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Re: [xmca] Lave and McDermott and Jones

Thanks Julian.
I have attached the Peter Jones response to your article. It is I think a very supportive response to your article, but perhaps you could set things going by giving us your response to Peter Jones?


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 ...


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Larry Purss [lpscholar2@gmail.com]
Sent: 30 October 2011 16:55
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Lave and McDermott

I want to address one particular aspect of the article from page 282 on the
"methodology" that Lave & McDermott engaged in their analysis of schooling.
Williams wrote,

"This is a pure metaphoric analysis with the economy as the SOURCE and
education as the TARGET domain.... L & M call it a GENRE of translation,
but GENERATIVE metaphor is also close. Generative metaphor generally
benefits from a dialectic between source and target domains and is by no
means a one - way transfer of meaning."

L & M's  methodology therefore is a genre of translation or text analysis.
A hermeneutical process of interpretation of economic objects from one
domain transferred into another object domain of learning. This translation
process is attempting to generate insight into the contradictions between
two distinct aspects of economic narratives within the source domain
and translating this economic contradiction into  the narratives of USE and
the narratives of EXCHANGE [currency, credentials, grades, MEASUREMENTS,
etc] within educational discourse. This process of translation does point
to the DOMINANT metaphor [and myth] that has colonized our current
intersubjective relationships and generates a particular FORM of valuation
that alientates the person from their own needs [yearnings] and also puts
the person in a PARTICULAR form of COMPETITIVE intersubjectivity with
others. The fundamental value questions

"What do I owe the other?" &
"What do we owe the other?"

IS fundamentally a question OF VALUES. Epistemology and practice
[knowledgeability] become colonized by a single  mono LOGIC of EXCHANGE
VALUES that is like a black hole that gravitationally pulls all
alternative VALUE genres into its orbit.

I agree that this genre of USE and EXCHANGE contradictions does express the
DOMINANT genre of globalization, but is it monolithic?  Are there
alternative genres with alternative metaphors that can escape the orbit of
metaphors of exchange and explore alternative notions of value that answer
the question "What do I {we} owe  the other?" in ways that explore VALUES
that speak more directly to the yearnings of the heart as expressed by
Bellah in his book "Habits of the Heart". A value narrative that re-visions
the public sphere and "common ground" and needing to be VALUED in our
humanity as central to our notions of what we owe the other.

Williams article, in my reading, does capture the centrality of our current
arrangements of alienated labour but I want to explore alternative
narratives that IMAGINE relationships and a SOCIAL ETHIC that calls for
answers and responses in genres of dialogical communication [speech and
text and artifacts] that call for deepening our narratives of instrumental
USE values and EXCHANGE values into genres of dialogue and communication
within common ground.

I hope the Occupy Wall Street movement,  does not get locked into the
exchange genre of redistributing the 1% wealth to be more equally
distributive. This leaves the narrative in the realm of exchange values.
Can we possibly move the conversation to notions of "common ground" as a
fundamental re-visioning of the question "What do we owe the other?"

Schools are only one activity institution that needs to engage with this
re-visioning our SOCIAL ETHIC to move beyond exchange values. William's
article points to the challenges of moving beyond debt narratives [that is
now global] and may require vision [and "faith" as meaning making in a
future alternative] where we answer that what we owe the other is to build
places where the person's yearnings for fellowship and security are
recognized as best expressed within a radically new value genre.


On Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 6:36 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:


I appreciate these opening comments on this months article for discussion.
You wrote,

"The student-teacher relationship is *not *a /customer-service provider
relation/. A school is a place for the production of labour power
(inclusive of all the social relations presupposed by labour power, not
just know-how!), not accumulation of capital"

Your cautionary tale or comment on metaphors as images that "capture" the

 I wonder if these metaphorical images may then expand and develop and
transform into a single mono logic which colonizes our actual concrete
social relations into its mytho-logical orbit. Mytho logic as hermeneutical
narratives [traditions, texts]  that constitute or in*form our actual
social relations.  Metaphors as "vehicles" for a particular mytho
logic. Capital and debt hermeneutical notions colonizing the multiple
dialectical productions of labour power under a single mytho logic.  Terms
such as human "capital" which are meant to critique the "debt" mytho logic
becoming captured within the orbit of this one particular mono logic.

Andy, your experiment of taking Marx's  "depth" analysis within PARTICULAR
social relations of commodification and then ABSTRACTING the FORM but
altering the metaphorical CONTENT as having unintended consequences.

This is a way of glancing back to our earlier discussion of the "debt"
mytho logic and the occupy wall street movement as expressing a yearning
[motivation] for a new mytho logic that no longer has the debt "exchange
VALUE" mono logic as a single pervasive text. Our "personalities" express
MIXED motives that can no longer be subjugated to a single mono logical


  On Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 2:46 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

 And attached is Episode 2, Julian Williams' article.
"Toward a Political Economic Theory of Education: Use and Exchange Values
of Enhanced Labor Power"

Andy Blunden wrote:

The current MCA article for discussion is aPeter Jones' commentary on an
earlier MCA article by Julian Williams, which in turns develops the ideas
of Lave & McDermott's reading of Marx's 1844 immanent critique of (Adam
Smith's 1776) theory of political economy. A long thread! I will confine my
comments here to Lave and McDermott's article, by way of background to the
issues taken up by Williams and Jones in successive issues of MCA.

About 30 years ago, I was interested in the foundations of mathematics,
in particular Marx' study of mathematics, and I tried an exercise somwhat
like Lave & McDermott's. I took the first page of  Marx's /Capital /and
made a word substitution in it (basically making the commodity relation a
metaphor for a mathematical equation) and was very pleased with the result.
Fortunately, the idea went no further than a discussion over coffee with
Cyril Smith, and I never tried it again. Nonetheless, I learnt from the
exercise, in much the same way I think people learn by writing a haiku or
putting their ideas in verse. By subjecting an idea to some extraneous but
rigid discipline, one forces oneself to more closely examine the idea, and
in an objectified kind of way, which can give fresh insights. In this
sense, I can see that the group that read Marx's 1844 essay "Estranged
Labour" and substituted "labour" with schoolwork, a.k.a. "learning," would
have learnt a great deal about Marx's approach and deepened their
already-sophisticated critique of modern schooling. But I think the result,
when written out, carries as much confusion as clarity, and at worst could
promote a very formal and superificial understanding of Marx's approach and
serve to undermine the very deep critique of formal education that these
writers have produced. Because (as I see it) confusion only gets compounded
as the paper goes on, I will confine myself to one metaphor from early in
the paper. After that, the mixture of profound understanding and radical
confusion I found too much to cope with.

But before beginning, Marx did also have ideas about public education,
and http://www.marxists.org/**archive/marx/works/subject/**
education/index.htm<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/subject/education/index.htm>has some of these.

Early on, the authors refer to a section in /Capital /which is often
cited in this context. The point Marx is making is that a teacher in a
private for-profit school is in exactly the same position as a wage-worker
in a for-profit factory. In this context, the schoolkids are the consumers
of their services, not the labourers. But Lave and McDermott see that when
Marx says it makes no difference whether it is a school or a sausage
factory, that this shows somehow that the students are "like" wage workers.
Later the authors say that "production in education might be more akin to
what Marx calls distribution in political economy." I tend to agree with
the authors that a central function of public education is the sorting of
youth into well-credentialed future-productive workers and failures
destined to low-value labouring. That is how labour power is produced. But
making the analogy of this to the separation of the labourers from their
means of labour and the sundering of society into two classes, wage
labourer and capitalist, is perverse. Bourdieu had a good theory of
"educaional capital" but in fact the word "capital" is a misnomer in
Bourdieu's work, or at least it has a different meaning than it had for
Marx, and cannot be derived by metaphor or generalisation.

I have written too much already, and must stop. Dialectics means taking
relations *concretely*. So when Marx began /Capital /with an analysis of
the commodity relation, he was able to unfold the whole of economic life
out of the commodity relation because of contradictions inherent in *that*
relation. If we abstract the *form *of the argument and insert materially
different terms, as if we were looking at a theorem of Boolean symbolic
logic, in which the indiuvidual terms are utterly without content, then
what results may be pleasing to Alain Badiou, but not to any Marxist or
serious educationalist, I think.

Metaphors work because the source and target domains are homologous in
some respects but *not iin others*. Care must be taken in using
transformations of this kind. The student-teacher relationship is *not *a
/customer-service provider relation/. A school is a place for the
production of labour power (inclusive of all the social relations
presupposed by labour power, not just know-how!), not accumulation of
capital, except in the case of the private education factories, which are
incidentally also profit making enterprises.

These comments were by way of introduction. Julian Williams took his
inspiration (I believe) from Lave and McDermott's study, and the MCA paper
which results tackles the question concretely.


mike cole wrote:

Here is the Outlines article that starts the sequence leading to Jones.
believe the Williams piece has been posted.

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1>
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.**aspx?partid=227&pid=34857<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>

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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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