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THE LIMITS TO CAPITAL AND ITS NEW FRONTIERS: The Knowledge Economy and Translocal Struggles for Living Learning

Lina Dokuzovic


The thesis takes as its point of departure the claim that capitalist expansion is destructive to livelihoods and to the environment, in regard to a limit to capital's resources as a root of the various crises worldwide. Examining the history and logic of how capitalism adapts and expands in the face of a crisis of a limit to resources, this thesis departs from an overview of the material that has developed around crisis theory and the theory of cognitive capitalism, developing a joint perspective to follow through to the adherent sections and the final analysis. It looks at "new colonialisms" as governmental agendas towards the limits to capital and the complicity and historical agendas of educational reforms and rising knowledge economies as forming "new frontiers" for capitalism, whilst examining the recent protest movements in the fields related to capital's "new frontiers," with a special focus on the international university struggles and struggles around knowledge of 2008-2011.

This thesis is organized into three major chapters. The first, 1.1, opens with a historical introduction on the links between capitalization and colonialism during the birth of capitalism in the Commercial Revolution and early Mercantile capitalism. This is used to open a perspective on how the capitalist crisis and its various proposed remedies have emerged today. This example is then expanded into 1.2, an overview of crisis theory in its various generations: Marxian crisis theory following the Second International, classical economist perspectives following Malthusianism, theoretical perspectives following the 1973 oil and resource crisis, and contemporary theoretical and activist perspectives.

With the rise of immaterial and cognitive labor since the late 1960s and early 1970s in the centers of the "First World," a multifaceted view of global processes and struggles are taken as imperative for this thesis. It aims to analyze the complex nature of crisis today, its forms experienced through the global division of labor, and how to create truly sustainable solutions requires an examination of the form of capitalism in crisis and its various unevenly developed incarnations - cognitive, industrial, preindustrialized labor - in different parts of the world and how these forms intersect and work together through transformations in knowledge production. Therefore, crisis theory - which examines the nature of capitalism itself, but also the material conditions required for its expansion - and the theory of cognitive capitalism - which examines the emergence of cognitive labor and its conditions - will be combined and employed for analyzing the conditions and role of knowledge today. Strong divisions have been made between these theories, with, for example, postcolonial perspectives sometimes enriching their scope in recent literature. However, an attempt to consolidate the relations between the different angles of crisis today has been rare in relevant literature. Chapter 1.3, therefore, lays out various trajectories developed in the theory of cognitive capitalism in order to theoretically lead into the current playing field of sustainability agendas in the contemporary crisis, introduced in chapter 2. The first chapter will thereby compose the "limits to capital" of this thesis.

In the face of global economic crisis, the more powerful nations of the world have unfolded various programs, reforms, agendas and developments which hold the role of knowledge in the forefront. With the end of the first chapter introducing the theoretical importance of examining cognitive capitalism and its functionality in different parts of the world, the second chapter will open with recent sustainability agendas, thus introducing the position of knowledge and the importance of its related reforms and policies as the main focus of this thesis. Europe has been particularly dominant in this process with a massive wave of reforms across the board, but particularly in higher education, sine the late 1990s. This process, however, is not entirely new and experimental. It reflects many processes and projects of previous decades. These processes are presented in the second chapter of this thesis in order to explicate what is taking place today regarding knowledge economy agendas and how this is related - and in which forms - to knowledge reforms in different parts of the world in the face of crisis in the second half of the twentieth century with the rise and recognition of cognitive labor power. Therewith, an outline consisting primarily of policies in education and knowledge production will compose the second chapter and thereby also present the "new frontiers" of capital.

In the third chapter of this thesis, the theoretical perspectives introduced in the first section and the policies introduced in the second section will be compounded into a final analysis. Outlining several translocal struggles around knowledge, it aims to develop an analysis and illustration of the grassroots perspectives on the transformations in knowledge and the social angles of the crises introduced. It will mainly take a participatory "field research" perspective, which has particularly been developed through the radical methodology of "co-research." Therefore, the selection of struggle which will be examined will mainly be based around those which the author has participated in and contributed to (primarily between 2008-2011). The thesis will thereby inquire on how contemporary knowledge-based struggles can provide alternative models for sustainability within an expansive global crisis that increasingly relies on a strong knowledge-based economy. Thus, the goal of this work is to propose new modes of collective struggle for social justice in the face of manifold crises through translocal organization around "living knowledge."