Hope, It’s Never Too Late

Murals around Tunis by Zoo Project, a Paris-based graffiti artist. (Photos: Jenny Gustaffson)

Murals around Tunis by Zoo Project, a Paris-based graffiti artist. (Photos: Jenny Gustaffson)

As different struggles for justice emerge around the world today, what’s intrinsic about them is that they are more than the material event per se.  There is a surplus to democratic struggles and insurrections.   A march, a demonstration, a sit-in, occupy, a strike and so forth are comprised of people taking the courage to speak, and sometimes without words, but with simple deeds. These deeds give rise to raising levels of consciousness far beyond the geographically limited areas in which struggles happen.

One difficult task for democratic struggles is identifying and characterizing the opposition which seeks to undermine the ability of people coming together for the greater good of people, workers, intellectuals, writers, artists, the unemployed and the marginalized.  And because of the how we have all been trapped into conformity with seemingly no exists, hope itself seems to be dashed.  This is why these insurrectionary acts are essential for hope, for the raising of consciousness, and for the courage to not only envision a better world but to bring that world into a reality.  Hope is thus intertwined with courage–the courage to act brings hope, and hope is needed in order to act.

Hope is perhaps the most rare gift that one could possess. It is easy to be negative, cynical and suspicious especially when placed into a competitive neoliberal environment in which the default stance is constantly reduced to self survival. This is the irony of some leftists. They are cynical, which is often a by-product of capitalist relations. Hope certainly doesn’t belong to the right either, as they are conditioned to fear above all–the conservative mindset fears stepping out of the comfort zone for the sake of a greater cause beyond the ego. Thus, the true leftist position in which equality, democracy and solidarity are the watchwords cannot exist without the perennial insistence of hope.

So long as we have resistance to neoliberalism and how it’s logic attacks and undermines the people’s ability to determine their own lives, we have hope.  Hope is the necessary start to building the networks needed to join forces that far exceed the resources of neoliberalism.  Hope, it’s never too late.

Creston Davis

On Learning and Context

There is a joke about the problem of reading a book completely out of context.
A man was looking into the Bible for some guidance. Not knowing where to look, he simply opened the Bible randomly and point his finger at a passage. Wherever his finger lands, he will take as advice.
Here’s the first: “Judas went out and hanged himself”. Not knowing what to make out of that, he tried again.
This time it is: “Go and do likewise.” Completely baffled, he tried a third time.
“Whatever you are to do, do so quickly.”

One of the first insights I picked up on in college was the importance of context.  Context determines meaning, a lesson easily learned from this well-worn joke about the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says, “Can you make me one with everything?”

Context sets the table, if you will, for the way we come to understanding; it’s the horizon of meaning without which meaning is lost.  But it’s not that I’m looking for pure, unadulterated meaning in a pure undistorted way.  Meaning is neither guaranteed nor perfectly pure.   But a reader looking to know must attend to the work (sometimes hard work) of understanding and to do that understand context is essential.

When taking a hermeneutics course with the Cambridge Professor, Nicholas Lash, I remember he would say nearly everyday, “Words take their meaning from the company they keep.”  This was another way he stressed what Hans-Georg Gadamer called the “hermeneutical circle.”  Think of how many meanings the following sentence has:  “I never said she stole my money.”  The complete thought can thus only be understood in the context in which it is spoken (with tone and stress of voice etc.).  Thought can never happen in an ahistorical “fantasy” space.

The point is: the material context is essential to know in order to understand.  Similarly the context in which learning and education takes place can largely dictate what is learned.  Having taught in a college classroom for nearly 14 years (at James Madison, University of Virginia, Rollins College, Silesia (Poland)), the Global Center for Advanced Studies among other places) one lesson materialized in my mind several years ago while teaching Marx’s theory of Communism.  So there I was teaching Marx to a class in which more than 85% of the students were taking out student loans just to participate in class.  And I realized that to learn to be critical about basic things in culture whether it be economics, politics, history, religious, philosophical and so on, students had to go into debt.  Now this may sound obvious to you, but for me, as a professor this lesson began to eat at me and I soon started asking myself, “Does the context of a university classroom undermine the material import of taking subjects like history (etc.) seriously?”  For Marx, ideas, religion, art, architecture are determined by the material modes of projection (i.e., the capitalist class).  And with this insight, I began to seriously wonder if ideas, no matter their historical significance or existential truth, could be undermined by the material conditions that give rise to them.  If you’re paying 40K a year to attend 10 classes in college (4k per class) I wonder if learning historical facts, no matter how compelling they may be, is enough to transform someone’s life.  If you’re paying 4k per class, it seems to me that the sheer amount of debt and resources (future labor power you must do in order to work that debt off) already neutralizes the material possibility to change one’s life in relationship to those historical and economic realities.  In short, what I am saying is that the debt you must incur is so determinative that it undermines actually taking the material you’re exposed to in class, seriously.

Said differently, the material context of learning in a university, can largely dictate the content of what is learned.  And this to me is one way learning in college has been undermined.  A student no longer has the ability to really engage the material, and, in that encounter, be open to adjusting their lives to historical realities.  In other words, debt-student-culture has undermined history and political action to change our world, because, at the end of the day, when a student graduates they must pay that debt off.  There’s a certain bewitchment that the university is pulling over on its students, a trick that is not realized until it’s too late to actually use that knowledge to change our world for the better.  And think about the coercive affects of that debt, both in school and after graduation:  it forces one to take a cynical and blithe stance to the material of history, philosophy, religion etc. Why?  Because you cannot possibility take the lessons of history seriously if you have the government knocking on your door to pay your debt off.    This lesson started to formulate and began developing and finally led me to want to create a different context in which learning was an act that could be taken seriously (in and of itself) with all it’s transformative and infinite power with limited financial coercion.  If a universities force students to go into debt to take classes then their very policies can all too easily compromise the learning process itself, the very heart of the university’s mission.  It is time we took context seriously in relation to the material conditions that articulate the very “presence” of students in classrooms themselves.  It is time too, it seems to me, to give students a chance to actually be transformed by history, ideas, concepts so that our world can have a chance to make the world a better place to live.



Six Lessons Learned from Starting GCAS

imagesIt’s been one year since I cashed in my early retirement in order to start a new school that by August became known as, The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS).  Here are six basic lessons I’ve learned.

Lesson 1:  For the most part, “multiculturalism” as presented in privileged spaces in universities in the States is a farce and toxic.  Actually engaging with otherness, diversity, poverty, and struggles outside these elite posh spaces of universities not only does not exist but the sterilized presentation of other cultures, ethnicities, histories and so forth is a mockery and just insulting.  Universities have taken on a zoo like effect in which the student is able to engage with otherness but from a safe distance that, by definition, neutralizes issues like poverty, women’s struggles, and political resistance, turning them into pleasantries.  What this means is that otherness is really just a projection of one’s own privilege–the other is violently turned into the same.

Lesson 2:  Just because a theorist or professor writes about global inequality, poverty or is a self-proclaimed “feminist” or some other “ist” doesn’t make them an advocate for justice and equality.

Lesson 3:  There is a need to create a space in which education can no longer hide behind the Ivory-Tower walls of privilege and protection.  We live in a world in which we are all part of each other, but to truly be part of a global community we need to be able to share in each other’s struggles and joys.  We need to hear voices from different parts of the world in which struggles are happening.  In this way, one’s own presuppositions are challenged and a new form of a wider consciousness opens up so that actions and ideas are not disjointed from each other but work together to better our world as we draw strength from each other.

Lesson 4: By creating educational classrooms in different parts of the world in which struggles are taken place a real from of knowledge and action comes to the fore creating a solidarity among each other.  Strength is found, joy is discovered.

Lesson 5:  Diversity and inclusion is necessary for education to thrive.  By diversity, I mean most especially, economic diversity–class representation in ratio to how the world is divided with the majority of the world’s population steeped in poverty struggling each day for basic needs: food, clean water, shelter.  A school should be devoted to health above all:  health for our planet, health for each person, health for communities working together to make our planet a safe place to dwell.

Lesson 6:  Starting a non-profit school is very difficult and for it to survive there must be a community that supports it from it’s missional and materialist point of view.

Let’s unite to really believe in education and action not just continue paying $50,000/year to protect students (and faculty) from really confronting the world’s lack of health.  Learning the truth of the real issues will only bring us joy as we organize ways of living well in community otherwise known as Planet Earth.



The Great Surge in the Creative Power of Spring

Ishtar Vase (Louvre)

Ishtar Vase (Louvre)

We are motivated by surges of energies, intensities of desire, and great unexplainable joys that flow through our bodies at unpredictable times.  Spring marks such surges of the creative powers, a power to create, creation itself.  And yet, although the spring season is predictable, like a repeating pattern, it contains in itself a power of surprise.  Often the creative process takes on a life of its own as if you are the one entering a holy space.  It is like writing a story in which you have a vague idea of where the plot is heading, but as it unfolds the end-point shifts on you, and you are forced to follow it wherever it leads.  The master is turned into its opposite: a slave to the story.

One of my favorite ballets is Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps translated in English as The Rite of Spring, but a better translation might be The Sacrifice of Spring in which Russia was united by a mystery and great surge of creative powers embodied in the season of Spring.  And here you can start to see the logic:  Spring (that great season that gives forth life) is the very thing that is sacrificed.  To give birth is death, in death there is life (Easter).

Easter is celebrated in Spring, the precise date of which was decided on in the year 325 at the famous council of Nicaea.  There they decided that Easter would fall on the 1st Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox (March 21).  The central symbolization of Easter in Christian terms is significant:  Jesus alights from the tome of death (i.e., Winter season) and is born anew (Spring season).  The tome here is representative of a woman’s womb.  And the pagan roots of Easter too are significant –arriving from the goddess of fertility, love, war and sex, Ishtar.

Stravinsky’s The Sacrifice of Spring enacts a contradiction because, after the first part, The Adoration of the Earth, comes the second, The Sacrifice. Here a young woman is chosen and she proceeds to dance herself to death.  To spell this out bluntly: The surge of the creative power of spring in the ballet that gives life can also take life.  This is the power of being overjoyed, where something is so pleasurable that this very pleasure can kill you.  This paradox unfolds in the act of sex, which as the French call it, Le petite mort “the little death” –you know that feeling of transcendence that arrives after a “life-force” surges forth.  Roland Barthes described Le petite mort as the feeling one should get after reading great literature.  In any case, you can see that in moments of ecstasy there is, at the same time, terminal moments of death.  This is embodied in Ishtar who is at once the goddess of love and of war (the two are often indistinguishable); or, to but it differently: In the very moment of birth–where new life happens it is often times the most fragile time of life.

But too notice, and this is where Stravinsky’s revolutionary musical style is important to identity, that the surge of a paganism (a celebration of the power of life) can quickly go too far.  The early 20th century certainly was a time in which the celebration of being liberated from a certain “God” gives birth to new creative formations that invent new and never before known possibilities.  Think of Nietzsche’s powerful insights.  I admire Stravinsky for this, and even Freud for discovering the “unconscious” and even Vaslav Nijinsky’s dances (which Stravinsky hated).  For me these dances in the ballet are so full of possibilities–they led themselves to going beyond the limits into death itself.  Stravinsky, “The Rite of Spring” part 2

Enjoy your Spring (but not too much!)

Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion Seminar: The Global Center for Advanced Studies

1010197_264315870410690_259011654_n (1)God, No-God, Non-God, God’s negation of God, Human’s negation of God, God’s negation of humans–Why do we keep repeating this “a/theological” symptom?–a perversion to be sure.  But repetition, as Professor Caputo reminds us via Kierkeggard, only ever repeats its own unrepeatability.  And it is with this perverse-pleasure that John D. Caputo, Thomas Altizer, Clayton Crockett, Peter Rollins & Jeffrey W. Robbins will lead a seminar from the “Death of God” theology, made famous in the 1960s, to our contemporary moment in the wake of Derrida and Zizek’s return to religion and beyond.   You can read the syllabus here:  http://www.globaladvancedstudies.org/2014/02/ctpe-840-contemporary-philosophy-of.html

Here is the schedule:

March 6: “Death of God” theology (guest Thomas Altizer). Required Reading/Viewing.

  1. The New Gospel of Christian Atheism, Thomas Altizer.http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Gospel-Christian-Atheism/dp/1888570652
  2. Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps:
 March 13: “The Return to Religion” (Derrida/Zizek). Required Reading.
March 20: “The New Materialism”. Required Reading.

  1.  Clayton Crockett & Jeffrey W. Robbins, Religion, Politics & The Earth: The New. http://www.amazon.com/Religion-Politics-Earth-Materialism-Theologies/dp/1137374217/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393531389&sr=1-1&keywords=Crockett+The+New+Materialism(Introduction, Chapters 1, 2 & 3)
March 27: “The Caputo Twist” (John D. Caputo & Peter Rollins). Required Reading:

  1. John D. Caputo, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps (Chapters 1, 2, 7, 11-12). http://www.amazon.com/Insistence-God-Theology-Philosophy-Religion/dp/0253010071/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393531482&sr=1-1&keywords=John+D.+Caputo
  2. Peter Rollins, Insurrection: To Believe is Human to Doubt Divine.http://www.amazon.com/Insurrection-Believe-Human-Doubt-Divine/dp/1451609000/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393531570&sr=1-1&keywords=Peter+Rollins

Into the Abyss: We Go Together

The nagging, a tickle, the haunting of some other voice.  A trace.  But you have developed ways to repress this secret voice calling you with its faint barely audible voice.  But it lingers still.  What to do?  Ignore it?  Too late: you can only do this for so long.  Reject it as irrational?  But it remains there all the same.  Irrational or not, there is a calling from the abyss that no language however analytic and clear can finally do away with it once and for all.  Finally, one must confront it, to acknowledge it and engage it–to tarry with the negative.

Recently, about 70 students signed-up to the inaugural Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) seminar, “Introduction to Political Economy: The Crisis in Higher Education” and we immediately found ourselves opening up our lives with one another even before our first meeting.  We opened with the freedom to voice a fundamental contradiction found within the heart of each and everyone’s experience as we traversed through the “educational” process.  What we found was that although we were being “educated” we found something wanting in that experience.  We all passed the “tests” we all achieved the “success” of degrees (BAs, MAs even PhDs) attached to our names, but in the very appearance of the these letters we realized we had lost something too.  What did we loose?

There is a sense in which what we have lost was something much more profound, something barely audible–a whisper even.  I think, and I am summarizing here, that what is lost is that we had to put aside the fire and inspiration of the joy of collectively arriving at something as like a journey whose destination is the journey itself.  In short, this contra-voice emerges at the precise moment when the degree is granted and the journey is hijacked by the socially marked terminal point of a “degree”!  Congrats!  You have made it!  But in the “making it” to an end–we’re realizing a great dissatisfaction that we have been made premature “masters” of a subject whose end can never be arrived at.  We have come to realize that in the journey of learning there is an infinite endeavor that keeps requiring our lives, our attention, our desire.  It requires something more than ourselves.

In short, all I wish to say is that it is a joy to be part of a community, a mere seminar whose aim is not just about achieving something great, but more importantly it is a joy found in each other, and to realize that you are no longer alone.

A Student’s Interview on Why He Joined the GCAS

Sergio Andrés Rueda

Sergio Andres Rueda

Sergio Andres Rueda

What is it that attracted you to study at the GCAS?

A1: This question could only be properly answered with: everything.

We can then try to separate this answer into parts:

Part of it is the globally renowned faculty, which allows us to engage in a critical dialogue with the thinkers that we would normally read, and then bring this back to our home countries and environments, some of which desperately need this sort of intervention.

Another part of it is the ideals of the GCAS, as it is the first institution of higher learning in the world whose ideas about education coincide perfectly with the claims of millions of disenfranchised people in Latin America and in the entire world that are dissatisfied with an educational model created by and for the wealthy to maintain their structural position through the segregation of students into functional stratums.

What program are you studying at the GCAS?

A2: I’m going to start by transferring credits to my home institution towards the completion of my BA. This will provide the double opportunity of being both in a global environment (the GCAS) and local activism. This will include courses on the Crisis of Higher Education and Critical Theory.

What research goals are you seeking to accomplish at the GCAS?

A3: I hope to research mainly three areas:

  • The philosophical foundations of the category of Ideology in order to understand the way in which societies, such as Colombia, are fundamentally divided by a constitutive antagonism that is expressed through both discourses and material practices. This would help me explain a conflict of over 50 years which still divides most of the population and the causes the perpetuation of violent political imaginaries.
  • The possibility of access to the absolute through the materialist defense of a mathematical ontology.
  • The Colombian Armed and Civil Conflict itself in order to end the silence and invisibility of its victims.

What opportunities are you seeking after you graduate from the GCAS?

A4: I hope to be able to return to Colombia with better tools to continue working for the transformation of our society into a tolerant and peaceful community, where we can start the long work ahead of mending our differences, forgiving the culprits and joining the international community in our common responsibility to protect the Amazon and build a better world.

Concretely, I hope to work towards the creation of an open access editorial in order to combat a situation in which people can only access texts through piracy and photocopying, which is illegal, thereby criminalizing a population that wants to learn. Furthermore, after the end of the conflict, it will be necessary for the democratic and social forces of Colombia to unite for our common ideals, although it is still unclear exactly how.

Finally, we must document every painful episode of our past, not only our current civil war, but also the previous ones that go all the way back to the colony.

Here’s the Spanish:

P1: Esta pregunta sólo se puede responder correctamente de la siguiente manera: ¡todo!

Podemos, entonces, tratar de separar esta pregunta en varias partes:

En parte es por tener una facultad de renombre global. Esto nos permite  encontrarnos en un dialogo crítico con los pensadores que usualmente leemos, para entonces traer  todo esto de vuelta a nuestros países de origen y a sus ambientes, algunos de los cuales necesitan desesperadamente de este tipo de intervención.

Otra parte de ello son los ideales del GCAS, dado que es la primera institución de educación superior en el mundo cuyas ideas acerca de la educación coinciden perfectamente con el reclamo de millones de personas excluidas en América Latina y el mundo entero que están insatisfechas con un modelo educativo creado por y para mantener su posición estructural a través de la segregación de los estudiantes en estratos funcionales.

P2: Me gustaría empezar transfiriendo créditos hacia mi alma máter para la terminación de mi grado universitario. Esto proveerá la doble oportunidad de estar tanto en un ambiente global (GCAS) y el activismo local. Esto incluiría cursos sobre la crisis de la educación superior y la teoría crítica.

P3: Espero investigar tres áreas principalmente:

  • Los fundamentos filosóficos de la categoría de la ideología para poder entender la manera en la cual las sociedades, como en Colombia, están fundamentalmente divididas por antagonismos constituyentes que se expresan tanto a través de discursos como de prácticas materiales. Esto me ayudaría a explicar un conflicto de más de 50 años que todavía divide a la mayor parte de la población y causa la perpetuación de imaginarios políticos violentos.
  • La posibilidad de acceder al absoluto a través de la defensa materialista de una ontología matemática.
  • El Conflicto Civil y Armado Colombiano en sí mismo para ponerle un fin al silencio y la invisibilidad de sus víctimas.

P4: Espero poder volver a Colombia con mejores herramientas para continuar trabajando por la transformación de nuestra sociedad en una comunidad tolerante y pacífica, donde podamos comenzar el largo trabajo que nos resta para sanar nuestras diferencias, perdonar a los victimarios, y unirnos a la comunidad internacional para trabajar por nuestra responsabilidad común de proteger el Amazonas y construir un mundo mejor.

Concretamente, espero trabajar hacia la creación de una editorial de acceso-abierto que pueda combatir la situación en la cual el pueblo solo puede acceder a los textos a través de la piratería o las fotocopias- lo cual es ilegal- y por ende criminaliza a una población que quiere aprender. Más aún, tras el fin del conflicto, será necesario que las fuerzas democráticas y sociales de Colombia nos unamos por nuestros ideales comunes; aunque todavía es incierta la manera en que esto ocurra.

Finalmente, debemos documentar cada episodio doloroso de nuestro pasado, no solo en nuestra guerra civil actual, sino a través de todas las anteriores que se remontan hasta la colonia.

What is the Global Center for Advanced Studies?

GCAS Manifesto

“As President of GCAS, I want to recall to all our students and faculty that what is important is to keep in mind the very essence of our school: not to accumulate some knowledge for finding a place in the world as it is, even if to know the world is useful and to find a place a necessity. But to learn what is a true thinking for changing the world under the principles of equality and priority of the common good against the present dictatorship of private property and individual satisfaction.” –Alain Badiou

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 3.02.27 PM

Powerful economic forces are dramatically reshaping all aspects of our world into an authoritarian corporate outlook that directly undermines democratic organization and governance, of the people, by the people, for the people. Nowhere is this more visible than in the education sector.

Higher education has entered a crisis period on a global scale just when all models of economic growth and indicators of social wellbeing identify it as crucial for the future of humanity.

The first component in the crisis is skyrocketing costs.   In the United States alone the cost of so-called “posted tuition” – the sticker price for an average four-year college stint – for in-state students at public colleges and universities alone rose 258% from 1991 to 2013, according to figures supplied by the US Department of Education. The cost of living during the same period increased 52%.

The United States is not alone. Although ever fewer countries still maintain some form of free education, the overall trend from South to North America, from Australia to Japan, and from Europe to South-East Asia and Africa is rapidly moving to privatizing education.

The second factor, then, is the inability of students to pay for their education in both the short and long terms. The amount of student loan debt in the States, for example is currently $1.2 trillion, which has risen a massive 300 percent in only the last eight years. This trend is rapidly spreading throughout the world from Canada, to the UK and elsewhere.

The actual and possible means by which massive debt is and will be used against individuals (as well as the collective indebted community) is likely to be ominous and can further undermine the rise of democratic movements and organization.

The third tendency is the radical shift in studies away from the humanities in favor of business friendly subjects. Humanity studies are under attack on a global scale for fear of their empowering dynamic.

The fourth tendency is the proletarianization of the teaching staff. Adjunct faculty are underpaid and live in deprivation, while administrative costs are skyrocketing. GCAS believes that teaching staff are the heart of the educational process and has a collaborative process built on the idea of education as a commons.

In short, Higher education has become a global industry dominated by cronyism as well a self-protective regulatory coziness between government bureaucrats, accreditation bodies, and corporate benefactors that prop up, rather than call to account, the dysfunctional system as a whole. It is time we organized to change this on a global level.

To break this toxic corporate siege on education we recommend a two-fold “inside/outside” strategy. Inside, students must revolt against the way their universities are being turned into businesses. Outside, we must organize sustainable public alternatives to education. Both sides of the strategy must work together, as one without the other will fail owing to the global, transnational reach of the corporatizing, neoliberal onslaught. GCAS is one way to organize the “outside” tactic, while supporting the “inside” wing of the overall strategy.

It is through the strategy of aggregating leading intellectuals, workers and activists from around the globe, fostering new lines of communication and a new sense of community among them, and making those intellectual resources readily available outside of fixed institutional constraints that the Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS) intends both to push for changes in the system while quickening the free, planetary flow of ideas and talents.

Significantly enhancing the flow of intellectual endowments and exchanges should create downward cost pressures on education, since redundancy of function, reduplication of overhead and non-academic amenities, and runaway administrative outlays for no other reason than to maintain institutional market share are some of the overriding reasons for cost inflation among colleges and universities.

The five principles of transformation in education to which GCAS is committed, therefore, are as follows:

  1. Accessibility. GCAS has as a key part of its mission the global democratization of knowledge and education.

GCAS wishes to offer courses for free. However, because we are a non-profit organization, currently neither supported by wealthy benefactors, nor by governmental agencies, we need to cover our licensing costs, faculty compensation, website, and e-school development and maintenance. As these costs are addressed so too tuition will correspondingly be reduced until reaching a sustainability point after which courses will be free of charge. We are also working towards accreditation so extra funds will go into covering these costs.

For example, we are applying for grants to minimize tuition costs and joining forces with many different universities to offset operating costs. These grants must be derived for like-minded institutions and individuals whose desire supports the overall mission of free global education for all. Through recruiting personnel the faculty can also help organize high quality seminars and programs at their location, thus grounding our strategy in both the local and global fronts.

In the meanwhile GCAS is offering free courses to incarcerated people, refugees, women in developing countries and people from war zones. That means that the minimal tuition paid by students also contribute to covering expenses for those who cannot.

  1. Partnership. GCAS is committed to an inter-operational model of higher education that allows students to receive the highest quality education from many of the world’s most respected intellectuals and leading activists.

GCAS is seeking to collaborate with Universities around the world in order to offer for-credit seminars and course in such disciplines as critical theory, political economy, psychoanalysis, religion, philosophy, global studies and similar subjects.

  1. Collaboration. GCAS is committed to the global collaboration of students and faculty from around the world.

GCAS seminars are intended to be sites where faculty and students from around the world can meet and share their research during intensive (1-6 week) seminars. The seminar format is intended to produce a more concentrated burst of intellectual collaboration with an aim towards local change.

  1. Social Justice. GCAS is committed to social and environmental justice.

GCAS explicitly invites its faculty to speak on and organize around issues of contemporary political importance. It hopes to provide a space and resources to aid students and faculty in their collective pursuit of social and environmental justice. In other words, it hopes to put its theories into action and not to restrict the political expression of its faculty.

  1. A Commons Organization. GCAS is committed to an organization of the Commons.

We believe that the faculty and students should control and operate the means of producing and maintaining our school, GCAS. The guiding principles of organizing include: equality, shared student/faculty governance, sustainable, debt-free non-profit economic model, and academic freedom.

We hope to countermand and disrupt the global commodification of the higher learning in recent years. We hope to counter the increasingly popular view that education ought merely to involve equipping students with “marketable” skills for the sole purpose of becoming part of a global capitalist economy. After all, in a global capitalism in crisis there is little space for technical jobs, so getting in debt for “managerial” education doesn’t make much sense in the first place. Education should be seen as a means for emancipation and a common good that contributes for the good of society, not an individualized commodity connected to debt.

The crisis of higher education will not go away, nor will it vanish with any one innovative solution, no matter how unique or transgressive. Yet we know that we faculty, who increasingly are becoming indentured to a system we no longer recognize as either financially sustainable or “humanizing” in the broadest sense of the term, let alone as a benefit to the students we find ourselves teaching, have to mobilize.

We mobilize not for our own self-preservation, but for the preservation of the very promise of education in a world whose future depends upon it. The democratization of education as a public good is our goal.

To that end we commit ourselves to the struggle we found together as GCAS.

Why is Philosophy Sick?

Creston Davis is Professor of Philosophy at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Skopje. He is the coauthor (with John Milbank and Slavoj Zizek) of Paul’s New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology; coeditor (with John Milbank and Slavoj Zizek) of Theology and the Political: The New Debate; editor of John Milbank and Slavoj Zizek The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? and author of the forthcoming novel, Ghostly Icons.  He has recently co-founded, The Global Center for Advanced Studies.

Creston Davis

Why is Philosophy Sick?

Peter Sloterdijk's new book on Philosophy

Peter Sloterdijk’s new book on Philosophy

What is wrong with philosophy today?  On the face of it, unlike other disciplines in the academy, the very nature of philosophy inherently resists a foolproof definition.  Of course that’s not to say it hasn’t been defined.  From the birth of the academy in both ancient Greece and the Middle Ages, philosophy has always been at the heart of any education worthy of its name.  For example, when I was an undergraduate at Oxford this lesson became eminently clear when I stood in the center of the Bodleian library quadrangle (1613-1619) and the Tower of the Five Orders from which four of the main exit doors were devoted to the core subjects that comprise philosophy: Schola Metaphysicae, Schola Naturalis Philosophiae, Schola Moralis Philosophiae, and Schola Logicae.

Philosophy, in other words, was irrefutably foundational to the very existence of university education.  When you compare this to the contemporary academy that purports to be devoted to the liberal arts (i.e., the arts that free us vis-à-vis the servile arts, such as pluming and business) you would be lucky to locate a department that does not reduce philosophy to little more than business ethics.  This raises the question: What’s wrong with philosophy especially if its nature is completely unrecognizable within university settings today?

One explanation is that it’s simply outdated, and like modern theology will dissolve into the dustbins of history out of sheer irrelevance.  Philosophy, so this stance believes, is antiquated because it is redundant as it only teaches students ancient techniques of logical thinking and analyses, which, so administrators argue, can easily be acquired in a single humanities course.

The problem with this explanation is that it misconstrues philosophy by reducing it to an anemic skill sets all made relevant if and only if they enhance a student’s ability to get a job.  So it is not difficult to see why philosophy is dying (along with the humanities) because it is inversely related to the dogma of corporate culture.  Moreover, this trend has the unfortunate consequence of forcing philosophers to create courses that are relevant to getting a job.  In short, philosophy becomes enslave to corporate culture.

But should philosophy fold so easily to this prosaic corporate totalitarianism that has subverted all non-corporate methods of thinking and practice?  Think of the two basic functions in which the academy has traditionally served a free democratic society: one is negative and the other positive.  The negative service provides free and independent critiques of the inevitable abuses of power (both political and economic) that threatened the security of a democratic society.  And as the corporate financial crisis in 2008 proved beyond a shadow of doubt unchecked greed threatens the founding truths of democracy: of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Seen in this way, independent journalists and filmmakers also provide this “watch-dog” service protecting us from the abuses of barbaric greed mongering.  This is why a professor’s tenure was so crucial because they were protected and could thus publish their independent and objective research recommendations without fear of being fired.

On the positive side, academia once served a free society through its independent research that can give genuinely new and creative solutions to the rudimentary problems facing our planet such as, among many other problems, ecological sustainability, imperialist power, and the waging of unjust wars.  For example, an independent professor would recommend solutions to obverting ecological catastrophes by inventing new energy, economic, and political possibilities in order to avoid totalitarian greed from taking hold like the kind that corporate capitalism has installed in the United States in the 21st Century.  And this does not even touch one the psychological tyranny that the government and employers use when they violate our basic privacy rights by monitoring our intimate conversations from our mobile phones, to our emails and other social networking communications.

This gets us back to the question:  What’s wrong with philosophy today? Why is it sick?  Pondering this it becomes clear from the above analysis that the problem with philosophy is that it has forgotten it original modus operandi namely, the freedom to arrive at solutions to our existential situation. This is why philosophy must live into its truth so that it can arrive at new possibilities and alternative worlds unencumbered by the political and economic tyrannical powers that seek to protect their own interests at the cost of enslaving the majority of the population to the servile arts (i.e., enslavement to making money).  And here I’m not even mentioning governmental and corporate surveillance on the populous.  This is why philosophy’s genius is found in its infinite procedure, and this is because the ability to think, act, and invent is infinite in nature (i.e., free) which is why philosophers from Heraclitus to Diogenes, and from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle couldn’t draw a hard and fast demarcations between the disciplines distilled in the modern academy we see today from economics to politics to ethics.  And the reason for this is because the disciplines were all grounded in living a life for freedom and justice geared toward the search for wisdom and truth, and not, as is the case today, where everyone is taught to seek out their own wealth at the cost of dissolving social unity.

The illness of philosophy today is all too evident when viewed as a discipline that is wholly enslaved to the corporatized academy.  That is, the academy has become an extension of the corporate workforce precisely because the latter has determined not only what subjects are taught but also how those subjects are taught.  In other words, the corporate world has literally redefined the learning and discovery process thus undermining new and creative ways of thinking and living that would provide us with a healthier peaceful future.

Therefore, the days of an independent academy as the watchdog over potential totalitarian regimes are over.  This is especially evident with the recent publication of a “major report” in the New York Times in which professors argue that the humanities are worth saving basically because they teach students the skills essential to getting a job in the corporate world.  You know it’s over when humanities professors gut and sacrifice their subjects to the god of capitalism.

In light of this, it is now time to return to philosophy’s true nature devoted to freedom and justice for all.  Perhaps embodying a “Robin Hood pedagogical ethic” in educational process might be one means of stealing from the rich and giving a life back to the poor.  And what would a professor or teacher steal exactly?  It would steal back the possibility of freedom that has been hijacked from our youth preventing them from exploring alternatives futures other than the greed of capitalism, which turns our students into monsters.  It is time to free philosophy and the other subjects in the humanities from the chains of the corporate world and the administrators and lawyers who peddle them. The fact that philosophy remains indefinable to the bane of many gives us hope that this revolution is already afoot and that is taking place concretely by the opening of a independent graduate and post-graduate school, The Global Center for Advanced Studies.