Thursday, October 20, 2011

on no longer being a student-in-debt

the irony being that one is never no longer a student-in-debt...

It is hard for me to know where to stand right now; at a time that many experience as a hoped for or even waited for moment, a time of occupation that carries all varieties of forward-oriented activity. My lost feelings of collective action are hard to come to terms with, pushing as they do beyond the colloquial notion of "guilt" for not being more active, or activist, a feeling which several friends confessed to, tossing it around the other day. I feel I should be able to inhabit more profoundly something of the position that Mia McIver refers to in a facebook photo album titled, "We lost our jobs and found our occupations."

The idea of the student-in-debt, to which I refer above and elsewhere, is Morgan Adamson's brilliant rendering of the counterrevolutionary transformation of the "energy of student life" (the "life of the mind") into surplus value through the institution of debt. The sense of loss--the lost job--above pertains to both the conditions of unemployment within and without higher education, but perhaps also to the vulnerable position of labor to which McIver refers above all, to the position of one for whom the loss is not even the loss of a job, but the loss of this potential. What I mean to try and compel thinking about and understand in terms that express frustration with systems other than the job market is my own status of transitional unemployment.

In the economic sense, I never was a student-in-debt, and realizing this helped me the other day, to move a little bit past thinking of myself as the victim of market forces and a little bit in the direction of thinking about how such a position represents the inconsequential and superfluous elements of the global financial system. The position of transitional unemployment is occupied by those disregarded by a system that derives value from the equation between investment and return--and not the humanist value of academic labor, but the surplus value of student labor. It is thus the experience of oneself as an element of surplus value that represents the necessity and inevitability of student professionalization as a means of also sustaining oneself within this state of indebtedness. So having eschewed professionalization, it of course seems logical to conclude that one would have no hopes of entering into the profession, it being the case that from this position, one produces nothing of "value."

It is from this position that it becomes possible to understand the loss of a job and the experience of never having had one (i.e. never having had a job outside of the job of being employed or exploited as a graduate student instructor), or the actually more concrete realization of what it means to be only a student-in-debt.

picture: from at OccupyMN

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