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An unexpected highlight of my TASA 2014 conference experience was this keynote (held in concurrent sessions).  I’ve been absolutely fired up by the notion of activism entwined with current global contexts, that speaks to me in my work, my passions, my interests, my frustrations, my teaching and my social networking (sorry friends!).

Grant Banfield – Flinders University

Susan Krieg – Flinders University

Dave Hill – Anglia Ruskin University

Introduced by Grant Banfield, who spoke about the ‘interplay of exchange’ and the ‘state rule by ideology’.  Using Adam Smith’s Pin Factory to illustrate the capitalist division of labour,and pointing out Smith’s neglect of the working conditions, child labour, treatment of workers etc, self interest and the ‘invisible hand of the market’, and moving into the Marxist social division of labour, private appropriation and primitive accumulation, tied in with David Harvey – capital taking over everything … hence, current status of neoliberalism.

 

There’s class warfare all right.  But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.  Warren Buffett

Susan Krieg talked about sociology widening her lens, working in Early Childhood education which includes children from birth to 8 years, as ‘a most contested space’.  The symbolic importance – images of childhood, seen in terms of ‘what they will become’ not what or who they are.  Neoliberalism frames government responsibility for young children, their care and education.  But this provision of care is based on demand rather than supply models, childcare/education as a ‘private affair, not a public good’.  The dominant discourse revolves around the market having its way, with rationing, hierarchies, competition, but still primarily about commodification – cost, efficiency and flexibility, NOT quality.Parent subsidies reduce govt intervention, yet ECE and universal childcare need to be seen as an essential foundation to civil society.

(See more on Krieg’s work in The Conversation:  https://theconversation.com/childcare-may-be-expensive-but-its-worth-it-in-the-long-run-28551)

Enter Dave Hill, the charismatic ‘star of the show’ that got us sitting up in our seats!  Hard to put across the way he caught and held the attention of everyone in the room.  I can only relay a tiny part of what he said and some of the words he used in his talk entitled Neoliberal Capitalism, the Strong State and Education:  Immiseration, Resistance and Revolt..  Although speaking from a European/UK perspective, it was so easy to see parallels with our own local realities.  (He didn’t always speak in such quotable quotes, but the following are taken directly from the notes I managed to take at the time!)

Marxists and Socialists must work together

 

I am consumed with anger

 

… zero hour contracts …

 

Class war from above – gap getting bigger, sinking into absolute poverty

 

The latest stage of capitalism

 

Always been ‘pissing in the wind’, but now the wind has changed…

 

Only 0.7% of the British population are millionaires.  78% of all British MPs are millionaires.  So who does ‘representative democracy’ represent?

 

Theoretical framings:  Postmodernity or Intersectionality (Parallelism of Class, Race, Gender) OR Class Analysis (which is raced and gendered).  Focus on oppression, or on exploitation (or both).  Implications for political action?

 

Reorganisation of the Broad Left, Revolutionary Regroupment, dangeer of sectarianism “We have to bring people together”

 

I must have just been too excited at that point because I made no more notes until the next day.  Dave Hill was speaking to us about public activism, he mentioned the numerous jobs he had lost through his actions, and the fact his employer paid for him to spend a lot of time travelling overseas so as not to have him talking up locally?  Some of us in the audience were making a point of agreeing how important it was to collectively stand up and talk back about current conditions, but this also grated on those of us in precarious employment (not quite ‘zero hour contracts’ but along those lines) where neoliberal practices have us in their grip and it is rarely in our ‘best interests’ to speak back.  We heard at this conference about conditions in parts of Europe in particular, that need to be heeded in terms of our future(s).  We are not there yet, but could well be heading down similar paths …

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The Author and Dave Hill at TASA2014

In terms of my own work, I am angry too at times, and passionate about social justice and about education as being a place where these ideas and understandings can be shared, critiqued and understood in ways that help to shed light on our worlds, and those of our students and communities in which we may or may not work.  We and they/you and me, are all affected, and the palpable excitement of a group of people after this session who wanted to find ways to be more involved in this work was just what I needed.  (See my abstract: Leve, A and paper – upcoming, which has evolved from such frustrations)

Now I need to read my new book and to understand better… but thanks Grant Banfield for organising this event, and inviting Dave Hill to take part.  As I entered academia on the edge of Marxism and the posts, I realise that there may be little difference here to what has been said before, but in terms of the (education) students I teach now, finding ways to spark up their critical imaginations and to make links between the past/present/future and their temporal positionality and possibilities, is my ongoing challenge.  And do look up the meaning of Immiseration, I can’t believe I haven’t heard it before, and it still isn’t recognised by spellcheck (not so surprising, half this blog is underlined with the red squiggly thing)..

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