Post-Secondary Education & James O'Connor (was Re: Pro-ITN Libel Suit Post)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Mar 18 12:09:25 PST 2000

Ken Hanly wrote:

> The article on education pointed out that Thatcher started the trend
>greater inclusiveness in UK universities and also introduced fees. By the time
>Blair came in universities were expected to include more and more students but
>were receiving half the former amount of money per student. The author is,
>Nathan, a reformist. Believing that it is not possible to get much more money
>out of the government, the only way the mass of new students are going to
>get a
>decent education is through more money coming from them. The author advocates
>scholarships, grants, and loans with payback tied to earnings after
>Hardly the most reactionary plan. I expect that the author would regard those
>who cry out for free tuition as out in left field, regarding them as
>Nathan does
>third parties. Given that the universities will depend upon student fees
>and not
>just government money, the author believes that this will make
>universities more
>responsive to student wishes. He thinks also that students will demand
>Now he may be wrong about all this but it is hardly as reactionary or
>as unreasonable as you make it sound. The result of the author's reforms would
>still be a far more accessible university system than that in the USA.

I haven't read the LM article Ken describes, but going by Ken's description, while I disagree with the LM conclusion & policy suggestion, I think that LM correctly called attention to one of the problems of higher education. The post-60s reaction to post-secondary education has created the coincidence of greater inclusiveness & more onerous tuition & fees. And the rhetoric of restructuring higher education has been couched in the language of quality control. James O'Connor puts it this way in _The Fiscal Crisis of the State_ (1973):

***** Every economic and social class and group wants government to spend more and more money on more and more things. But no one wants to pay new taxes or higher rates on old taxes. Indeed, nearly everyone wants lower taxes, and many groups have agitated successfully for tax relief. Society's demands on local and state budgets seemingly are unlimited, but people's willingness and capacity to pay for these demands appear to be narrowly limited. And at the federal level expenditure has increased significantly faster than the growth of total production. In the words of the head of the Federal Reserve System,

"We stand at a crossroads in our fiscal arrangements. Many of our citizens are alarmed by the increasing share of their incomes that is taken away by Federal, State, and local taxes....The propensity to spend more than we are prepared to finance through taxes is becoming deep-seated and ominous. An early end to Federal deficits is not now in sight. Numerous Federal programs have a huge growth of expenditures built into them, and there are proposals presently before the Congress that would raise expenditures by vast amounts in coming years."

We have termed this tendency for government expenditures to outrace revenues the "fiscal crisis of the state." There is no iron law that expenditures must always rise more rapidly than new revenues, but it is a fact that growing needs which only the state can meet create ever greater claims on the state budget. Several factors, singly or in combination, may offset the crisis. People who need government-provided services may be ignored and their needs neglected, as happened in New York's welfare cutback during the 1970-71 recession....Government employee income may fall behind private sector income or below the cost of living, but this does not mean that these workers get automatic pay increases. In fact, the government may even freeze wages and salaries in an attempt to ameliorate the fiscal crisis. Furthermore, people can be forced to pay higher taxes. Should they be unwilling to pay taxes directly because large numbers oppose particular spending programs, the government can force them to pay taxes indirectly by financing increased expenditures via inflation or credit expansion -- as the Johnson Administration did during the peak years of American aggression in Southeast Asia.

A combination of some of these coutertendencies resulted in budgetary surpluses in many state and local governments in 1972....

The volume and composition of government expenditures and the distribution of the tax burden are not determined by the laws of the market but rather reflect and are structurally determined by social and economic conflicts between classes and groups.... (pp. 1-2) *****

In the case of the United States, the fiscal crisis of post-secondary education has been resolved by cutting back teacher salaries through an increase in part-time labor; creating larger classes; making students take on loans whose weight becomes heavier each year; instituting many fees; enticing more foreign students who must pay non-resident tuition and fees; shunting working-class students onto community colleges; attacking affirmative action; excluding women on welfare from post-secondary education through the welfare "reform"; and so on.

Now, the U.S. government is in the black, but the rhetoric of the fiscal crisis remains in educratese, still expedient for further restructuring of post-secondary education in the name of quality control & responsiveness for "customer" (= student & parent) needs. For instance, at the Ohio State University, the budget is being restructured to privilege the departments, programs, & faculty members who bring in more grant money & tie-ins with corporations. (You know what this means for the humanities!) Now, we are to deliver "customers'" money's worth via increased productivity & higher-quality services, which means, in reality: (a) faculty are asked to re-dedicate themselves to teaching (as if they had not!), for it is their alleged "neglect" of teaching in favor of "research" that has created the problem; and (b) all teachers -- even the lowliest part-time teachers (who, btw, actually teach more than full-time teachers) -- are subject to more administrative "reviews" of our "performance," in the name of weeding out deadwood & making our service more "professional" (in what sense part-time humanities teachers -- who are paid, at OSU, a monthly post-tax wage of about $740 per course and whose service is called upon sometimes a couple of days before the quarter begins -- can be said to be "professional" is left unexplained; once, I was asked to teach a course _after_ the quarter began -- I had to turn it down).

Meanwhile, the top administrators' salary increases have outpaced increases in teacher salaries. (See, for instance, Joel Moroney, "Administrator Raises Irk Faculty Group," _The Lantern_ 21 February 2000 at The OSU chapter of the AAUP began a faculty review of the administration (see, "Faculty to Partake in Review," _The Lantern_, 21 February 2000 at, but part-timers are not included in this review process (alas, I found out about this exclusion too late to take part in the review this year!). Anyway, the review is a (baby) step in the right direction, in my opinion. (BTW, the top administrators' salary increases are often justified in the name of the "need" to schmooze with corporate donors to bring in more private donations -- here, the rhetoric of the fiscal crisis of the state has actually contributed to more overhead.)

Now, what is to be done? My cyber-pal Dennis Redmond, etc. would correctly argue for unionization (I'd like a union indeed), but unions alone can't solve the fundamental problem: one of the secondary contradictions -- unlimited demands on the state, limited capacity & willingness to pay taxes, in the context of the forced reproduction of the social conditions that would maintain profitability of capital -- that James O'Connor has discussed in his work.


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