Things have recently gotten all quiet on the virtual front. Within the classroom, on the other hand, things are presently very active. This surely must have been expected. Most of us have more people listening to our lectures than we (will ever) have studying our papers or reading our blogs. That has to be the experience upon which we organise, both individually and collectively. I’m not so sure it is something to worry about. After all, if we can’t speak to the interests of the captive audiences whose attention we attain more on the basis of compliance than enthusiasm, we really shouldn’t expect to capture a willing readership online. Teach first, then blog!
Here I’d like to briefly describe what has been happening within one of my classes and hopefully others can share similar experiences and concerns.
Within a course on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) my students and I have been speculating upon the extent to which the occupy movement, alongside a variety of ongoing and proposed parliamentary responses to the global financial crisis, might be considered historically monumental events in 100 years time. The students are being asked to review Colin Crouch’s The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism, particularly his account of CSR, and in so doing they are being asked to speculate, with Crouch, as to whether CSR is likely to become a more prevalent feature of the post-crisis landscape, or not. The students are also being asked to discuss these issues from their own position as potential managers and employees of post-crisis profit-making firms by considering the extent to which the debates and struggles currently in evidence might eventually serve to re-allign their own lives, for better or for worse.
This is, I think, a very concrete set of concerns. Nevertheless, the potential lines along which these concerns might be meaningfully pursued have very quickly proliferated. The reading list I’ve developed looks very much like a whistle stop tour of classical political theory. Whilst I know that an excellent occupy reading list is already being created I find it difficult to endorse anything other than the classics, at least in the context of a 10 hour module. I’m open to debate, of course, but with the likes of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Mill and Marx on my side, my opponent will need to come armed with some pretty strong artillery!
Sometimes I worry that I am doing the students a disservice by not telling them what they really need to know about CSR. These worries rarely last long, however – the resources within the CSR literature are entirely inadequate to the task. So maybe the task itself is the problem? Maybe I shouldn’t bring the student’s own hopes and fears into the pedagogy but instead offer stable points of orientation as if I was really in a position to offer them. Try as I might, I find it hard to adopt that course of action. So maybe that’s the problem.