Category Archives: ALFS presentation

Psychopolitics 1: the crisis of freedom

I learned about this book from Clarissa’s blog and am now reading it as well. This post is an aide-mémoire, not a full discussion.

a. The exploitation of freedom.
“Freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude.” It is felt when passing from one way of living to another, until this too turns out to be a form of coercion and gives way to renewed subjugation. “Such is the destiny of the subject; literally, ‘the one who has been cast down.’
* We no longer consider ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects…the change may seem liberating but the result is a more efficient kind of subjectivation and subjugation
*  The “achievement-subject” absolutizes bare life and labor, which form two sides of the same coin.
* Being free means being among friends. These two words have the same root in Indo-European. That is why academic freedom and collegiality go together; freedom signifies a relationship and a real feeling of freedom occurs only in a fruitful relationship — when being with others brings happiness (3).
* The neoliberal world, however, leads to utter isolation. As Marx indicates, individual freedom is a ruse, a trick of capital. Individual freedom sets capital, not people free. It degrades individuals, who are used to propagate capital, and become its genital organs.

b. The dictatorship of capital
* Industrial capitalism has mutated into neoliberalism. There has not been the struggle that would lead beyond capitalism, pace Marx; “capitalism can always escape into the fugure precisely because it harbours permanent and inherent contradiction” (5) … so we have entered a post-industrial, immaterial mode of production where we are all auto-exploiting entrepreneurs, master and slave in one; class struggle is now an inner struggle against oneself
* There is no multitude, pace Negri; there are only self-combating entrepreneurs. Therefore the cooperative Multitude will NOT throw off the parasitic Empire. This is a complete illusion.
* We are in a regime of auto-exploitation, so aggression is turned against the self. So the exploited do not rebel, but get depressed. We do not work to satisfy our needs, but those of Capital; it generates needs of its own, which we mistakenly perceive to belong to us. “We are being expelled from the sphere of lived immanence — where life relates to life instead of subjugating itself to external ends.” (7) Capital replaces religion as the transcendent order. In this situation politics becomes the handmaiden of Capital.
* Before God we are all debtors: guilty. But debt, or guilt, destroys freedom. Politicians today say high debt rates limit their freedom. Free from debt, we would truly have to ACT. Do we run up debts so as not to have to … so as not to be free, or responsible?
* Benjamin said capitalism was a religion. He noted that it created guilt but not atonement. People seize on the cult of capitalism not to atone for guilt but to make the guilt universal, he said!

c. The dictatorship of transparency
* Thanks to the Internet we are in this panopticon; this has implications.
* Neoliberalism turns citizens into consumers and politicians into suppliers. The demand for “transparency” from politicians is NOT a political demand, but a consumerist one.
* In the past there was surveillance; now we are actively steered.

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The critical university

My other friend(s) said this and I have to make the point explicit in my talk: “It’s important to recall why higher ed is important in the first place, imho. Namely: as a site to cultivate and protect and project critical thinking about the burning issues in our world.”

ETA: My other friend said: “[S]omething that we face as a real problem writ large, is the fact that we have lost our ability to recognize the larger scope of history and to see what was done in the past, as neoliberalism has done an absolutely fantastic job of making the present seem like the past, in that they make what is now ‘common sense’ seem like the historical reality for all of history basically.

That last is key for my other article. The landscape has changed and we are told it has not, and old gestures are called new when they are not, yet when performed do not mean in the same way, and old language is used in new ways, yet said to mean the old things.

Axé.

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Neoliberal culture

I’d like to read this McGuigan book, but I do not want to buy it, and we do not have it, and the next university only has it in e-format, and only for its own faculty and students, so the following university is the place. Note that that university is also the richest. Don’t let people tell you the rich prefer e-books.

It is important because it explains why neoliberal culture has managed to colonize us so well. For example we deindustrialize, but we get to gentrify, and it is cool.

Also on these matters: what is the common good? R&D people, applied research people, say that is what they are doing. We say that the production of knowledge contributes [naturally] to the common good. But in practice, we generally mean the good of the researcher and the reputation of the institution. John Wallach, at the AAUP conference in 2018, gave a talk on this, arguing that democracy, not “academic freedom,” should be a first principle.

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After neoliberalism?

Clarissa is posting on Wendy Brown who, as we know, is a major critic of the privatization of the University of California as well as one who shows what neoliberal values have done to everything.

Newfield, and my colleagues, want to reclaim the idea of the public good, and the public for that matter, and higher education as public good, but Brown suggests that ship has sailed and that in higher education, now, we don’t work to form an educated citizenry but human capital.

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Read and quake

According to the College Board, the published tuition and fees of private, nonprofit colleges and universities increased between 2007-8 and 2017-18 at an average rate of 2.4 percent. Given the growth in wealth during that period of the top 1 percent of earners, plus the shifting of financial aid away from the most needy and toward “merit scholarships” for the affluent, it is likely that college for the highest earners is actually less expensive in real terms today than it was a decade ago. The same cannot be said for the majority of the population.

Quoted from here.

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On academic freedom

This study explores the history of academic freedom in America through the focus of three interpretive models–the Gentleman Scientist Model, the Liberty Model, and the Professional Model–to show how the concept evolved over the past century. It examines violations of academic freedom, AAUP statements, and debates about the meaning of academic freedom to show how it remains a contested concept. It concludes that by studying the origins and changes in the idea of academic freedom in America, current controversies can be better understood.

That is a dissertation abstract, and the dissertation is fascinating.

During the Great War, the AAUP decided the concept of academic freedom did not apply, and condemned rather than support the many faculty dismissed for their antiwar beliefs. The Nation was appalled.

The Nation magazine criticized the AAUP report as “a serious disappointment” arguing that “By rejecting this principle, the committee, for the period of the war, hands over the keys of the castle to the enemy…” and “jeopards the very conception of a university” (“The Professors in Battle Array,” 1918). The Nation argued, “surely the university, as the home of freedom, should not go out of its way to impose on its members, in addition to these, other restrictions that are not laid on other members of the community” (“The Professors in Battle Array,” 1918).

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Quoi faire

Well, for one thing, if we are to have a state-wide organizing campaign I think it should be about tuition and its relationship to state disinvestment in higher education. Here is why.

State disinvestment is the inciting incident for this phenomenon. We can and should be critical of some of the institutional responses to that disinvestment, but this is the central problem. That disinvestment has led schools astray from their putative mission.

In the words of executive vice chancellor and provost of Cal-Berkeley, Carol Christ, “Colleges and universities are fundamentally in the business of enrolling students for tuition dollars.”If this is how institutions are required to operate, the current problems of access and affordability will only continue to get worse.

And, if I get the Kindle Paper White, here is what I will put on it:

– the Mayhew books on Lorca: but no, there is only one on the Kindle
– Artaud, Les Tarahumaras: but no, they do not have this on the Kindle

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