Sunday, August 6, 2006

Employer sabotage: turning students into waste products

The "Informal Economy" of the Information University
Marc Bousquet

"One of the reasons that graduate employees are so vocal is because the transformation of graduate education accomplished by the three-decade conversion of the university to a center of capital accumulation needs to be viewed as a profound form of 'employer sabotage'—most graduate employees find that their doctorate does not represent the beginning but instead the end of a long teaching career: as I’ve observed in another venue, the 'award' of the doctoral degree increasingly represents a disqualification from teaching for someone who has already been teaching for a decade or more. In the course of re-imagining the graduate student as a source of informationalized labor, the academy has increasingly evacuated the professional-certification component of the doctoral degree (the degree plays a key role in the way professionals maintain a monopoly on professional labor; however, now that work formerly done by persons holding the degree is done by persons studying for the degree, the degree itself no longer represents entrance into the profession). The consequence of this evacuation is that the old fordist sense of the doctoral recipient as the 'product' of graduate education has little meaning—instead, the degree holder must now be understood in systemic terms as the waste product of graduate education—not merely 'disposable,' but that which must be disposed of for the contantly-churning system of continuously-replaced student labor to function properly."

I feel like I've been punched in the kidneys. Thanks Glen ;)


Blogger e-tat said...

The Bousquet article is a bit long to read at the moment, but I hope to get back to it and then return here with a more helpful comment. However, my initial position is that waste products have a role, a place, and a value. If Bousquet hasn't looked into this, he may be doing his topic - and the reader - a disservice.

One somewhat more positive way of putting it is that devaluation is the necessary precondition for revaluation. Sometimes this occurs through the production of excess capacity.

A variety of things have to be considered in relation to the production of excess capacity, such as whether the excess is developed through artifice, and unsustainable. Alternatively, excess capacity may be redirected towards the production of new social forms, process and products. It's not clear to me that one can predict the outcome - other than to say that excess is the basis for further development.

Moving that line of thought into Bousquet's realm will require some reading and probably revision. But perhaps you get the drift.

Anonymous Craig Davey said...

I'm no professional, but I beleive your suppose to feel like you've been punched in the kidneys after they give you your receipt. Don't get ahead of yourself, in the now remember that waste is food.

Anonymous anne said...


devaluation is the necessary precondition for revaluation

oooooh! i like this!


your ability to remind me of what's important today is just one of the many reasons i love you :)

Blogger e-tat said...

Feeling better now? A bit less rubbish?

You'll be wanting to skim Thompson's Rubbish Theory: Thompson, M. (1979) Rubbish Theory; the creation and destruction of value, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Which shows up in 61 citations on Google Scholar, including this one


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