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authoritarian neoliberalism and the alienation of academic labour


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Slides for a presentation at the BERA Symposium on 27 June 2018: Debating theories of neoliberalism: New perspectives and framings in education research

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authoritarian neoliberalism and the alienation of academic labour

  1. 1. Authoritarian neoliberalism and the alienation of academic labour Richard Hall ¦ @hallymk1 ¦ ¦
  2. 2. Part one: the living death of academic labour (a recent history)
  3. 3. The State (and global capital) Debate. •The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie (Marx and Engels, 2002, p. 82). •The history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule (ibid., p. 86). •The ‘accumulation’ and ‘legitimation’ functions of the state indicate its dual role, as a form of administration and as a form of domination; contradiction; integration or separation; structure, struggle and value in the capital-relation (Clarke, 1991a).
  4. 4. The State Debate (render unto Caesar): •proto, roll-back, roll-out (Ball, 2012) as ordered liberties vs rights; •coercive, non-democratic and unequal re-organisation (Bruff, 2013); •social relations (institutions, data, justice) in the name of markets (Connell, 2013); •corporate parasitisation of the State – governance and regulation: pragmatic and structural (Jessop, 2016); mediated power (Davies, 2017); •hegemonic masculinity (Newman, 2017) and methodological whiteness (Bhambra, 2017); and •the new, authoritarian normal: C51; gag laws; “[kettling is] least intrusive and most effective” (ECHR).
  5. 5. “autonomy does not mean the absence of [mediated] accountability”
  6. 6. Part two: the (competitive) proletarianisation of academic labour
  7. 7. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones Marx and Engels, 2002, p. 86.
  8. 8. An HE policy narrative with three pedagogic functions: 1.the fetishisation of human capital – a particular subjectivity or mode of attention/orientation; 2.the proletarianisation of academic labour through competition; and 3.the internalisation of performative responses – against wilfulness.
  9. 9. Moments in a process of subsumption •no exaggeration to say that our country’s future depends more than ever on the success of our HEIs; •we will not forget the underlying values of HE… joy and value of knowledge pursued for its own sake; pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful; •uncompromising in our protection of students’ interests… insist on value for money for the student [and] also for the taxpayer; •we will embrace both collaboration and competition. Barber, Foreward, in DfE, 2017b, pp. 8-9.
  10. 10. Effective competition compels providers to focus on students’ needs and aspirations, drives up outcomes that students care about, puts downward pressure on costs, leads to more efficient allocation of resources between providers, and catalyses innovation. The higher education sector in England is well suited to market mechanisms driving continuous improvement many of the primary benefits to the student… are spread out over their life time. This exposes the market to distortions… Students need to be protected as they make potentially life changing decisions about higher education, but this cannot and will not be at the expense of deep, trust-based higher education experiences. DfE, 2017b, pp. 43-5.
  11. 11. Competition is the completest expression of the battle of all against all which rules in modern civil society… Each is in the way of the other, and each seeks to crowd out all who are in [her] way, and to put [herself] in their place. But this competition of the workers among themselves is the worst side of the present state of things in its effect upon the worker, the sharpest weapon against the proletariat in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Hence the effort of the workers to nullify this competition by associations Engels, 1845/2009, p. 111.
  12. 12. business process re-engineering technical and organisational development performance management: metrics/league tables surplus time, labour, value labour rights: precarity/casualisation the social tyranny of exchange-value Wendling, 2009, p. 52
  13. 13. 1. reports of adjunct professors who “don’t even earn the federal minimum wage” (Saccaro 2014); 2. struggles led by postgraduate researcher-led committees in the form of fair pay and labour rights (CUPE3903 2017); 3. quitlit reports of academics leaving the profession (Morris 2015); 4. self-imposed overwork as a culturally-acceptable form of self- harm (Hall and Bowles, 2016); 5. reports of the suicides of those who are classified as precarious, or for whom status is being removed; and 6. networks reporting on casualisation (CASA 2017).
  14. 14. Part three: we are all alienated now
  15. 15. [illness/precarity, labour rights, money, value/surplus- value, labour-power, private property, alienated-labour] alienated-labour as the key to understanding the ways in which capitalist society mediates our activity, with a focus on their overcoming
  16. 16. the alienation of the academic labourer from: 1.her labour-power, which is made precarious as it is sold in the market; 2.the products of her labour, which are financialised and marketised for their exchange-value rather than their social utility; 3.herself as she becomes a self-exploiting entrepreneur; and, 4.her humanity as a species-being, reinforced through global competition. (Marx and Engels, 1846/1998)
  17. 17. Weltschmerz world weariness that lies beyond anxiety, anguish or ennui a deeper sense of hopelessness about the academic project hopelessness connected to a loss of autonomy/freedom the cultural terrain reinforces within us a sense that we are not productive enough, and that this is a sin
  18. 18. When your ongoing employment hangs on the outcome of a fellowship application that has a less than 20% success rate, it’s easy to abandon self-care in favour of working nights and weekends to increase your chances. When moving interstate or overseas is the only way to pursue your vocation, it’s hard to maintain a relationship or a sense of self. Almost every academic I know is either overweight, living with a mental illness, or has an autoimmune disorder. O’Dwyer, 2016
  19. 19. • Normalised kettling of certain bodies (Ahmed 2012) • The experiences of black female academics (Gabriel and Tate 2017) • Methodological whiteness; privileging of White interests (Bhambra 2017) • Intercommunal justice and decentring whiteness (Narayan 2017)
  20. 20. Part four: the real movement
  21. 21. The State Debate (render unto Caesar): order, disorder and risk: liberties vs rights coercive, non-democratic and unequal in the name of markets corporate parasitisation hegemonic norms authoritarian norms
  22. 22. the real intellectual wealth of the individual depends entirely on the wealth of [her] real connections. Only this will liberate the separate individuals… Bring them into practical connection with the production (including intellectual production) of the whole world and make it possible for them to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth Marx and Engels, 1846/1998, p. 59
  23. 23. As intellectual workers we refuse the fetishised concept of the knowledge society and engage in teaching, learning and research only in so far as we can re-appropriate the knowledge that has been stolen from the workers that have produced this way of knowing (i.e. Abundance). In the society of abundance the university as an institutional form is dissolved, and becomes a social form or knowledge at the level of society (i.e. The General Intellect). It is only on this basis that we can knowingly address the global emergencies with which we are all confronted [i.e. through collective work/in the social factory]. The University of Utopia. n.d.
  24. 24. Against what the University has become democracy into/through the curriculum inter-disciplinarity/beyond the discipline uncover alienated-labour and its mediations less harmful conditions of production
  25. 25. Points of solidarity across the social factory mental and physical health the financialised control of life-activity the reduction of life to entrepreneurship and employability the assault on social justice, and labour and human rights the violence of abstraction: poverty, climate change, colonialism
  26. 26. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.