A Generation Gap Is When a Young Person Gets Tired Faster Than Her Elders, Composing, 05/05/2015

I have known people who would seriously say that it should not have happened. I wrote an enormous collaborative project with the holder of a prestigious chair at a major British university, essentially a series of open-access dialogical riffs on key ideas in the different chapters of his latest book. 

It is not what most tenure/promotion or academic hiring committees would consider a properly academic work. We were both up for it because it would be interesting and fun and neither of us would have anything to lose by it. Steve is already a workaholic who pumps out a new book every 20 months anyway, and he already has tenure and a prestigious chair. He’s won the game.

The university system doesn't look like this anymore.
I left the game, so any project that would draw attention to my own ongoing writing projects is a good move for me. I don't have to worry about whether anything I write in public will be found unprofessional by a stuck-up old coot who’s been tenured since the Mulroney era and still thinks that everyone can afford to live pretty well on a university grad student stipend. I mean, they even get health insurance in Canada.

Steve said to me a couple of years ago that I was too talented for the university sector to lose, that I shouldn't give up on a tenure-track professorship. I year later, he told me that he frankly wouldn’t recommend pursuing a PhD and a career path in the university sector to anyone. 

According to the presumptions of some, whose perspectives on this matter of the academic labour market I'd call institutionally conservative, I shouldn’t even have anything to do with the university sector anymore. I’ve been blanked by a couple of people at conferences in 2014, not having a position as a per-course lecturer or higher. 

That tendency to conservatism is one of the reasons I’m glad I’ve left the game. We can all see the increasing invasion of private business norms into the public university sector, and those who imagine that this is not a problem have their heads in the sand. University faculty no longer have a position of influence in Western civil society. 

Only administrational positions have the same level of voice, and then offer little critique or even originality. There are only the same messages that students are customers and that an efficient university business always cuts costs. 

Universities are an institution that’s become corrupt. And we won't be able to change them by joining the system. We’ll be able to change the university system the same way the political movement of new liberal economics changed the university system over the last decades. Form independent organizations that organize activists to change public opinion through lives the express different priorities.

If I can say that there's any fundamental difference in our positive political programs, it goes beyond our emphases. It's that Steve still relies on using the power of the state to achieve major social goals. Institutions, forms of coercive authority, are the route to change our economies along more ecological and transformative directions. 

In the short run, it’ll probably be necessary to cope with the disasters of climate change that are now in their earliest stages. California and Arizona’s drought and desertification, Florida and the world's island nations flooding into the ocean, Australia becoming completely uninhabitable.

But real social change happens as real societies change, person by person reconsidering and altering their political and moral beliefs, then acting on this new program. It happens as leaderless groups of activists organize to promote their ideas not as ready-made dogmas to find converts, but for ongoing discussions that seek to change minds and change the world in doing so. 

I’m going to have to start getting hold of more books by Jacques Rancière, because he explores a lot of this new political territory.

Society changes when huge numbers of people all start living differently than before. No state and no authority is required to guide this transformation, only people who are dedicated to a new way of life. I've already decided to live differently than I have before. 

Instead of becoming a university professor teaching classes and writing books to restricted professionalized audiences, I'll become a communications practitioner who concentrates his work in creative and not-for-profit public service sectors, building credit in the relevant social networks of Toronto until I can mobilize many professional mobilizers.

All the while, I'd continue to publish my books of fiction and philosophy. Ultimately, I'd like to start a new progressive think tank, and combine my two careers as a professional lobbyist and promoter of models of politics for peaceful anarchism, public protest of authoritarian actions, and community building through self-organization.

The state hasn't been effective in making real cultural change, only changing some specific policies in authoritarian institutions. And the violence always emerges from the institution eventually. I don't think Steve has given up on the state as an agent of positive social change. I at least want to sideline it.

No comments:

Post a Comment