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[Nettime-bold] Is Intellect Consumptive or Productive?
Nicholas Hermann on 22 Feb 2001 22:33:33 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Is Intellect Consumptive or Productive?

(From "A Modest Proposal by a Part-Time Instructor in the English
Department", by Briggs Seekins)

If you remember the famous UPS strike from a few years ago, it
basically started over the same situation. UPS had signed a contract
with the Union, and it required them to pay all full-time workers a
certain wage and set of benefits, so UPS just started calling all the
new workers "part-timers," even if they worked over 40 hours a week.
Working people in America have seen this strategy employed by
administrators and CEO's with increasing regularity over the past
decade or so. As our University President Dick Pattenaude once observed
in the Casco Bay Weekly, USM doesn't exploit part-timer labor any
worse than other American employers do. 


Max Herman's response:

Camouflaging externalities is the prime duty of any corporate manager. 
Universities are floating in a sea of corporate economy, and therefore
must embrace the strategy of imposing hidden costs both on society and
the consumer.

Intellectual externalities are the easiest kind to hide.  After all,
unity of thought and expression is still considered a required ethos for
every US citizen.  Dissent is the enemy of the standard of living; it is
selfish and greedy; its motives are evil in origin:  they are sins of

The economy of intellect in which the US global system finds itself is
one that depends on command-and-control decision-making and
untransparent public image.  The failures of corporate media must be
masked, much like those of the 1980's savings and loan industry, in
order to keep the stock market expanding.  The failures of the US
academy must also be hidden, in order to preserve the illusory value of
education both to individuals and to society at large.  Student's minds
must appear to be valued or the market for Universities' services will
erode; faculty must appear to be valuable or the market for their
instruction will tarnish.

Hence the secretive and contradictory approach to intellectual
production:  buy low, sell high, and keep the investors eager.  After
all, a nation with no respect for critical thought is not democratic,
free, or prosperous.  It is mechanical to the expense of all else.  It
is worthless.

Seekins' essay confirms the basic workings of corporate-dominated
economy.  He focuses on the university because that is where his
experience lay, but parallels in the package-delivery industry as well
as many others have been amply documented by authors such as Noam
Chomsky.  At the University of Southern Maine we see not a free market
of intellect where transparency and accountability insure consumer
freedom.  We see distortion, hypocrisy, and management by deception.  

USM is like most corporations in that the appearance of value, as the
prime magnet for investment, supersedes any empirical or rational
measures of value.  The consumer cannot make informed choices because
the information available to him or her is nonsensical and immune to
verification.  Society swallows an illusion of value whole.  

Universities no longer care about thought, knowledge, or integrity;
they seek solvency and will sacrifice everything to achieve it. 
Students are not productive consumers but consumptive productions.  The
free market is a lie.  This lie is perhaps most virulent in the economy
of intellect, as we see so horrifically at USM.  When society's
intellectual wealth is a forgery, its future will suffer from
proportionately violent corrections.

Max Herman
The Genius 2000 Network
see also www.indymedia.com   

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