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Libor Benda:
Akademie, politika a akademie jako politika: Ke kritice „rozšířeného“ pojetí akademické svobody
[Academia, Politics, and Academia as Politics: A Critique of the “Extended” Concept of Academic Freedom]

Benda, L. 2020. „Akademie, politika a akademie jako politika: Ke kritice „rozšířeného“ pojetí akademické svobody.“ Acta Fakulty filozofické Západočeské univerzity v Plzni / West Bohemian Review of Social Sciences & Humanities 12 (2): 19–43.

Received 3 July 2020 / Accepted 14 October 2020 / Published 20 December 2020

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24132/actaff.2020.12.2.2

There has been a significant growth of interest in the topic of academic freedom in recent years, predominantly with regard to the emergence of several new and unprecedented phenomena within the academic environment that allegedly threaten or directly undermine academic freedom both on the individual and institutional levels. One of the responses to these observations is the attempt to redefine academic freedom in political terms, since the traditional concept of academic freedom, grounded in the purely epistemological notions of rationality, objectivity, and truth, is becoming regarded as incapable of facing the challenges and overcoming the obstacles encountered by academia in the present circumstances. It has been argued that instead of being limited only to epistemic responsibilities of academics, academic freedom should be “extended” to include the political responsibility of academics as well and should therefore provide the academics first and foremost with an appropriate set of political rights to fulfil their political role. This paper critically examines both the theoretical background behind this political shift in thinking about academic freedom as well as its prospective consequences for the academic profession and academia as a whole. While there are sound theoretical reasons that favour the “extended” version against the traditional concept of academic freedom, I argue that the associated political extension of academic responsibilities blurs the line between academic and political affairs and puts academia in danger of becoming an openly political – rather than authentically academic – institution.  The paper is concluded by a tentative suggestion of an alternative account of academic freedom: one that takes seriously the theoretical weaknesses of the traditional version but maintains at the same time a clear and sharp distinction between academic and political matters.

Key words
academia, academic freedom, academic profession, academic responsibility, politics