Notes on academic labour and co-operative struggles for subjectivity
Professor Richard Hall
Governing Academic Life. 25 June 2014.
Notes on academic labour and co-
operative struggles for subjectivity
Our labour and our society are folded inside a
systemic, historical crisis of capitalism. This secular
crisis demands a political return.
Historical, socialised value is being accumulated
by associations of capitals through commodification
and coercion. There is no alternative.
The University is a central site of struggle over our
past, in our present, and for our future. What is to be
it is impossible to understand the role of the
University without developing a critique of its
relationships to a transnational capitalist
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)
sities were financed however it was going to be difficult to change their behaviour. Now there is an opportunity to use our funding changes to push a real cultural
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.
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
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. http://bit.ly/10ASDy4
1. Organisational 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 organisational innovation
is to fetishise externalities, and to misunderstand how
innovation is shaped by the clash of social forces and the
desire of capital to escape the barriers imposed by labour
Without radical changes to how universities were financed
however it was going to be difficult to change their behaviour.
Now there is an opportunity to use our funding changes to
push a real cultural change back towards teaching (p. 47)
Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education. London:
Social Market Foundation. Available online:
See also: the use of secondary legislation; student debt and university funding;
leveraging finance capital and the bond markets; student number controls; core and
marginal numbers; deregulation; monetisation of the student loan book;
internationalisation; MOOC-boosterism; learning analytics/data; lean/MSP methods;
zero-hour contracts, casualization and outsourcing; the entrepreneurial turn;
because labor is determined as a necessary means of individual
reproduction in capitalist society, wage laborers remain dependent on
capital’s “growth,” even when the consequences of their labor,
ecological and otherwise, are detrimental to themselves and to others.
The tension between the exigencies of the commodity form and
ecological requirements becomes more severe as productivity
increases and, particularly during economic crises and periods of high
unemployment, poses a severe dilemma.
This dilemma and the tension in which it is rooted are immanent to
capitalism: their ultimate resolution will be hindered so long as value
remains the determining form of social wealth.
Postone, M. 1996. Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's
Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 313.
we’re looking at both a gigantic wealth transfer from the poor
towards the rich and a huge bubble that allows that to happen,
and that will make the poor even poorer when it bursts. Which
seems inevitable, because debt by itself cannot create value.
And if I’m right, what we’re seeing is not the incredible
resiliency of the markets, and no real increase in asset value,
but an increase in the threat to the social cohesion of our
communities, cities and nations.
Ilargi. 2013. How do we define value? The Automatic Earth. http://bit.ly/1pyfUgN
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
Cleaver, H. 1979. Reading Capital Politically, University of Texas Press:
Austin, TX, p. 161. Available at: http://libcom.org/files/cleaver-
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
We need a new 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., and Iacomella, F. 2013. Peer-to-Peer Economy and New
Civilization Centred Around the Sustenance of the Commons.
the ‘possibilities for associational networks’
‘a little more of a politicised relation to truth in
affairs of education, knowledge and academic
Mass intellectuality is based on our common
ability to do, based on our needs and
capacities and what needs to be done. What
needs to be done raises doing from the level
of the individual to the level of society.
Pace Willetts, “a real cultural
change back towards teaching”.