Educative Power: the Myth of Dronic Violence in a Period Civil War

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This paper provides an exposition of police state (‘mythic’) violence through the optic of drone culture, in a moment when the police state has declared war against the civilian population. The moment is contextualised during a period of resistance by academics and students  against the capitalist university in England 2010-2011, where the financialisation of academic and student life was seen as an act of intellectual vandalism. Grounded in Walter Benjamin’s  concept of ‘educative power’ (1921) the paper asks what forms of revolutionary ‘divine’  violence are needed to disable  the mythic violence of killing drones. Taking its cue from Benjamin Noys’ (2010) challenge to counter dronic violence as a negative collective agency  through the abolition of capitalist work, the paper presents a collective form of action by a group of students and academics who have established their own critique of waged-labour, as a worker-student cooperative, the  Social Science Centre, Lincoln; not as a clandestine operation but as  subversion in full view. Based on a critical engagement with the concept of ‘the Undercommons’ (Harney and Moten 2013) the paper asks the question ‘is it possible to work as a critical intellectual within an English university?’ All of  this is illustrated as a sort of social science fiction through a reading of  China Mieville’s The City and the City (2011), where the Social Science Centre’s public  subversion encounters the mythical power of the surveillance state as a concrete thought experiment.

The paper was published in ‘Drone Culture’ a special edition of Culture Machine, edited by Rob Coley and Dean Lockwood.

An Introduction to the Work of Karl Marx: Science of Revolution and Revolutionary Science

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In this lecture I claim that the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883) was not only a science of revolution but also a revolutionary  science, constituting a scientific revolution in social and political thought. This claim is based on Marx’s discovery of the dynamic substance: value in motion, on which  the social universe of Capital is founded: a dynamic substance that is unknown and invisible to the methods of bourgeois social science. This claim is grounded in a reappraisal of Marx’s social theory that seeks to recover and develop the revolutionary proposition in Marx’s writing through ‘a critique of value’: or anti-value in motion, which recognises the revolutionary principles (communism) and practices(class struggle) out of which a postcapitalist society is already emerging, but is always and everywhere at risk.

Revolutionary Science

‘In 1858, not a single person in the world understood the Grundrisse except Marx, and even he had trouble with it. It was an altogether unique and in every sense strange product of the intellect, and must have appeared like the reflections of some man from a distant planet. Emerging from a rat hole of an apartment in a London slum a bearded foreigner in worn clothing makes his way to the British museum; writes articles all day for a newspaper in far-off New York; reads obscure treatises no one else has read; pores over a ton of government Blue Books ignored by all; returns to the slum, works deep into the night, piling up notebooks in an illegible script. Hegel? Adam Smith? Ricardo? Proudhon? Who knew or cared? If Marx had died in mid-1858 (it was not so distant a possibility) these seven winter work books might well have remained a book of as many seals. Instead, he emerged in 1863 as the only man in London – where working-class leaders from all over the world were in exile or visiting – who could precisely articulate the grounds for the general working class feeling that the emancipation of wage slaves required the abolition of slavery in its chattel form; the only man in 1864 who could formulate the elementary principles of unity for the first effective international association of workers; the only man within that association who could refute the narrow reformism of the trade union leaders and the doctrinaire anti-unionism of the utopians and anarchists, all in one coherent systematic argument. Amidst the enormous welter of sects, tendencies, utopias, schemes and hare-brained notions that rose to the surface like froth in a storm, there was only one person who had the basic outline of the entire historical movement firmly and clearly in mind; who had a concept of the whole, of its contradictions and limits, and of the road to its overthrow. If we are able to understand the Grundrisse at all today it is because Marx began and others have continued to demonstrate the actuality of its concept in practice and because history itself has leaped ahead. Much that could be expressed in 1857 and only in the form of a hopelessly abstract abstraction has become today so concrete and familiar as almost to become commonplace. Cataclysms, crises?..What is remarkable about all this…[historical]… development is not so much that is has developed but that Marx was able more than a century ago to grasp its outlines. This is a tribute not to his “genius” – that is a nonsense term – but to his method of work.’

(Martin Nicolaus, Foreword to the Grundrisse, 1993:  lv)

Free Education! A “Live” Report on the Chilean Student Movement 2011-2014 – reform or revolution? [A Political Sociology for Action]

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Magical Realism #lookingforallende @mikeneary

Written by Elisabeth Simbuerger and Mike Neary


This paper provides a report on the Chilean student movement, 2011 – 2014, from the perspective of the students themselves, based on the research question: are the student protesters for reform or revolution? The research was done just before the November 2013 Chilean Presidential and Parliamentary elections using  ‘live methods’ (Back and Puwar 2012).  The live methods used here include an  ethnographic report from a student protest march in downtown Santiago, Chile, illustrated with a Twitter hashtag (#lookingforallende) and shaped by an analytical framework through which the student protest can be interpreted. The analytical framework is made up of paradigms that seek to explicate radical political social transformations: charisma, social movement theory, an historical-materialist political economy, and a critique of political economy, based on an interpretation of Marx’s labour theory of value in a postcolonial context.  Each of these paradigms are elaborated with reference to an exemplary publication that deals with the Chilean situation in particular and Latin America more generally. The paper refers to this version of live methods as ‘political sociology for action’. The paper maintains that the students have developed a sophisticated consciousness in relation to the problems and possibilities of charismatic leadership, an awareness of the power and complexity of their own position as a social movement, together with a strong understanding of the need to contextualise their resistance within a particular version of political economy: neoliberalism. The paper suggests that a paradigm based on a critique of political economy can provide a foundational analysis for further understanding the circumstances of Chilean political society. Taken together: reporting ‘live methods’  within this analytical framework, the paper argues that political sociology for action provides a realistic estimate of the powers required not only to interpret history, but to transform it.

Keywords – reform, revolution, student movement, Allende, labour theory of value, charisma, political economy, Chile, social movements, historical materialism, postcolonialism

Published in  Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies Volume 13 No. 2

The Power of Abundant Friendship

Words are torture in my mouth.Words are weapons when we shout: Ya Basta! Enough.

I attended an un-conference on higher eduction at the Tamera Peace and Research Centre in southern Portugal, 20th- 26th  August, 2015. The theme for the event was A Gathering of Kindred Folk – Reimagining Higher Education. The shared assumption was that higher education is complicit in the commercialisation of knowledge and that another form of knowing needs to be reimagined  to undermine the process of academic capitalism and the colonialisation of knowledge and of life. The colonisation of the world by capitalist civilisation was regarded by many of the participants as a catastrophe for the planet and its biosphere.

There was a tension in the group between people from the global south committed to indigenous and land based knowledges and revolutionary radicals from the global north for whom a critique of capitalism is required in order to recover the connection between humanity with nature. There was another approach based on developing  practical solutions for the many problems confronting the planet through, for example, permaculture, and others who favoured systematic decision-making processes to resolve problems on the organisational and global scale. There was consensus between the participants involved with the Zapatistas who argued for an anarchist-Marxist critique grounded in the values and culture of the Mayan people. All agreed on the power of love. I argued for the power of hate, not a subjective hate but a radical hate against what the world has become, as the other side of the love-hate dialectic and the basis for a negative critique of our commodified lives. We told each other stories about our own predicament and shared each other’s suffering and joy. There were more than forty of us from all over the world. We lived together, ate together, laughed and cried together, and had fun together.

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We were all developing alternative universities and other types of critical education projects,  including the Universidad de la Tierra en Oaxaca and California, Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture,  H3Uni, The Journey Network, Free Home University,  Kainai Studies, RedCrow Community College, Auroville, Jangu E.V., Enlivened Learning, Gaia University,  Schools Without Borders,  Social Science Centre, Transition TownsSwaraj  University,  Centre for Convivial Research and Insurgent Learning, Black Daddies Club, Ubuntu Learning Village, Schumacher College, Maui Youth in Action,  as well as  Chto Delat/What is to be Done/School of Engaged Art?

A problem was how to connect and communicate through the pedagogy and the pain. We started to create a language that went beyond words. I felt the power of abundant friendship and its ability to confront the violence that attempts to maintain the gap between the intellectual, manual, natural, the immaterial/spectral and creaturely life. We discussed the overcoming of capitalism and colonialism through practices that support humanity-in-nature in the context of higher education. This could be the practice of enquiry-in-solidarity with the rhythmatics of blood pumping heart-beats and breathing, where ‘everything is pregnant with its contrary’, like labour, but this time more of a delivery than a process. We agreed to meet again and to invite other people. Someone dreamt our next meeting would be on a beautiful island in the middle of an ocean.

Keynote: Innovation in Built Environment Education Conference, September 4th 2015: Student as Producer – Making the Classroom history


Mike Neary presents a utopian vision for higher education based on the socialist architecture of Cedric Price (1934-2003) and the actor Joan Littlewood (1914-2002), whose work included ‘The University of the Streets’ (1961) and ‘The Thinkbelt’ (1966). These futuristic visions are grounded in a social theory of time that involves reconstituting the relationship between work-time and learning-time as a new pedagogy of space and time (Neary and Amsler 2012). Mike will show how these architectural visions have been developed as the ‘Psycho classroom’ (Lambert 2009), a prototype learning space built by the Reinvention Centre at the University of Warwick in 2006; a new form of cooperative learning, the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, UK, providing no fee higher education, and ongoing plans to develop a transnational co-operative university (Neary and Winn 2015, Teamey and Mandel 2014). At the core of this new work lies the pedagogic practice of Student as Producer, based on the problematic ‘how do revolutionary teachers teach?’ (Neary 2010, Neary 2015)


Lambert, C. (2009) ‘Psycho-Classroom – Teaching as a Work of Art’, Social and Cultural Geography 12 (1): 27-45

Neary, M (2010) ‘Student as Producer: A Pedagogy of the Avant-Garde’, or, How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach? Learning Exchange 1 (1), University of Westminster

Neary, M. and Amsler, A. (2012) ‘Occupy: A New Pedagogy of Space and Time’, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies 10 (2)

Neary, M. (2015) ‘Inhabiting the Learning Landscape’ in J. Lea (ed.) Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Open University Press

Neary, M. and Winn, J. (2015) ‘Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Cooperative Higher Education’, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy

Teamey, K. and Mandel, U. (2014) ‘Reimagining Higher Education’, Open Democracy 

Student as Producer: How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach? [Book 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). This book explores the intellectual origins of Student as Producer (Benjamin 1934, Debord 1977, Weil 1952); its links with the student protests that erupted in England in 2010 and around the world,  as well as  a reflexive engagement with the work of  major writers on radical education (Freire 1970, Allman 2010, Amsler 2015, Fielding and Moss 2011, Ranciere 1991) and some of their core assumptions, e.g., democracy, freedom and equality. 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, Winn 2015, Hall 2014, University of Utopia n.d.). The book presents an outline for a new social institution built on study (Harney and Moten 2012), stammering (Deleuze and Guattari 1986) and the desire for communism (Endnotes 2010).


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

Amsler, S. (2015) The Education of Radical Democracy, Routledge, London and New York

Benjamin, W. (1973) Understanding Brecht,  New Left Book, London

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

Deleuze and Guattari (1986) Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis

Endnotes (2010) Misery and the Value Form

Fielding and Moss (2011) Radical Education and the Common School – A Democratic Alternative, Sage, Abingdon and New York

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

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)

Harney, S. and Moten, F. (2012) Studying Through the Undercommons interviewed by Stevphen Shukaitis,  Class War University –

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

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

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

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

Mike Neary was the Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln, 2007-2014, where he is now Professor of Sociology in the School of Social and Political Sciences. He is a founder member of the Social Science Centre, a co-operative providing free public higher education in Lincoln, England, since 2011.