[-empyre-] Debt Culture--types of debt

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Fri Nov 30 01:32:37 EST 2012

Hi Richard,

Second point first: I am in 100% agreement. In the blog post I pointed to,
I think I mention "arts and sciences" and mean to be as clear as possible
that I include all forms of basic scientific research, even that which does
not seem immediately "humanistic," as part of the essential components of a
liberal arts education. While I personally very much favor the kinds of
reading of the scientific heritage you mention, I wouldn't even want to
exclude programs where students mostly learn the contemporary methods of
basic scientific research. I am less sanguine about the severely
practice-focused curricula of engineering and business undergraduate
programs, but these too are not things I'd want to dictate: I just don't
want the generally availability of liberal arts (& sciences) undergraduate
education to diminish, or be captured by a few centralized providers.

On the first point, I mostly agree too; the new attack has a new character.
It's just that I see the earlier, overtly ideological attack, as having
been motivated by economics to begin with; and I therefore see the current
attack as being very much continuous with the earlier one, and perhaps more
dangerous for its interesting ability to appear shorn of ideological
character. But in the popular mind, including the Tea Party, & in the
mouths of the usual subjects whose names we know all too well (Santorum,
Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and so many others), both the brainwashing leftism
of the contemporary university, and the skyrocketing and unjustified costs
of education, fit together like they were meant to be (and, I think, they


On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM, Richard Grusin <rgrusin at gmail.com> wrote:

> I have really appreciated the discussion about public higher education
> here, particularly the contributions of David and Brian.  I am in complete
> sympathy with the need to defend and protect and indeed strengthen "the
> embodied engagement of citizens" through our educational institutions,
> particularly in the face of the blind willingness of many of our colleagues
> to aid and abet the assault on public higher education through their eager
> and enthusiastic participation in the ongoing MOOCification and
> precaritization of higher ed.
> I have a couple of (seemingly unrelated) questions.
> 1. Both David and Brian seem to insist that the neoliberal elites are
> targeting the capacity of left critique in their remaking (or
> disassembling) of publicly-supported higher education.  This presumes that
> they see our critique as particularly threatening.  I'm prepared to believe
> this but would be interested in seeing some explicit evidence for this
> claim.  The dismantling of higher education as we know it seems mainly
> motivated by the ideology and practice of neoliberal economics not by the
> ideology of what used to be called the culture wars.  What makes the
> current situation so much more dangerous than the attacks on the academic
> left in the 1980s is its focus on economic and structural change more than
> on the ideology or content of what is being taught in the classroom.  Of
> course these are closely related, but this 21st century moment feels very
> different to me than the last decades of the 20th century.
> 2. What is the role of the nonhuman sciences in this attack on public
> higher ed?  Leaving aside for the moment the more recent development of
> professional schools, we still need to account for the role of the natural
> and physical sciences in higher education.  They have always been a part of
> the American university and are also suffering (in similar but not
> identical ways) from the same assault on the tenured professoriate,
> embodied pedagogy, and so forth.  I would add to David's fine list of
> authors who should be read in a democracy figures like Darwin, Einstein,
> Margulis, Lyell, Newton, Carson, Galileo, and others.  When we think about
> what is being threatened by the neoliberal demolition of public higher
> education we need to include the kinds of scientific and technical
> knowledge that is also essential to a democracy, particularly to how we
> "care" for the planet and the nonhuman plants and animals with which we
> share it.
> With care,
> Richard
> On Nov 28, 2012, at 8:42 AM, David Golumbia wrote:
> I don't have a great deal to add to Brian's excellent analysis, with which
> I am in pretty much complete agreement. I will say that I particularly like
> the introduction of the word "care" into the discussion, because there is
> no doubt to me that much of what is supposed to go on in higher education
> is about care: to some extent, a kind of interpersonal care, but that
> largely in service of a care about the whole of society, about the demos
> and about democracy, and about--at least in the US context--the tension
> between majority rule and the rights and interests of minorities (of every
> sort) within democratic systems. I focus on this general perspective
> because it is possible to marshal so many figures from across the political
> spectra--that is, until very recently--to my side: not just Dewey, Marx,
> Derrida, Kant, Spivak, and Mumford, but Jefferson, Burke, Locke, Heidegger,
> Habermas, Keynes, Schumpeter, Madison, and many others. All these thinkers
> (and many others) saw and insisted on the necessity for society to have a
> central institution in which the embodied engagement of citizens (in many
> but not all cases, citizens from across the classes, races, and other
> social groupings) read through and discuss the multifarious discourses that
> produced the systems we have today.
> As such, I believe that the *public *maintenance of the university is
> critical, without any particular additional politics needing to be found
> within it, although in a more local way I mean to make available my
> particular political perspective very strongly. Every day, when I teach, I
> find students who want to explore, analyze, and understand the systems in
> all the ways that capitalism is telling us now to eliminate--even those who
> more or less "buy into it," as even they want to understand it better. As
> long as the efforts of the likes of Thrun and even Clayton
> Christenson--both of whose remarks one may search thoroughly and find no
> reflection whatsoever on the issues I've mentioned here--are allowed to
> reframe higher education as primarily an economic concern without a
> concentrated and direct response from those of us responsible for our
> educational heritage--the threat will be very serious. A "democratic" US in
> which nobody has read Jefferson, Locke, Madison, Plato, et al, is
> frightening indeed, and it happens to be exactly what the Tea Party offers
> and instances, and I hope that the nightmarish vision it offers will serve
> as a limit case that the rest of us can guard against.
> David
> On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 5:09 AM, Brian Holmes <
> bhcontinentaldrift at gmail.com> wrote:
>> the question of what knowledge is good for in society. Do we go to the
>> university just to be more-or-less enslaved into the roles of
>> middle-managers who will carry out the next restructuring of capitalism? Or
>> do we insist on a public mission that cannot be carried out under the
>> conditions of super-exploited intellectual labor (for the teachers) and
>> debt peonage (for the students)? David Golumbia is totally right to say
>> that the capacity of critique is being targeted right now by the neoliberal
>> elites, as part of their struggle to conserve and defend the existing
>> rotten structure. He's also right to say that this capacity of critique is
>> something essential -- IF, I would add, it can be turned into a real power,
>> the power to propose and demand a different development model, one that is
>> precisely NOT based on the surplus value of Fordist manufacturing, which is
>> actually the last thing we need. We need an economy of care, for each
>> other, for the social peace and for the environment, and that cannot be a
>> predatory capitalist economy, even though it will still involve a complex
>> fit between what people produce and how that production circulates.
>> The question is how to develop a strategy for moving through this crisis
>> and exerting transformative effects. I'm wondering what David might have to
>> say about this. From my viewpoint (which is not that of a career academic,
>> by the way) I think the university has to be part of the strategy. It's a
>> key site, both for perceiving the conjuncture, and for organizing an
>> opposition within it.
>> all the best, Brian
>> ______________________________**_________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> --
> David Golumbia
> dgolumbia at gmail.com
>  _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>  Richard Grusin
> rgrusin at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com
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