Paul Standish on Practice, Philosophy and Technology

This interview with Paul Standish, Professor Philosophy of Education at the IOE, might be of interest to our upcoming reading group on Marcuse, especially the questions raised from 7:04 minutes onward, as to whether attending to philosophical questions about value – which Standish considers integral to teaching – might be considered subversive under the prevailing regime: a regime where a technological restructuring of our thinking, which is especially dominant in management, permits a technical evasion of such questions.

Reading Group on Marcuse

A reminder that our next HEAT reading group will be meeting next week on Wednesday 25th February, from 1-3pm in C287 in the Chiltern Building on the Marylebone campus.

The text to read for next week is Herbert Marcuse’s short (20-odd page) essay on ‘Some Social Implications of Modern Technology‘ (pdf), first published in 1941. Marcuse’s essay explores the pervasiveness of a technological rationality within modern societies, whose effect is to transform individual performance in accordance with external and predetermined measurements of efficiency, one that subordinates life to the “matter-of-factness” of world in which the machine is the factor and the individual the mere factum. These ideas are associated with the ‘critical theory’ of the Frankfurt School (including Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno) and anticipate many of the arguments contained in Marcuse’s famous One-Dimensional Man from 1964.

Paresh Kathrani (Westminster Law School) will be introducing the essay in the context of higher education and theory. In this context, it is perhaps interesting to note that Marcuse and Frankfurt School critical theory were influential on the German Student Movement of 1968, although this caused a rift between Marcuse and the other members: Marcuse was sympathetic with the protesting students when they occupied Adorno’s lecture and turned against Adorno and Horkheimer.

Douglas Kellner’s article on ‘Marcuse’s Challenge to Education,’ which contains a short introduction to the philosopher, is available here.

Some correspondence between Marcuse and Adorno on the German Student Movement is available here (pdf).

There has also been a renewed interested in Marcuse’s critical theory of education recently, and the International Herbert Marcuse Society’s 2015 conference will be on the topic of ‘Liberation, Pedagogy and the University’ (call for papers here).

Intervention – “Reading Groups as Radical Research Practice”

An interesting collection of reflections on academic reading groups has been published that may be of interest to the members of the HEAT reading group. ‘There is,’ the article points out, ‘relatively little critical reflection on the political significance of reading groups, their practical utility, and the challenges involved.’ Yet they can provide the opportunity to ‘build “creative resistance” in our professional practices’ and ‘(re)engage with our personal and disciplinary insecurities”. For this reason, they might also be understood as providing alternative models of learning, connecting to a ‘wider understanding of pedagogy for empowerment’. Anyone interested in responding to this discussion or reflecting on what works or what could be improved about our own reading group is warmly encouraged to comment at the bottom of this post.

Kelvin Mason, University of Liverpool

Sam Halvorsen, University College London

Kerry Burton, University of the West of England


Reading groups represent a common practice both inside and outside the university, and in many cases provide an important space that breaches the divide. Nevertheless, there is relatively little critical reflection on the political significance of reading groups, their practical utility, and the challenges involved. This intervention emerged through an encounter between three UK-based academic-activists, sharing our experiences of “doing reading groups” in and around the university.

Over the last few years, there has been something of a participatory turn in academic geography, with discussions about the potentials of “participatory action research” (Kindon et al. 2007), “militant research” (Shukaitis and Graeber 2007), and “engaging” (Wills 2014), amongst other approaches and themes, including co-production. Many of these discussions have explored the extent to which the university facilitates participatory encounters…

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Radical Philosophy Panel on Pedagogization

Three talks on the theme of “pedagogization” by David Blacker, Matthew Charles and Nora Sternfeld, from the Radical Philosophy 2015 conference in Berlin.

In the early 1990s Gerald Graff predicted a “redirection of theoretical attention to issues of education and pedagogy,” a movement beyond the “cultural turn.” To what extent does the emergence of what has been characterized as an “educational turn” in art and art theory belatedly relate to this? Are we witnessing a “pedagogical turn” today? If so, does this indicate a capitulation to the process or rather the site of a potential resistance?