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The 2000 students sitting in at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts ignited occupations at a handful of neighboring buildings and campuses, then leapt across Austria and into Germany (where already last summer a quarter million students, faculty, teachers, and parents struck to fight various sleazy American-model* initiatives being pushed by the aptly-named “Bologna Process”).

Californians are mad as hell too. Over 600 militants from every sector of California public education–K-12, CSU, UC, the community colleges–met last week to plan a rolling series of actions in a statewide mobilization.

The first statewide event is a planned massive, open-ended and systemwide UC strike beginning November 18, the day that California regents vote on a 30% increase in tuition and faculty/staff furloughs. The planners vow to stay out if the regents vote to support Yudof’s proposals. Future mobilizations will include all education sectors–stay tuned.

Left vs. Left: Debating the Occupations

Speaking of California militance, there’s an interesting discussion of one of the UCSC occupation manifestos over at the AK Press blog, featuring its authors and some of the New School occupiers. They’re in dialogue with Brian Holmes, who sparked the conversation by saying, essentially, students can’t be workers.

AK’s Charles Weigl does a fantastic job of capturing the differences between Holmes and the student-movement intellectuals by posing three nicely-turned questions:

1) Whaddya mean the management class is being proletarianized!?! Isn’t this somehow an insult/misrecognition regarding the REAL proletariat?


2) Does addressing the university student as the potential revolutionary subject get us closer to revolution? How? How not?


3) What would a non-reformist goal for a university be, if one exists?

Hint: The students are right and Holmes, an otherwise smart guy, is wrong on this one.

Come back to the United States, Brian, and smell what happens to the majority of students who are spat out as nondegreed failures, not to mention the decade or more that the “successful” students among the 80% working an average of 30 hours a week spend earning low wages and acquiring debt.

Sure, the university does reproductive labor.

But it ALSO EXTRACTS VALUE INNOVATIVELY AND ON A SCALE THAT ALL POST-FORDIST EMPLOYERS ENVY AND EMULATE. Bowles and Gintis and Marx were right.

But today’s university needs to be understood as a direct employer and as a site of massive accumulation, not just as a womb for the PMC.

I’m jumping on a red-eye (again), but will get into this conversation next week.  If you can’t wait, download the free pdfs of HTUW’s Intro and/or ch 4, Extreme Work Study.

My reply in a nutshell, for those who can do their own unpacking?

The professional-managerial-class (PMC) isn’t being uniformly proletarianized: some traditional professions (especially teaching) are.

At the same time, some managers are being hyper-professionalized–through the ascendance of the business curriculum, and the way management theory supplants so much intellectual discourse. In connection with this, many workers are being treated as management (Yeshiva–faculty and nurses who don’t supervise anyone–food service supervisors denied overtime, etc) or indoctrinated in cultures of self-management (Randy Martin, others).

Furthermore, the “proletarianization” of a profession doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been turned over to the actual proletariat.  Poorly waged work with little professional autonomy can be performed by the philanthropic class.

Take the example of higher-education teaching, where deprofessionalization has meant that persons who need a reasonable return on education (ie, they work to live) increasingly leave faculty work to those who have another source of income.  This means that campus employers sort for persons who can subsidize themselves, or find a corporate sponsor.

Even from a straight-up liberal perspective, this has major harms, advantaging corporate-driven curiousity–see Washburn.

Similarly, turning college teaching (back) into philanthropy functions as a significant economic discrimination that, in the U.S. also works to segment campus labor by gender, ethnicity, and age. In turn, this affects student learning, and the nature and quality of research.

*By “American model” they mean the sort of junk education-as-job-training that Obama and Duncan have been cheerfully pushing from pre-school to PhD: privatization, standardization, and control by high-stakes assessment.

The great thing about education as job training is that it provides a rationale for the super-exploitation of the largest workforce on campus: students.  For Obama and Duncan “affordability” means more of what we’ve been doing for three decades: turning out students as disposable short-term teachers, short-term journalists, short-term office workers, short-term nurses and social-service labor–as long-term but replaceable workers in retail, package delivery, food service, day care, elder care, housekeeping, and maintenance.

And then, when the same student workers can’t find employment (much less those who dropped out, or those who didn’t go), wondering, “huh, where did all the jobs go?”

Gee, fellas, you turned the jobs into “financial aid,” or “service learning,” or “internships,” or just good old “working your way through–it’s good for ya.”  As I’ve written before, you want to create several million jobs overnight, at a reasonable cost? Just withdraw students from the workforce. For a bonus few hundred thousand jobs, you could guarantee full employment for teachers.



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