Resistance to Precarity in Knowledge Production. the Case of a Mexican State University

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:18 PM
Room: 414
Oral Presentation
Patrick GUN CUNINGHAME , Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City, Mexico
The precarity of Autonomous Metropolitan University manual, administrative and academic workers was one of the main causes of the SITUAM trade union’s strike between February and April 2008, the longest since the university’s foundation in Mexico City in 1974. However, the conflict has remained unsolved and it seems that this process will continue to provoke unrest and tension among workers until it is solved, probably after another form of strike or industrial dispute in the near future, especially given the recent 2012 Labour and Education neoliberal structural reforms which have already provoked considerable resistance among state school teachers and university students.

But what exactly is university precarity? What are its main forms? Could it be more effectively combated than through the stalemate trench warfare of the prolonged strike? In an attempt to answer these questions this paper starts from the proposition suggested by the international online discussion list and blog “Edu-factory” that the university has become an increasingly privatized and globalized "factory" for the production and dissemination of knowledge in the most intensive and competitive form possible, increasingly linked to the demands of private enterprise and the “free market”, rather than those of society. These developments occur within and are crucial to the ongoing transition from industrial to cognitive capitalism. As the higher education sector is key to the creation of surplus value in cognitive capitalism in which the production and strategic dissemination of knowledge is central, a series of struggles are now being fought against both the privatization and transnationalization of the sector as well as the precarization, flexibilisation and casualization of its workforce. Finally, the organization of the production and distribution of knowledge as “commons” instead of fetishized market commodity appears to be the key to thwarting the neoliberalization of the public university.