quarta-feira, fevereiro 28, 2007

'Edu-Factory.org' Manifesto

As was the factory, so now is the University. Where once the factory was a paradigmatic site of struggle between workers and capitalists, so now the University is a key space of conflict, where the ownership of knowledge, the reproduction of the labour force, and the creation of social and cultural stratifications are all at stake. This is to say the University is not just another institution subject to sovereign and governmental controls, but a crucial site in which wider social struggles are won and lost.

To be sure, these changes occur as capitalism gives new importance to the production of knowledge, and in the advanced capitalist world, moves such production of knowledge to the centre of the economy. With this movement, the University also loses its monopoly in this same sphere of knowledge production. Perhaps it once made sense to speak of town and gown. But now the borders between the University and society blur.

This merging of University and society takes diverse forms. It can be shaped by the pressure to market degrees. Or it can be forced by measures that link the provision of funding to ‘technological transfer’ or collaboration with ‘partners’ from Government and/or commercial enterprises. Similarly, the growing precariousness of academic work means that many labour both in and out of the University, not to mention the labour conditions for non-academic workers. And the opening of many Universities to previously excluded cohorts of students, whether on the basis of social class or national jurisdiction, means that their internal composition has also changed.

These transformations both shift the possibilities for political expression in the University and initiate new kinds of struggle. In some instances, a politicised student movement has disappeared. In others has begun to grow. The transnationalisation of many University operations, including the internationalisation and diversification of the student body, introduces new kinds of cultural conflicts and tensions. At the same time, the University is derailed from its traditional mission of safeguarding the national and official culture. How are we to make sense of these changes, and, above all, how should they inform radical political investigation and action?

The University is a key site for intervention because it is now a global site. Indeed, there is no such thing as ‘the University’ but only Universities, in their specific geographical, economic, and cultural locations. Even within Universities there exists a range of labour practices and conditions as well as different cultures of organisation. If, in analogy to the factory of yesteryear, we are to understand the University as a paradigmatic site of struggle, we must first map and understand these differences (even as they are taking shape), not as an end in itself but as means of generating shared resources to meet the conflicts at hand.

We propose a series of transnational web-based discussions on the condition of the University today. These will lead up to a series of moving web-archived seminars (in cities to be decided) on a number of different topics, beginning with ‘conflicts in the production of knowledge’. It is important that contributions come from all continents, from different types of Universities, from people with different relations to the University, and from those involved in ‘free’ or autonomous University initiatives. The aim is to use the discussions to sound out the geographically disjunctive relations between the participants, creating a collective knowledge of globalising society that in turn contributes directly to thematic discussions and the development of new forms of relation and resistance.

Conflicts in the Production of Knowledge - First round of discussion (February - April 2006)

Knowledge is a common good not because it exists in nature but because it is produced and reproduced by living labour and social cooperation. The centrality of knowledge to the contemporary system of production applies not simply to those sectors that rest upon innovation but to the entire spectrum of labour composition. With this in mind, we propose to investigate the conflicts of knowledge produced on the (always more porous) boundary between the University and society. In the academic context, we would like to analyse—always taking concrete circunstances into account—the ambivalence of oppositional knowledges as challenges to the institution and processes of domestication.

the edu-factory collective

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