Remaking the Humanities

Neoliberal Logics, Wicked Problems, and Survival Post-Covid


  • Phillip Darin Payne University of Hawaii



humanities, neoliberalism, wicked problems, design thinking, applied learning


The “market value” of the Humanities is, once again, in crisis, but this time it is decidedly more actual than perceived thanks to the international financial collapse of 2008 and more recently to the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Despite the resistance many of us in the Humanities might feel characterizing our work in terms of “market value,” I argue that we must embrace, rather than resist, neoliberal logics as a way to revise and reframe our teaching and scholarship for the evolving academic marketplace. More specifically, I argue that we can reform our work in relation to the interdisciplinary constructs of “wicked problems” and “design thinking,” and that we should do so as a way to foster our students’ production-oriented skill sets for working with local and global stakeholders across corporate contexts, government workplaces, legal and educational settings, and activist organizations. I provide concrete examples to describe, illustrate, and make the case for reforming the Humanities more radically than the incremental adjustments and re-branding gestures currently underway.


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