Pro-revolutionaries in academia

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Arbeiten's picture
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Nov 21 2011 15:18

Call it a de-rail if you will. But I for one would like to know the essential and fundamental role of a social worker. I think there is a better argument made against the police (majority acquisitive crime, riot police quelling popular/legitimate unrest, the law and prisons actually producing 'criminals' etc, etc). But with social workers there just seems like huge swathes of grey? I am genuinely interested to see this debate develop and go further. Ya know, maybe Blasto could unfold his/her critique past assertion, and lzbl could try help us understand what radical social working is (I have genuinely never come across it but would be interested to know more).

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Nov 21 2011 15:23

It's an interesting discussion but I don't really have time for it at the moment. Planning a piece for the library about social work and libertarian communism though, so any discussion would be good material.

Blasto
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Nov 21 2011 15:55
Arbeiten wrote:
I am genuinely interested to see this debate develop and go further. Ya know, maybe Blasto could unfold his/her critique past assertion,

Izbi undoubtedly has insights into social work practice that I don't and could illustrate a myriad of ways that social workers "empower" people and support people through utter shit. I could also be introduced to loads of "radical" social workers who are lovely people and "do amazing things" etc.. And some of those social workers might be communists too.

But pull apart what is going on. People are helped by other people all the time. By friends, families, neighbours, volunteers, professionals. Even in the most dire situations possible you are more likely to find these kinds of people than social workers, after all its our empathy, compassion and resilience that makes communism possible. What makes a social worker distinct from all these people? What do they add to the mix? In short, State power. That is the essential and fundamental difference.

*****
I short add that State power is the short of it, but there is a much longer critique which would look at the role of social work and the state, psychology, sociology, social policy etc, etc, etc - all the layers of academic theory, legal frameworks, client/social worker power dynamics, etc etc that define social work practice.
Social workers may be unaware (but surely not) that many people hate them. Others fear them. Most of those who call on them do so as a last resort. People are not stupid.

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Nov 21 2011 15:54
Blasto wrote:
If we accept that being a university lecturer is a middle class function, we have understood the nature of that function. We have understood that a lecturer might be revolutionary, but despite their class role. As a revolutionary, they (probably with others) have critically evaluated their role and come to a conclusion about whether or not it is directly at odds with their communist perspective (as any sane person would as far as what JD does goes) or whether it is largely benign, and also whether their class position is at odds with a communist praxis (for example, they become unable to act for fear of losing that position).

I have a bit of a problem following your arguments Blasto because they're so abstract. You refer to middle class function, but leave it very open what that actually is. Could you please explain? And what is the class interest of the middle class? If the middle class is neither working nor capitalist, then their interest must somehow be different from both. Or are you using middle class as those that are not capitalist (in the sense of buying labour-power), but nevertheless share the interest of capital? Or middle class as those that have the power to hire and fire?

Whether teachers, academics etc. are middle class depends on what your definition of the middle class and the middle class function.

Btw, are lecturer tenured in the UK? In North America a lecturer is just above a TA in the academic hierarchy (at my university they're even paid worse than us TAs).

In my experience most academics that bleat about being a radical academic or whatever are those with tenure. WIth job security nothing is really on the line, and even if you could put it all on the line they never ever, but they'll tell you in courses that their radical function is to teach kids (and put on horrible courses where they 'teach' student activism and the like).

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Arbeiten
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Nov 21 2011 15:59
Blasto wrote:
By friends, families, neighbours, volunteers, professionals. Even in the most dire situations possible you are more likely to find these kinds of people than social workers, after all its our empathy, compassion and resilience that makes communism possible. What makes a social worker distinct from all these people? What do they add to the mix? In short, State power. That is the essential and fundamental difference.

Professionals like, say, social workers wink. Jokes Jokes Jokes (well, half serious).

Come on man, it is a lot more difficult than this. Friends and family (I think neighbours could fit in here too) are often part of a larger problematic psycho-social nexus. They can often be the site of dis-empowerment, exploitation, oppression lies and deceit. In some instances 'inclusion' can be seen as a much more insidious form of social control than exclusion (something we could argue that social workers are complicit with, but no more than friends and family?). I am not saying this to troll you, but I am not convinced (even as an anarcho-communist!) by off the cuff State = Bad without proper reasoning. That is my knee jerk response (state = bad), but I am honestly finding this one a bit difficult....

Blasto
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Nov 21 2011 16:12
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You refer to middle class function, but leave it very open what that actually is. Could you please explain? And what is the class interest of the middle class? If the middle class is neither working nor capitalist, then their interest must somehow be different from both. Or are you using middle class as those that are not capitalist (in the sense of buying labour-power), but nevertheless share the interest of capital? Or middle class as those that have the power to hire and fire?

With the greatest of respect, I won't. If you don't understand the concept of middle class (which in the UK at least is common currency), then there are a whole heap of economic and sociological definitions available online. Perhaps start with a bloke called Karl Marx?

Here's a little bit from Wikipedia which attempts to describe the middle class and its class interest:

Quote:
The anarchist definition of the "coordinator class" includes people such as bureaucrats, technocrats, managers, administrators, middle-class intellectuals (such as economists, political and social scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, etc.), physical scientists, judges, lawyers, military officials, political party organizers and leaders, etc [....] Still others (for example, Council communists) allege, like anarchists, that there is a class comprising intellectuals, technocrats and managers which seeks power in its own right. This last group of communists allege that such technocratic middle classes seized power and government for themselves in Soviet-style societies.
Anarchists contend that Marxism fails, and will always fail, because it creates a dictatorship of the coordinating technocratic/managerial class and that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a logical impossibility. Mikhail Bakunin foreshadowed this argument when he wrote:

[The] State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class: a priestly class, an aristocratic class, a bourgeois class. And finally, when all the other classes have exhausted themselves, the State then becomes the patrimony of the bureaucratic class and then falls—or, if you will, rises—to the position of a machine.
—On the International Workingmen's Association and Karl Marx, 1872

Blasto
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Nov 21 2011 16:23
Arbeiten wrote:
Come on man, it is a lot more difficult than this. Friends and family (I think neighbours could fit in here too) are often part of a larger problematic psycho-social nexus. They can often be the site of dis-empowerment, exploitation, oppression lies and deceit. In some instances 'inclusion' can be seen as a much more insidious form of social control than exclusion (something we could argue that social workers are complicit with, but no more than friends and family?). I am not saying this to troll you, but I am not convinced (even as an anarcho-communist!) by off the cuff State = Bad without proper reasoning. That is my knee jerk response (state = bad), but I am honestly finding this one a bit difficult....

Firstly,

Quote:
They can often be the site of dis-empowerment, exploitation, oppression lies and deceit.

In this case "They" refers to family and friends,but put whoever you like in there - social workers, police, teachers, revolutionaries? It doesn't really mean that much in this context, and while families are often dysfunctional, as a general rule the definition of "friends" suggests the opposite of these characteristics (or are you really that cynical)?

Even if you don't believe State = bad, what a social worker comes with is State-sanctioned power (or recourse to it through line management). If the State imposes itself on a personal crisis, my opinion is that this is anti-communist, and a communist approach would be radically different. Sorry if that is too abstract for people.

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Nov 21 2011 16:39

Dare I say it is actually you who are taking social workers out of their context? it is exactly the concrete context (and not an abstract argument about 'state agent') which i am finding difficult to grapple with. And yes, I am saying, quite often friends can be part of the problem (especially amongst drug users for example). Exactly friends and family, what has been known, euphemistically of course, as the 'skeleton in the closet' that allow abuse to carry on for years. I find some of your abstractions compelling Blasto, but they are really not helping me a lot with the concrete. Social workers deal with complex needs. Lets take an example, abuse parents who take drugs. Often abusive parents will have been abused themselves (by their family) and if they take drugs then, in all likely hood, so do all their mates. How the hell do you expect a family member to deal with all of this?

I asked you earlier for the essential and fundamentals of the social worker, but all you seem to have done is said they are paid because they are hired by the state. Under that logic, is the only thing bad about the social role of the police is that they are state agents? What about the military?

Look, what I am saying is, if communism is 'the real movement that abolishes the existing state* of things' we need to look very concretely at what the real is rather than slap it with abstractions....

* In the double sense of state here

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Nov 21 2011 17:09

Call it a de-rail if you will but I for one would like to see this conversation be made more self-reflexive by taking up the essential and fundamental role of internet forums. As Marx once wrote, to be radical is to go to the root and the root is Man Himself; thus we should begin with the sensuous particularity before us, the real social practice we are currently witnessing (because all social practice is largely witnessed rather than directly lived, the result of the mediation imposed by the spectacle so deftly dissected in Debord's master work). It seems to me that the fiction of free discussion provided by such sites, at its core, props up the fiction that political freedom exists in a reified society dominated by the fetishism of commodities. That political freedom presumes atomized, isolated individuals, just as does market society, and the basic unit of internet forum debate is the atomized isolated individual poster - ideology materialized. Until this fundamental contradiction within this social space is confronted the rest is abstraction reinforcing bourgeois ideology and is thus anti-proletarian. After all, the British Library will soon be archiving libcom; we will then all join, officially, with parliamentary endorsement, the weight of dead traditions pressing nightmarishly on the brains of the living.

I am genuinely interested to see this debate develop and go further.

Blasto
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Nov 21 2011 17:46
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I asked you earlier for the essential and fundamentals of the social worker, but all you seem to have done is said they are paid because they are hired by the state. Under that logic, is the only thing bad about the social role of the police is that they are state agents? What about the military?

I didn't say that. I said they bring State power into a situation. But even beyond that (as I alluded to in an addition to my previous post), social work isn't a broad description of a range of roles, its a specific occupation with a professional qualification and legal and social policy framework within which it operates. So to talk of a function is very accurate, not abstract. And to talk of State power is very accurate, not abstract.

When someone chooses to become a social worker, they are choosing to enter that framework, not only as a helper but as an agent of very real state power. For example, being sectioned* is very concrete.

The recipients of social work are (by a very large majority) working class. Infact, they are often those within the working class that are the poorest and most vulnerable. The perspective of social work (radical or otherwise) is a middle class perspective in that it attempts to manage someone's situation from a position of professional superiority. A social worker/client transaction is a class transaction.
You can't ignore the enormous power differential at play (from the client's point of view, its them versus the State). Or the professional training the social worker has, that further disempowers the client. Or that fact that no matter how caring and sharing the social worker is, they are sanctioned by and have recourse to State power. They are backed up by and can defer to their line managers, the police and the mental health apparatus.

Social work is increasingly presented as a guardian of basic values, and an anti-oppressive service that aims to alleviate society's problems. It does this to some extent, but that is a very incomplete picture, and my earlier point is that many other people also alleviate exactly the same problems without being social workers. The voluntary sector, for example, is full of projects (admittedly the good, the bad and the downright ugly) that address every conceivable fucked up situation you can imagine. Infact voluntary organisations are full of ex-social workers who have perhaps found roles that don't require such a client submission to power.** So rather than think about what good social workers do (that is the Aufheben JD defence - "cops do humane things too"), think about what differentiates a social worker from other people who might usefully intervene in a personal crisis.

* Compulsory admittance to hospital and potentially involuntary treatment under the Mental Health Act (UK).
** As I have said in a much earlier post, I am also critical of the voluntary sector (which is increasingly happy to serve as the softer face of the State), but hopefully you get at what I am saying here - there are many groups that focus on survival without recourse to overt power relations.

Spikymike
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Nov 21 2011 17:38

Izbl,

If you are not prepared to flesh out your assertion in your post 149 please don't call Blasto's attempt at clarifying their point of view 'stupid'. Either respond properly or just ignore it!

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Nov 21 2011 18:15
lzbl wrote:
It's an interesting discussion but I don't really have time for it at the moment. Planning a piece for the library about social work and libertarian communism though, so any discussion would be good material.

Well here's some material concerning direct experience of the actions of social workers and the unequal power relations between these professionals and their clients:

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/carers-their-role-place-todays-sad-new-world-14062009

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Nov 21 2011 19:28
Blasto wrote:
With the greatest of respect, I won't. If you don't understand the concept of middle class (which in the UK at least is common currency), then there are a whole heap of economic and sociological definitions available online. Perhaps start with a bloke called Karl Marx?

I asked you, how you define and use the term because frankly the way you use it is completely abstract and jumbled. A mish-mash of sociological, Marx-isht, Weberian, and lay culture-as-identity meanings (that the term is common currency in the UK means fuck all; what it means is actually more interesting). Though you seem to be partial to the Wikipedia one, but how would I know since you can't be bothered to actually spell out what you actually mean. Instead you rant on about this nebulous entity, subsume a lot of occupations under it without actually knowing what e.g. academic or social work is (since, I presume, you haven't worked in either profession).

And Marx's definition of the middle class was a peculiar one btw; those that get make their living off revenue rather than wages or profits. The middle class in Marx thus comprises state workers, artists with patronage and domestic workers. Hardly a helpful category for political analysis.

tastybrain
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Nov 21 2011 19:54
Khawaga wrote:
Blasto wrote:
If we accept that being a university lecturer is a middle class function, we have understood the nature of that function. We have understood that a lecturer might be revolutionary, but despite their class role. As a revolutionary, they (probably with others) have critically evaluated their role and come to a conclusion about whether or not it is directly at odds with their communist perspective (as any sane person would as far as what JD does goes) or whether it is largely benign, and also whether their class position is at odds with a communist praxis (for example, they become unable to act for fear of losing that position).

I have a bit of a problem following your arguments Blasto because they're so abstract. You refer to middle class function, but leave it very open what that actually is. Could you please explain? And what is the class interest of the middle class? If the middle class is neither working nor capitalist, then their interest must somehow be different from both. Or are you using middle class as those that are not capitalist (in the sense of buying labour-power), but nevertheless share the interest of capital? Or middle class as those that have the power to hire and fire?

Whether teachers, academics etc. are middle class depends on what your definition of the middle class and the middle class function.

Btw, are lecturer tenured in the UK? In North America a lecturer is just above a TA in the academic hierarchy (at my university they're even paid worse than us TAs).

In my experience most academics that bleat about being a radical academic or whatever are those with tenure. WIth job security nothing is really on the line, and even if you could put it all on the line they never ever, but they'll tell you in courses that their radical function is to teach kids (and put on horrible courses where they 'teach' student activism and the like).

^This.

Quote:
If we accept that being a university lecturer is a middle class function, we have understood the nature of that function.

No offense, Blasto, but that just seems like circular logic. Merely branding someone "middle class" does exactly nothing to clarify their real class function. I find it funny that people keep talking about analyzing people's specific class function in the context of real, day to day life but we keep coming back to the abstraction of the "middle class". And yes, lecturers are pretty low on the academic hierarchy.

Blasto wrote:
With the greatest of respect, I won't. If you don't understand the concept of middle class (which in the UK at least is common currency), then there are a whole heap of economic and sociological definitions available online. Perhaps start with a bloke called Karl Marx?

The problem is, there is not really one agreed-upon definition of "middle class". As I stated in another thread, in the US nearly everyone thinks of themselves as "middle class". And surely the class structure has changed since Marx's time?

Blasto wrote:
Here's a little bit from Wikipedia which attempts to describe the middle class and its class interest:
Quote:
The anarchist definition of the "coordinator class" includes people such as bureaucrats, technocrats, managers, administrators, middle-class intellectuals (such as economists, political and social scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, etc.), physical scientists, judges, lawyers, military officials, political party organizers and leaders, etc [....] Still others (for example, Council communists) allege, like anarchists, that there is a class comprising intellectuals, technocrats and managers which seeks power in its own right. This last group of communists allege that such technocratic middle classes seized power and government for themselves in Soviet-style societies.
Anarchists contend that Marxism fails, and will always fail, because it creates a dictatorship of the coordinating technocratic/managerial class and that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a logical impossibility. Mikhail Bakunin foreshadowed this argument when he wrote:

[The] State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class: a priestly class, an aristocratic class, a bourgeois class. And finally, when all the other classes have exhausted themselves, the State then becomes the patrimony of the bureaucratic class and then falls—or, if you will, rises—to the position of a machine.
—On the International Workingmen's Association and Karl Marx, 1872

So far people have referred to class being determined by power relations as well as income, which I am perfectly willing to accept. Lecturers really don't have very much power over their students. State universities and private colleges are not mandatory, first of all, so the student it on some level voluntarily choosing to be taught (although there are of course economic incentives to get a degree). They have the power to give their students bad grades and hurt them that way, but this is really a pretty negligible amount of power. It's further counterbalanced by the fact that lecturers must make sure students attend their classes in adequate numbers or they could lose classes (and therefore money) or even their job altogether. This gives lecturers an incentive to give good grades and generally behave in an easygoing manner, as a lecturer who is known as a harsh grader or as abusive to his/her students will not get as many students signing up. There are also student evaluations, another incentive that keeps lecturers relatively laid back. If they behave like jerks in the classroom and attempt to dominate the students they will get negative feedback on their evals and may face disciplining from the administration.

All of these features of the job (notice how I am referring to concrete conditions rather than merely lumping lecturers in with "military officers" "party organizers" and other anarchist shibboleths, throwing the middle class label and hoping it sticks) lead me to conclude that the "management" aspect of the job, the power wielded over students, is fairly minor. Some lecturers (I know of at least one) purposely refuse some of this limited power by refusing to fail students and being fairly loose about attendance.) In addition to that, lecturers do not have the power of the state to call upon, like social workers do, even if they do work at a public university. So what is it about the job that is so "middle class"? It's intellectual labor, sure, but so is graphic design and I don't really think of that as being "middle class."

tastybrain
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Nov 22 2011 01:48
Blasto wrote:
Tastybrain, you seem to be mistaking a widely held understanding of class with the Khmer Rouge! No one has said a doctor can't be a revolutionary. What has been said is that doctors are middle class. They may even have a working class background, but as a doctor they are middle class. If someone middle class develops a revolutionary praxis then they have understood their own class position and have begun to think and act against their own class interests.

How is communism or being a communist against the class interests of doctors?

Blasto wrote:
Likewise, no-one has said an academic (and for the sake of simplicity and the avoidance of hair splitting, in this instance let's say "a lecturer") can't be a revolutionary. What has been said is it is a middle class job - its class nature isn't defined by remuneration or working conditions (though these often all go together) but by its status and function in a capitalist class society.

What is it about a lecturer's "status and function" that make him or her "middle class" (a term which I would still like to see more clearly defined)? Sure, maybe lecturers are respected by some more than people who work other jobs, but so are firefighters and nurses. As for the "function" of a lecturer, I am absolutely willing to admit there are some lecturers who are spreading insidious bourgeois ideology in their classrooms (economics lecturers, for example.) On the other hand, a lot of what is being taught is fairly neutral, like computer science or genetics. As someone who is interested in the field of history, I have found that most of my history professors have approached both the state and capitalism from a decidedly negative direction --- it's rare that someone will speak out in favor of the nation state, free market enterprise, etc etc.

Blasto wrote:
We have understood that a lecturer might be revolutionary, but despite their class role.

Why "despite"? I mean sure, lecturers serve capital, but so does every worker. That's what being a worker is; being exploited by capital.

Blasto wrote:
As a revolutionary, they (probably with others) have critically evaluated their role and come to a conclusion about whether or not it is directly at odds with their communist perspective (as any sane person would as far as what JD does goes) or whether it is largely benign, and also whether their class position is at odds with a communist praxis (for example, they become unable to act for fear of losing that position).

I'm all for critically evaluating one's role, but I see that as a necessity for everyone, not just just lecturers and other professionals. How is any worker to realize they are exploited and the nature of that exploitation without such an evaluation? Also, fearing to act because one fears losing one's job is hardly confined to professional jobs.

EDIT: Also, are you saying being a lecturer is always directly at odds with a communist perspective? Because I just don't see it.

Blasto wrote:
(BTW, Given that the class struggle is here and now, positions along the lines of "come the revolution I'll throw my lot in with the working class, but in the meantime...." are an obvious acceptance of class position over class struggle and are the fantasies of those who chatter but rarely or never act).

I don't understand your point here. No one has said lecturers should just sit tight until the revolution or have the right to. I think lecturers should struggle for their own interests and in solidarity with others, just like all workers should.

Blasto wrote:
The reason this is essentially important, and why the two-class position is actually quite deadly, is because we have to be acutely aware of class interests in order that they don't work against us. Who is it who actually defeats revolutions? In the first instance it may the police or the army, but ultimately it is the soft cops and the armies of recuperators - the middle class. The very people so often at the vanguard are the ones who define its limits and bring the full weight of their class power against it when their own class interests are best served.

I agree with the bolded part, although you should flesh out how lecturers class interests would act against a communist movement (if that's what you think).

I also think what you have written here lets the "traditional working class" off the hook. It's not always just middle class recuperators, it's the workers who accept them and accept the limits that are arbitrarily placed on their struggle. Blaming everything on the middle classes often lets the "real workers" off the hook for timidity and complacency.

Blasto wrote:
I'd have thought the Dr J case makes all this screamingly obvious? Though in that particular case, as we know Dr J has considerable insight and intelligence, it would appear to go beyond class awareness into the realms duplicity, (self-)deception and the betrayal of those he presents his communist persona to.

What is also quite obvious is that he is far from alone.

This is not obvious to me. J's behavior is clearly unacceptable and his being an academic has little to do with it. Most academics don't do that sort of thing and I personally would never, ever collaborate with the state. Of course, the police are unlikely to ever want to hear a lecture from a historian anyway...

Blasto wrote:
For each of us, we act from where we are - that seems obvious doesn't it?. There is no point being a lecturer, a social worker or and calling yourself a communist if you are not bringing your class perspective to bear on the world as you find it. Anything else is just becomes an abstraction, the struggle becomes something elsewhere, reality received and mediated through the experiences of others. Like footie fans in the pub, you can wear the colours, make all the noise and offer all the analysis you like, but you have no effect on the game.

What you seem to be saying here is that lecturers and social workers should engage in class struggle just like other workers. I agree.

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Nov 21 2011 21:37

Blasto makes a point that we should be aware of how our different jobs and backgrounds influence our politics and change how we (can) act. Which is sort of the whole point of the class concept.

Few would deny that having shitloads of "middle class" people, however nebulously we define it, will influence an organisation. I don't think this influence is likely to be positive, having self aware middle class people would help a bit. Constantly discussing this is a bit problematic though as it becomes a weird middle class guilt thing that as far as I can tell helps noone.

The strict, introspective and selective way advocated by some seems counterproductive, elitist and the hallmark of those who want to belong to small sects of the pure.

I find the tendency of attracting select monks as troubling as attracting hordes of toffs.

Can't the problems be dealt with when they happen as currently with Aufheben? Are the academics that dangerous we need to keep them in check from the get go?

(my job is now one considered middle class and for good reason, not because of the pay or power though.)

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Nov 21 2011 23:49

It's a little bit difficult to contribute in an argument going as fast as this but I'll give a try. It may happen that something was already covered and overly discussed.

To the original post: I think it's useless to argue over professions where "pro-revolutionary" could come from. While I find dangerously ignorant at its best to think that somehow magically one can merge her profession with any political activity, there is something really appealing of some position where seriously minded anarchist just not tend to participate. I agree with those saying that we all are building capitalism in one way or on other assuming that we are working, and it would be delusional to think that there are exceptions of this rule, but no one with firm understanding of the ways of capitalist exploitation would get in a position where the position itself disgustingly close to the matters of exploitation and/or control, repression. Academics of social sciences tend to have some activist background, at least more than others, and not in spite of their political beliefs (such as education would produce more conscious movement). I think one of the most brilliant context of this problem given by Lukacs Gyorgy in the History and Class Consciousness where he takes on an example of a journalist. Alienation understood by Marx as an aspect of the division of labour, and in the case of a journalist, the classical industrial worker's stereotype is somewhat more subtle: Where as the factory worker is as good as she's doing a good job, her political and social beliefs and thoughts aren't part of the deal. The factory worker could tell his problem with the prime minister, or whatever issue, but the journo can not. But in the case of journo, the personal beliefs has to be separated from the "product", thus it is inevitable that this thin line of a vivid self-alienation, a division of labour within, would result wide possibilities ranging from absurd belief in the public opinion to the absolute loyalty for the existing social forms (that is, no author can be so celebrated and read than those who are well satisfied with their positions). That makes certain jobs more suspect of distrust and it is well learned from previous mistakes.

2-classism, or what the hell is that:
If I understand the term correctly, I'm certainly 2classist. That is, in my understanding the material conditions of the society could be the best modelled by two major income-class: the working class and the bourgeoisie. But to understand the way how capitalism exploits people, how is it possible the accumulation of wealth on one side while on the other, broader side there is poverty, and powerlessness, doesn't mean that this is the line in the sand for communist. Drawing solidarity must be simple for sure, but this is not sufficient by far. If we would take the middle-class in to account properly, this is sociological classification, and its real content can not be interpreted within the reach of economical analysis of capital re-production. One of you referred to the middle-class from the mainstream political discourse, and that is a vital piece of information in it self. The mainstream political discourse is in fact manifestation of the capitalist control, it is its language. What is told on this political level of reality are is behaviour code that must be followed and applied. If the politicians are talking about saving the middle class, it is nothing but erecting a social fortress around the ruling class who is exactly the ideal citizen: her idea of the social machinery is of or very close to the ruling class, but more numerous and considerably less cheaper. The middle class social function (and not unique economical interest) to actively manage the social reproduction while being paid for it. In my view the middle class is rather a institution rather than material interest in it self. The middle class can not easily identified by its profession or income in particular. It is a political creation though not completely deliberate act, more like a long forged side-product of social struggles.

Thus I don't identify my self as middle class, because I don't have such an aspiration nor having anything to do with managing the capitalist production. But many perhaps would say knowing that I'm a software developer with quite good income at this point of time, so I qualify as a middle class. One thing though I learned through my own experience, that it's not a good idea to organise workers at my usual workplaces, because it is actively based on the practices of control. For communists this isn't a good place to reach the movement. There must be an other way and similar issues are applied for many other social positions (profession, job, family circumstances) where the abstract view of two classes would prove too rigid, or better, more abstract than it could be translated to those social realities. Holding up the good ol' marxian pro-verb, the material conditions are shaping our ideas about the world, and the fact that we come together for building a community of human beings (or even further than that), is still driven by the particularity of our material situations.

Blasto
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Nov 22 2011 13:25

Tastybrain
I am not sure what is to be achieved here, but I will persevere, simply because a genuine question warrants a genuine answer. But first, talk of "abstractions" is utterly missing the point. Class, if you like, is an abstraction. It's a more or less simplistic theoretical model that attempts to make sense of a complex and ever-shifting set of social relations.

There is more than one thing going on at once - interests are not simply financial - there are all sorts of social forces at work, and different interest groups in society naturally assert their own interests.The model (which ever one you look at) is either useful or not, but either way it is not truth. It is a representation of the world, not the world itself. If you try and test any theory of class against every real world situation it will quickly reveal its shortcomings.That is the way with generalisations.

If the purpose of this is to make sense of and act in the real world, then people who spend their lives simply building up a pure and perfect class model are an irrelevance. And if you find a particular analysis makes no sense of a situation then step back and look at things another way. There is a tendency to try and get reality to fit the map rather than the other way round. That is a sure-fire route to ideology.

So when I am accused of having a patchwork miss mash view of class - well, there are no absolutes. And if Weber (if I had read him) may help me understand one thing, while Marx another, then so be it. I'd rather be promiscuous with ideas than wedded to an ideology.

So tastybrain, I am not sure exactly what you are after, but anyone who who thinks they'll find the key to knowledge - a pure truth - is a bigger fool than me. I should also be clear that I am not posting here because I think I have a perfect understanding of the world (and the more I write, the more you'll no doubt pick holes in my analysis), but because real life has caught up with an Aufheben academic. Concrete consequences. And why? Perhaps because for the academics (and the wider middle class), "the struggle for communism" and "everyday life" are all too easily divorced from one another? Perhaps because of the mediating nature of those roles? Perhaps because intellectual roles require too heavy a price in terms of self-identification? Perhaps because academics are required, day in, day out, to produce and reproduce dominant ideology? Perhaps because the personal gains of getting a middle class job (if you have come from a working class background) start to outweigh the benefits of attacking your exploitation (that is an example of class interest)? Perhaps something else, or many things? These are honest questions, not a class inquisition. They are all at once true and false depending on who, where and when they are applied.

I may or may not summon up the energy to reply to all the other stuff, and I am not sure how much use my replies would be, but this one is easy so I'll go for it:

tastybrain wrote:

How is communism or being a communist against the class interests of doctors?

Rather than waste time creating some kind of class profile of doctors, how does an average GP income of £110,000 sound for starters? That's quite a big chunk of class interest. You could also look at power, status, etc., or browse through BMC papers to get a feel for their self-interest, but do that yourself as I am already quite satisfied about the class status of doctors and looking into that any further is just a waste of energy.

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Malva
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Nov 22 2011 13:19
Quote:
The middle class social function (and not unique economical interest) to actively manage the social reproduction while being paid for it. In my view the middle class is rather a institution rather than material interest in it self. The middle class can not easily identified by its profession or income in particular. It is a political creation though not completely deliberate act, more like a long forged side-product of social struggles.

Thus I don't identify my self as middle class, because I don't have such an aspiration nor having anything to do with managing the capitalist production. But many perhaps would say knowing that I'm a software developer with quite good income at this point of time, so I qualify as a middle class. One thing though I learned through my own experience, that it's not a good idea to organise workers at my usual workplaces, because it is actively based on the practices of control. For communists this isn't a good place to reach the movement. There must be an other way and similar issues are applied for many other social positions (profession, job, family circumstances) where the abstract view of two classes would prove too rigid, or better, more abstract than it could be translated to those social realities. Holding up the good ol' marxian pro-verb, the material conditions are shaping our ideas about the world, and the fact that we come together for building a community of human beings (or even further than that), is still driven by the particularity of our material situations.

This is great stuff. I'm sociologically middle class in terms of my background and possible future job prospects but I've often used the term as an insult towards other people. It's because there are these total wankers out there who completely identify with this institution. My private school was particularly bad. It was basically a factory for producing this institution. I was constantly being bullied by certain members of staff for not respecting their shitty values and their mediocre desires. The place was meant to churn out journos, scientists, lawyers and doctors with the correct institutional values to serve this middle class function. Calling the middle class an institution rather than a class in the revolutionary sense makes wayyyy more sense to me. Brilliant.

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Malva
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Nov 22 2011 13:24

I should also add that my supervisor/boss recently tried this exact same institutionalisation on me at university. He was giving all this spiel about how the role of the university is to civilize a society. He told us this in the context of asking me and some colleagues what 'serving the nation' meant for an academic. I guffawed and told him that the nation is an abstraction that has led to the death of millions if not billions of people. One of my other colleagues agreed with me thankfully. He was visibly unimpressed. Sadly my job prospects in the future could be influenced negatively by me taking such a stance. I'm still going to fucking take it though. It is all the worse because this same academic has built his entire career on writing about radical authors and even told me he was an anarchist once. Don't ask me who it is though!

Blasto
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Nov 22 2011 13:38
Malva wrote:
I should also add that my supervisor/boss recently tried this exact same institutionalisation on me at university. He was giving all this spiel about how the role of the university is to civilize a society. He told us this in the context of asking me and some colleagues what 'serving the nation' meant for an academic. I guffawed and told him that the nation is an abstraction that has led to the death of millions if not billions of people. One of my other colleagues agreed with me thankfully. He was visibly unimpressed. Sadly my job prospects in the future could be influenced negatively by me taking such a stance. I'm still going to fucking take it though. It is all the worse because this same academic has built his entire career on writing about radical authors and even told me he was an anarchist once. Don't ask me who it is though!

A really interesting insight. Universities are full of ex/lapsed rebels (and some who clearly should be ex-rebels but haven't understood that yet). While I wouldn't suggest it is typical of all academics, it is a very classic description of recuperation at work.

BTW, have you ever seen If...

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Malva
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Nov 22 2011 13:44

I haven't seen If! But it looks fantastic! If only because it has the dude from A Clockwork Orange in it. I shall check it out. Thanks.

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Khawaga
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Nov 22 2011 14:06
Blasto wrote:
So when I am accused of having a patchwork miss mash view of class - well, there are no absolutes. And if Weber (if I had read him) may help me understand one thing, while Marx another, then so be it. I'd rather be promiscuous with ideas than wedded to an ideology.

I didn't accuse you of anything, Blasto. I said it appears as if you have a mish-mash view of class, the implication that it was not very clearly defined. No need to find the absolute truth of anything (it's no even possible), but for purposes of discussion it is nice to know where the goalposts are. And I actually think that there is something to Weber in his notion of status as being part of class (hence the reason I thought you were using him partly for your understanding).

I am still, however, confused what you mean by middle class. It is an honest question. I do believe that there is a middle segment that because of their specific role will have more difficulty identifying their class interest as that of the working class. But I find it weird that when it came to a specific question about doctors it was back to income. As many people have pointed out in this thread, academics (since it's about them here) are typically very poorly paid unless you have tenure.

I am not looking for absolutes here, Blasto, at all. But you continue to make assertions about what you should and shouldn't do based on the middle class and its function, so I am pretty confused.

Blasto
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Nov 22 2011 16:24
Khawaga wrote:
I do believe that there is a middle segment that because of their specific role will have more difficulty identifying their class interest as that of the working class.

Then we are probably not very far apart. There are class functions and interests that are pre-occupied with the working class in terms of educating, controlling, judging, managing, mystifying, adjudicating, psychologising, rescuing, punishing, marrying & divorcing, indebting, counselling, and so on.

Khawaga wrote:
But I find it weird that when it came to a specific question about doctors it was back to income. As many people have pointed out in this thread, academics (since it's about them here) are typically very poorly paid unless you have tenure.

I started with income as in this case its a useful shorthand indicator, but I added

Quote:
You could also look at power, status, etc., or browse through BMC papers to get a feel for their self-interest

If people understand that academia is not simply a degree factory, but also has very specific functions regarding social reproduction, dominant ideology and social control (in its broadest sense, or in JD's case, a specific sense), then I have succeeded in my point. If we arrive at the same point in terms of the possible implications of unquestioningly undertaking particular roles, then all is good, because at the end of the day whether someone is working or middle class has no meaning except in terms of its practical implications in the real world.

****
Just to add, BMC = British Medical Council

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rat
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Nov 22 2011 17:45

This seems to be the most succinct phrase relating to the situation:

Blasto wrote:
because real life has caught up with an Aufheben academic
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Nov 23 2011 08:34
zero wrote:
This seems to be the most succinct phrase relating to the situation:
Blasto wrote:
because real life has caught up with an Aufheben academic

I prefer this phrasing:

Some surprisingly unprincipled people caught up with an Aufheben academic and behaved in an unprincipled way for reasons that appear to be either petty or stupid or both.

It's probably because of those people's essentially middle class function which is a real abstraction etc etc ad nauseum.

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Nov 23 2011 08:41
Cooked wrote:
we should be aware of how our different jobs and backgrounds influence our politics and change how we (can) act.

That makes sense to me. It kind of reminds me of this:

Quote:
we can see that, in jobs with a repetitive content (telemarking, cleaning, textile workshops), the subjective implication with the task performed is zero and this leads to forms of conflict of pure refusal: generalized absenteeism, dropout-ism, sabotage… In telemarketing, for example, absenteeism is the number one problem for the departments of human resources, which rack their brains in search of strategies to deal with it: from the relocation to the old colonies of the mother firm (Marruecos and Argentina in the case of Spanish firms) to the contracting of more blackmailed subjects (women heads of household between 40 and 50 years of age) or the attempt to inculcate loyalty among the workforce, changing telemarketing to one of the branches of professional education. On the other hand, in jobs where the content is of the vocational/professional type (from nursing to informatics, to social work to research) and, as such, the subjective implication with the task performed is high, conflict is expressed as critique: of the organization of labor, of the logic that articulates it, of the ends toward which it is structured… This can be seen very clearly in the mobilizations of nurses in France in the 90s, in the present struggles of the intermittents in the media also in France or in the free software impelled by programmers all over the world in the face of the logic of proprietary software of the big corporations. Finally, in those jobs where the content is directly invisibilized and/or stigmatized (the most paradigmatic examples are cleaning work, home care, and sexual work, especially – but not only – street prostitution), conflict manifests as a demand for dignity and the recognition of the social value of what is done. “Fucking, fucking it’s a service to the community” chant the whores of Montera street in their demonstrations against the constant police harrassment and the criminalizing plans of the mayor of the city of Madrid.

From here http://caringlabor.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/precarias-a-la-deriva-precarious-lexicon/

Those orientations toward work are a matter of likelihood, though. Professionals and tradesmen are more likely to be like "let's do our work differently!" and more lower strata workers are more likely to be like "fuck it!" but this is just probability, not certainty. People aren't puppets hanging from strings pulled by social functions.

lines
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Nov 23 2011 10:28

Admin: please refrain from personal attacks and read the posting guidelines.

Spikymike
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Nov 23 2011 12:59

lines exasperation at some posters unwillingness to understand what he understands to be the depths to which the material conditions of life ( economic, social and environmental) in capitalism determine our social behavior has got the better of him with this unecessary post.

He may have more in his armoury than I to use these kind of personal descriptions of posters but most people trying to follow this thread will not.

Nate's quote is not irrelevant to this discussion though I can see that for lines and some others, including myself, it can be viewed as seeking to, undermine the significance of the ideological roles and the heirachical and power divisions which have been at the centre of this discussion by a dispersal or atomisation of the 'problem' accross all jobs and functions in equal measure.

I don't believe anyone here has suggested that individuals are necessarily 100% determined by their capitalist environment in some kind of behavioral fashion but rather that individuals cannot by a shear act of will escape those conditions and that individuals holding to some anarchist/communist 'ideology' does not make them immune to these influences.

The extent of those influences on the tiny pro-revolutionary milieu and not just individuals, is something which has continued to be debated on this site with a range of views from that of Camatte and the dismissal of all political groups as 'rackets' at one extreme to the view of others that 'building the movement ' or 'building the party' is the essential meansl to establish communism. Whilst rejecting this latter view I have always resisted the attempt to dismiss all efforts at pro-revolutionary organisation in the here and now.

There is a tendency towards economic determinism (derived in my opinion from a particular and erroneous interpretation of marxism) in lines approach which I reject, but this can sometimes be a useful corrective to the 'idealism' inherant in much of the politics of those represented in discussions on libcom including this thread.

Blasto
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Nov 23 2011 16:18
Nate wrote:
Cooked wrote:
we should be aware of how our different jobs and backgrounds influence our politics and change how we (can) act.

That makes sense to me. It kind of reminds me of this:

Quote:
we can see that, in jobs with a repetitive content (telemarking, cleaning, textile workshops), the subjective implication with the task performed is zero and this leads to forms of conflict of pure refusal: generalized absenteeism, dropout-ism, sabotage… In telemarketing, for example, absenteeism is the number one problem for the departments of human resources, which rack their brains in search of strategies to deal with it: from the relocation to the old colonies of the mother firm (Marruecos and Argentina in the case of Spanish firms) to the contracting of more blackmailed subjects (women heads of household between 40 and 50 years of age) or the attempt to inculcate loyalty among the workforce, changing telemarketing to one of the branches of professional education. On the other hand, in jobs where the content is of the vocational/professional type (from nursing to informatics, to social work to research) and, as such, the subjective implication with the task performed is high, conflict is expressed as critique: of the organization of labor, of the logic that articulates it, of the ends toward which it is structured… This can be seen very clearly in the mobilizations of nurses in France in the 90s, in the present struggles of the intermittents in the media also in France or in the free software impelled by programmers all over the world in the face of the logic of proprietary software of the big corporations. Finally, in those jobs where the content is directly invisibilized and/or stigmatized (the most paradigmatic examples are cleaning work, home care, and sexual work, especially – but not only – street prostitution), conflict manifests as a demand for dignity and the recognition of the social value of what is done. “Fucking, fucking it’s a service to the community” chant the whores of Montera street in their demonstrations against the constant police harrassment and the criminalizing plans of the mayor of the city of Madrid.

From here http://caringlabor.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/precarias-a-la-deriva-precarious-lexicon/

Those orientations toward work are a matter of likelihood, though. Professionals and tradesmen are more likely to be like "let's do our work differently!" and more lower strata workers are more likely to be like "fuck it!" but this is just probability, not certainty. People aren't puppets hanging from strings pulled by social functions.

Of course people are not puppets, but no one suggests they are. You say that different social/economic function/status (and by definition, class) is likely to affect people's responses to their alienation in different ways. Hasn't that been the whole point of this thread?

As for your previous comment, its the person who points out the collaboration with the police that is stupid and unprincipled? Your world seems a little upside-down.