Monday, 7 December 2009

Ruth Rikowski's 34th News Update

Picture taken in London Zoo Aquarium, November 2009

Well, Christmas is now fast approaching, and here hopefully to brighten your days a little more in the time leading up to Christmas, is my latest newsletter. This news update includes a number of items. Firstly, information about a long article that I have written about Michael Jackson, that has been inserted on our ‘Flow of Ideas’ website. Secondly, information about the latest additions to my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog; and there are a lot of additions this time! Then, there are a number of items around the Marxism and Education theme. This is followed by information about a new addition to the ‘Contributions’ section of our website, and some feedback about our website. Also, some details about Biohealthcare Publishing (Oxford). Finally, there are some highlights from the latest issue of ‘Managing Information’ and a welcome contribution from Bob Bater about the famous quote ‘Knowledge is Power’.

Leading on from Michael Jackson’s death, I have now written a long article about Michael Jackson, which has been inserted on our ‘Flow of Ideas’ website.
I go into the whole topic in a lot of depth, approaching it from a variety of different angles; including a comparison between Jackson and Mozart. Many will probably be a little taken aback (to say the least), but in my opinion, Jackson was a musical genius on par with Mozart! Francis Brown of London, who wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph (p. 21) of 27th June 2009 (2 days after he died) agrees with me anyway, saying:

“So, the Mozart or Beethoven of the modern world has been…Michael Jackson. That about sums it up, really.”

Michael Jackson was completely unique; we will never see the likes of him again. But why did society treat him so badly? Why was everyone so greedy? These along with many other issues are considered in this article.

This is the first time that I have ever written anything about a musician. I am very pleased that I have now completed it. I started the article directly after Michael Jackson died, but have only now been able to return to it and finish it. Michael Jackson brought a lot of joy and pleasure into my life, as well as inspiring me, as he did so many other people. I also identified with him personally, in just so many ways - more than with any other famous person, in fact (see section 11 of my article). I did not want to be harbouring any thoughts or feelings that I had somehow exploited him myself, by not being brave enough to complete the piece and put it on our website. So, there it now is, for the world to see! Within it, the article also touches a little on various important social topics, including social class, religion, patriarchy, greed and capitalism itself.

There are 6 new entries on my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog. The first three all include lots of digital photographs that we took recently. The first entry is about a visit that Alexander Rikowski and I paid recently to London Zoo; the second features Wanstead Flats, an area of green open-space that is very near to our home and the third is about a very special weekend in London that we had with my cousin Helen and her husband Phil.
The fourth is about a book that I read recently: ‘Hidden Talents’ by Erica James, Orion: London, 2002 The book is about a writer’s group and I thought it was quite fortuitous that I found myself reading this book at this particular point in time. The fifth is about the best-selling author Rosamunde Pilcher, focusing in particular on her book, ‘The Shell Seekers’ (New English Library, London, 1987), which I enjoyed just so much. The sixth is a short entry about the Michael Jackson piece that I have written, outlining the different sections in the article.

There is a very good review of ‘Marxism against postmodernism in educational theory’ by Gabrielle Ivinson in ‘Gender and Education’, Vol. 21, No. 3, May 2009. This is what Gabrielle Ivinson says about Glenn Rikowski’s chapter in the book, which is entitled ‘Education, Capital and the Transhuman’ (pp.111-143):

“Glenn Rikowski’s ‘Education, Capital and the Transhuman’ was for me the intellectual pinnacle of the book which pushed the notion of capital in some wonderful new directions. If you only want to read one chapter, read this one” (p.346)

Then, a little later Ivinson refers to “Rikowski’s creative work on post-human capital…” (p. 347).

Wow – praise indeed, eh! It is wonderful that Gabrielle Ivinson appreciates the intellectual depth of Glenn’s work here in this way, the fact that he is pushing forward new frontiers, breaking new ground, whilst at the same time also appreciating the creativity in his work.

Ivinson concludes this review by saying that “…it is only through the dialectical process of thesis and antithesis that theory ups it game, and this book does up the game/gain of Marxist theory for contemporary educational problems.” (p. 348)

In my last newsletter (No. 33) there were 2 items (items 10 and 11) about Mike Cole’s chapter in the book ‘Renewing Dialogues in Marxism and Education: openings’ edited by Anthony Green, Glenn Rikowski and Helen Raduntz, Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire, 2007. All this developed from, and in response to, news item 4 in newsletter No. 32.

Mike Cole contacted me leading on from this, and asked me if I would include this reply of his in my next newsletter. Thus, Mike Cole’s reply is below:

“I have known Glenn Rikowski for a number of years, and have been very much influenced by the depth of theoretical analysis in Glenn's work. However, Glenn is not just a theoretician, but also writes a lot about educational policy. Here is a link to many of the short articles he has written on education policy (amongst other topics):

In his writing, Glenn integrates his personal life with educational theory and educational policy, in some of his writings and also on the Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas:

In addition, Glenn has been writing blogs for students, for example for his third year students - tying these into his lectures (details available from Glenn on request).

Many Marxists writing in the field of Education Studies miss Glenn’s major interventions into Marxist theory in refereed journals, and while not in any way underestimating the important work above, it would be nice to see Glenn back in journals like the British Journal of Sociology of Education advancing Marxist theory like he used to – or indeed to witness the development of his ideas in a full-length book. The Palgrave Macmillan Marxism and Education series would be a perfect vehicle:

Any chance Glenn?
Mike Cole
Research Professor in Education and Equality
Director of the Centre for Education for Social Justice
Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln”

NB: Glenn Rikowski will reply to this final question, as well as issues relating to the Hatcher / Cole / Rikowski situation, in a future ‘Ruth Rikowski News Update’. Glenn is heavily involved in marking undergraduate coursework at present.

Item 3 of my newsletter No. 32 contained information about the Marxism and Education: Renewing Dialogues XII seminar that was to be held at the Institute of Education, University of London on 21st November 2009. We understand that the day went well and that there were some 40 people there.

However, none of the convenors of the seminar that receive my newsletter contacted me in regard to the publicity issue that I raised in this item 3 of newsletter No. 32. Presumably, then, none of the publicity was amended to include information about the founders of the seminars (and upon a visit to the Institute after my newsletter was circulated Glenn Rikowski saw a poster up about it all, but without this addition).

If those of us that purport to want to live in a better society cannot be civil to each other within capitalism, I cannot in all honestly see what hope there is of there being civility amongst such people in socialism/communism. This is a serious issue, I think, and can discourage political action. It is no good in my view, if we put such a lot of our energies into defeating capitalism if, in the process, we cannot be civil to each other whilst we still have to live, work and breath in capitalism. Personally, I do not think a better world can be built on the back of barbarism, incivility and/or blood-shed.

Leading on from all this, now here is another surprise. Richard Hatcher (referred to in previous newsletters – see for example, item 11, in News Update No. 33) suddenly dropped an email into our inbox, with information about this new ‘Socialism and Education’ blog. Could it be that Graham Coult’s influence is spreading out from the library and information world and into the education world as well?

Anyway, here is the information that is being circulated about this new ‘Socialism and Education’ blog.

“Education is being remade at every level - from nursery to university - and the remaking has a distinct neo-liberal flavour. This blog is a space for the analysis of such change, in Britain and internationally. But we hope it will be more than that. Movements of opposition to the particular kinds of 'reform' being implemented in education are now widespread. On the blog, we hope to give to their experiences, and to the alternative programmes, visions and values that they are seeking to develop.

Current content
Patterns of conflict in education: France, Italy, England
Participation and Democratisation in the Local School System
Michael Fullan’s role in the global privatisation of education policy
Local government against local democracy
Culture and Creative Learning
Contributions welcome. Email them to . Or add a comment.

The Editors: Martin Allen, Jon Duveen, Richard Hatcher, Ken Jones”

7. ‘THE ABSURD BECOMES LOGICAL’ BY JOHN J. CROCITTI: a new addition to the ‘CONTRIBUTIONS’ section of our ‘Flow of Ideas’ website (print friendly version) OR Outcome

John Crocitti has written an interesting critical piece about Student Learning Outcomes, which has recently been inserted on our website. This was something that we looked at in some detail as part of the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (CLTHE) that I studied for at London South Bank University in 2007/08. Universities, in general, but particularly the new universities, are becoming more and more wedded to them. This could, perhaps, be the start of an interesting debate on the topic. If anyone else would like to contribute – either to the website, of for a short piece for inclusion in this newsletter, then do get in touch.

I also particularly liked the title of John Crocitti’s piece: ‘The Absurd becomes logical’. I think there is a lot of truth in this statement in regard to what is going on today in society in general. Many crazy and absurd decisions are now suddenly deemed to be sensible and logical! I wrote an article entitled ‘The Artistic Outlook’, which is now on our website, (see (print friendly version) OR Outlook), where I consider this a little more. I ask for example, “How ‘real’ then is the real life; and…how fictitious is fiction?” John Crocitti has read the article and liked it, and he is now going to write a piece on the topic himself in response, for inclusion on our website in the New Year.


On the theme of our website, now would seem to be an opportune moment in which to insert some very complimentary comments that Sarah Amsler sent me some while ago in regard to our website. She said that our website:

“…touches on so many issues - the ideological nature of the 'work/life' tension; rejection of hierarchies of knowledge, age, gender, discipline; collaborative work; public and private; free space...and of course, situated knowledge. [there are]…real questions about the gendering and compartmentalisation of labour, education, social space, etc. Plus it seems to raise questions about and provide at least some answers for the problem of new ways of organising relationships, interests and etc. So it seems to me something definitely to pursue! Particularly given all the new knowledge/labour regimes that seek to dismantle everything it stands for.”

Quite a few other people have also said that they have found our website to be a very useful resource.

In addition, Sarah Amsler invited our middle son Victor Rikowski to speak at Kingston University on the theme of ‘Problems in Education Today’ a couple of years ago. This was also a real way in which to start to try to break down barriers, and rigid hierarchical structures, I think.

Biohealthcare Publishing (Oxford) Ltd publishes high quality books related to pharmaceutical sciences, biosciences, biotechnology and health sciences. The books are aimed at researchers and professionals worldwide. Topics included in the series include biopharmaceuticals/pharmaceuticals; proteins and other molecules; cell and tissue culture and engineering; bioinformatics; nanobiotechnology and health science, technology, policy and ethics. See

If any of you are interested in writing or know of others that might be interested in writing for this series, please contact Dr Glyn Jones –

The latest issue of Managing Information as ever, has some interesting articles in it. The articles in this particular issue are interestingly and artistically shrouded within a ‘Mushrooming’ theme, with photos of varieties of mushrooms, where as the editor Graham Coult explains:

“I’ve used the mushrooms as imagery for some of the papers in this edition of the magazine. They can be beautiful, tasty, or poisonous, and there is also the concept of mushrooming – issues in the information world, not least in the legislative framework, are proliferating at a rapid pace, and information can either nourish or poison an organisation or activity.” (p.1)

In an article by Carla Arend at European Infrastructure Software, entitled ‘Future Storage Trends: what is on the horizon?’ (pp. 14-17), for example, Arend looks at some of the storage technologies that will shape storage strategies today and in the future and it is noted that “Carla shares her expertise and helps us sort the tasty mushrooms from the poisonous storage strategy toadstools…” (p.14)

Arend notes that storage managers are “…particularly interested in expanding storage capacity as data continues to grow unabated…” (p.15). It is noted that there are many technologies out there to “…help to tame data growth and support solving the storage efficiency challenge.” (p. 16) These include data deduplication, thin provisioning and storage virtualization. Looking towards the future, Arend concludes by saying that:

“In order to architect a future-proof storage environment, good old management principles still apply. Consolidate and standardise your storage infrastructure, deploy storage virtualization software for cost effective DR and invest in a solid storage management layer to simplify and automate management. Thus, you can take advantage of new innovative technologies, which most likely will point solutions to start with, and maintain a solid management layer.” (p. 17)

All this and much more is in the issue, including sections on ‘Copyright Update’,Data Protection Update’, the ‘British Library’ and ‘Library of Congress’.

It item 12 of News Update No. 33 in referring to Glenn Rikowski’s labour-power theory, I also make reference to the famous quote ‘Knowledge is power’. Bob Bater contacted me in regard to this and made a very important point and observation. I asked him if he would like to write something briefly about this for my next newsletter – and his comments are below. I think they are very insightful, and it is something that we should all be mindful of!

“How often have you heard someone say ‘Knowledge is power?’ It’s an aphorism that’s often quoted in defence of personal power, rather than collective purpose. Some are aware that it originated with English scientist and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon in the 18th century. But it’s a crafty distortion of what Bacon actually said.

Bacon did say ‘Knowledge is power’, but he immediately qualified it by adding:

“But mere knowledge is not power; it is only possibility. Action is power; and its highest manifestation is when it is directed by knowledge.” {Francis Bacon. Meditationes Sacræ. De Hæresibus. (1597)}

So, knowledge empowers purposeful action according to Bacon. That's a remarkable insight 412 years ago, considering that Knowledge Management (KM) practitioners are only recently coming to realise that it's the sharing of knowledge in support of action towards collective goals - and all the intersubjective interpolations of intent and meaning which that implies - that is the purpose of working together. Bacon was a visionary, we should misquote him no longer.”

Many thanks for this Bob. And yes, as he says, Francis Bacon was remarkably insightful. This also, all fits in very much with Glenn Rikowski’s work on labour-power. Once we have fully grasped the fact that labour-power (that other ‘great class of commodity’) is capital’s weakest link, we can then seek to put our knowledge into ‘purposeful action’.

Best wishes

N.B. Many thanks to Richard Hatcher, Glyn Jones (who also runs Chandos Publishing) and Bob Bater for providing information for items 7, 10 and 12 respectively.

7th December 2009