I have agreed a new book project with MayFly Books. Having worked with MayFly for my previous monograph, The Hopeless University in 2021, the ethos underpinning this publisher aligns with my own democratic and horizontal approach. I feel that the relations of production are generative and based on dialogue, and these prefigure ways of working for which we should all be struggling. I also felt very comfortable bringing my networks and communities into contact with MayFly, in order to support the open and inclusive approach of the Press. Moreover, it is important for me to bring my labour into play for radical publishers that are seeking to reimagine what academic scholarship might be, as an act of struggle.
The proposed title for the new work is: Beyond University Abolition: Imagining New Horizons for Intellectual Work with Mike Neary.
Beyond University Abolition (BUA) situates the work of UK educator, activist and scholar, Professor Mike Neary, against the traditions of indigenous, decolonial and abolitionist studies, in order to describe what lies at the horizon of University abolition, and what its transcendence might mean. Crucial in this analysis is an understanding of the contradictions between Neary’s revolutionary thinking and the intersectional, intercommunal and intergenerational realities of abolition. This has both theoretical and practical applications, and in the relationship between the concrete and the abstract, BUA will centre the idea of sublation, as an unfolding process of negating, abolishing and transcending. This brings our attention on the capitalist University into an engagement with a range of struggles that seek to transcend alienating social relations.
The book is the third in a triptych that began with an analysis of academic labour in universities of the global North, in The Alienated Academic (2018, Palgrave Macmillan). In The Hopeless University (2021, Mayfly Press), the analysis moved on to critique the political economy of those institutions. The approach in BUA will build from those analyses, to imagine intellectual activity otherwise, within a society that must negate, abolish and transcend its settler-colonial and racial-patriarchal, capitalist institutions.
The geography for Neary’s work on HE was ostensibly centred in the UK following the financial crash of 2007. BAU’s approach will bring this context into dialogue with four transnational themes.
- The 2010/11 struggles of students/intellectual workers in the UK, framed by the autonomist Marxist ontology of In-Against-Beyond. This highlights the material history of the Commons/co-operative praxis post-2010, in order to understand its limits in HE.
- Neary’s critical sociology, and practical experiments developed in common, at the intersection of: critical political economy of the University (new reading of Marx); pedagogical analyses of student-as-producer (following the Frankfurt School); revolutionary and avant-garde teaching; and, the co-operative governance of higher education.
- The humanism of Marx’s political economy, and in particular his philosophical and ethnographical work, centred around human becoming-in-community, as a process of sublation. This is enriched through the relational accountability of indigenous and decolonial practices, which centre respect for axiology, cosmology, ancestry, land, communities and values, and ask us to imagine the world otherwise.
- This communal and co-operative critique will be placed in dialogue with abolitionist praxis, in order to understand how abolitionist university studies might contribute to the generation of a new horizon for society. Wilson-Gilmore’s abolition geography points towards the liberation of space-time, realised beyond settler-colonial and racial-patriarchal institutions. This highlights the deep interconnections between institutions and social structures, like prisons, schools, universities, families, borders, and so on. Thus, abolitionist praxis offers a way of considering intellectual work beyond the alienating structures, cultures and practices of these disciplinary networks of institutions and disciplines.
This prioritises a methodology of critique, through a close reading that integrates Neary’s work with a range of abolitionist studies and practices, alongside decolonial and anti-colonial being and doing. This methodology seeks to use Neary’s work as a departure point for tracing the horizon of a society which no longer needs the University, or in which the University has been transcended through a process of sublation.