There was a point– I think in the late 1070s– when I realized that events and ideas and concerns seem to come in waves. If I remember correctly, I was struck then by a wave of explosions in grain silos. There seemed to be a period, perhaps over a year or more, when the things exploded one after the other. More recently, I’ve been struck by a what looks like an endless string of mining disasters. My students might call this sort of thing ironic, but it’s really happenstance.
Happenstance isn’t meaningless. So when I start seeing patterns, I pay attention. Most recently, as the last few posts would suggest, there’s been a suite of stories discussing the market, and the market’s relationship to education. Obviously, as a teacher in propitiatory education, this is a subject that I find relevant. Educators tend to see themselves as existing in a space or even a world separate from commerce, of course, even though the separation is apparent rather than real.
Still, education is supposed to give a student some distance from commerce, a perspective that puts the profit motive, with its short term thinking and often brutal self-interest, into a larger perspective. A market ideology would like us to believe, at some level, that the market epitomizes human nature and, as such, should be an object of veneration if not worship. It doesn’t, of course, any more than, say, a game of football sums up human nature.
Still, as Marx noted, exchange or trade is too deeply rooted in human culture to disappear anytime soon. Educators may not want to be business people, and we may believe that the market risks corruption, but we can’t ignore it. That’s why I like this piece on the University College London’s so-called technology transfer program. I think it shows that, with careful thought, the profit and not-for-profit motives can peacefully co-exist. It’s difficult but it’s possible.