Challenging the Privatised University Presentation


I’m speaking at Challenging the Privatised University. Below is the draft of my presentation


  • Life within the contemporary university seems to be a generally miserable affair
    • For staff ( academic/non academic) and students
    • This is fairly consistent with the experience of life across society and manifests similar phenomena: stress, precarity, administrative pressures, pointlessness, isolation, cynicism etc
    • Though is probably not as bad as life in other parts of society are.
  • However the general critical framework of what is happening at universities misdiagnoses the problem and thus misdirects us in our attempts to generate a collective response to improve our lives.

  • This framework functions as follows;
    • The university once was ‘public’ – meaning both financed via the state and also operated in the public interest.
    • In recent decades it has shifted towards ‘privatisation’ – meaning an increasing reliance on private funding (corporate and student) and also the contingency of state funds based on research output, student numbers etc. Simultaneously the interests of the university are seen as shifting towards working for private and corporate interests – say in the form of research partnerships
    • The impacts of this shift are seen in a radical change in the subjective experience of those on university: the experiences of employment, the attitudes of research, the measures of work load, student attitude, class sizes, etc. etc.
    • In this narrative the experience of academic labour is seen as paradigmatic of the change.
      • Tied to this is the idea that academic labour is in itself a good thing different from the more complex interactions of social wealth and capital accumulation proper of other forms of waged labour or unwaged social reproductive labour
      • This means the critique of the current direction of the university is often framed as a defence of academic labour and a defence of the university as the home of academic labour.
    • More sophisticated versions don’t simply romanticise the public university but rather look back to the struggles that typified campus life in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
      • Thus this is a kind of hauntology: a mourning of future that seemed possible in the past that has been supplanted and closed by the changes to the university itself in the present.
    • The explanation for theses changes is neoliberalism: understood loosely as an amalgam of ideas, political actors, policies and sectional interests of specific wings of capital
  • This analysis obviously shares much in common with a broad social democratic politics which is the ‘common sense’ of the Left and the state vs. market dichotomy which is the shared ideology key stone of almost all public debate in Australia.
  • What is wrong about this analysis?
  • Firstly, from a normative perspective, the public university shouldn’t be understood as being equivalent with the common good ( if we see this as being different from and antithetical too the good of capitalist society). Rather the university has always been a key institution in the social reproduction of capitalist society.
    • In the Fordist period it worked to:
      • Create policy, technical & scientific knowledges and generate ideologies
      • Train skilled labour power
      • Contribute to state planning
    • The social democratic public university was only possible as part of a more complex global composition of capital accumulation
      • A specific national/global division of labour, the class compromise at the centre of social democracy, a particular organisation of nationality, gender and sexuality etc. and all the violence this entailed.
      • State-ownership was fundament to this – not antithetical to capital accumulation (i.e. ‘the market’)
      • Institutions functioned as part of a integrated whole by being formally separated and demarcated
      • This organisation of the university and the global order of capitalism more broadly was thrown into crisis by the wave of revolts from 1960-70s
    • This leads to the second line of critique: neoliberalism (if we want to use this term) can’t be understood as simple link of policy, actors, ideas, sectional interests – rather it has been, or was, a radically reorganisation of the composition of capitalist society on a global and molecular level that paradoxically took up many of the elements of the revolt against social democracy.
  • What does this mean? There is no going back. The public university as a social democratic institution is neither possible nor desirable.
  • This doesn’t mean conformity or acquiesce but rather is a clearing away as part of trying to work out new strategies.
  • Today’s post-Fordist university works to ensure the social reproduction of capitalist society
    • Create policy, technical & scientific knowledges and generate ideologies
    • Acts as a site of direct capital accumulation
    • Contribute to state planning
    • Education has shifted from the training of labour to the certification of competencies of labour power
    • The clear lines demarcating institutions have collapsed
  • This happens within the context of the general crisis of funding social reproduction in the context of financialisation. Current education policy aims to:
    • Reduce the costs of these tasks
    • Shift the costs from the state (and thus taxation/debt) to the student ( and thus the wage)
  • There are multiple lines of antagonism, dissatisfaction and non-compliance: ‘an undercommons’. This is a basis for a collective politics on the terrain of the university
  • We could if we wish orientate towards this undercommons. What would this mean:
    • A project of militant research
    • Rethinking what we understand as the labour of the university
      • Remove the academic as the figure of labour in the university and open up to all the diverse forms of work that happen in and around the university
      • Reject the notion that this work is an unalloyed good in and of itself and grasp it as internally contradictory like all work (waged and unwaged) in capitalism and exploited and alienating.
      • It is unclear if the inherited forms of organisations – unions and student unions – are fit for purpose for this constellation of labour which is exploited at university
  • This is then not a defence of the university; rather it is an understanding of it as a terrain of struggle and contestation that we exist in, are divided by and can disobey, fight and create on.
  • My suggestion then is that on day two we discuss the development of practices of militant research as part of the process of constituting opposition on the terrain of the university.


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  1. Hello.
    1. In Russia, there is no strong left opposition. Party Zyuganov – racist.
    a. Dial google site for Russian “Sochi Dargins” will come out on the site of the St. Petersburg branch of the party Zyuganov racist slander article annoying ethnic Dargin titled “How a Russian Caucasus”
    Attend to that in the Nogai steppe (where are Neftekumsk and South Sukhokumsk) descendants of Russian colonialists (who Bole than indigenous Nogai) becomes smaller than Dargins
    b. dial the search site Yandex “Magomedov tram” will come out on the Russian slanderous Caucasophobia
    at. in close to Zyuganov’s party newspaper “Soviet Russia”, “kavkazofobskaya article Caucasian ridge problems”

    2. In the Russian fascists in power – Zhirinovsky, Minister of Tkachev as an example
    Fascists from Russia sometimes like evrosoyusche power in the United States, a fascist Alexei Navalny in 2008 proposed to close the Chechens and Ingush in the ghetto

    3. Let us promote the idea. Seychs almost everywhere in the world the state gives a person 100% set of civil rights upon reaching a certain age. It is necessary to demolish the medieval anachronism. The rights should be tied to the level of development and scholarship

    4. According to information available on the territory of St. Petersburg, Bryansk region passed an unconstitutional ordinance (the AKP), according to which at night are prohibited from being on the street by people under 18 (!) Years. This contradicts the basic law of Russia – the Constitution, Article 27 on freedom of movement. In addition: 1. Under current law people have the right to start work at the age of 14, to have sex with 16 years, to use public transport to 7 years. A closer look we see that: – The law does not prohibit part time in private, such as for example, help in plumbing work or setting up computer equipment. ACP prevents the implementation of a permanent employment or part-time because it is possible to return to the place of residence to part-time work at any time of the day – the AKP prevent sexual and personal life of the citizens, since the law is not regulated, what time should commit acts of intimacy, acts of intimacy is allowed to do at any time, in any dwelling, respectively, can not be regulated by the return from the meeting – Citizens have the right to use public transport, long before 18 years of age, respectively, prevents the return of the AKP in the residence with good transport links. And if long-distance trains arriving in the city of residence of a citizen in the night? 2. Many citizens are forced to help elderly relatives, which are moved through the city 3. Nonresident citizens often come back at night in a hostel in the city study of native settlements 4. The citizens formed a negative image of the police and the state as a whole (the risk that young people protest can go to the extremist community) 5. Discrimination contributes to mental illness, aggravates social problems may be a factor of depression and suicide crimes 6. The citizen is not obliged to carry a watch, have hours and hours to be able to use. So this is a gross violation of national and international. 7. Moreover, it is a violation of the Russian Federation adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Articles 2,7,9,10,12,17 pact (since 16 years, people have the right to privacy), 18,21,22, 26 Please distribute, write to the United Nations in the Court of Human Rights, the President of Russia, the Russian prosecutor’s office, the investigative committee of Russia

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