Burn down the universities?

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taxirank
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Feb 8 2013 12:25
Burn down the universities?

From this thread:
http://libcom.org/news/against-privatisation-statement-sussex-university...

“Following a demonstration of over 300 staff and students in opposition to the privatisation of services at Sussex University; a large group of people have occupied the conference centre on the top floor of Bramber House.”

Oh god.

Are we actually supposed to support these present and future managers?

When I was in England a while ago I was talking to someone (a good anarchist, who I respect) about the present state of things. He was bemoaning the fact that uni graduates were having to stack shelves at clothing shops because the economy had taken a bad turn and possibly because bad planning has meant that there are too many graduates now... (The university industry is very big now, and there seem to be too many graduates in the UK).

I said that that was surely just tough, and no more than these graduates deserved for their ambition to become managers and experts in society - society's intellectual leaders. This comment drew a blank.

I look at the smiling faces of the students and professors in the photo on this thread:
http://libcom.org/news/against-privatisation-statement-sussex-university...
- and while I am sure that none of them are better or worse than myself or anyone else - all I really see is a bunch of people who will one day decide things for masses of other people, on behalf of the establishment ... unless we entertain Gramscian (Leninist) notions about so called 'worker-intellectuals', and the part they play in movement building.

The sooner they are consigned to fill shelves the better - especially if they have any truly radical intuitions.

Further:
The Sussex Uni Occupation protesters state:

“We reassert that Education is a public good…”

While it is perfectly natural that many students and professors etc would make this statement, is it one that we go along with?

Given the history of ‘Education’ (the capital E is important) do we really think that public education has been anything more than an exercise in creating a flexible working population? On the other hand we may think that Education is a conduit for radical alternatives to the present society, and should be the place in which ‘worker-intellectuals’ are formed… but the problem with this concept is that it is Leninist.

We have no choice about ‘public education’. We cannot escape it. If we think we can use it for ‘revolutionary’ purposes, then this is a Leninist notion.

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Entdinglichung
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Feb 8 2013 12:32

http://www.marxists.org/archive/gorz/1970/destroy-university.htm

Quote:
The crisis of the bourgeois university and the working class revolt against the despotism of the factory confer an immediate relevance on the question of this surpassing. And if the conjunction between these two aspects of the same crisis – that of the division of labor – doesn’t arrive at the effective joining of the students and workers and a reciprocal critique of the methods of education and domination, the fault doesn’t lie with the student movement; it lies with the traditional organizations of the working class movement, who are doing everything possible to lock the students in the university ghetto in order to better control the workers’ demands. If the necessary violence of the student struggle thus tends to wear itself out in symbolic insurrections on the university level alone, it is not due to a perverse taste for objectless violence; it is because violence alone is capable of smashing, if only temporarily, the encirclement of the university ghetto and of posing a problem whose existence the reformists of all stripes prefer to ignore. This problem – that of the crisis of bourgeois institutions and ideology and the division of labor – is a political problem par excellence. It isn’t enough that the political parties refuse any political meaning or expression to student violence for it to be simple vandalism; it is a matter of a violence both political and politically necessary, if not sufficient.

taxirank
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Feb 8 2013 12:52

Yes, Entdinglichung - this is a brilliant example of how the approach of Libertarian Communists may mirror the New Left Gramscian approach advocated by Andre Gorz in the quote above.

See for example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Gorz

What are the real differences between the Solfed/Anarchist/Libertarian Communist approach and that of Gorz (or Gramsci, and by extension, Trotsky and Lenin)?

As I have argued elsewhere, the struggle to reconfigure the 'working class movement' so that it can include all sectors began in the attack on the Left Communists and their spontaneist and economist disorders.

The question is: is this reconfiguration a Leninist, Trotskyist and Gramscian project (with heavy sociological doses from the Frankfurt School) - or is it an anarchist project?

Spikymike
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Feb 8 2013 12:57

taxirank is right to question the uncritical 'self-management' politics inherant in the conclusions of the Sussex University occupation statement but students offering some support to workers under threat in the privatising process of 'support services' at that University would seem on the face of it a potentially positive move - assuming they are not out to claim the 'intelectuall leadership' of such a struggle?

taxirank
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Feb 9 2013 02:29

Yes, supporting the uni staff who are not academics or managers is, of course, a worthwhile thing to do. Couching the whole 'struggle' in such delusional and disingenuous, or misleading, leftist terms is, however, very anti-worthwhile.

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Tim Finnegan
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Feb 9 2013 11:30

Do most graduates actually go on to become "managers and specialists"? Do most of them even expect to? Seems harsh to write them off based on what you merely suppose their ambitions are.

Caiman del Barrio
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Feb 9 2013 12:54
taxirank wrote:
From this thread:
http://libcom.org/news/against-privatisation-statement-sussex-university...

“Following a demonstration of over 300 staff and students in opposition to the privatisation of services at Sussex University; a large group of people have occupied the conference centre on the top floor of Bramber House.”

Oh god.

Are we actually supposed to support these present and future managers?

Oh hai, 1960 called, it wants its sweeping torrent of shite back.

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Rob Ray
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Feb 9 2013 14:08

Taxirank, about 50% of females and 35% of males aged 18-21 go to university now, so while yes some students go on to become managers, most won't. Fwiw the uni I went to was almost entirely full of working class and lower middle class people learning medium-skilled trades (my mates were learning journalism, sports sciences, tourism and nursing among other things).

Part of the reason that so many people have gone to university now is that business actively replaced a lot of on-the-job training, apprenticeships etc by displacing the cost onto the state, which is now trying to pass it on direct to students and by doing so is actively pricing working-class people out of skilled jobs.

So while I don't know what work the occupying Sussex students might be aiming for (nor do you) actually campaigning against cuts and that process of making further education more expensive/exclusive is very much a class issue (at least in the absence of a direct struggle to force businesses to take people on straight out of school on fully-paid training schemes, something I'd definitely go for!).

batswill
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Feb 9 2013 16:03

I dropped out after 6 weeks of trying to justify my own participation in an ideological factory whose purpose was for maintaining the status quo of the existing regime. When Technical institutions and schools, umm, more precisely hovens of frustrated artisans lol, when they were excised, all creativity was annulled, machinery and cheap immigrant labour created another cycle of racially determined divisions, what's new, hah? What the hell do universities do in fostering a self-sufficient co-op community society? Nope, they are a bourgeois construct, end of story.

batswill
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Feb 9 2013 16:08

PS, I must look up André Gorz, he's brilliant.

no1
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Feb 9 2013 16:50
batswill wrote:
What the hell do universities do in fostering a self-sufficient co-op community society? Nope, they are a bourgeois construct, end of story.

Unlike the rest of capitalist society?

batswill
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Feb 9 2013 19:03
no1 wrote:
batswill wrote:
What the hell do universities do in fostering a self-sufficient co-op community society? Nope, they are a bourgeois construct, end of story.

Unlike the rest of capitalist society?

Would ít have been a rhetorical question if it was 'Like the rest of capitalist society'? Yes.

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jura
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Feb 9 2013 22:47

Universities are actually a feudal construct!

taxirank
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Feb 10 2013 00:46

Hi Batswill,

I am not sure why Entdinglichung put up the quote from Andre Gorz. In any event, close reading of the quote, and further research on Gorz, shows quite clearly that there is a very significant similarity between his formulations (which are New Left/Gramscian/Trotskyist/Leninist) and the formulations that seem prevalent on this site, as expressed by those in, or close to Solfed, for example, as well as those associated with other strands of Libertarian Communism, right up to Dauve and the concept of communisation.

Gorz, as a representative of Gramscian (therefore also Trotskyist and Leninist) praxis, may be very clever, but that doesn’t mean he is right. What I am suggesting, which was cleverly backed up by Entdinglichung, is that his (Gramsci or Gorz) perspectives have ‘taken over’ Libertarian Communist perspectives. This means, of course, that, in my view, Libertarian Communism is now little more than a woollier style of Trotskyism/Leninism. On top of this possible ‘problem’ of who we think we are, it may also be that Libertarian Communism or anarchism – even Marx himself – was never anything more than Leninist.

taxirank
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Feb 10 2013 00:47

Yes, it is fair to say that universities are a feudal construct. In fact, this seems to be the current thinking of many lecturers, who actually describe conditions for lecturers inside universities as ‘feudal’. This is, of course, the complaint of those lecturers who are new to the work and are treated badly by their superiors in the University.

While I am not a Bourdieu-ist by any means, I do like this quote from him, which encapsulates a useful way of viewing the University:

“…the division between the different fractions competing for dominance in the name of different principles [are] bellatores (warriors) and oratores (scholars) in feudal society, businessmen and intellectuals now.”

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Tim Finnegan
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Feb 10 2013 01:17
batswill wrote:
I dropped out after 6 weeks of trying to justify my own participation in an ideological factory whose purpose was for maintaining the status quo of the existing regime.

You just be a thrill at parties.

batswill
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Feb 10 2013 03:12
taxirank wrote:
Hi Batswill,

I am not sure why Entdinglichung put up the quote from Andre Gorz. In any event, close reading of the quote, and further research on Gorz, shows quite clearly that there is a very significant similarity between his formulations (which are New Left/Gramscian/Trotskyist/Leninist) and the formulations that seem prevalent on this site, as expressed by those in, or close to Solfed, for example, as well as those associated with other strands of Libertarian Communism, right up to Dauve and the concept of communisation.

Gorz, as a representative of Gramscian (therefore also Trotskyist and Leninist) praxis, may be very clever, but that doesn’t mean he is right. What I am suggesting, which was cleverly backed up by Entdinglichung, is that his (Gramsci or Gorz) perspectives have ‘taken over’ Libertarian Communist perspectives. This means, of course, that, in my view, Libertarian Communism is now little more than a woollier style of Trotskyism/Leninism. On top of this possible ‘problem’ of who we think we are, it may also be that Libertarian Communism or anarchism – even Marx himself – was never anything more than Leninist.

Agreed. So I gave him a read and realised, oh, the welfare state, he's an accomplice to a state system of control, along with the prison structure, all capitalist institutions moulded together to stave off any revolutionary momentum. One can extract any paragraph and employ it out of context, not that I'm saying this was Entdinglichung's intent, I still enjoy reading ancient history. Which brings me to the subject of neo-Marxist theorists/psychologists such as Lacan or Barthe, I think these particular sources of alternative analysis are neglected.
I'm still learning alot, I was blown away by some of Gilles Dauve's essays, particularly the cultural shift which has radical 60s politics now a clichéd standard. So what's changed? Hah, it's the capitalist's tactic of accommodating dissent within a rigid enforcement of social parameters, what people perceive as freedom is infact a manic observance of regulations and licence, they are duped whilst being superficially blissful.

batswill
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Feb 10 2013 02:43
Tim Finnegan wrote:
batswill wrote:
I dropped out after 6 weeks of trying to justify my own participation in an ideological factory whose purpose was for maintaining the status quo of the existing regime.

You just be a thrill at parties.

I refuse to dance, the mating ritual is naive, regimental and foolish! If martial arts and fisty-cuffs are entertaining, yes, I could be a thrill, but lately I cut straight to the chase, and prefer the paddington boxing glove, slang for a broken bottle shoved into the face of the enemy. But I love poetry, that people write books titled 'Planet of Slums'. 3 words sum it up, wink

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devoration1
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Feb 10 2013 02:31

Caiman is right. This ridiculous anti-intellectualism is not rooted in anything but moral indignation. The revolutionary martyr; working-class hero. Talk about Gramscianism- you can keep the workerism.

Unfortunately, a lot of what are today being called 'skilled work' (with the euphemism 'smart manufacturing') involves a bachelor or at least associates degree- to work in a factory. That's what my efforts of getting a degree are aimed at, since a whole lot of old-timers occupy every manufacturing position (read: good paying jobs that don't require a degree) in my area, with 15-20+ years working in the local automotive, bottling/brewing, tech assembly factories and steel mills locally. The unions are bloated with retiree's and (mostly men) who are either eligible for retirement already but won't or those who are less than 5 years from being eligible- and at some of these mills and factories, there is a tacit understanding that when the old timers (since the company can't get out of their pension and health & welfare fund obligations via union contract) do finally retire, at places like a local pipe-joint manufacturing plant and the local General Motors distributon hub (both of which only employ like 100 workers combined) they're going to close down; just like a long list of businesses before them (1 paint company, 1 chemical company, 1 leather manufacturer that'd been in the area for over a century, etc. etc etc). Prolier than thou jobs simply aren't there anymore- trust me, I've looked. Some of them have the most absurd requirements for hiring you (no shit, a concrete manufacturing facility that's been around forever had an ad for cement truck driver that required you to have 15, yes 15, years experience driving a cement truck before interviewing). For those of us, dare I say students, even though what is traditionally thought of as students (rich kids who's mommies and daddies send them to university where they live in a dorm and are allergic to wage labor) simply is a bullshit stereotype that doesn't fit in these times, your assumptions are ridiculous. I'm surrounded by people in my age bracket (18-34) who go to college part-time, usually in community colleges or through online-only colleges, who work full-time at shit service sector jobs to support themselves, many of whom will not finish college due to the obligations and stresses of working full-time and having 'real life' shit get in the way, like kids, aging and ill parents, etc.

Yea, just like the CGT piecards and PCF labor aristocrats and prolier-than-thou Trotskyist and Maoist sects- it's just a student protest, nothing at all to do with us proles; now let's all go back to work and build up that working-class counter-hegemony. Factory proles 4 lyfe (who else is going to pay union dues and vote in the municipal elections?).

batswill
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Feb 10 2013 02:52

If you're going to be an ageist you better put on some chainmail for the upcoming octagenarian bonzai attack of whiners and crippled sheep the capitalists have discarded beyond their use-by date. Sad, all the withered broken bodies taxed to the max their whole lives. Hey, they deserve our respect dude, regardless of their affiliations!.

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Feb 10 2013 03:01

Recognizing an age disparity at manufacturing facilities, particularly those that have a history of strong legacies of trade unionism, is not ageism. Neither is recognizing a legacy of nepotism in some trade unions, or that it is a mostly older, white, male population in these jobs and in those unions. Some people have their pensions stripped, benefits taken away, contract obligations altered in the term of their employment, rising costs of living, all manner of reasons to continue working longer or past retirement eligibility- but, there is a definite trend in some industries and specific businesses to use this as a barrier to new hires (or non-related new hires), ergo no jobs in 'traditional' Fordist industries (those non-intellectual elite prole jobs, since "we want to burn down the universities").

batswill
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Feb 10 2013 03:39

Yeah true, I misinterpreted.
But going right off at a tangent and saying, from Dawkins, that nepotism is a genetic imperative, lol, determinism can be sooo entertaining as a topic for absurd theories, I love the diversity of perspectives though.I mean, wouldn't anyone give their relative a job before a stranger? Maybe Stirner had the right idea, it's about individual autonomy, discard all institutions and live in clans within a perfect creative nothingness where only emotion exists, and ancient people on deaths doorstep give their summary of how relationships should be emotionalised..

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Feb 10 2013 06:32

I'm not a hugely learned person but here is what I have inferred.

This protest, far from being simple vandalism as the traditional working class organizations would declaim according to Andre Gorz, is about what condition of the university, or who patronizes it, is in the interests of everyone involved in that institution no matter how menial. It is being contended that the university is a politically necessary institution. They are fighting for a new leadership in that politically necessary institution. It's the beginning of a long march through existing institutions, for those in a position to do so, rather than a struggle between classes that need to be abolished.

Now, do Libertarian Communists support Education as a public good? Do they believe in the Public Good to begin with? Is class struggle a fight over the leadership of the public and the provision of its good? (Not rhetorical questions.) There is an argument being made that questions such as these are too morally indignant and anti-intellectual to be relevant, which is surprising.

I mean, to be crystal clear, the debate isn't: Should the university's workers fight against a conniving elite? It is instead about seeing the different institutional factions at play and leftism versus class struggle.

In an ideal situation the contention would have been about the workers' ability for direct action, and encouragement of that, rather than speaking to the institution's right to exist and making it out to be like students and academics should have an equal say in that matter along with the workers.

Once more, crystal clear: While there are unequivocal, bottom line demands being made, if this becomes pivoted on making choices about Public Education and the provision of its good, then the workers stand to gain fuck all except the old bosses who originally auctioned them off in the first place. Am I wrong? (Not a rhetorical question.)

taxirank
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Feb 10 2013 06:43

Yes, Madlib makes salient points here, and rephrases the problem very clearly.

carver
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Feb 10 2013 09:14

Honestly, this 'critique' is so obsolete it hurts. Not only is it a naff rehashing of 1960s attacks on the elitism of the academy, it seems oblivious to the fact that critique was fully recuperated and has driven the subsequent real subsumption of the formerly formally subsumed feudal university. i.e. it's exactly the same rhetoric used to attack 'privileged' university workers' pensions, whack up tuition fees and debt for the 'privilege' of studying, outsource and casualise the workforce in the name of breaking down underserved perks, subjugate research to a crude instrumental logic (RAE, REF), modularise and streamline course content and assessment, shift teaching on to low-paid TAs etc. What was once education for the elite has become training for the masses.

DSG wrote:
We are being made to pay for our own training, with no guarantee, and often little chance, of a corresponding increase in pay. A university degree today is not a sign of becoming middle-class. It’s a way for the working class to make themselves suitable for the post-industrial workplace. This must be the basis of any class analysis of the current argument.

1 in 3 'economically active' people in the UK have a degree today. There are 69 graduates per graduate job, i.e. less than 1.5% of graduates get graduate-level jobs. And not all graduate-level jobs are managerial - plenty of things like nursing, fitness and even admin now require university qualifications.

Funny how all this posturing to be the most critical against all the things basically just rehashes obsolete dogma as if it's some great insight. If the outsourcing is defeated workers will have their current bosses? Holy shit, I hadn't thought of that! Better roll over and call it a day then. I mean fuck them right, none of them work at the coal face or on assembly lines, they're basically all bourgeois managers anyway. "The sooner they are consigned to fill shelves the better!" Congratulations, you're the left wing of Thatcherism.

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Feb 10 2013 09:19

Carver, that was fucking beautiful.

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Soapy
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Feb 10 2013 16:50

Lulz, didn't Marx/Kropotkin/Chomsky go to university?

Also D Graebs

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Khawaga
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Feb 10 2013 18:05

Great post Carver. Spot on.

Spikymike
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Feb 10 2013 18:55

I don't think taxirank intends their criticism to be moralistic hence their comment in the first post ''...and while I'm sure none of them are better or worse than myself or anyone else...'' but equally their broad brush generalisation which follows ''... all I see are a bunch of.........'' might lead people to conclude that.

Still we need to recognise at least the different immediate interests,outlooks and influences between different sectors operating within the education industry and outside of it.

I was reminded of a comment in the text 'The Arab Spring in the Autumn of capital' by 'Friends of the Classless Society' (and included as an Intake in no less than the last Aufheben). Of course the UK is not Egypt and we experience the current world economic crisis at a much less severe level presently but:

'Just like it is generally impossible to tell whether student movements consist of tomorrows wage slaves who happen to be a little more educated or whether they're the future elite, the rebellious Arab youth, too, is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it is part of the surplus population and in many cases hit by unemployment at an above-average rate, but on the other, it is certainly more likely to dream of a place in the sun than an illiterate rural worker in the Nile Delta; this ambiguity results in the movement oscillating between its libertarian side - self-organisation, confronting state power - and it's liberal ambitions.'

Furthermore such ambiguities are not always recognised by the participants at the time who may interpret their involvement through a variety of otherwise radical or left-wing ideologies.

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Feb 10 2013 19:32

Making fun of people and egging each other on in your jeers isn't necessary. After all, I did qualify myself as “not a hugely learned” person. If you're going to mock me for maybe having conventional ideas about institutions then I can't imagine how you would hold a conversation with someone who isn't an anarchist. Certainly, if my ideas are incorrect—and they are only based on experience, not much research—then prove them to be so. I'm all ears. Take a hint from SpikyMike.

Deterritorial Support Group wrote:
We are being made to pay for our own training, with no guarantee, and often little chance, of a corresponding increase in pay. A university degree today is not a sign of becoming middle-class. It’s a way for the working class to make themselves suitable for the post-industrial workplace. This must be the basis of any class analysis of the current argument.

There are many jobs in the service economy that require at least an associates degree (not sure what a UK equivalent is), yes, but my impression is that an even greater number of people in school are inclined towards studies which only provide even a measure of opportunity through following it all the way to graduate school. (I mean, if you're in a four year institution and you're not taking full advantage of it as an elite institution then you should have just settled for an associates degree from community college or a certification process for some other work.) Other than that, they're going for the typical high powered jobs as doctors, lawyers, whatever. There are in fact several jobs available to myself without any college degree.* They would still require certification and registration processes but otherwise would include on-the-job training. No one ticks off "working class" as a life option, and seeing higher education as a Rube Goldberg machine for becoming a shelf filler, a pill dispenser, a box pusher or a button presser doesn't make sense. There must be a better explanation or a more convincing argument? My nose twitches any time I see or hear the phrase “post-industrial.”

Having not been to university myself, but thinking of going back to school, I can only conceive of these two routes: the pragmatic one which could end in a two-year degree in Nursing or some such or the intellectual one which would either end with me pursuing academic employment through graduate school or else having a fancy degree while being in roughly the same circumstances I am now. The former is highly appealing since it is basically job training.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics > Healthcare

Personal Care Aides

Medical Assistants

Occupational Health and Safety Assistants

Opticians, Dispensing

Pharmacy Technician

Veterinary Assistant

Dental Assistant

EMTs/Paramedics

Licensed Practical Nurse

Massage Therapist

Healthcare clerks of all sorts

Nursing Aids, Orderlies

Surgical Technologist

None of these jobs require the Rube Goldberg machine and that's just healthcare. Naturally, most people of typical college age aren't biting at the bit to get them. In my experience, these sorts of jobs only come up when people are well into their twenties or thirties, are burnt out on either failed schooling or truly shit jobs, or are unemployed. They have officially consigned themselves to the working class. Rest in peace.

Meanwhile at the University of Sussex…

Sussex University wrote:
Sussex is a leading research university, as reflected in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. Over 90 per cent of Sussex research activity was rated as world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised, confirming the University among the leading 30 research universities in the UK, on a simple average across all scores.
[…]
The University of Sussex has over 13,000 students, of which over a third are postgraduates.

Evidently they aren't counting on the poor, tired and huddled masses. I have no idea what a prestigious research institution would want with workers. Sussex Uni auctions off workers, it doesn't provide job training for them.

I believe the story of proletarianization, at least in a U.S. context, is happening with the much lauded Jobs Recovery and the decades-long real wage stagnation, rather than the teetering expense of State owned student debt and the dimming light of class-aspiration. As all of these poor, tired, huddled masses are falling off of the sinking ship of Education, the wave of Job Recovery is washing up a lot of mediocre jobs and they do so ever to need to be filled. I don't believe there's going to be very much confusion about whether the university is an elite institution or not in the coming decades. This much lauded post-industrial training for the masses will have been proven to be totally irrelevant; a capricious, bourgeois project of social engineering to fill the dead air between the clamorous shuttering of factories and the outrage of a freshly beaten and flexible generation. Anyway, that would be my take. It is a strong image but maybe not a solidly verifiable idea.

Quote:
It is hard for me to avoid the conclusion that the sensationalism surrounding the “student loan bubble” stems from the fact that the majority of writers for progressive publications are either relatively recent college graduates or people with vivid memories of their own student debt. Hence they jump on the issue, making themselves and people like them the center of attention — while ignoring the vast wave of proletarianization that is beginning to make the United States a major competitor in the global sweepstakes to attract capital with low wages (and in fact, many self-styled progressive writers seem to buy into Obama’s incoherent view that greater access to college will in itself somehow help with inequality and wage stagntation).

http://itself.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/student-loans-are-not-the-next-ho...

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Feb 10 2013 19:40

Specifically on Sussex, of the people I know who went there I can't think of any who have ended up in management jobs (though admittedly I mostly know lefties). As a list off the top of my head there's a library worker, a women's refuge worker and a couple of unemployed people. So again, we're not really talking about an institution that's simply turning out the future leaders of Britain here (though doubtless some do end up as high-flyers).