The Mirage of Merit: Reconstituting the 'Ideal Academic'

(2013) 28(76) Australian Feminist Studies 127-143

ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 14-22

17 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2014 Last revised: 24 Oct 2015

Date Written: January 6, 2014


This paper takes a hard look at merit and the ideal academic, twin concepts that have been accorded short shrift by the scholarly literature. For the most authoritative positions, the ideal displays all the hallmarks of Benchmark Man. Despite the ostensible 'feminisation' of the academy, the liberal myth that merit is stable, objective and calculable lingers on. As a counterpoint to the feminisation thesis, it is argued that a remasculinisation of the academy is occurring as a result of the transformation of higher education wrought by the new knowledge economy. In response, the ideal academic has become a 'technopreneur' – a scientific researcher with business acumen who produces academic capitalism. This new ideal academic evinces a distinctly masculinist hue in contrast to the less-than-ideal academic – the humanities or social science teacher with large classes, who is more likely to be both casualised and feminised.

Keywords: Merit, ideal academic, women, higher education, new knowledge economy

Suggested Citation

Thornton, Margaret, The Mirage of Merit: Reconstituting the 'Ideal Academic' (January 6, 2014). (2013) 28(76) Australian Feminist Studies 127-143, ANU College of Law Research Paper No. 14-22, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Thornton (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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