Today, UK’s chancellor George Osborne announces deep cuts to public service and welfare. To make cuts in this specific way isn’t a necessity, but unveils a new logic of capitalism. The central motive of this new capitalism is fear, mixed with hope that this cup passes from me. Cutting the universities budget is a good example.
A former British Petrol CEO, who’s cost-cutting policy is responsible for the Gulf oil spill, is imposing that funding for teaching will be cut by 80% to £3.2bn. That’s shocking. Maybe worse, it actually is embarrassing.
The British nation lets a former British Petrol CEO, Lord Browne, cut into the heart of its education system. Compared to France where millions of people are running up and down the streets because the government proposed they should work two silly years longer until the age of 62, one can say no one really seems to care. Universities? What was that again? One thing is certain, Google isn’t to blame for the rise of the stupid in the UK.
So who is to blame?
Surely, we can say Browne and the government, and feel good about ourselves. But actually I think this is about a bigger picture. It unveils how capitalism operates today, and we all are taking our part in here.
The situation with the university cuts is a good example. What can be done about it, or let me put it this way: why do we have the feeling nothing can be done about it?
Here in the UK, it was always the case that it’s universities are divided between the likes of Oxbridge and the rest. As if that wouldn’t be problematic enough, its departments have been made busy with competing.
This imposed structure, the competition of the departments within the universities, makes it impossible to speak, or even feel as one university. Everyone is haunted by a perverse logic that puts the survival of the own department first, instead of the idea of the university. As the Economist notes correctly, ‘funding for humanities and social-science subjects at universities will fall’ , hence it is the idea of the university that is at stake here.
Keep the fear alive!
This perverse logic can also be seen in the decision to cut the teaching funding by 80%. If the decision would have been 100%, all teachers would have felt disrespected. 80% leaves enough room for cheap hope: It won’t hit me. I am important enough, have children, or will be lucky. It will hit the others. Teachers who have to care about their family or mortgage won’t disobey anyhow. Understandable, isn’t it? Well, is it really?
Here, Stephen Colbert’s march to keep the fear alive is on its way, unfortunately without the march. Fear is ruling university, not knowledge. Don’t you think this politics must be opposed?
There is no necessity in cutting the university budget in this specific brutal way. There is no necessity in cutting the public budget in this specific brutal way.
If the budget has to be cut, it could have been done in another way; a way that is respectful, in the case of education to its teachers, and to the idea that knowledge is important for a society – you don’t let a British Petrol bloke do it; a way that tries to operate as just as it can to ensure that future students are bright heads, and not just rich kids, who have been born in the right class or region. Instead, here you see the rules of a new capitalistic logic.
The financial crisis: Good for capitalism, bad for you
Doesn’t it become apparent that the financial crisis isn’t a crisis of capitalism, but a crisis imposed by capitalism? The financial crisis increased the insecurity at the work place for every one of us. This insecurity – not knowing what happens to you – enforces a situation in which you better not question, or challenge the hierarchies. You obey the requirements.
A new, scheming capitalism is operating in a new, fascinating logic; fear is its essential motive. This is not a crisis of capitalism. This is capitalism pushing you into a crisis.
Start calculating: so what’s your role here?
Therefore everyone should be worried. This is not just news that will go away, and this is already way bigger than just hitting the education sector. We are changing our society at the moment, and we are all responsible for it. We shouldn’t feel helpless, but start to consider what can be done.
The first step is not to accept this as given, or a necessity. From there we need to get our head around it, a cool head. Start to talk with our friends, parents, neighbors and superiors. Try to understand the bigger picture, write, analyse and tweet about it. Use newspaper articles, blogposts, or university courses to dig deep and debate what is going on. Start data journalism to report the figures. Get on the nerves of politicians. Record who must be hold responsible for that mess, including quotes. Ask the IT people for help to get organised and spread information. This is the birth of a new capitalism, and we can do some live reporting.
The cost of the British Petrol oil spill is $20bn in compensation for ruining nature and life with pollution. As nobel-prize winner Joseph Stiglitz wrote yesterday in the Guardian, this time it is about ruining a society, and we all are taking part. Start calculating.
PS: As my friend AS remarked correctly, the £1bn cut from research funding have been spared in the end; but as we all know this isn’t about the numbers anyhow, but about the discourse.