Global University Labour, Struggles and the Common within the Crisis

Giovedì, 11 Giugno  2009 – Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, Facoltà di Lettere

“As was the factory, so now is the university. Where once the factory was a paradigmatic site of struggle between workers and capitalists, so now the university is a key space of conflict, where the ownership of knowledge, the reproduction of the labour force, and the creation of social and cultural stratifications are all at stake.” A few years ago in its manifesto, the edu-factory collective underlined the productive and conflictive dimension of the contemporary university.

But in fact the university does not at all function like a factory, and we are not nostalgic for the struggles of the past. This statement was rather the indication of a political problem. If we begin with the incommensurable spatio-temporal differences between the actual functions of the university and those of the factory, what are the political stakes of their comparison? In other words: how can the problem of organization be rethought in the aftermath of the demise of its traditional forms such as the union and the political party?

Today the economic crisis has opened new spaces to rethink the function of the university and the production of knowledge itself on a global scale. In other words, we have the chance to rethink the rise of the global university, as well as its crisis. Within edu-factory, we refer to this as the double crisis. On the one hand it is an acceleration of the crisis specific to the university that marks its end, the inevitable result of its eroded epistemological status; on the other hand it is also the crisis of postfordist conditions of labor and value, many of which circulate through the university.

“We won’t pay for your crisis”: this was the slogan of Italian “Anomalous Wave”, that is, the refusal to pay the cost of economic crisis and the crisis of university itself. The slogan was translated in other struggles, in different forms but with a common goal. Starting from this point, we want to outline this double crisis from a global perspective. From India toBrazil, from US to Europe, we want to focus on different experiences to think about the production of a transnational common space of debate and action.