The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement by Abduttayyeb Abs Hassanali

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More Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS pledge than all the MPs of the other main political parties combined. A ‘free’ education policy seemed deeply rooted within Liberalism. Or so we thought.

Transcript of The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement by Abduttayyeb Abs Hassanali

The Rise and Fall of the Student Movement A focus on Liberal policies with regards to the Tuition Fees by ABDUTTAYYEB HASSANALI 563917 Thesis submitted for the degree of BA in Philosophy 2012 Declaration for thesis I have read and understood regulation 17.9 of the Regulations for students of the School of Oriental and African Studies concerning plagiarism. I undertake that all the material presented for examination is my own work and has not been written for me, in whole or in part, by any other person(s). I also undertake that any quotation or paraphrase from the published or unpublished work of another person has been duly acknowledged in the work which I present. Signed: _____________________ Faculty of Law and Social Sciences School of Oriental and African Studies University of London Acknowledgements I would like to thank the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, along with my supervisor, for allowing me to submit this piece of work. I would also like to grant acknowledgement to those who contributed towards the research and publication of this essay. But most importantly, thank you to my closest friends and family, for not letting me quit. In this essay, I have attempted to dedicate recognition to prominent leaders of the student movement during 2010-2011 (my prime focus is within London), however, I do apologise if there are people I have missed out. More Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS pledge than all the MPs of the other main political parties combined. A free education policy seemed deeply rooted within Liberalism. Or so we thought. 1 Introduction 2010 saw the emergence of the largest student movement the UK had witnessed for decades. In its simplest form, this essay will deal with, (or attempt to at least), with a number of issues regarding to the student movement and beyond: namely, Liberalism and the right to a free education, the significance of a campaigning union and a shift towards the left of the political spectrum within student democracy, liberal justifications for the NUS pledge, and the rise and fall of the student movement. I must note, as my readers must acknowledge, two things: firstly, this essay targets the student movement from a liberalism perspective and therefore not necessarily my personal political fidelities, and following on, secondly, though the views within this essay are of my own in their entirety, they have somewhat been adjusted to fit the framework of this essay. Liberalism and the right to a free education Enterprising the individual Terry McLaughlin espoused the view that liberalism within education need not be confined within state schooling or private schooling, i.e. within free or charged education.1 In its place, McLaughlin argued that liberalism within education should be assessed upon two conditions: firstly, the pursuit of autonomy for each individual, whereby each individual within their respective institution is permitted to maintain and promote their personal freedom; and secondly, the institutions facilitation to direct students upon the conception of the good life in the interests of some generally accepted common good.2 So under his doctrine, a successful liberal education is one that harnesses and promotes a harmony between the individual good in conception of autonomy (freedom) and the common good in conception of the good life (equality).3 In light of this utilitarian approach, McLaughlin would probably disparage the neo-liberalism of Western democracy from shifting its emphasis away from the content of university (what you can get out of it), and towards the inception of university (how much it costs), as liberals should be concerned with the accomplishment of these values, not their expenditure. McLaughlin goes as far as to eliminate any notion of education as a universal right he contends that this is a philosophical issue and should be confiscated from all liberal questioning: the truth that educational policy cannot be based on philosophical considerations alone is too obvious to require emphasis.4 My belief, in contrast to McLaughlin, is that although a liberal education need not be free, liberalism enjoys an opulent tradition of universal education most liberal theorists, since there ever were some, have preserved the view that education is the best procedure to enlighten a society of the conception of the good, whereby an education entitled to all citizens allowed them to fulfil such civic values. Similarly, Michael Apple is derogatory of any neo-liberal policies that make an attempt in enterprising [the] individual.5 He argues that policies can only retain value if they are judged within economical and historical criteria, and not simply read off the effects of policies in the abstract.6 His conclusion is that if considering the entire balance of forces, one will realise that neo-liberal policies that attempt to privatise any aspect of the education sector will inevitably result in a dis-progressive state, due to the effects it will have upon class inequality, race, gender and social mobility. He argues that history has attested that education is the only institution within an economic crisis that has to be at the centre of the crisis and of struggles to overcome.7 He goes further to criticise neo-conservative policies that aim to pioneer a competitive market within the education system or return back to real knowledge. Apple makes a distinction between what he calls real knowledge and popular knowledge.8 He argues that popular knowledge, unlike real knowledge, impacts upon the lives of the most disadvantaged of the communities, therefore enhancing McLaughlins second condition of equality. His conclusion therefore is that any sort of privatisation within education will lead to real knowledge where the poorest communities will be isolated and left unequal from the entire regime. 2 Therefore, whilst McLaughlin defends the view that a liberal education is one that should include the notions of freedom and equality, his failure is his inability to realise that a liberal education itself should be free and equal, hence, accessible to all. Democracy and Campaigning Unions within Student Politics The greatest happiness of the greatest number In this next section, I will discuss Democracy and confederate this notion with the significance of campaigns, or more applicably, campaigning unions within student politics. Mark Warren reduces democracy into empowerment by which he purports that if individuals were more broadly empowered, then they would become more public spirited, more tolerant, more knowledgeable, more attentive to the interest of others, and more probing of their own interests, all positive countenances of a good democratic system.9 10 Concomitant with this notion of empowerment, the student movement highlighted an issue prominent amongst intellectuals: Whether the democratisation of democracy in Western neo-liberalism requires a variation within democracy, or a variation of democracy itself? Warren adopts a worryingly cynical view on this matter: radical democrats should give up once and for all the Rousseauian ideal of the state as the political expression of a democratic community because such a predilection of a fuzzy utopianism fails to confront the more mundane but indispensable issues regarding structures of the economy and the state. They should dispense with this romantic dogma because it places exceptional demands on the self (individual or citizen).11 12 As Mary Midgley coincides with Warren, people have a natural wish and capacity to integrate themselves, a natural horror of being totally fragmented, which makes possible a constant series of bargains and sacrifices to shape their lives.13 By sacrifices, I assume that Midgley may be referring to instances of political change, where it is often that a reform of practices approach is preferred over a reform of ideological approach, as the latter may lead to a class struggle. The idea of integration is a fairly new notion within political philosophy, but is emerging due to the political tensions derived from a fragmentation of ideologies, and a general verge assembling into the centrist and moderate standpoint within politics and political parties. I believe that within any neo-liberal state, including student politics, democracy is the single most quixotic ideal; and it should be: it remains one of the few notions that is probably universally embraced, as it recognises sovereignty and empowerment of the people. In making such a remark, Warren seems to be contradicting himself that empowerment is a positive feature of society, yet democracy is not. Clare Solomon, President of the University of London Union (ULU) during the student movement, firmly placed herself and other students like her disciple Sean Rillo Raczka in the latter camp against Warren, arguing that what made the student movement so absorbing was that The students who marched on the streets to protect their rights are fighting for something larger - against Republicanism and Capitalism, and for a democratic process itself.14 But is this really possible? Is there really ano