Posts Tagged ‘exploitation’
* Sarah Kendzior and Rebecca Schuman tee up for the grad-school-backlash-backlash-backlash-honestly-I’ve-lost-count. As always, I’m very glad people are talking about exploitation, but nonetheless the unvarnished, apocalyptic negativity of some of these pieces just doesn’t reflect my own experiences in the academy very well at all. Academia contains multitudes; that’s actually a huge part of the problem.
* CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law. Of course, the “law” being skirted is a toothless disclosure requirement, so don’t even sweat it.
* Yglesias wept: Bangladesh to allow unions for garment workers.
Wright proposes that the central document to understanding Hubbard’s psyche is his so-called “secret memoir,” composed around 1947, otherwise referred to as Hubbard’s “Affirmations” or “Admissions.” The document itself has an interesting history: it was found by a former archivist for the Church of Scientology, Gerald Armstrong, who had been tasked with organizing the founder’s personal papers. The more Armstrong read, the less he believed. Convinced that Hubbard was a huckster, Armstrong copied the documents that he discovered in the archives and delivered them to his lawyer. He was thereafter sued by the Church of Scientology. During the trial, Armstrong tried to get on record portions of Hubbard’s “Affirmations,” under the vehement protests of the Church’s lawyers. Since then, the document has leaked to the internet. Among Hubbard’s Affirmations:
“I can write.”
“My mind is still brilliant.”
“That masturbation was no sin or crime.”
“That I do not need to have ulcers any more.”
“That I believe in my gods and spiritual things.”
“That my magical work is powerful and effective.”
“That the numbers 7, 25, and 16 are not unlucky or evil for me.”
“That I am not bad to look upon.”
“That I am not susceptible to colds.”
“That these words and commands are like fire and will sear themselves into every corner of my being, making me happy and well and confident forever!”
Hubbard emerges, in Wright’s account, as a pitiable figure, driven by relentless ambition yet also stalked by an enduring fear of irrelevance. Flawed, prone to tyranny and abusive behavior, he sought to conquer his insecurities by achieving an outsized grandeur. “If one looks behind the Affirmations to the conditions they are meant to correct,” Wright concludes, “one sees a man who is ashamed of his tendency to fabricate personal stories, who is conflicted about his sexual needs, and who worries about his mortality. He has a predatory view of women but at the same time fears their power to humiliate him.”
* Austerity comes to CTU: the new 24 will only have twelve episodes.
* Big fair use decision: specific commentary on the original work is not required for a fair use defense.
* Finding common ground with Senator Coburn: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to exclude major professional sports leagues from qualifying as tax-exempt organizations.
* Gasp! Many students stay away from online courses in subjects they deem especially difficult or interesting, according to a study released this month by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. The finding comes just as many highly selective colleges are embracing online learning and as massive open online courses are gaining popularity and standing.
* “What we’re saying is that bargain-basement (clothing) is automatically leading towards these types of disasters,” John Hilary, executive director at British charity War on Want, told Reuters.
* Canada gets it right: “The legal test for a true volunteer arrangement looks at several factors, but merely agreeing to work without pay does not in itself make you a volunteer,” Ministry of Labour spokesperson Jonathon Rose wrote in an email. See also Natalia Cecire:
Like the hypothetical minimum-wage high schooler whose income serves as pocket money, non-essential and destined for “fun,” the youthful volunteer, who may very well intrinsically enjoy the work, authorizes a category of labor exploitation that is not only okay but also okay to take as the norm for the labor of cultural preservation. “I can get you a twenty-year-old!” is, in that sense, not a labor solution but its opposite: a commitment to the norm that this work will be unpaid.
In this respect, the restructuring of the Graduate Center follows a rather banal and callous neoliberal trend across higher education today: the gutting of social sciences and humanities; assembly-line style speed-up in PhD production time; and the loss of spaces for long-term, dedicated, and quality research and writing. Title refers to this. Via @claudiakincaid.
* Tumblr has been perfected; you can all go home. Troy and Abed in Engineering.
* Newt Gingrich thinks Republicans couldn’t beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. I agree! I also think there’s no one in the Democratic Party who could beat her for the nomination. As far as I can tell the presidency is hers if she wants it.
* It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. This is how people played “Zombie Apocalypse” before that was a thing.
* Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, estimated that homelessness could be effectively eradicated in the United States at an annual cost of about $20 billion. The housing department’s budget for addressing homelessness is currently about $1.9 billion. But that’s an impossibly large sum we certainly can’t afford — the cost of almost three months in Iraq!
* It’s painful for Nicholas Kristoff as a liberal to admit, but the poor are wicked and deserve their lot. Even disabled kids? Especially disabled kids.
From the perspective of casualization, the possibility of a toxic buildup of degree holders is not, as commonly maintained by job-market theorists, the result of “too many” graduate students. On the contrary, it is precisely the nature of permatemping to arrange that there are always “just enough” graduate students and other nondegreed ﬂex workers to be delivered “just in time” to serve the university’s labor needs. It is in the interest and logic of the system to have as many graduate students as it can employ while producing the fewest number of degrees—or, better yet, to produce persons with degrees who don’t make a claim for permanent academic employment. This is one reason that graduate school administrations have recently promoted the Marie Antoinette or “let them eat cake” theory of graduate education: “Why, if they cannot ﬁnd teaching work, let them be screenwriters!” This is a kind of excrement theory for managers, through which the degree holder ﬁgures as a horrible stain or blot, an embarrassment that the system is hysterically trying to scrape from its shoes. By institutionalizing the practice of preparing degree holders for “alternate careers,” the system’s managers are creating a radiator or waste pipe to ﬂush away persons whose teaching services are no longer required precisely because they now hold the degree.
The five-year Ph.D. works exactly the same way — flush out the used-up instructors faster and cleaner. It’s better plumbing. We know this is true (alas) because these proposals don’t ever talk about admitting fewer students to Stanford. The result of reducing time-to-degree while keeping admitting the same number each year will be be more graduate students passing through Stanford, not fewer — but the ones that do pass through will disappear more easily, making fewer demands on the institution materially and affectively as they go. Despite its claimed goals, most of which are perfectly laudable in the abstract, this is the unhappy purpose to which the five-year-degree proposal actually directs itself: not the production of fewer Ph.D.s, but a mechanism to get rid of the “used-up” Ph.D. better than we do now.
The five-year Ph.D. with alternative job training is therefore not, as Claire Potter has it, “an accounting reform posing as educational reform”; it’s an efficiency measure designed to better manage the cheap labor on which the contemporary university demands and better dispose of the people whose time in the system is up. Bousquet again:
Nearly all of the administrative responses to the degree holder can already be understood as responses to waste: ﬂush it, ship it to the provinces, recycle it through another industry, keep it away from the fresh meat. Unorganized graduate employees and contingent faculty have a tendency to grasp their circumstance incompletely—that is, they feel “treated like shit”—without grasping the systemic reality that they are waste. Insofar as graduate employees feel treated like waste, they can maintain the fantasy that they really exist elsewhere, in some place other than the overwhelmingly excremental testimony of their experience. This fantasy becomes an alibi for inaction, because in this construction agency lies elsewhere, with the administrative touch on the ﬂush-chain. The effect of people who feel treated like waste is an appeal to some other agent: please stop treating us this way—which is to say to that outside agent, “please recognize that we are not waste,” even when that benevolent recognition is contrary to the testimony of our understanding. (And, of course, it is only good management to tell the exploited and superexploited, “Yes, I recognize your dignity. You are special.”)
By contrast, the organized graduate employee and contingent faculty share the grasp of the totality of the system that proceeds from the understanding that they are indeed the waste of that system. They know they are not merely treated like waste but, in fact, are the actual shit of the system—being churned inexorably toward the outside: not merely “disposable” labor (Walzer) but labor that must be disposed of for the system to work. These are persons who can perform acts of blockage. Without expelling the degree holder, the system could not be what it is. Imagine what would happen to “graduate programs preparing future faculty” if they were held responsible for degree-granting by a requirement to continue the employment of every person to whom they granted a Ph.D. but who was unable to ﬁnd academic employment elsewhere. In many locations, the pipeline would jam in the ﬁrst year!