Quote of the day: thinking with data

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

…the stronger you hold on to a particular idea, the less open you are inclined to be to rival ideas. Indeed, the strength of an idea – that it allows you to see things in a certain light – also entails its weakness – it often prevents you from seeing them in any other way. So unless you distance yourself somewhat from an idea you firmly hold, you will be unable to assess the strengths of rival ideas…it is often the case that, in order to advance, you first need to retreat. (Mukherjee and Wuyts 2007: 235, cited in Oya 2013: 516-517)

Mukherjee, C. and M. Wuyts (2007) “Thinking with quantitative data” in: A. Thomas and G. Mohan, eds.Research skills for policy and development: how to find out fast. London: Sage, pp. 231–253

Oya, Carlos (2013) “Methodological reflections on ‘land grab’ databases and the ‘land grab’ literature ‘rush’” The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:3, 503-520


Mahler – Symphony No 2 ‘Resurrection’ Final Part

January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Happy days

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment


He realised to even his own surprise he probably could indeed take more. And with that he hatched the evil plan…

“Do what you love” critique

January 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

An article that is currently doing the rounds, from Jacobin Magazine…

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

And another http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/five-economic-reforms-millennials-should-be-fighting-for-20140103#ixzz2qJs8Xoil

Apparently I’m a millenial.

The Tenured Radical Deradicalised

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

This blogpost is regarding Rebecca Schuman vs. the Tenured Radical (2013), a Christmas-period exchange of blogposts and articles on the adjunctification of the US academy.

The following quote from this blogpost is really on-point:

What the tenured must do with their privilege is rally to the cause of the disenfranchised. As PAINYC says, “Speaking up in solidarity with the growing numbers of qualified, talented, passionate people who are being flushed out as a waste product of the academic labor system is what is important.”

Instead, what I see the tenured doing– not just Tenured Radical but most of the ones I know personally, hear of, or read about—is ruefully shake their heads about adjuncts (“I know, isn’t it just awful?”) while they run off to the graduate admissions meetings where they continue to admit the same number of students, with the same crappy funding, into the same dissertation-obsessed programs of study, based on the same outdated, indefensible job market premises, delivering the same vague, non-committal job market assurances (“the good people always get jobs”), as in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. All. Completely. Unchanged.

Privilege has insulated the tenured for a very long time. But the walls are crumbling. The disenfranchised just won’t be quiet any more. They won’t slink away in shame when they do not get the tenure track job and enter the hallowed gates. They turn back and cast stones at the crumbling walls of the academy, the walls behind which the tenured lead their secure and comfortable lives. While the tenued still enjoy their privilege, they are less and less protected by their ignorance.

Schuman refers to the tenured tendency to circle the wagons and shut out the critiques of the non-academically-employed “lifeboating.” It’s a good image. When the tenured truly get that they are on tiny, tiny departmental boats in a giant roiling sea of economic chaos that is engulfing our universities, they will, I hope, spend less time cultivating outrage at the audacity of the unemployed critics, and instead make real changes in their own practices. Some that I’d like to see:

Slash or halt graduate admissions

Make job market training (both academic and non-academic) central to the curriculum

Reduce time-to-degree of graduate programs

See and include adjuncts in the running of the department-both formally and informally

Tell the truth about the corporatized funding models in their universities that sustain their salaries and research funds by cutting other labor costs through the exploitation of adjuncts.

…when veteran faculty continue business-as-usual graduate admissions and training, blithely reassure panicked graduate students about a rosy job market, or write words as tone deaf, condescending, elitist, self-protective, and out of touch as these recent examples by the Tenured Radical, they cannot be surprised when they are counted among the enemies. Their politics are exposed as utterly reactionary, couched in defense of an arbitrary privilege. Far from the self-proclaimed “radicals” of the academy, they are the most determined defenders of its outdated and destructive status quo.

See also this addendum:

*[1/2/13] Please see my follow-up to this post acknowledging the inappropriateness of a racism analogy to articulate my point about tenured privilege, The Problem With My Analogy. This follow-up was written after I read and thought deeply on many critiques of this piece that arose on Twitter and other places from scholars such as TressieMC, Jonathan W. Gray, Roopika Rikam, etc.

This addendum is relevant to the rest of the blogpost and to its title (How the Tenured are to the Job Market as White People are to Racism), not the bit I’ve quoted above.

And away from it

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

On facebook, obvs.

The following stolen from a response to this blogpost by someone I know. The response is by someone I don’t know personally.

The ‘far left’ is not just to be found in slowly decomposing leninist sects and there are some genuine grounds for optimism, I think.

Some sections, departing from the SWP are clearly beginning to think and conceptualise new politics or at least new possibilities for organising. ISN is both stuck in LU but at least is also asking some interesting questions, developing a space where debate can take place and activists develop, rather than experience Trotskyist slow death under the whip of serial top down directives.

It is likewise within ant-fascism that the beginnings of genuine class based street politics appears to be emerging with anti-fa coordinations developing a genuine direct action/civil disobedience culture that challenges UAF liberal anti-fascism. The 3 Cosas campaign, small developments made by the IWW and the IWGB, the anti-fracking movement have all been inspirational. Combined with the combative he Cops off Campus demo/new student movement all occupy an anti-capitalist space that its fair to say can be claimed by and large as being of the ‘far left’. Its a space where creative energy, addressing real issues is emerging, a new left that contrasts with the dull greyness of the paper sellers (not that I have anything against the distribution and production of newspapers and other media of course).

Its easy to bash the left – and the article told many home truths of course – yes, the left is dying – if by that you mean the project of top down, doctrinal certainties, then yes a hundred and more times. Its methodology is being eaten alive by new technology and dances hopelessly out of step with the ABCs of today’s networked society. Perhaps we are getting a glimpse of a reimagined working class movement and a new culture of organising that takes risks, developing theory around practice and invigorates participants, developing our core human impulses towards solidarity, breaking free from guilt tripping control freakery that always exploited our genuine desires.

The article was a good one, but also one sided, cynical and blind perhaps to changes occurring under our collective noses. It revealed perhaps the authors own focus on elections as the be all of any collective enterprise. I certainly feel more hopeful in many years and I’m a perspectives from planet earth kind of guy.

Towards election 2015

January 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


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