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Keynote Speech by Eric Newstadt

Devaluing the Value Form: Pulling on the Roots of Everyday Life to Get Beyond the Neo-Liberal University

The last few decades have been witness to the emergence of a new kind of university, the Neo-Liberal University. More than anything else, the Neo-liberal University reflects in myriad ways the logic and extension of the value-form, wherein knowledge is cast as a collection of measurable and interchangeable variables that can be almost mechanistically produced. As such, the work and rhythms inside the Neo-liberal University are intimately tied to the emergence and operation of a globalized and finance-based capitalism, one rooted in an American-led and informal empire as well as the everyday credit practices of workers throughout the world. To get beyond the Neo-liberal University requires first that we understand this political economy, which is the political economy of neo-liberalism. With such an understanding in tow, we can then work to undermine the logic of the value-form, the veil behind which Capital becomes ever more extensive and deeply embedded. And because the logic of value is absurd, there are myriad opportunities for parody, for strategies that can be effective at creating conditions for solidarity and for helping individuals deal with the pain associated with overcoming what Marcuse referred to as the "pleasant forms of control" to which we've grown accustomed.


Eric Newstadt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at York University, Canada. His dissertation deals with the construction of quality and quality assessment in systems of higher education throughout the OECD, though with a focus on Ontario's university and college system. Between 2004 and 2006 Eric sat as the Chair of the National Graduate Caucus, a federation representing approximately 70,000 graduate students at 34 graduate student unions across Canada. Eric has also held numerous positions on the Executive of York University's Graduate Students' Association and worked as a researcher for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents full-time and sessional workers at Ontario's community colleges. To date, Eric has two forthcoming publications, one which tracks the evolution of global finance and the US Federal Reserve between 1970 and 2007 and a second which looks comparatively at Ontario's newly created Higher Education Quality Council, the UK's Quality Assurance Agency, and the Austrialian Universities Quality Agency.