Peter Hudis – Alternatives to Capitalism

I have recently finished Peter Hudis’ book, ‘Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism‘. It is one of the most interesting and useful books that I’ve read in some time. Below, he discusses the topic of the book with reference to Occupy, worker co-ops and other contemporary responses to capital.

The audio significantly improves from one minute into the talk and his talk ends at 55 minutes when he takes questions.

Of particular interest to me is the outline his gives (around 36 mins in) of  what Marx deemed necessary to eliminate the conditions of alienating value production i.e. freely associated, non-alienated labour.

  1. Extend democracy into the economic sphere, into the workplace.
  2. Workers’ co-operatives. Direct ownership stake and control of the workplace.
  3. Eliminate the social division of labour between ownership and non-ownership. Workers have a direct stake in the outcome of labour.
  4. In control of the workplace, workers would make work less alienating, less harmful.
  5. Co-ordination between co-operatives is needed, nationally and internationally. Democratically elected planning authority, subject to recall.

Update 29th April 2014: Here’s another talk by Hudis:

Update 16th June 2014: Another good talk to the Workers and Punks University (discusses coops and councils from around 40min onwards)

 

The university as a hackerspace

Abstract accepted for ‘Friction: An interdisciplinary conference on technology & resistance‘, University of Nottingham, Thursday 8th May & Friday 9th May.

In this paper I will argue for a different way of understanding the emergence of hacker culture. In doing so, I will outline an account of ‘the university’ as an institution that provided the material and subsequent intellectual conditions that early hackers were drawn to and in which they worked.

I will argue that hacking was originally a form of academic labour that emerged out of the intensification and valorisation of scientific research within the institutional context of the university. The reproduction of hacking as a form of academic labour took place over many decades as academics and their institutions shifted from an ideal of unproductive, communal science to a more productive, entrepreneurial approach to the production of knowledge.

As such, I view hacking as a peculiar, historically situated form of labour that arose out of friction in the academy: vocation vs. profession; teaching vs. research; basic vs. applied research; research vs. development; private vs. public; war vs. peace; institutional autonomy vs. state dependence; scientific communalism vs. intellectual property.

Finally, and most importantly, I will ask conference delegates the questions: Is hacking in the university still a possibility? Can a university contain (intellectually, politically, practically) a hackerspace? If so, what does it look like? How would it work? I will attempt to answer some of these questions based on recent efforts at the University of Lincoln to reproduce the ‘university as a hackerspace’, building on the pedagogical and political project, Student as Producer.

Below are some slides from a recent presentation I gave to colleagues at Lincoln.

Call for contributions to a book on ‘Mass Intellectuality: The democratisation of higher education’

Through our work on the Social Science Centre, Richard Hall and I have been approached to produce a book which documents and critically analyses ‘alternative higher education’ projects in terms of their being critical responses to ‘intellectual leadership’ in mainstream higher education. The book is intended to be part of a series already agreed with Bloomsbury Academic Publishing that focuses on ‘intellectual leadership’. The series editors have encouraged us to develop a proposal for an edited volume. A brief statement about the series is:

‘Perspectives on Leadership in Higher Education’ is a research-level series comprising monographs and edited collections with an emphasis on authored books. The prime purpose of the series is to provide a forum for different and sometimes divergent perspectives on what intellectual leadership means within the context of higher education as it develops in the 21st century.

This is an invitation to attend a workshop where we aim to collectively design a book proposal that is submitted to Bloomsbury. As you can see below, we have drafted a proposal, which the series editors and their peer-reviewers have responded very positively to, but it has always been our intention to ultimately produce the book in a collaborative way with all its authors.

[UPDATE: Just to be clear: we welcome contributions from authors who are not based in the UK and can offer a perspective from outside the UK. It is our intention that the book have an international focus. Attendance at the workshop is preferred but not obligatory.]

We hope that from the workshop, a revised proposal is produced with confirmed authors and chapter summaries, which we will then submit to Bloomsbury for final approval.

We are very optimistic that it will be accepted, but of course we are at liberty to submit the proposal elsewhere if Bloomsbury decide not to go ahead with it. Either way, we are confident of getting the book published.

Hopefully, the draft proposal below is largely self-explanatory. The chapters headings are only indicative in order to get us this far. We expect a fully revised proposal to come out of the workshop with input from all authors.

If you are interested in writing a chapter for the book, you are strongly encouraged to attend the workshop. We will be seeking international contributions to the book, but would like as many authors as possible to help design the book through attendance at this workshop.

We welcome anyone who is involved with and/or working on alternative higher education projects such as free universities, transnational collectives, occupied spaces, and co-operatives for higher education. We hope that this book will provide a lasting critical analysis of recent and existing efforts to develop alternatives to mainstream higher education in the UK and elsewhere. We expect it to encompass chapters which focus on all aspects of these initiatives including, for example, governance, pedagogy, institutional form, theory, disciplinary boundaries, subjectivities: ‘academic’, ‘teacher’, ‘student’, ‘researcher’, and the role and nature of research outside of mainstream universities.

The workshop will be held on Thursday 5th June in Leicester, UK. Exact details of time and place will be sent to participants nearer the date. If you would like to attend, please email Joss Winn prior to 10th May, with a brief abstract of your anticipated contribution. This will help us get a sense of direction prior to the workshop and organise it more effectively. If you are unable to attend the workshop but would like to contribute to the book, please tell us.

1. Book Title and Subtitle.

‘Mass Intellectuality: The democratisation of higher education’

2. Summary

Drawing on the activism of academics and students working in, against and beyond the neo-liberal university, this book brings together for the first time, both an analysis of the crisis of higher education and the alternative forms that are emerging from its ruins.

3. Description (marketing)

Higher education in the UK and elsewhere is in crisis. The idea of the public university is under assault, and both the future of the sector and its relationship to society are being gambled. Higher education is increasingly unaffordable, its historic institutions are becoming untenable, and their purpose is resolutely instrumental. What and who have led us to this crisis? What are the alternatives? To whom do we look for leadership in revealing those alternatives?

This book brings together critical analyses of the failures of ‘intellectual leadership’ in the University, and documents on-going efforts from around the world to create alternative models for organising higher education and the production of knowledge. Its authors offer their experience and views from inside and beyond the structures of mainstream higher education, in order to reflect critically on efforts to create really existing alternatives.

The authors argue that mass higher education is at the point where it no longer reflects the needs, capacities and long-term interests of society. An alternative role and purpose is required, based upon ‘mass intellectuality’ or the real possibility of democracy in learning and the production of knowledge.

4. Key features

1. The book critiques the role of higher education and the University in developing solutions to global crises that are economic and socio-environmental. In this way it grounds an analysis of the idea that there is no alternative for higher education but to contribute to neoliberal agendas for economic growth and the marketisation of everyday life. The restrictions on the socio-cultural leadership inside the University are revealed.

2. The book describes and analyses several real, alternative forms of higher education that have emerged around the world since the ‘Great Recession’ in 2008. These alternatives emerged from worker-student occupations, from engagements in civil society, and from the co-operatives movement. These projects highlight a set of co-operative possibilities for demonstrating and negotiating new forms of political leadership related to higher learning that are against the neo-liberal university.

3. The book argues that the emergence of alternative forms of higher education, based on co-operative organising principles, points both to the failure of intellectual leadership inside the University and to the real possibility of democracy in learning and the production of knowledge. The place of ‘Mass Intellectuality’ as a form of distributed leadership that is beyond the limitations of intellectual leadership in the University will be critiqued, in order to frame social responses to the crisis.

5. Table of Contents

Chapters to be negotiated in a dedicated workshop for the book. However, examples indicative of actual content are as follows.

1. Introduction: Leadership and academic labour: the failure of intellectual leadership in Higher Education [Joss Winn and Richard Hall]

This chapter will introduce the book by offering a perspective on the different types of ‘intellectual leadership’ that exist within higher education i.e. the state, university management, and academic. It will establish a critical framework for understanding the role of each, focused upon their interrelationships, and the tensions and barriers that arise. The chapter aims to introduce and provide a review of the term ‘intellectual leadership’, and then offer a different way of conceiving it as a form of social relationship. In doing so, the authors will briefly question the role, purpose and idea of the university and ask what is it for, or rather, why is it being led? For what purpose? If there has been a failure of leadership, whom has it failed? The authors will then draw on other chapters in the book to offer further responses to these questions, which are themselves developed through the structure of the book: in; against; and beyond the university. We will review the aim of each section, how they are connected and why they point to the need for alternatives. We will address whether it is possible to define alternatives for higher education as a coherent project, and if so how can they be developed and what is the role of leadership in that process?

First section: inside the University

This section sets up the problems of intellectual leadership, historically, philosophically and politically. The co-editors suggest the following indicative areas, which will be defined at the workshop.

  • The failures of intellectual leadership: historical critique (including militarisation and financialisation)

  • The failures of intellectual leadership: philosophical critique

  • Intellectual leadership and limits of institutional structures: managerialism and corporatisation against academic freedom

  • Technology: enabling democracy or cybernetic control?

  • The recursive ‘logic’ of openness in higher education: Levelling the ivory tower?

Second section: against the University

This section documents responses to the first section, in the form of recent critical case studies from those working and studying within and outside the academy. The co-editors suggest the following indicative areas, which will be defined at the workshop.

  • Leaderless networks, education and power

  • Student intellectual leadership: models of student-academic and student-worker collaboration

  • Forms of co-operation: case studies of organisational democracy in education

  • Historical examples of leaderless organisation

  • Historical examples of resistance to intellectual leadership

  • Regional examples of alternatives: Latin America, etc.

  • A review of recent initiatives: Student as Producer, SSC, FUN, Free University Brighton, Liverpool, Ragged, P2PU, Brisbane, Edufactory, etc.

Third section: beyond the University

This section provides a critical analysis of the responses described in section two and draws out generalisable themes related to the purpose, organisation and production of higher education, in terms of the idea of Mass Intellectuality, relating it to leadership.  The co-editors suggest the following indicative areas, which will be defined at the workshop.

  • Co-operative higher education. Conversion or new institution building?

  • Other models: Open Source ‘benevolent dictator’; heroic leader; radical collegiality, co-operatives

  • Critiques of horizontalism, P2P production, forms of co-operation, radical democracy, etc.

  • Beyond/problems with/critique of ‘Student as Producer’ (Lincoln)

  • General intellect, mass intellectuality: New forms of intellectuality

  • Higher and higher education: Utopian forms of higher education

  • Intellectual leadership and local communities

  • Public intellectuals and public education

Conclusion. The role of free universities: in, against and beyond [Joss Winn and Richard Hall].

The concluding chapter will aim to synthesis key points from the book into an over-arching critical, theoretical argument based upon evidence from the preceding chapters. We will question whether the examples of alternatives to intellectual leadership inside and beyond the university are effective and whether they are prefigurative of a fundamental change in the meaning, purpose and form of higher education. We will reflect on the concept of ‘mass intellectuality’, and attempt to develop this idea in light of our critique and preceding evidence. We will attempt to identify a coherent vision for alternatives to mainstream higher education and assess the role and form of ‘intellectual leadership’.

6. Chapter by chapter synopsis

This needs to be determined at our workshop, but the text below is indicative.

Section one collects chapters which discuss the historical, political-economic and technological trajectory of the modern university, with a particular critical focus on the ‘imaginary futures’ of post-war higher education in the UK and elsewhere. In the context of the current social and economic crises, the chapters lay out the failures of universities and their leaders to provide an on-going and effective challenge to neo-liberalism and question why.

Section two collects chapters which focus on recent and historical attempts by students and academics to resist, reinvent and revolutionise the university from within. Looking at UK and international examples, they examine the characteristics of these efforts and assess the effectiveness of critical forms of praxis aimed against what the university has become.

Section three collects chapters which reflect critically on recent student and academic activism that goes beyond the institutional form of the university to understand higher education as a form of social relations independent of mainstream disciplines and structures. They examine several inter-related and complementary forms of practice as well as reflecting critically on their own practice.

7. Indicative Submission date

  • Workshop to define content and structure in 5th June 2014

  • First draft of all chapters by October/November 2014.

  • Peer-review of chapters completed by February/March 2015.

  • Final draft chapters to co-editors by May/June 2015.

  • Manuscript delivered by September 2015.

‘The university as a hackerspace’: Can interventions in teaching and learning drive university strategy?

I have been invited to the Jisc Digital Festival this year as an ‘expert speaker’. Here is the abstract of my talk. It reflects on Jisc-funded projects I have led at Lincoln and introduces a new initiative I am working on to develop a Masters level research degree, codenamed: ‘The university as a hackerspace’.

The University of Lincoln has explored opportunities as diverse as the potential of open data, developed a research data infrastructure, nurtured student developers and developed a research-led approach to teaching known as the student as producer, to name a few. However, these projects and initiatives have not been throw away experiments. Rather, they have helped inform the University’s new Digital Education Strategy aimed at meeting the needs and improving the experience of its students and researchers at a time when the idea and purpose of the university is being challenged. This session will provide an overview of some of the innovative projects and initiatives the University of Lincoln has undertaken in the past few years and how universities can explore approaches to teaching and research support, while helping inform the institutional mission and strategy. It will also provide an opportunity for managers, learning technologists and teachers to discuss the potential for such an approach at their institution and to share relevant experiences and ideas.

Open education and the emancipation of labour from teaching and learning

Abstract submitted to the CfP on ‘Critical Approaches to Open Education‘, Learning, Media and Technology journal.

I have previously argued that open education is a liberal project with a focus on the freedom of things rather than the freedom of people. (Winn, 2012) Furthermore, I have argued that despite an implicit critique of private property with its emphasis on ‘the commons’, there is no corresponding critique of academic labour (Neary, Winn, 2012).

The imposition of private property and wage-labour is the organising principle of the capitalist mode of production (Neary, Winn, 2009), a “determinate logic” (Postone, 1993) which continually seeks to alienate labour from its full creative capacity (Wendling, 2011) and reduce the necessity of labour-time in the production of value. For capital, the crucial role of all forms of education is to ensure the reproduction and improvement of labour in a historical form that is conducive to the production of value. For the student, education becomes necessary in order to improve the value of the labour power commodity upon which their subsistence depends.

This paper will take up the conclusions of my earlier work where I argued that the critical power and potential of open education “is in its yet under-acknowledged re-conceptualisation of what it means to work as a researcher, teacher and student.” (Winn, 2012) In the work cited, I have argued that an emancipatory form of education cannot be created by the production of educational resources as ‘a commons’ and the socialisation of academic (i.e. teacher-student) labour through networked technologies.

In this paper, I will develop my critical position that an emancipatory form of education must work towards the emancipation of teachers and students from labour, the dynamic source of value in capitalism, and that this might be achieved through a co-operative pedagogical relationship between individuals out of which alternative organisational and institutional forms are developed that undermine the organising principle of capitalism. In making this argument, I will draw upon my involvement with the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, as well as my work with colleagues at the University of Lincoln (e.g. Neary, 2010; Neary and Hagyard, 2010; Neary and Amsler, 2010).

References

Neary, Mike and Winn, Joss (2012) Open education: common(s), commonism and the new common wealth. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 12 (4). pp. 406-422.

Neary, Mike and Amsler, Sarah (2012) Occupy: a new pedagogy of space and time?. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 10 (2).

Neary, Mike (2010) Student as producer: a pedagogy for the avant-garde?,  Learning Exchange, 1 (1).

Neary, Mike and Hagyard, Andy (2010) Pedagogy of excess: an alternative political economy of student life. In: The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. Routledge, Abingdon.

Neary, Mike and Winn, Joss (2009) The student as producer: reinventing the student experience in higher education. In: The future of higher education: policy, pedagogy and the student experience . Continuum, London.

Postone, Moishe (1993) Time, Labour and Social Domination. Cambridge University Press.

Social Science Centre, Lincoln http://socialsciencecentre.org.uk

Wendling (2011) Karl Marx on Technology and Alienation. Palgrave Macmillan

Winn, Joss (2012) Open education: from the freedom of things to the freedom of people. In: Towards teaching in public: reshaping the modern university. Continuum, London.

The university as a worker co-operative: Labour, property and pedagogy

Abstract of a paper accepted for the ‘Governing Academic Life‘ conference.

UPDATE 16th June 2014: My paper for this conference is available here.

We are witnessing an “assault” on universities (Bailey and Freedman, 2011) and the future of higher education and its institutions is being “gambled.” (McGettigan, 2013) For many years now, we have been warned that our institutions are in “ruins” (Readings, 1997). We campaign for the “public university” (Holmwood, 2011) but in the knowledge that we work for private corporations, where academic labour is increasingly subject to the regulation of performative technologies (Ball, 2003) and where the means of knowledge production is being consolidated under the control of an executive. We want the cops off our campus but lack a form of institutional governance that gives teachers and students a right to the university. (Bhandar, 2013)

Outside the university, there is an institutional form that attempts to address issues of ownership and control over the means of production and constitute a radical form of democracy among those involved. Worker co-operatives are a form of ‘producer co-operative’ constituted on the values of autonomy, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity (Co-operatives UK, nd). In most cases the assets (the means of production) of the co-operative are held under ‘common ownership’, a social form of property that goes beyond the distinction between private and public (Footprint and Seeds for Change, 2012)

In this talk, I will begin by discussing recent work by academics and activists to identify the advantages and issues relating to co-operative forms of higher education. I will then focus in particular on the ‘worker co-operative’ organisational form and question its applicability and suitability to the governance of and practices within higher educational institutions. Finally, I will align the values and principles of worker co-ops with the critical pedagogic theory of Student as Producer (Neary, 2009, 2010a, 2010b)

References

Bailey, Michael and Freedman, Des (2011) The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance, Pluto Press.

Ball, Stephen J. (2003) The teacher’s soul and the terror of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 18:2, pp.215-228.

Bhandar, Brenna (2013) A Right to the University, London Review of Books blog, Retrieved 17th February 2014. http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/12/10/brenna-bhandar/a-right-to-the-university/

Co-operatives UK (nd) The worker co-operative code, Retrieved 17th February 2014. http://www.uk.coop/workercode

Footprint and Seeds of Change (2012) How to set up a Workers’ Co-op, Radical Routes. Retrieved 17th February 2014. http://www.uk.coop/workercode

Holmwood, John (2011) A Manifesto for the Public University, Bloomsbury Academic.

McGettigan, Andrew (2013) The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education, Pluto Press.

Neary, Mike and Winn, Joss (2009) The student as producer: reinventing the student experience in higher education. In: The future of higher education: policy, pedagogy and the student experience . Continuum.

Neary, Mike (2010a) Student as producer: a pedagogy for the avant-garde?,  Learning Exchange, 1 (1).

Neary, Mike and Hagyard, Andy (2010b Pedagogy of excess: an alternative political economy of student life. In: The Marketisation of Higher Education and the Student as Consumer. Routledge, Abingdon.

For a co-operative university?

In April, I am running a workshop with Richard Hall at the Discourse, Power and Resistance 14 conference. Details below.

This discussion takes as its premises the following:

  1. The University is being restructured through a neoliberal politics as part of a global pedagogical project.
  2. This project is aimed at the dispossession of free space/time so that all of life becomes productive and available for the extraction of surplus value.
  3. This pedagogic project is recalibrating and enclosing the roles of teachers and students as entrepreneurial subjects. In part it is also creating a surplus academic population, consisting of the academic unemployed, the precariat, the outsourced, and so on.
  4. If this project is to be resisted then the premises that underpin the economic utility of higher education as a positional good need to be revealed.
  5. If this project is to be resisted then the idea of academic labour that underpins employment in the increasingly digitised and stratified universities of the global North needs to be critiqued.
  6. If this project is to be resisted then the marketised organising principles that underpin the idea of the University need to be challenged.
  7. If this project is to be resisted then educators need to define structures and practices that reinforce the sociability of everyday life, in order to realise new opportunities for pedagogic co-operation.
  8. If this project is to be resisted then histories and cultures of co-operative education need to be revealed and critiqued.

The session will briefly position these headline statements about the idea of the University, and of academic labour, in the UK. The session will then ask participants to uncover stories of how and where pedagogy/educational institutions might be used for co-operation rather than competition. The session will ask participants to discuss what a co-operative University might look like.

Love is…

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a close friend of my family. As part of the service, a shortened version of the following was read out, which I found especially moving.

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Social Science Imagination: Co-operation and education / week one reflections

I am a member of the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, and in this term’s Social Science Imagination course, we are focusing on ‘co-operation and education‘. Gary Saunders and I wrote up an account of last week’s class, which we facilitated. Each week, SSC scholars are asked to produce a reflective piece of work (just 300w or so, or a poem, drawing, whatever) so as to think about what they got out of the previous week and then bring it to class to discuss.

Below is my 300w or so reflecting on last week’s reading and discussion. The class was based around our reading of the SSC’s ‘about‘ page and the ICA’s ‘Co-operative identity, values and principles‘ statement.

//

It’s been a while since I have read through the general statement about the SSC (FAQ), a document I helped author over three years ago. It was written both as a response to changes in HE at the time (and that continue), as well as setting out in an aspirational way, something we wanted to create. We wrote it in a style that suggested it was already happening, that it was real, when it was in fact only real in our imaginations. In that sense, it was utopian and from the responses we’ve had from people over the years, I think it helped them imagine something different, too.  With that in mind, I was pleased to read the current version of the statement 1 and to see how close we have come to realising that utopia. We are not entirely there yet, and over the years, through praxis, we have redefined our objectives, or rather, the emphasis of those objectives has shifted at times, while remaining clear about our motivation and purpose. I still aspire to what we set out in that statement and may always be striving to realise it fully, but the process is as important as the goal and I realise now, after three years, that the SSC is part of me. I cannot imagine not working towards this utopia.

Last week’s class and in fact the whole SSI course this term is intended to regenerate and revitalise this critical, utopian process and project, creating critical space to reflect on, discuss and question our utopian, revolutionary idea of what higher education might be. Could be.

The ICA statement was chosen to help initiate this critical, dialogical process. It is a carefully worded statement that unites millions of people around the world in the co-operative movement. We have to read it as such and draw out the key terms and ideas that are embedded in this historical text. It is a set of guidelines, rather than a legal definition. It is a compass, rather than a prison we are bound to. What can we learn from it? How can the themes of autonomy, democracy, solidarity, equality, common ownership, and sustainability, etc. become critical tools that help us reflect on ourselves and our own utopian ideas for co-operative higher education?

Consequences

My contribution to a game of Consequences, part of the Social Science Imagination course. In memory of my Dad.

CW MILLS met NIGEL WINN on May 26th 2006  at home by his hospital bed, which was on loan.

CW MILLS SAID: I heard that you hated work, you never made any money, you laid bricks most of your life, you left school with no qualifications, you were constantly trying to reinvent yourself and now you are dying of cancer at 56. The world has failed you.

NIGEL WINN SAID: I  married my childhood love. I wrote poetry and a book no-one ever saw. I had children and friends. I danced naked in the garden with my love on the summer Solstice. I had little money and didn’t need much either. I went to University aged 50, got a 1st in English and became a lecturer aged 54. The cancer will take me quick. I’ve said goodbye. I am having visions of my mother and Queen Victoria and the flowers outside look so beautiful. Tomorrow I will die with dignity among people I love and who love me.

NIGEL WINN died the next day after drowning himself with a glass of water. His wife and children watched until the last breath.

THE CONSEQUENCES WERE:  NIGEL WINN’s sons dug his grave and buried him. People grieved. There was silence. Dignity. A prize in his name. Despite it all.