Making moves: the educative power of transnational co-operatives for higher education in an era of global civil war

This is the abstract for a paper I am giving at Crossing Borders conference at the University of the Aegean,  Lesbos, Greece, 7-10th, July


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UK Border Force vessel, Mytilini, Lesbos, Greece

The mass movement of dispossessed people towards the European continent is not just a desperate reaction to the brutal realism  and realpolitik of neocolonial and authoritarian governments, but is a crisis of the nation-state itself as the conflictual site(s) of the global capital-labour relation (Holloway and Picciotto 1979). An outcome of this conflictual relation is that nation states have declared war on their own civilian populations (Kurz 2014). This act of violence takes many forms: total and  low intensity warfare,  war against drugs and war on  terror as well as an economic assault through the imposition of poverty and hunger, leading to the migration of populations  to avoid these killing regimes. It is important to do everything to save the lives of those drowning in the seas around Europe, while recognising the nature of this global civil war requires  more than defensive humanitarian responses. This paper acknowledges the way in which Higher Education is responding to ‘the refugee crisis’. Universities are opening their doors to migrant students, e.g. in Germany with (DAAD, and through the EU MADAD fund, as well as the establishment of  new universities for refugees, e.g., Kiron University (Berlin) and the Silent University (England); and there are programmes to support displaced academics  at risk from oppression (CARA) as well as examples of student activism.This paper sets out an emerging resistance to global civil war in the form of transnational moves towards co-operative higher education, conceptualised here as ‘educative power’, which Walter Benjamin described  as a form of radical doubt (Critique of Violence, 1921).  The emergence of transnational co-operative universities offer the possibility to construct new forms of human sociability when connected to other working class struggles (Egan 1990). The University of Mondragon  is the most established co-operative university situated in the Basque region of Spain and a source of inspiration. These  new co-operatives include UnivSSE: the People’s University for a Social  Solidarity Economy  and the Co-operative Institute for Transnational Studies (Greece), Unicoop (Mexico), and the Social Science Centre, Lincoln and Manchester (England). They are  connected with other networks of resistance to capitalist higher education, e.g., Undercommoning (USA) and the Ecoversity. This is a fragile set of moves but contains within it the possibility of undermining  the capital-labour relation and the violence of the capitalist state.

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This work is ongoing and is being developed by further research: Beyond Private and Public: a framework for co-operative higher education (Neary and Winn, 2016)  and Co-operative leadership for higher education (Neary and Winn 2016)