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.

 

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‘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). 

[I will post the video recording of John’s talk here when it becomes available].

 

 

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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.

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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’.

 

ABSTRACT

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) .

References

Adorno, T. (1968) Late Capitalism or Industrial Society. Address to 16th German Sociological Conference: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/1968/late-capitalism.htm

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) http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/597/638

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. https://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/download/586/591

Neary, M. (2017) Pedagogy of Hate. Policy Futures in Education. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/26793/

Neary, M. and Saunders, G. (2016) Student as Producer and the Politics of Abolition: Making a New Form of Dissident Institution. Critical Education. http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/article/view/186127

Neary, M. and Winn, J (2017) Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Co-operative Higher Education. Open Library of Humanities. [pre-publication version http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/23051/%5D

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 http://www.universityofutopia.org/

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 http://josswinn.org/2015/04/the-co-operative-university-labour-property-and-pedagogy-2/

 

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.

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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.

References

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. http://www.minorcompositions.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/undercommons-web.pdf

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. https://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/download/586/591

Neary, Mike (2017) Pedagogy of Hate. Policy Futures in Education. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/26793/

Neary, Mike and Saunders, Gary (2016) Student as Producer and the Politics of Abolition: Making a New Form of Dissident Institution. Critical Education. http://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/article/view/186127

Neary Mike and Winn Joss (2017) Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Co-operative Higher Education. Open Library of Humanities. [pre-publication version http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/23051/%5D

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