A great account of how, in the USA, decent long-term or tenured academic jobs are giving way to temporary teaching positions occupied by “adjuncts”. This suits American university managers – who now hold more power than ever, and are generally well paid – just fine, since it reduces wage bills and costs.
One criticism: Bousquet seems to miss in the parts I read, that outside the USA, the tenure/non-tenure track/untenureable divide is less strong, or even absent. It is my view that tenure in the USA disadvantages contingent, adjunct lecturers and teachers. In the UK and Australasia, non-permanent staff with no chance at a permanent job at least get paid a decent wage and there is some prospect of further contracts and mobility in the sector. Also the ‘permanent’ staff can still be kicked out with persistence, if they do little or no work. This is fairer. We all end up on not-so-great-wages (except in Australia, but only because its currency is strong), but there generally more equality.
The book should really be renamed “How the American University Works”. In general, very few commentators on academic labour in the USA seem to acknowledge that different labour systems, often without the tenure/no tenure divide, operate elsewhere. I work in one. They aren’t necessarily better, but the absence of a ‘tenured class’ outside the USA reduces the awkward fact that, in the States, only a chosen few get to the top of a greasy pole that many people with PhDs never even get to approach. Life for the latter is not all that great.