Autonomous Research

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Autonomous Research = producing knowledge autonomously, independently from capitalist demands and control

Background

Source: Multitudes mailing list

"As everybody knows, the University is in crisis. What we are facing is the formation of an"Entrepreneurial University". Various forms of control are rupturing the former institutional independence of the University in a process in which science is becoming an immediate servant of the capital. There is less and less space for scientific activity - in the serious sense of the word - in the University nowadays. As a matter of fact it seems that scientific activity actually escapes the University in which it meets only more and more controlling regulations.

Eventually the challenges of autonomous research are connected to the position of the production of knowledge in the contemporary capitalist model of production. The production of knowledge is a common demand of our times. From enterprises to activist networks, every organization meets a challenge to handle information and to produce it as its key activity. In the new economy knowledge is a new "natural resource" that is in the center of capitalist production of value. Thus a demand to produce knowledge autonomously, independently from capitalist demands and controlraises up as a core issue in contemporary situation. It should also be acknowledged that thesuccess of such movements as the feminist movement and the environmental movement cannot be explained without referring to their capacity to produce counter-knowledge (from propaganda to theory and empirical studies) in an independent and challenging way.

As the production of knowledge has become the center of all production it has to be seen also as the center of the production of conflicts. Thus the challenge of autonomous research is to become an immediate participant in the social conflicts. This is how we should turn upside down the so-called "Third task of the University", its servantile relationship to the demands of the enterprises. Research has to be interventionist in its attitude. We must update the proletarian orworkerist research traditions in the context of contemporary information society. Research must become "open", which means that modern institutional roles and hierarchic relations between the researched and the researchers must be subverted. Research becomes a network process that is always open to new assemblages.

In this context the production of knowledge has to be seen eventually as an independent space of conflict: a space in which the conflict concerns first of all the production of knowledge in itself, not only knowledge as knowledge about something, be it social or any other issue. The possibility of autonomous knowledge is immediately in the center of social conflicts. This raises up new demands for new kinds of research projects.


More Information

In Finland there exist already some networks and initiatives connected to the ideas of autonomous research: web magazine Megafoni (http://megafoni.kulma.net), student network Autonomiset opiskelijat ("Autonomous students", http://autop.tk), the new "Polemos" book series of the Researcher's Alliance, and Tutkimusasema General Intellect ("Research Center General Intellect", http://megafoni.kulma.net/index.php?mcat=15).