Monday, 5 October 2009

Ruth Rikowski's 32nd News Update

Victorian Gardens, Norwich

So, now we are in Autumn! How quickly the time flies; can be quite scary! Some say, or at least try to persuade us, that Christmas is only just round the corner. Heavens! Anyway, here is another newsletter from me. I was prompted to send it now because of the article that Anne Welsh and I have written about the Feminist Library in London, which has just been published in ‘Managing Information’. The Feminist Library houses an important collection (material from the Feminist Movement in the 1970s) and it is something that we should very much be cherishing and preserving, in our view.

Anne Welsh (who lectures on Cataloguing at University of College London) and I have been taking a lively interest in the Feminist Library in London, which is currently facing challenging times. Anne is also engaged in a cataloguing project there, helping to ensure that the whole collection is kept together as a whole in a virtual way, as well as providing some cataloguing instruction to her students in the process.

We were very fortunate in being able to hear Gail Chester and Ruth Harris talking about their experiences of working in the library. Based on this and our own reading, thoughts and understanding, we wrote an article about the Feminist Library, which has just been published in ‘Managing Information’.

We hope that, in some small way, our article will help to draw people’s attention to the importance of the library and the wonderful and important resources that it houses there. If anyone would like to make contact with either of us, to get more involved, and to help to preserve and promote the collection, do feel free to do so. Anne’s email address is And/or if you would like to be a volunteer for the Feminist Library, email

Leading on from item 1 above, I would like to say a little something extra about the award-winning magazine, Managing Information (MI) itself.

As it says: “Managing Information is a leading and very well respected (i.e. well read) magazine for information managers, knowledge managers, librarians, web masters and anyone else who has to manage information effectively.”

MI is an Aslib (The Association for Information Management) subscription-based publication (available in both hard copy and electronic copy), with ten issues a year. It includes regulars and columnists with people such as Kevin Carey, the founder Director of humanITy, a UK based charity that focuses on eInclusion. There are also News and Briefing Regulars, including ‘Freedom of Information Update’, ‘Data Protection Update’ and ‘Product News’. In addition, there are feature articles on a wide variety of subjects, such as ‘Access to Knowledge’, ‘The College of Law’ and ‘Females and Social Networking’. And there is also, of course, information about Aslib itself. This, and much more, is in the magazine. In general, 'Managing Information' addresses many very important topics within the information profession, and is very much at the cutting edge.

The magazine is always very tastefully laid out and includes many wonderful coloured photographs, particularly scenic views (skies, flowers, the sea etc), many of which are taken by the editor, Graham Coult, himself. The use of such artistic flair and imagination can help to overcome some of the negative stereotypes of the library and information profession, I think, which we are all well-aware of (e.g. the stereotype of the female librarian with the bun and tweed skirt!) Hopefully, in time, the leading role that Graham Coult has placed in this regard will be even more fully appreciated. Significant improvements have been made over more recent years, for example, I think, in the monthly magazine for the professional body for librarians and information professionals, currently entitled ‘CILIP Update’ and was previously called the ‘LA Record’ (CILIP standing for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and LA standing for the ‘Library Association’ of course).

Furthermore, MI set up its own website (
and newsletter, around the beginning of the new millennium and it was very much a pioneer in this field. Both Paul Pedley and myself were so inspired by it all that we started up our own newsletters. Paul Pedley’s is a Law Newsletter entitled ‘Keeping within the Law’; which is now subscription-based and is published through Facet Publishing – see
Paul Pedley, who is Head of Research at the Economist Intelligence Unit, was, at one time, a regular columnist in 'Managing Information', and it was very much Managing Information that inspired him to go down the newsletter route, whilst he was a fee-earning columnist for MI. At that time and in the early days, he provided the newsletter for free, and indeed, I was one of its recipients. We were also both inspired to set up our own blogs, through MI.

In my opinion, 'Managing Information' is a very important and valuable publication and resource within the library and information profession. Long may it continue! Further details about subscribing to the magazine can be found at:

Another MERD (Marxism and Education: renewing Dialogues) Day Seminar is to be held on Saturday, 21st November 2009, from 10.30am to 4.30pm at the Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1, Committee Room One.

This is MERD XII and is on the theme ‘From Critique to Contestation’.

Speakers will include: Vincent Carpentier, Richard Hatcher, Ken Jones and Gurnam Singh

The seminar is free but places are limited. To reserve a place and receive a numbered ticket, please contact Joyce Canaan at:

A waiting list will come into operation when all the places have been allocated.

The convenors of the seminar are Joyce Canaan, Tony Green, Richard Hatcher and Alpesh Maisuria

The Marxism and Education: Renewing Dialogues (MERD) seminars were founded by Glenn Rikowski and Tony Green and were run by them both at the Institute of Education, University of London, from 2002-2007: MERDs I – X.
For more information about these events, see our website -

Whilst it is great that this initial impetus is now being very much built on by Cannan, Green, Hatcher and Maisuria, I think it is unfortunate (to say the least) that the publicity for MERD XII does not include this basic information about the founders, and where to obtain information about the first ten MERD seminars. Hopefully, this anomaly will be rectified in future publicity.

Leading on from information about MERD XII, in item 3 above, now would seem a timely moment for me to briefly reflect on the first book in the Palgrave Series, on ‘Marxism and Education’, as this series came into existence purely through the MERD seminars. It was decided that the talks that the speakers gave should be documented given their importance and a book series seemed to be the obvious solution. The series now includes both edited collections (largely from and building on the seminars) as well as monographs.

The first book in the series (bibliographical details in the heading of this item) consisted of papers from the first two MERD seminars (I and II). The contributors in the book were Paula Allman, Elizabeth Atkinson, Pat Brady, Mike Cole, Helen Colley, Rachel Gorman, Anthony Green, David Harvie, Dave Hill, Gregory Martin, Jane Mulderrig, Mark Olsen, Michael Peters, Helen Raduntz, Glenn Rikowski, Geraldine Thorpe and Paul Warmington. Unfortunately, for various complex reasons, Glenn Rikowski himself was not able to write a chapter on his own.

In the Introduction Anthony Green and Glenn Rikowski say that the book is:

“…an open form of Marxism attempting to address a multiplicity of contexts around the continuing struggles for socialism in a world in which the value form of labor and commodification are central to neoliberal globalization of capital in all its educational-dimensions.” (p. 3)

A number of different and important topics are addressed throughout the book, including chapters on Marxist-Feminism, academic labor and neoliberalism and education.

For, me, I was particularly delighted to read the chapters by Gregory Martin and David Harvie, who seemed to have a very clear understanding and appreciation of Glenn Rikowski’s work and the important and ground-breaking contribution that he has made to Marxism and Education, particularly in his work on labour-power theory. David Harvie, for example, refers to ‘subject benchmark statements’ which catalogues generic learning outcomes, and which all university degrees must now produce, he says. He points to Glenn’s work in this field, where the various skills required to meet the learning outcomes are “desirable labor power attributes” (p. 233) (cited in ‘That other great class of commodities: labour-power as spark for Marxist Educational Theory’, 2002/03. Available at Education-line

Whilst Gregory Martin draws our attention to the fact that:

“Expanding upon Marx, Rikowski notes that as a distinctly human force, labor power – which he defines as our ‘capacities’ to labor in the form of epistemological paradigms, language codes, technical skills, attitudes, dispositions and behaviours – has reality only within the human subject.” (p.253) He also rightly refers to the fact that Glenn Rikowski identifies labor power as being ‘capital’s weakest link’. Also, to the fact that Glenn says there is a need for more empirical research into ‘ “how, why and in what ways” individuals can resist their interpellation as particular subjects within the “total productive processes” they experience, interpret, and negotiate in their everyday lives.” (p.262) (Rikowski, 2002, p. 27 – in a paper entitled ‘Methods for researching the social production of labour power in capitalism’).

Meanwhile, Helen Colley notes in her chapter ‘Myths of mentoring: developing a Marxist-Feminist critique’, that Glenn refers to a social drive to recast the ‘human’ as human capital.

On the other hand, I was not so uplifted by Mike Cole’s chapter – quite the reverse, in fact! Mike Cole, Dave Hill, Peter McLaren and Glenn Rikowski have edited material together, yet in his chapter Mike Cole still hedges his bets where the Richard Hatcher and Glenn Rikowski ‘debate’ are concerned. Over the last few years, Richard Hatcher has systematically attempted to attack and to undermine Glenn’s work. Glenn responded to this, and Mike then interprets this as simply being “two differing perspectives”. Mike Cole concludes his chapter by saying that in his chapter he examined “…two different perspectives from within the Marxist tradition on New Labour’s Five-Year Strategy. Only time will tell which of these differing interpretations is more accurate” (p. 113).

As I am sure the reader can now appreciate, the whole topic of ‘Marxism and Education: Renewing Dialogues’ is not an easy one for us these days! Still, we carry on, whilst also continuing to come to terms with our bereavement earlier in the year.

Professor Deian Hopkin,
who recently retired from being the Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, 2009, on 13th June 2009. The award was for services to Higher Education and Skills, and reflects, I feel sure, the energy and enthusiasm which he put into endeavouring to meet and comply with the Labour government’s agenda for higher education whilst he was the Vice-Chancellor, with its emphasis on skills and employability.

There are 2 new entries on my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog: one about our pond and one about UEA. There are digital photographs on both of the entries.

To begin with, the idea was to have a pond for wild life in our garden, but then we realised that this was not very practical. So, now we have a pump and a fountain in the pond, so that the water circulates more. We have also put a net over the pond, to stop leaves from falling into it. We have also bought more fish.

The second blog entry is about our visit to Norwich. We took our youngest son, Gregory with all his stuff up to the University in East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, to his room on campus. We had a lovely couple of days there and took lots of photos of the UEA campus, Norwich itself and the Victorian Gardens in Norwich (which we stayed nearby to).

I have been to a couple of enjoyable cultural events recently. One was about the life of Tom Paine, which was entitled ‘A New World’. The play, by Trevor Griffiths was performed at the Globe Theatre, London and it was a very powerful play. Tom Paine was just so far ahead of his time of course, with works such as ‘The Rights of Man’ and the ‘Age of Reason’. Amazing to think that at the time that he died over 1,500,000 copies of ‘The Rights of Man’ had been sold in Europe. What was also quite something was that we met Professor Peter Linebaugh there. Peter used to be a student of E.P. Thompson and has edited material with him. He told us that he has just written a ‘New Introduction to the Works of Thomas Paine’ – see He had come over from the USA specifically to see the play!

The other was an event that was organised by the Hackney Society in East London, held at Pages Bookshop, Hackney, about the life of Hackney resident Eddie Noble (1917-2007). Patrick Vernon has made a documentary film about Eddie Noble’s life, which he entitled ‘A Charmed Live: the legacy of the Windrush Generation’. He spoke to us about it all and the value to be gained from documenting the lives of those people that make a valuable contribution to their local communities. Eddie Noble was self-taught; and it became clear that he had been a very interesting and important member of the local community. Compiling documentaries like this seems like a very good idea to me, and as Patrick said, it is so much easier today, with all the technology that we now have at our disposal.

N.B. Many thanks to Patrick Ainley for providing information for item 3 and to Monica Blake for inviting us to the Eddie Noble event, outlined in item 7.

Best wishes


5th October 2009