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As an MA student, I feel absurd

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mdatkinson92
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Joined: 9-08-14
Sep 18 2016 21:30
As an MA student, I feel absurd

Hi all,

Simply put: I can't help but feel that the MA I'm about to start, and the PhD which will follow, are ultimately fruitless. I've read a lot of Situationist texts (plenty of other texts too but these are what are really important here) and can't help but feel I'm just contributing to the specialisation of academia by becoming an 'academic'. I don't want to be some dusty left wing intellectual.

I'm doing a Critical & Cultural Theory MA and the following PhD and will be using both to basically trash academia. Fuck knows what'll happen to me but I'm no careerist, I can't blag my way through it. I know what I'm talking about and they're going to get an earful. It's going to be about as effective as a fart in a sewer but what else can I do? My MA will trash academia as a fundamentally reactionary, bourgeois 'institution' where 'radical' thought finds its critical outlet (Marxism coopted as a form of capitalist self-criticism which creates the illusion of nuance and naturalism). I'm going to talk about the unity between the creative classes and the academic class and discuss how it takes on a fundamentally disinterested role by definition of being disconnected with everyday life. So doing, the academy participates in the division of labour both within and outside itself. All that bollocks.

My PhD will be a deconstruction of contemporary art where I'll equate the 'serious art' produced in universities (and similarly coopted by capital) with the culture industry defined by Adorno and Horkheimer, characterising both as commodities and consumer products, and will discuss the academy's role in this, backed up by my MA.

So by the end of it I'll have submitted two 'texts' which tear apart the institution I'm going to be a part of.

I can't help but feel like a reactionary myself by doing this, since I know I'm likely to become a Dr or whatever at some university or other, heading critical theory seminars.

I'd like to be able to use my knowledge to disseminate knowledge in an accessible way. There's nothing radical about writing 'leftist' tracts at Verso prices.

But I want some ideas and guidance from you clever lot, basically. Just what the fuck am I doing? What else CAN I do? I worked for three years before coming here and a shitty alienated IT job threw me into the throes of despair and suicidal tendencies. I'd start a commune but I haven't a fucking clue how, nor do I know anyone who'd join me.

Are we best just to do what we can, disseminate knowledge, agitate, and enjoy our lives, or what? I know I'd use my position in the university to the best of my abilities, but... yeah, someone just give me some reassurance here please: does becoming an academic constitute reactionary behaviour?

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Steven.
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Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 18 2016 22:02

If you try to be a "radical academic" you are on a road to nowhere.

But if you treat it like a job like any other, then you can organise on the job against the employers.

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jura
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Joined: 25-07-08
Sep 20 2016 07:16

I agree with Steven. Also, I don't know about the conditions of academics and doctoral students in the UK, but you should have plenty of time (compared with most people who work in the private sector) to do whatever you want, although probably with less money. You can organize reading groups, read up on other stuff, get involved in a group or something. You'd do well to read a lot of stuff outside of your narrow specialization. Pick any topic and follow it (could be anything, from the history of the NHS and the struggles around it to agrarian relations in India, or whatever, just make sure it's not related to your professional reserach interests). You have IT skills which can be extremely helpful to existing projects in your area, and you can also teach other people that. There's a lot of stuff that needs to be scanned and put in the libcom library, I'm sure the uni provides the equpiment to do that. Think of the time spent doing the MA and the PhD as extra time in your life that you can use to become more useful to the movement or whatever. You should have no problems keeping yourself busy.

But please do not, I repeat, do not become a "radical academic", it's one of the silliest roles this society offers. I'd completely avoid writing any "edgy" stuff as an academic, attending "radical" conferences (in a professional capacity) and publishing in "radical" journals.

Also please do not spend 20 minutes talking about your thesis when you meet someone.

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Steven.
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Joined: 27-06-06
Sep 20 2016 17:02

Yes great post by jura, with some other excellent points. Particularly around digitising/putting online materials you have access to. You will also have writing skills which you could put to use for radical media (like libcom, or somewhere else), which is definitely needed