Click here to see more:
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Pretty interesting trends identified in stats from the ESRC on what topics our best and brightest choose to write their PhDs (we will need an algorithm correcting for nerdiness of course).
Seems there has been a big drop in these areas:
a number of disciplines fell below the target to a greater or lesser extent. These disciplines were: anthropology, area and development studies, education, human geography, science and technology studies, social policy, social work and sociology.
While there were massive increases in the areas of Economic and Social History, Environmental Planning, and Politics and International Relations.
Just saying – sign o the times.
See the general breakdown here.
website HERE: http://takingupspace2012.blogspot.co.uk/
Programme page http://takingupspace2012.blogspot.com/2012/05/programme.html
Mao on Professors in 1958 (22 March) talks at Chengtu (p116-7 Talks and letters):
… ‘Naturally, we cannot go out tomorrow and beat them up … we have to make friends with them’
What kind of psychosis must it be? David Cameron was already a jittery jumped up bugaboo before he squeaked into power with his austerity for Britain plans carefully wrapped in a not very well disguised Big Society cloak of invisibility. Then the students surrounded Tory Party Headquarters, inundated the roof, and the Police line stood an watched – beset themselves with threats of cuts, playing a long game. David will have been shouting down the phone apoplectic, demanding Met chief Paul Stephenson deploy his forces to protect the HQ from the riff raff. Several hours later, a few arrests - surprisingly few for a major security incident at the Death Star.
Just over a week later, the Police tactic was pretty transparent when a droid police van was left in the middle of Whitehall to be trashed in what both sides of the anarcho-cop line probably felt was a justified show of cathartic rage. It certainly made for good press photography, but when soon after the Galactic Prince and his ride were taunted by a raiding party in the high street, there would have been more shouting: where were the police. For all the talk of massive numbers of coppers drafted in from far-flung counties, Cameron will have been on the phone again demanding to know how Stephenson could let this happen?
This pattern becomes farce when we consider the events of August, 2011. Police surely by now know the routine when it comes to deaths in custody. They have set up, after all, the judiciously names ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission and no doubt have rules and procedures to follow for just the sort of circumstances that appeared to be at stake in the death of Mark Duggan. There will be those who think it was incompetence, those that imagine far more sinister plots, but it certainly seemed that the deployment of Police that day, and even more so in the evening and night in Tottenham was, shall we say, lackluster. The next day, despite talk of still greater escalation of the defense shield for London, general chaos. Only when the rebels formed an alliance and targeted richer suburbs like Ealing did we see Cameron get to use the force in the way he will have wanted all along. Of course he was elsewhere on the planet at the time, flying in on day three to join task force Cobra. On touching down at the airbase we can be sure he was breathing heavily, seeking revenge:
‘Acting Metropolitan police commissioner Tim Godwin has hit back at the government’s criticism of his force’s handling of the riots, saying ‘people will always make comments who weren’t there” (Guardian August 12, 2011)
What we have seen under Cameron is a power play with people’s lives: this inconsequential ‘little too short for a storm trooper’ wannabe Darth PM has control issues and little understanding of wider machinations. The cast includes a media led axis of manipulation with an Emperor orchestrating from afar, inconsequential and futile opposition ‘leaders’, and the liberal democrat C3-PO protocol officer. This space opera has cast the wrong lead, Cameron does not have Jedi training, his destructive use of force just gets people killed, his mind tricks are more suited to Sideshow Bob than any Jedi capacity. In this version the wookie is already an ewok, Hans Solo is encased in Jello but still can’t get out, and Princess Leia is more worried about her horses than the destruction of the News of the World/Alderaan (give her to Jabba). I could go on…
I only wish this were an allegory, but I am afraid it is the game plan of the Tories. Fear is the path to the dark side. This bumbling danger must be airlocked, since despite his apprentice-like appearance, his fooling around with force still amounts to a defense of Capitalism as usual, and even if this time it is cloaked in robes of cheese, the Big Society fiasco is still putting gold in the wizard’s pockets . Do we really want to endure more of such nonsense ? We could say we don’t need to see his identification … that he can go about his business… But laugh it up fuzzball, no, that would be the sunday matinee and its only a fiction. Time to switch to the news channel again.
This was a strangely relevant welcome to the ‘Terror as usual’ workshop held at Birkbeck – a huge on topic poster in the foyer. pic.twitter.com/SdVeM1kN (thanks Shaku, Jodi, Saleh, Judy, Chris, Rachel, and others for turning out).
Can anyone name this piece of State Terror kit shown in the poster? – it really dominates the room – bet they are topgun proud. [Alan adds: 'it's one of the RAF's many Tornados, currently being phased out and replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon (that cost more than 10 times as much) and soon the F-35 stealth fighters' - thanks... Such a great poster - 30 feet by 20. I want. (A tornado I mean, not the poster)]
My ‘terror as usual’ talk was from an article in much expeanded format - here – I’ll send a pdf on request.
EVENT: The Indigenous Commons
26th June // 5pm // RHB 251 // Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Stephen Turner (University of Auckland)
In association with Centre for Cultural Studies and Centre for Postcolonial Studies
No registration necessary, Drinks to follow
The Indigenous Commons of Aoteroa New Zealand
In the context of the worldwide Occupy movement, what does it mean to occupy an already occupied country? It suggests a recovery, however temporary, of common space, which in Aotearoa New Zealand is inseparable from a notion of an Indigenous commons. The basis of such a commons is the long history of Maori inhabitation of the country, which encompasses the short history of non-Maori (Pakeha) occupation. The ontological substrate of long history, encompassing multiple lands, peoples and histories, asks everybody to consider the grounds on which they stand. At base, these are grounds of Indigenous right which cannot be extended by the nation-state, whose authority is questioned on the still-existing grounds of long history. Based in reciprocity rather than rights, relations not entities, attributes not properties, Maori sovereignty suggests a right way and right-of-way – tikanga. Tikanga (tika means ‘right) does not imply human rights but the right way to go about the place, in terms of which the ordinary people of the place (‘Maori’ means ordinary) consider that they flourish. The idea of an existing law that would, and did in retrospect, secure that ‘right’ is what I call ‘first law’, following Maori commentators; its latter-day expression is the possibility of a ‘full law’, which binds material and spiritual worlds in the mind-heart of Maori community. The mind-heart of place-based community, and the host-guest relation that initiates strangers, is what non-Maori (Pakeha) are asked to subscribe to as second-comers.
Collective well-being, now inscribed in the Indigenous-minded constitutions of Bolivia and Equador, depends more deeply on a sense of injury and lack of care than a violation of more instrumental human rights. In New Zealand the deficits of settler ignorance are threefold: a constitutional deficit, due to an acknowledged but unenforceable nineteenth-century Treaty; an historiographical deficit, where long history is read in terms of short history of a nation-state coming-to-be; and an existential deficit, where majority Pakeha act out of dread and, more recently, terror, in the face of Indigenous claims to independence. As against an economistic political economy of settler identity, where property and individual rights follow the nation-state’s self-assertion, I pose the challenge of consubstantial sovereignty, and post-capital politics. Occupy in New Zealand recalls an already occupied country, an Indigenous commons, today shared by others, but rent by parliamentary enclosure and representative segregation. Granting Maori an ontological alterity is insufficiently attentive to this commonly shared place, and to the non-state grounds of its political constitution. Nor does collective well-being oppose capital as such, but rather opposes settler-centricity and claims to co-equal indigeneity. I thereby consider the political, cultural and economic implications of attribute- rather property-based Indigenous rights. And because the constitution of the state refuses the ontological substrate of long history, which is its whole human inhabitation, I consider the possibility of constitutionalising non-state Indigenous relations, as a means of exit from the compulsory nationalism of settler-colonialism.
University of Auckland
Part of the Postgraduate Conference: Taking Up Space
Taking up Space – Cultural Studies Postgraduate Event
25th – 26th June 2012
Centre for Cultural Studies (CCS) / MA in Cultural Studies
A one/two day conference exploring the meaning and understanding of space in its physical manifestations as well as in its discursive forms; through which identity, meaning, value and authority can be mapped in particular ways.
Goldsmiths location and campus map: http://www.gold.ac.uk/find-us/
Facebook voting questionnaires are just (for) tools, but I could not resist this one. Won’t they have a surprise when they wake up in the morning to smell the coffee.
I am honoured you’ve asked me to comment, but really, it is up to you to work out your own style for public engagement – polemic, polote, polite but sly, ruthless criticism of everything that exists, and any other number of performative routines.
Whatever the case, late night advice may need a spoonful of salt if you really want it to be taken seriously…
Dr. Mercedes Bunz is a digital thinker, and lives in London. In 2009 Alan Rusbridger offered her to work as the Guardian’s technology reporter; before she was the online editor-in-chief of the Berlin based newspaper Tagesspiegel, and the editor-in-chief of the Berlin city magazine zitty. 1997 she co-founded DEBUG, a monthly magazine for electronic aspects of life, still being part of its board. Her PhD focused on the early history on the internet and the TCP/IP protocol. Currently she is lecturing at the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. Her forthcoming book “The Silent Revolution. How algorithms change knowledge, work, public and politics without making to much noise” will be published next year.
Been thinking about trinkets in songs. I present two stellar
examples, complete with youtube links.
‘In a small far room the bed is set
With trinkets all surrounding
Yet alone it rests, so dry it sets
With souls aside abiding’
Palace Music, ‘We All, Us Three, Will Ride’
‘I crept into a box of mesmerising trinkets
and I probably shouldn’t think it
and I don’t so now I do’
Robert Pollard with Doug Gillard, ‘And I Don’t (So Now I Do)’
Trinkets: always plural. Always something that surrounds or
mesmerises, that one must enter…
Thanks Morgan Daniels
Students in Quebec are marking their 100th day of an unlimited general strike on Tuesday, May 22nd, the culmination of the most stunning mass protest movements of recent months and North America’s largest student movement in years. In fact, the mobilizations in Quebec might just be Canada’s Arab Spring.
Students have been organizing against tuition hikes for nearly one and a half years, when the Quebec government first proposed to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years (amended to 82% over seven years by the government at the end of April). Before the general strike began in February, protests, demos, trainings, letter writing campaigns and attempts to negotiate in good faith with the government were consistently met with obstinate silence from the Charest administration. For the students there has been a growing sense of urgency and a shared recognition that increased tuition means a heavier student debt burden, hundreds of more hours a year spent working instead of studying, less access for working class and lower class students, and a shift in university culture toward the market, the commodification of education, the financialization of student life, and the privatization of the university.
Even if fees increase, Quebec students would be paying less than other provinces in Canada, a gap the provincial government has been aiming to close. But so far every time the administration has proposed to do so, students have gone on strike. Deep in the Quebec struggle is a culture of solidarity and security, a social fabric, a sense of community that endures and mobilizes a powerful defense of their commonwealth. Call it what you will, it is precisely this that Margaret Thatcher declared war upon on May 1st 1981 when she said that the project of neoliberalism is to change the heart and soul of a ‘collectivist’ spirit, and its means is economics. Indeed, the Finance Minister of the Quebec Liberal government recently called its austerity policies “a cultural revolution” and they are not shy about their plan to reorganize Quebecois life through fiscal discipline. The Modèle québécois of social collectivism (in its traditional social democratic sensibility, but also, and more importantly, its directly democratic ethic that has emerged in the course of the last 14 weeks of strike) is the target of these policies, specifically through education and health. This is what explains the Charest government’s attempts to break the strike and destroy the student unions.
Student unionism is particularly strong in Quebec, and for a reason: they are inherently political, engaging, and participatory, using principles of direct democracy in weekly general assemblies. A dispersal of power, where students have a direct role in shaping the culture of university life through the policies and activities of the unions has been the backbone of the growing movement against tuition hikes, and the secret to why it has been able to mobilize such a broad and popular base. Yet, while a rejection of political parties and emphasis on direct democracy and militancy infuse the movement, there are in reality a range of unions—from the combative wing of the movement, such as the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) that demands free education, to more corporatist and mainstream student unions that integrate with bourgeois political parties.
But this struggle represents more than students. It represents an attack on the middle class and lower income families, their sense of social cohesion, and the social entitlement and equality of access to public services amid rising cost of living. The strikes register across these domains of everyday life, in the university, in the family home, the workplace, and the hospital, where increasingly the same growing resentment of the imposition of austerity measures in Quebec emerge, as the tuition increases coincide with the first ever “health tax,” alongside a 20% increase in hydro rates, the raising of the federal retirement age to 67, as well as mass layoffs.
A chronology of the last weeks of the movement
On November 10th, over 200,000 students went on a one-day strike, and 30,000 took to the streets. 20,000 of which marched directly to Charest’s Montreal office to demonstrate against rising fees. Hundreds, including the Quebec Women’s Federation, shut down the Montreal Stock Exchange in mid-February, a site dear to the 1%, and where the Charest government, who had so far been ignoring the budding movement, would certainly devote its rapt attention.
By February 23rd, forty thousand post-secondary students across the province joined the unlimited general strike. Thousands of students occupied the Jacques Cartier Bridge. If the tactical approaches of the movement had been ignored by university administrations and the provincial government in its first weeks, by March 22nd, student unions such as CLASSE (The Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarite Syndaicale Etudiante), whose 80,000 members have been leading the strike, couldn’t be missed. Since then, they have shifted focus toward targeting governmental offices, ministries, and crown corporations, placing strategic emphasis on economic disruption, an approach to direct action that has had precedence in many earlier urban protest movements in the last decade or so.
On March 22nd, as over 300,000 students had been on strike, a massive march in the streets inaugurated the Maple Spring (“Printemps Érable,” a play on words in French), with university after university, and college after college, going on strike. Two months later, on Tuesday, May 22nd, the Quebec students’ unlimited strike will celebrate its 100th day, already one of the largest student mobilizations in recent history. During 100 days of strike, contempt, and resistance, students have mobilized against steep tuition increases, austerity and debt, and the criminalization of the right to education.
On Friday, a friend Lilian Radovac, who has been active in the student mobilizations in Montreal, described a cultural shift expanding in the cracks of everyday austerity:
“For years, May ’68 was a dry, dusty thing other people theorized about in poor translations, but these last months, something like it has been happening in the crevices of our viequotidienne. How strange that it is just there, between bus rides and doctor’s appointments and trips to the grocery store, a thing that is so extraordinary and so bizarrely normal at the same time. The metro has been shut down by smoke bombs? Oh well, I feel like a walk anyway.
Did it feel like this when OWS started? It must have.”
Each week, in local general assemblies of student associations, students have voted to sustain the ‘renewable general strike’. With over 180 different unions representing some 170,000 students, university departments and the government can no longer hope the movement will dwindle on its own, and are increasingly forced to repress the movement actively. Indeed, days after the Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned on May 14th over failed negotiations with student leaders, the Quebec Government enacted a special emergency law.
Bill 78 specifically targets the massive student assemblies and mobilizations in order to break the growing strike and destroy the power of the student union. One member of the Quebec political opposition used the term “Loi Fuck” to refer to the blunt and draconian tool that outlaws public assembly, imposes harsh fines for strike activity (even tacit support), and effectively makes organizing an arrestable offense. The bill also gives more power to the police in enforcing student protest. Indeed, during the last many weeks of escalating street demos, police have repeatedly preempted demonstrations with CS gas, sound grenades, ‘blast disperser’ grenades, and rubber bullets. Nevertheless, it is not clear how this law will be used in the coming days and weeks, or whether it will be successful in intimidating students.
An emergency law announced on the previous Wednesday “suspended” the semester for many CEGEP (academic and vocational college) and university students, with provisions for classes to be postponed until August. Provisions of Bill 78 that followed include:
- Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for anyone who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.
- Steep penalties of $7,000 and $35,000 for anyone deemed a ‘student leader’ and between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student associations. Fines double after the first offense.
- Plans for public demonstrations involving more than 50 people (originally 8) must be submitted to the police eight hours in advance, and must detail itinerary, duration and time at which they are being held.
- Offering encouragement, tacitly supporting, or promoting protest at a school, either is subject to punishment.
In Montreal, specifically, a new municipal anti-mask law accompanies Bill 78, and another has been proposed at the federal level. With Charest’s attempts to legislate the end of the student movement, the struggle has deepened and is now at a turning point. Yet, on its 100th day of an unlimited general strike, the movement does not show any signs of slowing down or veering from its median tactic of general assemblies, its preferred direct action orientation, and its culture of horizontal democracy.
The return of the red square and our right to assembly
Students in Quebec have popularized the symbol of the “red square” to signify being financially “squarely in the red” amid tuition hikes, cuts in social entitlements, and the specter of spiraling student and consumer debt. As their movement has powerfully reminded us, we are all ‘in the red’ as long as the 1% imposes upon us austerity, debt, and repression.
The politics of austerity and the increased policing of everyday life reveal themselves in these instances to be inseparably linked. We can see the direct link between tuition hikes and the criminalization of assembly in Quebec, just as we can see Bloomberg’s management through “free speech zones” of political protest, the silencing of media, and the increased police aggression in suppressing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thus, solidarity with Quebec students is also important work in defense of our right to demonstrate here and everywhere. When times of crisis provoke ramped up police power and allow desperate politicians to pass “emergency laws” that target unquiet sectors of the population, we are certain that the class balance of present society is threatened. But it is a cautious joy we should preach, along with the sober insight that without powerful international solidarity and coordination, as James Baldwin once wrote to Angela Davis, “if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
The police backlash—through intimidation, repression, and wanton brutality—we have faced in NYC for trying to assemble is enormous. On May 2nd, students at Brooklyn College were met with police hostility as they demonstrated against policies that restrict access to education for lower-income students. Wherever the site of struggle, the very idea of opening up space for collective imagination is policed. But we are not battling on the plane of the imaginary. An attack in Quebec on the right to assemble, if unchallenged through coordinated international solidarity, will have real and chilling effects on our movements here.
Solidarity in NYC
Speaking about the Quebec students’ strike in New York, there is often enthusiasm and support, if not bewilderment upon learning of the size and power of their movement, something that the media blackout in the U.S. has successfully eclipsed. But there is also a bit of shoulder shrugging. “Are they really on strike for $250 dollars?” one unmoved passerby queried as we were wrapping up an assembly in the park on Sunday. Indeed more popular education needs to be done here on the plight of students in the climate of this crisis. But the student struggle, here in NYC as in Quebec, is not only a struggle for the student: it is about access to education for all regardless of economic circumstance, a challenge to the very economic and political planning that has been transforming our cities into spaces for the elite over the last three decades.
This past weekend, several groups from Occupy Wall Street and other organizations held an assembly to address these “emergency laws” and discuss solidarity with Quebec on Tuesday. Immediately a robust day was in the works: At 2PM on Tuesday, the time marches are slated to begin in Montreal, demonstrators in NYC will gather at the Quebec Government Offices at 1 Rockefeller Plaza. The Free University, which organized a day of free education in Madison Square Park on May Day, is hosting a pop-up occupation open to all students, educators, and community members. At 5PM, there will be a gathering on the north side of the fountain in Washington Square Park, where people will paint banners, make ‘book bloc’ shields, and cut red squares for the evening march. At 6PM, there will be a teach in/speak out assembly about the Quebec student strike, the emergency laws, and the criminalization of dissent, followed by a number of self-organized lectures, workshops, skill-shares, and discussions.
In coordination with Quebec students who have been holding nightly assemblies, there will also be an assembly and march originating from Washington Square Park at 8PM to celebrate the successes of the student movement and to march against repressive anti-protest laws worldwide.
On this day, in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Quebec, we will paint the town red.
Malav Kanuga is a doctoral student in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, NY and editor of the publishing imprint Common Notions.
I assume people are reading edu-factory. If not, the archives are here:
A recent comment by Saed seemed really useful to me, deserves repetition, even out of context, and in part says:
But how will we set up autonomous universities? Running research labs requires quite a bit of very expensive equipment and infrastructure. This is a matter that is left largely implicit, but if we set up and run universities that can do nothing more than cover humanities and social sciences then we will get nowhere. Should we continue to leave the know-how, knowledge production about medicines, building structures, cropping systems, water management, etc. (basically the knowledge systems that subtend our everyday survival in industrialised contexts) to the usual capitalist institutions? In this respect, we are extremely far from building much of an alternartive. And this is not about "science" as defined in the mainstream, but science as actually practised and as involving systematic observation, knowledge production, understanding, carework, etc. about nonhuman beings and environmental processes. So, to prevent any misunderstandings, I am not talking about the scientific canon, which is largely self-congratulatory dross that reflects little more than self-serving ideologies. I refer to anyone that studies nonhuman beings and physical environments in a systematic and systematised way, which is really wuite different from studying social processes, for example. There is still hardly any interest in that on the left, which is unfortunate. But unless we get at least half among us to take the rest of the universe seriously as to be studied and as a source of knowledge for our survival, then I am afraid any autonomous anything will be easily brushed aside and eaten up. All it takes is having no one to repair autonomous university buildings, not knowing how to fix plumbing or electrical problems, not knowing how to grow food or use soils properly, and the list could go on. And then there is the not very small matter of needing land, water, and all basic necessities for survival off of the hands of the bourgeoisie, which is why we even need a wage in the first place. There is a lot more to think about and work to do, I reckon, and setting up autonomous universities, in my view, should be done with those aspects also in mind. for in the end it is a mode of production that has to be changed, not one cog of its machinery. This is not to say at all that free/autonomous universities are not a worthile pursuit. Quite the ocntrary. We should just think beyond universities when engaging in disrupting, undermining, setting up alternatives to universities as they are now.
From Heather Morrison, some useful links:
The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine searches over 30 million documents (most are free to download):
If you don’t find a free copy, consider asking the author to make their work openly available through an open access archive. In my experience, authors appreciate hearing about this interest in their work.
There are more than 2,000 open access archives available – you can find a list here:
A large percentage of academic authors will have an institutional repository available. There are also a number of subject repositories, including PubMedCentral, arXiv (physics), RePEC (economics), the Social Sciences Research Network, and E-LIS for library and information science.
If the author has no other repository available, there is a free service called My Open Archive:
To find out if the author has rights to self archive, look up the Sherpa RoMEO Publisher Copyright Policies and Self-Archiving:
Most publishers allow authors to self-archive their own work, whether as preprint (before refereeing) or postprint (author’s own copy, after peer review).
There is also a growing body of born open access materials. I cover the growth of OA in a quarterly series which I call the Dramatic Growth of Open Access:
I am not sure which word in the above slogan I find most difficult – Goldsmiths, learning, enhancement, or unit. I guess I have problems with the idea of unit most of all. I like that a unit here is not singular, that it is a number of people who work in the institution ostensibly to enhance learning, and so this collective endeavour at Goldsmiths is better than the other meaning of unit which is singular – a single unit of measure, or a kitchen appliance or cupboard. The trouble however with the collective unit here is that it belongs to the bureaucratic structure and any containment of collectivity seems in dire need to be turned and released from this alienated institutionalized normative form. When it comes to learning enhancement though, the unit of assessment is still more worrying.
And we are here to talk about research. On this I simply want to say that any investigation teaches us that things are never so simple.
Are we even sure we know what research directed learning is? Or if it is such a good thing that we have whole units of the university dedicated to it? This belongs to another concern I have with learning as it goes on in educational institutions. There are many ways in which learning is assessed. Indeed, assessment is core to the way in which we seem sure about this thing we call education. It will not surprise anyone to hear me question the old credo that education is not always a social good.
Let me tell an educational anecdote. This is in fact true. Last year, in the wake of the first period of the Arab uprisings of 2011, I helped organize a conference in Gothenburg as part of the music festival Clandestino (a progressive music festival which rendered world music as global sweatbox, not just global jukebox). One evening, activists from a political faction from Tunisia joined in a comradely discussion about their intent to include the ‘right to education for all’ in the new constitution they were helping write in the post-Ben Ali era. Late into the night we argued about what sort of education. My one real chance at what the research councils like to call impact happened over beer at 3am outside a music festival under and almost midnight sun in Sweden. I cannot find the form on which to report this back to the research excellence framework people.
The point is that this tells us something about the place of education. Reading the recent work of Gayatri Spivak (An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization 2012) has suggested to me that we might consider how education can be thought of as an institutionally organized framework for class mobility and/or class reproduction. This is something that should be investigated. And the investigation itself – modeled as criticism-self-criticism – can be a teaching tool.
After all, the closer you look, the more complicated things are. If there is one lesson of research it is this one – despite the requirements of formal report back, and the absurd process of condensing lessons learned from research into formulaic aims and outcomes for program specification for teaching courses that have to be approved by … before I concede to this contemplative ever more stupid verbosity which wails on and on about the predicament in which a malignant and parasitical bureaucracy saps all subtlety and nuance from ideas… I would like to just offer the formulas as guidance:
- Generalise and interrupt
- dialectic – theory-praxis
- from individual towards collective
The tendential effort of the corporate university is towards team teaching and research groups, which itself may seem happily collective, but in an alienated form governed by the policy outcomes straightjacket. Can this alienation be transmuted nevertheless? We have seen this dynamic somewhere before, and we have a theoretical and theatrical text about it – what’s new sausage factory?
As Eyal Weizman shows in his book The Least of all Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arent to Gaza, research too can become a lethal and ‘misanthropic’ instrument of governance. Israeli use of statistics and other research methods operates ‘by calibrating the level of electronic current, calories and other necessities to the minimum possible level in an attempt to govern people by reducing them to the limit of bare physical existence’ (Weizman 2012:5)
No-one will be surprised to hear me say this has echoes of what Marx had already said about capital in the factory, maintaining the worker at the minimum that ensures a return for surplus labour extraction the next day, and the next. Marx even condemns the practices of nutritional research where a certain ‘wonderful philosopher’ and American ‘humbug’ baronised Yankee Benjamin Thompson, alias Count Rumford is taken to task for proposing a specific recipe for soup for factory workers (Marx 1867/1970:601). The subsequent career of research in the pay of exploitation is itself written in annals of blood and fire – from the symbiotic embrace of anthropology and colonialism through to the neoliberal interventions of the IMF and austerity, not forgetting psy-ops, differential association deviance sociology and Co-Intel-Pro, and most recently the human terrain research of the U.S. Army Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written compiled, plagiarized, assembled from the detritus of outdated social research by a team of army anthropologists (2007).
At what point does the imbrication of research and control – today quite readily digitized and networked by brand-name recognition search engines – at what point does the appellation ‘researcher’ tip over the line in the sand that separates Mengele or a Pentagon weapons analyst from our apprentice sorcerer of knowledge systems commonly known as the PhD candidate?
There is another tradition of research, or another rendering of the research project as redeemable model, perhaps. I want to explore this as it has become popular among certain activist circles and even seems to offer practical and engaged solutions for pressing problems of organization, knowledge and purpose, even if there are also serious criticisms to be taken on board as well. What follows is a truncated or potted history of an idea that could be again renewed.
This idea has a venerable back-story. The figure of the Factory Inspector is set out by Marx in ‘The Working Day’ chapter of Capital, volume one, not as an uncritically approved person of unassailable credentials, but as an advocate of investigation that does a service for the working class ‘that should never be forgotten’. The Factory Inspector is Leonard Horner, his work appeared in the Blue Books, which were parliamentary reports, appearing at least annually, and read by Marx as key sources for his examinations of conditions in the industrial factories of 19th Century capitalism and of the struggles over wages, hours, child labour and education that surround the introduction of the Factory Acts (ensuring a modicum of education for children, and limits on the number of consecutive hours they may be forced to work).
‘Leonard Horner was one of the Factory Inquiry Commissioners of 1833, and Inspector, or rather Censor of Factories until 1859. He rendered undying service to the English working-class. He carried on a life-long contest [Kampf – struggle], not only with the embittered manufacturers, but also with the Cabinet, to whom the number of votes given by the masters in the lower house, was a matter of far greater importance that the number of hours worked by the “hands” in the mills’ (Marx 334P, 225LW)
We might attend to the blue books so as to work out the importance of Horner’s reports for the class struggle – if nothing else, offered as tribute to his memory – but also because the performative work of doing research, and showing how research – factory inspections and the like – might be done, is also the demonstrative and illustrative effort of Marx in this chapter. It is as if Marx wants to conjure a worker-reader that will take on the task of making both analysis and description themselves, in the midst of struggle, and to ensure there is a structural or institutionally supported habit of research – factory inspections as routine – that would then support organized worker use of this research. To make use of the reports though, Marx needs the worker to be a reader, a reader in his own image perhaps, and what a reader.
Of course there will have been many readers. We can wonder who else reads the blue book reports? Marx read many of them – throughout the three volumes he quotes large sections from Leonard, for example MEGa2 II/15:97-100 a letter on the speed of steam engines and their improvement. We also know that there were a number of inspectors, so Marx reads these, including a certain sub-inspector Baker (Capital vol 3 MEGA2 II/15:126). Marx quotes the half year reports from 1846 through 1864. He also quotes Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, which came out the year before the first of the blue books. eg Vol 3:485
Engels had introduced Marx to this kind of documentation, and indeed provided – as we can see from the correspondence – much detail from experience. If we consider Marx’s ‘ethnographic’ gleanings from the factory inspectors and the like, and agree these are an update on what Engels produced in the Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 – as Engels in effect accepts in not updating this work on its reissue in 1892, saying Marx already achieved more (and added a more urgent sense of the class struggle), then we can see from where the imperative of research as workplace inquiry is inaugurated.
I want to stress a central Marxist trajectory for workplace research. First of all the reference is to Engels The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester, written when Engels was 24, then the huge chapter ‘The Working Day’ in Marx’s Capital, volume one, which details the conditions in factories when skilled labourers were being replaced by machines and cheaper labour, mostly women and children. This initial formation of workplace inquiry takes explicit form when very late in Marx’s life when he penned 100 questions for a ‘Workers Inquiry’ wanting to generalize the Factory Inspections of England to France, and beyond? We might perhaps trace this next to the Bolsheviks, and Lenin of 1902, the so-called Factory Exposures of the Iskra newspaper, and many other similar examples. This can be called a parallel sociology, and even owes debts to Adorno as well as Kracauer’s 1920s work on the Salaried Masses, through to the Italian post-war Marxist Operaist tradition starting with Panzieri in the journal Quaderni Rossi (Wright 2002:21) and the Workerism of Italian autonomia, on up to Negri and Hardt (though of course with reservations (Hutnyk 2004). I am also tempted to explore, alongside this, from outside the labour movement, how the collection of oral histories and questionnaires of the ‘poverty-stricken’ came to be known as co-research, and how the term Inquiry has much wider appeal among contemporary activists. Journals like Ephemera, The Commune, Common Sense, Capital and Class, Aufheben, Riff Raff, all have interesting things to say about Workers Inquiries.
If it is in fact standard to say, as I think it is, that everyone can trace this work back to the figure of the Factory Inspector Leonard Horner as described by Marx in his chapter on ‘The Working Day’ in Capital, we also owe it top Marx to note his criticisms of Horner, but also his recognition that the factory inspectors were an innovation on the part of capital.
Marx declared as much in a short notice in La Revue Socialiste April, 20, 1980, four years before his death, where he called for a official Inquiry:
The blackguardly features of capitalist exploitation which were exposed by the official investigation organized by the English government and the legislation which was necessitated there as a result of these revelations (legal limitation of the working day to 10 hours, the law concerning female and child labor, etc.), have forced the French bourgeoisie to tremble even more before the dangers which an impartial and systematic investigation might represent. In the hope that maybe we shall induce a republican government to follow the example of the monarchical government of England by likewise organizing a far reaching investigation into facts and crimes of capitalist exploitation, we shall attempt to initiate an inquiry of this kind with those poor resources which are at our disposal. We hope to meet in this work with the support of all workers in town and country who understand that they alone can describe with full knowledge the misfortunes form which they suffer and that only they, and not saviors sent by providence, can energetically apply the healing remedies for the social ills which they are prey. We also rely upon socialists of all schools who, being wishful for social reform, must wish for an exact and positive knowledge of the conditions in which the working class — the class to whom the future belongs -works and moves.
The 100 questions Marx then deploys are questions we might usefully answer today, or even better adapt to the new conditions of work in which we presently find ourselves, as workers or workers in waiting – stagnant, latent, floating, units of reproduction, training, precarious or lumpenised, rendered more or less always in relation to surplus value extraction, even when ‘resting’. The social factory being the workplace expanded to take in the entire domain of life as we know it. The investigators the normative statisticians and record keepers of this alienated sociality, such that even the inquiry, and ‘research’ is subject now to questions of intent. An workplace inquiry cannot be one which provides better information for better management – by now even the figure of the inspector is compromised, and anyway in bourgois form always had a checkered history – the detective is a case in point where we could think of Sherlock Holmes through to Inspector Clouseau, or think of how the romantic Fleet Street fantasy of the campaigning journalist and the historical-materialist sociology professor of the campus novel have now each been bought off for television serialisation.
Workers Inquiry in Italy.
‘Nobody has discovered anything more about the working class after Marx; it still remains an unknown continent. One knows for certain that it exists, because everyone has heard it speak, and anyone can hear fables about it. But no one can say: I have seen and understood’ (Tronti 1971: 18 in Wright 2002:76)
By the early 1960s the question of changes to class composition had been raised in Quaderni Rossi. The old model of class, almost intact from the times of Marx (later on, formulated in the question ‘what has happened to the working class since Marx?’ – Tronti 1971:263 in Wright 202:86) was no longer readily apparent in the new conditions of production, alongside the emergent new social movements (feminism, anti-racism, sexual politics).
May 68 changes all this by forcing new subjectivites centre stage. It was the expression of something that had been brewing in the decomposition and recomposition of the ratio of living to dead labour (Wright 2002:36) as ‘new labour processes and new workers foreign to the traditions of the labour movement’ (Wright 2002:35) joined workplace struggles.
What is the foremost question for early Italian workerism should be carefully identified as coming directly out of a close reading of Marx, especially the passages on the technical composition of capital. The task of understanding its specificities today, is considered crucial.
The technical composition of Capital is an evaluation of the relative magnitude of the components of the production process – fixed, or constant capital in the form of tools, machinery, given levels of know-how, methods of working, distribution, communication, technology and knowledge all relative to variable capital, that labour which is hired because it adds value through its particular capacity as super-adequacy – it is able to produce more value than is needed for its own reproduction.
The relative magnitude, or ration, of constant to variable capital profoundly impacts upon the character of profits that can be expropriated from the production process. The magnitude of that ration are expressions of the cultural or social as such, but of course alienated under capitalism into a system of justifications and legitimations of class rule, hierarchy and the division of labour. This is why cultural inquiry has to be something more than research into culture.
Today, the mass of constant capital, not only but certainly very much in the west, is considerable. Machinery, plant, stock, assets – call it whatever – this mass considerably dwarfs value in labour unless significant global scale is considered.
Proletarianisation is key here. The question is of the degree to which labour deskilling has meant the machine works the worker, but it is also a matter of political consciousness and struggle/a culture of struggle by the class that came to be affected by this deskilling. Atomised workers organize less. The laptop warrior is not of the same order. The dialectic governs the circumstances into which an inquiry succeeds or fails, and the effort of capital is of course to make it fail, the criteria of success however may not be as expected. Inquiry perhaps succeeds to the degree to which the contradictions of the scene of deskilling are brought to awareness, more or less, and turned into antagonisms, to be acted upon.
No surprise then that this is also found in Marx, and exactly where he introduces the term ‘prekärer’:
As soon, therefore, as the labourers learn the secret, how it comes to pass that in the same measure as they work more, as they produce more wealth for others, and as the productive power of their labour increases, so in the same measure even their function as a means of the self-expansion of capital becomes more and more precarious for them; as soon as they discover that the degree of intensity of the competition among themselves depends wholly on the pressure of the relative surplus population; as soon as, by Trades’ Unions, &c., they try to organise a regular co-operation between employed and unemployed in order to destroy or to weaken the ruinous effects of this natural law of capitalistic production on their class, so soon capital and its sycophant, Political Economy, cry out at the infringement of the “eternal” and so to say “sacred” law of supply and demand. Every combination of employed and unemployed disturbs the “harmonious” action of this law. (Marx 1867/1970:641 L&W P793, D669)
What distinguishes the autonomists is the working through of this precarious emergence of class consciousness in new times. The post-war period, through to the 1960s and beyond brings new subjects – feminism, sexuality, environmentalism, migration etc.
The issue of the composition (decomposition) and recomposition of classes under changing conditions does presume an ‘updated’ notion of class struggle. Negri’s schematic tracking of the key labouring subject through professional worker (skilled trades), the mass worker (unskilled) to the socialized worker (communication, flexible) is of course also abstraction just as much as was Marx’s capitalist and proletarian (see Eighteenth Brumaire for the nuanced historical antidote to the theoretical binary). Yet still the idea that a proletariat exists, inflected across an ongoing history of slavery, reconfigured as anti-racism, disaggregated into foreign workers and migrancy etc etc., is where there is something of great importance for deciding who does research, why, and who for. Is a progressive intellectual and pedagogical research project necessarily only a tracking surveillance, or can it be constitutive of something more.
Today, workers inquiry in the autonomy tradition works at that field where the socialized worker may recognize themselves and their work – immaterial labour, affective labour, attention, virtual, precarious, productive consumption, communications, symbolic play, shit work mixed with temporary, flexible, diversified, collaborative, remote, transitory and itinerant labour – as subject to, and thereby organized against, capital and capitalists. The bourgeoisie can only recognize itself through the state, as orthodox Marxism would have it, and needs institutionalized sociologists and anthropologists to articulate its self-image (this is another trap of the teaching factory) but workers inquiry is necessary collective, participatory and self-organized. Here a responsibility to oneself as part of a project offers a different outlook than does the control orders of disciplinary knowledge. Breaking with the order words and hierarchy of knowledges where cultural studies might sidestep the requirement of working for the man (in order to work for the human).
Workplace Inquiry in the University?
So we might perhaps like to consider an inquiry of this sort for our own conditions in the university. In the Learning enhancement sausage factory where the famous and over-used Marx quote cannot be avoided: ‘a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation’ (Marx 1867/1967:644).
‘they have something of which they are very proud’ – Nietzsche
Is it that we are fighting to preserve the University or the education ideal? Or is this fading image not also one of the tricks and mystifications, deceits and evasions of a neoliberal terra forming that has remade all values as money. Monetisation of the research agenda, blink, course development, blink, quality assurance, blink, corporate sponsor, excellence award, commercial start-up, blink. The fee regime, the estate redevelopment, the porters, security, blink, the brand, the font, the ‘I study at …’ blink, relocate the bookshop, redesign the forecourt, rename the Green, summer school, conference services, champagne Lasalle, the international recruits, the UKBA, Santander Bank, blink, information retention, 2015, Goldsmiths Online, podcast and blink, community liaison, gallery extension, honourary award, blink blink kerching.
The time is ripe for a far more public inquiry into the character and composition of the educational institution today. Not because the privatisation and operationalisation of research is a new danger – that alignment with corporate and national interest was long underway. No, because the engagement of investigators, detectives, citizen journalists, factory inspectors, co-researchers, amateur historians, activist hunter-seekers, is itself an organizing tool that must turn research from its somnambulant sleepwalk into its ideal commercial form as market intelligence. Providing instead the militant forums for thinking and critique that will be part of a sabotage from within of the myth of neutrality of research may be the only justification for the institution of the University today.
The ‘white man got a god-complex’ said the Last Poets, and any idea that research with impact isn’t open to wholesale subservience to the false deification of money-theism really does not know what blasphemy could be. Money-theism in the university takes the spectral form of supposing that knowledge is valuable to the extent that it secures research council approval as funds. Money begets money.
Teaching and learning by-the-numbers means the imbrication of slogan versions of ideas with accreditation – the lesser of the two oldest professions. To demean teaching by both demanding money for it and refusing any substantive critical thinking, including self-criticism, is the aggravation of incoherence. This is not to say that there should be no funding for higher education – the point is that the provision of well-educated pliable automatons for industry is not something for which I think we should charge parents, or even students. Corporate employers benefit from free training when they find labour power available for hire already equipped and ready for waged employment. Ipso facto, corporate taxation and university funding through an at least seemingly impartial state mechanism, would only be a transitional phase while we inculcate in our students those habits of criticism that will necessarily be dysfunctional for capital, would build another world, and prevail against the inevitable counter-insurgent forces that will attend its birth pangs.
The question for now has to do with the technical composition of university work.
There are many more questions to be devised. And there are already considerable resources and documents on the functioning of the university as workplace to read. Indeed, it would be a part of any inquiry to take heed of all the talk of productivity and quality assurance and see this as a resource of investigation. The bureaucracy is, in a way, verbose and confessional – a massive stream of documents that serve usually to obfuscate the workings of the sausage machine. Could these latter-day Blue Books be read as a way into the inquiry? If we ask about the role of all this red tape, committees and visionary parallel committee structures, we might also wonder at the dysfunctions of the institutional composition
Of quality assurance, Periodic Review, Course scrutiny committee, performance evaluation. While none of these are the kind of inquiry I am talking about, could then be turned into documentary evidence? A forensic architecture that deconstructs the corporate university (to borrow Eyal Weizman’s terminology).
Workplace inquiry is not a social science reporting to the institution for the better management of the accumulation process. It is rather a tool for organizing. More elaborate than a clipboard activist who will stop you in the street and engage in inane conversation before asking for a subscription. More than a newspaper-seller-from-hell outside the high street market on a Saturday morning. An inquiry mobilizes an engagement with class interests. It is about demystifying the ways class struggle manifests as institutional power, market ‘norms; bourgeois ideology etc., as a system of exploitation and destructive – finally counter productive of life.
Subject – agency – collective agency
Individual – multiple
Marx wants to make a self aware agent of the worker, not as worker, but as a class. The collective transmutation of the administrative operation as a site for intervention seems at least worthy as a terrain of struggle. The investigation may at least learn something, together, about how we can work the university. Or, die trying, and watch the dysfunction rot the sinking ship before it settles into its own malignant swamp.
Must class mobility be mediated through the state and its institutional machines of compromise? We cannot credit the new academics, the reassertion of the tiered tertiary sector, or the tooling of the research councils towards national productivity as anything other than a reinforced architecture of the class system. Against this, a mobilization of research as constant critique, as internal agitation. Let us then investigate education as an institution based formula for class mobility often hamstrung by stasis, a dilapidated and parasitic bureaucracy and entrenched, unexamined, privilege, including especially race privilege. A great complicity and recuperation undermines all attempts to negotiate the blockages.