Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-25-2024

Academic Department



Some higher education faculty believe that unionization is beneath their status, despite lacking ownership of the means of production. While higher education experienced increasing importance in the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, faculty unionization saw periods of both growth and decline. From a macro-level framework in social structures of accumulation (SSA) theory, with additions from Marx, the Ehrenreichs, Bourdieu, and Simmel, my research develops a theory to explain the impact of changing social structures on status reproduction and faculty unionization. SSA theory explores the historical contingencies that impact relationships between institutions and capital accumulation. Marx’s class relationships, elaborated upon by Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich’s Professional-Managerial Class (PMC), describe the relationship between faculty as PMC and other classes. Bourdieu’s social and symbolic capitals explain the accumulation and exchange of prestige as a form of capital. Simmel’s group affiliations from common interests during conflict expands on both prestige and unionization as mechanisms of securing of capital through the exclusive associations and possessions of symbolic and social capitals. My theoretical framework explains that faculty accumulate capitals to support their status reproduction, and the utilization of prestige and unionization to secure such is dependent upon historical contingencies of higher education’s relationship to capital accumulation. My methodology consists of a brief quantitative analysis of prestige and unionization data, followed by a deeper qualitative institutional analysis of institutional relationships that influenced higher education, faculty prestige, and unionization. By analyzing the consolidations, decay, and exploration of the Post-War and Neoliberal SSAs, I connect faculty’s choices of status reproduction within institutional relationships.