A Wantless, Workless World: How the Origins of the University Can Inform Its Future
From China to North Africa to Europe, the earliest institutions of higher education arose as a set of strategies to protect and encourage practices of productive leisure. These were knowledge-production practices the surrounding social and economic order might not otherwise have seen fit to value: self-directed time organized to meet collectively agreed-upon standards. Practices of productive leisure have also become targets for colonial regimes seeking to undermine local civilizations for their own ends. Today, in an era of growing labor precarity and the specter of technological unemployment, higher education is poised to ensure that the benefits of the transformation underway circulate to a broader set of people than is currently the case. Updating the medieval guild structure of universities with cooperative enterprise, and platform cooperativism in particular, can facilitate the capture and sharing of economic surplus. By protecting productive leisure through higher education, automation can yield widespread dividends of liberated time.