No State, No Nation: a Co-operative Federation


The Student as Producer book I am writing ends with a discussion about the co-operative university and the revolutionary teaching out of which it is derived, not as a new type of independent institution but as a form of political settlement.

The theory and practice of creating a co-operative university has focussed up to this point on the university as an independent institutional form, with its own intrinsic critical dynamic, model of ownership, radical democracy and curriculum content. But the creation of a radical alternative university can only be achieved through a transformation of the social relations of  capitalist production: this is the basic lesson of Student as Producer. This transformation means the co-operative nature of capitalist production should be further enhanced so that workers can take control and ownership over the means of production,  as an association of workers (Winn 2015). This is a logical and historical development but needs to be considered politically and, in this review, geographically as its effects are socialised  beyond the workplace.

This transformation of the practice of co-operation can be considered beyond the institutional form of higher education to include a wider explication of pedagogic space and spatiality (Lefebvre 1991, Neary and Amsler 2012). The university has a strong affiliation with space exemplified by the notion of the campus, originally meaning field, as well as its attachment to specific geographical locations: the University of Bologna, Oxford, Harvard, Seoul National University…etc (Bender 1991 ). If  revolutionary teaching is grounded in the general intellect or general knowledge at the level of society then  revolutionary teaching requires a new form of ‘public sphere outside of the state’  as  ‘a political community’ (Virno 2001), or  political settlement, even, implying a signficant geographical component.

The nation-state  is the dominant geo-political spatial formation (Smith 2010). Since its inception in the 17th century, the nation state has operated not just as a form of violent political sovereignity (Benjamin 1921), but,  fundamentally, as the spatial arrangement by which labour power is organised and managed as a process of capitalist and colonial administration (Holloway and Picciotto 1978, Kay and Mott 1982). The capitalist nation-state is a nodal point in the system of global capitalist social relations, as the ‘political regulation of class antagonism’ which is manifest in different ways across the globe (Bonefeld, Brown and Burnham 1995 25).

Analyzing the capitalist world system is not only an empirical issue, but must pay attention to the methodology  through which that analysis is carried out (Wallerstein 2004 ). Wallerstein offers a unity of the sciences as the methodological framework for the  subversive university,  with profound implications for the organisation of higher education (Wallerstein 1996). Lefebvre supports this scientific unification with a university grounded in a critique of everyday life or subversive knowledge  based on the meta-principle of communist science: which he calls  ‘dialectical anthropology’ (Lefebvre 2003 65), rather than an appeal to philosophical universal principles. In this way, the university is recognised as a form of  social pedagogy which involves ‘self criticism and continuous active scrutiny of the relations between the functional and the structural limits of a self managing entity and society as a whole’ (Lefebvre 1968 87).  

Lefebvre set out plans for an urban space in which such a university might be located in  New Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia (Bitter and Weber 2009). He describes his plans for New Belgrade as  ‘the Capital of a Federal Republic where all the nations that compose it may find, through new modes of appropriation of the space of the city, their own character’ ( 2009 32).

The Federal Republic to which Lefebvre is referring has proved the inspiration for another profound organisational presumption around which the question of pedagogical space might be assembled:  ‘balkanisation’ (Grubacic 2010). Balkanisation is a term that usually has negative connotations as a process of national fragmentation that is detrimental to the whole. But Grubacic provides a  guide  to how the concept of balkanisation might be appropriated as a revolutionary principle, with the motto: ‘no state, no nation: Balkan Federation’  (Grubacic 2010). Writing in the anarchist tradition, inspired by Kropotkin and the principle of mutual aid, Grubacic’s balkanisation is derived from the historical development of  Balkan politics as  ‘an organic, dialogical, shared and participatory activity of the self-governing public ‘ (2010 215), a history that has been denied by what he refers to as ‘ “political balkanophobia”: an elite fear of autonomous spaces’ (2010 210) that might undermine the European nation-state building project.  In a very practical way balkanising leads to a show of ‘concrete support to the projects of mutual aid, mutual solidarity, poly-cultural identity and the politics of freedom’ ( 2010 218). Not then ‘state formation …[but]… state de-formation’ (Grubacic and O’Hearn 2016 17). This regional focus is substantiated by the promotion of labour-managed co-operative enterprises as the organising principle for progressive social development in the former Yugoslavia ( Vanek 1977). Grubacic and O’Hearn refer to these balkanised sites as exilic spaces: ‘those areas of social and economic life where people and groups attempt to escape from capitalist economic processes, whether by territorial escape or by the attempt to build structures that are autonomous of capitalist processes of accumulation and social control’ ( 2016 1-2). They have described these exilic spaces as living at the edges of capitalism. They find examples of exilic spaces in  Zapatistas villages, Cossack communities and Supermaximum Prisons. My own co-research has found examples of what could be referred to as exilic spaces at Mondragon University in the Spanish Basque country, a region with a history of separatist politics (Kashmir 1996,  Bakaikoa et al 2010 ), where members of this co-operative university work on ‘solidarity economics’ projects in the Global South (Neary, Valenzuela-Fuentes and Winn 2017).

Grubacic is aware of the value-form theory on which Student as Producer is based (Grubacic 2016), although value-form theory does not form part of the methodology by which he describes his Balkanised federated model. For Student as Producer exilic space is not  only mutual aid as an empirical political issue but involves a critique of political economy in action focussed on the principle of co-operation. Revolutionary teaching is not then a radical university that is located within an exilic space:  but a methodological principle: dialectical anthropology or communist science, around which an exilic space  might be  organised: no state no nation: a co-operative federation. And so, in this way, revolutionary teaching  becomes much more than the basis for an independent co-operative institution and asserts itself as the organising principle for a new form of political settlement.


Reading Ranciere Symptomatically

Jacques Ranciere might be the epitome of a revolutionary teacher. The book I am writing, Student as Producer: how do revolutionary teachers teach? provides a symptomatic reading of some of Ranciere’s major works to reveal the nature of Ranciere’s revolutionary appeal. A symptomatic reading is a type of revolutionary science, drawing out from  a piece of writing  what is not obvious from a superficial reading and may not even be apparent to the author: a result of their subconscious thinking (Davis 2010); and, in this way, ‘to produce the visible invisible’ (Young 2017) when reading a text. This type of reading was advocated by Louis Althusser in relation to reading Marx. Ranciere was Althusser’s student, before Ranciere denounced him  as an armchair theorist and  an authoritarian teacher, while going on to create his own democratic approach to teaching and social theory (Ranciere 2011).

I offer this symptomatic reading of Ranciere not as a ‘condescending philosophy’ (Davis 2010 14), but as my own contribution to interpreting Marx through  a ‘discourse(s) of struggles’ ( Ranciere 2011 119), as a student, not as a teacher, and as an expression of my own intellectual emancipation.

One reading of Ranciere is as a polemical anti-Marxist. I want to challenge this view by arguing that Ranciere’s most compelling concepts: equality of intelligence, intellectual emancipation, subjectivization, distribution of the sensible, part of the no part,  declassification, democracy and police are based on a method of theorising that has its roots in Marx’s  value-form theory.  Ranciere did, after all, write a paper setting out the basis for Marx’s revolutionary theory of value, which has become a key text for the ongoing reappraisal of Marx’s writings known as ‘ the new reading of Marx’ (O’Kane date). What makes Ranciere’s value-form paper more  fascinating is that it  was originally published in Althusser’s ‘Reading Capital’ (1965) but was removed from subsequent editions.

There is other work that claims Ranciere as a Marxist although not in relation to  value-form theory  (Renault 2014; Lefebvre 2015), as well as interpretations that draw out the significance of work and workers as an underlying theme in Ranciere’s work without any reference to the law of value (Deranty 2012). There is scholarship that recognises the significance of Ranciere’s unpublished paper as a way of understanding the significance of Marx’s value-form theory (Nesbitt 2017;  Chambers 2014) but not in a way that underpins his subsequent theorisations.

Ranciere may have denounced Marx and what he claimed was his derogatory attitude towards the working class, but he acknowledges the explosive power of the identity of opposites: use-value and exchange value: the value-form, which threaten to blow capitalism apart, even if Capital has managed to avoid its own catastrophic destiny up until now (The Philosopher and his Poor 2004).  Ranciere’s work points to a  theory of resistance to Capital as oppositions  conjured out of the value-form  and its most regulatory function: the principle of equivalence on which equality is based.

Ranciere sets out his theory of  equality  in  The Ignorant Schoolmaster: five lessons in intellectual emancipation (1991). Ranciere assumes, following Joseph Jacotot, a French teacher and educational philosopher during the Bourbon Restoration period, that everybody’s intelligence is of the same nature, and, therefore, everybody has the same ability to learn given the will, circumstances and object of study: the thing in common. Ranciere  tells us that Jacotot refers to this capacity as the equality of the intellect. It is the role of the teacher to develop a context in which such learning can take place, so that the intellect of students can be emancipated. This does not mean teachers explaining things to students: teacherly explication is a form of student stultification. The  most radical claim of ‘the ignorant schoolmaster’ is that  teachers  can create a situation for students to learn something the teacher knows nothing about. Ranciere, after Jacotot, refers to this as universal education.

My claim, based on a symptomatic reading of Ranciere, is that  the idea of equality, and the concept of equivalence on which it is based, is  derived from Marx’s value-form theory, where labour (abstract labour) is what all objects (commodities) have in common, and  what is recognised in  the act of exchange: as equivalent amounts of abstract labour. However, in the case of universal education, equivalence is not a form of social regulation, but the method by which that regulation can be resisted, superseding in a dialectical fashion the exchange relation, as a pedagogy of excess (Neary and Hagyard 2010). The pedagogy of excess is when the law of value and its principle of equivalence is turned against itself, as the capacity of labour to resist the law of value through a process of self-valorisation. Self-valorisation puts people and the planet before profit. Self-valorisation includes the production of knowledge about labour’s own predicament as a radical form of political science (Cleaver 2017).

This  emancipation of the intellect is extended by Ranciere beyond teaching and learning as a theory of political society. Emancipation  moves from  new forms of knowing  to new forms of political subjectivity: subjectification and declassification emerge as resistance to the dominant social order expressed by Ranciere’s theory of police (Disagreement 2004). Revolutionary subjects are not already prefigured as sociological types: anti-racists, feminists and workers, in what Ranciere refers to as the distribution of the sensible, distributed by the police as the arbiters of what counts as radical politics; but, rather ‘the part of the no part’: those  who have yet to find a voice and be recognised as an act of political dissensus . Dissensus is a social event at the level of society, even if Ranciere  does privilege  individuals rather than homogenous groups, like the proletariat. Once again, symptomatically, he is following Marx for whom revolution is not merely the triumph of the working class but the coming into being  of the social individual.

Marx conceptualises the social individual in terms of emancipating the productive powers of individuals and, therefore, the productive capacity of society as a whole. He does this specifically in relation to the production of knowledge and science to be appropriated for the benefit of society, by reclaiming what Marx refers to as  ‘the general intellect’ (Grundrisse). The concept of the general intellect bears a close resemblance to Ranciere’s notion of the emancipation of the intellect.

So how does this help us to answer the question ‘how do revolutionary teachers teach?’ Revolutionary teachers can support the wilfulness of their students by setting out an emancipatory circumstance as well as things in common, which might be considered as a form of ‘communism without the communists’ (Ranciere 2010) about which we all have much to learn.

Walter Benjamin – a modern, messianic and magic Marxist


Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940) is a significant presence in the book I am writing, Student as Producer: how do revolutionary teachers teach? Benjamin was a German political philosopher and cultural theorist with a compendium of interests, including art, architecture, literature, philosophy, history and education. He was part of a group known as the Frankfurt School, based at the Institute of Social Sciences, who set out to  recover and reappraise  Marxist social theory through a body of intellectual work that has become known as ‘Critical Theory’.   His writings were a combination of modernism, the messianic and Marxism, making him ‘the most peculiar Marxist ever produced by this movement’ ( Arendt 1968 ). He was forced to flee Germany during the 1930s when his Jewish religion and Marxist politics put him in danger of imprisonment and death. He committed suicide in 1940 in Portbou, Spain, when en route to America he feared capture and deportation back to France. Benjamin was not read widely during his life, achieving posthumous fame (Eiland and Jennings 2014 11) and now occupies ‘… a singular, even unique place, in the intellectual and political panorama of the twentieth century’ (Lowy 2005 1).

One of his most famous essays is ‘The Author as Producer’, written in 1934 in Paris, where he posed the question ‘how do radical intellectuals act in a moment of crisis?’  This question  about the role of radical intellectuals underpins the core issue of the Student as Producer book: ‘how do revolutionary teachers teach? The title ‘Student as Producer’ is adapted from the title of this essay.  At the heart of the Student as Producer book is a critical engagement with two controversies that coalesce around Benjamin’s work: his relation to Marxist social theory and how this  informs what he referred to as  proletarian or communist pedagogy.

The general view of Benjamin’s Marxism is that although he had a sophisticated understanding of Marx’s value theory,  his approach to Marx’s social theory ‘was not dialectical enough’ (Feldman 2011). His understanding of Marx was acquired from reading commentaries by Otto Ruhle, Karl Korsch and, in particular, Georg Lukacs’ ‘History and Class Consciousness’ (1972) to support his own readings of Marx (Clark 2004 ). Benjamin’s Marxism was not simply ‘something to be pursued academically’, but ‘a field of possibility’ (Leslie 2005 558),  an understanding of Marx deepened by his relationship with the Russian revolutionary, Asja Lacis.Marxist dialectics understands revolutionary change to be motivated by class struggle: ‘all history is the history of class struggle’. A major controversy within this understanding of Marxist dialectics is the extent to which the working class forms the subject of revolution. A reading that is ‘not dialectal enough’ identifies the revolution as being when the working class achieves its moment of historical destiny through class struggle: what Benjamin refers to a ‘positivist dialectic’ (Benjamin 1929). This  revolutionary process is described by Benjamin using a messianic metaphor, as a form of  ‘divine violence’ (Neary 2016). A more dialectical reading has Capital itself as the automatic subject with  the working class and the particular form of labour that they personify as  a central factor of capitalist accumulation. This means reading the revolution not from the perspective of labour but as a critique of labour in capitalism (Postone 1993): a negative dialectic. This negative dialectical reading focuses on value as a particular form of capitalist wealth, expressed as  money and profit. The revolution requires that money-wealth is  abolished and replaced by another version of social wealth, organised around the interests of humanity in nature. This points beyond the politics of distribution to a new politics of production based on the logic of abundance rather than scarcity.  The politics of abundance is already an unrealised capacity of Capital, denied by the logic  of market exchange and the economics of scarcity. Abundance can be established by connecting social individuals’ needs and capacities, which is how Marx defines communism (Kay and Mott 1982).

Benjamin’s proletarian and communist pedagogy was based on his attachment to the working class as the subject of the revolution. Benjamin was influenced by Bertolt Brecht, the German Marxist playwright and poet. Brecht was known to  favour crude thinking over dialectics, so too did Benjamin: ‘Crude thoughts …are  nothing but the referral of theory to practice…a thought must be crude to come into its own in action’  (Arendt 1968 15). Crude is antagonistic to the dialectical, which is a dialectic of sorts.

There was a very clear connection between his ‘not dialectical enough’ reading of Marx and his approach to what he refers to a communist or proletarian pedagogy. Benjamin wrote about pedagogy in terms of his longstanding interest in childhood and the life of students. Benjamin’s theory of childhood is prelapsarian, providing the possibility for redemption and revolution (Salzani 2009 189).

A communist pedagogy for Benjamin is against the psychology and ethics and theory of bourgeois education which fixes children and adults into their functions as socially useful citizens based on an idealist humanist philosophy. For Benjamin, communist pedagogy is not idealist  but non-humanist and non-contemplative, in ways that are both practical and active ( Solzani 2009 188): ‘Education is a function of class  struggle, but not only this. In the communist creed it represent the thoroughgoing exploitation of social environment in the service of revolutionary goals. Since this environment is a matter not just of struggle but also of work, education is also a revolutionary education of work’ (Benjamin 1929 274).  A part of this revolutionary education are school strikes and other political disruptions by pupils. Education is based on privileging work in the form of universal labour, leading to ‘universal readiness…so man ( sic) can mobilise his energies in the service of the working class again and again and in every new context’ ( 274).  Students are best prepared for the universality of labour through a polytechnic mass education which should include adults. While Benjamin refers to this analysis as a ‘dialectical anthropology’ (275) the concept of universal labour is affirmative and not contextualised, providing more reasons  to argue that his dialectic approach is not dialectal enough.

Writing in ‘Proletarian Pedagogy of the Theatre’ Benjamin argues Proletarian education needs first and foremost a framework, an objective space within which education can be located,’  and allowed to develop. This is opposed to bourgeois education which is based on an idea to which it is heading towards, teleologically.  He identifies this liberated space as the theatre, as ‘It is only in the theatre that the whole of life can appear as a defined space, framed in all its plenitude; and this is why proletarian children’s theatre is the dialectical site of education’ (Benjamin 202). In this dramatic space the adult gives up the domineering role, so that their function is  ‘indirect’ and ‘mediated by tasks, the subject matter and  performances’ (Salzani 2009 188). The teacher’s role is ‘neutralised’  giving up their  ‘moral personality’  and ‘superior standpoint’ which is described as ‘knowing better and wanting better’ (188). This is not based on a preplanned curriculum but improvisation  leading to a ‘radical unleashing’ and ‘wild improvisation’ where the child’s imagination  must be ‘released from the hazardous magical world of sheer fantasy and be connected to materials’, to enable a semiotics of ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ (189).  What emerges out of ‘the tensions’ of relationship between student and teacher is a release of ‘the true genius of education: the power of observation’ (188). What is truly revolutionary is the secret signal of what is yet to come that speaks from the gesture of the child, not as an individual but as part of a collective group (188-189). In this way the orthodox roles of teacher and student are reversed with the teacher learning from the student (Salzani 2009).

The Student as Producer book will deal with themes established in this short review: the place of space as the context out of which revolutionary teaching can emerge beyond the class room and the school to establish new forms of political community; not childhood as prelapsarian and redemptive, but pedagogy as a way of maintaining learners in a childlike subordinate condition, from the Greek paed for child,  without responsibility or authority; and the role and function of magic, not as sheer fantasy that must be connected to materiality, but a magic that is conjured out of materiality (Neary and Taylor 1998): an alchemical project based on the power of revolutionary teaching.





Wealth-in-against-and-beyond Value: introduction to a talk by Prof John Holloway: 15th June, 2017


Lincoln June2017

Ana Dinerstein, John Holloway and me.


These are remarks I made to introduce John Holloway before he gave his paper:

I am delighted to welcome John Holloway to the University of Lincoln to present his paper: ‘Wealth-in-Against-and-Beyond Value’. Thank you to John for coming and for all of you who are here to be a part of this event. I would like to mention someone who cannot be here, Prof Joyce Canaan, who is very unwell. I know how much she wanted to be here and how much she would have contributed to our discussions. I am so grateful to Stuart Platt who is recording John’s talk on video film  so that she and others not present will be able to  see what has gone on here today.

This event is hosted jointly by the School of Social and Political Sciences at Lincoln and the Marx Research Seminar Series organised by a group of PhD students. They do a great job of keeping Marxist scholarship alive at Lincoln.



‘In the beginning is the scream. We scream’ (Holloway 2002). John Holloway has been articulating the language of resistance and lessons learnt from  struggles against capitalism and colonialism for more than 40 years. John taught Politics at the University of   Edinburgh  before moving to Mexico in the early  1990s, since when he has been teaching at the Autonomous University of Puebla. As a founder member of the journals Capital and Class in 1976 and  Common Sense: a journal of a wholly new type in Scotland in  1987 he has breathed life into a sometimes moribund interpretation of Marxist social theory. He has consolidated these contributions with a series of books and papers, most notably theorising the capitalist  state, In and Against the State 1979, as well as Global Capital, the National State and the Politics of Money ( 1995); State and Capital: A Marxist Debate, with Sol Picciotto (1979) and Post Fordism and Social Form with Werner Bonefeld (1991), as well as many other publications.

John Holloway was a member of the group, including Richard Gunn, Werner Bonefeld and Kosmas Psychopedis, that launched Open Marxism, initially as a three volume co-edited book series in the 1990s. The essential focus of Open Marxism, building on from previous work, is the significance of class struggle, not as a sociological category but as ‘a contradictory and antagonistic social relation’ (Holloway et al 1992 xiii) , or determinate abstraction, like labour, which in capitalist society ‘exists in the mode of being denied’ (Gunn 1992 23).

While in Mexico John made a strong connection with Zapatismo, a movement inspired by the uprising of the Zapatistas against brutal repression of the Mexican government in 1994. He published two books integrating Open Marxism and Zapatismo during this period: Change the World Without taking Power: the meaning of revolution today in 2002 and Crack Capitalism in 2010. In Change the World  John takes on the most resolute of bourgeois concepts, fetishism,  identity and classification, turning them on their heads and inside out while inventing new concepts, like ‘doing’ against the labour that produces capital,  and ‘anti-power’, which means not to take control of the state, but to dissolve or detonate the social relations of production out of which the state is derived. In  Crack Capitalism revolution is presented  as a multiplicity of interstitial movements against a  paranoid capitalist  totality. John’s point is that Marx’s writings are not a theory of capitalism but a social theory against capitalism, not a theory of domination but a theory for emancipation. Capital is a  cracked actor, revolution is having the craic, Capital is a cracked language – like a stammer. John’s work is not only about cracking capitalism, but, as Dinerstein argues, has been to make  ‘a crack in Marxist thought’ (forthcoming  ‘John Holloway: A theory of interstitial revolution’ 2018). 

[Here is the video recording of John’s talk].



How do revolutionary teachers teach? vs critical pedagogy

I gave a keynote lecture recently to the Marx and Philosophy Society Annual Conference. The title of my talk was Critical Theory as a Critique of Labour, ft. academic work; or, how do revolutionary teachers teach? One of the questions asked was what is the difference between my version of revolutionary teaching and critical pedagogy. It was a good question. My answer was a bit garbled. Having had time to consider the question I have set out a more organised answer below.


Critical pedagogy in the way of Henry Giroux or Paulo Freire promotes a collaborative relationship between the teacher and student so that each have much to learn from each other. The teacher maintains a leadership role to guide the student to an awareness of how the world can be transformed for the benefit of humanity.

The real secret of revolutionary teaching lies in not teaching (Vygotsky 1927 339). For revolutionary teaching there is no teacher and student; rather, revolutionary teaching establishes an event, or better an institutional form, out of which critical practical knowledge can emerge, as a type of anti-positivist science (Gunn 1989).

In an event with no teacher there is no personal authority. The authority  is the knowledge produced by the group which participants can draw on for inspiration and energy. This knowledge becomes the basis for a new institutional form, or ‘living knowledge’ as Gigi Roggero describes it.

For revolutionary teaching democracy is the essence of this arrangement as democracy is the essence of science and knowledge, after John Dewey’s notion of Producerism (Westbrook 2015). Revolutionary teaching is politics not pedagogy.

The Marxist version of critical pedagogy is based on a mainstream version of Marxism as well as  western Marxism and cultural Marxism. For critical pedagogy based on these versions of Marxist theory workers struggle to appropriate the means of production so that wealth can be distributed more equally (Hill). This is underpinned by a focus on the relationship between knowledge and power (Apple).  These versions of Marx imply a privileged position for critical thinkers somehow  outside the realms of perverted class consciousness, yet unable to  ‘account for its own existence and must present itself in the form of tragic stance or avant-garde pedagogy’ (Postone 1993 38-39).

Revolutionary teaching recognises students and teachers in the capitalist university as academic workers whose labour power is exploited for the production of capitalist surplus value. Revolutionary teaching is grounded in a reappraisal of  Marx’s value theory of labour: a critique of labour in capitalism, or a value-form analysis (Postone), which seeks to overcome capitalist relations of production for a post-capitalist society in which work is no longer the organising principle of society, and where money has ceased to be the supreme form of social power (Clarke). Communism is not only ‘the ruthless critique of the existing order’ (Marx), but a society of abundance based on the reconciliation of the needs and capacities of humanity in nature (Kay and Mott).

Critical pedagogy is based on praxis, or immediate action in response to capitalist repression as a form of unmediated violence. In that sense it mirrors the instrumentality of capitalist logic: to read the world in order to transform it. Revolutionary teaching avoids praxisism through an awareness of the ways in which immediate activity is mediated by the value-form. This does not mean do nothing. Revolutionary teaching is grounded in action based on an awareness of the contradictoriness of the world. Paula Allman’s reading of Marx as a value theory of labour, which she describes as revolutionary critical pedagogy,  and Glenn Rikowski’s analysis of the value form with regard to education, are very helpful in this regard. The world cannot be read, rather it has to be translated, to use an idea developed by Ana Dinerstein, which compares the mediation of language with the mediation of the value-form. Translation includes non-capitalist indigenous knowledge, not as a counter worldly wisdom (Kahn) , but as a contribution to critical practical social knowing, i.e. revolutionary teaching.

Critical pedagogy is  based on an affirmative understanding of humanity or creativity as a natural capacity which has been suppressed.  Revolutionary teaching is based on a negative critique of humanity, in which, following Adorno’s maxim ‘the negative can never be negative enough’. The most developed version of revolutionary critical pedagogy is by Peter McLaren. I have written a response to his approach in an article, The Pedagogy of Hate.

The logic of revolutionary teaching points to a co-operative university (Winn) as a democratic institution based on the principle of solidarity (Hall) ran for the benefit not only of its members but the society out of which it has emerged. This form of knowledge at the level of society, what Marx refers to as ‘the general intellect’, suggests an extended form of political settlement, beyond the idea of a political party or even the national state (Virno ; Grubacic and O’Hearn ).

We might  think of this political settlement as a co-operative federation, like Rojava  , an autonomous region in North Syria since 2014 that operates a co-operative based economy, providing social cohesion for a no-state democracy.   Any such  federation must retain the capacity to challenge its own foundational  principles, like  democratic confederalism (Ocalan), through a practical reflexive critique based on the practice and principles of revolutionary teaching.




Student as Producer: how do revolutionary teachers teach? – redrafted book abstract


I am continuing to work on my book Student as Producer: How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach?  The content is being brought up to date to include the participation of students and young people in the 2017 UK election, and research undertaken at the University of Mondragon, a co-operative university in the Basque country in Spain, informed by the work of Andrej Grubacic on ‘non-state spaces’.



Student as Producer is a manifesto for revolutionary teaching that emerged from inside an English university at the start of the 21st century. Grounded in a pedagogy derived from Marxist social theory (Postone 1993, Clarke 1991, Dinerstein 2015, Holloway 2002), Student as Producer provides a practical and critical response to the ongoing assault on higher education by the social power of Money and regulations of the capitalist State, with a focus on Police (Neocleous 2000). The book is set within the period marked by  the student protests that erupted in England at the end of 2010 against the massive rise in fees, which appeared as a defeat of the student movement,  and the powerful democratic expression of students and young people in the 2017 UK General Election in support for a no-fee higher education and other progressive social polices, that looks like an important part of a new socialistic political project. This book explores the intellectual origins of Student as Producer (Benjamin 1934, Debord 1977, Weil 1952), as well as  a critical engagement with the work of  major writers on radical and revolutionary education (Freire 1970, Allman 2010, Ranciere 1991). Student as Producer’s revolutionary curriculum is  framed around unlearning the law of labour as a critique of capitalist work and the institutions through which the law of labour is enforced, including the capitalist university (Neary and Winn 2009, Neary and Winn 2017, Winn 2015, Hall 2014, University of Utopia n.d.). The answer to the question how do revolutionary teachers teach lies not in  critical pedagogy:  the ‘deceptive immediacy’ (Adorno 1968) of classroom teaching ( Neary 2017), but by remaking the knowledge economy as knowledge production at the level of society. This means reconfiguring the space occupied by higher education, through the dissolution of the power of Money and the State, to create a Co-operative University as the foundational principle for a non-state, non-party political settlement  (Grubacic and O’Hearne 2016) .


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Allman, P. (2010) Critical Education Against Global Capitalism: Karl Marx and Revolutionary Critical Education, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam

Benjamin, W. (1973)  The Author as Producer. Understanding Brecht,  New Left Book, London [1934]

Clarke, S. (1991) Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology: From Adam Smith to Max Weber, Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York

Debord, G. (1977) The Society of the Spectacle, Black and Red, Detroit

Dinerstein, A. (2015) The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope, Palgrave Macmillan, London and New York

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin, London

Grubacic, A. and O’Hearne D. ( 2016) Living at the Edge of Capitalism: Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid. University of California Press.

Hall, R. (2014) ‘On the Abolition of Academic Labour: The Relationship Between Intellectual Work and Mass Intellectuality’, Triple C: Communication, Capitalism and Critique, Journal for a Global, Sustainable Information Society, Vol 12 (2)

Holloway, J. (2002) Change the World Without Taking Power, Pluto Press, London

Neary, M. (2015) Educative Power: the Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period of Civil War. Culture Machine.

Neary, M. (2017) Pedagogy of Hate. Policy Futures in Education.

Neary, M. and Saunders, G. (2016) Student as Producer and the Politics of Abolition: Making a New Form of Dissident Institution. Critical Education.

Neary, M. and Winn, J (2017) Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Co-operative Higher Education. Open Library of Humanities. [pre-publication version

Neary, M. and Winn, J. ( 2009) Student as Producer: Reinventing the Undergraduate Student Experience of Higher Eduction. In Howard Stevenson, Les Bell and Mike Neary (ends). The Future of Higher Education, Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience. New York and London: Continuum, 192 – 210.

Neocleous, M. (2000) The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power, Pluto, London

Postone, M. (1993) Time, Labour and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Social Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Ranciere, J. (1991) The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, Stanford University Press, Stanford

University of Utopia ( n.d.) On Sharing: Anti-curricula – a course of action

Weil, S. (1952) The Need for Roots, Routledge, London.

Winn, J. (2015) ‘The Co-operative University: Labour, Property and Pedagogy’, Power and Education 7 39-55


Sustainability and the Politics of Abolition


I was asked to be part of a panel at the University of Gloucestershire looking at the future of higher education, with a focus on sustainability. Each of the panel members had to make a five minute presentation on their position with regard to sustainability and higher education. Please see my contribution below.


I am arguing for abolitionism not sustainability. I am an abolitionist; part of a dissenting tradition with roots in the anti-slavery movement (Davis 2003), with a history of organising opposition to capital punishment (Linebaugh 2006), as a project to tear down the prison-industrial complex (Mathiesen 1994) and a campaign to ban nuclear weapons (Nuttall 1970). What I want to abolish is a society where no-thing is sustainable (Harney and Moten 2013 42), where everything about humanity-in-nature that we consider worth preserving is at risk (Moore 2016), where modernity itself is defined as a ‘risk society’ (Beck 1992).

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, writing in the Communist Manifesto (1848) had it that ‘all that is solid melts into air’, describing a capitalist civilisation where the mode of production reduces everything to heat and dust, in ways now recognised as environmental destruction and global warming. But the Manifesto points to another aspect of unsustainability: capitalism itself is at risk, haunted by the spectre of resistance and refusal which Marx and Engels refer to as communism.

Following the financial crisis of 2008 it is clear that capitalism’s capacity to reproduce itself as a market-based system of social development has been discredited. Neoliberalism is finished. The progressive aspects of capitalist society, distributing wealth in the form of expanding wages and welfare was the bankrupting logic for the 1970s global economic crisis (Cleaver 2017). Keynesianism is dead. Paul Mason argues we are already living in a post-capitalist world (2015). So what comes next: barbarism, socialism, communism, fascism?  The militarisation of police and the brutality of state power becomes ever more intense as capital struggles to find renewed techniques for productive expansion (Graham 2010, Neary 2015).

A model of sustainability that avoids the logic of the Capitalocene (Moore 2016) is unlikely to achieve its development goals; reduced to a sterile debate between science-deniers, with their heads buried in the profits to be fracked from tar sands and other despoilisations of nature, and science-survivors, for whom the future depends on humanity’s resilience and adaptability and sustainability.

How can we avoid becoming apologists for a system that we claim to be against? We can recognise capitalism’s motive power as the exploitation of human energy and ‘cheap nature’, where value is calculated in measures of labour time and sold as commodities in exchange for money (Moore 2016). The accumulation of money rather than the satisfaction of human needs is the logic of capitalist expansion. In this life-world money becomes the supreme social power, as an impersonal form of social domination, relying for its continuing expansion on the imposition of poverty, debt and negative consequences beyond the human imagination.

My work focuses on the problem of labour, creating human associations in ways that undermine the logic of capitalist relations of production (Neary 2015, 2017). In the short term this means building cooperative institutions, which reconfigure the meaning of work (Neary and Winn 2017, Neary and Saunders 2016). I am now collaborating with others to create a new cooperative university where the contribution of students to the production of knowledge and performance of teaching and learning events: Student as Producer, is recognised, along with the centrality of workplace democracy as the basis for experimental science; where the natural and social sciences are combined to form “One Science’ (Marx 1844). In the longer term this means not resilience or adaptability or sustainability, not creating jobs or promoting employability, but to transform, revolutionise and abolish capitalist work so that a new society can be created not on the back of human and animal labour but on the principle of life-enhancing-life.


Beck, Ulrich (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London and New York: Sage Books.

Clarke, Simon (1988) Keynesianism, Monetarism and the Crisis of the State. Aldershot: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Cleaver, Harry (2017) Rupturing the Dialectic: the Struggle against Work, Money and Financialisation. AK Press.

Davis, Angela (2003) Are Prisons Obsolete. Seven Stories Press: New York.

Graham, Stephen Graham (2010) Cities Under Siege: the New Military Urbanism. London and New York: Verso.

Harney, Stefano and Moten, Fred (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions.

Linebaugh, Peter (2006) The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century. London and New York: Verso.

Marx, Karl (2000) Early Writings. London and New York: Penguin Classics.

Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels (2002) Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin Classic.

Mason Paul (2015) Post-Capitalism: A Guide to the Future.  Allen Lane:London.

Moore, Jason (2015) Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London and New York: Verso.

Mathiesen Thomas (1974) The Politics of Abolition. Wiley.

Neary, Mike (2015) Educative Power: the Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period of Civil War. Culture Machine.

Neary, Mike (2017) Pedagogy of Hate. Policy Futures in Education.

Neary, Mike and Saunders, Gary (2016) Student as Producer and the Politics of Abolition: Making a New Form of Dissident Institution. Critical Education.

Neary Mike and Winn Joss (2017) Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Co-operative Higher Education. Open Library of Humanities. [pre-publication version

Nuttall, Jeff (1970) Bomb Culture. Paladin: London.






Political Violence: Capitalist Value, British Values and Academic Freedom

I was recently invited to give a keynote presentation about Student as Producer to a conference at a college in England. A condition of the invitation was that I sign a document agreeing with the proposition that the principles of democracy, liberty and religious tolerance are based on fundamental British values. The document forms part of the British government’s Prevent policy, which seeks to prevent people carrying out acts of terrorism. It is a  requirement of public institutions that they follow a set of protocols to deny the promotion of ‘extremist’ ideas on which terrorist activity might be based. I did not sign the document but set out my views about the relationship between British values and the principles of liberal democracy in an email that I sent to the organisers of the conference.  The organisers accepted my views on the matter so that I was cleared to accept the invitation and present my keynote. It is part of the Prevent protocols that colleges balance their legal duty to ensure freedom of speech and academic freedom with the requirement to challenge what the Prevent policy defines as  extremist views and ideologies. I have set out below an extended account of what I consider to be some of the main areas of contention with the Prevent policy.


The British Government’s policy to prevent people being ‘drawn into terrorism’ (Prevent Policy 2015) is deeply flawed, not least because of its claim to equate the principles of liberal political society with British values, but also for its refusal to acknowledge that political violence is an organising principle for all nation-states, including the British state, as well as the global system of international relations.

As a Professor of Sociology, who teaches and writes about political theory in an English University, I do not accept that the ideals set out on the document to be signed by visiting speakers: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect and tolerance of religious faiths, are based on British values. The values are, in fact, the key characteristics of a particular political ideology known as liberal democracy or liberalism. This refusal to accept the provenance of these ideals as British values is not based on my personal opinion but is a reasoned and informed position grounded in understanding and insights gained from my study of social science, critical political economy and international history. The core aspects of liberal democracy: a free market and free labour regulated by a strong state are the essential aspects of capitalist society in general.

Capitalism did first appear in Britain in the 15th century but was not the result of  British values, rather it emerged out of the discovery of the way in which surplus value could be produced through the exploitation of labour rather than the exploitation of land (feudalism), and later how machines and technology could be used to intensify the exploitation of labour. The emergence of capitalism in Britain led to the development of a political and economic system along with associated cultures and behaviours that we now understand to be the basis of modern British society. The current legal system of order is based on the maintenance of capitalist freedoms of the market: the capacity to buy and sell commodities, and the freedom of labour as the basis of individual liberty, both of which are imposed by the state and enforced by the police.

This form of society was replicated elsewhere as other countries adopted these capitalist methods so that a liberal democratic political system is now the basis of many developed capitalist countries. As we now know capitalism has positive aspects along with some very negative consequences, including unemployment, poverty, environmental destruction and global warming. These negative consequences lead to popular forms of resistance which have been contained by extending the franchise through parliamentary democracy, legalising trade unions, along with other employment and human rights, as well as the provision of welfare and charity. A key feature of  liberal democracy is that any alternative form of political system that seeks to ameliorate the negative consequences of capitalism, e.g, through the redistribution of resources, promoting a less hierarchical society or the support for  internationalism: not the nationalism explicit in the concept of British values, is presented as chaos and confusion. Resistance to capitalism can be criminalised if it is counter to the rule of law and order on which capitalism is based.

It is important to be able to vote and to protest and to strike so that the politicians can be held to account, the system as a whole reviewed, with the possibility always open for reform as well as transformation.

A central aspect of capitalism and what distinguishes it from the pre-capitalist feudal period is that the religious principle of the divine right of kings was replaced by the rule of money and private property. As religion is no longer predominant it is possible to be indifferent to and tolerate religions as religion has ceased to become the dominant form of social authority. Discrimination is prevalent in British society, often based on behaviours carried over from pre-capitalist societies based on patriarchy, slavery, colonialism and hierarchical customs as well as other oppressive traditions. These practices are not central to the functioning of the rule of money and private property and so can be contained and eradicated through policy and political administration.

Liberal democracy can be contrasted to social democracy, which places more emphasis on collective organisation rather than individual liberty. Social democracy is also imposed by a strong centralised state as a way of ameliorating class based politics, for example, through comprehensive education and collective bargaining over employment rights and wages. Under our current parliamentary political system liberal democracy is the basis of right wing politics and social democracy is the basis of left wing politics.

The Prevent strategy to stop people engaging in terrorist activities is based on a refusal to acknowledge that political violence is an organising principle for all nation-states, including the British state, and the global system of competition among nation-states and their regional alliances. The imposition of international law is based on the condition that when national wills collide force decides. This global system of international political violence is evidenced by the history of imperialism and on-going regional and global wars as nation-states seek access to resources to continue the production of surplus value and maintain a competitive advantage. The epitome of this globalised system of mortal violence is the atomic nuclear bomb with the power to destroy all planetary life. This endemic nature of political violence is not only between nation-states but within nation-states. All nation-states and their political systems were formed through acts of mortal violence, a killing mentality denied to other groups that wish to challenge the authority of the nation-state system. This liberal framework of political violence is used extensively to justify acts of murder, sometimes under the guise of humanitarianism. To regard terrorist attacks as a form of political violence does in no way condone these atrocious acts.

In higher education it is very important that there is no dogmatic assertion of any political ideology, and that students are taught to understand how ideologies are constructed so as to be able to make their own decisions about their own place in the world. Student as Producer, which I was invited to speak about, is based a critical view of capitalist education derived from understanding and insights gained from the social sciences, critical political economy and international history.

To be asked to sign a document affirming the status of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect and tolerance of religious faiths as British values, while, at the same time, avoiding the violent nature of liberal political society, is not only against what I understand to be the basis of these ideals and the history of violent nationalisms, but  is contrary to the principle of academic freedom on which my professional integrity is based.

I have suggested some readings below that further elaborate on the points that I have made.

Benjamin, Walter (1921) Critique of Violence. Reflections. Shocken Books: New York, pp. 277 – 300.

Freedman, Des ( 2017) The Terror News Cycle. LRB Blogs. 24th May:

Kay, Geoff and Mott, James (1982) Political Order and the Law of Labour. Macmillan: London.

Meiksins-Wood, Ellen (2017) The Origins of Capitalism. Verso: London.

Mieville, China (2006) Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law. London and New York; Verso.

Nabulsi, Karma ( 2017) Don’t go to the Doctors. London Review of Books.  18th May. Volume 39 no.10, pp. 27-28.

Neary, Mike (2016) Educative Power: the Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period of Civil War. Culture Machine, 16. pp. 1-28.

Perelman, Michael (2000) The Invention of Capitalism. Duke University Press: North Carolina.

Seymour, Richard (2008) The Liberal Defence of Murder. London: Verso.

Thompson, Edward (2013) The Making of the English Working Class. Penguin Modern Classics: London and New York.

John Holloway: Reading Capital

John Holloway will be  presenting his latest work ‘Reading Capital: wealth in-against-and-beyond value’ at the University of Lincoln, England, on 16th of June, 1 – 4pm in Room MB1012.

John’s reading and writings on Marxist social theory are highly influential as a way of rethinking Marx in terms of ‘Change the World without Taking Power’ (2005)  and abolishing the social relations of capitalist production through acts of resistance, as ways to ‘Crack Capitalism’ (2010).

In this new work, ‘Reading Capital’, John points out that Capital does not start with the commodity, as Marx and probably all commentators since Marx have claimed. It actually starts with wealth: “The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities’ …” Seeing wealth and not the commodity as the starting point has enormous consequences, both theoretically and politically.

To start with the commodity leads into the analysis of capitalism as a system of domination, into an attempt to understand how capitalism works, its laws of motion. Class struggle remains external to this analysis. Capital is understood as explaining the structural framework within which struggle takes place. The analysis, in this view, shows the necessity for revolution, but does not indicate how it might take place. Essentially capitalism is understood as a closed system that can be broken only by an external force (the Party, what Party?) in the future.

To start with wealth takes us in a very different direction. The relation between wealth and commodity is not one of identity. Wealth “appears as” commodities, but, in order for us to say that, there must be a remainder: it must also be true that wealth does not appear as commodities. In other words, wealth exists in-against-and-beyond the commodity form. The starting point, the relation between wealth and the commodity, is an antagonism, a non-containment, and overflowing. Class struggle, far from being external to Capital, is posed in the opening words of the book. What follows is not the analysis of a closed system but the development of an antagonism between wealth and commodity, use value and value and, crucially, concrete and abstract labour.

To say that Capital starts not with the commodity but with wealth is both revolutionary and self-evident. The challenge is to trace this antagonism through the three volumes of Capital. This is the theme of the talk.

Pedagogy of Hate

Please see abstract below for a paper, Pedagogy of Hate, to be published in a forthcoming edition of Policy Futures in Education, and this link to a pre-print version of the paper.



Written as  an extended review of Peter McLaren’s ‘Pedagogy of Insurrection: from Resurrection to Revolution’ published in 2015, this paper contradicts McLaren’s affirmation of political religion and the version of critical pedagogy on which it is based, claiming hate rather than Christian love as a core concept of Critical Theory. Not a personal, psychological or pathological hate, but a radical hate for what the world has become, or absolute negativity. Hate must be invoked as love-hate for the magic of dialectics to work against the holy love of McLaren’s Christian socialism. Radical hate reveals the main transcendental tenets of capitalist civilisation: God and Money, as impersonal forms of social domination that must be brought down to earth so real existence can learn, learn, learn itself. That is the educative power of the Pedagogy of Hate. Now and forever.


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