Re: [mlg-ics] Edu-Factory Project and Website

From "Dale Wen" <>
Date Fri, 25 May 2007 00:16:01 -0500
Cc "Matthew Hale" <>,,
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I totally agree with Andrew's critique. In a sense, universities and the whole education system have become a place for the reproduction or even generation of inequality. Just look at China in the last quarter century, the whole narrative of modernity (which largely originated and spread from universities) has played a catalyst role for the neoliberal reforms.

I haven't been able to see Wang Hui's interview due to some software problem. But in terms of the role of academic new left in China, I would say that instead of spear-heading the struggles in China, they are still trying to catch up with the undercurrents in the grassroots, which has been going on for quite sometime. Of course, their better articulation and theorizing is enormously helpful. But instead of overemphasizing this, academics should remain humble,  and continue to interact with the grassroots in a reciprocal way to learn from each other. That is why I think Wang Hui's recent paper in Dushu (the one about a factory in Yangchou and the struggle against its privatization) is path-breaking, even though it is not as deep as many of his previous theoretical papers.

For a more radical critique of the uni-versity system, you may want to check out the multi-versity project at

Currently a patient recovering from Western civilization

On 5/23/07, Andrew Field < > wrote:
"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.

Andrew Field
Lecturer, School of History
363 Morven Brown Building
University of New South Wales
Kensington, NSW 2052
phone:  +61-2-9385-2287
fax:  +61-2-9385-1251

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:

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.

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 exist.

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...


-----Original Message-----
Sent: May 21, 2007 1:16 AM
Subject: [mlg-ics] Edu-Factory Project and Website

fyi, i

Dear friends,

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. The
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 University
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-factory
and other linked projects we would be very happy if list members could send
suggestions for links, bibliography, multimedia materials etc. Please send
all suggestions to this address.

Also we ask you to spread news of the site through your networks.

edu-factory collective
MLG-ICS mailing list

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Dale Wen, Ph.D.
Consultant on China issues

I recently published a report about China and globalization
A shorter English version
A longer Chinese version