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Value production and struggle in the classroom: Teachers within, against and beyond capital

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To the extent that their labour produces value and surplus value, teachers are productive labourers. This paper discusses teachers' labour in relation to the production of new labour power, explores the extent to which it is alienated, and explains how it produces surplus value. But the classroom is also a site of struggle. The paper explores some of the ways in which teachers and students may both refuse capitalist work and create space in order to pursue alternative projects that better meet their own needs. To this extent, teachers and students are productive, not of value, but of struggle.
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... Education is part of the social process of producing pliable and compliant workers that accept as a natural fact that, in order just to reproduce themselves, they must expend their own labouring activity according to others' desires and goals, under the rule of capital's representatives (see Harvie, 2006;Hill & Maisuria, 2022). Only after the supersession of capitalism, once the satisfaction of human needs substitutes the imperatives of capital's self-expansion as the chief purpose of education, there will be grounds for the cultivation of critical thinking, i.e., dialectical thinking. ...
... Translated into education, the notion of labour-power as a 'conscious commodity' implies that humanity in the abstract is what turns classrooms into a site of a very determinate social praxis, namely, that of class struggle (Harvie, 2006, explicitly acknowledges this). Besides, since capital does not negate the human condition, but actualises it at this particular stage of development of the social forces of production (Starosta, 2016, 250), at the end of the day, this account does not acknowledge in the capital-form any insurmountable barrier to a veritably critical education, i.e., an approach to education based on the theoretical and methodological foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. ...
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Bourgeois-based approaches to 'critical thinking' are failing to help students develop self-reflexivity and the capacity to think critically about the world. This circumstance has led some Marxist authors to claim that dialectics is the real form of critical thinking, so it should be introduced into teaching/learning activities. This advocacy for dialectical thinking has not been translated thus far into concrete course programmes or syllabi that help understand how such a Marxian-informed approach to education might be worked out, nor do these authors have systematically reflected on the potentialities and limitations that the embedment of dialectics into teaching may bear. This paper addresses both aspects in the light of a particular case study-the design and implementation of a course in Science Communication for graduates that has the theoretical and methodological foundations of the Critique of Political Economy as it basis. It thus outlines the contours of the study programme of that course; comments on what are the material bases on which this proposal finds its conditions of existence, and, relatedly, what are the advantages that this Marxian-inspired perspective vis-à-vis other approaches to 'critical thinking'; and theorises on whether it is possible to unpack the full potential of dialectical thought within the boundaries of capitalist education. The enquiry concludes that, insofar as the capital-form is a fetter for the development of the productive forces of society, it impinges on any Marxian-informed approach to teaching/learning activities in several ways.
... The emergence of OLE coincides with decades of neoliberal assaults on higher education through the commodification of academic knowledge production, adjunctification, austerity, privatisation, entrepreneurialisation and the shifting of costs to students and their families through skyrocketing tuition and fees paid for by massive personal debt. The relentless drive for quantitative assessment of research and teaching is applying intense pressure to further commodify and rationalise cognitive labour (Harvie 1999;2006) resulting in 'redundancies' of tenured faculty such as those seen at the University of Leicester in the UK where faculty went on strike in 2021 and launched a global boycott of the university (BBC 2021). These represent the external factors placing relentless pressure on higher education to make it more effectively serve capital (Ovetz 1996;Harvie 1999, 106;De Angelis and Harvie 2009;Harvie, Ivancheva and Ovetz 2022). ...
Chapter
Algorithms are a form of productive power – so how may we conceptualise the newly merged terrains of social life, economy and self in a world of digital platforms? How do multiple self-quantifying practices interact with questions of class, race and gender? This edited collection considers algorithms at work – for what purposes encoded data about behaviour, attitudes, dispositions, relationships and preferences are deployed – and black box control, platform society theory and the formation of subjectivities. It details technological structures and lived experience of algorithms and the operation of platforms in areas such as crypto-finance, production, surveillance, welfare, activism in pandemic times. Finally, it asks if platform cooperativism, collaborative design and neomutualism offer new visions. Even as problems with labour and in society mount, subjectivities and counter subjectivities here produced appear as conscious participants of change and not so much the servants of algorithmic control and dominant platforms.
... Arguably, the most promising one refers to how SC actively contributes to the production of workers' alienated consciousness, that is to say, how these forms of consciousness are turned from a presupposition into a result of the process of transmitting research results to audiences other than scientists. As Harvie (2006) pertinently notes, the compliance with capital's control is by no means 'natural', it has to be produced. It is our argument that SC is one among the diverse modalities of socialisation that capital mobilises in order for this to be accomplished. ...
Article
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Science Communication inheres to the capitalist relations of production. By making use of Marxist dialectics, the enquiry will elucidate the enquiry will elucidate that capital creates the gap between science and society that Science Communication is deemed to bridge, for capitalism deprives workers of the 'intellectual potencies of the material process of production' and makes both impossible and meaningless for them to appropriate scientific knowledge in a direct, unmediated manner. Along these lines, the paper will revisit the long-standing 'deskilling-upskilling debate' in order to shed light on what specific workers' productive attributes form the material basis on which Science Communication grounded. I conclude that the existence of Science Communication responds to the fact that workers are devoid of any control over the social qualitative content of their work-the purpose and the mode of the labouring activity. In other words, Science Communication is premised on the limited form taken by the productive consciousness capital equips workers with in order just to reproduce itself.
... The integral approach towards production and reproduction in SRT finds its reflection in the formulation of labour's mode of existence 'in, against, and beyond' capital in nonreductionist/autonomist Marxist perspectives [71] (p. 8), [72,73]. Scholars have drawn on Marx's account of the formal/real subsumption of labour as well as alienation for the analysis of the capitalist organisation of higher education and the contemporary conditions of academic labour [74][75][76][77] (see also Moraitis and Copley [78]). ...
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This article aims to engage critically with the scholarly narratives and the emerging literature on the gender impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in academia. It outlines the key contours and themes in these scholarly discourses and conceptions, acknowledging their richness, depth and strengths especially given the short timespan within which they have developed since 2020. The article then suggests broadening and historicising the critique advanced by the literature further. In doing so, the hierarchies and vulnerabilities exposed in the academic domain by the pandemic are positioned within a holistic understanding of crisis-ridden characteristics of social relations under capitalism.
... Los autores observan este hecho y hacen referencia al tratamiento que Dumenil (1975) le dio antes, pero no reparan activamente en él. Para consideraciones y críticas anteriores ver Sweezy (1942) y Nichols (1969, capítulo 2 vi Además de aquellos que excluyen el trabajo improductivo de la clase obrera, hay una tendencia reciente a extender el trabajo productivo a roles tales como los docentes del sector público (Harvie 2006) y a ampliarlo a todo tipo de actividad no laboral (Bohm y Land 2012). vii Harvie (2005) llega a una conclusión similar a través de una vía muy efectiva: una refutación detallada que refleja un análisis serio, tal vez equivocado, del abordaje que haceMarx de esta área en particular. ...
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Introducción: el estado del análisis de clase El debilitamiento de los sindicatos de trabajadores en los principales países industriales durante los últimos 30 años ha llevado a la idea generalizada de que la clase trabajadora como actora político-económica está atravesando un declive secular. No es novedoso el hecho de que los partidos políticos, basados ostensiblemente en los intereses de la clase obrera, han enfrentado numerosos problemas. En Estados Unidos y en Gran Bretaña hay un resurgimiento de los partidos mayormente de izquierda con el crecimiento del movimiento socialdemócrata en Estados Unidos y el movimiento más amplio construido alrededor de la figura de Bernie Sanders en el primer caso, y el auge de la asociación al Partido Laborista vinculada con la elección del líder Jeremy Corbyn en el segundo caso. En ambos países estos eventos han influenciado y a su vez han sido impulsados por el surgimiento de un nuevo interés en las relaciones de clase y en la política de clase. Sin embargo, con algunas excepciones significativas (principalmente en el sector educativo de los Estados Unidos), esos hechos ocurrieron sin ser correspondidos por un incremento en la fuerza de los sindicatos de trabajadores y trabajadoras, lo que debilitó las concepciones de clase basadas en las relaciones sociales de producción. La caída del movimiento de trabajadores y trabajadoras ocurrió a pesar del crecimiento constante de la desigualdad (relacionado también con dicha caída). Hay un amplio reconocimiento de que la mayoría de las sociedades capitalistas, si no todas, se volvieron más desiguales durante los últimos 30 años. Por ejemplo, de acuerdo con la OCDE (2014:6) «en la mayoría de los países de la OCDE, la brecha entre ricos y pobres alcanzó su mayor nivel en los últimos 30 años». Sin embargo, las respuestas políticas en las distintas sociedades con respecto a la polarización creciente de la riqueza no fueron congruentes ni uniformes. Los partidos socialdemócratas, que tradicionalmente se esperaba que fueran beneficiarios electorales de la creciente desigualdad, han estado, en el mejor de los casos, inactivos, y en el peor de los casos, implicados en el control de esta transferencia relativa de la riqueza. El
... The authors note this fact and refer to its earlier treatment by Dumenil (1975) but do not actively examine here. For earlier considerations and critiques see Sweezy (1942) andNichols (1969), Ch 2 vi As well as those excluding unproductive labour from the working class, there is a more recent counter tendency to extend productive labour to roles such as public sector teachers (Harvie 2006) and to widen it to all sorts of non-work activity (Bohm and Land 2012) ...
Book
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Algorithms are a form of productive power – so how may we conceptualise the newly merged terrains of social life, economy and self in a world of digital platforms? How do multiple self-quantifying practices interact with questions of class, race and gender? This edited collection considers algorithms at work – for what purposes encoded data about behaviour, attitudes, dispositions, relationships and preferences are deployed – and black box control, platform society theory and the formation of subjectivities. It details technological structures and lived experience of algorithms and the operation of platforms in areas such as crypto-finance, production, surveillance, welfare, activism in pandemic times. Finally, it asks if platform cooperativism, collaborative design and neomutualism offer new visions. Even as problems with labour and in society mount, subjectivities and counter subjectivities here produced appear as conscious participants of change and not so much the servants of algorithmic control and dominant platforms.
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The article argues that social work academics, especially critical and radical social work academics, ought to contribute to alternative, open and more collective approaches to academic publication. The prevailing problematic of price gouging, that is, for-profit publishers enclosing scholarly articles behind paywalls, is discussed, along with mainstream liberal responses in the form of open access initiatives that aim to reorient the business models of for-profit publishers towards payment for publication. Mainstream approaches analyse the problem of achieving open access as one of oligopoly and market failure. Other more critical perspectives are introduced, along with the notion of the commons as a site of struggle within higher education. A brief case study of a collective, community-driven approach to transitioning the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work journal to open access is offered, before concluding with an assessment of open access as just one part of a wider platform of anti-capitalist struggle within higher education.
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****En**** This historical materialist analysis places rankings into the imperatives both to govern and to accumulate, and positions academic ranking in particular as the telos of a more general audit culture. By identifying how rankings effect not merely a quantification of qualities, but a numeration of quantities, we can expose how state governments, managerial strata and political elites achieve socially stratifying political objectives that actually frustrate the kind of market-rule for which rankings have been hitherto legitimised among the public. The insight here is that rankings make of audit techniques neither simply a market proxy, nor merely the basis for bureaucratic managerialism, but a social technology or ‘apparatus’ (dispositif) that simultaneously substitutes and frustrates market operations in favour of a more acutely stratified social order. This quality to the operation of rankings can then be connected to the chronic accumulation crisis that is the neoliberal regime of political economy, and to the growing political appetite therein for power-knowledge techniques propitious for oligarchy formation and accumulation-by-dispossession in the kind of low-growth and zero-sum environment typical in real terms to societies dominated by financialisation. A dialectical approach to rankings is suggested, so that a more effective engagement with their internal and practical contradictions can be realised in a way that belies the market-myths of neoliberal theory. ******Fr****** Stratifier le monde universitaire: classement, oligarchie et mythe du marché dans les régimes d’audit universitaire Cette analyse du genre matérialisme historique place les classements universitaires dans le cadre des impératifs de gouvernance et d’accumulation. Elle positionne le classement académique en particulier comme le telos d’une culture d’audit plus générale. En identifiant la manière dont les classements n’entraînent pas simplement une quantification des qualités, mais une numération des quantités, nous pouvons montrer comment les gouvernements des États, les strates managériales et les élites politiques atteignent des objectifs politiques de stratification sociale qui contrecarrent en fait le type de règle du marché pour lequel les classements ont été jusqu’à present légitimés auprès du public. L’idée est que les classements ne font pas des techniques d’audit un simple substitut du marché. Ni font ils la base d’une gestion bureaucratique. Plutôt, ils créent une technologie sociale ou un « appareil » (‘dispositif’) qui remplace et contrecarre simultanément les opérations du marché en faveur d’un ordre social stratifié de manière plus aiguë. Cette qualité du fonctionnement des classements peut alors être reliée à la crise d’accumulation chronique qu’est le régime néolibéral de l’économie politique. Elle peut également être associée à l’appétit politique croissant pour les techniques de connaissance du pouvoir, propices à la formation d’oligarchies et à l’accumulation par dépossession, dans le type d’environnement à faible croissance et à somme nulle typique (en termes réels) des sociétés dominées par la financiarisation. Je suggère donc une approche dialectique, pour s’engager dans les contradictions internes et pratiques des classements, au-delà des mythes du marché de la théorie néolibérale.
Conference Paper
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A paper for the Symposium on: 'If We Aren't Pursuing Improvement, What Are We Doing?', Convened by Joanna Swann.
Book
The 1990s promise to be a period of rapid political change, as old political boundaries dissolve and new political forces emerge. These changes throw into question our understanding of capitalism and socialism, of the character of the nation state, and of the relationship between the economy and the state. However, these changes are only the culmination of developments which have been unfolding over the past two decades. This book includes a comprehensive introductory survey, which sets the contributions collected here within the context of the wider debate.
Article
With the advent of performance management and its related pay structures into schools, another step has been taken in the commodification of education. Productive efficiency and international competitiveness are the aims, a regulatory framework of measures is the means of establishing it. Education has long been developing into a commodity form. Historically, universal State provision has generally masked the reality of this situation. Nevertheless, with schoolchildren and teachers subject to this form, it becomes easier for their labour to be incorporated within the dehumanizing social relations of capitalism. The performative order oils the machine for business and the State, ensuring a smooth production process. In this article I explain the mechanics of performativity. The inadequacy of much contemporary critique to the task of tackling the commodifying nature of performativity is exposed. Both schoolchildren and teachers sell their labour capacity to the State. It expects a return on its investment in schooling. I apply Marxist theory to explore the role of performance in measuring the work of children and teachers to ensure profit margins. Performance is considered as a fetish, representing to the producers the alienated form of their work in schools.
Chapter
Introduction Section 1. The Rise of the Corporate University 1. None of Your Business: The Rise of the University of Phoenix and For-profit Education- and Why It Will Fail Us All A. M. Cox 2. Digital Diploma Mills D. Noble 3. Inefficient efficiency: A Critique of Merit Pay 4. The Drain-o of Higher Education: Casual Labor and University Teaching B. Johnson Section 2. Laboring Within 1. How I Became a Worker K. Mattson 2. The Art of Work in the Age of Adjunct A. Moore 3. Blacklisted and Blue: On Theory and Practice at Yale R. Corey 4. Tenure Denied: Union-Busting and Anti-Intellectualism in the Corporate University J. Westheimer 3. Organizing 1. The Campaign for Union Rights at NYU I. Jessup 2. Democracy is an Endless Organising Drive: Learning from the Failure and Future of Graduate Student Organizing at the University of Minnesota M. Brown, R. Copher & K. Gray Brown 3. Moving River Barges: Labor Activism and Academic Organizations C. Nelson 4. Social Movement Unionism and Adjunct Faculty Organizing in Boston B. Gottfired & G. Zabel 5. Renewing Unions and Democrcay at the Same Time: The Case of the California Faculty Association S. Meisenhelder Conclusion