Friction, co-operation and technology in the neoliberal university
Friction, co-operation and technology in
the neoliberal university
Professor Richard Hall
Friction! 8 May 2014
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?
Point 1: technology and the mobility or fluidity
of value production and circulation in/through
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)
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.
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: http://bit.ly/qDl6sV)
$4.4tn, 2012 Global Education Expenditure ($91bn in e-
learning is the fastest growing).
(IBIS Capital. 2013: http://bit.ly/16aJi1Q)
CB Insights. 2014. Ed Tech Sees Early Stage
Deals Getting Bigger. http://bit.ly/1niJ96s
David Willetts' address at We need to talk about Quality:
MOOCs, 8 July 2013, QAA. http://bit.ly/18VCOHQ
Point 2: technology and the friction of antagonism
in/through the University
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
Cleaver, H. 1993. Theses on Secular Crisis in Capitalism: The Insurpassability of
Class Antagonisms. http://bit.ly/10ASDy4
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
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. http://endnotes.org.uk/articles/1)
Zerohedge. 2014. Student Loans Hit Record $1.08 Trillion. http://bit.ly/1i7Kklu
Casual, Adjunct, Sessional staff and Allies in Australian Higher Education. 2014.
1. Technological change is the result of social forces in struggle
and the need to overcome the temporal and spatial barriers
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
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
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.
1. Technological and organisational forms of production, exchange
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,
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: http://bit.ly/JLld6T
3. public/private partnerships in the UK that focus upon wireless video
4. the deep connections between the military and research inside UK
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: http://bit.ly/11QLsXU
EdTech and value: labour costs; efficiency; discipline; credit
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.
Point 3: can the friction revealed through the
volatility and precarity of this neoliberal
pedagogic project be used to describe
“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.
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: http://libcom.org/files/cleaver-reading_capital_politically.pdf
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’
'[technologies] helped solidify a particular articulation of the
state that was supported by new claims to legitimate power'
Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation
in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/39176
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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. http://bit.ly/GQJi0M
1. A false idea of material abundance (growth,
2. A false idea of “immaterial scarcity (IPR, Trans-Pacific
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. http://bit.ly/Rolqqb
Affinities on The New Cooperativism: http://bit.ly/187iT8R
De Peuter and Dyer Witheford on Commoning: http://bit.ly/Ve2cE9
Draft report on the contribution of cooperatives to overcoming the
Lambie on Cuba: http://bit.ly/mIdVzV
Lebowitz on Co-Management in Venezuela: http://bit.ly/1awBnOF
Office Central de la Coopération à l'Ecole: http://www.occe.coop
The Schools Co-operative Society: http://bit.ly/z1YmCA
How might educational technology be used
politically to recompose the realities of global
struggles for emancipation, rather than for
Does the idea of “mass intellectuality” help?
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