Towards an Autonomous University Group – Birmingham Autonomous University (co-authored chapter)

 Towards an Autonomous University Group – Birmingham Autonomous University 

This book chapter was co-written with other students, graduates and workers. It is part of the forthcoming book ‘Mass intellectuality and democratic leadership in Higher Education’ edited by Richard Hall and Joss Winn.

mass-intellectuality

 

 

This is a pre-copyediting and typesetting version of Chapter 10 – co-authored as ‘Birmingham Autonomous University’ – of “Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education”, edited by Joss Winn and Richard Hall. The book is available from Bloomsburyhttps://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/mass-intellectuality-and-democratic-leadership-in-higher-education-9781474267595/

Six Theses In, Against and Beyond the University
Birmingham Autonomous University

Introduction
Birmingham Autonomous University is a group of ten university students, graduates, and workers involved in a variety of networks of struggles on and off campus. We started meeting
in 2013 to assess the position and the role of the intellectual labourer in contemporary society. Our contribution is presented as theses so as to express not only the unity of our perspective, but also to demonstrate how homogenizing our expression would have meant speaking in an authoritative and hence contrived voice. Not only would this have been intolerant of the individuations we have attempted to articulate in response to the university; more importantly, it would have masked how a unitary perspective is achieved through our differences rather than in spite of them – something which we have come to believe to be a necessary condition for the emergence of mass intellectuality.

Thus, Thesis 1 challenges the myth of a golden age during which universities were not tarnished by capitalism – rendering visible the role they have always fulfilled in the reproduction of labour-power. Against this backdrop, student movements have had to face the inadequacy of reformist responses to universities. Reflecting on these movements, Thesis 2 argues that the power to develop long-term strategies is hampered by the absence of intellectual analyses into the material conditions affecting students. An example of one such
condition is the additional burden of emotional labour – which falls on those that are made
to not feel undeserving by universities. Thesis 3 therefore descends into universities’ hidden
abode of production and shows how self-doubt serves universities by fuelling the phenomenon of overwork. An exploration of the structure-less form that intellectual leadership must take in order to accommodate this state of affairs then follows. Thus, Thesis 4 argues that without a critique of this sort of leadership it is not possible to devote attention to the non-conceptual conditions affecting the potential emergence of mass intellectuality beyond the university. This inadequacy of the university as we know it to provide a refuge for mass intellectuality is then unpacked accordingly, through an exposition of the vicious circularity of what Thesis 5 calls the ‘methodological university’. Consequently, the concepts of practical reflexivity, mutual recognition and good conversation are proposed as guidelines for the foundation of educational commons. This theme is also taken up by Thesis 6, which reflects under no illusions on the usefulness of MOOCs to a repoliticisation of Marxism beyond the academy. Finally, we conclude with a summary of demands that are developed immanently to the conditions we are about to discuss (see Milburn, 2015), and which therefore reflect our desire to be in, against and beyond the university.

1. The university is a factory, burn it down
‘The university is a factory’ – we hear this cry everywhere, sometimes as a declaration and accusation of contempt. This slogan expresses the commonly-held view that this is not how
things are meant to be: ‘once universities were pure places of learning and research, serving
all of society, before neoliberalism and capitalism ruined it all’. Often there is the corollary ‘shut it down’, for by ceasing its productivity by force we may hold the university to ransom and begin demanding change. Sometimes people shout, ‘the university is not a factory!’, as if the changes they protest are the turning point of transformation. Never has the university been a place of pure academic and intellectual pursuits, serving and bettering society, unsullied by crass material demands. Rather, it was once a stronghold of the elites, producing the knowledge needed by the upper classes to cement their rule both over the workers in their homeland and in their colonies taken through bloody murder.

Now it produces sites of exploitation – streamlining the process by which exploitation takes place. No knowledge is born that is not enclosed, stolen and turned to poison regardless of the potential it holds to liberate and enrich us all. It produces workers burdened with debt to make them fearful, forcing them to take any work and be grateful. In this way dreams become nightmares and purposeful action becomes the shuffle of a zombie. So merely shutting down the university factory as a tactic of struggle is not enough, for the reforms this may bring will merely give us a temporarily kinder factory until they are inevitably eroded. That is not to say reforms would not buy time, nor that temporary relief is worthless – for some it gives the breathing room needed to prevent suffocation – but it will never be enough.

So if there is no golden age of university to return to, what is to be done? Burn it down! Not in the fire of the phoenix – which brings rebirth and renewal – for we must not strive merely for a renewed and reborn university factory. I would rather burn it in the fire that destroys a structurally unsafe house which has already claimed many lives. Only once the failures of the past have been reduced to ashes can something truly worthwhile be built in its place. Our aim is a form of education which liberates, rather than furthers oppression; where knowledge is not created merely for enclosure or for the engendering of terrified workers ready for the rote of internal labour, but for the common learning and benefit of all.

But just as the university factories’ life and purpose is inseparable from the function of capitalism, so too is the struggle against it inseparable from the struggle against capitalism.
Thus the struggle of the student and the worker is inseparable. What is study but labouring to reproduce yourself as a better worker? Even if we were to forget about unpaid academic labour – labour without which the factory could not run – students work regardless. This work
takes the form of both waged and unwaged labour and therefore unrecognized social reproduction: students and workers are both alienated from their labour and therefore their
knowledge.

So students must time within the university factory not to remake themselves as the perfect fearful worker grateful for scraps but rather use it to learn how to fight. Resources made available to students should be turned against their masters: journals of politics, chemistry, biology, physics and military theory, to name a few examples, should be expropriated. Engaging in the struggles within the university will set the ground for the destruction of the interdependent oppressions of which the university factory is a manifestation. Never forget that students are workers and all those whose denial of control of the means of production is needed for capitalism to survive must stand together against the owning class. Our aim should not be to reform, but for all to have ownership of the means of material and intellectual production. The university is a factory, burn it down! Society is a factory, burn it down! Let us build a better one in its place.

2. Student movement strategy
It might seem clear that students would benefit from free education but there is most likely
a deeper layer of demands being made daily: it is also important for students to delve deeper
into demands like ‘more plugs in the library’, or ‘free printing credits’. However, when student
election manifestos are given importance above all else, analysis of the conditions facing students becomes informed exclusively by its reactionary components. In other words, instead of creating arenas for real discussion around recurring issues of need within the education sector, we are left unable to know where to put our resources beyond demanding ambitious reforms.

Models which build the collective power of the student body from the grassroots – as opposed to on a representational basis – are difficult to build because of differences in needs across universities. Typically, the student movement has an inability to tailor its actions and perceive these differences (Cockburn and Blackburn, 1969). Department-level organising and an articulation of the needs of different parts of the university are a crucial element to achieve this. Therefore, it is important that participants in the student movement actively undertake
research and form collectives of the sort that allow us to learn more about these issues. This type of undertaking is one with links to the practice of workers’ inquiry. The premise behind ‘militant research’ is that no distinction is ‘made between moments of struggle and moments
of investigation’:

We did not create elaborate questionnaires or interviews in order to collect information from workers. Rather, we actively participated in the construction of picket lines and blockades; we took part in assemblies and workers’ meetings, as well as produced, together with workers, moments of close examination for activist and mainstream media’ (Curcio, 2014: 377-378).

We can look to the Greek Student Movement from 2007 to 2008 as an example of a strong strain of organising, not just around the issues of reform – preventing the removal of university asylum, free textbooks and curtailment of possible years of study – but also around the position of the student within wider society. The attempted workers’ inquiry into that movement found students re-evaluating their position within the university. In the UK, we do
see some campaigns focussing on specific campus issues, such as the campaign for a week’s
rest during University of Cambridge term-time (Connell, 2015). However, without systematic attempts at this kind of inquiry, the student movement in Britain is left without the ability to
form a long-term strategy.

This type of learning should be developed through the mechanisms of struggle themselves. A departmental assembly would be the best place to begin the inquiry. If there is to be a marked increase in activity, it is likely to be one which comes from a common realization that self-determination can meet the needs of the movement. Workers’ inquiry in the form of independently organized departmental assemblies would both provide mechanisms for tactics such as the student strike, whilst providing a means to dynamically determine the needs to be fought for by the movement.

3. Self-doubt and overwork
The university has been separated from the public space through its presentation as a selective, ‘apolitical’ place, isolated from the real world of work and inequality. Its foundation,
in a very real sense, absents our experience of everyday life in capitalist society, contradicting
our recognition of ourselves and others through experiences and their theorization. The assumption that those who are part of the academy have to be ‘grateful’ for being accepted
in it is implied, and any failure on their part to ‘succeed’ is presumed to be due to their own inaptitude to compete. Alienation emerges as a result, leading those referred to by the university as ‘non-traditional students’ to struggle with self-doubt, feeling as though they do
not deserve to be in higher education (Reay, Crozier and Clayton, 2009: 11-12; Barcan, 2013:
193). They are included within the institution, but they do not belong to it (Van Den Hemel,
2008). For instance, one of the participants in a study on working class students in higher
education in the UK stated:

“Academically wise I keep thinking I shouldn’t be here; that, you know, I’m not up to the level that I should be. I think it’s my own personal, it’s in my head. I’m just doubting myself (Barbara, mature, white, working-class history student, Northern)” (Reay, Crozier and Clayton, 2009: 12).

Academia is a place of training where middle class outlooks are presented as the most appropriate, and where being ‘critical’ entails making arguments within or against established
frameworks, without questioning the very exploitation upon which these particular frameworks and the institutions in which they emerged, depend. The process of ‘becoming
educated’ is therefore conflated with becoming abiding workers, whilst also ‘becoming middle class’ (Loveday, 2014: 577) ideologically by cherishing individualistic and materialistic values. Having such responsibilities as a carer, spouse, parent; of managing money, calculating debt; deciding whether to prioritize a course, a job or friends – all these are reflected by emotions which are of little concern and relevance to the entitled.

Students have a lack of control over their university work as they are put in a position of constantly reacting to the demands of the institution and its conditions of work, just as workers in any industry have to deal with demands, which include emotional work (Hochschild, 2003: 188-189). Planning, worrying, reflecting, hesitating, psychologically preparing for an activity/event involve emotional labour which takes time, energy and efforts which affect us beyond the activity itself. However, the university forcefully makes a separation between the ‘time of worry’ which is regarded as unproductive, and the ‘“real” (productive) time of academic work’. Emotional labour is unpaid, unrecognized work which is often private. Indeed, …despite talk of the post-industrial West, we are still on the production line – only the produce has changed. Instead of cars, toothpaste and toys we produce desire, debt, careers and websites. And for those of us who still insist on being bookish, we produce Academic Excellence (University for Strategic Optimism, 2011: 23).

In an environment where ‘speed’ and ‘efficiency’ are deemed part of ‘excellence’, taking time to manage one’s emotions and level of concentration should be thought of in political terms. The overtime spent on academic work can be considered a form of culturally accepted self-harm (Hall, 2014a) and the feeling of fraudulence often leads to overwork. To add a ‘positive’ take on this situation, universities promote ideas such as ‘earn while you learn’ and ‘lifelong learning’ in a manner which presents overwork and speed as desirable signs of a purposeful existence. In doing so, universities can easily move towards short-term and casual contracts by claiming that they offer work ‘opportunities’ for students. Yet again, we are expected to be thankful for our precarity.

We need to recognize that ‘we are structurally never good enough’ (Barcan, 2013: 196; emphasis in original) within the competitive, neoliberal university. By considering emotions as work, the meaning of ‘overwork’ needs to be re-examined. Overwork does not mean only working productively for too long, but also doing that which may be seen as ‘little work’, with considerable, time-consuming efforts; overwork is giving up doing other things which are more socially valuable to the autonomy of the individual. Through our practically reflexive approach, academic work cannot be separated from life outside of the institution; the student is not one-dimensional. Rather, by locating student work and experience as part of the wider logic of societal processes and by identifying the student as a worker-producer of knowledge, we can conclude that the university depends on the overwork of its workers and on the isolation between and among students and staff, as well as between them and society more generally. The extra emotional labour of those who do not find themselves ‘at home’ in higher education should be recognized as such; genuine acknowledgement of people’s experience as the basis for the production of knowledge would mean that the ‘accelerated’ academy would be slowed down (Moten and Harney, 1999).

4. Mass intellectuality beyond the university
I agree with Richard Hall that mass intellectuality has to be situated in a holistic critique of the
contradictions of capitalism as they become manifest through the class struggle (2014b: 832).
Accordingly, I also strongly believe that under capitalism universities are more socially damaging than they are useful, and that the world as we know it would be a slightly better place without them: that is, they stand as a barrier in the way of mass intellectuality. Thus, I
want to argue, the emergence of mass intellectuality presupposes more than just the undoing
of capitalist expropriation through a dual process of re-appropriation and reproduction that
moves from universities’ intellectual property to the knowledge commons of everyday life. Indeed, I think that this bridging strategy is misguided because it fails to grasp that the complexity of today’s world is not something that so-called ‘uneducated’ people are necessarily unprepared for (Waugh, 2009).

I would love to think clearly about mass intellectuality as ‘socially useful knowledge that emerges through the definition of an alternative value-form that will work in terms of the social reproduction of society in a different image’ (Hall, 2014b: 823). Indeed, I would suggest that the real barrier to mass intellectuality is the lack of material, organizational, and institutional means for the oppressed – who are society’s primary knowledge producers (Hegel, 1931: 45) – to explore an autodidactic form of intellectuality. Nevertheless, this seems
impossible without a critique of intellectual leadership as we know it. For example, in 2016 the University of Birmingham is set to unveil New Core – a digital administration and ‘flat’ management system which ‘will capture everything’ (2015). The purpose of management models and systems such as New Core will be to empower leadership to continue setting managerial prerogatives without being burdened by or being held responsible for exploitation. In principle, therefore, leadership can thus float around from one issue to another without leaving a trace.

In this case, I would argue, universities are operationalizing what Jo Freeman calls the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’ – whereby ‘informal’ structures visible or invisible to their members come to mask imbalances of power, and in so doing place democratic accountability at one remove from decision-making (1996: 1-3). Indeed, with New Core, workers will be expected to bring everything forward to their managers – allowing the latter to administer cooperation behind workers’ backs. Accordingly, workers would ‘enter relations with the capitalist, but not with each other’ (Marx, 1990: 450-451). Ultimately, this cooperative and distributed form of ‘touch-and-go’ intellectual leadership gives ‘capital the credit for organising production and reproduction’ (Caffentzis, 2010: 29): managers move to abolish the habit of working in isolation, and seek legitimacy for establishing coercive forms of teamwork.

However gloomy this picture may be, it does not constitute a sufficient basis upon which to reject the possibility of mass intellectuality. But whilst it is important not to conflate estimations of the growing or shrinking cognitive competences of academic labour with those
of intellectual leadership in general (Harney and Moten, 1998: 177), it is also crucial to realize
that universities are one of the many institutions with the power to enclose the general intellect (Lindenschmidt, 2004; De Angelis and Harvie, 2009; Pirie, 2009). This is exemplified by the fact that the circulation of the general intellect in universities gives rise to a form of
cooperation that is subsumed under capitalist accumulation and which, as George Caffentzis
has argued, constitutes ‘almost as important a source of counter-revolutionary energy as commodity fetishism’ (2010: 29).

This therefore points to the necessity of struggle in and against the university – without which it would be impossible to confront this counter-revolutionary energy, and therefore develop mass intellectuality beyond the university. For this to occur, I want to conclude, a form of self-taught intellectual leadership capable of abolishing universities is needed. Furthermore, this kind of auto-didacticism need not be the effort of a single individual, but also of a self-taught mass capable of abolishing universities by abolishing itself. Therefore, I demand that this kind of intellectuality explores new points of leverage, and destructive forms of industrial action that can strike at the heart of the university once and for all.

5. Against the methodological university
The dialectical relationship between commons and enclosure is perpetually enacted through
enforced exclusion. Within the methodological university, this process of enclosure appears
as would a music box, preserving its content to the point of formalism. The emptiness of content is the product of a closed circuit of self-perpetuating, self-affirming banalities. The mechanical model of the methodological university as such contains this vicious cycle as an active process of enclosing knowledge, where knowledge neither knows itself nor its object.
Through the imperatives of the market, caught up in a system that does not account for itself
reflexively, the often stressed convergence of theory and practice is muted. As such, the
reproductive model of the methodological university is still founded upon a seemingly
unshakeable positivism, where ‘the forbidden fruit of lived experience flees or disappears
under the assaults of reductionism; and silence reigns around the fortress of knowledge’
(Lefebvre, 1991: 134).

From the gilded walls of the university, commons emerge as cracks. They shake the foundations of knowledge that denies itself. We propose that we, the students and workers, are the impulse of the commons – a form of social cooperation that takes a critical stance against the production of knowledge, against the hegemony of method. It is a political potential that tears through the a priori of objective validity with an experiential pause. Rather than making commons functional to the existing system, we propose the commons as the university’s negative imprint, that which already exists in resistance to enclosure.

Our guiding principles for the educational commons are thus: mutual recognition, good conversation and practical reflexivity; these are the basis for the new ‘sensibility’ that we wish to build (Gunn, 2015: 14-33). These concepts form a constellation, each of them implying the other, comprising a whole which we call the de-mediated autonomous university. By mutual recognition we mean that we view each other as totalising subjects, as others situated within the world with valid experiences, seeking to conceptualize and communicate them (Gunn, 1989: 71-77). Mutual recognition suggests that we come to know ourselves through the interplay of our view with the views of others – as a unity through difference (Ibid.). This mutual recognition is the essence of the ‘good’ conversation, itself a dialectic of recognition and critique – our experience, instead of being denied, is seen as internally-related to our conceptualizations, meaning theory and practice are moments elaborating each other, rather than externally-related spheres (Ibid.). This allows our experience to be the basis from which to develop meaningful (abstract) categorizations as well as providing experiential grounds for interrogation and critique.

The commons stand against the methodological university, the domain of specialist knowledge production, which promotes a formalistic monological approach to knowledge production mirroring the factory production lines, embodying the fragmentation and separation inhering in society through the ever-intensifying division of labour. To become socially valid intellectual labourers, we are trained for the production of knowledge: we are told, as Scholasticus once said, ‘never venture into the water until you have learned how to swim’ (cited in Rose, 1995: 44). This entails contradiction, for we arrive in medias res and are confronted in the classroom with the supposed governing rules of our own intellectual experiences. In fact, more is governed by these rules: they delimit the very object of knowledge itself, given validity by reference to these rules alone. Therefore, society is reified – reflected as a ‘second nature’, a predetermined object of study – and methodology fetishized, as possessed with the power to delimit the valid object of science whilst deriving, from this self-same movement, its own internal validity. Hence the vicious circularity: methodology drawing legitimacy form and justifying itself through its reification of society. In the undergraduate textbooks we see the schematic of this knowledge production process as the movement ‘from theory to hypothesis to operationalization to research design to data collection, and finally to analysis and findings’ (Burnham, 1992: 5), reiterated ad nauseam, regardless of actual experiences in research which, instead, call for reflexivity to dissolve the façade. We stand opposed to all this for, in the words of Gillian Rose:

“The limitation of “justified” knowledge of the finite prevents us from recognising, criticising, and hence from changing the social and political relations which determine us “(1995: 45).

Therefore, our concern with practical reflexivity is not simply a concern for the rigour of knowledge, but a concern for the rigour of opposition. Only when we place our position as
critics of society within the society in question can we begin to examine whether our theoretical categories reflect or copy the hermeneutical composition of capitalist society and
thus reinforce (re-mediate) what we are seeking to overcome (Gunn, 1987: 43-46). Practical reflexivity is the means by which we critique the forms of appearance of capitalist society, and thus provides the non-methodological basis of militant conceptualization (Ibid.).

Furthermore, practical reflexivity promises an end to dogmatism; it maintains and emboldens
a theoretical openness to empirical complexity (Bonefeld, 1987: 36; Burnham, 1992: 3-8). The
principle of doubt inherent in practically reflexive theorization allows us, as militants, to take
account of ‘the open and contingent process of class struggle, its changing forms and conditions’ (Bonefeld, 1987: 34) through an eternal return of concepts to experience. Mutual
recognition enables this process to encompass the variety of experiences present in struggle,
metabolising these through good conversation, whose organising principle is the selfdetermining movement of practice and theory.

No institutional imperative guides the good conversation; the only principle is internal to itself – the deepening of critique through a process of its own reflection into itself, into its content, into the historical experiences of capital’s permanent recomposition around labour’s refusals (Bonefeld, 1987: 36-37). The only means by which we may keep critical pace with these transformations, without falling into methodological formalism, is to renew the historical nature of our concepts through enfolding them back into our practical existence.

6. What is Marxism for anyway?
The tradition of independent working class education is one that has a long history. As communists we are encouraged to not only reflect on this history in order to place ourselves
contemporaneously, but also to think of ourselves as active agents with capacities and needs
that are conditioned by the uniqueness of our respective struggles. As a result, the form that
independent working class education takes in any historical moment should change to keep
abreast of the latest developments, as should the content of this education. However, despite this need to re-imagine and bring up-to-date, the real content of independent working class
education is the same as it has always been. It is the struggle of labour against capital, of the
worker against the boss. Likewise, the form is always the same in its barest essence. It is the
presentation of knowledge in a manner that takes into account our living and working conditions as workers, as well as the particular educational needs that emerge from these
conditions. For example, the contemporary hegemony of the flexible working arrangement in
the form of zero hour, part-time and temporary contracts currently acts as a blockage to the
adoption of the standard evening class model that has historically been the preserve of
workers. This move towards flexible contracts has been described by Naomi Klein as follows:

“For other employers, however, part-time positions are used as a loophole to keep wages down and to avoid benefits and overtime; “flexibility” becomes a code for “no promises”, making the juggling of other commitments — both financial and parental — more challenging, not less” (2000: 248).

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) provide a potential 21st century solution to the difficulty of learning when working flexibly. They are described in a white paper published
by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges as follows:

“MOOCs use Web-based tools and environments… Learning is accomplished via a
“flipped classroom” model, whereby the instructor employs the Internet and other
technologies to allow students to gain knowledge that used to be delivered via a
lecture format and then use time in the classroom to work on problems together” (Voss,
2013).

The potential for MOOCs to provide a radical and emancipatory education given the current conditions of tuition fees and unpredictable working hours is obvious. Regarding the orthodox bricks and mortar university, the university factory in its current neoliberal manifestation as an ‘accelerated’ academy exists to daily reproduce the student as compliant worker-in-training, housebroken by debt into a future of precarious work, their true status as exploited labour-power being hidden from them by their wageless status. As a result, students’ intellectuality is internally related to the working class as opposed to being an external force. There is no ‘going to the people’ because there is no ‘people’ to go to, and the false distinction between intellectual and manual labour is invalidated. As such MOOCs provide the potential for the communist student to make intellectual resources appropriated from the university more widely available.

However, it is important to remember that the world of education is hierarchical; technological developments such as MOOCs do nothing to challenge this in and of themselves. This is because it is not the technology itself but the manner in which it is used and the way in which teachers and learners relate to each other that provides the basis for an emancipatory education. The key problem with the museum piece Marxism taught within universities is that the teacher-student relationship is perceived as a static relation between unequal subjects. The curriculum remains dry, dull and boring, unresponsive to the daily experience of the living subject under capitalism. The curriculum is therefore nothing more than a dead weight, weighing heavily on the brains of the living. Writing on MOOCs, Richard Hall states that they
…need to be critiqued from inside the system of production/consumption in which they emerge… and the systemic need to seek out new spaces for that profitability (2013).

In contrast, a collaborative approach to producing a curriculum creates a process in which teacher and student are co-producers of knowledge. Reciprocity in learning can be easily facilitated by the internet. Online forums could enable activists to share information with each other and link up struggles. In order to bring teachers and students together there could be a section built into the course with advice on how to run a local reading group based on the course material so that any student can potentially become a teacher. The MOOC itself should only be the first point of contact. The technology is not to be fetishized but expropriated and used to facilitate the building of a commons of sense. Since the technology is there as is the political imagination, the task of reinvigorating the tradition of independent working class education is far from impossible.

Conclusion
We have sought to show how the fact that practical barriers are not surmountable only in
theory ought not to be confused with the necessary role which the intellect must play in the
undoing capitalist social relations. Furthermore, we have argued that this role cannot achieve
a critical mass unless it is concerned with the abolition of the university as we know it. To begin with, we argued that it is no longer possible to imagine a university and a society in a different image unless students are recognised as workers. This insight has shed light on the fact that there is a whole world of conditions that remain to be discovered, and which desperately needs to be analysed in order for emancipatory strategy to renew itself. As we indicated, this kind of militant research could start by elucidating how the condition of self-doubt is essential to the functionality of the university. Of equal importance is also a form of unburdened intellectual leadership that dominates universities and posits the spontaneous emergence of a fetishized form of mass intellectuality that is divorced from issues regarding the ownership of the means of production. Without a more thorough critique of this kind of leadership it remains difficult – if not impossible – to talk of mass intellectuality.

For us, such a critique must start by plotting the destruction of the methodological university – an institutionally bounded form of thinking that reproduces the seemingly insurmountable cognitive fissure between universities and the ever changing forms and conditions of capitalist society. The demand for the abolition of the methodological university thus demands a form of practical reflexivity which abolishes the separation between theory and practice by intellectually reconstructing their unshakeable historical unity. In this way, it may become possible to overcome some of the ambivalence of the technological mediations of capitalist social relations – turning them into the weapons of a reinvigorated independent working class education.

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