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Friction, co-operation and technology in the neoliberal university

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Friction, co-operation and technology in the neoliberal university

  1. 1. Friction, co-operation and technology in the neoliberal university Professor Richard Hall @hallymk1 Friction! 8 May 2014
  2. 2. 1. Our labour and our society are folded inside a systemic, historical crisis of capitalism. This secular crisis demands a political return. 2. Historical, socialised value is being accumulated through commodification and coercion. 3. Technology is a crack through which we might analyse the production and accumulation of value. 4. The University is a central site of struggle over our past, in our present, and for our future. What is to be done?
  3. 3. Point 1: technology and the mobility or fluidity of value production and circulation in/through the University
  4. 4. it is impossible to understand the role of the University without developing a critique of its relationships to a transnational capitalist class restructuring the University for hegemony (pace Robinson, W.I. 2004. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World. Johns Hopkins UP)
  5. 5. 1. Networks of power and affinity, that enable the re-production of ‘geographies of social relationships’. 2. Networks form shifting assemblages of activity and relationships that reinforce hegemonic power. 3. Transnational activist networks consisting of: i. academics and think tanks; ii. policy-makers and administrators; iii. finance capital and private equity funds; iv. media corporations and publishers; v. philanthropists/hedge-funds interested in corporate social responsibility etc.. aim to regulate the state for enterprise and the market. Ball, S. 2011. Global Education Inc. BUT c.f. Neary, 2012 and Davies, 2011, critique network governance.
  6. 6. Education markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public sector to capital accumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion global market in education is a rich new arena for capital investment. (Lipman, P. 2009: $4.4tn, 2012 Global Education Expenditure ($91bn in e- learning is the fastest growing). (IBIS Capital. 2013:
  7. 7. CB Insights. 2014. Ed Tech Sees Early Stage Deals Getting Bigger.
  8. 8.
  9. 9. David Willetts' address at We need to talk about Quality: MOOCs, 8 July 2013, QAA.
  10. 10. Point 2: technology and the friction of antagonism in/through the University
  11. 11. neither the cyclical business downturns nor the upturns, nor a whole series of capitalist counter-measures (local and international), have resolved the underlying problems of the system... to lay the basis for a renewal of stable accumulation. the continuing threat to the existence of capitalism posed by antagonistic forces and trends which are inherent in its social structure and which persist through short term fluctuations and major restructurings. Cleaver, H. 1993. Theses on Secular Crisis in Capitalism: The Insurpassability of Class Antagonisms.
  12. 12. to broaden the flexible, transnational capital accumulation from territories in the global South to deepen the mechanics of accumulation from previously socialised goods in the global North like healthcare and public education these spaces are in-turn enclosed, folded into the circuits of globalised production, and then commodified for private consumption and gain driven in-part by organisational development (e.g. lean, MSP) and technological innovation (pace Endnotes #2. 2010. Misery and Debt: on the logic and history of surplus populations and surplus capital.
  13. 13. Zerohedge. 2014. Student Loans Hit Record $1.08 Trillion.
  14. 14. Zerohedge. 2014. Europe’s Peak Youth Unemployment.
  15. 15. Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education. 2014.
  16. 16. 1. Technological change is the result of social forces in struggle and the need to overcome the temporal and spatial barriers to accumulation 2. Secular control: the power of transnational capitalism over the objective material reality of life, and which is reinforced technologically and pedagogically 3. To argue for emancipation through technological innovation is to fetishise technology and to misunderstand how technology is shaped by the clash of social forces and the desire of capital to escape the barriers imposed by labour
  17. 17. It took both time and experience before the workpeople learned to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital and to direct their attacks, not against the material instruments of production, but against the mode in which they are used. Marx, K. 2004. Capital Volume 1, p. 554. Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them. Marx, K. 2004. Capital Volume 1, p. 493.
  18. 18. 1. Technological and organisational forms of production, exchange and consumption. 2. Relations to nature and the environment. 3. Social relations between people. 4. Mental conceptions of the world, embracing knowledges and cultural understandings and beliefs. 5. Labour processes and production of specific goods, geographies, services or affects. 6. Institutional, legal and governmental arrangements. 7. The conduct of daily life that underpins social reproduction. Harvey, D. (2010), The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism, Profile Books, London
  19. 19. 1. hacking competitions, education departments and national security: 2. the use by Universities of drones, with connections between U.S. military, academic research, defence contractors: 3. public/private partnerships in the UK that focus upon wireless video surveillance: 4. the deep connections between the military and research inside UK universities: 5. the disconnect between our activist promotion of technologies that are apparently transformative in the global North at the expense of their implication in war in the global South, like the Raspberry Pi: 6. LMS/MOOCS and global labour arbitrage:
  20. 20. EdTech and value: labour costs; efficiency; discipline; credit ratings EdTech and rent: publishers and services; private equity firms and LMS; data mining EdTech and competition: MOOCs and labour arbitrage; personalisation and entrepreneurial activity Technology has become a crack through which private corporations can enter the publically-funded, governed and regulated education sector, using public/private partnerships and outsourcing in service-delivery.
  21. 21. Point 3: can the friction revealed through the volatility and precarity of this neoliberal pedagogic project be used to describe alternatives?
  22. 22. “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” Bottomore, T.B., and M. Rubel, M. 1974. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy. London: Penguin.
  23. 23. 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. Available at:
  24. 24. cybernetics is ‘not just a technological history but a history of the changing social networks that connected these technologies to the function of the state and its management’ (p. 17) '[technologies] helped solidify a particular articulation of the state that was supported by new claims to legitimate power' (p. 96) Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis.
  25. 25. Allende: We set out courageously to build our own [cybernetic] system in our own spirit. What you will hear about today is revolutionary - not simply because this is the first time it has been done anywhere in the world. It is revolutionary because we are making a deliberate effort to hand to the people the power that science commands, in a form in which the people can themselves use it. Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis, p. 252.
  26. 26. After the military coup in 1973 the Pinochet government used computer technology in the service of its political repression, surveillance, and disappearance, policies that were part of Operation Condor. Although we are still uncovering information on Operation Condor and do not know the full extent of this cooperative intelligence network, available documents from U.S. and Latin American archives describe the Condor data bank - modeled after the police network Interpol, without its judicial safeguards - and the encrypted Condortel telex network. Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis., p. 333
  27. 27. Collective work is one of the cements of autonomy, whose fruits usually spill into hospitals, clinics, primary and secondary education, in strengthening the municipalities and the good government juntas. Not much that has been constructed would be possible without the collective work, of men, women, boys, girls and the elderly. Zibechi, R. 2013. Autonomous Zapatista Education: The Little Schools of Below.
  28. 28. Good Living The five revolutions: democratic; ethical; economic; social; Latin American dignity To build a fraternal and co-operative coexistence. The transformation of higher education and the transfer of knowledge in science, technology and innovation. The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good Living 2009-2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State.
  29. 29. Education is crucial to reinforce and diversify individual and social capabilities and potentialities, and to foster participative and critical citizens. Education remains one of the best ways of consolidating a democratic society that contributes to the eradication of economic, political, social and cultural inequalities. From a strategic perspective, it is essential to develop various forms of knowledge with high added value, as well as technical and technological research and innovation. The combination of ancestral forms of knowledge with state-of-the-art technology can reverse the current development model and contribute to the transition towards a model of accumulation based on bio-knowledge. The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good Living 2009- 2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State.
  30. 30. 1. A false idea of material abundance (growth, accumulation, debt). 2. A false idea of “immaterial scarcity (IPR, Trans-Pacific Partnership). 3. The pseudo-abundance that destroys the biosphere, and the contrived scarcity that keeps innovation artificially scarce and slow, does not advance social justice. 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.
  31. 31. Affinities on The New Cooperativism: De Peuter and Dyer Witheford on Commoning: Draft report on the contribution of cooperatives to overcoming the crisis: Lambie on Cuba: Lebowitz on Co-Management in Venezuela: Office Central de la Coopération à l'Ecole: The Schools Co-operative Society:
  32. 32. How might educational technology be used politically to recompose the realities of global struggles for emancipation, rather than for commodification? Does the idea of “mass intellectuality” help?
  33. 33. Licensing This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non- Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license See: