Is the University a Factory?

” For others still, student life is taken up with both part-time work and a succession of unpaid internships in cultural institutions, fashion houses, PR firms, media organisations and so on, in the hope that this ‘experience’ will translate into paid work on graduation. While we may lament the shift from university as a protected time in life where experiments in thought, knowledge and other ways of living can take place, to a period of study that is utterly instrumentalised for the job that comes after and makes good the debt, the reality in many universities today is that even this sequencing of life phases no longer holds true. For many arts and humanities graduates, the time of university and of work completely coincide. Often, the minimum wage service sector job held during the student period simply becomes more full-time upon graduation, or the student internship leads to yet more internships and service work on graduation. Perhaps proposing the university as factory in this context could do more to bring in an analysis of the working and studying patterns of these students of the new debt regime, where the worlds of learning and labour (both paid and unpaid) are intertwined like never before.”

Is the University a Factory?

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Art and Knowledge: Towards a Decolonial Perspective

by Therese Kaufmann

What then does art production mean in the context of an understanding of “production”, in which the increasing commodity character of knowledge, “the subordinating relation between the sphere of knowledge production and that of commodity production”, is so altered or actually inverted that knowledge production takes on an existence of its own, leading to a “merging of the two spheres”?[3] What does it mean that art, in its “constantly expanding forms of practice”[4] between knowledge production, research, education and self-formation, is to be seen not only in immediate proximity to the development of knowledge economies, but is itself formulated as a site of the production of knowledge?[5] What does this mean for art education as part of the general commercialization of education in control societies?

Most of all, however, which knowledge is at stake here, and which historical-political power relations become visible in it? At the end of this essay, which is intended to provide an overview of several aspects of the intertwining of art and knowledge in cognitive capitalism, I would like to conjoin this question with a theoretical approach that also starts from the idea of “knowledge” as a central category of analysis, but one that is rarely viewed in this context: specifically the (de-)coloniality of knowledge. This opens up a perspective, from which several lines for rethinking the issue may be developed in terms of the ambivalences of art and knowledge production in current capitalism.

On the current cultural industry in England

Clair Bishop argues that the cuts to culture cannot be seen as separate from an assault on welfare, education, and social equality “The rhetoric of an “age of austerity” is being used as a cloak for the privatization of all public services and a reinstatement of class privilege: a sad retreat from the most civilized Keynesian initiatives of the post-war period, in which education, healthcare, and culture were understood to be a democratic right freely available to all.

Bishop explains how Thatcher enforced a populist, profit-making model, how New Labour also viewed culture as an economic generator, while recognizing the role of creativity and culture in commerce. The age of “creative economy” and “knowledge economy” has started.

The slogan was “everyone is creative,” presenting the government’s mission as one that aims to “free the creative potential of individuals.”

“However, it is important to recognize that this aim of unleashing creativity was not designed to foster greater social happiness, the authentic realization of human potential, or the utopian imagination of alternatives, but rather to accelerate the processes of neoliberalism.” -…-

“It became important to develop creativity in schools, not so that everyone could be an artist (as Joseph Beuys declared), but because the population is increasingly required to assume the individualization associated with creativity: to be entrepreneurial, embrace risk, look after their own self-interest, be their own brands, and be free of dependence on the state.

One of the Arts Council’s new goals is to promote private philanthropy—“a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy, social action.” She argues on how experimental projects rarely receive support, while private sponsorship encourages self-censorship and the triumph of market imperatives.

The new moto is: Sacrifice=Volontear

Bishop explains the shift in education towards the shrinking of Arts and Humanities and the sponsoring of un-political, market oriented research. (Just see also what Phds are sponsored in Switzerland!)

“Under neoliberalism, the university is no longer tied to the production of culture and moral values, but to the profit motive (or what has been called “academic capitalism”)”

Now it is the free market that will organize education.

Bishop argues on the fact that those who support the cuts in the arts they say that in this crisis arts are a luxury. She argues on how this “actually creates and perpetuates this lie: without public subsidies, culture and the humanities are actually transformed from human necessities into luxuries, becoming the preserve of a wealthy few. The fight against cuts to arts and humanities funding is not a question of defending a luxury, but should be seen as part of a broader opposition to the destruction of the welfare state and the whole principle of austerity measures in general, in which the working and lower middle classes have to bear the brunt of the bank bailout to sustain the status quo. The “age of austerity” is only a screen for the further dismantlement all public services in the UK (from the NHS to free education to public funding for the arts), the most civilized of Britain’s accomplishments in the twentieth century. The end of public funding is the end of the public sphere, our most progressive institutions, and their commitment to non-commercial activity as a good in its own right”.

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