Slides for my presentation at the CAMRI Research Seminar on 25 March 2015 [see: http://www.westminster.ac.uk/camri/research-seminars/richard-hall-against-educational-technology-in-the-neoliberal-university]
Against educational technology in the neoliberal University
Against Educational Technology in the
Professor Richard Hall
CAMRI Research Seminar, University of Westminster// 25 March
1. Technology reveals an entrepreneurial reconfiguring of
the idea of the University.
2. Technology is a crack through which we might analyse
the interests that drive value production and
accumulation, and their relation to power.
3. Might mass intellectuality and open co-operativism
offer a space for alternative formations?
It's the devil's way now
There is no way out
You can scream and you can shout
It is too late now
Because you have not been paying attention
Radiohead. 2003. 2+2=5 (The Lukewarm).
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.
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
Summers and Krugman (pace Hansen)
• systemic stagnation (population, education,
• below-trend aggregate demand/growth, under-
• Total Factor Productivity, Human Capital
Theory, innovation, entrepreneurialism, family
Secular crisis 1
• the heart of the issue is the production for
profit by the private owners of the means of
• deleveraging; liquidation; productivity;
Secular crisis 2
• counter-measures cannot resolve the
underlying problems of the system, rooted in
expansion and accumulation
• counter-measures undermine capitalism’s
Secular crisis 3
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..
open data: accountability and consumerism
money: efficiency and the student experience
competition: new providers and innovation,
entrepreneurialism and cost-efficiency
IPPR. 2013. Securing the future of higher education. http://bit.ly/19fiLpt
c.f. Sir Michael Barber, and criticism here, and here, and here, and here.
Across the higher education system, institutions are using
technology in innovative ways.
Yet conventional universities no longer hold all the cards on
how the higher education market develops.
Although MOOCs are still at a relatively early stage, they are
evolving fast and may have the potential to tackle some
particular challenges – such as an apparent mismatch between
the supply and demand for high-level computer skills.
Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education. London:
Social Market Foundation, p. 69. http://bit.ly/1mhl2By
If we want a model of more inclusive growth, where more
people earn more – at the top of the hourglass, then we need
a higher education system that helps to build better jobs and
equips people with the skills for high skilled, high value-
added, non-routine jobs.
It reminded me of something blunter that Paul Hofheinz,
President of the Lisbon Council said to me...: “if we want to
live better than others, then we will have to be better than
So our goal is bold and simple: to build a bigger knowledge
Byrne, L. 2014. Robbins Rebooted: How We Earn Our Way in the Second
Machine Age. London: Social Market Foundation, pp. 27, 29.
Lord Young, adviser to the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise:
Entrepreneurial activity enacted through new combinations of
technologies and practices to inject novelty into the circuits of
Entrepreneurship operates through counter-acting norms and
can never be stabilised.
Competitive success rooted in a new productive environment
that accommodates power: first in expanding the time-scale for
returns; second in expanding the arena for competition.
Davies, W. 2014. The Limits of Neoliberalism. London: Sage, pp. 52-3.
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. luddite, inefficient, digital immigrant,
uncreative, geek, nerd]
Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.
the social nature of academic work is altered:
1.for exchange > use
2.university reorganisation = efficiency + productivity
3.as a structural adjustment policy that reshapes the
relationship between the academic/student and the
In the end the Party would announce that two and
two made five, and you would have to believe it...
Not merely the validity of experience, but the very
existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by
The heresy of heresies was common sense...
If both the past and the external world exist only in
the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable —
Orwell, G. 1948. 1984. London: Penguin.
technology, higher education and
the rule of money
Education markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to
manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public
sector to capital accumulation.
Lipman, P. 2009: http://bit.ly/qDl6sV
Digitization is reducing labor content of services and products in an
unprecedented way, thus fundamentally changing the way
remuneration is allocated across labor and capital....
Mature economies will suffer most as they don't have the
population growth to increase autonomous demand nor powerful
enough labor unions or political parties to (re-)allocate gains in
what continues to be a global economy.
Gartner. 2013. Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users
for 2014 and Beyond. http://gtnr.it/17RLm2v
CB Insights. 2014. Ed Tech Investment and Exit Report. http://bit.ly/1uxqExB
2014 Ed Tech Review – The Largest Financings and
Most Active VCs in Ed Tech
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers http://bit.ly/1fm9vhp
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Teardown: financing,
exit and people data [http://bit.ly/1GyaN8m]
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers: Education
At Pearson, when we ask ourselves how we can help to achieve
that goal of doubling the amount of really high value learning [at
no extra total cost], we think about four things:
being more global; being more mobile; thinking holistically; being
absolutely obsessed with learning outcomes
“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”
monetisation at scale; more data; demographic/intergenerational
Pearson’s Five Trillion Dollar Question: http://bit.ly/1iaRaMp
Bain and Company (2012): rents/commodification; labour arbitrage;
investment and profits.
• seize opportunities to use exportable services to increase
revenues and profits [MOOCs]
• upgrade low-tech products into premium consumer goods and
services [curriculum; learning analytics]
• services bound by physical geography made portable [mobile]
• leading universities in the advanced economies can
accelerate the training of home-grown specialists in emerging
• by importing the talent of highly-skilled professionals from
companies in developed markets, businesses in the emerging
markets will not need to wait a generation for their own
education systems to produce a skilled workforce
The interrelationship between profitability and investment.
Technological innovations as responses to:
• lower levels of profitability;
• increasing global consumption; and
• making previously marginal sectors of the economy explicitly
• a way of leveraging the ratio of the total surplus-value produced
in society to the total capital invested;
• a redistribution of surplus value from businesses that produce
commodities or services like universities to those that market
them or that lend money to make academic labour productive;
• revolutionising the means of production.
it is impossible to understand the role of the University
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.
I know I have to come right out and say it, because very few people
in education technology will: there is a problem with computers.
Culturally. Ideologically. There's a problem with the Internet. Largely
designed by men from the developed world, it is built for men of the
developed world. Men of science. Men of industry. Military men.
Despite all the hype and hope about revolution and access and
opportunity that these new technologies will provide us, they do not
negate hierarchy, history, privilege, power. They reflect those. They
channel it. They concentrate it, in new ways and in old.
Watters, A. 2015. Men Still Explain.
1. Technological innovation = social forces in struggle + need
to overcome temporal/spatial barriers to accumulation
2. Secular control: the power of transnational capitalism over
the objective, material reality of life = reinforced
technologically and pedagogically
3. To argue for emancipation through technological
innovation is to fetishise technology
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. http://bit.ly/1qgEq8C
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. http://bit.ly/Y3w2Pf
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
Zibechi, R. 2013. Autonomous Zapatista Education: The Little Schools of
Amsler: ‘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
We base our struggle on principles of equality, direct democracy, solidarity,
mutual care and support.
1) Free and universally accessible education not geared to profit
2) Workers’ rights
3) Genuine university democracy
4) Divestment: We demand that the school cuts its ties to exploitative and
destructive organisations, such as those involved in wars, military occupations
and the destruction of the planet.
5) Liberation: Counter Terrorism Bill; #copsoffcampus; anti-discrimination; ethics
ROAR Collective. 2015. Why we occupy: LSE students mobilize for a free
See also Warwick for Free Education: http://bit.ly/1BWnc4N
Open co-operativism and ‘possibilities for associational networks’
• democratic governance and regulation of transnational worker
• conversion, dissolution or creation: transitional and pedagogic
• connect to the circuits of p2p production and distribution
• a framework for the common ownership of products, assets
• reflect the open, democratic, autonomous, social focus of co-
• reclamation of public environments for the globalised,
socialised dissemination of knowledge (e.g. copyfarleft)
• connecting a global set of educational commons rooted in
to trigger and coordinate a global participatory process and
immediate national application for the change of productive matrix
towards a society of open and common knowledge in Ecuador
resulting in 10 base documents for legislation and state policies
(synchronized with the organic social code for the knowledge
economy) as well as useful for the production networks of
knowledge that already exist in Ecuador.
The conceptual, philosophical and economic process and the
historical and socio-cognitive context framework, the
organizational principles governing the process, collaborative and
communicative digital tools and advance planning of the whole
FLOK Society. 2014. General Framework Document to implement the
Ecuadorian National Plan for Good Living (2009). http://bit.ly/1pYHW7w
We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the
transforming forces of the present society based upon class
Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising,
and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can
be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the
association of free and equal producers.
We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative
production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but
the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks
Marx, K. 1866. Instructions for the Delegates of the Provisional General Council:
The Different Questions. The International Workingmen's Association.
Inside the University, can educational
technology be (ref)used politically to recompose
the realities of global struggles, rather than for
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