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Abstract Our analysis in this paper unfolds on two levels: a critique of the ‘realities’ of graduate nursing education and an argument to sustain its ‘ideals’. We open for discussion an aspect of graduate nursing education
dominated by instrumental reason, namely the research industry, using an internal critique approach developed by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno of the Early Frankfurt School. As we explain, internal critique arises out of, and relies on, the mismatch between goals, or ‘ideals’,
and existing realities. Thinking about ‘ideals’ of the academy, we draw on Hans‐Georg Gadamer's view of the university as a place to think freely, creatively, and critically. The contemporary realities of the university, on the other hand, that emphasize the market values
of the research industry forcefully shape nursing academic scholarship in a particular direction. In our attempt to recognize and disrupt the forces of the research industry with its instrumental reason, we consider Judith Butler's writings on how norms operate in society. We show that our
growing involvement in the research industry makes it very difficult to disentangle ourselves from that situation. The values of the research industry actually suppress the very ideals of education and scholarship that we would like to uphold. As a contra‐force, the internal critique
of the ‘existing realities’ in the graduate nursing education unmasks the tyranny of the research industry and makes visible the importance of sustaining the higher goals and ideals in nursing scholarship.