Organic Intellectuals: Records in the living social movement archive

16 10 2010

Ephemerality and unfixity
because of process
In movement, flux.

The social movement archive is dynamic through responding to issues at hand. There are multiple instances of issues. Privatization of education is an instance of a structural, political-economic issue that pervades institutions, bodies, information objects that help us remember the material order we inhabit.  I seek to explain that the social movement archive seeks to rupture the imaginative and material capitalist, political-economic order we inhabit.  The word “archive” in social movement archive is illusive, and will bring up images in your head that are completely not the kind of archive I will be describing. Be open to the image I am drawing in your head as I read to configure the worlds that the social movement archive seeks to build.

In social movements, information is produced by
1) Flyers
2) Signs with messages
3) Banners
4) Rallies composed of speakers who communicate via spoken words amplified through loud speaker systems of mics, speakers, and/or bullhorns.

We could preserve these informational materials as a moment to remember. But would that fix and individualize our understanding of the structure and system of privatization? The corporate university is connected to market based economic value systems. Classes are being configured to support the corporate industry interest through “professionalization” discourse. Student and worker movements organize rallies and other information systems to awaken, or rupture, normalized public consciousness, to challenge this trend of privatization that is intimate to our everyday lives.  They seek to articulate talking points such as “stop regents and chancellors from making these decisions that increase the privatiztion,”  to “stop state funding withdrawal from public education and services,” to “stop politicians and other leaders from supporting prisons rather than public education and schools.” They seek to point how the withdrawal of government public support, and the influx of private industry to be the “default” solution to the government “bankcruptcy” is part of a systemic issue related to the late capitalist transformation occurring at a local to global scale.

So, what are we preserving in these social movement information systems.  To create new spaces for education to not be about money, and enabling the monetization of our thought by assimilating into the professionalization discourse, but for addressing and intervening in this discourse through critical, relevant scholarship and action. We need to use our time and role in universities to deconstruct, challenge, subvert and transform discourse that make environment and social issues monetized and translated into global capitalist order.

From our place in the university, how do we interrogate corporate logic to challenge the capitalist hegemony/meaning making over all forms of life? Physical, consciousness, and informational object? (Popper)

The social movement archive uses 3 elements to challenge capitalist hegemony.

1) Physical reclamation of space. Through Civil Rights Movements and the development of Ethnic studies departments which were created in the 1960s and 70s as a place for counter-institutional knowledge production within the corporate university. These spaces enabled people of colors to write about their histories and cultures from their worldviews, and to support grassroots social movements. This movement was also part of feminist and LGBT movements, larger Civil Rights struggles, to allow historically and culturally disenfranchised peoples to think about their experiences as valid forms of critical, counter-institutional knowledge.

2) Anti-Capitalist Consciousness. As Ethnic Studies, Women Studies, LGBT and other Civil Rights knowledge becomes the study of dominant institutional agents, these movements become studied to understand their weakness, and also places them in a context to commercialize and monetize their intellectual value according to the privatized educational and larger socio-political-economic context.  Thus, the knowledge producers from these disciplines are compelled to “play the dominant game” in order to exist in the material reality of the university job and classroom, as well as, push back on the political-economic boundaries that they encounter on a daily basis, such as IRBs, peer-review journal publishing politics, need to publish or perish, need to get grants in order to be a legitimized professor into tenure-track positions.  In addition, the reduction in state funding balloons the amount of students in one class, but cuts in faculty to teach them, putting more burdens on professors to exist in the university and maintain their value as seeking to push back beyond the capitalist paradigm they are immersed in.  Thus, the anti-capitalist consciousness becomes a personal struggle that requires others to resist what Friere calls the “banking method” of knowledge production. The capitalist struggle that we are immersed in requires us to take responsibility in our own personal transformation, to be agents in rupturing the commodification of knowledge by not seeing our  professors as sources of knowledge, but catalysts for our own understandings and development into what Gramsci calls organic intellectuals. As organic intellectuals, the double/triple consciousness that DuBois, Anzaldua and others name becomes the subjective stance, in which we realize our position within classrooms that are still designed in the colonial form, that we still depend on funding by the state and corporate officials, that we are still living in a material realm dominated by capitalist forces. But, through the realm of ideas, we are seeking to split our consciousness, in order to create space to think about other orders remembering histories of colonial and commercial violence, and articulate scholarship and action in critical relation to colonial and commercial logic, to create a different “third world” that Popper describes. One that seeks to rethink the design of space and knowledge which Foucault describes as discourse.

3) Information Objects -To disseminate this consciousness so that more bodies can be part of this transformation of space.  The dissemination of these ideas that are interrogating the helix of militarism and corporatism requires a careful design of experience, a careful design of information systems that is locally embedded, using tools that are everyday to its inhabitants.   It must rethink the banking method of knowledge, it must rethink the patriarchy and elitism that the written word, and monumental expressions, are the only form of “truth” that we remember and study.  The critique of the banking method of knowledge requires shifting of center/periphery forms of thought, towards ones of diverse nodes and networks that are dynamic and shifting.  Each node and phase transmits useful, contingent, contentious knowledge, to other nodes in whatever phase they are in.

It is this context in which informational objects are produced to strengthen the understanding of this relation, not to fetishize a particular node, or a particular network, as the truth of a particular phase that we must partially remember and monumentalize for future generations.  Thus information objects are shared and transmitted as part of a living system of consciousness raising, empowerment, and its value is embodied, to be forgotten and/or built upon, as part of a critical thinking, living system (Collective Community), aware of violence in the past and the logics of its reproduction in the present.

This social movement archive is a dynamic system that is original and not cookie cutter. But requires embodiment of people to build, rebuild, dissolve this living archival system.  It does not accumulate informational objects, but accumulates the development of organic intellectuals, who become living archives and libraries within themselves.  It is locally adaptive, as those organic intellectuals become nodes that are mobile, traveling to other places, through other networks, transforming discourse in those areas, creating different meanings of the communication infrastructures, and development infrastructures, they inhabit.


-E-R Cachola
October 16, 2010




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