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against the really free school

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Ah, feel vindicated today. During the UK student occupations, I accepted any invitation I received to address student occupations and did my best to come up with something good to say to them… Even though that increasingly amounted to saying something like “Christ, you guys know better than I do at this point… Look at what you’ve done!”

A few weeks ago, I received an email encouraging me to come up with something for the Really Free School. After thinking about it for awhile, I decided to ignore the request… But not without feeling a bit guilty for not pitching something in, especially since the aspects of this movement that have provided opportunities for me to usefully participate have gone into remission for the moment. But reading this this morning, I realize that the hunch I had – that I’m on a different side of this from them – was right. Here’s the post in full:

!Education’s Napster Moment

As a result of the emergence of a virtual marketplace that encourages the forming of community and the sharing of ideas, we have inadvertently been equipped with the tools needed to undo the current rules of engagement.

Ours is the first generation to be given the toolset by which to produce, collectively organise and display our message/ideology/product to a global audience; an audience that, like you, has an equal opportunity to subvert the current trajectory of our education system.

Universities are collapsing. Not as a result of dramatic cuts but because they represent an outmoded model for their primary function, the exchange of knowledge and research. The education industry is about to experience the same death blow to its infrastructure and profit model that Napster issued to the music industry back in 1999.

Everyone within our generation is aware that the construction of ideas and the execution of research has shifted its locality to a sprawling virtual space that is open to collective input.

Let us not draw out the death rattle of our institutions by allowing concessions to be made and minor battles to be fought and ultimately lost – instead let us accelerate the pace of their demise.

Abandon the institution and declare it’s death, the point at which our apathy for the current state of play is declared, the better. With this change we will be able to destabilise the mediated control of our social trajectory, causing a genuine crisis for those that stand to profit both politically and financially from our existing system. It is the institutions and those that control them that need us.

Create a real crisis, torrent your syllabus, duplicate your id cards and give them to strangers, scan your entire library and post it on AAARG, distribute maps of your university online, relocate your seminars to a space outside of the institution. Invalidate the universities existence, so that together we can begin to build fresh foundations on its grave.

Invite anyone and everyone to participate, saturate your institutions and make them a true open space. The path to knowledge does not end on the day of graduation.

This document was put together on the spur of the moment as a direct response to this situation, its ideas are not fixed. Instead it seeks to act as a provocation or suggestion that we should consider the complete reformation of what we currently have. More money/Less cuts cannot cure the decline of our institutions. We have now a unique opportunity to create something new, independently and autonomously.

Wow – sounds like someone’s been reading Kpunk et al – at least before Kpunk et al’s dextrous sidestep into allegiance with the generally non-accelerationist protest movement late last year. (Short version of my critique: saying “They’re not as apathetic as I wrote” is not the same as saying “Perhaps the embrace of apathy is not the right way forward…” Harder to admit that your argument was wrong than your diagnosis…) But that is some pretty hardcore accelerationism cum depressive despair in the blogpost, per what we’ve seen from the likes of the left-theoretical blogetariat. I am fully in-line with the desire to open university admissions, to grant as much access as possible, deheirarchize institutions etc. (If CUNY wants to go back to open admissions and offer me a job, I’d be there in a second, despite the fact that I do indeed get on very very well with my hand-picked and quite brilliant students where I am now…) The only reason I don’t want anyone to video and release my lectures for free on the internet is that I’d have to rewrite my lectures every single year for fear that some or most had heard it all already. Trust me, I have enough work to do as it is…

More seriously, I am absolutely sure that the way forward is not the abandonment of what vestiges of socialized education remain in the UK or anywhere else. I think it’s safe to say that they’re missing an absolutely enormous, gaping difference between the napster-fucking of the music industry and doing the same thing to what is left of publically funded university education. In short, most of us don’t care in the least about the survival of, say, Sony. We don’t care about cutting into to their profit margins, we don’t care if they go under, and we might even have faith that if they and their competitors no longer existed we would still be able to find good or even better music without them.

On the other hand, I’d like to think that we do care about the continued existence and viability of not-for-profit and (let’s hope) state funded educational centres. At this point in history, there are far better targets for anarchistic rage than the ISAs that administer higher education, at least in the humanities and social sciences. (At the moment, I am being force-interpellated by institutional pressure – from a University Press – to add more Badiou etc into my book. That’s not exactly the stuff of Christian conservatism…)

I used to talk to someone who from time to time would kick around the idea of dropping out (or being evicted from) regular academia and “taking it on the road” – giving talks and passing the hat. She also was a sometimes theorist of the sort of university without walls idea that is behind the RFS communique above. When we talked about it, the thing that I always said was that sure, it’s a nice idea, but if I were her I’d just plan to give, say, the porn talk over and over again and probably forget about giving the Hegel lecture quite so often or even at all.

Some of education isn’t fun – it can’t be fueled by people hitting “like” on some social networking website. I’m lucky. I get to teach the attractive stuff from the modern period, the stuff that just about everyone wants to read. But I am incredibly grateful that my students are forced to read lots of other materials that, given the choice, they likely wouldn’t. Lots would skip Chaucer if they could, and much else besides that they complain about to me but ultimately they need to have in order to understand – and in particular to see the limitations of – the hip fun but ultimately sort of narcissistically angled stuff that they get to do with me.

I have no moral qualms with downloading music or television. I will say however that my ability to do so doesn’t necessarily lead to the best use of my time. This morning for instance, feeling in a bit of a rut, I finished up the newest season of Mad Men rather than reading Peter Hallward’s excellently lucid book on Badiou, which I started yesterday. Perhaps you see the problem? The infinite availability of what I like isn’t necessarily a conduit to my successful continuous self-education.

And of course there’s another side to this. Destroy the university and no one pays me anymore. I spend an awful lot of time and energy on teaching – most months, almost all of my time and energy. The students seem to want me to do it. Maybe it’s their interpellation by their ISA of choice, but they’d be pretty upset to run the seminars on their own or if I just put my syllabi and lectures on-line. But if no one’s paying my fine but meagre salary, I’d obviously have to find something else to keep me in hotdogs and buns. Call it me defending my financial interests, but even given the rough job market I’m pretty sure I could find something amazingly more lucrative to do for a living than this.

I think it’s become clear – it seemed very much so at the occupations last year – that faculty are no longer viewed with suspicion. We’re all on the same side here… Save of course for those who go over to administration, which is another matter altogether and something that I sure as shit will never do. At any rate, I’d bet six cans of Grolsch that within a few months, Cameron et al rolls out some sort of Big Society e-learning initiative. When you’re coming up with ideas that happen to be exactly the same as those of the party in power, it might be time for a bit of an decelerationist moment. If so, maybe the folks at the Really Free University could be hired in to administer it.

Scattered post – sorry about that. Anyway, glad I didn’t go. This is not something that I support. I hope there will be many opportunities in the near-term to give talks at occupations whose interests and aims I share.

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Posted in academia, occupations

43 Responses

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  1. Yes, but … isn’t there a reasonable argument that your lectures and syllabus *have already been paid for by the state*, so there should indeed be open access (see also the entire content of the BBC, academic journals).

    I don’t see Berkeley grinding to a halt because of (fantastic) things like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jbdelong

    The RFS may be wrong, but because they’re concentrating on knowledge transfer and not the more important credentialling role of the University. Not because people find Chaucer more difficult than Woolf.

    Gabe

    February 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

  2. […] being evicted from) regular academia and “taking it on the road” – giving talks and … “christian conservatism” – Google Blog Search This entry was posted in Conservative Commentary and tagged Against, Free, Products, really, […]

  3. I keep writing out massive comments on this and deleting them – there’s too much to say.

    But from a student activist perspective probably the most important thing is shit like the RFS post is just *embarrassing*. Cringeworthy. I imagine the education workers we made links with in December reading it and I’m torn between going to hide in a hole somewhere and making public and profuse apologies.

    There’s nothing radical about airbrushing out labour. It should be abundantly obvious to anyone who has even a fragile grasp on how capitalism functions that carving out little autonomous spaces in the hope the whole system will collapse is a) not going to work and b) not going to be a sustainable alternative for people who want to live on more than air and nice ideas. Not to mention that we don’t want that system to collapse, not in education – radical reforms, sure, lead by staff and students, but as you’ve explained more clearly than I could universities aren’t corporations, not yet.

    I could go on, but I’m thinking of going over there with a few copies of Capital and a fucking clue.

    zetkin

    February 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm

  4. Okay, everything that actually attempts to confront capital and its institutions directly is not equivalent to Mark Fisher’s accelerationism. Even if they use the world “accerlerate.” An accelerationist position, it seems to me, would be to encourage the schools to raise tuition as high as it can go and have the gov’t cut back on all student support, so as to speed the contradictions. That’s not what they’re proposing, what they’re proposing is appropriation. (Not defending Fisher any more, and if you want to call him a Leninist, go for it – that’s what he gets for falling back to the official labor movement)

    With only some exceptions, no one is paying the students either, and yet they still have a stubborn desire to read and write, labor and create, and seem willing to steal and fight in order to live a life in which they can do that. Are you? And if you’re not, then why should they do it for you?

    mpharris

    February 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm

  5. “Lots would skip Chaucer if they could, and much else besides that they complain about to me but ultimately they need to have in order to understand – and in particular to see the limitations of – the hip fun but ultimately sort of narcissistically angled stuff that they get to do with me.”

    I’m curious, what is this narcissistically angled stuff exactly?

    jake

    February 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    • Well, contemporary novels have a certain narcissistic appeal as “we” find “ourselves” mirrored in them. Harder to do with say Beowulf or something.

      adswithoutproducts

      February 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm

  6. Oh and @zetkin, if you think teachers are the only ones in the classroom engaged in labor, then you’re the one who has misread Capital:

    “Labour, then, as he creator of use-values, as useful labour, is a condition of human existence which is independent of all forms of society; it is an eternal natural necessity which mediates the metabolism between man and nature, and therefore human life itself”

    You’re privileging work, or labor valorized on the market. It seems you’re saying (to simplify) the coach is laboring by blowing the whistle, but the kids aren’t laboring by running around the track.

    mpharris

    February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  7. Gabe is indeed correct. There has probably never been a better time for autodidacticism, at least among people literate in one or more Indo-European languages, but as long as the metric equivalent for “knowledge” (and, therefore, “employability” of one kind or another) is a graduate degree, then the point becomes, er, academic. And that tendency toward “credentialing” the ability to do one thing or another is growing, not shrinking — note the relatively recent proliferation of praxis-based degree programs: MFA, anyone?

    Andrew

    February 16, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  8. Gabe,

    Yes, but … isn’t there a reasonable argument that your lectures and syllabus *have already been paid for by the state*, so there should indeed be open access (see also the entire content of the BBC, academic journals).

    Well, in a sense yes. There are complicated issues of intellectual property involved though – as far as I understand it I am paid to lecture, not paid for the content of the lectures themselves. I wouldn’t mind if this were the case though…. The only practical problem is the one that I named above – which is that it would put a huge amount of pressure on me and my fellow teachers to rewrite our lectures every year, which is a bit more than any of us could handle. But syllabi, sure. I should post mine myself at my personal site.

    Zetkin,

    Absolutely – we’re on the same page.

    mpharris,

    I see more destruction than “appropriation” involved there. The point is to hasten the destruction of the universities, right? I see what you’re saying, I think, about accelerationism… But I’m not sure that this call is all that far away from it in conception / implementation.

    I’m not sure I understand the quote that you used w/r/t Zetkin. Obviously I agree with the idea of giving students a wage / stipend. Not really on the table though. And not sure that anything the RFS is proposing is likely to end up that way either – instead of everyone or someone getting paid, nobody does under that model or, I suppose, the market would decide.

    Andrew,

    And again, one of the thing that most academics that I know are VERY much onside about is resistance to the continuous encroachment of credentialing as a central concern into our pedagogical work. I.e. we’d much rather teach what we want, what the students would want, than be strapped into more and more cash driven programmes designed to produce a credential.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alex, Rob Horning. Rob Horning said: "I am being force-interpellated by institutional pressure from a University Press to add more Badiou etc to my book" http://bit.ly/fxmNKd […]

  10. What’s most startling about this post (and some of the comments) is the sheer lack of actual attention paid to object in question.

    There is no evidence that you have looked at any other part of the site, thereby putting the post in question into context. If you would have done so, several things would have become clear. Firstly, it is an open and collaborative project, meaning that the content appearing on the website, in the actual sessions and in the space itself are created by different people with different ideas and intentions for the project. To take just one part of the RFS and use it to pass judgement on the whole is a fairly cheap and careless approach.

    If you had actually looked at the site you would have realised that there are a series of communiques written collectively in the space, designed to reflect more comprehensively on the aims of the project as a whole. This might be a good place to start – http://reallyfreeschool.org/?page_id=2

    I hope to write a more detailed response to some of the actual arguments made in this post, but for now you might consider actually visiting the school. I’d like to think that the time it took you to write this post could be better used actually participating (even if it were critically – in fact especially so) in what has repeatedly proclaimed itself to be an open and undetermined idea. Better that than to remain one more creepy critic festering behind a screen.

    A///.

    February 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

  11. Hard to know what to do with all of that. You’re basically saying that because the RFS is a collaborative project, it’s inappropriate for me or anyone to criticize the writings that it hosts on its website.

    How about I say this: I am basically against the RFS so far as it seems to be generating bad ideas in some of those who participate in it.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

  12. Um, no not at all. Have you even read my comment?

    If you need me to spell it out very clearly for you (and it seems you do), I am saying it is inappropriate for you to criticize the RFS as an ongoing project on the basis of one single text that has emerged from it.

    You are of course welcome to criticize that text (I myself have issues with parts of it), but please don’t make a basic confusion between the text and the project. That’s all.

    A///.

    February 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  13. So you’re saying that some of the principles at the base of RFS aren’t similar to those in the document? Or are there no principles at the base of RFS? Seems like some of what I’m angry about – anarchist rejection of “obsolete” education institutions – is pretty central to what RFS is up to.

    You simply can’t make the RFS so amorphous that’s it’s impossible to criticize.

    Anyway, I’ll probably stop by the afterparty or whatever it is tonight.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

  14. Communique 3 – the one you pointed me to – seems altogether compatible with the post that I criticized. Or is that not “representative” either?

    adswithoutproducts

    February 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm

  15. Why is there a paywall to access “premium” content?

    Andrew

    February 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm

  16. Um…

    Let me offer some context to this particular text in the hope that it might break the current deadlock of discussion here.

    It was written the night before the first student demonstration in London. It was an attempt to stimulate thought around a different tact, beyond the slogans of the SWP etc. It is as such written for its audience and the anticipated atmosphere of the day. However subsequently it has been circulated widely online.

    Its main goal is to provoke pragmatic action, on a level which its audience understands and can identitfy with.

    500 copies were printed and handed out on the day. At the bottom of the original document was an anonymous link to a chatroom and it was encouraged that the text be part of a conversation. This lead to a series of IRL meetings that furthered the discussion.

    The problems that you have cited in your post were not unknown to the writer at the time but in order for the text to exist as propaganda for a post-internet environment, those short comings were redacted. In an attempt to help accelerate the enivitable crisis the institutions will have to face.

    In response to some of what has been said and the core of your criticism and if the text were to have continued with a need to confront your issues:

    “Call it me defending my financial interests”

    I would call it exactly that, please illustrate a way in which your priviledged position as full time academic is in anyway sustainable for future generations, beyound inflated fees. Your rhetoric supports only your position in the here and now.

    You make no attempt to suggest a way in which this model will operate for future generations of academics, which at this point is your responsibility, considering the current crisis, your rhetoric is endemic of the generation that has lead us into this situation.

    “allowing concessions to be made and minor battles to be fought and ultimately lost”

    Instead of using your time to deconstruct text that never attempted to exist as more than a political meme. Perhaps it would be better spent researching the means by which such a future may or may not be realised.

    http://www.neowin.net/news/pirate-bay-co-founder-launches-social-payments-system—flattr

    95% of my labour, time and production goes entirely unpaid, similarly to those caught in the deadlock of the intern economy and also much like the time invested by those at the RFS.

    However where yourself and participants/contributors to the RFS differ is in there being no sense of entitled, only a desire to pursue change and reimagine what we currently have.

    In the same way that no single paper put out by a university can be entirely representative of the instituion, the same can be said for the ephermeral nature of the RFS’s blogposts.

    “You simply can’t make the RFS so amorphous that’s it’s impossible to criticize.”

    I bet we can.

    Anon

    February 21, 2011 at 4:16 am

  17. It was written the night before the first student demonstration in London

    I’m confused. I thought it was written collaboratively at the RFS, which of course didn’t exist back then.

    The problems that you have cited in your post were not unknown to the writer at the time but in order for the text to exist as propaganda for a post-internet environment, those short comings were redacted.

    What do you see as the problems or shortcomings of the text? Sort of sounds to me – given the context of this discussion – that you are admitting you got things deliberately wrong in order to augment the attractiveness of the document. I suspect you did get things wrong and for this reason – that’s the basic sense moving behind my arguments here.

    I would call it exactly that, please illustrate a way in which your priviledged position as full time academic is in anyway sustainable for future generations, beyound inflated fees. Your rhetoric supports only your position in the here and now.

    You make no attempt to suggest a way in which this model will operate for future generations of academics, which at this point is your responsibility, considering the current crisis, your rhetoric is endemic of the generation that has lead us into this situation.

    Ah – there’s our major difference. What, do you buy into the neoliberal “crisis” rhetoric? Do you think that we have “run out of money”? Why – other than the greed, cynicism and mismanagement of the centre and right… as well as the left of course – is the the academic system not sustainable? Are hospitals, public infrastructure, welfare systems not sustainable either?

    Or to put it another way – don’t you find it a bit strange that you’ve adopted the same – entirely fictional – storyline of inevitable crisis in the welfare state as Cameron et al and “reformers” around the world?

    allowing concessions to be made and minor battles to be fought and ultimately lost”

    Instead of using your time to deconstruct text that never attempted to exist as more than a political meme.

    See this is really confusing. You criticize me for writing about a text that you claim was epheremal, only of the moment, whatever. Then you come back and in your very comment you repeat – exactly – the arguments and analyses that I am critiquing in your piece. How can you cite them to me now and in the same breath claim that I am wrong to engage with them in my own side of the argument?

    However where yourself and participants/contributors to the RFS differ is in there being no sense of entitled

    Well, that’s too bad. Not long ago people did feel entitled to a free public tertiary education. I wonder what happened? Did we “run out of money”? Wonder why it happened? It doesn’t have anything to do with the systematic transfer of wealth up the income scale through among other things privatization and the general starvation of the state over the last 20-30 years. But I suppose this is no longer reversible, huh? Just inevitable that thing keep going down this path, therefore the only solution is basketweaving seminars in the upstairs of abandoned pubs.

    “You simply can’t make the RFS so amorphous that’s it’s impossible to criticize.”

    I bet we can.

    There’s a virtue in openness and horizontality, of course. But there’s also a virtue in clarity of some sort of minimal message. (Such was very nicely handled, to my mind, but many of the university occupations). But this resistance to critique, given our exchange so far seems like more an instance of an allergy to critique brought on by the flimsiness or even perversity of some of your arguments.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

  18. So accelerationism is about accelerating capital itself toward its SELF-destruction. It’s like overidentfication. We might call the managers at Lehman Brothers accelerationists. To act externally to speed the death of capital or the state through direct confrontation is not only not the same thing, they’re mostly mutually exclusive tactics.

    And crisis is as crisis does.

    mpharris

    February 21, 2011 at 10:05 am

  19. Yes, it’s a conveniently passive position to hold – I’d call it “adolescent” if that wasn’t a bit agist of me to do so. Let the Lehman boys do it. Well, they seem to be very, very handy at forestalling the arrival of the end point through inflicting real world suffering on populations.

    The RFS isn’t about “direct confrontation.” Obviously there is a difference, but I think the affinities between the one thing and the other are quite clear…. “This X is corrupt, sick, and will die – thankfully – on its own….”

    Like the Jewish messiah, the self-destruction of capitalism has been long predicted but doesn’t seem anywhere near arrival.

    And crisis is as crisis does.

    Well, I’m not sure that means anything at all. Does it?

    adswithoutproducts

    February 21, 2011 at 10:23 am

  20. These ‘positions’ certainly are looking increasingly ‘adolescent’. And it certainly a form of ‘overidentification’ with rabid neoliberalism. Is it anything more than “We’re young and dynamic, full of ‘new’ ideas and we run our own lives!” The powers that be just LOVE that routine in our days of unbelievable youth unemployment and unlivable wages. I’m sure we’ll be seeing it on Pepsi adverts before long. Amuse yourself with situationist/punk/cyber rhetoric, all the better:

    http://perelebrun.blogspot.com/2011/02/against-walker-and-for-jm.html

    We’ve heard it time and time again since the 80s – A lot of of these enterprising temporary autonomous accelerationists need to have another browse at ‘No Logo’ by that old-fashioned fogey Naomi Klein. You may find that you’re a willing executioner of the Big Society.

    W.Kasper

    February 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm

  21. Indeed. It’s a bit uncanny, isn’t it? And I do think it has to do with certain forms of “theory” that have been circulating around UG / PG populations in recent years plus a tendency to take this sort of thing uncritically, without thinking about what you’re being sold on.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 22, 2011 at 10:27 am

  22. Let’s just say over-enthusiastic CD reviews are no good if you can’t afford any CDs.

    W.Kasper

    February 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm

  23. comments seem to be disabled for this thread now. Is this correct?

    A///.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:55 am

  24. (trying on two parts as my response doesn’t seem to be coming up as one)

    Christ, you lot just sound bitter and old, it’s actually a bit embarrassing. All the usual tropes of the awkward, anti-social theorist – more interested in being right than actually participating in something that might not be perfect – have found there way into this thread: they’re naive and misguided, they don’t understand Marx, this action is counterproductive, I was right that they were wrong etc..

    Now I personally take quite a different stance to ‘Anon’, and have not in any previous comments actually dealt with the content of your post, merely its lacklustre attention to detail. Very briefly here is what I object to:

    1. Sheer conservatism. Why assume that the content of established university courses is any more difficult or challenging than activities taking place outside of them? To me this a reactionary veneration of the institutionalized as such. What about the many, many independent reading and discussion groups that take place outside of / in parallel with academia. Have you even looked at the program of events? If you came down to the school you’d find copies of ‘Being and Event’, ‘Negative Dialectics’ etc.. on the bookshelves.

    2. Accelerationism. It’s always going to be difficult for dedicated bloggers who have painstakingly built up internet reputations to come to terms with the fact that the goings on IRL are not fully isomorphic with the debates of the ‘blogsphere’. Your reduction of a project you have almost no familiarity with to a conceptual scene you are clearly very comfortable in is just lazy – and startlingly similar to that of the tabloid journalist who have covered the RFS. For someone who has defended the virtue of sustained and challenging engagement with one’s object this seems hypocritical.

    Accelerationism is neither an accurate or helpful concept in the discussion of a project like the RFS (or indeed many others). No one at the RFS is suggesting the complete liquidation of higher education, in fact many involved are from the very same occupations you pose as the model of the ‘good rebellion’. Your straw man misses the point, which is a critique of the subsumption of higher education. the Acceleration/deceleration binary is unproductive as a critical concept because it cannot recognise the position which I’d say almost everyone involved with the RFS holds – that it is not an all or nothing choice, we can defend and expand what is good in education whilst challenging the flaws and limitations of what exists. It is a project designed to run in parallel with struggles internal to the institution, but also operate in a much broader sense of what collective learning and activity can be. This project is not simply an expression of ‘the student movement’.

    A///.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:57 am

  25. Even in your own post there are contradictory accelerationist statements – about the liquidation of Sony, who I’ve no doubt employ a huge amount more people than universities. No doubt, we might value the university more than an electrical goods manufacturer, but your own defence of your wage reeks of hypocrisy in light of the unimportance of the loss of thousands of Sony jobs.

    To be honest, if anything quite the opposite of accelerationism has been the problem in the recent student mobilizations – a reactionary and uncritical defence of what exists. Hence so much working class resentment of the students – ‘why should they get a free lunch when I have to work’ etc.. It is the incapacity of many students to envisage anything other than the defend/attack model than means that up till now there has been little significant action other than spectacular defend/attack mobilizations (I include much of the occupations in this)

    3. Even if these problems did pertain to the RFS, why spend your time writing a smug blog post about how you had predicted its shortcoming rather than participating in the project? Radical movements are necessarily speculative, and must of course be open to critical element (which the RFS clearly is), but they are not nurtured in their nascency by know-it-all academics writing them off.

    A///.

    February 24, 2011 at 1:59 am

    • I was intrigued by the possibility that Sony might directly employ more people than universities. So after Googling it, here are the numbers (these will exclude indirect employment via suppliers, etc.):

      Sony worldwide: 171,300 in 2009, of whom 11.6% worked in Europe
      UK Higher Education Institutions: 387,430 for 2009/10, of whom 181,595 were academic staff and 205,835 non-academic staff.

      See sony.net and hesa.ac.uk

      Apologies for not engaging with the substance of the argument – but clearly it’s worth remembering quite how significant universities are as employers in the UK.

      Anton

      February 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      • I’m not sure that anyone was questioning the significance of HE employment, and pedantic correction aside I think my point regarding the inconsistent deployment of accelerationist logic still stands. 171,300 Jobs is not an insignificant figure either.

        A//.

        February 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm

  26. There is more but this comments box does not seem to like it. Have you got auto-censor turned on?..

    A///..

    February 24, 2011 at 2:05 am

  27. You still haven’t explained how its anything more than Big Society featuring Adorno.

    Who pays for it? How is it paid for? Does anyone make a living from this? Does it go further than an intellectual leisure pursuit? Would anyone without a private income be able to use it? Does its independence mask the cultivation of a self-elected, well-connected clique? How do I join in? Who decides? Is it anything more than a book club with a fancier title?

    Same questions we should be asking Big Society…

    W.Kasper

    February 24, 2011 at 8:48 am

    • oh bloody hell guys – just come over and see it for yourselves!
      go on..
      we dare you…

      gaz

      February 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    • Sure Kasper, these are valid questions, but apply equally to both the university itself and the occupations that have been championed on this blog.

      You still haven’t explained why your stance is anything more than conservatism featuring a crass accusation of ‘lifestylism’. You’ve made no attempt to engage with the arguments I have made.

      Many of the answers you seek would also be easy to come by had you spent one minute looking at the actual RFS website.

      A//.

      February 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  28. Ads – Given that you thought it worth your while to dedicate a post to criticising the RFS, I’d ask that you respond to the comments with the same zeal. I hope it will be clear that there is no allergy to critique here, only to idiocy.

    A//.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:27 pm

  29. A//,

    more interested in being right than actually participating in something that might not be perfect

    No. Interested in participating in things that lead in the right direction (which I have done) and not in those that don’t. Anytime someone doesn’t rush to the barricades with you doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re “overthinking” it.

    Why assume that the content of established university courses is any more difficult or challenging than activities taking place outside of them? To me this a reactionary veneration of the institutionalized as such.

    Complicated issue, but not really the one that I was raising in the post or the comments. My point was that the institutions are important means for allowing people to teach and study – in terms of free / cheap provisioning of material to students and paying the salaries of those who provision it. I also think the insitutionalized version helps by enforcing “non-consumerist” paths on to students – i.e. sometimes you have to read Chaucer even if you’d rather just read Ballard etc.

    The quality of contents provided this way vs. other possible ways is another matter and I suppose quite contingent.

    that it is not an all or nothing choice, we can defend and expand what is good in education whilst challenging the flaws and limitations of what exists

    OK. And go reread the post to see what rhetoric I was responding to. Remember this? “Create a real crisis, torrent your syllabus, duplicate your id cards and give them to strangers, scan your entire library and post it on AAARG, distribute maps of your university online, relocate your seminars to a space outside of the institution. Invalidate the universities existence, so that together we can begin to build fresh foundations on its grave.”

    Let’s not get back to the representativeness of the document. (Why not host other documents, though, that demonstrate all the divergent opinions?)

    adswithoutproducts

    February 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

  30. More to A//:

    Even in your own post there are contradictory accelerationist statements – about the liquidation of Sony, who I’ve no doubt employ a huge amount more people than universities. No doubt, we might value the university more than an electrical goods manufacturer, but your own defence of your wage reeks of hypocrisy in light of the unimportance of the loss of thousands of Sony jobs.

    Jesus – come on. You know what I meant in the post. First of all, I was referring the recording arm of the company, which I am guessing employees a tiny fraction of the total cited above. (This was about the “Napsterization” of education, and has nothing to do with most of what Sony does. I was citing it against the documents blithe encouragement of the loss of HE jobs. You can’t play both sides here.

    Hence so much working class resentment of the students – ‘why should they get a free lunch when I have to work’ etc..

    Yep. And to take that as your banner or the pole that your banner hangs on will get you right in the middle of the very “race to the bottom” politics so beloved of the cynically populist right. See, as a very clear parallel, the massive upswell of working class resentment of unions current fucking things up big time in the USA. “Hey! I don’t have health care or a pension! Why the fuck should they? Let’s make sure NO ONE has health care / pension / reliable job!”

    Obviously working class resentment should be addressed. The answer is of course an expansion of opportunity, not its complete elimination. (More and cheaper uni slots, more rights to collective bargaining, the expansion of unionization to the private sector etc…)

    3. Even if these problems did pertain to the RFS, why spend your time writing a smug blog post about how you had predicted its shortcoming rather than participating in the project? Radical movements are necessarily speculative, and must of course be open to critical element (which the RFS clearly is), but they are not nurtured in their nascency by know-it-all academics writing them off.

    Well…. because I write. That’s what I do. But furthermore, what would be a point in participating in an organization that seems fundamentally opposed to your own interests?

    Please, please avoid responding with something like “this organization is so ad hoc and dynamic that was impossible to know anything of what it would be.” Because you’ll just force me to say something along the lines “Well, could it have spontaneously evolved into a pseduo-BNP rally etc?”

    (Sort of off topic, but this is coming close to what’s wrong to my mind with Badiou’s stuff. “You can only know what you’re doing while you’re doing it” can turn – and very often has turned – toward the worse just as easily as the better.

    adswithoutproducts

    February 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm

  31. Firstly, thanks for responding.

    Fundamentally I think the issue turns on the issue of, as you say, whether the RFS has the potential to ‘lead in the right direction’ in terms of a positive contribution to actually existing (and possibly forthcoming) struggles. There is very little evidence that you have made any efforts to grasp the nature of the RFS as a whole, and thus make an informed judgement about this. It’s only too easy to latch on to incidental features of a struggle in order to dismiss it, it’s far harder to actually participate in a struggle and deal with all of the [variables of collective action]. If you have ever been involved in actual struggles (other than those in the comments section) you will surely realise this.

    Furthermore, it’s important to distinguish between the actualisation of an idea and it’s potential as an organisational form. I have criticisms of many aspects of the RFS as it exists, but also see many possibilities in it as a form of struggle. I find it far more appealing to try and push these possibilities from within than writing the whole thing off and precluding the possibility of something positive emerging. That is why I have been involved and would encourage others to be. You alluded to Wisconsin, sure the unions have ‘fucked up’ – hardly a reason to give up on organised labour though is it?..

    “No. Interested in participating in things that lead in the right direction (which I have done) and not in those that don’t. Anytime someone doesn’t rush to the barricades with you doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re “overthinking” it.”

    The RFS is clearly not demanding that people man the barricades, these tropes are as ‘adolescent’ as the positions you ascribe to the RFS, it’s not overthinking I’m against, just bad thinking. This isn’t an attempt to valorize a positive notion of ‘action’ over critique (I’d include the latter in the former), and of course we should be discerning as to where we put our time and energy, but what is it exactly, other than a single piece of writing, that makes you so sure that the RFS is ‘fundamentally opposed to your own interests?’. given the similitudes (both in terms of attitudes and actual participants) with the occupations you laud it’s hard to see what could produce such an unbreachable chasm between the politics of the two. Up till now the RFS has been used as a space for groups organising around education, gender and disability, anti-cuts, debt and eviction, practical skills (plumbing, carpentry, electrics etc..), legal information, as well as ‘non-consumerist’ theoretical discussions, this is just a small selection – are these struggles also

    There is no problem with a critique of any statement on the RFS website, or any critique of the space itself (providing the critic has actually been there). It’s the castration of political possibilities that is striking – not just in your post, but much of critical left discourse. I certainly don’t think shoddy criticism of actual struggles based on worn out tropes really ‘leads in the right direction’ either, but I do think that participation from within (however critical) can help shape those struggles – hence why I’m responding on your blog rather than boasting about the fact that it’s wrong and I won’t be reading it anymore.

    A//.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:27 pm

  32. (seem to have lost a few bits of text in that last post)

    some other points:

    “OK. And go reread the post to see what rhetoric I was responding to”

    Ok, go and read my comment and try to follow my line of argument, I’m not trying to defend the ‘napsterisation’ article, but the RFS as a whole.

    “Well…. because I write. That’s what I do.”
    Well clearly it’s not all you do as the whole point of your post was your self-congratualtion at not deigning to come and participate in the RFS. Defend your own arguments at least.

    “I was citing it against the documents blithe encouragement of the loss of HE jobs. You can’t play both sides here.”

    Not trying to play both sides, but it seems you are. On the one hand there is the defence of jobs, maybe you hadn’t considered this aspect when referring to sony – but if you are talking about this in purely ‘cultural’ terms, which would seem to be the only alternative, then you must also accept a critique of the cultural effects of the marketisation of HE without reverting to the defence of your wage.

    (Again please don’t try to characterize the RFS’ attitude on the basis of a single document that is not intended to represent it.)

    “Yep. And to take that as your banner or the pole that your banner hangs on will get you right in the middle of the very “race to the bottom” politics so beloved of the cynically populist right.”

    Could you give some evidence as to how the RFS is doing this? Can you explain why can a tactic like the RFS can’t contribute to the expansion of opportunity you talk of?

    It’s a basic point that seems necessary to repeat one more time – do not conflate the politics of the ‘napsterisation’ post with the politics of the RFS.

    A//.

    February 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

  33. OK listen.

    1) I have been to the RFS.

    2) I’ll come talk to you, singular or plural.

    3) Communique 5 was a horrific load of poseur shit, embarrassing to our cause, and reminiscent of nothing so much as some ridiculous outtake from the filming of The Dreamers.

    4) Let me know when and, schedule-providing, I’ll come down and talk with you. Just be sure I can identify who you are, via PM. Clearly, whatever else we’re arguing about, I’m not on the side of the authorities, so you can trust me with that.

    adswithoutproducts

    March 1, 2011 at 1:30 am

    • 1) Congratulations. Hope you had a nice time.

      2) Feel free it’s an open space.

      3) I more or less feel the same. Not sure how this constitues a substantive response to the points I’ve made though. You still haven’t dealt with why you think the RFS is a bad tactic.

      4) Not sure why you’re interested in a personal meeting all of a sudden? – if you’d like to run a session just fill in the form on the website and schedule providing you’ll be timetabled in. Otherwise, why not finish what you started?

      A//.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:55 am

      • Arggh! Not sure there’s anything left to say on here. I’ve explained what my problem with it is as a tactic, over and over, to which you respond either with a) the claim that the RFS is essentially too amorphous to criticise or b) a bare repetition of exactly the attitudes and ideas that I was critiquing in the first place. Not sure there’s any point to continuing this conversation, as it’s hard to argue when the goalposts keep moving or even disappearing.

        adswithoutproducts

        March 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

  34. Posted harshly last night about Communique 5, which I’ve now taken down because it was perhaps in the wrong spirit or whatever. But seriously, guys, that sort of thing looks like something a university’s Conservative Club would drunkenly make and post in order to have a go at their local student occupation. Feels more like satire than anything else….

    adswithoutproducts

    March 1, 2011 at 9:32 am

  35. It is probably to late to save this debate but if people are interested in Open Courseware then MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is celebrating its Tenth year of (voluntarily) providing free lectures notes, free audio and free videos of its course content – it requires no registration and is free anywhere and anytime, but requires an internet connection. Also, The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of over 250 universities who have put their course materials into the public domain.

    The sciences have long known that open-access journals where researchers are able to work collaboratively and in cooperation, as part of a global effort, are far more beneficial and profitable in finding cures and vaccines than private armies of big pharma employees.

    We have a Free Software Movement (Richard Stallman), Creative Commons (Lawrence Lessig) and open access scientific journals but still many of our political magazines are still locked up behind paywalls – such as the boldly titled ‘Radical’ Philosophy. Studies comparing open access and closed coded legal journals, consistently show that if you publish your work in an open access journal there will always be a higher rate of citation (59%) – increasing the readership and popularity of the cited author’s work, and hopefully sharing and spreading the political potent and socially consequential knowledge.

    And since authors began publishing under Creative Commons licenses (noncommercial, attribution) there has been the great paradox that free access means increased sales!!

    stirtoaction

    April 10, 2011 at 10:47 am


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