One of the principle battle-cries of the education movement has been that the coalition’s plans amount to a privatisation of the university system. This conclusion is arrived at by a focus on the withdrawal of teaching funding and the increased role given to ‘good relations’ with the private sector. These criticisms stand, but they repeat a common misunderstanding of the neo-liberal project as merely removing the state (call it the laissez-faire fallacy), rather than reorientating the state in a particular way to benefit certain sections and classes of society. The government is obviously complicit in promoting such tropes, which reinforce its narrative of supporting the grassroots and entrepreneurs and civil society and volunteers and champagne and candy for everyone. Hence their frankly playgroup standards of messaging. The Big Society is yellow and smiley-face! The Big Government is red and angry-sad-face!
But we now learn that the government has settled on a rather interventionist approach to all the lovely knowledge we are tasked to produce. ‘Two-minds’ Willetts has decided that the Arts & Humanities Research Council will be allowed to distribute £100 million in research monies each year, but only on condition that it accepts a ‘revision’ of the Haldane Principle (“that decisions on individual research proposals are best taken by researchers themselves through peer review”) and so spends a ‘significant’ amount of that money on research into the Big Society. Under the new ‘understanding’, the government continues to ‘value’ and ‘recognise’ the importance of academic independence, but wishes only to propose the merest of commonsensical adjustments:
At the other end of the spectrum there are decisions that ultimately must be for Ministers, albeit informed by external advice; these include the overall size of the funding for science and research and its distribution between the Research Councils, the National Academies and Higher Education research funding. In addition, every Government will have some key national strategic priorities such as addressing the challenges of an ageing population, energy supply or climate change. The research base has an important role to play in addressing such priorities and the Research Councils, with the support of independent advice, have proposed research programmes to tackle them. It is also appropriate for Ministers to ask Research Councils to consider how best they can contribute to these priorities, without crowding out other areas of their missions. But it is for the Research Councils to decide on the specific projects and people to fund within these priorities, free from Ministerial interference. Similarly, Ministers have a legitimate role in decisions that involve long term and large scale commitments of national significance.
The overall mood is civil-service vague, but elements of the language are importantly precise. Continue reading
While Libya quakes, an assorted commentariat tussles over the legacy of the new military humanism and its possible revival. That such statements are now tempered with a caution absent for Kosovo and its successors mitigates matters somewhat, but not much. Despite the disavowal and dissimulation, the conclusions reached are much the same. Something must still be done. There is an obscenity about this rush to engage in geo-political reason, to pronounce on real and illusory national interests, to play soldier by speculating on where to move the battalions on the great chess board of high politics. In periods of less emergency, we might speak of a complex weaving of beliefs and interests, of competition between economic, military and political logics, or of international statecraft as a particular and peculiar kind of practice. But in the face of NFZ+, RPGs and UNSCRs, such vulgar and academic maneuvers appear to be surplus to requirements, for the cheer-leaders as much as for the poo-poo-ers.
But the advocates and the critics are closer now too. Both want the revolution to succeed. Both are wary or hostile to the rationales of power. Both see the possibility of a sub-optimal partition or stalemate. And both are engaging in some wishful thinking, whether by assuming that the authorisation of the UN or the absence of explicit lies will limit the reach of militarism or in simply asserting that the Revolution is on the verge of seizing the state without (faux) internationalism. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some fairly compelling assessments available.
All of this opens up a space for further discursive refinements. We might do well to talk about the confusion between ad bellum and in bello concerns, or about the wisdom of replacing a concern with the consequences of intervention with a folk-psychological assessment of the true intentions of its instigators, as if the legacy of ‘muscular liberalism’ mattered more than the fate of those with some rather more pressing concerns.
But what of the sudden convergence around a statist geopolitics? Continue reading
I suppose, in a way, British men are like white people were in Nineties South Africa or young Germans after the Second World War. We are expected to go through a period of atonement for the sins of our fathers. To be treated worse than we merit because of crimes previously committed in our name: in this case the crime of feeding, protecting, loving and nurturing women in accordance with our biological imperative. They don’t want that any more. They want to be linesmen. And so we have to let them tell us endlessly how they wish we were all dead.
Thus spake a gourmand and professional waffler last week, a child-of-privilege educated at Westminster and Oxford, who, despite these handicaps, manages to articulate for us the crisis of contemporary masculinity. Apparently two compatriots got caught up in some garden-variety lechery of the career-halting kind. Their trials and tribulations, although obviously upsetting for them on a personal level, at least had the merit for many of acting as a flashpoint for opposition. That is, a common-sense opposition to the political correctness surrounding the damages wrought on men by feminism and feminists. Finally, people can begin to speak out.
It is rather tempting to pursue the bizarre line of metaphorical reason here (if ‘sexist crimes’ are merely love expressed biologically, and if British men today are like post-fascist South Africans and Germans, does that make apartheid and Nazi rule the equivalents of a natural and benevolent stewardship? Did they even involve ‘real’ crimes?). But we should resist that. Coren is but a symptom, and should not detain us overlong in picking the low-hanging fruit. The triggering events are themselves already old news, the detritus of the news cycle now rendered especially vulgar and tattling by some actual struggles for justice.
The tropes at play have been with us for some time, inflecting what are essentially public relations SNAFUs with the full force of mythological sex wars. But these themes do seem to be becoming increasingly familiar. Those who grumbled about the rise of such minimal concessions as equal pay legislation in the halcyon days of economic vibrancy now have the pressures of austerity with which to buttress their case. Outrage at the redundancy of a favourite sports broadcaster spirals rather quickly into a diagnosis of women’s ‘special treatment’ in our society and the counter-sexism of a gender settlement in which men are no longer authorised to authentically, organically, just be themselves. Castrated. Emasculated. Prostrated.
“You ain’t never been no virgin, kid, you were fucked from the start.”
-Titus Andronicus, “A Pot in Which to Piss“
Police protect Vodafone store from the threat of public exposure of truth.
And you have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers’ sins is worse than a crime; it’s a mistake.
Of obedience, faith, adhesiveness;
As I stand aloof and look there is to me something profoundly
affecting in large masses of men following the lead of those who
do not believe in men.
-Walt Whitman, “Thought”
The winter air has turned cold enough, has pressed in with its full weight, so that there is no more space for lies. The truth of crisis is that the powerful and the wealthy do not take responsibility, they assign it; they do not suffer their follies or their sins, they pay their penance in the currency of our lives.
We’ve spent the last few years living with the anxiety of impending doom, spurred on by hustlers of panic, addled prophets of economic Reformation, and Janus-faced managers of public interest.
Yet, despite the prolonged disaster-foreplay, the consummation of this crisis was always going to be “us against them” and never “we’re all in it together.” Continue reading