Thursday, June 11, 2015
You love it. posted by Richard SeymourYou know that if you visit a shrink and say, "I want to get better", the analyst ought to be very sceptical right away that this is actually your demand. Most likely, they will interpret your demand as something like: "please get my symptom working again, so that I can go back to doing exactly what I did before, regardless of how dysfunctional".
And that is what we have paid the banks for. We gave them everything, so that they would get the symptoms of financial capitalism working again. Even with all its precarities. We paid them billions. Trillions. We gave them unprecedented access to political power. We didn’t nationalise the banks as we like to think - we semi-privatised the Treasury! We turned the worst crisis of capitalism in generations into an opportunity to raid the welfare state. And for what? To keep making us more precarious, to keep the housing market spiralling out of control, to drive up unemployment, to push as much of the money as possible into the hands of billionaires.
I know. I know. I know perfectly well what you're thinking. You're thinking, if you have any sense, "who is this 'we', honky?" Of course, of course, of course, 'we' didn't do anything. It was the government and their ruling class allies. 'We' just sat on our plump arses and fearfully waited for an 'honest broker', for that nice Nick Clegg, to cut us a deal that wouldn't leave us all dead. Fucking idiots that 'we' are. Yes, I know. It's more complicated than that. But let's look at it from another angle.
'Free schools' are unambiguously, categorically, without reservation, hesitation or deviation, a disaster and a clusterfuck from the first zero hours contract to the last gleam on Toby Young's forehead. The main contribution of 'free schools' is not just capitalist spivs circling the children like fucking vultures, not just greater inequality of access, but lower overall achievement. 'Standards', the cri de coeur of neoliberal attack dogs and reactionaries alike, took a worse dive than [insert name of some fucking sporting celebrity]. And still the 'free schools' persist, and will go on forever, yeah, until the Lord returns and finds out he's been double-parked all these years.
We've had this before, with the Private Finance Initiative. On every index, PFI went badly wrong. Every PFI hospital was had at massively inflated cost, contributing to a terrible fiscal crisis in the NHS. Beds were lost. Staff were lost. Outsourced cleaning gave us MRSA. Nothing worked. There was overwhelming public opposition. The government kept going. More PFI. And now we have 'free schools'. And just like the Private Finance Initiative, this policy disaster is a bipartisan gift to the nation. Yes, they're all the same. If you want to live in a multiparty democracy, go back to Russia - circa 1917.
And of course, there is a peculiar state-capitalist nexus which drives these projects on, in the service of a combination of ideological, political and class interests. But still, there is something else at stake, and we shouldn't overlook the satisfactions that are invested in these moronic schemes.
With free schools, the dysfunctions are all structured around social cleavage. And that's the yield. That's what we pay for. That's why they persist.
To concretise this 'we', let's focus on the middle class and those 'aspiring' workers that Labour wants to talk to for some reason - you know, working class Tories who would rather sell their children to mine-sweeps than vote Labour. The middle class is probably shrinking in this phase of capitalist development. It is threatened in some areas with proletarianisation. It is experiencing precarity more than ever before. It is more dependent on financial insecurity, to keep house values rising and supply a steady stream of new income. For this class, new hierarchies established through the schools system could be just the thing they're looking for.
The education system has always been their means to self-reproduction. Their belief in meritocracy, while not necessarily hollow, is imbricated with this role of schools in reproducing and naturalising social hierarchy. The same goes for the well-known middle class obsession with 'standards'. Objectively, educational achievements can go through the roof. Even by the narrow standard of exams and testing, results can rise and rise and rise. That isn't what they want. They don't want achievement spread too broadly throughout the population and if it is, they'll assume that 'standards' are falling. The ideology of 'excellence' is an ideology of elitism, of achievement for the few.
So, however costly and ineffectual and stupid free schools turn out to be, as long as they protect and perpetuate inequality, they will persist.