Inevitable

With every student occupation, teachers, bosses, and other responsible adults inevitably plead for reason to win out over emotion (the solution to the crisis “requires discipline and sacrifice, not the affective intensities of manifestoes and blockades”), attribute the students’ rash actions to their ignorance and inability to comprehend the complexity of the situation (“students are captured because they don’t read, don’t think”), and call for putting the institution’s survival before the students’ selfish demands (“What about making the university serve another function? What about making it function for common ends, for common futures?”)

That such reactions present themselves as a defense of (a fictive) social democracy makes them no less conservatizing and obstructive.

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4 thoughts on “Inevitable

  1. Yes, it’s kinda sad how supposedly radical academics react to the occupations with fear and dismissal. I take it as another point of effectiveness of the occupations: to highlight the antagonism between, on the one hand, academics with vested interests in the given university institution, and on the other hand, the academics of the majority precarious class who need to create some new form of organization of academic labor and life.

  2. Thanks for the comment, all of which I agree with. Academics are structurally predisposed to react this way, but it’s nonetheless disappointing when it actually happens. Disappointing, but also the result of a decision. I think it’s interesting to wonder if similar arguments would be put forward if a different institution were involved.

  3. i think her inclinations were manifest early on in her book on feminism and the defense of Habermas. unf, it was an interlibrary loan, so no illustrative quotage.

    the thing about teaching at a university, no matter how much you think you like teaching and think it’s important, universities are about research. you’re not really rewarded for being a teacher; indeed, at most of them, you are punished if you are seen as a good teacher who wins great evals and awards from students.

    and even if you do love teaching, the daily drudge and dreariness of encountering students who are, even at the university where she teaches, ill-prepared for the work and often hostile to it, well it can make you feel as if students are the enemy. in the same way a cashier sees the customer as the enemy i suppose. of course, being an academic with more than a passing interest in social theories which recognize the structural sources of student apathy, ignorance, and so forth then you dress it up in the appropriate language: structural blame and making sure to include the we to which you belong as just another reason: why.

    it’s not just that they have been turned into apathetic people with no interest in learning; it’s also that “we” aren’t doing our job — she says. but this is a ruse, an attempt to deflect. to pretend to take some responsibility because, after all, how can you speak in the language of stern, finger-wagging *at* others, if you don’t perform a little defensive self-criticism where you demonstrate that you also criticize yourself. But it’s not at the individual, the writer. Rather, the writer becomes a “we” (which needs a “them”): “OH! it’s not all their fault; it’s also ours.” where her “i” can stand alone, taking responsibility that she expects of others, but must be magnified by a “we” — all of us are not taking responsibility. “we” academics. “we” teachers. “we” — where the “i” recedes. because the writer doesn’t really think she is part of the problem. it’s this we she’s a part of that is. whereas the students, they’re expected to be heroic individuals capable of resisting all of it to leap out of history, heroically resisting.

    i’m fascinated by how, everywhere these days, i see this demand for heroic individuals to overcome history and rescue us.

  4. Shag, this is great. Thanks for this, especially spotting the deflectionary use of “we,” which I hadn’t really picked up on. And yes, the demand — expectation, waiting — for heroic individuals, from people who know the futility of heroic individuals. Or in other contexts say they do.

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