SOCIETIES OF CONTROL 3 – DEVELOPING POSITIVE RESISTANCE

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In the past two posts in this set of three, I have set out an argument, developing out of Deleuze’s Societies of Control which highlights the role of corporatisation and increasing control of society. In education this is characterised through dataveillance and ever more strict frameworks for accountability, particularly through the work of Ofsted. However, whilst restrictions and creeping privatisation have led to a loss of professionalism and increasing homogenisation of the educative process, Deleuzean geophilosophy emphasises the potential for individuals and groups to create alternative spaces for professional creativity and debate.

Deleuze and Guattari, in the second of their books which make up Capitalism and Schizophrenia, called A Thousand Plateaus make a distinction between two alternative systems, the arborescent and the rhizomatic. The arborescent is a system which is hierarchical, linear and sedentary. As such it is the thinking of the State, a striated system of thought which only sees particular lines of ideas as correct, and where the creation of boundaries is a matter of ensuring control. A wonderful example of this at present within the education system of England is the normalised State belief that target setting, simplistic frameworks for accountability, and exam results in their own right as aims of education are the only possible structures for an education system. Thinking otherwise is seen as simply wrong by those at the head of the system.

In contrast to the arborescent system is the rhizomatic, which is non-linear, smooth and nomadic. It is multiplicitous and moves in a number of directions. Rhizomes cut across striated spaces, and cross borders; nomadic thinking is a creative process which follows trajectories which cut through the State sanctioned striations and enter into smooth spaces of professional creativity.

This leads to the concept of nomadic resistance. Nomadic thinkers range at the limit of freedom, creating what Deleuze and Guattari call the nomadic war machine, a process which is on collision course with the linear, static and striated thinking of the state apparatus. Nomadic thinking is couched in the notion of ‘becoming‘, where thinking helps to change the structures of the state and striations themselves. However, these are not changes which occur across the whole system at any single point in time, but is a process which occurs through the nomadic thinking of individuals and groups to bring small-scale change.

Nomadic thinking can thus be seen as the free space of creative thinking, a mode of creativity that is equally a mode of struggle and resistance.

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It is through the creation of smooth spaces where nomadic thinking can occur, and is indeed encouraged, that we can begin to resist the process of proletarianisation I identified in the last post on societies of control. Hence, media through which we can encourage nomadic thinking and deterritorialisation are those which can offer opportunities for positive resistance to State systems.

But what do these media look like in practice? Web 2.0 and social media are an obvious location for such nomadic thinking. Twitter hosts a huge variety of ongoing debates and ideas which any individual can link into if they have interest. As a way of linking to resources, asking for help and advice, creating debates, passing on news stories, or merely allowing individuals to be part of a wider community of like-minded people, Twitter acts as a focal point for the sharing of original ideas. Facebook serves much the same purpose.

Blogs have become increasingly popular as ways for teachers to reflect and share their ideas about what works and what doesn’t work for them. Again, it is a way of sharing resources and ideas, and of finding a space for creativity and professionalism. In some small-scale research I did two or three years ago, the main reasons teachers gave for keeping blogs was the opportunity it gave them to share ideas, be creative in their work, and also as another channel for engaging and enthusing students.

More recently, with the expansion of Web 2.0 resources, other, more group orientated discussions have started to develop, with the use of webinars, and other online informal CPD opportunities.

These are just some examples of how nomadic thinking can be shared and spread between schools and teachers. It might be in the form of resources, advice or support.

But are there other lines of flight we can follow to encourage creativity and positive forms of resistance? Recently, I’ve been involved in some ‘coffee-time‘ discussions with a couple of colleagues about the potential to open a free school. Gove has created a system which is ripe for the private sector, but does it have to be this way? Why not create a free school which has an open places policy, which takes only students from the local neighbourhood, regardless of who they are? The school could be run along egalitarian and democratic lines, and have a curriculum which is co-constructed between students and staff. In discussion these were the beliefs and ideas we started to highlight as being at the centre of a truly humane and positive education. If we are right, would such a school demonstrate that this approach to education does exactly what is required for the likes of Ofsted, but which also shows that a local, egalitarian approach will always outstrip that of the corporate model? this would be positive resistance on a large scale, and would enshrine the professionalism and ethics of the profession rather than atrophying the work and creativity of teachers.

The trajectory of education over the past 20 years has been one of increasing control, with ever greater levels of accountability, creeping privatisation and a move to narrow the processes of ‘acceptable’ approaches to learning; in this way we have seen the rise of a ‘society of control’. However, by consciously developing smooth spaces in which we can become nomadic thinkers, we can retain and expand our spaces of professionalism. This is a form of process which allows us to engage with our own values and ethics and through these create what we believe to be right and important. Be they spaces in our own minds, or shared spaces with others whatever the medium, they are positive ways in which we can cut through state structures we do not believe in, and by this protect our professionalism and resist in a positive way.

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