We’re All Workers and We’re All Intellectuals

“The white collar/blue collar distinction makes very little sense.”

The Devil’s Bargain in Composition and Rhetoric

I am grateful to all the smart people who read and commented on a post I wrote here in which I argued that the labor crisis in Composition and Rhetoric can only be fully understood through a global economic lens. I used David Harvey’s theory of capitalism in crisis to make the claim that finance capitalism circumvents barriers to accumulation by creating low-wage industries staffed by contract workers (such as academia) that are managed and legitimated by the very intellectuals who ought to know better.

My grief over Rhet Comp’s complicity in perpetuating this system is captured in many of the comments made by readers, including one by Anthony Paré, a thirty-year veteran of the field. You can read his full note here. In brief, he writes about “a central and damning paradox at the heart of rhet and comp’s history”: Continue reading

The MLA President And The New Faculty Majority

I don’t hate MLA President Michael Bérubé’s report from the New Faculty Majority conference in Washington D.C. I respect that he positions himself as a listener, as someone who has something to learn from the NFM and from the part-time and contingent faculty who now teach two-thirds of all courses in college and universities. And Bérubé seems to understand just how dire the labor crisis is in higher education. He seems, in short, to care. But Bérubé’s position of authority and influence (and the fact that he seems genuinely interested in getting the strategy right) means he must be held to a very high standard with regard to how he frames the problem and proposes solutions.

I have to point out some problems with his report. Continue reading

“What the Ruling Class Wants Are Technicians”

What depressing things have we learned about education this week?

We have learned that Apple makes iphones, and all the other stuff we love, in China. There’s a giant factory, or what the NYT calls “the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth,” in Chengdu where tens of millions of gadgets (including the one I am typing this on!) are made. At Foxconn, employees “work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.” That sounds bad, right? But it doesn’t end there. There are a lot of underage workers at Foxconn, apparently. And a few deadly explosions here and there, as expected. As a result, workers have a tendency to throw themselves off of buildings rather than continue their rotten lives. Continue reading

Rhetoric and Composition: Academic Capitalism and Cheap Teachers

When I enrolled in the PhD Program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center to study Composition and Rhetoric, I was idealistic about the future of the discipline and my own place in it. I believed that Comp and Rhet (as I came to call it) was asking crucial questions that were central to the mission of higher education in America. I still believe that. But, after working in the field in a number of full-time and part-time positions over several years, my idealism has turned to despair at what I now regard as Composition’s great shame. It has left me to doubt that there is a place in the field for me and for many others like me. Continue reading

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