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Daily Archives: October 17th, 2008

Marxism and the Economic Crisis

 

A one-day conference hosted by International Socialism

Saturday 25 October 2008
12 noon – 6pm
UCL, Central London

 

Faced with the unprecedented economic upheavals of recent months, International Socialism has invited some of Britain’s leading Marxist economics to present their views on the crisis.

 

Sessions on:

·         The depth of the crisis

·         Finance and the system

·         Political implications of the crisis

 

Speakers will include:
Peter Gowan, professor of international relations at London Metropolitan University and author of The Global Gamble
Alex Callinicos, chair of European studies at King’s College London, and author of An Anticapitalist Manifesto and Resources of Critique
Robin Blackburn, professor of sociology at Essex University and author of Age Shock: How Finance is Failing us
Chris Harman, editor of International Socialism and author of Explaining the Crisis

 

To book a place, email isj@swp.org.uk or phone 020 7819 1177. Those attending will be asked for a donation (£10/£5) to cover our costs.

 

To download a poster, go to our website: http://www.isj.org.uk

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Ayers Rocked In His Own Universe

 

 

Glenn Rikowski, London, 15th June 2007

 

 

 

Preface: In light of the fact that the relationship between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers surfaced in the final TV confrontation between John McCain and Obama yesterday, I thought that readers might be interested in this post. It first appeared on my AOL Volumizer blog on 15th June 2007. However, AOL is going to pull the plug on all of its blogs on 31st October so I am preserving this post here on All that is Solid. From what I say below, it seems as if the ‘wild man’ Ayers has changed quite radically into an idealist liberal. McCain’s attempt to pass him off as a dangerous revolutionary figure is pathetic.

 

Glenn Rikowski, London, 17th October 2008

 

 

 

Introduction

 

A review of Peter McLaren’s Capitalists and Conquerors: A Critical Pedagogy Against Empire (2005) by William Ayers (2006) in Teachers College Record has sparked off a wide-ranging debate concerning the role of education in struggles for progressive social transformation. Following this by Ayers, McLaren responded (McLaren, 2007a), drawing a counter-response from Ayers (Ayers, 2007) which was then followed by a further reply from McLaren (2007b). So: what has this to do with me? Well, I was one of the contributors to McLaren’s Capitalists and Conquerors (Allman, McLaren and Rikowski, 2005) who was ignored in Ayers’s original review (along with Paula Allman, Donna Houston, Gregory Martin, Nathalia Jaramillo, and Valerie Scatamburlo-D’Anibale) [1]. Thus, I feel more than entitled to respond to Ayers’s original review and his reply to Peter McLaren.

 

 

 

Bad Reviews

 

The first point that should be noted is that Ayers’s ‘review’ was no such thing. He did not inform the reader regarding the overall contents, topics and themes of the book. Ayers is a poor book reviewer on this performance.

 

Secondly, a book reviewer needs to ensure that they don’t wilfully mislead readers. Examining examples of McLaren’s language that he objects to, Ayers argues that in the examples he gives readers find McLaren “citing mostly himself”. Perhaps there are a few passages where McLaren cites mainly himself; this would be the case for many authors, as the readers might be interested in the development of their work. But someone reading this might conclude that McLaren is a self-obsessed peacock who mostly only quotes himself throughout. If the book in question (McLaren, 2005) is examined it is clear that this is not so. In only a single chapter (the first) does McLaren have more than ten references to himself in the end-text references. He has 15, in fact; including those where he figures in edited collections. This should be set against the fact that in this chapter there are 133 references in total. McLaren’s references take up only 11% of the references in that chapter. I leave it to Ayers to calculate the percentage of chapter 1 taken up by the actual text that those 15 references cover!

 

Thirdly, Ayers complains of McLaren’s “domineering” language. This feeble response to the language of the “Poet Laureate of the Educational Left”, as McLaren’s writing style has been described by Joe Kinchloe (in McLaren, 2000), belies his past as a left dissident of national significance [2].    

 

Without going into more micro-detail, it is clear that Ayers pursues McLaren throughout his ‘review’ as basically someone who should really write and research just like he. Ayers looks for the ethnographer in Peter McLaren; the radical ethnographer who wrote Life in Schools. However, people sometimes develop, move on and do different things. Ayers presumes that McLaren should remain cast in theoretical and research stone that he approves of, and can readily relate to.

 

 

 

Rocked in his Own Universe  

 

As a review, Ayers’s effort is hardly worth bothering with. However, whilst reading it I was amazed to discover certain perspectives of his (Ayers) that fit snugly with the rampant individualism and Utopianism of neoliberal educational thought. Furthermore, it seems Ayers was not conversant with some of the basics of Marxism. He appears to be a fully paid up member of the conventional, academic liberal left in some respects.

 

First of all, Ayers argues that: “Capitalist schooling submerges human development in its single-minded drive for profit” and “profit is at the center of economic, political, and social life”. But it is value, and specifically surplus-value (of which profit is an element) that is the substance of capital’s social universe (see Rikowski, 2005). Ayers seems oblivious to the significance of value, and to the value/profit distinction.

 

However, it is his “classrooms and schools for democracy” I am most concerned about from the perspective of human progress and development. Ayers argues that:

 

“Classrooms and schools for democracy and freedom recognize each student as an entire universe, each capable of becoming an author, and activist in his or her own life – teachers in these classrooms assume that every student is an unruly spark of meaning-making energy on a voyage of discovery and surprise” (My emphasis).

 

Ayers advocates that students are, and should be treated like, Leibniz’s monads; unique and self-sufficient, inhabiting a universe of their very own. Yet his students inhabit a particular social universe; the social universe of capital. In order to appreciate this point, Ayers would have had to delve beneath the phenomenon of profit into the very heart of this social universe: the creation of value and surplus-value in the capitalist labour process. The fact that we all inhabit capital’s social universe gives us common bonds, and a common form of life, which limits us regarding what we can become – individually, and collectively as humanity.

 

Ayers’s nurturing of students as inhabitants of their own universes, creates individualistic illusions amongst them insofar as it actually works. This individualism gels with methodological individualism, rational choice theory and the self-serving model of the person served up by mainstream economics. This primeval individualism can also be related to solipsism and nihilism without too much effort.

 

Yet a little further on Ayers talks about teachers having solidarity with students! Who would want solidarity with the ego-centric, hyper-individualistic students that Ayers conjures up? And how would this be possible? Could teachers have any kind of solidarity with persons who inhabit a universe of their very own? Ironically, teachers are charged with helping to generate those universes for their hapless students!

 

Ayers seems utterly confused regarding his pedagogical aims and social ontology. He can’t be expected to understand McLaren’s work if this is his stance on social life and the relations between individuals and capitalist society. He argues that McLaren should “start to think and write more clearly and with much more urgency.” However, the confusion within Ayers’s thinking and his bizarre pedagogical commitments puts the onus on him to rethink and refocus. At least McLaren speaks to those living within the same universe!      

 

 

 

Notes:

[1] In his reply to McLaren’s response (Ayers, 2007), he admitted that: “I did indeed fail to mention the co-authors who worked on various chapters with McLaren. My mistake. On the other hand, the cover of the book, the title page, the listing in the library made the same omission, so perhaps that criticism should more productively be taken up with the publisher”. Yet a competent reviewer should surely have noted these omissions in their review – which leads me to believe that Ayers was not really interested in writing an actual review of the book: he was more concerned with painting a skewed picture of Peter McLaren as a writer, educational theorist and researcher and education activist. Personally, I always knew my name was not to be on the front of the book, and I had seen the cover in advance. I was happy with that, as Peter McLaren did the lion’s share of the work and writing. In blaming the publishers, Ayers deflects attention from the nature of his ‘review’.     

[2] See his ‘Biography/History’ on his blog for more on this, at: http://billayers.blogspot

 

 

 

References

Allman, P., McLaren, P. & Rikowski, G. (2005) After the Box People: The Labor-Capital Relation as Class Constitution and its Consequences for Marxist Educational Theory and Human Resistance, in: P. McLaren, Capitalists and Conquerors: A Critical Pedagogy Against Empire, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Ayers, W. (2006) Essay Review: Notes From A Self-Realizing, Sensuous, Species-Being (I Think). A review of ‘Capitalists and Conquerors: A Critical Pedagogy Against Empire’ by William Ayers, Teachers College Record, December 12, online a: http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12888

Ayers, W. (2007) Continuing the Conversation: Ayers Replies, Teachers College Record, February 6th, online at: http://www.tcrecord.org/discussion.asp?i=3&aid=2&rid=12888&dtid=0&vdpid=2695 

McLaren, P. (2000) Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the Pedagogy of Revolution, Lanham Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

McLaren, P. (2005) Capitalists and Conquerors: A Critical Pedagogy Against Empire, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

McLaren, P. (2007a) Peter McLaren Responds to Bill Ayers: Bad Faith Solidarity, Teachers College Record, January 22nd, online at: http://tcrecord.org/Discussion.asp?i=3&vdpid=2695&aid=2&rid=12888&dtid=0

McLaren, P. (2007b) Performing Bill Ayers: Criticism as a Disappearing Act or Hey, Brother, Can You Spare Me a Book Review? A Response by Peter McLaren. Personal correspondence sent by email, February 7th.

Rikowski, G. (2005) Distillation: Education in Karl Marx’s Social Universe, Lunchtime Seminar, School of Education, University of East London, 14th February: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Distillation

 

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk  

LEFT ECONOMICS ADVISORY PANEL

http://leap-lrc.blogspot.com/

 

 

Is the Government’s bank the most ruthless repossessor? asks John McDonnell MP

It was announced today that Northern Rock – the bank fully nationalised by the Government – has massively increased the number of homes it has repossessed in the last quarter.

John McDonnell MP, LEAP Chair, said:

“We fully nationalised Northern Rock, yet the Government’s bank is becoming the most ruthless repossessor under the cosh of Government pressure to repay the loans. The Government is in danger of being seen as protecting banks while ignoring people.

 

 

“The Government needs to come up fast with a “recession-proof” strategy of halting repossessions and converting mortgages into homes for social rent.

 

 

 

Read John McDonnell’s comments in Northern Rock seizes 32 homes a week from the Daily Telegraph

 

Today’s Unemployment figures:

John McDonnell MP, LEAP Chair, said:

“With unemployment rising, the Government should be ‘recession-proofing’ by injecting resources to save people’s jobs through large scale public investment in major housing, rail and renewable energy infrastructure schemes.

“There should now be an immediate moratorium on the proposed closure of job centres and 12,000 job cuts in the Department for Work & Pensions.”

 

Meetings

LEAP: The Economic Crisis – what role for social ownership?

Tuesday 4th November

7pm in Committee Room 5, House of Commons, London

Following the publication of the LEAP pamphlet Building the New Common Sense – social ownership for 21st century, LEAP leads a debate on what role for social ownership in the economic crisis.

 

Speakers include: Gregor Gall, Gerry Gold, John McDonnell MP, Rosamund Stock

Chair: Andrew Fisher (Editor of ‘Building the New Common Sense’)

Stand Up for Your Rights Festival

Saturday 18th October

2pm-8:30pm, Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, London, SE1 7AA. Tickets £10/£5

 

A one-day event organised by A World to Win. The historic struggle for rights in Britain will be presented through music, drama, poetry, films and political debate.

 

Confirmed speakers include Bill Bowring (Professor of Law at Birkbeck University), John McDonnell MP (LRC Chair), Global Women’s Strike, Coalition for Independent Action, Paul Feldman, Kevin Smith (Carbon Trade Watch), John Stewart (HACAN), Rahila Gupta (Southall Black Sisters), the Gypsy Council, London FBU, Ted Knight.

‘The Putney Principles’ and ‘Unfinished Business’ – New plays about the Levellers and the Chartists. Live music. Launch of ‘Unmasking the State, a rough guide to real democracy’ – a new book by Paul Feldman. Struggle for Rights timeline exhibition and film.

 

Register online for LRC conference 2008

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

 

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk