‘Let’s go outside,’ says Ren.
‘Foucault and Gramsci are kind of similar.’
‘In what way?’
‘But we just got here,’ says Lily.
‘Well, they both, like, try to explain power relations in terms of the, uh, complex mechanisms of society. And, like Gramsci, Foucault views power as a relation of force. A relation of force, right, that can be found only in terms of action.’
‘I think it would be nicer outside,’ says Ren. ‘Better conversation.’
‘But Gramsci sees power relations through the lens of binary oppositions.’
‘What sort of oppositions?’
‘You don’t have to listen to conversations on other tables,’ says Lily.
‘Leaders and the led, the rulers and the ruled, and er… well, that sort of thing. But for Foucault though, power is diffused.’
‘It’s hard not to hear it.’
‘But Gramsci and Foucault, they both make use of Machiavelli’s idea of relations of force. Foucault’s analyses are fundamentally, er…’
‘Fuckdamentally?’ says Ren.
‘Fundamentally based on the notion of power, right? It’s everywhere. Always being produced, all the time, every second.’
Ren pours some salt into his hand. ‘Let’s produce some power,’ he says.
‘But Gramsci’s different. For him power inheres in ideology.’
Ren throws salt in the general direction of Malcom’s table.
‘What the fuck was that?’ says Malcom, rubbing his hair.
‘Just some salt,’ says Ren.
‘Ren, what are you doing?’ says Lily. ‘Don’t be a drunken arse again.’
‘Just wanted to see if you shrivel up and die if you get salt on you,’ says Ren, who decided a while ago that he if he has to behave like Lily expects then she’ll just think him a wimp. And she’s still going out with Jason anyway.
‘Piss off,’ says Malcom. He turns back to his friends. ‘Where were we?’
‘I was going to say that for Gramsci a social group can modify the aggregation of relations to create a hegemonic order,’ says someone who looks like Malcom on beard-and-bullshit steroids.
Lily gives Ren a look.
‘Just a bit of horseplay,’ he says.
Lily thinks of telling Ren to slow down with the drinking, but then she thinks, why should I be the one to spoil the fun? If Ren misbehaves then he can suffer the consequences himself.
‘The sun’s coming out,’ says Douglas. ‘I’m making an executive decision to move outside.’
‘You create power merely by being aware of the complex social network-hegemonic forces within which an individual is situated.’
‘Douglas is creating power,’ says Ren, ‘by his acute awareness of complex social network-hegemonic forces.’
‘And by his masterful decision-making,’ says Lily.
‘Get your coat, Douglas, you’ve scored,’ says Ren. ‘The complex mechanisms of society are yours tonight.’
‘But this issue can’t be resolved without a discussion of Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis,’ says Malcom.
‘Quick,’ hisses Ren. ‘Move it.’
When they have found themselves a nice spot on the grass outside the bar, Miles says, ‘Jesus, Malcom talks that sort of shit all the time. He never stops. That’s why I couldn’t do another year of TITE.’
‘Are the Humanities and Social sciences already lost, then?’ asks Douglas.
‘Sociology is beyond repair,’ says Ren. ‘Then again, Sociology was always bad.’
‘Sociology was like the Trojan Horse for this rubbish, wasn’t it?’ says Douglas.
‘Some say English was the original Trojan Horse,’ says Ren. ‘Something so subjective was always bound to get taken over by those with agendas. And I don’t just mean political agendas, I also mean those who wanted to increase the perceived prestige of the people who teach English. If English Lit is just a glorified bookclub, then as the leader of a bookclub group you don’t have much status. But if you link the study of English Lit to the health of civilisation, you make yourself more important. And there’s some justification for that sort of claim. Literature is important. But then the claims get bigger and bigger, and then you find that if you introduce heavy theory from the Continental philosophers that you get even more prestige. You don’t even have to bother talking about novelists and their silly characters any more. Or poets and their boring imagery and rhymes and metre. You can talk about your pet political ideas, dressed up in fancy language, and suddenly you’re like a modern priest. This is also what the Sociologists, and a lot of the Political Scientists, found.’
‘And the Science and Technology Studies people,’ says Douglas.
‘And Film Studies,’ says Miles.
‘And Cultural Studies,’ says Lily.
‘And American and Canadian Studies, and all the languages, and any sort of field that looks at some geographical or cultural area,’ says Ren. ‘And Art History, of course, and even a lot of Theology these days.’
‘And Geography,’ says Douglas.
‘Geography? Really?’ says Miles.
‘Oh yes,’ says Douglas.
‘And everything you say is unfalsifiable,’ says Ren, ‘but you’re preaching to people who haven’t foggiest notion of what that means. And neither do you.’
‘Malcom and his gruesome Politics mates inside the bar definitely seem to have no notion of that,’ says Douglas. ‘I asked Malcom at a TITE class break once what post-structuralism means, because he’d been going on about it, and to explain it he just threw around a lot of other half-baked terms.’
‘And if you asked him to explain those, it would be more of the same,’ says Miles. ‘You can’t ever pin them down to anything concrete.’
‘Speaking of the titty, have you all passed your probation now?’ asks Ren.
‘I have,’ says Douglas.
‘Me too,’ says Lily.
‘And me,’ says Miles.
‘You too, Miles?’ says Ren. ‘How did you pass it? You only did one year of TITE.’
‘I got a letter the other day saying I had passed probation, but that the University expects me to finish the second year of the course at a later stage.’
‘Hah! As if you’re ever going to do that!’ says Ren.
‘Might be a good idea to do it,’ says Lily. ‘If Miles wants to get a job at another University they might want you to have a degree like TITE.’
‘I think I’ll take my chances,’ says Miles. ‘I’m not ever going back into that class again.’
‘So did you not pass probation, Ren?’ asks Lily. ‘You don’t look like you’re going anywhere, though.’
‘His bags are packed and in his office. He has to be off-campus by midnight tonight or security will throw him out,’ says Miles.
‘My letter said that I have passed probation, subject to me passing the first year of the TITE. Not the whole thing, any more, at least. But until I do a year of it I’m still on probation.
‘So how is the University treating you now over Lucius?’ says Lily.
‘They still haven’t decided whether I’m a hero or a villain. They’re not kicking me out for not doing TITE. So I won that battle. Sort of. But they’re not letting me off TITE either. I stay in probation limbo until I’ve done a year of it.’
‘So are you going to do it?’ says Lily.
‘But you don’t want to stay on probation forever. You’re more vulnerable to being sacked if you’re still on probation. Even quasi-probation. You want to get made permanent.’
‘I just need to get promoted. Then my probation will be removed.’
‘Are you sure about that? Maybe they’ll stop you being promoted until you’ve passed probation.’
‘That’s not what I’ve been told. There’s nothing in the contract about that. I’ve been told that you can become Senior Lecturer even if you’re still on probation, and if you’re promoted then probation is considered to have been achieved.’
‘Are you likely to get promoted soon?’ says Douglas.
‘A year or two. I’m publishing loads.’
‘Still in philosophy of science?’
‘Metaphysics and philosophy of science, as I have often told you.’
‘Sorry, my mind just blocks the term “metaphysics” for some reason.’
‘I’ve published more in three years than most philosophers publish in a lifetime. Not doing TITE has helped with that, it’s given me more time. Although it’s mostly to do with innate genius.’
‘How have you managed to publish anything?’ says Douglas. ‘You’re always drunk.’
‘I’m always drunk when I see you, because those are get-togethers for the express purpose of drinking. I’m not always drunk when I’m working in my office.’
‘He’s only drunk sometimes in his office,’ says Miles.
‘Are you one of those academics who pretend they do no work, who get publications without even trying, but secretly you’re beavering away day and night to get things out?’ says Douglas.
‘I don’t pretend I do no work,’ says Ren. ‘You’re under an illusion about that because of the social circumstances you mostly see me in.’
‘Yeah,’ says Miles, ‘Ren balances things nicely. One hour of working. Then one hour of drinking. Then one hour of working. Then another hour of drinking. And so on.’
‘I think there are lots of the opposite type of academic,’ says Lily.
‘You mean one hour of drinking, and then one hour of working?’ says Miles. ‘That’s more my style.’
‘I mean the academic who makes out that they work a lot, but really they do very little.’
‘I think Bill Porterfield in my department is like that,’ says Ren. ‘Every time I see him he says he’s so busy, got so much on, so much admin, so many papers he’s working on, but he never seems to do anything. And he has a light admin load.’
‘How come you’re publishing so much, Ren, when you claim that Philosophy is not even what you want to do in life?’ asks Douglas. ‘What’s motivating you to put so much after-hours work in?’
‘I figured that if I was going to be stuck in Philosophy for a while then I might as well put in a few years hard work and get myself onto the next salary band. Then I can coast in comfort while I work out how to get myself out.’
‘Sounds to me like a recipe for getting yourself further entrapped,’ says Lily.
‘He’s too lazy to work out what he really should be doing,’ says Miles.
‘So you’re saying I’m working hard because I’m lazy?’ says Ren.
‘Yes,’ says Miles. ‘It’s also avoidance.’
‘Avoidance of what?’
‘Avoidance of a lot of things,’ says Miles. ‘Do you want me to list them?’