A few days ago I submitted an article to the Sydney-based anarchist zine Mutiny. The collective had asked if I wanted to write something after they had read a post on this blog. The post in question - “international students, women, public secrets” - wasn’t any kind of coherent whole, and as a jumping off point would always have been something I would have wanted to reconstruct, but still I think the collective was probably hoping for, or at least expecting, something different from what I ended up sending. They haven’t said this, but it would be reasonable if this was the case, and surprising if it wasn’t.
What I ended up sending was written quite fast, but after quite a bit of thinking and prior writing on closely related subjects, by which I mean international education economies and matters related to such economies. (It was also longer than they asked for, which I know was rude of me.)
Also, what I wrote was partially written under the influence of the French group and publication Theorie Communiste - or rather under the influence of my attempts to think about issues raised by my reading of Theorie Communiste. These issues include but are not limited to: understanding the history of capitalism as the history of relations of exploitation, and the current restructuring - the restructuring which is contemporary capitalism - as a reconstitution of such relations and a new subsumption of labour under capital; the concept of ‘proletarian identity’ and of the dissolution of same; the specificity of TC’s concept of the cycle of struggle, in relation to their (version of a) periodization of capitalism in relation to phases of subsumption. In any case, for more on TC and these issues, people can take a look at the relevant issues of Riff-Raff and Endnotes.
In any case, as the Australian state has been increasingly founded upon these ‘educational’ economies, those on international student visas have ever-increasingly faced a social terrain of predatory extraction, in (at least nominally educational) institutions, housing, transport, heathcare and wage-labor, for starters - everyone wants a cut and the states want several. Meanwhile a cross-class, multi-cultural phenomenon of anti-international-student xenophobia, focussed on Indian males as seemingly some kind of metonym of international education economies, has been translated into permission for violence, whether for sport or money but emphatically targeting such people. Meanwhile, trade unions and NUS have expressed desires to push international students out of labor markets and the less wealthy out of the country, respectively.
I thought that I would set out, here, a few of the ideas I’ve been using in trying to understand these ‘international education economies’ (as Liz and I have been referring to them), and more exactly the terms I have been using as shorthand.
International education economies
The de facto deal involved years of exploitation and jumping through hoops enforced by the state with the constant threat of deportation, with the eventual pay-off of permanent residency, some kind of qualification giving at least some access to labor markets, and greater access to the general conditions of social reproduction available, at least supposedly, to Australian citizens. Including access to family reunion and other sponsored immigration programs.
Like guest workers, only these non-citizens are brought in for their cash, initially and still substantially simply for their ability to pay fees, but now the basis of a whole series of economies within (and across) Australian borders. These are guest consumer economies.
Now that the federal government has decided that a section of these guest consumers - assumed to be mostly at the bottom of the socio-economic scale - should be dispensed with, this deal referred to above has been subject to targeted cancellation. The federal government is seeking to re-found the guest consumer economies on new bases, with new forms of regulation and filtering combining with efforts to develop alternative markets, mostly in Asia, and hopefully made up of elites, children of.
Despite all of this some people still act as if we must all be making sure people on international student visas are “genuine students” - the jargon of inauthenticity which takes added force because of these people are also not genuine Australians and thus not genuine members of the Australian multiculture.
Very real subsumption
My stand in for a whole series of problems focussed on questions of the periodisation of capitalism and more particularly the reconstitution of social reproduction on new bases. Hence the subtitle of my Mutiny submission, ‘Causes of the Mediated Processes of Reproduction’. (Geddit?)
An example of these processes in Australia, obviously, being post-secondary education, now properly capitalist, really subsumed, with internal and external competitive markets, exploitation of labor tied to imperatives of income generation, and dynamics of self-expansion as the expansion of value i.e. the very definition of capital. And yet still an institution of social (and labor market) reproduction, so that when the state wishes to shift the bases of these economies it still does so through a reassertion of the importance of labor market management (and border control, the related state concern).
State-sponsored anti-/racism in Australia takes the form of multicultural patriotism - we are all Australian (except most of the world, obviously). As such this anti-/racism can easily form the basis of xenophobia. Australians can unite against the non-citizen and still have a multicultural good conscience. (Even if many people still think of ‘whites’ - a shifting but persistent concept - as the real Australians.)
The purpose of all this is not to announce the discovery of the new figure of radical politics - which I why in the text for Mutiny I referred to “a new social object” instead of subject, so I wouldn’t be confused with Negri discovering the new revolutionary subject every time he reads the morning paper. But neither do I think that these developments only have significance for those most directly implicated in these economies. In other words, these are attempts to understand the on-going restructuring in which we are all implicated, as well as the tensions and fractures within particular moments, particular aspects of these economies - it is not just a joke to ask about causes of the mediated processes of reproduction.