Are we members or victims of the 'Cult of Academia'? — R Voice

Are we members or victims of the 'Cult of Academia'?

The culture of academia has changed dramatically over the years from being a societal service, to become a fast-paced high-control environment that some describe as 'toxic academia'. Be it increaced 'production line' education, damaged mental health & wellbeing, precarious or non-existant employment, corrupted behaviour, metric-focused performance, .... the academic environment is not the community of scholars it once was, and does real harm to real people. So has the pyramid of academia become resemblant of a 'cult', what roles do we play in it, and why?


  • chris leonard
    chris leonard Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 168 admin

    It's an interesting point you make here. I was sceptical about academia being classed as a cult, then I decided to look into what characteristics make a cult - and you certainly have something here:

    • The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
    • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
    • The group is preoccupied with making money.
    • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
    • Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
    • The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
    • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
    • The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
    • The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
    • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
    • The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
    • Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
    • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
    • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

  • Nicholas Rowe
    Nicholas Rowe Member Posts: 8

    I'm currently researching/writing on this. If you want to chat, offer thoughts or ideas, or even join in, please get in touch: [email protected],com.

  • Nicholas Rowe
    Nicholas Rowe Member Posts: 8
    edited May 2021

    I am looking at the similar areas identified by cult literature, then identifying links with mainstream international academia. Even though many of the issues appear commonly on media but seldom as specific research topics, there is plenty of evidence out there from a wide range of sources. In a way, it's quite sadenning to prove yourself right.

  • Raj sundaram
    Raj sundaram Member Posts: 322 ✭✭✭✭

    @Nicholas Rowe : Awaiting your book. 🙂

    People looked at me incredulously when I opined that Academia is sort of a Cult (saying this on the wake of some of my bad experiences was not particularly helpful in terms of having people give it any more weight than they might to a rant). 😂

    But then - I kind of generalize this to the society we live in at large. There is something quite cultish about many things we do.

    We live in a world of -isms is my opinion.

    Perhaps, more -isms than in the history of -isms - more choices/more access to the -isms. But as -isms go, not all are necessarily well thought out or continuously and critically assessed as the -isms change shape, form and intent. 😉