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The Devouring Monster: The University and the Science of Society in the 1960s
In the 1960s, the institutions of higher education became a privileged site of social planning, one in which a new, modern, technologically advanced society would be created. Intellectuals imagined a new, expanded university that would offer ‘modern’ subjects such as sociology that would close the gulf between the ‘two cultures’, and incarnate a scientific management of society for a world experiencing an end to ideology. The experience of higher education in the Sixties proved otherwise. Subject to uncontrolled growth, the university of the late 1960s appeared to many as a misshapen monster: dangerous and irrational, intent either on devouring those who entered it or destroying the society that created it. This seminar traces the fate of the utopian dreams and dystopian anxieties around the university that emerged came together in the revolutionary moment of 1968.
Ben Mercer graduated from the University of Western Australia with honours and an MA in History before completing his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2009 to 2014, he taught at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.