McKenzie Wark on Thu, 15 Jun 2000 03:42:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> [talk given at tulipomania dotcom]

Since Craig has managed to misunderstand everything, i will, patiently,
as a teacher does, explain it one more time. 

Nobody suggested shaking down poor students for their pennies, least of
all me. What's interesting, rather, is this. People who study at
tertiary level end up making considerably more money, on average, than
people who who don't. The forego income for 3 years or so, and make it
back over the course of a lifetime. Private universities know this,
and know what they can charge and still attract students. In what will
become the norm in many state university systems, students take out
loans and repay them -- ideally only after their incomes surpass the
average earnings. There are fair and unfair ways such a system can
work, of course. Student organisations always complain about this
model, but it is one that is fair to *nonstudents*, who are not asked
to bear the cost of someone else's education, out of which that
someone else then makes more money in the long run.

Whether as a private, commercial system or a state run system, these
kinds of models address the funding of the university as an institution,
but leave scholars trapped in a wage relation to the university. The
question then is how to create more autonomy for the direct producer?
Its the same question the workers movement has asked in relation to all
kinds of labour. Interestingly, industrial workers have usually been
very careful to protect their information assets when they have had the
strength to do so. Training and apprenticeship, qualification to peform
a certain task -- its interestng how much of blue collar labour movement
struggle was always about intellectual property. Unfortunately, the more
romantic academic labourism doesn't see this. 

I'm struck by how often the arguments of the anti-labour right are being
used on this list against the proposition that, like any other worker,
academics ought to struggle for some autonomy. One is to be made to feel
guilty for asking for what one is worth. 

Similar issues arise concerning artists and their relation to
institutions, not to mention writers and musicians. The gift economy is
a fine and noble thing, but is usually seen only against the backdrop
of corporate, quasi-monopoly business models. The gift economy also has
to be thought through in terms of the autonomy that securing one's own
right to intellectual property brings. A right that can never be an
absolute right. As conceived in the 18th century, intellectual property
has to work alongside an intellectual commons. The individual's right
has to be balanced against the collective.


"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

On 14 Jun 2000, Craig Brozefsky wrote:

> McKenzie Wark <> writes:
> > But who really benefitted? Did the class that produces intellectual
> > work really benefit? Or did institutions such as the universities,
> > and the commercialisers of academic publishing? I think the latter.
> It appears that the sophistication and foresight of the academics
> which led to their smearing the doorway to the Humanities Office with
> lambs blood so that the Law of Profit and the Wage System would pass
> them over as the Angel of Death did the Jews in Egypt, was proven
> futile sometime in the last couple decades.

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