In this essay, I argue for a definition of academic freedom that does not confuse it with what is considered to be a human right—the individual right to free speech. This is a freedom granted in principle by the state to scholars (usually within educational institutions: schools, colleges, and universities) because their critical activity has been considered vital to the public good, and because it is a self-regulated activity committed to processes of relentless questioning that require disciplined forms of reading and reasoning. Neoliberal practices have undermined the basis for this classic definition of academic freedom. The essay explores the alternatives to state-ensured academic freedom that have emerged both within and outside the university, focusing particular attention on Turkey’s Solidarity Academies. It concludes by insisting that the critical function of producing knowledge for the common good must be protected by non-state actors if the state has broken the covenant upon which academic freedom once rested.

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