Coming of age stories : now and then

Text of a talk given to Birkbeck College Department of Literature June 2016 Introduction: the youth question then and now In this talk I am going to be taking a line of thought for a walk in two directions at once. I will stepping back from the present, to   retrace an argument  about the youth question which I first articulated in the late 1960’s and 70’s  at a time when Mods,Rockers  and Skinheads, Beats and Hippies were highly visible signs  of a deeper  shift in the tectonic plates of the British class  system. The emergence of these youth cultures also signaled the fact that  the  fixed positions of gender and  generation which had hitherto signposted the key stages of growing up as a boy or a girl, were becoming much more fluid and negotiable, though  with a very  different impact  on each side of the class tracks. New codes of [Read More…]

Archive that,Comrade

Legacy politics and the ruses of remembrance  Foreword  Not so long ago I had the experience of mentoring a young German student who was intensely curious about British culture and society and what had shaped it in the second half of the 20th century. He plied me with questions like ‘What was it like before Mrs Thatcher?’. ‘How does the situation of gay people today compare  with what it was like in the 1960’s’. ‘When did Damien Hirst  first become  famous?’ ‘How did people in this country respond to the fall of the Berlin Wall?’ ‘Have British people always not liked immigrants?’ I did not always find it easy to answer him without falling into what Marx called ‘dumb generalities’, but I did my best to point him in the direction of where the answers might be found. Quite often I found myself telling  him stories about my own political [Read More…]

THE CENTRE WILL NOT HOLD : On changing principles of political hope

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity W.B.Yeats  The Second Coming This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which [Read More…]

Archive that,Comrade

  Legacy politics and the ruses of remembrance Foreword  Not so long ago I had the experience of mentoring a young German student who was intensely curious about British culture and society and what had shaped it in the second half of the 20th century. He plied me with questions like ‘What was it like before Mrs Thatcher?’. ‘How does the situation of gay people today compare  with what it was like in the 1960’s’. ‘When did Damien Hirst  first become  famous?’ ‘How did people in this country respond to the fall of the Berlin Wall?’ ‘Have British people always not liked immigrants?’ I did not always find it easy to answer him without falling into what Marx called ‘dumb generalities’, but I did my best to point him in the direction of where the answers might be found. Quite often I found myself telling  him stories about my own [Read More…]

The Idea of the University and the Intellectual in the Age of the Knowledge Economy

The Idea of the University in the Age of the Knowledge Economy / The Idea of the Intellectual in the Age of the Knowledge Economy. The advent of  a globalised knowledge economy has transformed the  conditions of  intellectual  work over the past twenty five years. These two texts examine different aspects of the situation. The first looks at the impact on the university and its research cultures, especially the humanities departments; it  is argued that   the advent of the modularised curriculum and a ‘post modern’ pedagogy  weakened  the traditional divisions of academic labour, and  helped  encourage new  forms of inter-disciplinarity required and promoted by the knowledge economy. The ‘community of scholars’ has, in turn, been increasingly transformed into an adjunct of the enterprise culture, as academics queue up to offer their services to the corporate sector. The second text  surveys  debates on the  role of the intellectual. It begins by [Read More…]

Apprenticeship a la Mode

The work of Jean Lave has  made use of the term ‘apprenticeship’ to characterises how people learn  from each other  within face to face communities of practice. At the same time the government  has introduced a system of ‘modern apprenticeship’ to provide training in  many white collar and service occupations, as well as in the traditional skilled manual trades. This text introduces  a  theoretical model for understanding  apprenticeship as a general cultural paradigm shaping gender and generational  relations within traditional  working class communities, and examines its transformation in the  transition to a post industrial, post Fordist occupational structure. Originally published in Apprenticeship- towards a new paradigm of learning ( ed P Ainley) Kogan Page 2002 You can view the document here:  Apprenticeship a la Mode

Re-Doing the Knowledge – Labour, Learning and Life Stories in Transit

A few years ago I was involved in the attempt to set up an international research project looking at the impact of globalisation  on working class culture, and in particular on the informal processes of learning  that were  transmitted through families, peer groups, workplaces and other communities of practice. The project never happened due to lack of funding but in this text, which is a kind of prolegomena to the project, I discuss   some of the theoretical and methodological problems entailed in doing this kind of  comparative research into locally situated knowledge. The text originally appeared in the Journal for Education, Work and Society in 2005.  View the document here: Re-doing the Knowledge