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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


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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

with 2 comments

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


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’

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