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Archive for December 2010

recession chic: own-brand politics

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Interestingly zeitgeisty subsumption of recession chic Walmartistic marketing * into politics, this “No Labels” campaign. Even more interesting that it seems to be either a product or an opportunistic ally of MSNBC, the no-name name of television news. While the members of this movement, as I understand it, are involved for a variety of reasons, if it’s primarily a vehicle established to support a presidential run by Michael Bloomberg in 2012, then here “store brand” = “post-ideological plutocracy.” Obviously ‘post-ideological’ needs to be in scare quotes, but that’s the idea, and really just a consolidation of a long-held (and eighty-percent perverse) American instinct about the relationship between politics and money.

* Part of Walmart’s very very tacit come-on is that such is its buying power that it could force name-brand companies to make or bake items for its store brand simply in order also to have access to its shelves for stuff under their own labels. Somehow this seems similar to what these “No Name” people are up to.

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December 21, 2010 at 6:44 am

Posted in ads, america, Politics

the university as “heritage industry”

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The talk that I never quite gave but should have at the occupations would have been the one that directly discussed the issue that is most directly upsetting me about the current direction of the universities – mine, obviously, in particular, but lots of others in the UK too. It’s an issue that should be upsetting UK students too, though it’s something that perhaps the faculty can see more clearly at this point because we sit through endless departmental and extra-departmental meetings dealing with the issue.

Problem with this topic is that it’s very easy to misconstrue and to misconstrue in the very worst of terms. It is what we might call a Daily Mail bridge-issue. Because of this, let me just say that my ideal of the university would be one that admitted students from anywhere – anywhere in the world – regardless of ability to pay. I suppose according to merit, though sometimes I have complicated thoughts about this issue.

But the fact of the matter is that my university – like many others like it – is clearly and determinately attempting to shift its academic provision away from home students toward international students. While it seems very clear that home students will pay more under the new dispensation, they still, even at £9000 / annum, won’t cover costs. International students pay much more, and, from what I can tell, may soon pay significantly more than even the increasingly indebted home students. I really shouldn’t go into the exact details about how this is happening – in general, a turn from BA programmes attractive to UK undergraduates (and in many cases extremely difficult to get into) toward MA programmes attractive to Americans and other non-EU students is one of the clearest steps. There are other things – establishing interdisciplinary BA programmes that will directly draw down our single honours intake, not so tacit pressure to take PhD students from abroad etc.

Just to be clear: I don’t per se blame my university – or any university – for implementing these changes. We are in a funding crisis, and no one in this country has the sort of endowment to survive these changes by play through according to the old rules. I blame the coalition government – as well as the previous government, to an extent – for the current state of affairs and the necessity of implementing changes  that, incrementally, seem to be bent on turning very good academic institutions into mediocre “heritage industry” semi-corporations, inevitably full of “MA Tourists” taking up the teaching time that used to be spent on brilliant and often enough very deserving undergraduates.

Like the student occupiers’ complaint about fees, this issue is extremely vivid – not at all an amorphous gripe about potential outcomes or vague political positions but an everyday reality of my life and those whom I work with and teach. Again, I wish I had gotten a chance to explain this at length at some point during the occupations. Let’s hope – or anticipate – that the opportunity will come again and soon in 2011.

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December 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Posted in academia, occupations

when students start to teach

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Cheering front-page article in the Guardian today:

The UK faces the prospect of widespread and co-ordinated industrial action in the new year, with the leader of the largest trade union today warning that it is “preparing for battle” with the government over its “unprecedented assault” on the welfare state

Len McCluskey, the newly elected leader of Unite, says union leaders will be holding a special meeting in January to discuss a “broad strike movement” to stop what he described as the coalition’s “explicitly ideological” programme of cuts. Writing in the Guardian, McCluskey praises the “magnificent student movement” that has seen tens of thousands of young people take to the streets to protest at the government’s plans for post-16 education, saying it has put trade unions”on the spot”.

“Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach,” he said.

Love that last paragraph. As I’ve said before – here and elsewhere – I’m an enormous skeptical person when it comes to political protest. Somehow, though, from the start this seemed to me to be a different sort of thing. Perhaps it’s because some sort of tipping point in the slow yet rapid constriction of neo-liberal reform had been reached; definitely it’s because of the amazingly focused and intelligent – and above all else, determined – efforts of the students that I was interacting with that I felt so engaged by this one.

A few days in, I started to have a sense that something like the article above was quickly becoming possible. One of many important moments: a several day-long intermittent conversation with a young (i.e., har, my age) RMT officer in the smoking area of the occupation I was involved with.

Something’s definitely happened. I used to worry that Xmas would be the end of it. Now, I have a sense that this is only a much-needed break (what a manic month, jesus) and that everyone that I knew who was involved is deadset on its continuation and in fact its acceleration. And there, despite the UK’s current Snowmaggedon, it is on pg 1 of today’s paper.

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December 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Posted in occupations

tweet!

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OK. Maybe I’ll give twitter another go then. Check out the lapse between the first post and the second. Feel like that might be something like a record.

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December 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Posted in twittery

i have a new hero

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This guy, my friends, is absolutely fucking brilliant. What a fantastic interview.

Amazing that the BBC can stare into the face of the utterly obvious and still ask the same ridiculous questions. This guy answered them and squarely.

Here is his blog, btw.

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December 14, 2010 at 1:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

1968 toujours

with 10 comments

Wonderful:

In the context of numerous student occupations of their universities
and mass demonstrations, the seminar Marxism in Culture has organised
a special session on 17th December at the Insitute of Historical
Research, Senate House, 5.30. All welcome.

‘Cultures of Occupation and Demonstration: 2010/1968/1917’

With
Warren Carter
Gail Day
Steve Edwards
Esther Leslie
David Mabb
Nina Power
Alberto Toscano.

As far as I understood it, MIC had invited some of the actual students to speak at this event… I guess the invitation has been rescinded. Apparently, instead, the students who’ve led the most successful student occupation / demonstration in decades are supposed to show up and listen to their olders and betters lecture to them about 1968. Can’t wait, I’m sure…

Update: Sorted. See the comments. Was an oversight, apparently, on the part of the organizers. Can’t wait to hear the students speak in a different context. The new roster, as far as I know it:

 

Sofie Buckland

Warren Carter

Steve Edwards

Esther Leslie

David Mabb

Alberto Toscano

and other Students from the Occupations.

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December 13, 2010 at 11:18 am

Posted in academia, occupations

pennyred / thedailymail

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Noticed that Laurie Penny has taken down some of the breathless and blood-soaked tweets. It was getting towards “Someone’s frontal lobe is lodged in my hair! Eeeek!” So probably a good idea. As someone in the LRB posted, it’s unlikely that she can run and tweet and be beaten at quite the pace that she’s let on. Somehow she was a direct witness of every interesting thing that happened anywhere and everywhere amidst the protests Thursday

Funny thing is: everyone, everyone now has a story about LP fucking them over / fabricating a quote. It’s become a trope of occ and post-occ meetups. They call her, now, “The Daily Mail.” Just desserts.

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December 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

Posted in occupations

the boston manifesto: a side effect

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So the occupation that I’ve been involved with has ended after a majestic run and I’ll have to find something else to do with my spare hours. Lots to say about it all once I’ve calmed down a bit. But one final wonderful side-effect: they / we had an “after party” at the Boston, a block or so from my place, last night. The Boston is the ultimate source or at least the venue where so many of the life-crisis horrors that I’ve obliquely chronicled on this blog over the last year or so occurred or at least occurred to me. It would be hard to describe what an intimate relation I have to the place, which has served for me as a sort of outfolding in the world of the infolded shit in my head.

But last night in that place I was surrounded by students that I’ve come not only to respect in a new way (lets say ethically rather than simply intellectually) but also to love a bit. One is continually faced, in this business, with the question why bother. It’s hard work, and hard in ways that other work isn’t. But this has made me remember why it’s all worth it and so Monday, despite the fact that I can’t stop off at the Jeremy Bentham Room after work and despite the fact that Higher Ed is generally heading into the shit, I’ll go in happier and more sure of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

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December 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Posted in academia, occupations

the chalk that is not one

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Oh dear. What have we here. From an email I just received:

In other news, Luce Irigaray is in UCL and won’t come to see us because the chalking has upset her so much.

Run, academics, the new kids are behind you…

I admit, I get pretty excited when I see chalk at the university too, given the proliferation of fucking dry-erase whiteboards.

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December 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Posted in academia, occupations

finally, an ad without products

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Finally they’re coming. You have no idea how happy this makes me… A lifetime of learning and teaching, and then you get to see something like this:

A few fleeting glimpses of yours truly in there… And, um, my protest mullet.

Dog days are over…. Couldn’t have picked a better song to go with it…

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December 5, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Posted in occupations

anti-coagulantism

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The media loves the concept of “generational shift,” at least sometimes when they can get out of their permanent mid-life crisis for a column or two. Mostly very boring, and the students don’t really care about the meta-narrative. But it is quite funny to see students that I’ve met in the room winning on-line arguments against people my age, people that I’ve known from my dalliances in theoretical left circles for several years. I won’t link, as that would be cruel. But it is lovely to see. They’re learning an enormous amount in a very short time, and I’m learning an enormous amount from them. And maybe the bloodclot that has been the left starts to dissolve….

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December 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Posted in occupations

when ’68 posters have their place in the current occupations

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This is the person discussed, um, here. From this rather brilliant site….

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December 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

oikonomeia

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Despite the massive increases in productivity that have come of computerization and roboticization, the massive efficiencies that come of the continuous rerevolution in transportation and thus the globalization of markets, despite the possibility of “just in time production” and its low over-heads, despite the development of the internet and vaccines that render horrific diseases a thing of the past in much of the world, despite the end of the cold war and the necessity of massive state spending on armaments, despite incredible advances in the sciences of agriculture and mineralogy, despite labor saving advances in informational technology which render the necessity of expensive bureaucracy obsolete, despite steps forward in cheap and sometimes green energy and the introduction of the ethos of recycling and a general social campaign against waste, and despite the fact that nearly all of what would have been single-earner households have now been turned into dual-earner households, somehow we’ve run out of money and all of those mid-century advances, like cheap or free education, cheap or free medical care, cheap or free mass transit, welfare benefits for those who need them, the possibility of a reasonable state or private pension, the probability of a job for life, and affordable housing must now be phased out as they are no longer affordable. Sorry. Despite the fact that the future was supposed to be better than the past, and that capitalism is most tremendous engine for economic growth and social development that the world has ever known, we’ve discovered that the standard of living we’re accustomed to as citizens of modernity has to change profoundly and the free ride is now over. We’ve apparently run out of money.

Except for things like this:

It’s a funny old world, but that’s simply the case. And everybody knows, right, that a national economy is exactly like a household wherein when things are tight, you have to cancel the satellite tv subscription, put off the renovation of the kitchen or… end the public funding of universities altogether.

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December 3, 2010 at 3:33 am

Posted in crisis, rationalization

ye are many – they are few

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The big banner, which I saw them making today in the department common room and which may or may not have made the tears well up in my now outrageously bloodshot eyes, quotes the last five lines of this. Absolutely brilliant.

'Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number -
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many - they are few.'

Starting to write a talk for a TBD appearance at another occupation. Something having to do with the often very, very complex relationship between what we study and our political commitments. Inspired to take up that topic by this vigil tonight. Will continue my new highly exciting, if life-shortening and blog-informed, habit of writing at speed and think about it between essay marking, teaching sessions, union meetings, kid mindings, and of course occupation visitings tomorrow with an aim of writing it all down on the train.

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December 3, 2010 at 2:15 am

Posted in occupations

new media

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Btw. Mildly incredible scene yesterday. Cops guarding the gates of university, as rumor was everyone was headed there. I went past to slip out to buy some cigarettes. One cop to another as I pass: “Check the twitter feed on the iPhone. Are they coming or not?”

New world, eh?

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December 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized