A Critique of Academic Knowledge and New Spaces for Knowledge Creation
We reject the university as a source for knowledge because we have seen how the university has failed to produce knowledge that is accountable to the people. In this time, ‘radical’ knowledge from the university takes the form of identity politics. We see identity politics as an echo of capitalist ideology that puts emphasis on individualism, representation, and consumerist ‘self care’ culture. The focus on individual identity has attacked political organization and impeded ideological clarity. It has no concept of history, and as such cannot change history. Its mode of operation is guilt and shame, which appeals more to the petty-bourgeoisie than it does to masses of people. While it makes claims to challenging the system, it poses no threat to capital since it lacks a structural analysis of reality. There is a systemic reason for the dissonance between academic knowledge and the lives of working people. In this country, the university plays the role of ideological surrogates for the 1%. It produces propaganda for the ruling class to control and manage the masses of people. This is evident if one studies the relationship between the university and the ruling elite. For example, the University of Pennsylvania in the last few months has become a leader in the large scale attack on the Trump movement on behalf of the rulers of finance capital. This is hidden in the language of identity politics that talks of ‘protecting minorities’ and ‘building safe spaces’. Even a cursory study of the university’s history will show that it exploits its employees, gentrify poor and working class communities, and in general have no concern for the well being of the communities they invade. In light of such a relationship, the university is only capable of co-opting radical consciousness by producing knowledge that sounds confrontational and radical, but fails to pose any challenge to capital and hence the power of the ruling class. This knowledge is then counter revolutionary as it gives the illusion of fighting for change when it slyly supports the system as it is. Further, the professoriate which speaks of the people has no relationship to them. University professors are out of touch with people’s lived realities. As a group, they serve as managers of thought who protect their own positions and careers in the university. Any resistance is punished heavily. This is made even more possible by the increasing number of adjunct faculty and graduate students in precarious work.
Moments of crisis in a capitalist system demand new revolutionary thought, activity and expression. We believe that this task of knowledge creation must be taken up by the people. We will discuss in the panel how other spaces for knowledge creation may operate, and how the Saturday Free School engages in this task.