Thursday, 23 April 2009

Politics, Protest, Resistance.

While I generally find a lot of online political discourse pitifully by-numbers and prone to simplistic, "so, what's in the papers" nodding-dog-ism you occasionally stumble across a screed of online opinion that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Below is possibly the most inspiring thing I have read this week.

Some small edits from the posted article and addition of my own emphasis.

" My experience of union meetings though is that there is a vast reservoir of libido waiting to be tapped; at meetings, there was an animated disaffection with auditing and new bureaucracy which immediately dissipated when the 'official' agenda - pay and strikes - was dutifully returned to.

New forms of industrial action need to be instituted against managerialism.

For instance, in the case of teachers and lecturers, the tactic of strikes (or even of marking bans) should be abandoned, because they only hurt students and members...

What is needed is the strategic withdrawal of forms of labour which will only be noticed by management: all of the machineries of self-surveillance that have no effect whatsoever on the delivery of education, but which managerialism could not exist without.

Instead of the gestural, spectacular politics around (noble) causes like Palestine, it's time that teaching unions got far more immanent, and take the opportunity opened up the crisis - their crisis, our opportunity... - to begin to rid public services of business ontology. (When even businesses can't be run as businesses, why should public services?)"

The increasing managerialisation extends beyond education into every sphere of social engagement, the necessity that outcomes of unstarted programmes be drafted and agreed on before anyone's got in a room to discuss the practical work of funded projects, pervades most forms of cultural engagement (in the broadest sense, including the arts, sports and any form of work with young people). The priority to legitimise all money spent rather than the boring, invisible, yet substantive and crucial element to any form of engagement, namely the development of human relationships and the time and effort required for these to bear fruit.

This managerialisation prioritises an immediate, ephemeral, illusory impression of work ahead of the sloppy, unreliable, frequently tardy yet real and lasting reality of any form of constructive and deeply engaged practice. With the papers full of spending squeezes and efficiency savings the overriding impression is that more time will be spent accounting for money spent and less time spent engaged in actual activity.

In times when there's less money around surely the one resource we should be afforded more of is time?


Damien DeBarra said...

Very interesting. So, what about some practical examples? Exactly what kind if labour couldbe withheld which would actively, meaningfully make management sit up and pay attention?

clom said...

Think of the amount of time you spend compiling data. Now think of how much, actual use you (or your colleagues) make of that data?

In a lot of contexts the necessity to oversee the statistical progress of an organisation doesn't entirely match up with the function.

In many public services the interaction between users and providers is becoming remote as the data increasingly becomes the primary focus of managerial scrutiny. This serves to disconnect the "management" cadre from the actual providers of the service. This is noticed by the service user. They are, correctly, alienated because there is insufficient time/priority given to developing relationship outside of the "official" form/application based interaction.

By turning over internal administrative procedures to a bureaucratic system we are forgetting how to work together. And are easier to corral around like cattle. If a manager can just shrug their shoulders and blame the system they abdicate their responsibilities as leaders.

When we went on strike last year our employers saved 2 days wages. The money we made from the pay rise the union negotiated was, for 2008, less than we lost for striking. If, for one month, we refused to submit certain figures which need to be put into a performance matrix the impact on management would have been more significant.

Obviously there is a need for a bureaucratic/administrative framework, but it hampers the abilities of teachers/librarians/artists/performers/authors/youth/arts /community education/lifelong learning workers to actually forge meaningful engagement with art/culture/sport/things what are enjoyable.

Clearly this is really fuzzily thought out but the notion of reframing industrial resistance is attractive and, at least for me, necessary.