Control is just an illusion

October 13, 2011

Fred Inglis is bloody angry about the state of truth in the academy ("Economical with the actualité", 6 October). Good for him, it's about time somebody was.

However, he is wrong when he depicts the coalition government as actively choosing not to protect the weak "in the national interest". As the sociologist Manuel Castells pointed out some time ago, in a globalised economic order, national governments increasingly come to resemble the inhabitant of Asteroid 325 in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.

On Asteroid 325, the Little Prince found a king who ruled over everything in the Universe. This king had such power that he could order the Sun to set - but only at 20 minutes to eight in the evening. Thus it is with the forces of globalised capitalism. National states need to give the impression of being in control of what they do, but in fact they are not.

Like the Little Prince, we can become bored with groundless claims for obedience from empty figures of authority, but the Sun will still set and the weak will still be disadvantaged. I'm just not sure what we can do about it - except tell the truth, of course.

Alan White, Director of the Graduate School, University of East London

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy