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Bath Spa Presentation: The Alienated Academic

  1. the alienated academic: the struggle for autonomy inside the university Richard Hall ¦ @hallymk1 ¦ ¦
  2. How do we connect critique to a political horizon that works to abolish rather than fetishise academic labour?
  3. Categorical critique: an attempt to explain what is happening at a level that cuts through (i.e. intersects) the differences in professional experience, in order to find what is common among us. The hopelessness of labour: to mistake the manifestations for the cause of our problems breeds helplessness and hopelessness. An intersectional synthesis: connecting contemporary Marxism with the literature of feminism, (de)colonialism, identity politics, in the context of contemporary changes in English HE. What is to be done? A workers’ enquiry into the class composition of academic labourers; solidarity and the social strike; defining compelling imaginaries for a post-work society, and how to get there.
  4. living a feminist life: •does not mean adopting a set of ideals or norms of conduct; •although it might mean asking ethical questions about how to live better in an unjust and unequal world (in a not-feminist and antifeminist world); •how to create relationships with others that are more equal; •how to find ways to support those who are not supported or are less supported by social systems; •how to keep coming up against histories that have become concrete, histories that have become as solid as walls. Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press, p. 1.
  5. Awakenings Part 1: the terrain of academic labour Crisis / Alienation Part 2:the terrain of academic alienation Knowledge / Profession / Weltschmerz / Identity Part 3: the terrain for overcoming alienation Indignation / Autonomy
  6. Awakenings
  7. whether academics are awake to their role in the reproduction of systems of alienating oppression… whether those who labour in academia are able to imagine that another world is possible. (p. 4)
  8. autonomy does not mean the absence of accountability   where markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene University means University for lender and purchaser
  9. •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. Barber, Foreward, in DfE, 2017, pp. 8-9.
  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. DfE, 2017, pp. 43-5.
  11. • authoritarian managerialism: autonomy and accountability; corporativism • human capital theory • markets and money: cognitive dissonance • discourses of productivity, excellence, entrepreneurship and impact • proletarianisation accelerated through imposed competition Against self-mediation (wilfulness) academic, professional service staff and student ill-being, precarity, overwork, quitting, debt
  12. Part 1: the terrain of academic labour, Crisis / Alienation
  13. Crisis infects academic life, whilst enabling the system of capital to be presented as a natural, transhistorical solution that requires an ongoing process of structural reform. (p. 37) Whilst it is important to critique the conditions and relations of production inside the University, and to recognise the differential levels of exploitation experienced intersectionally, it is also crucial to look at how social reproduction underscores these conditions and experiences. [p. 60]
  14. Alienated labour as the key to understanding the ways in which capitalist society mediates our activity, with a focus on their overcoming. grounded in a conscious and qualitative lack of agency or autonomy, where ongoing, systemic exploitation and dispossession are the norm… reproduced by the individual who has to submit through a lack of power- over her own social reproduction (p. 74) Incorporates Hegel (self-externalization or renunciation; estrangement in the Spirit’s becoming other than itself in the realm of objectivity; sublation); Feuerbach (projection of own essence onto an imaginary); Lukács (reification – labour activity dominates through external autonomous laws).
  15. Alienation erupts from the disconnection between political economy and human richness. Its realisation is driven by estrangement and loss catalysed by what it takes to produce an individual life in capitalist society. It is driven by the divorce of self from those processes of production. Moreover, alienation erupts from the enforced, disciplinary disconnection between ways of explaining and making the world. (p. 69)
  16. aufhebung, is a positive transcendence grounded in human self-mediation. Our indignation at the world as it is, and our struggles for something different, are less an ontological manifestation of labour as a transhistorical thing, and rather a historically-specific eruption in response to alienated labour inside capitalist social relations. (p. 76)
  17. The institutional mediations of the University force the academic to becomes complicit in protecting her labour-power, and seeking to enhance its value in the market. This lack of subjective power catalyses further fragmentation between individuals, including intersectional injustices as subgroups are dominated and othered. (p. 90)
  18. Part 2: the terrain of academic alienation, Knowledge / Profession / Weltschmerz / Identity
  19. The power-to explain the world… consistently runs up against narratives of power-over the world that are structured through private property, commodity exchange and the division of labour… As a result, academic knowledge remains grounded in hegemonic power relations, and has a limited or partial explanatory power. (p. 102)
  20. a critique of the development of academic knowledge identifies opportunities for pushing back against the alienating rhetoric of capitalist work: •against pedagogies of consumption and commodification; •from the recognition that a critique of knowledge helps to shape the reality and history of labour-in-capitalism. (p. 126)
  21. The labourer consumes herself as she materialises her product, and in return she internalises the objective character of her product. it becomes increasingly important for the academic to enrich her human capital, in order to maintain her status (p. 137) [This] marginalises or silences those who are unable to recalibrate their practice against discourses of excellence and impact, and whose labour-power is not permanently accessible to capital, for instance because they are carers, mothers, disabled or in working poverty. (p. 154)
  22. Weltschmerz, or a world weariness that lies beyond anxiety, anguish or ennui, reflects a deeper sense of hopelessness about the academic project. such despair is connected to a loss of autonomy that is itself rooted in the inability to escape from capital’s domination. the cultural terrain upon which capital works reinforces within us a sense that we are not productive enough, and that this is sinful. reflects not only their loss of self in their work, but also constant self- judgement through internalised performance management. (pp. 161-2)
  23. At issue is how to place transformation of the mode of production at the heart of the matter, rather than amplifying hopelessness. engagement in survival programmes as a precursor to dismantling the mode of production, are crucial for academics. Academic privilege and hegemonic, alienating academic norms need to be checked by learning from alternative life experiences. (p. 181)
  24. a constructive reimagining that forces us to reconsider how persistent crises of value consistently degrade community relations, in order to overcome those relations and define a new anti-productive environment (p. 188) [Against hegemonic] masculine performance inside the University… that transmits self-harming activities throughout the academic peloton. (p. 195) How is it possible to move beyond separation, divorce, false binaries, and social estrangement, in order to define an alternative form of social metabolic control? (pp. 204-5)
  25. Part 3: the terrain for overcoming alienation Indignation / Autonomy
  26. to open-out the categories of struggle, such that praxis can be seen as an opening-out of subjectivity. to situate struggle through narratives of indignation, which themselves explode from exploitation (p. 215) Specific struggles for change and radical experiment enable us to question if it is possible to rupture alienated labour in the University, or whether a focus upon dignity in overcoming alienation and estrangement from production, society and the self is impossible from inside institutions. (p. 223)
  27. how to contribute to the development of a different consciousness, alongside antagonism towards exploitation across a wide terrain, without imposing theoretical or methodological closure upon those already made marginal (p. 227) The struggle for dignity is the struggle for a new form of revolutionary pedagogy at the level of society. (p. 230) The practice of revolutionary education is to teach how to question our indignation and to learn how to move towards dignity, as a struggle for autonomy. (p. 235)
  28. we deceive ourselves if we believe that the structures which exist in order to reproduce capitalist social relations can be used as a means to overcome its alienating organisation of work. intellectual work, as opposed to academic labour, must be recombined at the level of society in ensuring that knowledge is socialised, and that productive technologies are collectively controlled, such that socially-necessary goods and services form a realm of abundance beyond self-sufficiency. (p. 244)
  29. alienation is not about the revelation of a transhistorical human essence with an absolute conception, rather overcoming alienation is a process that reveals a diversity of human richness grounded in the association of self- mediating producers of life (p. 257) There is a need to join in solidarity [inside-and-] beyond the University (p. 260)
  30. The struggle for academic dignity is therefore a struggle against academic labour and a struggle for love. The struggle for autonomy inside the University is the real struggle against the University. (p. 262) This is the struggle to question the conditions and contours of our social life. It is a movement of hearts against the present state of things; most importantly it is a movement of hearts against enclosure and foreclosure. (p. 263)
  31. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.