Editorial Statement

www.global-french-theory.com offers a critique of academic practices, particularly on the politics of institutions and the force of representation, i.e. the proliferation of artifacts, with universities in charge of a/re-warding merit. The arts and humanities are the credential giving fortresses of rendering cultural value to artifacts, which results in the establishment of the nightmare Michel Foucault called monumentalization. Except now it is the monumentalization of the present that is thoroughly drawn into the conjunction of universities and knowledge. As the scholar Tatiana Flessas has noted, the kind of culture and knowledge thereof favored by universities often has to do with the university’s transmission of damaging knowledge—we learn more of the property status of artifacts—circulation, citation, validation—than we do the processes that generate things from often contradictory experiences. The university is made of many cultural markets, which means financialized, completely, and so a political formation. Its overall sophistry of providing “service” is belied in its actual products—the majority of (undergraduate) students are (often) willing captures in the marketplace of finding work that is not particularly satisfying. The slightly less than one thousand PhD’s awarded in all fields of history in the U.S. is culled from a few million undergraduate history majors, which makes the latter little more than a massive recruiting station.

The pieces posted here are from a forthcoming book on a specific institution, the California Institute of the Arts, and a particular city, Los Angeles. They join as city, school, and subject (administrators, faculty, students, reviewers, artists) having converged as a power-block of politics: the monumentalization of the city providing cover for the schools and other institutions. Politics is in control of critical knowledge. For example, in 2008, I helped start a new MA program in Critical Studies at CalArts, which become a financial benefit to the institution, promoted in the local media. But the majority of the students could barely read 20 pages per week over a 15 week seminar. Their theses are under lock and key in the Dean’s office, a truthful representation of their value. For that strange attractor (or vacuum), “the public,” such schools are overgrown image-weeds, pretty to be sure in self-promotion, but which has little to do with actuality. The piece “The Destruction of CalArts” was a resignation letter from that institution, which clearly specifies no faith in the bad faith of an institution. Marxists such as Cary Nelson at the Association of American University Professors bemoan the privatization of the University—scholarly chairs paid for by British Petroleum—but are silent about the privatization that occurs through the “ordinary” course of graduate training, job searches, publication travails, the lock and key(s) of academia, etc. etc.

The conceptual (carcass) (armature?) of this site is based largely on the writings of French theorists such as Deleuze/Guattari, Baudrillard, Lyotard, et al., writers who resisted the American penchant for turning education into business and politics, ceaselessly re-spiritualized, that junction an unrelenting “driver” of current American society. In effect, I am arguing that education in the Arts and Humanities is mostly an exercise in rationalization, e.g., today, the proliferation of programs in documentary whose main relevance is to keep the shelves full, students busy, and the public a little entertained, and do nothing to transform basic social processes. Academia circulates mostly its own system when it is not busy appropriating what it can so as to reproduce itself. As a self-defrocked academic, I applaud every difficult book ever written.

This site is under construction—I’m not sure what it should try to do in addition to what was said above. The larger story or picture is clearly the fate of critical knowledge and analysis in the U.S. But the materials posted here are in recognition that the American system of producing critical knowledge is often only rationalization for the “so be it” (Nietzsche) of existing powers and forces. This might be as close as one can get to an affirmation of some actual difference.