costs of ‘free listening’: negotiating the moral economy of the university

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This paper adopts the concept of a moral economy as a lens through which to analyze the neoliberalisation processes that have transformed the field of higher education in recent decades. Specifically, I consider a case study of the commodification of a senior citizen course-auditing program at an Israeli university in the early 2000s. The program, which was initiated in the late 1970s, began as a free public service to the elderly population, yet was later redefined and remodelled as a profitable economic activity. Drawing on extensive archival research, I focus on the debate between the decision’s opponents and its supporters, who represent, respectively, the traditional moral economy of the university on the one hand, and emerging market-oriented values on the other. In particular, I illuminate changes in university managers’ practices and perceptions regarding the public roles and societal obligations of public higher education institutions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)592-607
Number of pages16
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • Higher education
  • commodification
  • moral economy
  • neoliberalism
  • public service

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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