More about that relativ

Malcolm.MacLean at Malcolm.MacLean at
Wed Oct 5 02:09:10 MDT 1994

>Most artist, physician and intellectual academics that I know want to effect
>some change outside the academy.

Damn right we do, but this isn't what the debate has been about.  In a way,
there is something absurd about us sitting at our flickering grey (or
whatever) screens musing over our class position, and the extent to which a
real grasp of it makes us better academics or better militants or better
activists.  There has been a disturbing line of reasoning that seems to say
that if you can't *really* feel the oppression then you can't be a real
activist.  (Maybe I'm oversimplifying the position, but it looks kinda
dangerous to me - I wonder about the future of international solidarity
campaigns under those conditions).  At the same time, I'm more than willing
to admit that the albeit temporary experience of a regular working class
job (road works gang) was a real eyeopener for me in that it enriched my
understanding and the feel I had for the culture of the working class

So, the question becomes, how do we intellectuals/academics make a
difference.  For me, it is in my teaching - and not the content so much,
but the style and approach which is designed to validate the knowledge that
my students have (I teach history) and give them the confidence to develop
their own interpretation or argument.  Once they can do that, only then
will I debate that interpretation, but first, I want them to think.
Sometimes it feels like an impossible battle - the forces stopping them
from thinking are *so* powerful.

Are we relatively autonomous.  Yip, we are, but the socially and
pedagogically conscious and critical academic can integrate themself into
the working class movement and other liberatory strands not by taking ideas
to those movements (as Lenin said), but by helping those movements and the
members they have to think and develop their own ideas.

Oh, God!  That sounds so liberal.  My point is that only when the ideas
organically develop within the movements do they become able to
fundamentally and radically change things.

Malcolm MacLean
malcolm.maclean at

Everyone talks of freedom, but there are few that act for freedom, and the
actors for freedom are oppressed by the talkers.
                                                 Gerard Winstanley


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