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For a political economy of 
open education 
Professor Richard Hall 
@hallymk1 rhall1@dmu.ac.uk 
richard-hall.org 
Open Education: Condition Critical, 20 November 2014
1. Open education reveals a revolutionising of the means of production 
and the disciplining of academic labour. 
2. Open education is a crack through which we might analyse the interests 
that drive value production and accumulation, and their relation to 
power. 
3. What is to be done? A re-imagination based on mass intellectuality and 
open co-operativism.
[O]nly 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. 
Bottomore, T.B., and M. Rubel, M. 1974. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in 
Sociology and Social Philosophy. London: Penguin.
Openwashing: n., having an appearance of 
open-source and open-licensing for marketing 
purposes, while continuing proprietary 
practices. 
“I think the answer is more transparency about 
our politics. I think, in fact, the answer is 
politics.” 
Watters, A. 2014. From open to justice #opencon2014. http://bit.ly/1xIzz20
Value emerges as a form of sociability (as capital) from the 
unity of three circuits. It is formed of moments of the 
circulation of money, of production, and of commodities. 
The self-expansion of value is “the determining purpose, 
as the compelling motive.” 
Marx, K. 1885. Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 4. 
Accumulated value, and the power that flows from it, 
means that other forms of human or humane value in the 
production of commodities are marginalised. 
Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, 
Socialism. 25(2): 11
open education: a UK export/industrial strategy 
• conventional universities no longer hold all the cards on 
how the higher education market develops. 
Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education. London: 
Social Market Foundation, p. 69. See: http://bit.ly/1mhl2By 
• our goal is bold and simple: to build a bigger knowledge 
economy 
Byrne, L. 2014. Robbins Rebooted: How We Earn Our Way in the Second Machine 
Age. London: Social Market Foundation, pp. 27, 29. See: http://bit.ly/1q7P8OF
open education: enterprise for all 
entrepreneurial activity enacted through new combinations of 
technologies and practices to inject novelty into the circuits 
of capitalism. 
competitive success rooted in a new productive environment 
that accommodates power: 
• first in expanding the time-scale for returns (debt); 
• second in expanding the arena for competition (public). 
Davies, W. 2014. The Limits of Neoliberalism. London: Sage, pp. 52-3.
we need to keep our foot on the accelerator 
of innovation 
not just about reaching new audiences, but 
about revolutionising the traditional learning 
and teaching experiences. 
Bean, M. “Bean warns universities over digital ‘irrelevance’.” THE, 8 
November 2014. See: http://bit.ly/1tTNrq0
Open education: a transnational framework 
•TTIP: open markets in services//open access to procurement 
[see, Council of EU: http://bit.ly/1vOSUxF] 
•Labour content of services and products 
[see, Bain & Co.: http://bit.ly/11h3YsD; Gartner: http://gtnr.it/17RLm2v] 
•“building an ever-wider range of bigger and more complex 
standalone products and services to participating in more open, 
interoperable educational ‘ecosystems’, centered around 
learners [and learning outcomes]” 
[see, Pearson’s Five Trillion Dollar Question: http://bit.ly/1iaRaMp]
Open education and transnational joint-ventures 
•designed to leverage surplus value in ways that traditional 
universities could not do alone; 
•the commodification of vast arrays of data, and the creation of 
new services; 
•reflects the need to make academic labour productive of value. 
e.g. Coursera partners: 
•venture capital: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New 
Enterprise Associates, GSV Capital, International Finance 
Corporation, Learn Capital Venture Partners; 
•educational publishers like Laureate Education; and 
•transnational bodies like the World Bank.
it is impossible to understand the role of open education 
without developing a critique of its relationships to a 
transnational capitalist class 
pace Robinson, W.I. 2004. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, 
and State in a Transnational World. Johns Hopkins UP. 
See also: Ball, S. 2012. Global Education Inc. London: Routledge.
Mass Intellectuality and 
Open Co-operativism
open education and the general intellect 
the accumulation of knowledge and of skill, of 
the general productive forces of the social brain, 
is thus absorbed into capital, as opposed to 
labour, and hence appears as an attribute of 
capital, and more specifically of fixed capital 
[machinery]. 
Marx, K. 1993. Grundrisse. London: Penguin.
open education as struggle? 
the possibility of struggle and emancipation lies in the autonomous 
organisations that exist within and between both the factory and the 
community 
with a focus on the forms of labour and the exertion of “working class 
power… at the level of the social factory, politically recomposing the division 
between factory and community.” 
Cleaver, H. 1979. Reading Capital Politically, University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, p. 161. See: 
http://bit.ly/Y3w2Pf
‘a little more of a 
politicised relation to 
truth in affairs of 
education, knowledge 
and academic practice’
1. A false idea of material abundance (growth, accumulation, 
debt). 
2. A false idea of immaterial scarcity (Trans-Pacific Partnership, 
Transatlantic Trade and Investments Partnership). 
3. The pseudo-abundance that destroys the biosphere, and the 
contrived scarcity that keeps innovation artificially scarce. 
we need a global alliance between the new “open” movements, 
the ecological movements, and the traditional social justice 
and emancipatory movements, in order to create a “grand 
alliance of the commons.” 
Bauwens, M. & Iacomella, F. 2013. Peer-to-Peer Economy and New Civilization 
Centered Around the Sustenance of the Commons. http://bit.ly/Rolqqb
open co-operativism 
• democratic governance and regulation of transnational worker co-operatives 
• connect to the circuits of p2p production and distribution 
• open, democratic, autonomous, social focus of co-operatives 
• framework for common ownership of products, assets and 
commodities 
• reclamation of public environments for the globalised, socialised 
dissemination of knowledge (e.g. copyfarleft) 
• connected and global educational commons rooted in critical 
pedagogy 
• conversion, dissolution or creation: transitional and pedagogic 
[Hall, R. 2014, On the Abolition of Academic Labour: The Relationship Between 
Intellectual Workers & Mass Intellectuality, TripleC, 12(2). See: 
http://bit.ly/1sZcvrJ]
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- 
ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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For a political economy of open education

  • 1. For a political economy of open education Professor Richard Hall @hallymk1 rhall1@dmu.ac.uk richard-hall.org Open Education: Condition Critical, 20 November 2014
  • 2. 1. Open education reveals a revolutionising of the means of production and the disciplining of academic labour. 2. Open education is a crack through which we might analyse the interests that drive value production and accumulation, and their relation to power. 3. What is to be done? A re-imagination based on mass intellectuality and open co-operativism.
  • 3. [O]nly 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. Bottomore, T.B., and M. Rubel, M. 1974. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy. London: Penguin.
  • 4. Openwashing: n., having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices. “I think the answer is more transparency about our politics. I think, in fact, the answer is politics.” Watters, A. 2014. From open to justice #opencon2014. http://bit.ly/1xIzz20
  • 5. Value emerges as a form of sociability (as capital) from the unity of three circuits. It is formed of moments of the circulation of money, of production, and of commodities. The self-expansion of value is “the determining purpose, as the compelling motive.” Marx, K. 1885. Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 4. Accumulated value, and the power that flows from it, means that other forms of human or humane value in the production of commodities are marginalised. Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 25(2): 11
  • 6. open education: a UK export/industrial strategy • conventional universities no longer hold all the cards on how the higher education market develops. Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education. London: Social Market Foundation, p. 69. See: http://bit.ly/1mhl2By • our goal is bold and simple: to build a bigger knowledge economy Byrne, L. 2014. Robbins Rebooted: How We Earn Our Way in the Second Machine Age. London: Social Market Foundation, pp. 27, 29. See: http://bit.ly/1q7P8OF
  • 7. open education: enterprise for all entrepreneurial activity enacted through new combinations of technologies and practices to inject novelty into the circuits of capitalism. competitive success rooted in a new productive environment that accommodates power: • first in expanding the time-scale for returns (debt); • second in expanding the arena for competition (public). Davies, W. 2014. The Limits of Neoliberalism. London: Sage, pp. 52-3.
  • 8. we need to keep our foot on the accelerator of innovation not just about reaching new audiences, but about revolutionising the traditional learning and teaching experiences. Bean, M. “Bean warns universities over digital ‘irrelevance’.” THE, 8 November 2014. See: http://bit.ly/1tTNrq0
  • 9. Open education: a transnational framework •TTIP: open markets in services//open access to procurement [see, Council of EU: http://bit.ly/1vOSUxF] •Labour content of services and products [see, Bain & Co.: http://bit.ly/11h3YsD; Gartner: http://gtnr.it/17RLm2v] •“building an ever-wider range of bigger and more complex standalone products and services to participating in more open, interoperable educational ‘ecosystems’, centered around learners [and learning outcomes]” [see, Pearson’s Five Trillion Dollar Question: http://bit.ly/1iaRaMp]
  • 10.
  • 11. Open education and transnational joint-ventures •designed to leverage surplus value in ways that traditional universities could not do alone; •the commodification of vast arrays of data, and the creation of new services; •reflects the need to make academic labour productive of value. e.g. Coursera partners: •venture capital: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, GSV Capital, International Finance Corporation, Learn Capital Venture Partners; •educational publishers like Laureate Education; and •transnational bodies like the World Bank.
  • 12. it is impossible to understand the role of open education without developing a critique of its relationships to a transnational capitalist class pace Robinson, W.I. 2004. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World. Johns Hopkins UP. See also: Ball, S. 2012. Global Education Inc. London: Routledge.
  • 13. Mass Intellectuality and Open Co-operativism
  • 14. open education and the general intellect the accumulation of knowledge and of skill, of the general productive forces of the social brain, is thus absorbed into capital, as opposed to labour, and hence appears as an attribute of capital, and more specifically of fixed capital [machinery]. Marx, K. 1993. Grundrisse. London: Penguin.
  • 15. open education as struggle? the possibility of struggle and emancipation lies in the autonomous organisations that exist within and between both the factory and the community with a focus on the forms of labour and the exertion of “working class power… at the level of the social factory, politically recomposing the division between factory and community.” Cleaver, H. 1979. Reading Capital Politically, University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, p. 161. See: http://bit.ly/Y3w2Pf
  • 16.
  • 17.
  • 18. ‘a little more of a politicised relation to truth in affairs of education, knowledge and academic practice’
  • 19. 1. A false idea of material abundance (growth, accumulation, debt). 2. A false idea of immaterial scarcity (Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investments Partnership). 3. The pseudo-abundance that destroys the biosphere, and the contrived scarcity that keeps innovation artificially scarce. we need a global alliance between the new “open” movements, the ecological movements, and the traditional social justice and emancipatory movements, in order to create a “grand alliance of the commons.” Bauwens, M. & Iacomella, F. 2013. Peer-to-Peer Economy and New Civilization Centered Around the Sustenance of the Commons. http://bit.ly/Rolqqb
  • 20. open co-operativism • democratic governance and regulation of transnational worker co-operatives • connect to the circuits of p2p production and distribution • open, democratic, autonomous, social focus of co-operatives • framework for common ownership of products, assets and commodities • reclamation of public environments for the globalised, socialised dissemination of knowledge (e.g. copyfarleft) • connected and global educational commons rooted in critical pedagogy • conversion, dissolution or creation: transitional and pedagogic [Hall, R. 2014, On the Abolition of Academic Labour: The Relationship Between Intellectual Workers & Mass Intellectuality, TripleC, 12(2). See: http://bit.ly/1sZcvrJ]
  • 21. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- ShareAlike 4.0 International License.