Militancy, Antagonism, and Power: Rethinking Intellectual Labor, Relocating the University


This is the abstract for a co-written presentation I will be presenting at the MLA Subconference in Vancouver, BC in about a week. Perhaps I will see some of you there.

“Above all,” co-founder of the Edufactory collective Gigi Roggero writes, “[The Production of Living Knowledge] inquires into the new production of subjectivity: the category of living knowledge is the attempt to reread the Marxian concept of living labor within the present context.”n1 His project grows out of a collective effort by Edufactory to identify how the university exists as a space of struggle, but also how it serves as apparatus that captures social knowledge to prevent its becoming-common. For them, the politics of the university is “how to collectively re-appropriate the university;” their answer is to “face this problem from within.”n2

We agree with the premise from which such theorization springs: production of subjectivity is essential to formulating Marxist politics today, but to do so, we must shift our focus away from the factory floor. Such a shift is a result of transformations in the capitalist mode of production, which now include knowledge-centered production such as the capitalization of cognition and generalized proletarianization. Roggero’s focus on the university in particular magnifies the newest intersection of subjectivy and knowledge: the equation of higher education with the production of the entrepeneurial subject. We agree even more strongly that the production of subjectivity takes on an antagonistic mode through which alternative forms of life may emerge. What we remain ambivalent about is subjectivity itself. As such, we do not embrace or reject these new subjective categories, we work to problematize them.

Our contribution is the concrete. We do so by connecting neoliberalization and subjectivation – as Roggero does – but at the level of production rather than at the level of abstraction. We find that this connection hereto remains too figural, and to the detriment of the rich situatedness and particularly found in Roggero’s book. Where Autonomist thinkers such as Hardt, Negri, and Lazzarato theorize subjectivity through an abstract or figural subject, we look to particularize these figures. In this paper, we work to specify ‘the adjunct’ as a concrete form of precarity as it re-poses the relation of resistance to subjectivity in a crystallized figure of cognitive labor. To do so, we begin with the specificity of the concrete situation of precariousness that Roggero cites as the impetus for his work, continue by theorizing why he fails to crystallize precarious labor in ‘the adjunct’, and end by reconfiguring ‘the adjunct’ at the intersection of three terms: militancy, antagonism, and power.

n1:  Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge: The Crisis of the University and the Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011), 2.

n2:  Gigi Roggero,“Building Up an Institution of the Common,” 10 Jan 2012, (accessed 4 Mar 2013).

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