This is the first installment of Reclamations’ compilation post, which brings together writings from Fall 2011. Links to the other installments can be found below:
AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER
Zachary Chance Gill Williams, “UC Tuition-Backed Debt: A Logic of Governance, Not a Practice of Payment” (Aug 5)
One of a series of investigative posts on UC finance and governance that can be found at Williams’ blog, Good-in-theory. University privatization is revealed here as a process that tends to de-link the sphere of instruction from other spheres of the University: student fees are now being made to cover the costs of instruction, while other university income is being diverted to debt repayment. Countering the University’s claim that student fees aren’t being raised to offset construction costs or to reassure bond rating agencies, Williams offers a thorough defense of the 2009 slogan — “They pledged your tuition to finance construction” — while also detailing emergent logics of UC governance.
UAW 2865, “Privatization: A Very Short Introduction” (Aug 29)
In the spring of 2011, a pro-democracy caucus successfully contested the leadership elections of UAW local 2865, the union representing UC academic workers. In the following months, newly-elected union activists began organizing for another round of anti-privatization protests. As part of their early efforts, they released this educational and agitational pamphlet, which makes the case that privatization is not simply an inevitable response to acute state defunding, but rather is a longstanding agenda embraced by key UC Regents and Administrators. The pamphlet also gives a brief history of recent anti-privatization protests, arguing that such protests were responsible for the partial and temporary refunding of the UCs, and for a number of other victories, including the maintenance of weekend library hours at UC Berkeley.
Daniel Marcus, “Six Pictures of Our Insolvency, Photo Essay,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)
Published as part of Reclamations Journal‘s pamphlet on student debt, Marcus’s photo essay depicts various aspects of loan-mediated student life. In one image, a glass prison is superimposed on UC Berkeley’s Memorial Glade, indicating the subtle constraints imposed upon students’ lives by deferred debt burdens. The essay draws out of everyday cultural objects (lego sculptures, film posters, and the flotsam washed up by google searches) histories of economic immiseration, while also re-imagining objects of high culture (Manfredi’s Apollo and Marsyas) in relation to contemporary struggles against mass indebtedness.
Amanda Armstrong, “Insolvent Futures / Bonds of Debt,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)
A fragmentary introduction to the Reclamations pamphlet on student debt. How might collective resistance to unpayable debt burdens take shape in the present? Sketches of possible ways forward drawn from wildcat auto strikes of the 1970s, from recent direct actions against home foreclosures, and from contemporary cycles of anti-austerity struggle in Greece.
Malcolm Harris, “Bad Education,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)
An overview of contemporary transformations in university governance and finance. Harris argues that those who work and study at universities are being subjected to the increasingly damaging imperatives of a growing administrative sector; to the costs of brand-building construction projects; and to intensifying precarity as workers and as debtors. The essay shows as well how Wall Street has converted student loan debts into SLABS: highly-leveraged and (temporarily) lucrative financial assets.
Mark Paschal, “A Framework for Student Debt,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)
A genealogy of the student loan industry in the US, which contextualizes transformations in this industry within a broader history of neoliberalism. How late twentieth century regulatory reforms have allowed market forces to further discipline and reshape educational institutions, while contributing to emergent, finance-dominated forms of capital accumulation, which rest upon the dispossession of student-debtors.
George Caffentzis, “The Student Loan Debt Abolition Movement in the US,” Generation of Debt (Aug-Sept)
What are the prospects for an emergent movement against student debt, and how might such a movement be organized? In addressing these questions, Caffentzis outlines the limits of contemporary anti-debt organizing (much of which actually naturalizes debt-financed education), as well as the inherent difficulties of organizing against student debt (debt repayment generally is deferred until after students have left the collectivity of campus life). To overcome the latter barrier, he suggests a convergence of campus and extra-campus movements, while for the former, he argues that student loan debt should be reconceptualized as a labor issue, insofar as debt-financed education disciplines future workers and constitutes a form of preemptive wage theft.
The Public Education Coalition at UCB, “What the Public Education Coalition Stands For” (Sept 15)
A collaboratively-written statement of aims by a cross-sectoral organizing body constituted this fall at UC Berkeley. Educational privatization and resegregation are presented here as aspects of a larger regime of austerity; the statement calls for a wave of collective protest to counter this regime.
UC School of Debtors in Defiance, “Statement from the Occupation of Tolman Hall at UC Berkeley” (Sept 22)
In September, the UC Berkeley public education coalition organized a rally and march that led into an open occupation at Tolman Hall, a building from which most classes had been relocated, due to seismic concerns (even as campus workers were still required to work there). This collaboratively-written statement articulates a justification for building occupations, while also showing how symptoms of the regressive transformation of the university can be discerned on the surfaces of campus buildings.
Anonymous, “Plaza – Riot – Commune” (Oct 10)
On the limits of contemporary forms of class struggle — plaza occupations lined by riot police, on the one hand, and riots unable to sustain their negative energies, on the other. This pamphlet, published on the first day of Occupy Oakland, ends by gesturing toward a sequence of expropriations that could counter the generalized dispossession of the present and future, and could undo wage- and state-mediated forms of social life.