Social sustainability, mass intellectuality and the idea of the University
Professor Richard Hall
Building Sustainable Societies. 30 June 2014.
Social sustainability, mass
intellectuality and the idea of the
Three statements on the University and the secular crisis.
ONE. Our labour as students and staff is folded inside a
systemic, historical crisis of capitalism. This secular crisis
demands a courageous political return.
TWO. Historical, socialised value is being accumulated by
associations of capitals acting transnationally through
commodification, financialisation and coercion. This is a
material reality, and we are told that there is no alternative.
THREE. The University is a central site of struggle over our
social reproduction. What is to be done?
A note on value as
* c.f. see below for values
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.
If we combine all three forms, all premises of the process
appear as its result, as a premise produced by it itself.
Every element appears as a point of departure, of transit,
and of return. The total process presents itself as the unity
of the processes of production and circulation. The
process of production becomes the mediator of the
process of circulation and vice versa. All three circuits
have the following in common: The self-expansion of value
as the determining purpose, as the compelling motive.
(Marx, K. 1885. Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 4.)
Accumulated value, and the power that accompanies it, means
that other forms of human or humane value in the production of
commodities are marginalised.
Value recalibrates the world, and the duality of the means of
production and the product itself needs to be addressed in terms
of value, or an alternative form of sociability.
“The difficulty of living in a society dominated by value necessarily
leads to the creation of all sorts of ideologies to explain the
suffering caused by such a society and that enable the subjects
of labour to project onto others the qualities that they are forced
to expel from themselves (e.g., “laziness,” “emotions”).”
Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 25(2):
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.
Some context: the University
restructured for value
2013-18, p. 4.
Lord Young, adviser to the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise:
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 (emphasis added, p. 47)
Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education.
London: Social Market Foundation. http://bit.ly/1mhl2By
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; student loans and credit
default swaps/derivatives; internationalisation; MOOC-boosterism; learning analytics/data;
lean/MSP methods; zero-hour contracts, casualization and outsourcing; the entrepreneurial
turn; corporate partnerships;etc..
Zerohedge. 2014. Student Loans Hit Record $1.08 Trillion. http://bit.ly/1i7Kklu
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
issues of governance, regulation and funding
transformed for value
(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, private equity funds, credit ratings
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. 2012. 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
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
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
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-
Defence or refusal? A
note on the University as
[value] is “totalitarian” in the sense that it aspires to turn
everything into a commodity. But it will never be able to because
such a society would be completely unliveable (there would no
longer, for example, be friendship, love, the bringing up of
The necessity for value to expand pushes it towards
destroying the entire concrete world and at every level,
economic, environmental, social and cultural.
The critique of value does not only foresee an economic
crisis of unprecedented dimensions but also the end of an entire
“civilisation”. Even so, human life has not always been based on
value, money and labour, even if it seems that some kind of
fetishism has existed everywhere.
Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 25(2): 12
Culturally acceptable self-harming acts or activities
Turp, M. 2001. Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy. London: Jessica Kingsley
On becoming for ourselves: against the abstract
destruction of our concrete selves
Vygotsky, The Shorter Life, quoted in A. Blunden (1997), “Vygotsky and the Dialectical
The sale of labor power has the effect of scrubbing all the
concrete manifestations of labor from our consciousness.
It does this by validating the reduction of our capacities to
just another commodity in the market.
Jehu, The Real Movement. http://therealmovement.wordpress.com/
Mass Intellectuality and the
idea of the University
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
Marx, K. 1993. Grundrisse. London: Penguin.
As intellectual workers we refuse the fetishised concept of
the knowledge society and engage in teaching, learning and
research only in so far as we can re-appropriate the
knowledge that has been stolen from the workers that have
produced this way of knowing (i.e. Abundance).
In the society of abundance the university as an institutional
form is dissolved, and becomes a social form or knowledge
at the level of society (i.e. The General Intellect). It is only on
this basis that we can knowingly address the global
emergencies with which we are all confronted
The University of Utopia. 2014. Anti-Curriculum: A course of action.
The idea of student as producer encourages the development of
collaborative relations between student and academic for the
production of knowledge.
However, if this idea is to connect to the project of refashioning
in fundamental ways the nature of the university, then further
attention needs to be paid to the framework by which the
student as producer contributes towards mass intellectuality.
This requires academics and students to do more than simply
redesign their curricula, but go further and redesign the
organizing principle, (i.e. private property and wage labour),
through which academic knowledge is currently being produced.
Neary, M. and Winn, J. 2009. The Student as Producer. In, “The future of higher education:
policy, pedagogy and the student experience”. Continuum, London, p. 137.
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 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
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”.
the ‘possibilities for associational networks’
‘a little more of a politicised relation to truth in
affairs of education, knowledge and academic
counter-hegemony rooted in:
radical subjectivity through the production of new forms of
critical knowledge in everyday life
spaces for the refusal of the violence of abstraction
occupation of the idea of the public
alternatives to the ideological and material conditions of
the creation of democratic, open, worker co-operatives
an abundance of love, rather than a scarcity of value
Is this possible inside the University?
If not, how can we become the University rather
than go to university?
What is to be kept?
What is to be abolished?
What is to be done?
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