I haven’t written anything here for over a month and I’m not entirely sure how to account for this. Disinterest? Lethargy? Sloth? Perhaps a combination of all of them.
So I’ve been looking back over some of the stuff that I’ve written and reflecting upon my pre-occupations, which seem to be education and work. My comments on both are really pretty negative (I blame The Smiths for my melancholy) – in effect it’s not just Media Studies that is shit but everything else as well.
To recap for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention: education is in the doledrums because it is unimaginable that it should serve some other purpose other than that of the economy, even though there is evidence to suggest that there is no straightforward correlation between more education and economic success. It seems that the government always knew this but never let on. I mean, if it genuinely thought that education was the key to economic prosperity it wouldn’t be cutting spending on higher education during the present financial crisis.
The ‘real’ economics of university it seems had more to do with saddling young people with debt by reneging on free education and charging them for degrees. But the credit crunch has put paid to an economic model that was casual about debt and lending. In the future the notion of graduates being 20K or 25k in debt before their 22nd birthday may strike people as obscene and if governments are unwilling to reinstate grants I suspect that we’ll see a lot less enthusiasm for mass higher education.
In any case, we are probably producing more graduates than industry needs, many of them emerging from university with degree certificates you wouldn’t wipe your arse on. And there is anecdotal evidence that the surplus of graduates has simply depressed wages in some professions, which might have been the point all along.
So higher education is a bit of scam. Like the financial sector and the excesses of MPs in parliament, universities offer further proof that our economic and public life is pretty rotten. How can we take seriously these deadening bureaucracies waffling about entrepreneurship and enterprise; bogged down in an audit culture that mistakes paper trails and reports for real work and quality; proliferating shit degrees so as not to miss a single opportunity to recruit in the higher education market place; and all overseen by senior managers with incomes that the Prime Minister and many a CEO would envy.
Well, working in such a corrupt environment does make you question the purpose, quality and morality of what you do and I’ve concluded that the world might be a better place if I and others like me did a lot less or even engaged in a little sabotage.
It’s the vacuousness of so much work that is so striking, not just in higher education but I suspect in so many other areas also. The energy and industry expended in producing… what? Well, not much often: end results of dubious quality, little use or simply more than we need. Why are we compelled to do it? Because capitalism works.
That’s what people say, isn’t it, when you put the case for socialism or some other alternative to the free market? They say, ‘Capitalism works and the alternatives have been found wanting.’ And they’re right – literally. Capitalism works… and works and works and works. More particularly, IT WORKS YOU. It can’t bare to see you idle. It resents your weekends. It wants to encroach into your evenings. It abhors your holidays. It sneers at your pathetic insistence on ‘work-life balance’.
‘Work-Life balance’? Sounds as if work and life are somehow separable; perched on either end of a scale that only requires you to find some sort of equilibrium between them and all will be well. But this is bollocks. Work is the foundation upon which your life is built. Remove it and your life doesn’t ascend to a new high, it crashes down around you. Even those who believe in the notion of ‘work-life balance’ implicitly acknowledge the privileged position of work in the relationship, because they always couch their arguments in terms that suggest more ‘life-time’ will make you more productive when you are at work. It’s just unthinkable that anyone should ask for reduced hours simply because it would improve the quality of their life.
The only reason that time-out of work is tolerated at all is to allow you to recover from exhaustion but more importantly it permits you the leisure time to consume and in doing so produce more profits. So in a sense, even when you’re not working you’re still working. Its obvious when you think about it: look at the amount of time and money that people sink into their houses and the emotional investment they make in the homes, certainly since Thatcher announced the arrival of the great property owning democracy.
There is no stronger indicator of this shift than the array of DIY, home buying, second home buying, grand designing, location, location, location-type shows on the box, not to mention the cookery programmes that have proliferated on our screens to both serve and instruct us in becoming proper domesticated consumers. You are now just as likely to knock off work for the weekend and come home to so much cleaning, cooking and general domestic maintenance that you’ll wish yourself back at your desk or lathe.
Domestic labour was of little consequence when it was housewives catering for their husbands. Today the domestic sphere generates debt and debt (certainly before the credit crunch) was considered all to the economic good. It’s also a political virtue because people in debt can’t afford to stop working and are less likely to strike or stand up for themselves incase they can’t make the repayments and lose the roof over their heads. Still, thank God we’re living in the free world.