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Pro-revolutionaries in academia

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mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
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Oct 17 2011 21:15

Quint I think I agree most of the things you said. Especially this seems crucial:

Quote:
Teachers have a lot of internal control over the work process (unlike other common working class jobs these days like say telemarketers, or cashiers, or truck drivers or waitresses). This is not a question of whether or not academics are working class, but it is important as to how miserable to work itself is, and therefore how likely academia is to be a point of unrest.

I think what makes academic work unique is that it is one of those rare jobs in which there is still an element of "craftmanship". You can not easily impose an assembly line on an academic neither in research nor in teaching. Obviously this is changing right now with increasing competition and specialization it impose on the academic workers.

However to a certain extend academic worker is not much different from an artisan, a laborer under formal domination, who still have some degree of control over the work process - or at least this was the case till recent times.

the "class pride" of the academic may have been originated from that.

On another level what is forcing academics to compromise with the state is the increasing pressure of capital and state over academy. Unlike 19th century when independent scholars like Rosa Luxemburg could work inside their class organizations as teachers and researchers, today there is simply no place for radical worker-intellectuals to be independent of the state.

The academy is forcing profs. to produce policy oriented research, researchs that can have some sort of value in the market, or to researches that can enable state organs to strenghten its grip over society. Through this compromise perhaps lots of academics could retain their "artisanal pride", receiving huge fundings etc. But the remaining majority of academics are workers mostly burdened by teaching, hardly able to finance their own researchs etc.

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Malva
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Oct 17 2011 21:39
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I find that middle class people have different attitudes and interests and I believe these will affect the movement.

I just don't think this is true. We have the same interest as the revolutionary class. That is all that is important. Otherwise blue collar and white collar workers are always going to be at odds over a stupid chip on the shoulder of one or the other. It is actually pretty dehumanizing being judged on the basis of your accent, whether that accent be working class or middle class. Why does this matter so much to people? It just seems to be some nasty consolation for wrongs done by capitalism and capitalists. It is no basis on which to build solidarity. A real living middle class person can be just as radical as a working class person can. Anyone who judges me or anyone else not on their own merits but on their sociological class background, skin colour, sexuality, whatever stupid dehumanzing difference they decide on, can shove it.

Baronarchist
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Oct 17 2011 21:44

Something I was wondering for a while, would it be worth if an anarchist were to take a low level admin or management job to try and at least do some good for the working class even if it's subtle? Education seems to be turning more and more people into egoist capitalists, and it's intimidating to think I'm going to have to deal with these sorts with authority over me.

Before anyone pops an eye vein with rage or whatever, I haven't been recently offered an admin job, I'm still at college at the future looks grim; my family have been on minimum wage or less and sometimes gone without money for a couple weeks because of self-serving, incompetent management, and it's this which makes me truly dread the thought of having to 'serve' such people.

Blasto
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Oct 17 2011 23:14

In the same way as we maintain a critique of the media as a reproducer of class society and the recuperator of opposition to it, we need to maintain a critique of its older sibling, academia.

As such, it's important that academics don't kid themselves that their current conditions of work in any way alter the function of academia itself. To crudely paraphrase Samotnaf, academia puts the 'ism' into capitalism.

And equally, academics shouldn't kid themselves that their role can form a challenge to class relations either. Rather, the class struggle must lead them to challenge their role.

Most academics I know are lefties, and they are mostly reasonably at home in their role, aside from complaining about their levels of idleness being eroded and the declining interest of students in their waffle. The few academics I know with a revolutionary perspective (and by that I don't mean just dusty intellectual "marxists", but those who actively seek to transform the world) either mock themselves, are embarrassed or depressed.

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Oct 17 2011 23:44

What job do you work in, out of interest?

Blasto
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Oct 18 2011 01:31

Hi Rob, I work in a community centre. I'm fortunate enough to quite enjoy it, though I harbour no illusions about the voluntary sector and am equally aware of the potentially recuperative role of 'community development' etc. I've never been to university, though as I said I know a few who work in one. I've had a couple of stints at the local college though. Is that useful to know?

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Arbeiten
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Oct 18 2011 01:36

Malva, I want to put this original post (about different values) in a more concrete context, to problematize both the original post and your reply.

At the occupy london meeting yesterday there was an issue that arose. should this 'movement' be a movement that is 'represents' all classes. I said no. What was the reply? My bringing up class was dehumanizing. By merely mentioning the fact there were classes, it was presumed there wasn't individuals. It is as if the fact that you mention class makes class a problem. Not the problematization of class per se. This 'middle class attitude' as the original poster called it, I think has actually become detrimental to this 'movement'. I'm not directly criticizing you here, because I think your smarter than that, but to say that individuals class background does not have concrete effects on movements in problematic for me at least. And this is being played out as we type....

Blasto
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Oct 18 2011 02:42
Arbeiten wrote:
This 'middle class attitude' as the original poster called it, I think has actually become detrimental to this 'movement'. I'm not directly criticizing you here, because I think your smarter than that, but to say that individuals class background does not have concrete effects on movements in problematic for me at least. And this is being played out as we type....

I take a slightly different tack to you - individuals' class background can be problematic if its concrete effects aren't challenged - if that makes sense?

Memories of all the "prolier than thou" Monty Python arguments I sat through in the 1990s make me shiver... often it was an anarchist excuse for a bit of Stalinism, and led to all sorts of bizarre behaviour like people adopting fake accents or even making up their past. Sad.

tastybrain
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Oct 18 2011 03:53
Blasto wrote:
As such, it's important that academics don't kid themselves that their current conditions of work in any way alter the function of academia itself. To crudely paraphrase Samotnaf, academia puts the 'ism' into capitalism.

Yeah...I'm not really seeking to defend "academia" as it exists now just participation in it, if the distinction makes sense? I know academia plays a recuperative role under capitalism, from mystification of knowledge to "putting the 'ism' in capitalism" ( or reinforcing capitalist hegemony). Nor do I deny that the specialized "academic" role should be dissolved into a general sharing of knowledge or that in a conflict academics will be forced to challenge their roles. But I think it's possible to exist within this system and produce work which is still useful politically/theoretically, if only from reading some academic work which I consider informative to libertarian communist/anarchist theory. I also agree that the "middle class/craft" aspect of the work is not conducive to class struggle. But I am not some free floating "agitator", I'm not just gonna get a job based on the likelihood of serious class struggle; I pursue work based on what is available and what I want to do. of course the "academic" role is flawed but under capitalism there are existing roles and they all have problems.

tastybrain
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Oct 18 2011 04:20
jonglier wrote:
from the OP
Quote:
it will still be alienated wage labor,

Why so? If I remember rightly, one of the most important reasons Marx gives for the alienated condition of labour undertaken during capitalism is that the worker does not own or have control of the product he produces.
...

One of things produced by the work of an individual academic is a degree of intellectual development in that particular individual, which is certainly something owned or controlled by that individual.

Yes and that is impossible to quantify exactly, but that is only one product, the others being a contributions to a "degree" for some number of students and the whole evaluative process that takes a large amount of work, as well as published work (which is certainly alienated---one academic told me he could not make his work available on the internet since it was published in a journal). So the intellectual development of the academic is only one aspect of the 'product', and the others are not controlled by him or her.

tastybrain
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Oct 18 2011 04:27
Cooked wrote:
I find it frustrating that the old "sociological definition of class" boogieman is back in action. As I've said before I wish people could have the discipline of avoiding applying class to individuals. On telly a couple of years ago some northern guy said he wasn't working class because he could afford to go on holiday abroad, he felt immigrants were the new working class as they were actually poor. He worked a manual job in industry.

Try mentioning class struggle to someone who self identifies as middle class. They might sorta agree but will be very unsure if they will be against the wall come revolution wink To clarify you have to give a 10min lecture, they still won't be sure. Then all sorts of people within the movement constantly "slip" and use the sociological definition revealing that even communists think in terms of sociological class. Really fucking annoying and leaves people hanging, waiting for the constantly moving line to be redrawn under their feet or their life to improve leaving them on the other side.

The issue I have with it is I can't really see the real dangers being a bit slack and letting some posh people in.

This is where it get really frustrating though... I find that middle class people have different attitudes and interests and I believe these will affect the movement. (my analysis could be wrong as I'm also foreign) but I just feel it's generally best to not be overly defensive. Samotnaf have on a couple of occasions argued for a more strict and defensive position.

Saying that I was paid 3hrs a week as a lecturer last year (I'm not an academic though... figure that one out wink and my attitudes might have mellowed by the high life and these strange middle class people that I have around me these days.

I agree, I'm confused at people like whatisinevidence using the term middle class uncritically...I mean I thought the "middle class" was not a concept libertarian communists should use without unpacking or at least defining it.

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mikail firtinaci
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Oct 18 2011 05:38

What I really hate about the way radicals in the academy are blamed to be something like comformist two-faced traitors is it totally ignores why these people choose academy in the first place. This right wing suspicion of the academic-student marxists and anarchists ("get a job!") is strongest strangely only in the left.

In my experience the radicals in my generation (I was born in 80s) were mostly politisized during the late 90s and early 2000s amidts the anti-globalization and anti-war movements. When these movements started to diminish in early 2000s some people "found jobs" some went through a self-reflection and tended to move towards left communism or anarchist-communism etc. But what could you do with all this reflection? You can get organized, solidarise with small struggles that pops-up sometimes etc and then in the end of the day you have to eat something.

Academy is the one way I found to try to do both; involve in politics and be alive at the same time. I don't clame that this is a perfect way or some kind of a magic formula. On the contrary it is difficult to live in a peace of mind in this work as all others. So this is only on choice among many which has its own disadvantages and advantages. In fact I am questioning my choices everyday. But really are there many choices? I could not see that many to be honest.

So the one who want to judge the political honesty of the radicals in the academy, should be careful not to question the intentions' of the people at least before understanding them. I do not think that the question "why this person is a revolutionary" is helpful or productive in anycase anyway.

whatisinevidence
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Oct 18 2011 05:50
Quote:
but why (as you say on the other thread) should teachers and academics stop editing journals and websites? what's the problem with that? why would they be worse at that than say a bricklayer or a factory worker?

Well, academics/lawyers/etc are obviously different than bricklayers and factory workers. They receive totally different class training and play different roles in society.

If J.D. had been a bricklayer with an interest in crowds, for example, he would never have been invited to speak to cops on the subject.

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Oct 18 2011 05:59

What is class training? While in grad school I've been trained in how to live on poverty-level income and unemployment for when I finally graduate. Is that the sort of training you're referring to? Does that give us academics some working clarse cred?

And what gives with the fetishization of the industrial worker? Seems like you have a case of the old fashioned workerism that sees the working clarse as men smoking roll ups and wearing grease stained blue coveralls.

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Oct 18 2011 06:18

I think by class training he means something like social and culture capital (a la Bourdieu) Khawaga.

Mikail this balancing of staying interested in politics and pursuing a career is definitely the most enticing reason to stay in the academy, and it is one of the main reasons I would consider going further into education.

Blasto, yeah I totally agree. i was discussing yesterday with somebody, how can you open a space in a group to allow class to become a topic of conversation without it becoming a pissing contest between who's parents struggled more to buy a microwave etc, etc. But I find on the whole, this is a difficult thing to do, especially amongst certain 'activist' types.

whatisinevidence
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Oct 18 2011 06:23

Actually, you brought up the bricklayer and the factory worker, not me. I was just replying to you.

If you don't know what class training is, I'm not sure what to tell you. At private schools (or I guess they're called public schools in the UK?), young people with wealthy parents are taught to manage other people, to dominate discourse, to start businesses, etc. This training also occurs at home and carries on in the universities they go to. In grad schools, there is a lot of training for life as a middle class professional. That's the whole point of it, actually. I never went to grad school or uni, but I know that I received this sort of class training growing up. All the communist theory in the world is pretty pointless if I can't use it to look at myself.

That academics happen to be poorly paid middle class professionals does not change their role or training. I met a guy on the bus the other day who is about to graduate with a finance degree. He interned for Bank of America over the summer and worked ~90 hour weeks in some of the most horrifying and stressful conditions I've ever heard of. Now he's getting offers for 'real' finance jobs that pay a lot of money. Academics (or doctors) do a similar thing of working relatively shit jobs after they finish grad school, with the hope of landing a tenure track position after they 'pay their dues'.

The class training one receives at a public school, community college, trade school, hanging out with the guys on the corner, etc is very different. Until fairly recently, the class training for working class youths was all about being dependable/holding a job/etc, but with the economy demanding flexibility this has changed. Still, the training is mostly about training to be someone who is managed.

Going back to the second paragraph: when someone has been trained their entire life (or at least in uni and grad school) to manage others, it is problematic when they take leadership positions/positions of power within so-called communist organizations. Even with good intentions, the ideological force of this training isn't something one can just shake off with political slogans.

Organizations tend to look like the society that produces them. In my experience, the people leading meetings, writing books, editing journals, giving speeches, organizing events, and so on tend to be middle class professionals who are trained to do that shit. This is something that should be brought out in the open, so this unconscious domination can be addressed. The outing of J.D. gave a sharp example of the danger of letting this go under the radar.

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Oct 18 2011 07:24
Quote:
Hi Rob, I work in a community centre. I'm fortunate enough to quite enjoy it, though I harbour no illusions about the voluntary sector and am equally aware of the potentially recuperative role of 'community development' etc. I've never been to university, though as I said I know a few who work in one. I've had a couple of stints at the local college though. Is that useful to know?

Kind of, yes, because it makes it easier to work out where you're coming from and respond to your whole "journalists/academics/teachers are all sellouts" line.

And personally I think it's pretty rough that you demand the million-odd people who work in these fields (400,000 teachers, 200,000 academics, 50,000 journalists plus direct support staff would comfortably make that) chuck in their jobs while you keep yours (which'll very likely be upheld in part by their donations) simply because there's elements of the work which are compromised.

Like applying for target-based grants from corporations, the state etc might be. I mean hell you're working for the Big Society right now, you're artificially plugging the holes being shot in the welfare state by the Tories and covering up for their misdeeds. The fact you know you're doing this because you're a revolutionary should mean you quit, right? I mean otherwise you'd be a hypocrit...

NB// Just re-read your post and realised you were saying we should maintain a critique rather than outright teachers/journalists/academics should quit, so don't know if that's your line, but I'll keep the point in as it's the logical extension of the kind of thing Satmonaf and his fellow travellers talk about when they "critique" these roles.

For disclosure's sake, I'm a journalist by trade and entirely aware of the potential pitfalls of the job, but I also am and know others who are revolutionaries who will and do refuse to write falsehoods or rat out revolutionaries. On the other hand I've got friends who had their gas and electric cut off by people who otherwise work in perfectly productive jobs as installers etc.

With certain exceptions (cops, prison guards) it's who you are and what actions you take, not what job you do, that defines your relationship to capital - all jobs are compromised, all jobs reproduce it and perhaps a majority of jobs in some way defend it.

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Oct 18 2011 07:09
Quote:
Like applying for target-based grants from corporations, the state etc might be. I mean hell you're working for the Big Society right now, you're artificially plugging the holes being shot in the welfare state by the Tories and covering up for their misdeeds. The fact you know you're doing this because you're a revolutionary should mean you quit, right? I mean otherwise you'd be a hypocrit...

POW, right in the kisser

On a tenuously related point. This reminds me of the problems in higher ed. and funding right now. I read somewhere that the Arts and Humanities Research Council were basically given choice, fund big society PhD's, or don't get funding at all. Does anyone have any more info on this?

RedHughs
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Oct 18 2011 08:03

I think the arguments making some general judgment of "academia" or "the middle class" are missing the point around the events in question.

In "The case of JD", I think the question is rather of the "professional manipulator" group. That is, that now-significant portion of the working and/or "professional" classes that are employed convincing, surveiling, controlling, or other manipulating their fellows. These can be as "low level" as telemarkets and survey-takers and as high level as professors of group psychology or beyond, cop somewhere in-between - not the professors of psychology are "worse" than cops but rather that they with controlling people on a higher, more abstract level - for example, giving cops advice about how to do that.

What do we do about them?

I am not describing this make to some Bullshit Nihilist-Communist morality play out of the situation but to be coldly realistic about the conditions of present day society.

The situation produce a dilemma for we would-be revolutionaries within modern capitalist society. Where does one as a revolutionary-thinking-strategically draw the line in working with manipulators when so much of modern work involves such manipulation? I think someone paid hourly to cold-call and get people to take surveys would qualify as people we could work with. Even low-level security guards might be possible. FBI informants trolling mosques for people to entrap clearly wouldn't.

I think one further clear line as regard to any manipulation laborer would be whether a person was being to paid to be in a given group. University researchers, cops, spies, and the enterprising undergraduate grant-writer are the only ones who fit in this group.

Further, being a university researcher doesn't mean you're being paid to be a politico. Usually the opposite. But those rather specific situations where a academic is paid to be within a radical group seem to loudly scream conflict-of-interest.

The big problem is how many gray areas there are between this and the lowest paid call worker.

I don't think the solution to the problem is some arbitrary line (say, expelling all the teachers). Rather, I think the most important thing is being clear about the processes and purposes of a revolutionary group especially in the pressures and processes of society at large. We should be aware of the mutual manipulation that prevails in a society of specialization and commodification. We should be clear about what counter-measures we can take and the limits of these.

I could go on but I'd be more or less extending a lot of the arguments of the Situationists. I think the current sad events validate even more of their arguments.

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Oct 18 2011 07:52

ReHughs I thought this thread was exactly trying to talk about pro-revolutionaries in academia not in the context of J? embarrassed

RedHughs
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Oct 18 2011 08:08

I read initial post as "let's broaden from JD to academia"...

regardless, revolutionaries shouldn't ignore "elephants in the living room"...

Blasto
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Oct 18 2011 09:24
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
Hi Rob, I work in a community centre. I'm fortunate enough to quite enjoy it, though I harbour no illusions about the voluntary sector and am equally aware of the potentially recuperative role of 'community development' etc. I've never been to university, though as I said I know a few who work in one. I've had a couple of stints at the local college though. Is that useful to know?

Kind of, yes, because it makes it easier to work out where you're coming from and respond to your whole "journalists/academics/teachers are all sellouts" line.

And personally I think it's pretty rough that you demand the million-odd people who work in these fields (400,000 teachers, 200,000 academics, 50,000 journalists plus direct support staff would comfortably make that) chuck in their jobs while you keep yours (which'll very likely be upheld in part by their donations) simply because there's elements of the work which are compromised.

Like applying for target-based grants from corporations, the state etc might be. I mean hell you're working for the Big Society right now, you're artificially plugging the holes being shot in the welfare state by the Tories and covering up for their misdeeds. The fact you know you're doing this because you're a revolutionary should mean you quit, right? I mean otherwise you'd be a hypocrit...

NB// Just re-read your post and realised you were saying we should maintain a critique rather than outright teachers/journalists/academics should quit, so don't know if that's your line, but I'll keep the point in as it's the logical extension of the kind of thing Satmonaf and his fellow travellers talk about when they "critique" these roles.

For disclosure's sake, I'm a journalist by trade and entirely aware of the potential pitfalls of the job, but I also am and know others who are revolutionaries who will and do refuse to write falsehoods or rat out revolutionaries. On the other hand I've got friends who had their gas and electric cut off by people who otherwise work in perfectly productive jobs as installers etc.

With certain exceptions (cops, prison guards) it's who you are and what actions you take, not what job you do, that defines your relationship to capital - all jobs are compromised, all jobs reproduce it and perhaps a majority of jobs in some way defend it.

Arbeiten wrote:
POW, right in the kisser

POW! indeed - if point scoring is what counts (it reminds me why I rarely post).

Thanks for correcting yourself Rob. "Sell-out" is your term, not mine. And people 'quitting their jobs' is not mine either. Any kind of "logical extension" that you apply is your own. For the sake of a constructive discussion it helps to stick to speaking for ourselves.

If people feel uncomfortable about having academia questioned, then good - that is self-criticism at work. If people have niggles and doubts about their role, then much better to dig deeper than to bury them by seeking re-affirmation from other academics (or revolutionaries) that everything is just fine. I think it's a bit simplistic to say only cops and prison officers have a problem. We live in Britain, not Burma.

Quote:
it's who you are and what actions you take, not what job you do,

Isn't there a contradiction there? I get what you are saying - its not necessarily the job we do but what we do within it, but that in itself recognises that the job might be a problem.You recognise the tension between your politics and your job. I do with mine, so being critical of our jobs is relevant, at the very least to maintain our own sanity.

And feel free to have a pop at charities, their recuperative/co-opted/reformist role, etc. I haven't defended them in the slightest and people who work for charities should be as self-critical as anyone else.

Big Society is another topic, but it isn't about charities so much as "active citizens" or "civil society".

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Oct 18 2011 09:32
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POW! indeed - if point scoring is what counts (it reminds me why I rarely post).

or if your partial to light hearted banter... wink

What does 'being critical of your job' actually mean in practice? This list of damned occupations seems to be getting longer by the day, and as it gets longer, i feel it is losing a lot of its critical clout. Communists, anarchists etc, etc are not christians right*, this is all getting a bit original sin for my liking. What does being critical of your job actually mean past acknowledging the fact you live in a capitalist society?

*although they can be, but the core doctrine isn't

Blasto
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Oct 18 2011 10:38
Arbeiten wrote:
Quote:
POW! indeed - if point scoring is what counts (it reminds me why I rarely post).

or if your partial to light hearted banter... wink

What does 'being critical of your job' actually mean in practice? This list of damned occupations seems to be getting longer by the day, and as it gets longer, i feel it is losing a lot of its critical clout. Communists, anarchists etc, etc are not christians right*, this is all getting a bit original sin for my liking. What does being critical of your job actually mean past acknowledging the fact you live in a capitalist society?

*although they can be, but the core doctrine isn't

Arbeiten, it didn't come across a joke - sorry I took that the wrong way.

In short (and I am just trying to save myself a lot of words here), there is a need to make a living in this abhorrent system. We do that as best we can without undermining our own struggle against it.

(a bit edits in italics from here on)

Views on academia vary - I've offered mine, insofar as it reproduces dominant ideology and recuperates opposition to it. I don't have a downer on my academic friends but I have a healthy criticism of their role. I would if they had any pretensions about their jobs, especially radical ones. It's a similar logic to the comments about class we exchanged earlier. Concrete consequences.

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Oct 18 2011 10:36

Thats the second time in under 12 hours my internet trollin' has not been up to par, i should apologize.

yeah, I mean what I was getting at with the second half was charity workers being thrown into the mix as well. It becomes unhelpful at this point I think. We need to say, which academics, what charities etc, etc. I guess the mention of charities bites me personally because, though i am currently unemployed, I am applying for a lot of jobs in the charity sector, specifically focusing on homelessness and I would hate to think that that is to be seen as reformism (i mean, it is obviously, but not so much so that I should think about going into a different sector).

I am much more ambivalent on whether or not academics produce the dominant ideology. A fair amount do. Some do not. I see this changing quite a lot as the higher education system becomes further privatised however...

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Oct 18 2011 10:40

your italics clarify a bit more, thanks.

Blasto
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Oct 18 2011 10:56

I think charities were thrown in because I think Rob wanted to make a point about not throwing stones from our own houses of glass, but I say do, because these roles need to be challenged.

Yes, as most things, when we apply a model like that we have to understand that it is a model, not a universal truth. I really overuse the phrase don't mistake the map for the territory - but it is a good one. And I am not suggesting self-flagellation either. But I'm sure most of us have made very conscious choices not to do certain things in our working lives, or having no choice but to do a certain thing has made us want to choke. Better that, than blindly wandering into the mouth of the beast and discovering ourself to be our own worst enemy.

And I feel strongly that those around us are important in this too. Our own judgement isn't always the best. Going back (briefly) to JD, someone made the point that not only did he show a lack of judgement, but he was let down by those around him for not challenging him. I think that is a fair point.

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Oct 18 2011 13:01

I've decided to write a long text about middle class people and revolution in response to some of the issues raised in this thread. Hopefully it will be useful to both middle class people who want to get involved and respond to the concerns of the members of the working class who have made me think about this in the past. It is an ambiguous relationship that needs to be looked at seriously. I'll probably write it from the perspective of my own experiences and how they have made me realise how problematic the relationship can be. Arbeiten, as usual, has some very good points.

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Oct 18 2011 13:13

This discussion should make it clear just how slippery this particular slope is.

My main question is, as I've said before, what can you possibly find at the end of this tunnel. The negative side effects of fitting individuals into categories and treating them accordingly is well known. The positive I can't really make out.

Could someone tell me how this knowledge should be applied as well as why and when.

Side note: Having worked both full on working class jobs and full on middle class ones I can tell you that the autonomy and freedom of some working class jobs is *much* higher than in many traditionally middle class ones.

quint wrote:
How much does capital dominate the organization and rhythm of the work

If you'd apply that metric to my jobs everyones idea of class would be turned upside down!

tastybrain
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Oct 18 2011 16:36
Blasto wrote:
In short (and I am just trying to save myself a lot of words here), there is a need to make a living in this abhorrent system. We do that as best we can without undermining our own struggle against it.

Agreed. That's why I started this thread; to get at this very question. I would like to know about how academia undermines the struggle against the system so I can try to avoid it. I also think it would be helpful to take Khawaga's advice and differentiate between various levels of status within the academy (researchers and TA's/grad students vs. lecturers and sessional professors vs. tenured professors). I also think some differentiation by discipline would be useful. I think psychology (especially "crowd psychology") has more of recuperative role than poetry, for instance.

Blasto wrote:
it reproduces dominant ideology and recuperates opposition to it. I don't have a downer on my academic friends but I have a healthy criticism of their role.

Can you help me understand how all academia does this? I mean, whatever one's criticisms of the politics of people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, I'm not sure how A People's History of the United States or Manufacturing Consent "recuperates opposition" to capitalism and "reproduces [its] dominant ideology". Quite the opposite, in fact.

To maybe bring this back to me (smile): my discipline is history. Now I know that bourgeois academic history has played a totally reactionary role, justifying capitalism and so forth. But I don't see why it is impossible to challenge that function from within the discipline. In this essay I try to debunk some of the more flagrant misconceptions in the United States about WWII. Can you show me where I'm "recuperating opposition" or "reproducing dominant ideology"?

Blasto wrote:
I would if they had any pretensions about their jobs, especially radical ones. It's a similar logic to the comments about class we exchanged earlier. Concrete consequences.

If I get a job in academia I will have no delusions that that job, in itself, is somehow radical. What I am skeptical about is the mentality that some seem to have that all academics are bad recuperators who only undermine the struggle...

Also, RedHughes I'm not sure what your point is about manipulation. Perhaps psychology professors manipulate people but I don't see how that applies to everyone in academia.