Richard Pithouse weighs in on the news breaking this week that the Philosophy Department at Middlesex University in London is to be closed down on the grounds that their work 'made no "measurable" contribution to the University.'
As some of you will already know the news broke today that the Philosophy Department at Middlesex University in London is to be closed down on the grounds that their work "made no ‘measurable’ contribution to the University." To my mind this has been, for a while, the most important philosophy department in the English speaking world. Many might say the same about the journal that has, for some time, largely, been produced from the Department i.e. Radical Philosophy. Those of you in South Africa might remember that Rick Turner published his famous paper Dialectical Reason in the 4th issue of the journal in 1972.
There is some more information here - some of which, unfortunately, can only offer resistance within the language and world view of the university managers that took this decision - but no doubt that will change soon:
Updates on the responses to this move, which are flowing in fast, as well as on the plans to mount some resistance, are at http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/ There is a facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119102561449990&v=info
It has been suggested that people can send messages of support to Professor Peter Osborne at [email][email protected]
Messages of opposition can be sent to the Dean who took this decision, Ed Eshe, at [email][email protected]
The work done in the Middlesex Philosophy Department by people like Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Mark Kelly, Christian Kerslake, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford needs no instrumental justification. But it is not irrelevant that, as many of you know very well, on more than one occasion the work done at Middlesex, or in the journal, has filtered into popular struggles in South Africa. On one occasion an account of those struggles has filtered into Radical Philosophy. Peter Hallward is one of the staff members at Middlesex and when Abahlali baseMjondolo was able to elect two delegates to travel to London last year they stayed in Peter Hallward's flat. When Abahlali baseMjondolo were attacked Peter organised a statement by Chomsky, Zizek et al which helped to wake up some local academics from their dogmatic slumbers in civil society and the stupid sects and personality cults that make so much of the middle class left such a farce. Peter drew from the intellectual work done in Abahlali baseMjondolo in his paper on The Will of the People and Abahlali baseMjondolo discussed The Will of the People at a University of Abahlali baseMjondolo seminar on 'a living communism' in the Kennedy Road shack settlement. Last year I prescribed that paper to my students here in Grahamstown and they read it and debated with real commitment. Some of the best theoretical academic work done in South Africa in recent years - work by people like Michael Neocosmos and Raj Patel is indebted to the Middlesex project. No doubt there are similar lines of connection to struggles elsewhere. An injury to one most certainly is an injury to all.
There is more at stake here than the fate of one amongst many philosophy departments. Middlesex has come to stand, for people very far away, and for people with no interest in doing academic work but with a real interest in the power of militant thought, for a real and collective living fidelity to the best of the critical tradition in continental philosophy - a tradition which has been extinguished, fragmented or entirely corrupted in many places. The Philosophy Department at Middlesex is an academic project that we should defend.