As this inquiry demonstrates, campus activism has taken myriad forms – from perennial die-ins and walkouts to a campaign for a Level 1 Trauma Center. Still, what many share is a rejection of the mythos of “Black progress.” What they embrace, in turn, is that the enduring condition of Blacks in the United States is one of struggle, necessitating agitation for the re-imagination of equity in an equally enduring white-supremacist order.
The $8.25 man, Bloomberg News wrote in December, has worked at McDonald’s for twenty years. Still, he can’t get forty hours a week or anything more than minimum wage. He can’t make rent payments, can’t afford a computer, and has to go to the Apple store to update his Facebook. After picking cigarette butts out of a bathroom drain, he has to clean off before his next job—at another McDonald’s.
If TED took a turn to leftist (or any) critique, Žižek, the professor of “toilets and ideology,” would be the keynote speaker. The irony of the animated lecture, “First as Tragedy, Then as Farce,” is that a diatribe on “global capitalism with a human face” would get over 900,000 views on YouTube. With YouTube’s help, the academy where Žižek’s persona was born is an increasingly visible terrain of so-called “cultural capitalism.” The last decade has witnessed a revolution in open courseware, a source of short-circuit consumption in which anyone with a computer can drink élite university Kool-Aid without earning credit. The movement has been so explosive – the Hewlett Foundation, which provides the mother lode of funding for university initiatives, supported a whole book on it, Taylor Walsh’s 2011 Unlocking the Gates – that one wonders how long the political economy of education that it anchors, contra Žižek’s hipster-friendly fantasies of consumerist dystopia, will last.