The essay interprets the recent assault on British universities as part of a longer-term process of the pretend marketization of public services in Britain, a process which it names “phantasmal disestablishment.” Drawing on the thought of the late British philosopher Gillian Rose, and especially on her book The Broken Middle, it argues that British universities are properly speaking neither “public” nor “private,” but part of an equivocal yet necessary social “middle,” a “middle” without which society would be left bereft of true education and culture.

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