Managerial Universities and Resistance

Please join us for this semester’s first Critical Life Seminar, with speaker Dr Ross Truscott from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies.

This seminar offers a reading of two different deployments of what Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose call ‘psychotherapeutic authority.’

As Miller and Rose suggest, ‘psychotherapeutic authority’ came to be exercised beyond the clinic at a moment of crisis, when traditional notions of authority fell into question in the middle of the twentieth century. The concern here is with a later juncture, but one that carries something of that previous crisis.

The first text considered is the recently published Impossible Bosses, a Jungian self-help book written in a collaboration between a university deputy vice chancellor, a corporate executive and a management consultant. This is read in the context of a managerialism losing legitimacy, especially but not only in universities.

Impossible Bosses is placed alongside Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia, which similarly deploys ‘psychotherapeutic authority’ but with very different aims: while Impossible Bosses aims for a conversion of unhappy, 'caged' workers into capable, self-actualising, 'free' managers, Minima Moralia seeks from its readers an acknowledgment of their utter helplessness.

To get at why and how Adorno’s ‘melancholy science’ holds greater hope for universities than the liberation offered in Impossible Bosses, attention is drawn to the different concepts of the unconscious with which they work.

About the speaker

Dr Ross Truscott is an Associate Professor in Cultural and Critical Theory and Interim Director of Research and Innovation in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.

About the Critical Life Seminar Series

This seminar series is hosted by the Critical Life Research Group.

The Critical Life Research Group engages with what it means to live and read critically in the present. We are committed to examining the conditions under which life, both human and non-human, can be lived, renewed and revitalised.

For more information, email Sam Durrant at


Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash.