From: Andrew Field <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Matthew Hale <email@example.com>
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Re: [mlg-ics] Edu-Factory Project and Website
Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 10:10:24 +1000
"As was the factory, so now is the university. Where once the factory was
a paradigmatic site of struggle between workers and capitalists, so now
the university is a key space of conflict, where the ownership of
knowledge, the reproduction of the labour force, and the creation of
social and cultural stratifications are all at stake."
This strikes me as the sort of bombastic rhetoric that we are used to
hearing about the role of universities in the world. Are universities
really that important? Or is our understanding of universities simply the
product of our own exaggerated sense of self- importance as academics, as
well as the narrow-mindedness of our own world view? In the
English-speaking world we use the term "ivory tower" to suggest this
narrowness. I prefer Zhuangzi's metaphor of the "frog in the well."
We operate under the flawed assumption that universities are the great
repositories of truth, social justice, and higher knowledge. Was it ever
so? Over the years I have come to increasingly doubt this assumption. To
suggest that the university is a "key space of conflict" in the world
today is to both over- and under- estimate the historical and present
connectedness of academia to the corporate and political bodies that
really run the show.
Lecturer, School of History
363 Morven Brown Building
University of New South Wales
Kensington, NSW 2052
On 23/05/2007, at 11:49 AM, Matthew Hale wrote:
Thanks for forwarding this, Dan. I've been following the Edu-factory
project on an and off, and I'm interested in how changes in the education
system in China, student activism, etc., relate to situations in other
countries and in capitalism as a whole. Please let me know if you run
across any other material on these topics. I wrote some comments on Wang
Hui's interview on the CSG blog here:
The new Edu-factory website has posted a video (MP4) of an interview with
Wang Hui about the marketist restructuring of China's university system.
Glad to know someone from China is taking part in these discussions,
although I'm not sure what I think about their general direction (theories
of "cognitive capitalism" etc.), on the one hand, and it seems that
China's experience could be related to global trends in more helpful ways,
on the other. But this is a valiant first effort.
WH says that the percentage of college entrants from rural families has
dropped dramatically in recent years, both because it’s more difficult for
rural students to prepare for the college entrance exams, and because
rural parents increasingly regard education as a waste of time since
degrees are worth less on the labor market. Has anyone seen any statistics
to support this? He mentions the media stir last year about college
graduates’ difficulty in finding jobs – I had seen the figure “3 out of 5”
college graduates failed to find jobs in the fields they trained for, but
when I’ve mentioned this to faculty at the school where I work, they say
that’s impossible – almost all graduates can find jobs, it’s just that
they’re unwilling to take them in remote locations. I’d be interested to
see any other statistics people know of about this.
I was surprised that when the interviewer asked about student responses to
this situation, WH only said that “everyone’s talking about it, but
there’s no easy solution” – what about all the student riots last year
about the value of degrees on the labor market? (See, for example, this,
this, and this.) This would be a great topic to research in more depth,
and to relate to the general Edu-factory discussions.
His account seems to describe the situation of grad students at some of
the top few universities, but not most universities and colleges. For
instance, he talks about how open and connected universities are to global
events and knowledge via the internet, but in fact most students,
including grad students, at Sichuan University, ranked the tenth best
school in China, cannot access many off-campus and most overseas-based
websites (the school provides access to its own campus network, and very
few students splurge for installing their own connections), only Ph.D.
students have access to more than a few domestic periodicals, and the
libraries are so difficult to use and understocked that many students
don’t even bother, preferring to squat on the floors of bookstores and
skim books, or, more often, just to skip reading altogether and cheat on
their papers and tests. Several of my master's-level students last
semester didn’t have email addresses, since they used the internet only to
chat with people on QQ and read entertainment news, and students often
have trouble accessing even domestic email accounts from the campus
network. Most of the students at the small, private college (affiliated as
a “branch” of another major university) where I teach now, on the other
hand, use the internet only at off-campus netbars on the weekends (the
school doesn’t have computer lab, and most students don’t own computers),
and some have never even used a computer.
Glad he mentioned students’ growing involvement in rural activism, but
here I think he’s also neglecting the majority of students. His point in
mentioning this activism is to indicate a recent trend toward overcoming
the gap between students and the laboring masses, but actually many
students still come from peasant and working-class families, and, as he
himself indicates, most see themselves as training for white-collar jobs
they may not even get, not as elite academics in some kind of ivory tower.
In fact, most student volunteers I’ve met (“activists” doesn’t seem
appropriate in most cases) see their volunteering as a way to help them
get some kind of government job in the future, not as a way to ally
themselves as organic intellectuals with subaltern struggles. So, on the
one hand, it seems to me that most students are not so cut off from the
masses in the first place, and on the other, the recent rise of student
volunteering is not necessarily a move toward overcoming whatever gap may
Please let us know if you run across any other publications, in English or
Chinese, dealing critically with China's "industrialization of education"
in relation to situations in other countries and any possible changes in
capitalism and the class struggle.
By the way: the English translation of the report on the Yangzhou workers'
struggle by WH and Cui Zhiyuan has not yet been finished after many months
- please help out with that if you have a few minutes.
From: "Daniel F. Vukovich" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: FW: [mlg-ics] Edu-Factory Project and Website
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 11:17:18 +0800
Link below contains an interview with Wang Hui, fyi...
[mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Imre Szeman
Sent: May 21, 2007 1:16 AM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
Subject: [mlg-ics] Edu-Factory Project and Website
We are very happy to announce that the edu-factory website is up and
On the site there are three video interviews on conflicts in knowledge
production and transformations of the university available for download.
interviews, which were recorded at the Global Meeting in Venice, Italy in
late March 2007 are with:
Ranabir Samaddar, Calcutta Research Group Stanley Aronowitz, City
of New York Wang Hui, Tsinghua University, Beijing
We are very happy to be able to present these interviews about changes to
the university in three key sites: India, the USA and China.
As we hope to build the edu-factory website into a resource for edu-
and other linked projects we would be very happy if list members could
suggestions for links, bibliography, multimedia materials etc. Please
all suggestions to this address.
Also we ask you to spread news of the site through your networks.
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