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PROPOSAL FOR A RADICAL WORKING GROUP There is something far wrong with British politics and international relations academia. Financial pressures, teaching loads and micro-management of all of our activities have increased dramatically in recent years and are going to continue to increase. The ability and desire to do socially useful work are being destroyed. We are steadily being replaced by those who have internalised the mantras of the Quality Assurance Agency (which ideologically disciplines teaching in the name of quality), the Research Assessment Exercise (which ideologically disciplines research in the name of assessment), and 1+3 PhD training (which ideologically disciplines research students in the name of training and the funders at the Economic and Social Research Council and in government departments (who ideologically discipline research in the name of supporting it). It is a process which makes many of us feel intimidated into conscious self-censorship. Or we are replacing ourselves by internalising the new mind-sets being imposed on us. This is worse because then we cease to see the boundaries any more and believe that we are freely choosing what we are doing. We are not free. If our funding was set by groups of minimum wage workers or anti-war activists, we would be scrambling overnight to change our research agendas and set up courses on 'Defeating Wage Slavery' or 'Anti-Militarism'. At present, those in British politics and IR academia who are still fundamentally critical of many of our social structures have no focal point of organisational structure, mutual support and resistance to the forces keeping those unjust structures in place. The result is fragmentation, demoralisation and research which contributes to individual career progression, institutional survival and esoteric academic debates but not to action which changes the lives of fellow human beings for the better. For these reasons we propose a Radical Working Group based on three principles: 1. Its purpose is the integration of scholarship and activism to bring about radical social change. 2. It will develop mutually supportive links with other groups and individuals committed to bringing about radical social change. These links should extend (a) across the disciplinary boundaries within academia (b) outside of academia (c) internationally. 3. It will work to transform those aspects of academia itself which act as a barrier to radical social change. The focus in this proposal on Britain, on politics and international relations and on those with academic posts is only a starting point. We also welcome members from outside Britain, outside politics and international relations, and who are current and former students, journalists, members of the public, anyone who subscribes to its principles. The barriers between us and the hierarchies they signify must be broken down. This is not about sacrificing scholarship to activism but about enhancing it through activism. It is certainly not about sacrificing activism to scholarship: if the Radical Working Group becomes another mill for generating articles for the RAE, it will have failed. Do you support this proposal? If so please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You will then become a member of the group email list. Please note that, as a matter of principle, this is a public forum with public membership. All members will be listed by name with institutional affiliation if any under the declaration above. You can send messages to the all members of the Radical Working Group by emailing email@example.com If you do sign up, there will be a sense of 'What next?' Sending an email to the list about how scholarship and activism do or could connect in your life would be a good starting point. These can be archived and made accessible to all. You can unsubscribe by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org You can contact the list owner by emailing email@example.com The RWG website is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/radicalworkinggroup/ AN ELABORATION ON THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND PROPOSAL FOR A RADICAL WORKING GROUP All three principles require elaboration. All are indispensable and mutually reinforcing. THE PRIORITY: MAKING RADICAL SOCIAL CHANGE HAPPEN A radical approach means siding with those who are the losers rather than the winners in our existing social structures. The change that needs to occur is not just the amelioration of the effects of existing hierarchical and authoritarian structures, but their replacement with egalitarian and democratic ones so that the effects do not occur. Other possible terms here are progressive, critical emancipatory, left, democratic, libertarian, socialist, liberal, new or anarchist. Maybe it should have none of these labels at all and simply be the Politics Working Group, on the grounds that it should not be a sub-field of Politics, but be what Politics is. However, the issue is not Politics or Economics or any other sub-field, but radicalism. Hence the name Radical Working Group. The goal of fundamental change does not have to mean demanding everything change now: indeed, considering the fragility of society and the uncertainties involved in change, and the barriers to positive change, this is possibly futile and probably dangerous. There always was something far wrong about British politics and international relations academia: it hardly has a heroic record of working for radical social change. Academia was and remains both an instrument of elite power and a part of our society's elite. But the pressure to conform and bury any impulse towards critique as the basis for radical action is stronger than ever. It will be a big change if we adopt as a key measure of our success our contribution to making radical social change happen, as opposed to getting lots of research funding or a 24 or a 5* or getting published in the right journals. That will inevitably require us to develop mutually supportive links elsewhere so that our measures become accepted measures. We need to develop a strong, explicit, organised validation of scholarship directed towards radical social action so that these become the measures of success. DEVELOPING MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE LINKS The disciplinary boundaries of academia need to be transcended for two reasons. First, the barriers to radical change and the methods of removing those barriers are cross-disciplinary. The system that means that something as fundamental as life-span is driven to a great extent by income is not just about health, just about politics, just about economics, or just about any other single thing. Second, within academia, a radical IR scholar will - or should! - have more in common with a radical psychologist than a traditional IR scholar. Above all, you must be a radical, who happens to be an academic. Radical academics need to get involved with radicals outside of academia. Those engaged in political action outside of academia desperately need the analysis, the moral support and the status that we can offer them. And academics desperately need a reality check to see if what they are doing is worth doing. And the links need to be international because the forces against us, and those who would be with us and who we would be with, are international. Many politics and IR academics are already involved with radicals in other disciplines, outside of academia and internationally. But in most cases this is outside of their academic lives, and even when it is within their academic lives it tends to be done in isolation or small groups. One of the biggest barriers to doing something about the current situation is the current situation itself. Set against each other in an ever-accelerating race for ratings and funding, we work immense number of hours and barely have time to have meaningful lives outside of work never mind meaningful lives at work. There is simply no alternative but to reprioritise some significant part of our working lives in order to do socially useful work. It is difficult to make up in your spare time for 60 hours per week of working for reactionary structures. MAKING RADICAL CHANGE HAPPEN WITHIN ACADEMIA It is crucial to make radical change happen within academia. Without it, radicals will suffer and be forced to stay on the margins. Furthermore, anyone who claims to be working for radical change elsewhere while opposing it actively or passively in their own institution is no radical. The myth of the objective academic must be abandoned, a myth still widespread in academia. Academic and political activity cannot be compartmentalised: academia is unavoidably political. Hence scholarly standards are enhanced by explicit acknowledgement of that situation and accounting for how one handles the issues related to it. What the radical changes should be and how to bring them about are matters which cannot be settled in any pat way. But at least they are the right questions, and some tentative answers are possible. First, academia should concentrate its engaged scholarship where it will have most effect, and this usually means ending and insisting on redress for the anti-emancipatory actions of one's own state and the institutions operating within it. When criticism of Western policy is made, it needs to involve not merely the instrumental argument that it has failed but also when appropriate the principled argument that it is wrong. We need to engage with the issues and crises that present themselves such as the current situation of potential war with Iraq. Second, academics need to be much more aware of their own relationship to anti-emancipatory power so that they do not unwittingly become co-opted by it. They need to understand the ways in which the ideals of those entering professional life generally can be undermined and they need to develop strategies to protect those ideals (see Jeff Schmidt's astonishing book 'Disciplined Minds' and his related website http://disciplined-minds.com/). Those entering professional life face a process of indoctrination, by means of big promises being made (for academics a life of scholarship), milieu control (the isolation produced by excessive working hours), unquestioned authority (we are required to not merely go along with what is happening but to treat it with respect and admiration), guilt tripping and shaming (if we don't get on board with the QAA or whatever, we are letting our colleagues down and lack worth), total personal exposure (our work permeates and overwhelms the rest of our lives), "scientific" dogma (such as the aims, objectives, methodologies, targets and assessments that we have to worship even though they fly in the face of our daily experience), taking away true self confidence (academics are racked with self-doubt about our social function - are we frauds? Parasites?), and offering the only path to salvation (get with the programme, chase those scores, those publications, resistance is futile). Surviving academic training with your values intact means knowing what you are up against, preparing to take action, working with others, resisting subordination and dealing with vulnerabilities. Helping those around you requires the same things. It also requires you to take a hard look at how your own department, your own faculty, your own institution operates. And how you operate within them. For an extensive discussion of what this might involve, see chapter 16 of Schmidt's book. Academia has many people wanting to be socially useful yet feeling that they are failing. The failing is generally not personal. At its heart is a profession and system of professional training and monitoring that ostensibly assesses skill and ability but primarily assesses and inculcates ideological discipline. Time to see it for what it is and put a stop to it. WHAT ELSE IS OUT THERE IN ACADEMIA? Within BISA there is nothing that fulfils the role of the proposed Radical Working Group. It has the Balkans Group; British International History Group; Contemporary International Relations Theory; Contemporary Research in International Political Theory; Defence Group; English School; Environment Group; Forum on Africa and IR; Global Ethics; Gender Working Group; Group on Diplomacy; Identities and International Relations; International Political Economy Group; International Relations and Global Development Group; International Relations and International Communication; UN Group. Within PSA there are specialist groups on American Politics; British Idealism; British Territorial Politics; Comparative European Politics; Elections, Public Opinion and Parties; Environmental Politics; Ethnic Politics; French Politics and Policy; Interpretive Political Science; Irish Studies Group; Italian Politics; Labour Movements; Marxism; Media Politics; Participative and Deliberative Democracy; Policing, Justice and Democracy; Political Marketing; Political Thought; Politics and Religion; Politics and Society in Mediterranean Europe; Politics of Health; Politics of South Asia; Post-Communist Politics; Post-Structuralism and Radical Politics; Public Administration; Race and Politics; Rational Choice Politics; Scandinavian Politics; Security and Intelligence; Teaching and Learning in Politics; Urban Politics; and Women and Politics. There is an existing Post-Structuralism and Radical Politics Specialist Group of the PSA. http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/psrpsg/index.html. It aims to promote post-structuralism within and beyond PSA. Its members do not have to be in PSA and do not have to be in departments of politics: they also are located in departments of philosophy, cultural studies and sociology. Its website says that 'its members are united by advancing a critique of universalism and rationalism and a perspective on politics that emphasises matters of identity and subjectivity.' It also says that 'Post-Structuralists may not necessarily be left-of-centre politically but this group is <HORIZONTAL ELLIPSIS> We are interested in understanding and advancing the aims of social movements that also want to broaden the conception of politics and identity that underpin Western democracies.' Its statement of aims is focused purely on the production of academic research and teaching from a post-structuralist perspective rather than prioritising making radical social change happen. And post-structuralists surely do not have a monopoly on radicalism. But there is much potential like-mindedness here. In terms of model, ally and support, the most promising is American Political Science Association's Caucus for a New Political Science. Its website http://www.apsanet.org/about/sections/section27.cfm says that 'The purpose of this section is to help make the study of politics relevant to the struggle for a better world.' It goes on to say: 'Since 1967, the New Political Science section has provided an alternative space for progressive and activist scholars in the profession. Originating from a dissatisfaction with the purported neutrality and dominance of positivist political science, the New Political Science section has been raising tough questions and calling upon the profession to bravely engage in critical and committed approaches to politics for over thirty-five years. The section has a longstanding commitment to younger scholars who combine high quality scholarship with an engaged social justice agenda. We encourage submissions that demonstrate a dual commitment to: 1) normative theoretical orientations (i.e. critical theory, democratic theory, socialism, and feminism) and 2) pragmatic insights into the institutional, economic and cultural constraints operating in the lives of ordinary citizens--in the U.S. and globally.' Very promising. It has its own journal 'New Political Science', organises large numbers of APSA panels, its own annual awards, newsletter and email discussion list. It passed a resolution on the current international crisis which it is seeking to have adopted by APSA as a whole. It is reproduced here: --------------------- As political scientists familiar with international politics, many of whom teach and do research in American foreign policy and international law and all of whom are concerned about the terrible increase in global violence in recent decades, we oppose any unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq and specific aspects of the Executive Branch campaign to eliminate terror from the world. We support the defense of democracy when it is attacked but believe that such defense should never undermine the standing of our nation or dishonor the freedoms and principles that have distinguished the American way of life. We therefore call on the President and the Congress to: 1) avoid involving the American military -- in direct violation of Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations -- in an attack on Iraq, a nation which has not declared war on us and against which we have not adopted a declaration of war. Unilateral action by the United States can only build contempt for our country in the world community, risk the commission of war crimes by our decision-makers, build sympathy for Saddam Hussein, and create the likelihood of unleashing the very type of disaster the world seeks to avoid. By all evidence Hussein is not a threat to the national security of the U.S. Precedent and logic combine in persuading us of the wisdom of diplomatic methods and redeployment of international inspectors to Iraq instead. 2) restore the rights of the accused to those held in detention, and end the steady erosion of civil rights and liberties won through great sacrifices over the centuries for all citizens. We consider it incumbent on our representatives to advance the spirit of justice and the rule of law embodied in the American Constitution. 3) prosecute foreign and domestic policy in a manner consistent with constitutional precedent and international aspirations to world order, refusing the "pre-emptive" doctrine that proclaims the right of the United States to intervene anywhere and at any time without concern for our obligations to the world community under the U.N., Geneva conventions and a variety of global treaties. In that it will foster anti-Americanism this doctrine threatens to ignite the very terrorism it seeks to extinguish. ---------------------------- Whether or not the Caucus for a New Political Science has managed to, or is aiming to, implement the basic principles outlines at the beginning of this message is something to be discussed. But at least there is experience out there to be learned from. And, of course, we also need to look outside academia for relevant models. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk