Burn down the universities?

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Joined: 25-01-13
Feb 10 2013 20:54

Hi Madlib and Spikymike,

I am not sure that there is much point expending anymore effort on this thread. I see that the thread 'Is Lenin in the house' has been 'derailed' and sent to Libcommunity. Ours is not to wonder why or how...

No doubt, the same will happen to this thread. (Now it won't, of course!)

Libcom has an excellent archive of articles and texts. This resource should be kept separate from the forums, so that people are not distracted by the odd goings on in these forums.

I propose that someone sets up a new website (a bit like the old John Gray site) and takes all the articles and texts from libcom - and makes it a site on which there is no 'discussion'.

Tian's picture
Joined: 3-08-12
Feb 10 2013 21:11

You can't expect to post dubious shit and not get called out for it. This isn't Revleft or reddit.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Joined: 5-10-07
Feb 10 2013 21:11

madlib, FWIW, I don't think much of the rank on this thread has been directed at you.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Joined: 6-11-03
Feb 10 2013 22:02

taxirank if you want to throw your toys out of the pram and blame "the odd forums" rather than even attempt to answer people who have disagreed with you and offered evidence to back up their assertions that's your prerogative, but it's not a good look.

Joined: 14-09-12
Feb 11 2013 09:01

edit: nevermind

Kureigo-San's picture
Joined: 6-06-12
Feb 11 2013 10:00


Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 11 2013 09:16

You can't even make up random stuff to discredit struggles any more without some smart-ass douche coming along with 'facts' and 'references'.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 11 2013 09:21

In terms of the whole 'feudal university becoming capitalist' thing, which seems like an interesting way to think about the restructuring in higher education, there was this article in the LRB:

LRB wrote:
The offices of academic and administrative staff will be transformed from ‘cell-like environments’ to ‘den-like environments’: in other words, more people will have to share offices.(...) At the moment, academics’ offices take up 21 per cent of total space; this is set to be reduced to around 10 per cent. Office space for UCL Estates, the Registry, finance and human resources, meanwhile, will expand from 5 per cent to 25 per cent. (...) As academics and students are crammed ever closer together, commercial projects will fill the spaces they vacate. Up to ten new cafés will open, on top of the six that already exist. The masterplanners aren’t shy of talking about ‘commercial opportunities’. The campus they want looks like a shopping centre. Almost every accessible ground floor space is glass-fronted in the plan. Malet Place will be turned into a ‘teaching and learning “high street”’. Retailers will be invited to set up shop in ‘under-used areas’. (...) The ground floor would become a ‘student hub’, including a Starbucks. Offices, a lecture theatre, a common room and a small museum would be demolished.

Joined: 6-01-07
Feb 11 2013 18:21

Just to clarify:

It would seem that the expansion of University education in the UK has involved the production, or possibly overproduction, of both skilled workers as ordinary wage slaves and through a process sifting of it's intake and internal selection, an 'elite' of professionals required to operate the management of society in a variety of fields (in both the private and state sector), though not all in what might be commonly referred to as 'management jobs' in the narrow sense of 'hiring and firing' and ' direct supervision' of employees. I think this is what connects to the quote I made earlier from the 'Friends of the classless society' in relation to the different sectors of the population with their different motivations and interests in the 'Arab Spring'.

Joined: 8-01-11
Feb 13 2013 14:14


Joined: 6-01-07
Feb 13 2013 14:27

Thanks for digging that link out wojtek now such automatick links have gone - we inevitably do have to go over the same ground now and again. I suprise myself with my own clarity in that thread and the excelant points made by Malva.

Joined: 27-07-11
Feb 14 2013 09:18

I vaguely ran over the thread

here is my own personal position of academia:

it is far from the case the colleges are the training grounds of the “future managers”. Most people who get a bachelors do it because they want to get more technical or skilled jobs or have some liberal values for education as an end itself. If you put into context that we are in societies that are largely populated by the middle class, it is very common for normal folks to go to college. If you insist that in order to be consistent with anarchism one needs to not go to academia or not try to build a life, you will make it very hard for people to stay anarchist(this will force people to abandon their ideals eventually). Anarchists (unless you are lifestyle anarchist) don’t believe that personal absences can change anything, only grand revolutionary movements can. I might add that people who decide to try to move up in academia are also not necessary the mangers.

I can't speak for all subjects/departments here. But from what I have seen getting into academia is extremely competitive. Many people will get their graduate degrees but few will get a teaching job. I think there is more here than the typical capitalist relation. You see it seems that within the current generations all people who have a taste for intellect are trying to get into academia. You no longer see the worker in the newer generations who reads philosophy and economics on his own time, because these people no longer go into the normal workforce anymore but instead try to get into academia(i recall a few people discussing this along time ago on this form). As a new graduates you compete for teaching positions; and if you have something that the schools don't like you are simply left without a job and starve(as there are a 1000 different people waiting to take your job). I am suspicious that this dose two things; 1) alienates and removes to intellectuals from the rest of society 2) controls intellectuals and ideas.

Without intellectuals supporting ideas, actions can not defended by the masses. You simply get the “irrational” masses and the 'experts' telling them what they are doing is wrong...no one in the masses knows the language of the expert(which has been set up to keep people outside of the expert's field out of the discussion) nor is he ever able to counter him on the expert's level.

I don't feel like writing anymore as it is getting very late, so I' am not gana fill the wholes in my argument tongue

I like what Brian Martin has to say about academia a lot:




I might say something about academia after the revolution later, it is also a good idea to see what happened to academia in Spain during the civil war

Rats's picture
Joined: 9-05-08
Feb 14 2013 10:08

Yeah burn down the universities. Oh no, there goes all our infrastructure for training doctors and nurses. Anarchofail.

Joined: 6-01-07
Feb 14 2013 10:36

Might be worth also linking this discussion to Joseph's 'Communism and Free Education' blog since there are overlaps with this as well as the wojtek linked thread above. Rats should perhaps go over some of these linked discussions and also not take every deliberately emotive catchprase so literally before firing off one liners.

Arbeiten's picture
Joined: 28-01-11
Feb 15 2013 00:22

I took a MASSIVE pinch of salt after Bourdieu was dropped.

cornered beef
Joined: 2-02-12
Feb 15 2013 00:37

Working out working groups, contacting contacts, occupation photos, occupation communique, demo. A double benefit of this stereotyped system is while beleaguered staff get to see the management faction stressed out by a good sized mobile fanbase (I'd like that), the students essentially get a series of seminars on interrogating the interests of others, and slick allied PR. *best placed to* is afterall the essence of the graduate mindset, generally speaking.

The realist type minimal objective of soas demand 1 does not suit demand 2. There's a problem going on. The same realist, this-is-what-we-have-to-work-with circumstances that make 1 seem honest to god plausible, make me also wonder what grounds a transient population of many thousands of service users would have for sitting on a committee type organ to negotiate HR policy of Facilities. That cohesive community of undergraduate and catering assistant does not exist while the university remains un-burnt-down in an institutional sense. I know that writing statements like this about the community and wholeness feels good.
By what stretch of imagination could the university be described as curretly free of perverse market influence, in order to then 'remain' so? Good luck, though.

My only point is perhaps that the figure, the phenomenon, of the graduate who does find that 'rightful place' in degree level work is not simply a member of the working class having invested heavily in offloaded outside training, despite that sort of definition being maybe economically reasonable.
Entire tiers of university influence need not be directly supervisory to have a powerful restructuring, passive warping effect on workplace atmosphere. Akin to exploiting a demented person after deliberately causing dementia through a toxin. There isn't a particular constituency to react specifically against the shift towards importing the university into new territory though. The best anyone can do whilst trying to assure comfort for themselves, rightfully, is to be an instrument just without illusions. Certainly to abandon all horrible notions of personal merit in their inner narrative (antithetical to the university institution, but within the power of the individual). I'm writing only about graduates in graduate jobs, and from my experience.

The graduate is instrumental in re-proletarianising or proletarianising unqualified people in graduate dropzones. The graduate is a deployable force. The abstract proletarianisation of the graduate in general as an idea is fundamentally different from the proletarianisation of the already employed person in particular. I see it. Pay progression, novel duties or previous parts of experienced workers' jobs reordered behind a new job classification and behind a degree requirement. The new cadre version of the old job is built out of a vocabulary that is continuous with the managerial, system level language and bent of university. The graduate carries a payload in this situation distinct from their actual economic role/class or precise activities during the shift. Baked into the graduate, at a statistical rate beneficial to real managers' imperatives towards an amnesiac, passive room open to 'skill mix' efficiency/immiseration projects, is a vealy 'industrial' pacifism, general enthusiasm for work for its own sake especially topped with language of progress, change, career dynamism, Challenge - and above all a grotesque credulous mindset.

I don't believe the university in reality performs an outsourced training function in general. Only in limited paths to work that are directly allied to the teaching institution, like many in healthcare are, does the university actually provide anything like specific training for post indust..etc. The university (merely) -represents- competence and *best placed*ness but actually only provides a mindset and a vocabulary in a large proportion of its customers. I can't convince myself of any positive content or meaning whatsoever in the trope of 'transferrable skills'. The idea itself is a blunt object. The true training, while probably poor, will be given anyway, but with a different attitude and obscure culture to that previously available to the unqualified. The difference hangs on the awful standardisation that is the university's greatest social influence. The graduate job is a little outcrop of the university, and to a restructured group of workers the graduate condescends to their world already steeped in the vocabulary used to make them redundant and limit their opportunity. Graduate imports are resented, (not as intellectuals. For god's sake not as intellectuals) and the overwhelming defensive reflex of entitlement through personal merit is a standard.
The reforming of work round graduate-only access points, sapping the functions of higher and lower paid staff into a manouevrable compliant unit, works so well because of an entitlement reflex. The entitlement reflex is probably fundamental to a Higher, precision, prestige institute which forms part of a fixed sequence of economic activities, and will not die before the university does.

My ideal student is the self-loathing one. If they're lucky, putting off full time work to work out some tastes. Making a pact to regret their candidacy for better money (but taking it if they can find it), however mythical it stays, that will set them apart from many others; and never to defend themselves against resentment. Repeating mantras about the fact Circumstance brought me here, I am entitled to no more than anyone.

(I am very bad at parties.)

Joined: 25-01-13
Feb 18 2013 20:34

Reproduced below, a response to this discussion of Universities, which can be found here:


From a communist perspective, the problem of the university is more located in the production of functions than factions. It is not a matter of toffs and elites but of cogs and levers.

The anarcho-syndicalist self-managementists are right to argue that the university has somewhat altered its function from the production of a ruling elite class to something else. The question is, what is the something else?

It is unlikely that the university is producing 'proletarians' given that proletarians are considered those 'without reserves' who are physically interchangeable with each other within the production process. High levels of immigration (along with capital flight to cheaper labour markets) supply this undifferentiated concrete labour at a low price.

By definition, the university produces distinctions and gradations within variable capital. Evidently, these gradations of concrete labour are significant in the production process. That is to say, it is not enough to argue that a few graduates of your acquaintance are unemployed – this is not about the low status of this or that individual. The question to be asked is, why are graduates being produced in such numbers?

It seems to me that the modern university's function is to produce managers but as a managerial strata that is ever more embedded into the working class. It has become important to achieve productive stability to a very high rate of predictability, and this is being achieved by threading management ideology, physically embodied in graduates, through the working population. The ideal would be to merge management into the proletariat, everyone a worker, everyone a manager, everyone performing to the optimum. In some ways, with this trickle down of management, capitalism has realised the left's ideals of self-management.

The strategic purpose of this seems to be to regulate social class in a more nuanced, less 'us and them' way. When considered in terms of income and employment contracts, we might be encouraged into thinking, as the anarcho-syndicalist self-managementists do, that the process of proletarianisation is including ever greater numbers of the population – we are all in this together. However, when the social role of graduates is considered in relation to production, the presumption of commonality becomes more questionable. The function of graduates, (and we are not referring here to the micro-numbers of pro-revolutionaries, almost all of whom are graduates) is something like an ideological commissar... they insert management ideology horizontally into the production process, even as they sentimentally announce themselves 'real' workers on account of their shrunken wage packet and their inability to get their foot on the bottom rung of the property ladder.

In other words, the expansion of the university has the dual purpose of establishing an ideological commonality whilst at the same time instigating semi-submerged operational managerial demarcations. Again, the ideal would be that the worker need not be managed from above but be educated to instinctively anticipate and respond immediately to cybernetic commands.

The generalization of wage-labour (labour necessary for capital), even if it is nonproductive, but serves the realization of capital (formation of the new middle classes) or as activity tending to protect, to maintain the production process of capital. There is a proletarianization process (formation of those without reserves), while the number of proletarians falls. Put another way, today there is a class of wage-labourers in which the proletariat, in its old sense, has become a minority. The entire world is ruled by labour "reduced to pure abstraction" (Grundrisse), and, according to the official ideology, he who does not work is not a man. Works content is unimportant. It appears as a means of oppression and repression with the goal of conserving contemporary society, i.e. assuring the process of capital. It has to surround the whole field of "consciousness" so as to give birth in everyone the motivation to acquire which throws the individual into the vicious cycle and infamy of work (earning money) to live, living to work (to earn money).
Remarks (on Capital and Community)

Perhaps of more interest than the integration into the proletariat of graduates as physicalised units of management ideology, is the embrace of the 'greater working class' by anarcho-syndicalists and all those others who would include professionals and managers as proletarians. Camatte gives an explanation for why this might be the case:

So now the society of capital dominates in the name of labour and not in the name of value. Paradoxically this is the achievement of the demand of the Ricardian socialists, of Proudhon and all those who wanted the victory of labour (IWW, various councillists, the whole Trotskyists and Leninist pathology).
Remarks (on Capital and Community)

The goal of such ideologies is to self-manage production and so the appearance of anthropomorphised units of management ideology within the ranks of the proletariat reflects, albeit in a distorting mirror, this goal. The objective production of cross-class solidarity, is probably sufficient to disarm leftist critics... aren't all those in struggle, self-evidently on 'our side'?

The left's desire to find evidence of protest and identify it within a general trend to which it may pin its hopes also obscures what ends such protest is really directed at. Protesting students cannot be so simply included within a narrative of class struggle. Of much more significance is the means by which management appears via institutions within the productive process though the agency of programmed human beings.

The defence of labour which has become 'an official ideology', even where 'labour' is no longer distinct from the management of the productive process, has in effect become a defence of capital where capital appears as the domination, and thus self-management, of labour by labour. The ideology of labour based on the definition ‘everyone who earns a wage’ obscures actual distinctions in production.

One of the issues for the left since the middle part of the C20th is that it could not envision how a complex productivist society might be run without an embedded echelon of technocratic managers... how was it to present its eminently practical vision of reality without this integral component of modern state-capitalism? The answer has been to redraw the boundary of the proletariat to include social managers. This arbitrary redefinition means that within left ideology, social managers may now unproblematically transfer their skills from 'capitalism' to 'socialism' because they are re-designated as 'workers' – and the goal of the left, after all, is all about 'workers' control of production. Those who are objectively most controlling are evidently always the best candidates for the job of worker-controllers.

The communist critique of this is that the left ends up defending capitalist institutions under attack from 'the right'... in other words, all capital needs to do to bring the left 'on board' is to close down some social institutions, and this elicits the desired angry knee-jerk response which leads to the left defending that which previously it had denounced in terms of 'state control' and 'the social/education factory'.

Leftism, in the face of its construct ‘neo-liberalism’ has become little more than the frantic stamping out of fires set by a slum landlord in a building which the left itself has declared uninhabitable. The left doesn't know whether it should be defending 'progressive institutions', the social contract, jobs, 'dignity' or 'equal rights' when all of these are internally contradictory and, at best, a 'mixed blessing' to those who rely on them. Historically, the problem for the left has always been its inability to shift from its conservative defence of existing institutions to an attack on the general social relation. It has often ended up paradoxically defending 'gains' as a managerial echelon against the class struggle that is being waged against them from below.

In this case too, leftist categories are incapable of picking up on the means by which social production is now seeking to manage itself anthropomorphically. The left does not perceive that labour is the means by which labour is managed by capital. The immiseration of managers (i.e. the mass production of bankrupt graduates) effects class struggle only to the extent that management ideology disperses proletarian class consciousness – teachers on low wages do not expand the productive proletariat but in crisis they do tend to promote the ideological motifs of hard work, education, defence of services as political goal for the proletariat.

In struggle, ‘committed’ social managers channel conflict into ‘politics’ and away from class struggle. By contrast, communists argue against educational institutions, and the ideology of education itself... the only real tasks pro-revolutionary students have is to struggle against the university as a social factory, and against their own instrumentalisation as programmed units of management implementation. They must fail their exams, or persuade their tutors to pass them even when they have done nothing.

However, all this is of less significance than class conscious graduates recognising, beyond their individual circumstance, what their function is objectively within social process... i.e. carriers of ideology. It is important for them, as a minimum, to recognise that their interpellated role as managers (even if they are not actually employed as managers) is to communicate 'bourgeois' ideology... they must refuse to take the lead in circumstances where class conflict breaks out. They must, at the least, understand that in spite of individual good intentions, they reproduce in their being the structure of work relations with themselves at the centre.

In the past, line-managers were always recruited from the 'ranks' of workers – the wage differential was marginal but the new status was not. Nobody was under any illusion that the function of line-managers was to enforce the management line. A line-manager on his promotion, even though in all other respects he remained a 'worker', crossed over to the other side because of his new work-function. Similarly, social managers retain an ideological function distinct from that of the proletariat, and this cannot be obscured by the commonality of poor pay and conditions.

That anarcho-syndicalists cannot make the distinction between workers and the social production of managers only indicates to what extent they have been pulled onto the terrain of capital, and how their ideology conforms, via common sense/pragmatism/realism to the basic categories of crisis-thinking, i.e. self-management by everyone of the 'production for need.'

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Feb 19 2013 15:02

Absolute twaddle. That piece doesn't speak to the experience of north american universities that's for sure, and it absolutely ignores that grads do work while they study. A more micro-level narrative that focused on the production process of the university would explain much more about the function if universities. The above piece is a rant, it has practically no substance considering it starts from an assumption that us ideological.

An Affirming Flame
Joined: 22-09-11
Feb 19 2013 17:49

Agreed with Khawaga. I feel like the time I spent reading that blog was quite thoroughly wasted. If this were libcommunity, I'd be posting the "Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it" clip from Billy Madison, but this is a no flaming forum.