Economics, Competition and Academia
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Economics, Competition and Academia

An Intellectual History of Sophism versus Virtue

Donald R. Stabile

Donald Stabile places current concerns over the commercialization of academia in a historical context by describing the long-standing question of the extent to which market economics can and should be applied to higher education. The debate between Plato and Aristotle on one side and sophists on the other provides a foundation for the modern debate of endowment versus tuition models. The author tackles the intellectual discourse over the mission of higher education and the effect markets and competition might have on it. The discussion encompasses the ideas on higher education of leading economic thinkers such as Adam Smith, Jeremy Benthan, John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, Thorstein Veblen and John K. Galbraith and identifies them as supporters of either sophism or virtue. Included, too, are the thoughts of educators and policymakers influenced by free market ideas, such as Benjamin Rush, Francis Wayland and Charles W. Eliot, as well as those opposed to them. In addition, the author explores the development of collegiate business schools in the US and how they were justified on the basis of virtue. The book concludes with a section on for-profit colleges and their relationship to sophism.
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Chapter 7: Collegiate Business Schools in the US: Sophism or Virtue

Donald R. Stabile


As described in earlier chapters the nineteenth century was an age of science while the twentieth century was one of business. In academia in the US the age of science brought about changes in the curriculum that gradually added courses in science and eventually added programs in applied science, such as medicine and engineering. During the age of business academia also began adding programs designed for the study of business. In doing so it met a clearly expressed social need, as we will see in this chapter. In terms of bringing about the age of business the first three decades of the twentieth century were a pivotal time. In the world of business the publicly owned corporation consolidated its position as the mainstay of the capitalist system and the basic methods needed to manage a large business firm were developed. The rest of the century might see large firms come and go, but the large firms of 1920 that persisted became even larger. The corporate model of a multi-division organization became a leading institution in the US. In academia a similar organization for the administration of a university was also established. The research universities of 1900–1930 remained small by today’s standards, with five to six thousand students. In place, however, was an organization of schools and colleges, including undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, that provided the means for expansion into the large multi-campus systems that exist today. Extension programs had been established at many major universities, and the social,...

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