The University is a Factory, Burn it Down!


Plan C blog

“The university is a factory”, we hear this cry everywhere, sometimes as a declaration and accusation of contempt, shouting out to the world. “This isn’t how it’s meant to be. Once universities were pure places of learning and research, serving all of society, before neoliberalism and capitalism ruined it all”. Often there is the corollary “Shut it down” for by ceasing its productivity by force may we hold it to ransom demanding change. Sometimes people shout, “The University is not a factory!” as if the changes they protest are the turning point of transformation, and if only they are stopped then the university will remain pure and unsullied.

Both of these twin delusions are wrong, but there is a third meaning. Often overlooked but obvious once the surface is scratched and that is the university is a factory and it has always been a factory! Never has the university been a place of pure academic and intellectual pursuits, serving and bettering society, but unsullied by crass material demands. But rather once it was a strong hold of the elites, producing the knowledge needed by the upper classes to cement their rule both over the workers in their homeland and in their colonies taken through bloody murder.

It produces the officers, administration and owners arming them with the knowledge needed to rule with an iron fist, and to justify their actions to themselves and to those they have crushed. Now it produces all this and more. It creates industries to be the sites of exploitation, it streamlines the process by which exploitation takes place. No knowledge is born that is not enclosed, stolen and turned to poison regardless of the potential it holds to liberate and enrich us all. It produces workers as far as you can see burdened with debt to make them fearful, forcing them to take any work and be grateful. Convinced that if they merely keep their head down to the grind stone and they’ll get to do what they love, but if be some chance they do manage to realise that dream then due to the fear of debt and loss they will except nearly any conditions with smile. In this way dreams become nightmares and purposeful action becomes the shuffle of a zombie.

It may seem from this that it is better not to go to university, but no. This trap reaches us all even if we do not step into its halls of industrial learning. For if you do not go, if you do not gain the hallowed piece of paper declaring your knowledge, your chains of debt and the fear of debt then you are worth so much less. As a lesser person, of course you don’t know enough or cannot work hard enough to really understand and engage in society and then be awarded the “good jobs”. So you must be grateful for whatever scraps you get and if you get none, well stop being greedy.

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