As was so accurately predicted on this very same blog, the “higher education bubble” (the supposed knowledge economy that was so closely linked to the flight of capital into financial speculation) has burst. This is not good news. Universities face an unprecedented crisis and students who have studied so conscientiously are unable to find places. This is an absolute scandal.
Of course, Western universities will continue to seek oversees students to make up shortfalls in funding but this also relies on the speculative bubble that has or is coming to an end, We are not catastrophists here and we recognise that governments have learnt some lessons from 1929 and the ensuing depression but such government actions cannot escape the logic of capitalism. There is a contradiction at the heart of the system. A contradiction between planning for profit and planning for need. It is likely we will face ten years or more of excessively slow growth, living on the edge of the precipice (as has been the case in Japan) and continued efforts to make workers work longer hours and live less secure lives, threatening the very existence of the planet itself.
Ultimately, however, we cannot predict the future. We can identify trends, observe the way the anarchy of the market but the despotism of the factory everyday invades more aspects of our lives, but we cannot foresee all that the future holds. No, the only true prophets, to paraphrase Irish Socialist James Connelly, are those that make the future for themselves. To do so we need to have clarity, courage and consistency. We cannot fall for quick easy answers like Tony Blair and the Third Way again, we cannot accept unexamined sloppy notions like “the knowledge economy” or “English as an International Language.” There is a window of opportunity in the midst of this crisis for neo-liberalism, let’s not waste it.