January 01, 2015

Simple and Primitive

Speaking at the November Congress of the Russian Union of Rectors, President Vladimir Putin answered a question about international rankings for universities, and where Russian institutions of higher education fall in those rankings: “Yes, it is all absolutely simple and primitive,” he said. “These ratings are one of the tools for competitive struggle on the market for educational services. Who would use this tool to harm themselves and benefit us?”

What is interesting about this utterance is the peculiar understanding of the term “competitive struggle.” Normally, a competitive struggle surmises that participants perform similar work and that the one who does it better wins. Yet what is described here is not competition but the application of administrative fiat: It is within my power to manipulate ratings (with impunity) in order to benefit my (supposedly bad) institution, and so I do.

Where does this surprising understanding of competition – not as rivalry between equals, but as something obviously criminal – come from? From here:

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