segunda-feira, abril 30, 2007

'' [web-based] discussion... the contribution of «Rete per l’Autoformazione» (Italy)

Who we are

This text [dated March 1st] is a partial contribution to the Edu-Factory [web-based] discussion by the «Rete per l’Autoformazione» («Network for Self-Education») in Rome. In this text we briefly describe our political work inside and outside the University. In a few weeks time we’ll post a more elaborated contribution about conflicts in the knowledge production.

Our network was born in December 2005, after a mobilization (in Rome and many other italian Universities) against a law which increased the precarity of researchers (the entry rung in the italian academic system) and academic labor in general. The interesting element of this experience of struggle is that, starting from a ‘partial’ issue – the condition of the University researcher – the students attacked the general question of the relationship between knowledge and production. The financial autonomy of the Universities, which was introduced all around Europe in the 90s, was for the first time overthrown. There emerged the possibility for the self-management of education on the part of the students (turning institutional sites into spaces for self-managed seminars) and for political conflict in autonomy from the representative logic of the party. For us the University is a public space and a site of application for the new struggles of cognitive labor. On the 25th October 2005 a demonstration with 150.000 students and precarious researchers besieged the Italian Parliament against the law: this is a paradigmatic event that marked the possibility for the University to become, in the framework of cognitive capitalism, a strong detonator of social transformation.

The «Network for Self-Education» is a political laboratory of students and precarious researchers from many Faculties, both scientific and humanistic. In fact, the Network is a device that cuts and criss-crosses the borders between University disciplines, the division between teaching and research, and the borderline between education and metropolitan production. This kind of self-education is a new form of political organization, a collective gear in which theory lives in praxis. It approaches the struggles surrounding knowledge production (and the quality and control of knowledge flows) as a strategic field of conflict for the cognitive workforce.

Self-education and Knowledge Quality

The ‘self-education project’ consists in building up courses that are self-managed by the students. This kind of self-education overthrows the institutional academic model with regard to both the contents and the methods of knowledge transmission. The topics of the courses are collectively chosen and then developed by experimental ‘hybrid’ groups, which are composed of precarious researchers and students. For example, last year we ran a course on ‘Political Sovereignty in the Modern Age’ in the Department of Political Science: if the ordinary programs analyse sovereignty from the point of view of state theory, considering power as transcendent with respect to struggles, in the self-education seminars we tried to re-propose the question of sovereignty on the plan of immanence, reconstructing – in a genealogical way – the history and theory of resistance inside and against the development of modernity.

As regards methods, as we explain above, self-education attempts to deconstruct the traditional model of knowledge transmission and research. The seminars attempt to break with the classical division between the professor on one side and the users/clients on the other. They follow more the ‘circle model’ than the frontal lecture, favouring the moment of discussion and collective study. From this point of view, the seminars attempt to establish a new relationship between study and research, assuming these two aspects as interdependent. In a framework in which the multiplication of University courses means first of all the specialization of curriculum and the fragmentation of knowledge, self-education tries to knock down the rigid perimeters of the disciplines: so, concepts have to be analysed and understood through schemes of knowledge that are at once historical, philosophical, scientific, and so on.

What makes this self-education a conflictual device is the ‘inflation’ of educational credits? In fact, some years ago - in the framework of the ‘Bologna process’ (the effort to build a European common space of Higher Education through the harmonization of the reform programs in the different countries of the EU) - the Italian University introduced an economic language and system. The curriculum, rigidly settled, is subdivided in modules; to each module is attributed a numerical value. This number and measure is the credit, which – artificially – corresponds to the summation of individual study and (obligatory) attendance hours. The credit system is based on an absurd assumption: that learning and study can be rigidly calculated, disassembled and measured. So, we reclaim the credits in recognition of our participation in the self-education seminars to deconstruct this measurement system from within. This means, in other words, that we favour the use value of the knowledge over its exchange value.

Cartography of the self-education courses:

Political Science: Transformation of the Labor Paradigm and Workers Struggles (October 2006 – May 2007);
Literature: University Transformations between Sixty-Eight and Today (March – June 2007);
Physics: Critics of Neuroscience from mathematical models to structures (October 2006 – June 2007);
Philosophy-Psychology: Mind and Language (September – December 2007);
Law: Migrations, New Borders of Control (April – May 2007);
Political Science-Psychology-Medicine: Anti-Prohibitionism (September – December 2007).

Outline of our contribution to ‘Edu-factory’

As a collective of students and precarious researchers we are collaborating with the Edu-Factory project because we think it’s indispensable to debate – from an oppositional point of view – the changes to the University system, to identify the transnational trends, and to act toward a transformation. We hope to link our struggles and self-education activities with other groups, militant scholars, and activists. We would like to map the production of oppositional knowledge around the world, to share our experiences and analysis; to make a sort of cartography of radical thought and action in the framework of the Higher Education system, and along its borders. In fact, we think borders are the central zone of political intervention: the borders between academy and metropolitan area, the borders between education and the labor market, the borders between institutional crisis and diffuse knowledge production. (Here and above, we use the term metropolis in a particular way, which we’ll explain in the next contribution we send to the list).

Below we propose a synthetic layout of [8] topics and analytical nodes: on the basis of these, we’ll have a collective discussion among ourselves, and then we’ll write a longer intervention to send to the list at the beginning of April [remember that this text is dated March 1st].

- That knowledge is a central means of production in contemporary society.

- In what we call the passage from exclusion to ‘differential inclusion’ in the Higher Education system, institutional knowledge is also a means to produce hierarchy in the (knowledge) labor market, to construct class, race, and gender divisions, and to control the mobility of free students and precarious researchers.

- The academy is exceeded by flows of knowledge production: the problem for us is not to re-build the ivory tower, but to transform the metropolitan area into an oppositional University.

- There is a contradiction between the capitalistic necessity to measure knowledge production and the excess of knowledge production with respect to the law of value.

- The ‘knowledge factory’ category is, at once, useful and inadequate: useful, because it describes the ways in which students’ labor becomes immediately productive; inadequate, because there is an irreducible gap between the ‘tayloristic-fordist’ factory and the current organization of knowledge production.

- Today, based on this gap, the conflicts in the University are conflicts in the knowledge production: between autonomy and subordination, and between the imposition of capitalistic time and the affirmation of subjective times in knowledge production.

- Our self-education courses are not simply a way to spread out antagonistic messages, but a flight line and a form of exodus from the crisis of academy, in its state and corporate forms: they are an attempt to organize an oppositional University not in the far future but in the present.

- Knowledge is a common good not because it exists in nature, but because it is produced by living labor - by what we call living knowledge.

Rete per l’Autoformazione – Rome (Italy)

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