The university is not our enemy. It is a visible staging ground on which a battle is to be fought.


To clarify:

The public university is not our enemy. It is not a monolithic beast to be simply countered, but a complex assemblage, intersecting vectors of thinking and money, invested capital and seething discontent, workers and the disappearing prospects of work, of reactionary forms and vast potential. And it is reeling, deeply in crisis. To speak of killing it is like speaking of rope in the cell of a prisoner to be hanged the following morning. Such an outcome waits around the corner, in years to come, not at our hands but beneath the weight and hunger of global capitalism in its current desperation.

This must be countered.  The notion and promise of what public education can and should be must be protected at all costs.  For whatever its failures, the public university itself remains a critical space for beginning to counter those economic processes and social models that far exceed the scope and reach of this campus, of any network of campuses. We remain committed to truly public education, to wider discourse, to rigorous analyses, to theories of action, as both means and end. These things can be and must be weapons to be shared and learned, tools to pry open frozen forms of uncritical thought and sad resignation. Machines for amplification and networks for mass communication.

If we are to speak of opening the university wider, of taking its spaces in order to make it a common zone (at once seeming paradox and concrete tactic), a zone of contention and resistance, we have to start with understanding it as a site, not as object, of antagonism. We have to grasp where it is already open and where its many blockades to access stand heavy. How to use those blockages against their ends, to expose them and use them for better, sharper purposes. How to see these openings and find emerging allies who also know that this situation must become the emergency that we already know it to be. No false enemies in a time of real enemies.

The university is not our enemy. It is a visible staging ground on which a battle is to be fought.



3 Responses to “The university is not our enemy. It is a visible staging ground on which a battle is to be fought.”

  1. ac Says:

    can’t help but disagree.

    those at the helm would rather see it burn to the ground before allowing the structural imperatives of exploitation to be seriously challenged.

  2. brianholmes Says:

    Can’t help but agree.

    Those involved in the struggle would be infinitely better off if they occupy the university as a site of struggle, open it to wider participation, use it as a machine for exploring the contemporary division of labor, and finally propose and immediately implement alternatives to the present unjust, inegalitarian system. In a knowledge-based economy, occupying and using the university is tantamount to appropriating the means of production.

    It is true that the university as we know it today is BOTH the result of grassroots struggles for educational entitlement AND the expression of the corporations’ need for highly trained scientists, managers, etc. Now those at the helm want, not to burn it down, but to get rid of the grassroots struggles forever and to make the university entirely and uniquely THEIR OWN. The only response is: OCCUPY IT FOR OTHER PURPOSES! We need these sites of collective knowledge production if we are going to survive the challenges of the 21st century.

    solidarity, Brian Holmes

  3. ac Says:


    in what ways does an occupation transform the usual conditions of possibility that exist within non-occupied universities? the trend lines have been going the wrong direction for long time.

    have i not been “occupying” universities for the last 7 years of my life? (and for others, much longer)

    without a close analysis of the political, cultural, economic (affective, imaginal, etc etc) topography of the univ (and maybe the UC in particular) – “occupation” feels like it is merely a new version of “the power of positive thinking”.

    most of us would rather be caught dead than be heard suggesting that the state or a major corporation should be occupied in order to transform it into a democratic institution. why is the university any different? the university of california will never serve as a firm foundation for a radical tomorrow – it cannot be transformed. it can only trap and capture the dynamic power of the coming communization.


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