the devil’s work

It used to be that a University Dean could stand before the student body and espouse the view of the University as a check and balance to a well-functioning democracy. He or she could, if the need arose, as it did in the late 1980s, with the threat posed by NZQA to the political independence of NZ universities, both engage politically with the State and side with students against the State.

And then it came to pass that the perceived threat materialised in a wave of revolutionary proportions and put the economic pincers onto the tertiary sector – at the same time as liberalising the field to include polytechnics and technical institutes.

And nevermore would universities be able to claim political independence for this notional independence having been compromised economically.

And nevermore could a University Dean arise and side with students against the government or really have a distinct political voice, having been rendered permanently complicit. As long as the funding to the tertiary sector from governmental sources holds out.

And really what this is about is the Friedman-fueled New Zealand experiment’s economic silencing of politically independent voices (i.e., using money as the gag). And, more than this, its muting of any and all critical voices in our putative democracy.

In the previous post, I called art the devil’s work. It is, where the critical faculty of a nation is dissolved by forces and bodies acting with the best of intentions; where democracy itself is destroyed through lack of critical checks and balances; and where those whose job it is to eradicate independent critical thinking and the political power it needs to be heard (now magically transmuted into economic power, or, gold) congratulate themselves on having the moral determination to see the job through. Such silence as is now visited upon us is indeed golden. Or, what is it that the Wanganui suicide-bomber wrote on the loo wall? (Yes, New Zealanders are pioneers, even in the art of suicide-bombing.)

I say that the arts have a political responsibility and that this political responsibility demands they claim independence from the State. Why? Because ain’t nobody else around to do the devil’s work with those ivory towers in rubble. And that artists’ independence now must be defined in economic terms, given the State’s overt prescription that political be based on economic power. To the imagination, Money! And with the money, Au pouvoir!

There is no other role for CNZ but to side with the arts against the government so that the devil’s work gets done. And is seen to be done.

I was looking for material to support the notion that the SDP in the preceding and following post does not refer to any Socialist Democratic Party and I found this, which seems to support the contrary view:

Over the past two decades, across western democracies, parties that were established as socialist, social democratic or labour have gradually dropped the statist elements of their programmes. Some have distanced themselves from labour unions. None of the major socialist parties advocates more public ownership; most accept market principles even in areas of the economy that were formerly nationalised, such as transport, telecommunications and utilities. The great breach between progressive socialisation of the economy and laissez-faire has narrowed into a debate between regulated capitalism and neo-liberalism. At issue is the character and degree of regulation of the economy, not the future of capitalism.

Just how general this shift has been is evident from expert studies of social democratic parties in the European Union. Every such party (except Pasok in Greece) moved from left to right between 1984 and 1995 (as evidenced by growing support for market liberalism), and the UK Labour Party moved most of all. From being the most left-wing social democratic party in Europe in 1984, Labour became one of the most right-wing in 1995, with only Italy’s PSI, Austria’s PSO and Greece’s Pasok further to the right. Put another way, the most left-wing European social democratic party in 1995 (Germany’s SPD) was further to the right than 12 out of 14 such parties in 1984.

– excerpt from Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks’s essay “Social democracy in the 20th century,” published in New Statesman, Monday 26th June 2000 []