Fisher, Roy and Fisher, Pamela (2006) The Pursuit of Knowledge and the Politics of Change: some issues relating to subversive “autodidacts” then and now (and when?). In: 5th Discourse Power Resistance Conference 2006, 20 – 22 April 2006, Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

This paper contrasts two types of “autodidact” located in different historical periods, and utilising different learning/research technologies to different ends. From the 1920s to the 1950s there were notable instances of working class activists associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) becoming “educated” in Marxism (and more) through the processes intrinsic to their political commitment. This radical acculturation was largely undertaken outside the universities as a consequence of both an absence of opportunities to access formal higher education and the relatively enclosed nature of the social world of British Communism. The widening of educational opportunities and the crisis and decline of political (as opposed to academic) Marxism effectively extinguished this kind of autodidact. New technologies have meant that the 21st Century is witnessing individuals and cyber-communities that are, via the internet, creating knowledge based challenges to entrenched professional and institutional power in the face of personal/family “medical” crises. The paper counterpoints the characteristics of these two categories of “subversive researcher” as a framework for the consideration of speculative questions relating to both the nature of subversive research and the new politics of counter-hegemonic development.

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