This article aims to develop enhanced conceptions of the motivational drives that may be imperilled by their encounter with new forms of governance in higher education. Of particular concern are the motivational drives behind creative scientific pursuits associated with the humanities, and their vulnerability in the face of metrics governance and audit culture. I argue that the notion of the ‘motor’ of desire that underpins much social theories, including the Bourdieusian I draw on here, offers powerful accounts of the desires leveraged by metrics governance. However, they are less suitable for understanding the motivational drives that are curtailed in their encounter with the audit culture. I therefore suggest that an object-relational notion of the motor of the desire, a ‘desire for resonance’, could refine the Bourdieusian practice theory and yield enhanced conceptions of the motivational tensions in the corporate university. I suggest that these conflicts are not primarily concerning agents’ positions in the field and their relative acquisition of prestige and recognition, but rather conflicts among different modes of employing and directing human energies in the academic field and beyond.