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« March 2017 »
Analysis & Polemic
The Combustible Campus
From Montreal to Mexico City, Something Is Stirring in the University
For three decades now, the neoliberal restructuring of post-secondary education has sought to implant market logic and corporate-style management into the academy. The systematic defunding of public education that enables this process has only intensified in recent years with the global financial crisis and the austerity measures imposed in its wake. The resulting transformation of public university systems has brought us corporatized administrations, rising tuition, departmental closures, expanded class sizes, noxious corporate food, offensives against academic workers, and ethically dubious corporate donations.
In its current form, one could argue that the academy produces little that extends our collective social capacities and much that diminishes them: hierarchy, exploitation, debt, individualism, precarious employment, and cynicism. At a time when knowledge is increasingly seen as a commodity to be produced in accordance with the demands of profit, and public education is decried as an unjust fetter on the ruthless pedagogy of the free market, the private sector has turned its attention to the university and is fervently dedicated to its transformation. The state has mostly obliged, with centre-right and centre-left governments across the world taking turns at accelerating this epochal shift in post-secondary education.
Beyond the Old Virtue of Struggle: Autonomy, Talent, and Revolutionary Theory
(For the precarious people of Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, and Elsewhere - 4/26/2011)
1. STRUGGLE & PLEASURE: PRELIMINARY GESTURES
 The concept of "struggle" has occupied a central place in the radical imagination. For Frederick Douglass, all progress requires struggle, and for Karl Marx, human history consists of human conflict and class struggle. Struggle has become an integral substance, and is often the crux, of transformative projects and politics. Even today, influential thinkers like the autonomist Marxist John Holloway understand that, fundamentally, revolution begins with a scream of sadness. From an affective point of view, however, people do not want to struggle or to scream with sadness. I explore the contradiction of desire embodied in wanting a different world without wanting to struggle. I argue that there is an intractable absurdity at the heart of any politics that valorizes struggle: If the narrative on virtuous struggle is not deconstructed, it shall always be ultimately undesirable to make the world that we desire.
Is capitalism a market society?
It is a common view nowadays that acts of exchange and their logic are at the centre of capitalist society and that many social processes can be explained on the basis of exchange relations. From this viewpoint the current strategies of ‘privatisation’ and ‘neoliberalism’ become more plausible—both for followers and critics of these strategies. This notion has little to do with the reality of global accumulation of capital, but it is socially confirmed in our daily atomisation, which itself is only the flipside of a lack of open struggles and new collective relationships emerging from within them. To the isolated individual, social processes actually appear to be exchange transactions, or more precisely, it rationalises the experience of powerlessness, because the essence of exchange is just the assumption of the independence and autonomy of individualised subjects. By perceiving social relations as acts of exchange—social relations, which are essentially based on organised and institutionalised violence, exploitation and oppression—the idea of ‘freedom’ and ‘autonomy’ of the individual or certain social groups is rescued. For the individual the perception of social relations as being based on exchange is more than mere imagination. It is a very real experience, given that daily reproduction is mediated by markets and acts of exchange. This form of mediation seems to confirm our individual freedom—and in a certain way actually does confirm it.
The Factory of an Urban District
FelS AG Soziale Kämpfe
A “Militant Investigation” at the Jobcenter in Berlin-Neukoelln
The “Jobcenter” is the largest provider of income in the Neukoelln district of Berlin. It is here where people from the district come together – the young and the old, those with a Ph.D. and those without a school leaving certificate, those who have been around forever and the newest district residents. For this reason, the Jobcenter as an institution has not only a great influence on the district – it is also a (potential) place for intervention against disfranchisement and exploitation.
Since their inception in 2005, Jobcenters have been in constant crisis. This is evident in the long waiting times, late payments, a much too high mentoring ratio (the number of “customers” to be mentored per caseworker), as well as in the appeals and legal actions filed against Hartz IV decisions. In Berlin-Neukoelln, there are around 1,500 appeals each month. The ground is shaking, yet each struggle remains individualized and invisible. How to overcome individualization?
On Any Sunday
Last weekend my old friend, Timorese ‘boss’ in the days of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and the current Secretary of State for Energy Policy (SEPE), Avelino Maria Coelho da Silva, invited me to his traditional land outside of Ossu on the southern slopes of the great mountain range that runs the length of the island of Timor. I had spent the best part of the previous three weeks with Avelino, first travelling with him to remote villages as he campaigned for the Timorese Socialist party (PST) in the Parliamentary elections, and then in his office at the Palacio do Governo, in Dili, working on a draft of a law on renewable energy.
The Meaning of Mondragon
A picturesque town in the Basque region of Spain has become a Mecca for progressive pilgrims, videographers and journalists. And every few months a glowing report announces that this town, nestled in a lush valley encircled by wooded mountains, holds the future. A future of responsible capitalism, or future socialism, or future, whatever. The tag line depends on the visitor’s agenda.
What’s so special about this town? Something extraordinary for a town with fewer than 25,000 inhabitants, it happens to be headquarters for a complex of modern manufacturing enterprises, a bank – one of the largest in Spain, a university, and more. All these enterprises are tied together to form the Mondragon Corporation, which ranks in the top ten of industrial conglomerates in all of Spain, and it’s a cooperative enterprise.
The Revolution of Living Knowledge
We’re living in a revolutionary situation. We could reformulate the classical definition in the following terms: the ruling elites of global capital cannot live as in the past; the workers, the precarious, the students, the poor, the living knowledge refuse to live as in the past. In the global crisis, the transnational struggles – from the North Africa insurrections to the acampadas in Spain or Syntagma Square, from the Chilean university movement to Occupy and the Québec uprising – are composed by the convergence of a downgrading middle class and a proletariat whose poverty is directly proportional to its productivity.
Occupy Author Examines Archeology of Debt
Few books have provoked the kind of media hype, discussion and praise
that David Graeber's "'Debt: The Last 5,000 Years" has in the past few
weeks. DW looks at the movement and the man behind the book.
He doesn't stay in one place for long. One minute David Graeber is in
London, where he teaches anthropology at Goldsmith College, the next
he's in Frankfurt at Blockupy, then in Cologne and Berlin for book
releases, next stop New York. It's no wonder that Graeber is so busy:
He's published three books in 40 days.
On the G20/12
This week’s latest reunion in Mexico of the G20 country-governments—that is to say, the ‘most advanced’ States within the global capitalist system—predictably continued in the tradition of mindlessness and unreason for which the transnational oligarchy should by now be well-known. Meeting in the luxury-resort town of San José del Cabo in Baja California Sur—a locale which, like Cancún in the Yucatan, effectively functions as a beachside colony for the most privileged, whether Mexican or foreign—the parties to the G20 merely worked to attempt to stabilize their dominion over the peoples of the world and non-human nature.
Worker Co-operatives and Ownership
The popular slogan “People before Profit” adopted by worker co-operatives begs the question how people, in this case members of worker co-operatives, can trump profit in a profit-driven economy. The predictable response is that the democratic organization of co-operatives, where decisions are guided by the interests of the members and not exclusively by the imperatives of capital, amply validates the truth of the slogan. But is this so? If the members of a worker co-operative democratically vote to cut their wages during an economic downturn, are they demonstrating their supremacy over capital? How does this decision, albeit arrived at democratically, significantly differ from a boss telling his staff that he regretfully needs to cut their salaries due to a lack of sales? Does collective decision-making become farcical because it is unable to challenge the ultimate power of capital?