marxism

Philip Goldstein pgold at strauss.udel.edu
Wed Sep 14 05:26:26 MDT 1994


	Rust GIlbert asks me where Laclau and Mouffe say that socialism
is not a system opposed to capitalism. Here's what I found. In New
Reflections on the Revolutions of our Time, Ernesto Laclau
advocates "the full acceptance of the transformations entailed by
capitalism and the construction of an alternative project that is
based on the ground created by those transformations, not on
opposition to them. Commodification, bureaucratization, and the
increasing dominance of scientific and technological planning
over the division of labor should not necessarily be resisted"
(56).

	In response to my complaints, Doug Henwood asks me to explain my
view of the position of academics in modern society. I have two points to
make. One, since Marx's time, culture in general and  education, in
particular, have greatly increased in importance. In the 1850's in
England and the US, most people had around a third grade education. Large
numbers could not sign their names. In the US today most people have a
twelfth grade education. Over fifty percent of youth between 18 and 25
attend a college. 35 percent go to a college or a university; 20 percent
go to a community college. What I conclude from this fact is that
academics are not a withdrawn, isolated group distant from the working
people; academics are a group with considerable power to influence the
minds of the working people.

	The second point is that, since the 1870's or 1880's,
professional associations acquired significant independence.
Professionals, including academics, were no longer required to adhere to
state doctrines to obtain advancement. I mean religious doctrines, in
particular. These associations established their own criteria of
excellence, success, or accreditation. In the university, these new
independence meant that service to the community, the church, or the
school no longer guaranteed an academic success, accreditation, respect,
etc; he or she had to meet the formal criteria of the profession. In the
university, this criterion meant successful or distinguished publication.
Becoming corporations, the elite private universities were distinguished
by their successful researchers. The public universities also became
corporations of a sort but they still required their faculty to meet the
criteria determined by successful, full time researchers even though
their faculty might also have heavy service obligations, including heavy
teaching loads. Those who condemn academics have in mind the elite
researchers, whose light teaching load frees them to pursue their
interests; however, most academics are not elite researchers but are
burdened with heavy teaching and service obligations. The condemnation of
academics for their opportunistic, careerist orientation, their
acceptance of commodity production, etc., really indicts the modern
university, which rewards formal success, rather than cultural ideals or
objective truth. Academics also condemn themselves for their careerism,
but, since they believe that publication is the route to success, they
can't give up this careerism. Now that the universities are cutting
faculty even as student enrollment goes up, the space for promotion,
advancement, or social mobility, has gotten narrower and narrower. One
has colleagues who teach parttime at four or five universities and still
make a poor salary with no benefits, and graduate students who may never
get a real job in academia. The pressure for successful publication is
greater than ever, since it remains the only genuine route to
advancement, yet holier than thou Marxists repeated condemn the
professional aspirations of academics and insist upon a socially
committed or publically responsible scholarship as though the modern
university gave an academic much of a choice.

Philip Goldstein

PS. Sam -- is that right? -- Fassbinder credits me with a comment about
his views and perceptual Marxism, but I can't take the credit. I don't
know what that Marxism is.


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