Academia and wage labor

Thomas Schumacher tschumac at
Wed Oct 5 09:16:22 MDT 1994

However, universities do do a lot to help in the expansion of capital(s) --
particularly in the hard sciences where capital finances particular research
projects, etc.  Even in the social sciences, academics exchange their labor-
power against capital in the form of research grants and consultancy projects.
Of course, those academics who are working *for* capital in these situations
are usually not the ones working *agaist* capitalism, but that's another issue.
Class position is not identical to class "conscousness."

Academics also affect the expansion/contraction of capital by the impact of
education on the value of potential workers' labor power.  While university
teachers may get paid by the state (for example), this does not position them
outside of the circuits of capital.

If you look at academics as low-wage writers, we exchange against the capital
of publishers, most often *way below* the value of labor power for that work
(compare the wages of an academic writer to those of other writers working for
larger publishers).  In this sense, academics are wage workers like other

But the problem of this discussion is that it's constructing class along very
economistic lines.  If nothing else, the work of E. P. Thompson et al. has
shown that class is also a very cultural phenomenon (as has Bourdieu).  Writers
like the latter and Loic Wacquant talk about class as a set of practices, so
the working class is not only made (say, by industrialization), but is also
*remade* continuously; in this sense, it is not something immutable (based on
some quantitative criteria) but is produced by/under changing conditions.  When
private capital invests in public schools (thereby securing a working class for
the future and thereby capital's own future), do the teachers in those schools
suddenly change class positions?  Without even doing anything?  Hmmmm....

Tom Schumacher
Dept. of Communication


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