Some reflections on the Dissident Academy

Text of a Talk given to the Social Sciences faculty of Melbourne University  November 2018


The recent decision by the Federal minister for education to block a number of major grants for research in the arts and humanities has been greeted with howls of outrage  from what remains of the Dissident Academy in Australia   and a smug silence by those   university authorities who  are grateful to the politicians for doing their dirty work for them.… Read the rest

After 1968 :Left legacies and the politics of remembrance

There is an old saw about the so-called swinging sixties: if you can remember it you weren’t there. This  has the rather interesting corollary that if you were’nt there, if you have to consult the archive  or rely on second hand accounts rather than your own experience, then you are more likely  to grasp  the events  in more detail, depth and  accuracy  than someone whose hippocampus and neural pathways have been irreversibly damaged by taking too much acid while ‘on the scene’ .… Read the rest

Archive that,Comrade

Legacy politics and the ruses of remembrance


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’.… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest

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.… Read the rest