[-empyre-] On higher ed...

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Apr 29 02:37:41 EST 2009

I'm in the middle of grading lots of long papers (fortunately, they
seem to be really good so far).

But I think there are many paths: Withdrawing from bad situations,
limiting complicity, and trying to dry up the consent that is implied
by even the most oppositional participation (the mystical path)....
Or, trying to work within a situation to mitigate its evils (the
pragmatic path)...  Or waging war against it (the warrior's path).

These are three approaches, and the each play their part in the
ethical life.  At some level, I think it is good to view ideological
struggles through the lens of warfare, and to apply "Just War" theory
to the situation.  I copied a passage from Wikipedia's "Just War"

    * the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community
of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    * all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to
be impractical or ineffective;
    * there must be serious prospects of success;
    * the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than
the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction
weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

I would never opt for armed conflict to solve my problems.  But, if
you abstract it away from discussions of nation vs. nation conflict,
and think about the possibility that it can have for states of being
(say, between those who have full rights and those who live in a
"state of exception") you can ask yourself if the damage that this
institution is inflicting on a particular community as "lasting,
grave, and certain."  You can ask if you have explored other means of
ending the conflict.  You can ask yourself if you have serious
prospects for success.  And, you can ask yourself if your response,
whatever it is, could foreseeably "produce evils or disorders graver
than the evil to be eliminated."  There have to be some standards by
which we can judge whether or not an action is good....  and we need
to find some way to agree upon whether or not "we" will do one thing
over another, because at this point, it is no longer an individual

I think this is precisely where community is critical....  being able
to define a community to which you belong in, preferably the most
abstract and comprehensive way possible.  And, in practical terms,
having an intimate community that can challenge you to act not simply
in your self-interest, but in the common interest as well.

As far as teaching goes, I feel that the classroom opens up a lot of
possibilities for correcting the very injustices that higher education
is complicit with--I believe, anyways, that I can provide at least a
small number of students with the support that they need to generate
their own good ideas and put them into action--I believe, following
Kant by way of Bill Readings, that the lower faculty of philosophy can
serve as a "moral" or "ethical" guard against what were once the
"higher faculties" (medicine, theology, and law), but which might
correlate in a disappointing way with the various jobs that are taught
in the contemporary University.  Readings writes, “Philosophy, on the
other hand, replaces the practical savoir-faire of these magicians
with reason, which refuses all shortcuts.  Hence, philosophy questions
the prescriptions of the legislative power and asks fundamental
questions on the basis of reason along, interfering with the higher
faculties in order to critique their grounds.  The life of the Kantian
University is therefore a perpetual conflict between established
tradition and rational inquiry.”  (57)  Readings has ultimately moved
away from the idea of the Kantian University in his book University in
Ruins, but I think that his discussion here bears some fruit,
particularly if we have to ask ourselves whether or not University
teaching is a worthwhile endeavor at all.  If it's just to pay the
bills, I think I would rather just be a bartender like my dad.



On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 7:43 AM, Nicholas Ruiz III
<editor at intertheory.org> wrote:
> hi steve...we continue to use banks, governmental services, fossil fuel vehciles, and so on...why not schools as well? We should not mistake critique for a zero sum game...
>  Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
> Editor, Kritikos
> http://intertheory.org
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: "sdv at krokodile.co.uk" <sdv at krokodile.co.uk>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 3:05:19 PM
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] On higher ed...
> Nick,
> How do you continue to work in universities when you understand the
> institutions in this frame ?
> steve
> Nicholas Ruiz III wrote:
>> Higher ed produces docile bodies, within the ranks of faculty and admin, and within the student docile body....and we have enabled it, as a 'public' that allows the sheer collusion of the aristocratic bureaucracies to act in the name of 'the people'...the educational system is so far gone, and yet we continue to allow the gutting of our K-20 schools in every conceivable fashion. One may conclude from this that the public simply couldn't care less, and/or lacks the will, vision and resolve to do something concrete about it.
>> If the humanities is to survive the instrumental perfect storm engulfing it, it will have to be saved from outside of higher ed...for within the institutional settings of American academia...it is already a dead man walking...
>> nick
>>  Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
>> Editor, Kritikos
>> http://intertheory.org
>> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: joseph tabbi <jtabbi at gmail.com>
>> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> Sent: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 12:02:24 PM
>> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] On Currencies, Capitalism, and the Fed
>> This is a very helpful overview and (as a matter of personal politics)
>> I agree with everything Jeff says.
>> Especially the bit about 'poor legislature,' weak oversight, and (in
>> an earlier post) the systematic weakening of the dollar. I would just
>> add that these policies seem to me a part of a trend that Harvey
>> describes under the term, 'accumulation by dispossession.' An early
>> model, was when the Thatcher administration encouraged the sale of
>> tenement homes in an economically troubled district close to downtown
>> London, at what seemed favorable prices allowing distressed owners to
>> walk away (from the city) with what seemed like a nice chunk of cash
>> while others came in themselves to do the work of renovating the old
>> houses, bringing them up to standard and in the process often pricing
>> the homes out of the range of any who were not working in the city's
>> soon to be booming financial and service industries. Those who 'sold
>> out' might never buy back in, and that nice bit of cash, as it turned
>> out, didn't go very far in the brave new economy. That cottage in the
>> Isle of Wight turned out to be 'too dear' after all. The former
>> Londoners were "dispossessed" while prices increased and capital
>> accumulated (somewhere).
>> That's of course just one example (Harvey's example - and I hope I
>> don't get too many details wrong, I'm writing from memory here). I
>> expect we all have seen the same patterns in cities everywhere. Some
>> certainly benefited from having the dollar value of their house
>> appreciate over the years, although what this did was to make one's
>> home itself the site of speculation. The recent downturn indicates
>> that doing so may not have been such a good idea, for either national
>> economies or a large number of household economies.
>> Apart from the economics, though, there is the phenomenon described by
>> Davin, of the creeping commodification of everything, even weddings.
>> And certainly higher education - which of all the options Davin lists
>> does seem to me to be moving in the direction of a "skills-based"
>> legitimation for the better endowed universities, and a glorified
>> high-school setting for undergrads at not so well funded institutions.
>> At the graduate level, graduating Ph.D's without marketable skills are
>> clearly in no way guaranteed to work in the research tracks they've
>> trained for.
>> In an earlier post I set out a proposal for e-literature that I hope
>> might be a model for de-commodification of higher education generally
>> - at least in the Digital Humanities. (Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Digital
>> Humanities!) But at the same time, I notice that the grants being won
>> by people and institutions in this field are generally grounded in the
>> development of specific skills and tools. Given the highly
>> commercialized nature of the environment in which we work - computers,
>> offices, communications networks - I do think some modus vivendi has
>> to be reached between a skills-based economy and a protected ('soft')
>> space for research and unimpeded scholarly conversation.
>> Including a 'soundtrack' might not be a bad idea actually, since
>> that's something concrete you can ask for in a grant or proposal. A
>> Global Positioning System, a Second Life meeting space, lots of
>> software and meeting rooms and repeated conference travel and
>> computers that need upgrading yearly: these are all ways that
>> commodities can be worked into proposals and you can ask for something
>> seemingly concrete. These things ARE being worked in and often this is
>> done creatively and conscientiously. My only hope is that a space will
>> be reserved for what is perhaps measurable but not strictly
>> commodifiable: for example, the reading of works of literature, the
>> viewing of works of art, and the act of listening to composiitions -
>> this is a kind of literary/aesthetic 'work' that should not be
>> clocked, but can and perhaps should be registered more often in the
>> place where such things increasingly are performed: online. The
>> commentaries written about works, and the archiving of examples that
>> people in the field find valuable - this is a role for scholars in the
>> current media environment (in conversation with a 'public' of those
>> who just happen to be interested, but who need scholars to preserve
>> and organize the works so they can be discovered - past the time when
>> a work is released to its initial audience, and in an environment that
>> is at most lightly secured and doesn't require a credit card to
>> negotiate.)
>> Again, I'd like to see as much of the eonomy as possible
>> de-commodified, and certainly the education sector. But it won't be
>> all or nothing - and those working in education need judiciously to
>> determine what affordances are helpful (and what are incidental) to a
>> scholarly or curatorial mission, to argue for these in department
>> meetings and in proposals to administrators and granting
>> organizations.
>> Joe
>> On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 9:26 PM, jeff pierce <zentrader at live.ca> wrote:
>>> Davin,
>>> My jaw literally dropped when I read your question about what would be wrong
>>> with a one world currency. Now let me preface this by saying that I don't
>>> have all the answers, but I think based on some of the events that have
>>> transpired over the last 6 months we can come to a few conclusions and go
>>> from there.
>>> 1. Government policies created this problem through easy credit, poor
>>> legislature, and low interest rates. If you let people borrow money at an
>>> historically cheap rate for an extended length of time, bad things will
>>> happen. I'm sure Greenspan was telling himself that "this time it's
>>> different" and we can leave interest rates low, but believe me it's never
>>> different. Every time a trader tells himself those 4 words they're setting
>>> themselves up for a fall. Greenspan took the interest rate down from 6% to
>>> 1% and kept it there far too long.
>>> Easy credit encourages leveraged speculation. This fuelled the housing
>>> bubble as everybody thought their house would appreciate at 10%/year, every
>>> year. And all of this led to the ensuing subprime debacle and credit crises.
>>> 2. The SEC failed to do it's job allowing major corruption with the
>>> financial system like Madoff.
>>> 3. The Government's reaction to all of this proves time and time again that
>>> they have no real idea on how to handle this. They are throwing everything
>>> at this hoping something will stick, literally gambling the future of
>>> American on a hunch that massive money printing and quantitative easing will
>>> solve everything. Why can't they realise that you can't solve a problem with
>>> the very same cause of the problem in the first place.
>>> So why is a one world currency bad? In theory it's not, but in the practical
>>> application and the greed that lives within the financial industry would
>>> ruin it.
>>> It's puts to much power in the hands of too few. I'm so tired of hearing
>>> about "centralized this" and "globalization that" as every time I hear it in
>>> the media I get the feeling that they're just warming us up to what will
>>> eventually be. Governments are too big to begin with, as they are a big part
>>> of this problem. They can't handle their affairs on a national level, what
>>> makes anybody think they can handle the affairs at a world level. The
>>> thought alone makes me shiver. Where would you hide if you didn't like the
>>> system that is in place? At least now if you don't like the the United
>>> States, you can move (like me--to Canada). The world needs diversity as much
>>> in the cultural sense as in the financial sense. Checks and balances if you
>>> will.
>>> The currency should be the health barometer of a country. I can't even
>>> fathom how a one would currency would effect the business cycles between
>>> countries with different types of governments. I feel that people throw
>>> around the term "capitalism" too much. The United States does not operate
>>> under a capitalistic state at this point in time. It's some hybrid cross of
>>> socialism, capitalism, and possibly totalitarianism. At one point between
>>> October-December it was so hard to trade and carry any positions over the
>>> weekend because we (traders) feared some type of government intervention
>>> over the weekend which would cause the markets to move in totally random
>>> ways. This is still very much a concern, but it hasn't been as bad as of
>>> late.
>>> This is not a free market system. Who are the government to decide which
>>> companies are bailed out and which ones aren't. Last time I checked the
>>> survival of the fittest in the business world was the model of choice. If a
>>> company wasn't profitable, then they should fail. End of discussion. Don't
>>> use taxpayers money, print unlawful amounts of money, and destroy the
>>> currency in the process.
>>> The final piece of the problem is the Fed. It doesn't even make sense to me
>>> for the government to borrow money from a private institution to conduct
>>> business. Our federal taxes go to pay the interest only on the debt to the
>>> Fed, making those bankers filthy rich. This house of cards will collapse
>>> sooner rather than later as the money printing goes to exponential heights.
>>> It's so bad now that the Fed doesn't even report it's money growth anymore.
>>> No fiat currency lasts and this one will be no different. But instituting a
>>> one world currency will result in more of our privacies being taken away,
>>> more surveillance, and more control. It makes more sense for the government
>>> to print it's own money, thus relieving itself from hefty interest
>>> repayment.
>>> My solution is dissolve the Fed, cut the government in half, stop policing
>>> the world and bring home the troops, stop the bailouts and quantitative
>>> easing, and focus on infrastructure and sustainable energy sources that
>>> would create a whole new sector of job growth. In my opinion everything else
>>> would fall into place. Yes it would be bad for a few more years, but at
>>> least we would come out the other end a cleaner, debt free nation.
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