Friday, 26 March 2010

Fred and Ed's 'Academocracy' Talk

Yesterday (Thurs 25th) Fred and Ed Aspbury gave their long awaited presentation of their blueprint for an organised and rational political system.

Fred and Ed did a really good job of presenting their ideas and fielding questions. Well done to both of them!

At the beginning of their talk Fred and Ed castigated neo-liberal capitalism for its enfranchisement of the superficial desires of the new middle classes and for the way that it reduces politics to an empty and meaningless spectacle. Contemporary capitalism, in their view, is predicated on the the theft of the future by fundamentally selfish and self-destructive people.

But they think that ths situation is curable - but only if people stop being armchair revolutionaries and realise there is another world beyond the bland and apathatetic world of the politically disengaged masses.

They believe that they have come up with a viable blueprint for an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism. This a a model of a prgamatic system of government that bypasses the self-important individualism of today's political culture. It is a system based upon ideas of the common good rather than individual utility maximisation (Fred and Ed's intellectual heroes seem to be Plato and Zizek). Here, people are ruled by a wise elite - the grand council - who are not democratically elected as such but chosen from a number of local councils on the basis of their virtues and technical expertise. These are people who due to their 'excellence' have earned the right to decide.

Council members should be self-confident, assertive, knowledgeable and trustworthy. They are not motivated by self-interest because they have been trained for public service is special academies. They both believe and have pride in their political system and the political constitution on which it is based. The model has other features as well, such as model of socialised economic development. But this was its most striking and important feature.
There were a number of questions at the end, most of which were directed towards questions of accountability, the psychological motivations of the council members and the obvious similarities between this model and those proposed by radical conservatives in the 1930s.

Overall, a really stimulating presentation and discussion (that continued in the student bar afterwards).

Neil Turnbull


  1. I suppose Fred and Ed would suggest that they might be suitable candidates themselves fro the academy, eh? ;)

    Is there any room for the school cook to become involved in the decision making processes?

  2. This is a good question and one that made me wonder who the 'agents of the revolution' are meant to be in Fred and Ed's model. This is certainly not a revolution from below!

    In the 20th century, the idea of a 'revolution from above' was generally associated with the political dreams of the literary and artistic modernist avant-garde. However, I am not sure that Fred and Ed are suggesting an avant-gardist model of revolutionary transformation in this sense. All ideas of revolution as a sublime suspension of ordinary bourgeois routines seem to be lacking here as does the idea of revolution as an embracing of the deep irrational forces, the cunning of historical reason typically disguised in technological garb, that will paradoxically bring about a new and higher form of society.

    So is this simply a model for a another bourgeois revolution? Is this reformist social democracy in fancy dress?

    Neil Turnbull

  3. A couple more questions from the Fred and Ed talk that struck me as interesting and given the looming election probably important as well.

    1. What is that makes a 'good politician'? Do you have to be a 'good person' before you can be a 'good politician'?

    2. What is a 'good constitution'? Does the ideal republic need one (Britain doesn't have one at present)? Is the US constitution the model of a 'good constitution'?

    Neil Turnbull

  4. I would just like to say that although this academocracy was heavily criticised, I think that the intentions were good, and there were many important issues addressed, such as education, and why it is not working at the moment, I thought their solutions to both education and prison were good ideas! It seems that they do intend to make it a better place for those who do not have a voice! However I do not agree with the way in which they want to achieve this. I think that to achieve this they need to work from within the government already in place, ala a new party!
    Found this interesting and thought provoking!

  5. I think that this model needs to consider questions of the relations between ideology and personality. What kind of personalities will this model produce and how will it produce them?

    The model here is quite authoritarian, so will it produce authoritarian - conformist - personalities?

    Maybe we need to consider the insights of psychoanalysis here? Especially the way that it allows us to explore the links between personality, society and the economy.

    Neil Turnbull

  6. sorry for the late response but I (in honesty) forgot this was transcribed on the blog. In answer to the first question only:
    despite my name on this blog... no. Unless myself and ed excelled in the academy and received popular support from the limited franchise. Wanting our leaders to be educated is not self aggrandisement of my position in society, its just common sense!