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Re: [xmca] Lave and McDermott (w/ Bauman link)

Thanks, Larry,

Bauman is writing about a much more broadly shared social condition, but if I may focus narrowly on the academic condition -- on what I see in my own local world, specifically, in my department at my univeristy:

Our university's new budget model imposes really strong incentives for obtaining grants with high support for institutional budgeting, and serious consequences for doing other kinds of work. Faculty are pressured to make their decisions about the work that they will do in response to the availability of external funding sources, and junior faculty may not be able to resist if they are to survive.

Will it still be possible for there to be career-long programs of serious scholarship, of the kind that has produced the works from which we draw our educations, without the il-liquid support that seems unlikely to come from corporate sponsors, who are themselves scrambling for survival in a time of liquid modernity?

Of course I don't expect non-tenured non-academics to be sympathetic with our situation; but this seems like a kind of cultural lobotomy for society at large.

Unless, that is, the culture has other ways of supporting serious and sustained projects of critical reflective & refractive consciousness, but I don't see where that is happening.

On Sun, 30 Oct 2011, Larry Purss wrote:

Thank you for this link and the notion of "liquid modernity"
He also wrote this passage

The passage from 'solid' to 'liquid' modernity has created a new and
unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals
with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and
institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as
frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so
individuals have to find other ways to organise their lives. They have to
splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that
don't add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like 'career' and
'progress' could meaningfully be applied. Such fragmented lives require
individuals to be flexible and adaptable - to be constantly ready and
willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and
loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their
current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan
actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to
act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.

This notion and explanation of why we can no longer can find or develop
"common ground" [earth metaphor] BECAUSE of liquid modernity [water
metaphor] seems to be central to the way out of this mess. The  "hope" that
there are alternative values to respond to LIQUID values seems to be a
central question that needs answering.
Thanks Tony


On Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 3:35 PM, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:

I guess I should have included a link, so here is one:


On Sun, 30 Oct 2011, Tony Whitson wrote:

This may be of relevance:

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2007. /Consuming life/. Malden, MA: Polity.

With the advent of liquid modernity, the society of producers is
transformed into a society of consumers. In this new consumer society,
individuals become simultaneously the promoters of commodities and the
commodities they promote. They are, at one and the same time, the
merchandise and the marketer, the goods and the travelling salespeople.
They all inhabit the same social space that is customarily described by the
term the market.

The test they need to pass in order to acquire the social prizes they
covet requires them to recast themselves as products capable of drawing
attention to themselves. This subtle and pervasive transformation of
consumers into commodities is the most important feature of the society of
consumers. It is the hidden truth, the deepest and most closely guarded
secret, of the consumer society in which we now live.
In this new book Zygmunt Bauman examines the impact of consumerist
attitudes and patterns of conduct on various apparently unconnected aspects
of social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification,
communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of
knowledge, and value preferences.

The invasion and colonization of the web of human relations by the
worldviews and behavioural patterns inspired and shaped by commodity
markets, and the sources of resentment, dissent and occasional resistance
to the occupying forces, are the central themes of this brilliant new book
by one of the worlds most original and insightful social thinkers.

On Sun, 30 Oct 2011, Julian Williams wrote:

Andy, Larry

I was indeed 'inspired' by the Lave and McDermott article: the
methodology is seductive, and generative metaphor is a powerful means
sometimes to gain insights.

But what took me to that article and forced me to work with it was in
the end the need to understand learners' alienation from learning (and so
themselves) in schooling. L&M say that schools take (by force) everything
from the learner -  in the same way that capital takes everything from
labour, and gives back nothing -  and so the analogy begins...

Let me tell a story - I talked to a student from a well-to-do
stock-broker background (where expectations on him seemed high)  who got
into a university Physics course ... I asked him where/how he got his
interest in Physics... he said he wasnt really interested in Physics, but
he chose it because 'it would look good' on his CV/ resume and 'especially
from a top university like this'. This is the kind of extreme case of
alienation in schooling/academe that interested me.

But the L&M analogy is not - I found -  theoretically satisfactory:
hence my journey back to Marx from 1844 to 1867... If I am right then the
use/exchange contradiction arises not JUST (and not essentially) from the
forced conditions of learning in school, and the 'competition' between
learners etc., but from the fact that the learner is preparing themselves
to labour, and so they are working on developing themselves as 'labour
power' for the labour market, i.e. to sell themselves to capital ('labour
power' is the commodity-proper).  This is not just consumtpion, it is a
particular kind of consumption of education for a future role as exploited
(also exploiter) ... . I am still working on this and expect to still be
plodding away until ... well, for a while...

In the MCA paper I told how I began to find Bourdieu's work useful in
fleshing out the notion of 'educational/cultural capital' in the analysis
of schooling: I am still at this idea. I think that this 'educational
capital' may also have a kind of 'educational use/exchange value' type of
contradiction. Of course here we have a problem of terminology and it is
important to distinguish between Marx's analysis of commodity proper and
the terms Bourdieu uses for 'capital' in the cultural fields....

Larry - I agree that 'values' is what is at stake here ...


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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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