[The extract below is from a provocation offered by Strickland Distribution at an event at Partick Burgh Halls ‘Right to the City: Education Forum’ in January 2011] it is Opinions of the Author
Hope is a material thing, produced and distributed through social channels and institutions. Institutions like the University.
Different societies produce different kinds of hopes. Hope is a mobilizing and organizing force that structures the direction and possibilities of our lives. Hope shapes our understanding of the future – what there will be, what there could be, who and how we will become something more than we are today.
For us, living in a neoliberal world, that hegemonic form of hope is ‘aspiration’. Aspiration has a particular hue and tint – it means social mobility. It means a better job, more money, more things and a higher rung on the career ladder. Hope is individual in our world, never collective. Hope, the dominant form of hope, is to do better than your parents.
It is here, at the juncture of a new social order and the collapse of the remaining entitlements of the welfare state, that the restructuring of hope will come to be seen as a crisis of hope.
Social mobility (as such actually exists) is under attack. The student revolt speaks to us all as the first open revolt against the expansion of social death and the collapse of the more general circulation of aspiration.
But here both we who are students and we who are not find ourselves in a double bind. We need to defend mobility in the world as it stands – its defence is the defence of actual existing lives and the real possibility to have a meaningful social existence. And we need to defend the funding of education as it stands. To resist paying more for education is to defend the social gains made by previous generations and to defend the social wage.
But in merely defending it we are in fact defending the most sacred of neoliberal freedoms – the freedom to be unequal. Defending this freedom means defending the University as a filtering device set up to segregate us into educated and not; those with access to a ‘professional career’ and those who do not. Those with meaningful lives and those without. So can we go beyond defence.
People can see clearly what the University is now. If the protests and occupations speak only of the importance of education as it is, and the necessity to defend the University as it is, people will quickly fall away. The myth of mobility that has underpinned the University in recent years is coming undone. These protests are the first protests in Britain to contest the changing meaning of hope, and the austerity of dreams that is the coming neoliberal future. Where do we go?