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Beyond Cuts and Taxation: Critical Alternatives and the Idea of Higher Education

My presentation for the second De Montfort University, Alternative to Cuts workshop, on 29 March 2011

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Beyond Cuts and Taxation: Critical Alternatives and the Idea of Higher Education

  1. 1. Beyond Cuts and Taxation: Critical Alternatives and the Idea of Higher Education
  2. 2. <ul><li>“ this is about more than education” </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  3. 3. Connections to workshop 1: abundance, scarcity and growth <ul><li>Taxation vs cuts: can we humanise the system? [UK Uncut, Euro Bonds, green New Deal, balanced/de-/no growth.] </li></ul><ul><li>The condition of our democracy: whither politics in our organising principles/scales? [The nation/locale, the Right.] </li></ul><ul><li>Transnational flows of capital: is it possible to reclaim governance? Psychologically, have we outsourced too much? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Part 1: dominant narratives Is autonomous consumption and production [socialisation?] of our common [education] wealth possible?
  5. 5. <ul><li>Is business-as-usual a viable option? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there alternatives? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the role of the University in this historical crisis of capitalism? </li></ul>Some questions for higher education.
  6. 6. The growth mantra: HEFCE (2011). Mission.
  7. 7. The growth mantra : The HEA Strategic Plan, 2008-13:
  8. 8. • The UK sells more brainpower per capita than anywhere else in the world. In 2008, this amounted to £118 billion in knowledge services – worth 6.3% of GDP (The Work Foundation, 2010). • The UK has 1% of the world’s population but undertakes 5% of the world’s scientific research and produces 14% of the world’s most highly cited papers (UUK, 2010). • HEIs are worth £59 billion to the UK economy annually and are a major export earner. Through their international activities they are one of the UK’s fastest growing sources of export earnings, and last year bought in £5.3bn (UUK, 2009). HE and hegemony, commodity and economy
  9. 10. <ul><li>HE is no longer immune from the systemic, internal, totalising logic of the capitalist system [c.f. Hardt and Negri, The Social Factory] </li></ul><ul><li>‘ we’re living in a moment when, for the first time, capitalism has become a truly universal system.... Capitalism is universal also in the sense that its logic – the logic of accumulation, commodification, profit-maximisation, competition – has penetrated almost every aspect of human life and nature itself’. </li></ul><ul><li>Meiksins-Wood, E. (1997). Back to Marx. Monthly Review, 49(2), 1. </li></ul>
  10. 11. “ the financial capitalism and transnational corporations do not accept any form of regulation and consider the crisis to be a structural condition to be viewed as part of the contemporary production of value. On the other hand, the parabola of Obama indicates that reformism has come to halt and neo-keynesian receipts are blunt weapons.” Libera Università Metropolitana:
  11. 12. <ul><li>Part 2: HE and the Shock Doctrine </li></ul><ul><li>Brutalised in the kettle. </li></ul><ul><li>Disciplined by debt. </li></ul><ul><li>Marginalisation and separation. </li></ul>
  12. 13. “ student debt, in its prevalence and amounts, constitutes a pedagogy, unlike the humanistic lesson that the university traditionally proclaims, of privatization and the market.” Jeffrey J. Williams, “Tactics against Debt”:
  13. 14. New system transfers the cost of HE from the taxpayer to graduates themselves Dearden et al. (2010)
  14. 18. <ul><li>The total balance outstanding for the UK student loan book (including loans not yet due for repayment) at the end of the financial year 2009-10 was £35.95 billion. </li></ul><ul><li>Debt is a way of life. Michael Gove: &quot;Anyone put off... university by fear of... debt doesn’t deserve to be at university in the first place“. </li></ul><ul><li>Next Left: </li></ul>
  15. 19. <ul><li>surplus – value – profit – wages – consumption – finance capital – transnational – power – deregulation – cuts in services – attacks on pensions – separation not society – accumulation by dispossession </li></ul><ul><li>Harvey, D. (2010). The Enigma of Capital, and the crises of capitalism. London: Profile. </li></ul>
  16. 20. <ul><li>The Shock Doctrine: ‘control by imposing economic shock therapy’. </li></ul><ul><li>the relentless law of competition and coercion (internationalisation) </li></ul><ul><li>the impact of crisis to justify a tightening and a quickening of the dominant ideology of student-as-consumer, and HE-as-commodity </li></ul><ul><li>the transfer of state/public assets to the private sector under the belief that this will produce efficiency and economic outputs </li></ul><ul><li>the lock-down of state subsidies for ‘inefficient’ work (Bands C and D funded subjects) </li></ul><ul><li>the privatisation of state enterprises in the name of consumer choice, economic efficiency or sustainability = encouraging privatisation of HE </li></ul><ul><li>a refusal to run deficits, catalysing pejorative cuts to state services </li></ul><ul><li>extending the financialisation of capital and the growth of consumer debt, through increased fees </li></ul><ul><li>a controlled, economically-driven, anti-humanist ideology </li></ul><ul><li>Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Metropolitan Books: New York </li></ul>
  17. 22. our liberal aim is “to democratise capitalism, to extend democratic control to the economy by means of media pressure, parliamentary inquiries, harsher laws, honest police investigations and so on.” Is it enough that “the institutional set-up of the (bourgeois) democratic state is never questioned”? Žižek, S. 2011. Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks. London Review of Books , 33, no. 2: 9-10
  18. 25. the logic of 'security' is the logic of an anti-politics in which the state uses 'security' to marginalize all else, most notably the constructive conflicts, the debates and discussions that animate political life, suppressing all before it and dominating political discourse in an entirely reactionary way. Neocleous, M. (2007). Security, Liberty and the Myth of Balance: Towards a Critique of Security Politics. Contemporary Political Theory 6, 131–149.
  19. 26. Part 3: totality and global higher education
  20. 27. There is a strong correlation between energy use and GDP. Global energy demand is on the rise yet oil supply is forecast to decline in the next few years. There is no precedent for oil discoveries to make up for the shortfall, nor is there a precedent for efficiencies to relieve demand on this scale. Energy supply looks likely to constrain growth. Global emissions currently exceed the IPCC 'marker' scenario range. The Climate Change Act 2008 has made the -80%/2050 target law, yet this requires a national mobilisation akin to war-time. Probably impossible but could radically change the direction of HE in terms of skills required and spending available. Energy and work
  21. 28. I = P x A x T The impact of human activities (I) is determined by the overall population (P), the level of affluence (A) and the level of technology (T). Even as the efficiency of technology improves, affluence and population scale up the impacts. [See: Jackson, T. (2007). ]
  22. 30. <ul><li>It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. </li></ul>
  23. 31. Business-as-usual? <ul><li>New meanings and measures of success </li></ul><ul><li>Limits on materials, energy, wastes and land use? </li></ul><ul><li>More meaningful prices </li></ul><ul><li>More durable, reparable goods </li></ul><ul><li>Fewer status goods </li></ul><ul><li>More informative advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Better screening of technology </li></ul><ul><li>More efficient capital stock </li></ul><ul><li>More local, less global </li></ul><ul><li>Reduced inequality </li></ul><ul><li>Less work, more leisure </li></ul><ul><li>Education for life, not just work </li></ul>
  24. 32. <ul><li>Part 4: for the idea of the University? </li></ul><ul><li>“ The struggle is not for the University, but against what the University has become.” </li></ul><ul><li>Prof. Mike Neary (2010): </li></ul>
  25. 34. Student-as-producer : ‘ extends the concept of production to include ways in which students, as social individuals, affect and change society, so as to be able to recognise themselves in the social world of their own design. ’ The Really Open University: emphasis on the need for praxis, in re-asserting the idea of the university as a site for critical action, resistance and opposition, led by students. The University of Utopia : to invent a form of radicality that confronts the paradox of the possibility of abundance (freedom) in a society of scarcity (non-freedom). See also: The UCL occupation: The Social Science Centre: The University for Strategic Optimism: The Really Free School:
  26. 35. The Peer to Peer University: co-operative production through sharing and accreditation. The Institute of Collapsonomics : an analysis of meaningful socio-cultural resilience, and our capacity to develop agile and mobile associations, which can solve problems and develop alternatives.
  27. 36. “ only in association with others has each individual the means of cultivating his talents in all directions. Only in a community therefore is personal freedom possible... In a genuine community individuals gain their freedom in and through their association” Karl Marx Bottomore, T.B., and M. Rubel, M. 1974. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy . London: Penguin.
  28. 37. In. Against. Beyond. ‘ the universalization of capitalism not just as a measure of success but as a source of weakness... It can only universalize its contradictions, its polarizations between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited. Its successes are also its failures.’ ‘ Now capitalism has no more escape routes, no more safety valves or corrective mechanisms outside its own internal logic... the more it maximizes profit and so-called growth – the more it devours its own human and natural substance’. Meiksins-Wood, E. (1997). Back to Marx. Monthly Review, 49(2), 8-9.
  29. 38. Are there other ways of producing knowing? What authority does HE/do universities have? In a knowing world, rather than a knowledge economy, what does the curriculum mean? Does a pedagogy of production need to start with the principle that we need to consume less of everything? What does this mean for ownership of the institution at scale [local, regional, global]? How can student voices help in the struggle to re-invent the world? What is to be done? See:
  30. 39. Licensing This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license See: