Wither Universities? Whither Universities, Composing, 29/05/2018

So I ended up taking an extra day off the blog because election campaign season can be pretty draining. I don’t know how Americans live like this nearly every day, with some kind of intense election happening all the time.

But the extra day off marks a decent transition. I’ve finished going through all my most meaningful notes on Paul Patton’s stuff about Gilles Deleuze. At the time, when I finished that book, I wanted to walk away from secondary material on Deleuze.

You could kind of tell that I was getting a bit annoyed at how Patton’s focus on writing secondary material on Deleuze kept him from exploring his most interesting ideas. So I thought I’d pick up a direction that engaged more in political work. Focus on the real world.

There’s one part of the real world that embodies some of the major political problems we face today. Universities have been battlegrounds of radical politics over the last few years. They’re also deeply corrupted spaces – wide-scale underfunding and the growing influence of a culture of greed have made universities into parodies of the values the institution supposedly embodies.

Apparently, when this comic was first published, it described how
the Russian Bolshevik Communist party would infiltrate and
overthrow the free society of the United States. But when I see this
panel, the first person I think of is Rupert Murdoch.
Writing Utopias, I don’t want to focus entirely on the student movement. But I think there should be a passage there that reflects on what the universities of North America are, and the terrible processes that make the institutions fall short of what we tell ourselves we want from them.

There’s an ideal to the university in a democratic context – in our ideals and our political rhetoric* – as a place of impartiality, of the pure pursuit of learning for the sake of knowledge alone.

* Or as I could call it, our ideals turned into soundbites for political parties, business leaders, and TED Talks.

Who’s laughing yet? I know I am.

So I turned to a book that examines how the university system has fostered left-wing radicalism in its faculties, and what that radical thought has done to make real change in the world. Of course, I didn’t go to any of the right-wing works. They tend to be filled too much with stereotypes and cheap character assassination. Or else full on delusional theories about globalist communist conspiracies in our secular education system.

I wasn’t going to go down that road. Conservatives tend to do a terrible job of understanding how left-wing politics actually works. It’s their greatest weakness against the left – the total inability to know their enemy.

No – no one can trace the failure of the left better than a leftist. So a friend told me to get hold of a book by Jeremy Gilbert, called AntiCapitalism and Culture. It’s an insightful study of the role of Cultural Studies as a university-based research discipline in actual agitation against the neoliberal economic system and the institutions that uphold it.

It asks if the core right-wing smear of the university system is really true – Is it really a place that fosters dangerous radicals capable of helping overthrow the state and the industrial capitalist economic system?

Or are they all just jerking off?

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