With a constant supply of new low-level drug sellers entering the market and ready to be exploited, drug lords can become increasingly rich without needing to distribute their wealth towards the bottom. You have an expanding mass of rank-and-file “outsiders” ready to forego income for future wealth, and a small core of “insiders” securing incomes largely at the expense of the mass. We can call it a winner-take-all market.
The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders. ... Academia is only a somewhat extreme example of this trend, but it affects labour markets virtually everywhere. One of the hot topics in labour market research at the moment is what we call “dualisation”. Dualisation is the strengthening of this divide between insiders in secure, stable employment and outsiders in fixed-term, precarious employment. Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of “outsiders” ready to forego wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail.
... So what you have is an increasing number of brilliant PhD graduates arriving every year into the market hoping to secure a permanent position as a professor and enjoying freedom and high salaries, a bit like the rank-and-file drug dealer hoping to become a drug lord. To achieve that, they are ready to forego the income and security that they could have in other areas of employment by accepting insecure working conditions in the hope of securing jobs that are not expanding at the same rate. Because of the increasing inflow of potential outsiders ready to accept this kind of working conditions, this allows insiders to outsource a number of their tasks onto them, especially teaching, in a context where there are increasing pressures for research and publishing.
... As I can see it, this form of insider/outsider divide exists everywhere and is probably expanding. The interesting thing is that these divides are largely structural in the sense that the system simply couldn’t work without this large supply of outsiders ready to accept any kind of employment contract.
(Celotni tekst: How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang | Alexandre Afonso - Presented on November 19 at the European University Institute’s Academic Careers Observatory Conference.)