The Student Commodity: Labour and Neoliberal Ideology in Public Education

  • Bozhin Traykov School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
  • Scott Timcke School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Keywords: Dallas Smythe, Neoliberalism, Public Universities,


This paper attempts to analyze some mechanisms of neoliberal ideology in the public university system. Drawing upon some political economy of communication resources we propose that one can assess the aforementioned mechanisms as a type of audience commodity work by which neoliberal ideology incorporates students into the process of ideological production, the goal of which is to shape student’s understanding of education and self as a marketable commodity. In making this argument, the paper modifies Dallas Smyhte’s conception of the audience commodity and introduces the notion of the student-commodity. We argue that, ultimately, the role of the public university in a neoliberal regime is to produce the student-commodity and sell it to the corporate sector. These are examples of what Smythe calls the “consciousness industry,” and we argue is the core productive activity of the public university system.