Category Archives: Subconference

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.

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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“I’m allowed to feel disappointed”

This is worth thinking about. Something I have procrastinated about is leaving academia. In a way, I feel I was pushed out when I started my first job, which had nothing to do with the kind of job, or life I was interested in. So my career change already happened to me, and when I think of career changes it is to begin doing something that more closely resembles the kind of work I was interested in and thought I could find in academia. I have been reticent about asking certain questions, but something I did discuss with friends and family was leaving. They were all horrified and convinced me not to, and I stayed because I was told I owed it to them, they would suffer too terribly if I left (that is another reason I feel trapped and do not work well). This, actually, shows why I do not ask enough questions–I am not accustomed to receiving non-destructive answers.

Axé.

The Precariat & The Professor

Talking with Jill yesterday about disappointment and the post-ac hustle, I was reminded of Kate Ragon’s chapter for The Precariat & The Professor, “Pleasure & Paradoxes of Organizing in the Corporate University.” We come to academia for a variety of reasons, but so many of us arrived here because we are idealists, we are dreamers– we believed the university was the contemporary City on a Hill, the last remaining one, in fact. Swallowing the bitter pill of the university’s reality is only the beginning of disappointment, which compounds, whether you get on the tenure track, work contingently, or leave for other, better things: Kate Ragon, like Erik Strobl, writes of the frustration of attempting to organize academics who think union labor is somehow below them. Jill, on the other hand, writes of being disappointed that she’s disappointed in herself for willfully walking away from a university who exploited her knowledge…

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“Where you stand is where you sit”

Here is a book about how to be an academic administrator and it looks quite good.

It is from 2006 but glancing at it I thought it would be older, as it seems to come from an era so much kinder and gentler and humane. The university was already savage, of course, but it really seems to me that things took a hard turn for the worse with the 2008 economic crisis. Others may perceive the shift differently, or may not have perceived it yet.

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Carlos Alonso on curriculum

Here are some of his 2013 thoughts. Watch the video and tell me what you think. What is the value of the humanities education, the Ph.D., and the life of the mind generally?

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James Kyrilo, Alvin Burstein

These colleagues have pieces recently published and forthcoming on curriculum and academic freedom, a key perception being that faculty rights and tenure are not the only or perhaps even the main point of attack on education. The place where student and faculty rights are both being eroded is curriculum — which is of course one more reason why I should be preparing my piece for a curriculum journal. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, it is said, but the converse is perhaps yet truer.

I have a version of the piece forthcoming — I believe — in a professional, but not refereed venue, and it has been suggested to me that an even shorter version can go to the CHE or Truthout. The Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy has been suggested to me. I, meanwhile, am fascinated with another journal, New Political Science.

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David Schultz

According to this, the corporate university is already in decline. What of the entrepreneurial university, however: is it the same thing as the corporate university? I am inclined to think not.

I do wish I had seen this panel at the MLA:

MLA Panel 803. Finance Capital and the University

Sunday, 10 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Lone Star C, JW Marriott

Program arranged by the forum TC Marxism, Literature, and Society

Presiding: Christopher John Newfield, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

1. “Securitization and University of Finance,” Amanda Armstrong-Price, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

2. “Financialization and ‘The Wisconsin Idea’ in the Twenty-First Century,” Richard Grusin, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

3. “Tech Transfer and Finance after Academic Capitalism,” Lenora Hanson, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison

4. “The Force of Diversity: Risk, Privatization, and the Salaita Affair,” Nick Mitchell, Univ. of California, Riverside

Keywords:

Academic Labor, Finance Capital, Debt, Critical University Studies, Activism, World-Historical Crises that only critical humanists can solve, according to Eileen A. Joy, Aranye Fradenburg, Julie Carlson, Alan Thomas, Cathy Davidson, David Palumbo-Liu, Ken Wissoker, Glenn Hendler, Bruce Burgett, and others.

I did see this presentation and I recommend everyone read it in its entirety.

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