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Professor Richard Building Sustainable Societies. 30 June 2014. Social sustainability,

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1 Professor Richard Hall @hallymk1 Building Sustainable Societies. 30 June 2014. Social sustainability, mass intellectuality and the idea of the University


3 Three statements on the University and the secular crisis. ONE. Our labour as students and staff is folded inside a systemic, historical crisis of capitalism. This secular crisis demands a courageous political return. TWO. Historical, socialised value is being accumulated by associations of capitals acting transnationally through commodification, financialisation and coercion. This is a material reality, and we are told that there is no alternative. THREE. The University is a central site of struggle over our social reproduction. What is to be done?

4 A note on value as compulsion* * c.f. see below for values

5 Value emerges as a form of sociability (as capital) from the unity of three circuits. It is formed of moments of the circulation of money, of production, and of commodities. If we combine all three forms, all premises of the process appear as its result, as a premise produced by it itself. Every element appears as a point of departure, of transit, and of return. The total process presents itself as the unity of the processes of production and circulation. The process of production becomes the mediator of the process of circulation and vice versa. All three circuits have the following in common: The self-expansion of value as the determining purpose, as the compelling motive. (Marx, K. 1885. Capital, Volume 2, Chapter 4.)Marx

6 Accumulated value, and the power that accompanies it, means that other forms of human or humane value in the production of commodities are marginalised. Value recalibrates the world, and the duality of the means of production and the product itself needs to be addressed in terms of value, or an alternative form of sociability. “The difficulty of living in a society dominated by value necessarily leads to the creation of all sorts of ideologies to explain the suffering caused by such a society and that enable the subjects of labour to project onto others the qualities that they are forced to expel from themselves (e.g., “laziness,” “emotions”).” Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 25(2): 11

7 because labor is determined as a necessary means of individual reproduction in capitalist society, wage laborers remain dependent on capital’s “growth,” even when the consequences of their labor, ecological and otherwise, are detrimental to themselves and to others. The tension between the exigencies of the commodity form and ecological requirements becomes more severe as productivity increases and, particularly during economic crises and periods of high unemployment, poses a severe dilemma. This dilemma and the tension in which it is rooted are immanent to capitalism: their ultimate resolution will be hindered so long as value remains the determining form of social wealth. Postone, M. 1996. Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 313.

8 Some context: the University restructured for value


10 UUK. 2013. Strategic Plan, 2013-18, p. 4.


12 Lord Young, adviser to the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise:

13 Without radical changes to how universities were financed however it was going to be difficult to change their behaviour. Now there is an opportunity to use our funding changes to push a real cultural change back towards teaching (emphasis added, p. 47) Willetts, D. 2013. Robbins Revisited: Bigger and Better Higher Education. London: Social Market Foundation. See also: the use of secondary legislation; student debt and university funding; leveraging finance capital and the bond markets; student number controls; core and marginal numbers; deregulation; monetisation of the student loan book; student loans and credit default swaps/derivatives; internationalisation; MOOC-boosterism; learning analytics/data; lean/MSP methods; zero-hour contracts, casualization and outsourcing; the entrepreneurial turn; corporate partnerships;etc..

14 Zerohedge. 2014. Student Loans Hit Record $1.08 Trillion.

15 Zerohedge. 2014. Europe’s Peak Youth Unemployment.

16 Debt is a way of life. "Anyone put off... university by fear of... debt doesn’t deserve to be at university in the first place“. Michael Gove, quoted at Next Left:

17 TUC. 2009:


19 The University and the secular crisis

20 it is impossible to understand the role of the University without developing a critique of its relationships to a transnational capitalist class restructuring the University for hegemony issues of governance, regulation and funding transformed for value (pace Robinson, W.I. 2004. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World. Johns Hopkins UP)

21 1.Networks of power and affinity, that enable the re-production of ‘geographies of social relationships’. 2.Networks form shifting assemblages of activity and relationships that reinforce hegemonic power. 3.Transnational activist networks consisting of: i.academics and think tanks; ii.policy-makers and administrators; capital, private equity funds, credit ratings agencies; corporations and publishers; v.philanthropists/hedge-funds interested in corporate social responsibility etc.; aim to regulate the state for enterprise and the market. Ball, S. 2012. Global Education Inc. BUT c.f. Neary, 2012 and Davies, 2011, critique network governance.

22 neither the cyclical business downturns nor the upturns, nor a whole series of capitalist counter-measures (local and international), have resolved the underlying problems of the system... to lay the basis for a renewal of stable accumulation. the continuing threat to the existence of capitalism posed by antagonistic forces and trends which are inherent in its social structure and which persist through short term fluctuations and major restructurings. Cleaver, H. 1993. Theses on Secular Crisis in Capitalism: The Insurpassability of Class Antagonisms.

23 we’re looking at both a gigantic wealth transfer from the poor towards the rich and a huge bubble that allows that to happen, and that will make the poor even poorer when it bursts. Which seems inevitable, because debt by itself cannot create value. And if I’m right, what we’re seeing is not the incredible resiliency of the markets, and no real increase in asset value, but an increase in the threat to the social cohesion of our communities, cities and nations. Ilargi. 2013. How do we define value? The Automatic Earth.

24 1.Organisational change is the result of social forces in struggle and the need to overcome the temporal and spatial barriers to accumulation 2.Secular control: the power of transnational capitalism over the objective material reality of life, and which is reinforced technologically and pedagogically 3.To argue for emancipation through organisational innovation is to fetishise externalities, and to misunderstand how innovation is shaped by the clash of social forces and the desire of capital to escape the barriers imposed by labour

25 Defence or refusal? Who pushes back?





30 the possibility of struggle and emancipation lies in the autonomous organisations that exist within and between both the factory and the community, with a focus on the forms of labour and the exertion of “working class power… at the level of the social factory, politically recomposing the division between factory and community.” Cleaver, H. 1979. Reading Capital Politically, University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, p. 161. Available at:

31 Defence or refusal? A note on the University as anxiety machine



34 [value] is “totalitarian” in the sense that it aspires to turn everything into a commodity. But it will never be able to because such a society would be completely unliveable (there would no longer, for example, be friendship, love, the bringing up of children, etc.). The necessity for value to expand pushes it towards destroying the entire concrete world and at every level, economic, environmental, social and cultural. The critique of value does not only foresee an economic crisis of unprecedented dimensions but also the end of an entire “civilisation”. Even so, human life has not always been based on value, money and labour, even if it seems that some kind of fetishism has existed everywhere. Jappe, A. 2014. Towards a History of the Critique of Value. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. 25(2): 12

35 Culturally acceptable self-harming acts or activities Turp, M. 2001. Hidden Self-Harm: Narratives from Psychotherapy. London: Jessica Kingsley On becoming for ourselves: against the abstract destruction of our concrete selves Vygotsky, The Shorter Life, quoted in A. Blunden (1997), “Vygotsky and the Dialectical Method”. The sale of labor power has the effect of scrubbing all the concrete manifestations of labor from our consciousness. It does this by validating the reduction of our capacities to just another commodity in the market. Jehu, The Real Movement.

36 Mass Intellectuality and the idea of the University

37 the accumulation of knowledge and of skill, of the general productive forces of the social brain, is thus absorbed into capital, as opposed to labour, and hence appears as an attribute of capital, and more specifically of fixed capital [machinery]. Marx, K. 1993. Grundrisse. London: Penguin.

38 As intellectual workers we refuse the fetishised concept of the knowledge society and engage in teaching, learning and research only in so far as we can re-appropriate the knowledge that has been stolen from the workers that have produced this way of knowing (i.e. Abundance). In the society of abundance the university as an institutional form is dissolved, and becomes a social form or knowledge at the level of society (i.e. The General Intellect). It is only on this basis that we can knowingly address the global emergencies with which we are all confronted The University of Utopia. 2014. Anti-Curriculum: A course of action.

39 The idea of student as producer encourages the development of collaborative relations between student and academic for the production of knowledge. However, if this idea is to connect to the project of refashioning in fundamental ways the nature of the university, then further attention needs to be paid to the framework by which the student as producer contributes towards mass intellectuality. This requires academics and students to do more than simply redesign their curricula, but go further and redesign the organizing principle, (i.e. private property and wage labour), through which academic knowledge is currently being produced. Neary, M. and Winn, J. 2009. The Student as Producer. In, “The future of higher education: policy, pedagogy and the student experience”. Continuum, London, p. 137.

40 We need a new global alliance between the new “open” movements, the ecological movements, and the traditional social justice and emancipatory movements, in order to create “a grand alliance of the commons.” Bauwens, M., and Iacomella, F. 2013. Peer-to-Peer Economy and New Civilization Centred Around the Sustenance of the Commons.

41 Good Living The five revolutions: democratic; ethical; economic; social; Latin American dignity To build a fraternal and co-operative coexistence. The transformation of higher education and the transfer of knowledge in science, technology and innovation. The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good Living 2009-2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State.

42 Education is crucial to reinforce and diversify individual and social capabilities and potentialities, and to foster participative and critical citizens. Education remains one of the best ways of consolidating a democratic society that contributes to the eradication of economic, political, social and cultural inequalities. From a strategic perspective, it is essential to develop various forms of knowledge with high added value, as well as technical and technological research and innovation. The combination of ancestral forms of knowledge with state-of-the-art technology can reverse the current development model and contribute to the transition towards a model of accumulation based on bio-knowledge. The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good Living 2009- 2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State.

43 Mass intellectuality is based on our common ability to do, based on our needs and capacities and what needs to be done. What needs to be done raises doing from the level of the individual to the level of society. Pace Willetts, “a real cultural change back towards teaching”.

44 the ‘possibilities for associational networks’ ‘a little more of a politicised relation to truth in affairs of education, knowledge and academic practice’

45 counter-hegemony rooted in: radical subjectivity through the production of new forms of critical knowledge in everyday life spaces for the refusal of the violence of abstraction occupation of the idea of the public alternatives to the ideological and material conditions of domination the creation of democratic, open, worker co-operatives an abundance of love, rather than a scarcity of value

46 Is this possible inside the University? If not, how can we become the University rather than go to university? What is to be kept? What is to be abolished? What is to be done?

47 Licensing This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non- Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license See:

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