In the 1990s I was privileged to work with the Hutt Valley Tokelauan community and helped them devise a couple of plays, which, after performances locally, we took to Tokelau, spending a month on the three atolls. It was a time of exploring often complex community relationships.
At the end of the trip, on the last atoll, we came across a man who was entrepreneurial, having established a sort of nightclub. As well, anticipating the tourist (Tokelau has no tourism), he’d trained up a dance group who could entertain the visitor. After a month free of entrepreneurialism, it was a shock to come across the phenomenon, which in this context seemed both mad and dangerous as he pursued the commodification of social and cultural relations.
I write of this because as Covid recedes, the entrepreneurial urge seems to have intensified. It has become the engine of the hegemony, that web of consciousness created daily which Gramsci first described. Every facet of life is required to be entrepreneurial, from services to schools to business to charity. Even that which resists has to do so in entrepreneurial terms. The climate crisis will only be solved by the entrepreneur. Meanwhile the refugee count daily increases, inequity increases, natural disasters occur weekly and anxiety infects the young at an alarming rate. But it is considered that these will only be solved by the entrepreneurial impulse, the teaching of which generates a whole industry in itself. It is preached in every ad, in education, and of course is the life blood of the social media with its mania for self promotion. It partners happily with the pornographic impulse which commodifies desire. It is akin in density to the triumphant working class clichés of the old USSR, which infected every facet of life, at the same time as the more articulate members of that same class were being sent to the Gulag.
As we begin to ponder a programme for a school for social change, it presents a central dilemma. How to circumvent it or confront without seeming eccentric or marginal?
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