Total Pageviews

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Austerity Risk and the Financialization of the Economy – Student Arrests in Montreal

Austerity risk in Montreal may spread as hard times begin

Montreal police arrested 200 people on Friday, 22 March 2013 as part of a student protest designed to “celebrate” the anniversary of a major student protest last year. 

A small gathering of Anarcho-Primivitissts at an April 2012 protst.
 Most of the violence came from small groups such as this, not the
 main student groups. All photos in this article by the author.
The popular perception of the current events in Montreal is that students are protesting against an increase in tuition fees.  While fee hikes are one issue, a deeper series of problems is playing out in the background. Included in this are concerns about upcoming austerity measures and the nature of education itself.  Unnoticed by many Canadians, this protest movement was in fact driven by a combination of austerity measures and the financialization of the economy.   

The former Quebec Education Minister (Liberal) Line Beauchamp had stated that the fee increases were part of an overall reform program. This program was inspired by the European “Bolongne Process” for higher education.  Student leaders and many professors believe that the new “quality assurance” measures were in fact an underhanded method of reducing university education from (using Aristotle’s terms) a “liberal education” which produces problem solvers who can integrate knowledge over boundaries to a “servile education.” In this servile form of education, the student is reduced to performing a certain series of tasks which are determined by industry, banks or government.   Three major student groups as well as some professors unions in Quebec had been protesting this policy last year.  

Or as George Carlin put it:  They want people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly crappier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.

U de Montreal bookshop as seen in April of 2012. Note the
references to indigenous movements, OCCUPY and Los Indignados
Notice the reference to banks in the bottom right
hand corner.
Student literature has identified bankers (among others) as being targets for the ongoing protests.  Student leaders fear they are being asked to pay more for an education which is increasingly tailored to serve the interests of “business people, bankers and other private managers” rather than the broader needs of society or the students themselves. 

It might be a good idea for politicians and the press to pay closer attention to what is happening in Quebec.  A student movement has (arguably) been able to force a government from power in an election while continuing to challenge the views of the new government. 

This may be economics for the rest of us in the future.  Heads up!

No comments:

Post a Comment