Open and Collective Proposal:
To Build a Transnational Network
Since its beginning, edu-factory has tried to be a place of political discussion and communication, a site of the free circulation of knowledge and networking at the global level. In the “double crisis” (i.e., the global economic crisis and the crisis of the university in ruins), the edu-factory list and web site have been enriched by communiqués from different collectives, news of university occupations and demonstrations, as well as proposals for political organization (i.e. George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici’s proposal). In fact, on March 4th there will be a day of mobilization in universities across the United States (www.defendeducation.org); on the 11th and 12th of March there will be a European mobilization against the Bologna Process (bolognaburns.org) in Vienna; and, in general, many struggles are challenging the corporatization of the university all over the world. We present the following text as an open proposal: please comment and add, in order to build up a common process of transnational discussion and organization. We want to emphasize the importance of a common process. Only in this way can we build up a collective with free and equal participation, which is to say, a new common politics, or a transnational politics of the common.
In the last year, many struggles and movements have emerged at universities all around the world. These struggles are more and more articulated at the transnational level through their financial dimension and through knowledge production in the education factory.
What do we mean by edu-factory? We mean that it is impossible to understand the transformations in the university without linking them to transformations in labor and production. Because new forms of valorization and accumulation make knowledge a central commodity, the role of the university changes definitively. It becomes a sort of “knowledge and education factory.” Notwithstanding, there is an irreducible difference between the industrial factory and the supposed new one. This difference is related to the particularity of the good that is produced in the university, i.e. knowledge. In fact, knowledge is not a scarce commodity: on the contrary, its richness comes from social cooperation and collective use. The production of knowledge is thus without measure. It is inseparable from living labor. Knowledge is always living knowledge. This difference is the main source of the struggles against the becoming corporation of the university, its imposition of an artificial measure, and the enclosure of free knowledge.
What do we mean by the global university? We mean that the standpoint to understand these transformations must be a global one. The global is not at all a homogenous space. There are global trends — corporatization of the university, commodification of knowledge, marketization of whole ways of life, the rise of a new figure of the student and the academic worker, and then, layoffs, budget cuts, tuition fee increases, etc. — all with different forms of declination and translation in different contexts. The global is based on heterogeneity. The global is a battlefield. We have no nostalgia for the national borders of the university and knowledge production. Local action is important, but it is not enough. We want to build up a transnational politics, within and against the global university.
What does it mean to struggle in the global edu-factory? This is the central question. In the last years, there have been struggles all around the world, with different languages and paths, and with similar goals and claims. In the double crisis — the global economic crisis, and the crisis of the modern university — these conflicts are increasing. It is important not to be rosy eyed or romantic about this situation. Because the double crisis brings suffering, it does not necessarily furnish a privileged opportunity to change the world that produces this suffering. Far from seizing the moment in a Messianic way, it is necessary to pursue the transformation of the university in, through and against the current global turbulence and the initiatives of governance that it has occasioned.
In this framework, how can we articulate the struggles over the division and hierarchisation of knowledge, its geographical division by the constitution of modern macro-regions, and the material struggles that are currently unfolding? Within the urgency of these struggles, how can we develop the project of edu-factory as a dispositif beyond the simple communication among struggles in order to articulate and circulate different temporalities and political processes in a transnational dimension? From the occupations against the Bologna Process in Europe to those against fee increases in California, there has been collective reflection over the quality of knowledge and access to the university for the students who refuse to only be indebted clients. How is it possible to find and construct a common place to share conflicts, to discuss at a transnational level, and to improve our collective force?
Since we don’t want to propose a universal recipe, but rather to construct another world and another university based on already existing struggles, maybe we should also aim to create a transnational network of struggles developing from specific contexts — immediately connected at a broader global scale.
For example, the struggle within and against the Bologna Process has to be immediately a global struggle: not only because the global university think tanks are trying to export the Bologna Process to North and South America, to Asia and Australia, but because it’s impossible and ineffective to build up a network that isn’t immediately a transnational network. This is a place of translation from within, instead of only between different processes and temporalities.
It’s important to say that we don’t imagine a global network of struggles as a circuit of many national networks. In other words, we don’t think of the transnational network as a simple place of national translation and international linking. We want to call into question national borders, because the local spaces are definitely changed by the mobility of people (for example, we can point to the strategic importance of international and migrant students in universities all over the world). We want to dismantle the apparatus of ‘area’ in both its material and cognitive dimensions, seeing that it is an instrument to govern populations and convert singular knowledgeable bodies into normalized bodies of knowledge.
Therefore, we propose to build up, and experiment with a new politics, that is, a transnational politics that tries to work through the translation of struggles and militant research. We have to re-open and re-invent social inquiry: militant research can define the political method of critical analysis, invention and social insubordination in the political phase. To restart militant research means, first of all, that the learning phase is part of the political one, that we must crossbreed knowledge with practice, reflection and experience. Doing social inquiry means setting up tools of action, intervention and organization. To build up a network of struggles is to ask: how can we, today, do militant research?
In this context, we propose to all students, researchers, teachers, academic and “precarious” workers, collectives, groups, movements: let’s build up a transnational network of struggles and resistance. That is, an autonomous network to spread news and materials, to share texts of militant research among different struggles and temporalities, to organize ourselves within and against the global university. A transnational network of struggles and resistance is not at all a supposed universalistic organization or an identity-making subject. In fact, we’re against standardization, that is, the universal language of the global university. We support differences and multiplicity, and their capacity to find and invent common practices and lexicons. The commonality of struggles is always against the empty universality of power. A network of struggles and resistance has to be a self-organized translation machine to empower singular movements, and to improve its possibility to win. A network of struggles and resistance has to be a common process of research within autonomous movements and groups. A network of struggles and resistance has to be a common space of translation of the different languages and practices, that is to say a common place from which to dismantle the conditions that support the regime of unilateral translation. Only in this way, can a network of struggles and resistance answer in a collective way the central question: how to build up a transnational politics of the common against the global university?
This article was first published on the Edu-Factory Web site on 12 January 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. Contact: <email@example.com>.