Paper presented at the 4th Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "Histories of the present"
3 & 4 September 1998, Johannesburg, South Africa

Studied Skills? globalizations • barely managed markets • wider • higher education • learning • deconstructions

John Webb

Centre for Learning Knowing and Interactive Technologies (L-KIT), in the research programme Culture and Learning in Organisations (CLIO)

University of Bristol, England Graduate School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1JA, England Tel: +44 (0)117 928 9000 Fax: +44 (0)117 925 1537 Email:

This reverie on the university and deconstruction involutely promotes the myths of The Learning Society. Recent policy-spinning functions of academic business have jointly revived this long-standing, communitarian notion. They seek economically to redeploy it alongside the university's degree-conferring, society-researching, education-legitimating essence. Here we (so to speak) barely manage to assume a global, Foucauldian vantage-ground so as to overhear the market-speakings (agoras) of wider and higher education. Some canny discursors elude our borrowed, totalizing genealogy. We stumble after their headings through hawkers of realism, relativism and politics of difference. We settle exhausted by the stile of the academy for a median listening of Derrida's deconstructions. In so attending we affirm the chances that societies may learn; always have done and always will. As if for the first time people gather to question the university of learning. Slowly we come to study that which is complacent and intractable.Yet more skilfully may we examine, embrace and envelop the unthought into a sheltered space of interruption, in many folds of an inexhaustible "Why? For what reason-for-being?"

Conventions for seeing or listening

In this paper I sketch a critical approach to questions of wider and higher learning. This approach concerns the raison d'être(1) of the university. I work through a Foucaldian genealogy to arrive at a certain aporia (difficulty of passage). That prompts me to consider a particular reading of the French thinker, Jacques Derrida. Some dogmatic opinions that infuse Derrida's reputations(2) arise in part from what he (picking up from Martin Heidegger)(3) called deconstruction. Or rather, one should say: deconstructions, since there can be no one such universal act, thing, theory or practice; still less an iterable process or method.(4) Perhaps one may refer to a situated activity, to deconstruct, as an approach or style that resists repetition, yet cherishes patterns of orderly structure as implying a certain centrality as a target for critique. Yet one cannot segregate texts into classes of the 'deconstructive' and 'deconstructible'. Their openings are always already embedded, though often unthought. There are evident patterns in overtly deconstructive texts - or texts towards deconstruction, as an inconclusive activity - that leave them precisely open to critique, including deconstructive critique. One such convention is an artful awkwardness in handling beginnings, titles, signatures and retrospective forewords, lest they convey synoptic closure from a web of intertextuality and each reader's prerogatives. Have we (so to speak) started yet, in keeping with such conventions and any eventual agreements amongst us? The title of this paper is a dis-articulated meld of those used for three diverse 'abstracts' of it. Those abstracts were written before the visual presentation of which this paper is more-or-less a verbal rendering.(5) That renders each abstract a simulacrum or copy of something that might appear but never fully exists. Please read the bold dots (•) between the phrases of the title - perhaps as in Wolfreys (1988) and elsewhere - as marking indeterminate, supplementary relations, both adding and substituting, whose attempted resolution would reduce the potentials of the text. Since this is a work in progress, and any results may not in principle be transferred between contexts, I shall dwell on the industry of the piece.

Broadly speaking, the phrase studied skills may refer to students' and researchers' explicit attention to their proficiencies for work, including academic efforts. Equally it may refer to purposive (studied) arts of promoting and resisting factional, national and globalising ends. Whatever you make of this topic or web of topics, please attend to its complicity with whatever is critiqued. I would claim to be motivated by an interest in reform of institutions, even where that is programmed by consultative decree. However I cannot escape the language of categories and oppositions in such terms as: student, university, academic, education, politic, society, national, global, etc. Also, this paper covers a lot of ground in a reductive manner, so please treat it as an approach to a dissertation yet to be written. Here is a concise version of what my dissertation is about. It may be read in both senses of 'referring to' and (colloquially) 'up to': "Basically, this dissertation is about relations between higher education and the ideal of a socio-cultural community."(6) The project is one of many within an 'umbrella' (literally: a small shadow) of a research theme, 'Culture and Learning in Organisations' at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. On a national scale, initiatives of reform tend to be subsumed into grand narratives that may cast large shadows, as it were, in space and time. In Britain The Learning Society has recently emerged(7) as a inspirational ideal for consensus-seeking activity among diverse interests. One might assume that the university would form an integral part of this discourse or language-structure, or even constitute its origin or chief protagonist. Indeed, particular universities may be more or less bound by their national and cultural contexts. Yet the university as a commonplace concept or set of forms and practices has long since escaped into - or was always already beyond - strict compliance with national political priorities. Perhaps like a national airline, a university system is an accessory no self-respecting regime would be seen without, even though some of its vital components may privately seem outmoded or inappropriate. To convey a certain cultural heritage, or to catch up with occupational backlogs, one may say: appropriately outmoded. To transfer technologies between cultural aggregates one may call for re-appropriated modernity. In each discussion, the stakes involve a certain complacency of enjoyment and watchful anxiety over survival.

The next few paragraphs of this paper outline the context of my project in and regarding Higher Education, and my initial approach to examining its discourses in loose accordance with the philosophical work of Michel Foucault. The middle part focuses on the narrative or myth of The Learning Society, and my manner of reading it. In the latter I dwell on a distinction between that reading of Jacques Derrida - based mainly on the work of Christopher Norris and Andrew Benjamin - and more usual mis- or non-readings of Derrida. The final section includes a parting gesture towards a further approach that I set out to pursue, but have - with regret - deferred. It also expresses my hope that a deconstructive approach may interact with others and perhaps help societies re-absorb closures of complacency with studied skills.

In his essay The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of its Pupils, (1984, p.8, citing Aristotle's De Anima 421b), Jacques Derrida cites Aristotle's distinction between humans (as rational beings) and animals "with hard eyes and a dry glance". What is terrifying about such an animal, lacking eyelids, is that it always sees. Thus it can never "close itself off in the darkness of inward thought or sleep". Derrida claims that "The university must not be a sclerophthalmic animal, a hard-eyed animal...". He asks "What can the university's [teaching] body [le corps enseignant] see or not see of its own destination, of that in view of which it stands it ground? Is the university the master of its own diaphragm?"(8) . . . "the better to listen, remember, and learn." Taken out of context, such questioning of the essence or grounds of university education may seem obsessive. The university as a commonplace notion and a pattern of characteristics may seem clear enough. Indeed, the university may serve as the paradigm of the modern institution with traditional underpinnings. Peter Scott's model (1984, p.36) of the evolution of national higher education systems reminds us that the meanings of education in general and higher education in particular have been repeatedly challenged and transformed. Hence, the whys (i.e. causes) and wherefores (ends) of the university are contested in fierce and public ways, as well as quietly and privately. Perhaps the most significant feature of the pursuit of histories and policies is the appearance of reform, or a Scott puts it, 'simply rationalisations of the status quo'. (Scott 1984, p.42) When I started this project - at least, at the stage I now rationalise as its origin - I intended to analyse materials for self-tuition in study skills by students. These materials, I supposed, would construe the student in ways that would reflect tensions between viewpoints regarding whatever higher education and learning might be intended or supposed to achieve. It seemed anomalous to me that universities were overtly (though often reluctantly) engaged in outright training of students to study. As I considered such provision, the long-held notion of transferable skills appeared to gain ground against traditional academic disciplines. I began to shift my attention from tuition materials(9) to the discourses in which they were framed. I adopted the phrase wider versus higher education (or, with different connotation: learning). The transformation of higher education that Peter Scott (1995, p.37) tentatively proposes as current or imminent is that of stratification through divergent corporate missions. In it, some universities at least would emerge from or withstand supposedly unified system by flaunting their élite status, thus scorning incentives to widen access and curricula. Anthony Smith and Frank Webster (1997) sketch the postmodern university as responding to market forces rather than public interest. According to Brian Salter and Ted Tapper (1994), since the British university system ceased to align itself with national priorities in the 1960s, relations amongst the state, funding agencies and universities have been marked by pursuits of long- and short-term interests, manoeuvres and shifts in power. The state made repeatedly sought a unitary ideology with which to move against the traditional liberal autonomy of the academy. Thus a notion of the postmodern university is broadly consistent with the managed market viewed (in Salter 1994, pp.201-3) as a compromise extracted from state agencies by the New Right's market forces ideology.

Genealogy of discourses of wider and higher education

To address the cacophony of voices or positions amongst theorists of wider and higher education, I tried to graph each of many discursive positions according to the images (so to speak) that it projected onto other (imagined) positions in the debates. I would tentatively name a discursive position, then project from it some broadly favourable and adverse perceptions. I used samples of texts from formal publications and the Internet to support my readings. Whereas the polarised language grossly over-simplified those relations, I did not try to 'smooth out' contradictions. For instance, what I called curricular nationalists might dismiss academicists as 'mere theorists' yet paradoxically admire learnedness in classics and the sciences, and promote academia as a flagship of national prowess. That analysis would ideally be conducted in an exploratory manner, i.e. without a particular telos in view. I eventually sketched the skimpily-explored relations on a single graph. That gave an impression of the myriad ways in which discursive positions variously constructed themselves in affinity with, strategically towards, and in opposition to, other imagined positions. The composite model suggested icon phrases that are shared between discourses, albeit with distinct or overlapping meanings.(10) It also suggested that some supposed positions and relations would prove more difficult to contour than others. Broadly, there appeared to be a set of discourses that constructed subject positions as understanding, or at least engaging with, each other; i.e. as communities of discourse or networks of connected communities. These included academicism, curricular nationalism, etc. Another, more diffuse and elusive set appeared to constitute another discourse community - perhaps with no more in common that the fact of being misunderstood from positions in the first set. These included a cybernetic mode of feminism and many post- or inter-textualisms, even though these resist categorisation as '-isms'. A variety of discourse that I vaguely called global virtualism seemed to exhibit strong affinities with discourses in what I came to think of as the 'ordinary' and 'critical' sets; e.g. to both action research and behavioural technicism.

Michel Foucault is usually classified as poststucturalist (e.g. in Lechte, 1997 pp.110-15). According to Christopher Norris's critique (1993, p.30), Foucault creates the subject as a side-effect of discourse, both in his 'structuralist' archaeology and his 'Nietzschean subversion' of genealogy. Foucauldian, 'Nietzschean' postmodernism "can do nothing to challenge [particular] forms of injustice and oppression since it offers no arguments, no critical resources or validating grounds for perceiving them as inherently unjust and oppressive". (p.287) However, "criticism can 'separate out' those contingent factors that 'made us what we are' from those other 'possibilities' that remain at present unfulfilled but which yet provide a standard - in Kantian terms, a regulative idea - for the ethical 'work of thought'. These options are conceived by Norris as conditions of possibility for that attitude of 'permanent critique' which Foucault identifies with the Enlightenment ethos in its authentic, self-questioning form. Thus Norris rejects a view of Foucault's work as "a straightforward endorsement of the postmodern-pragmatist line". That is to say: as "urging that the enlightenment is a thing of the past, that truth is just a matter of what is (currently and contingently) 'good in the way of belief' and that value-commitments only make sense insofar as they carry weight, or possess some measure of appeal, for members of an existing interpretive community." (p.98)

Myths of The Learning Society

In this project, I moved on from building a static view of discourses to a more dynamic account of theories of wider and higher education. I directly 'borrowed' a Foucauldian genealogy from international relations theory (Smith S, 1995). This I mapped onto theories of higher education arising in, and portraying, trends from before the 1950s to date, though - as it appeared - occurring largely in the last fifteen years. In Smith's use of Foucauldian genealogy, each of these debates contests discursive self-images that are implicated in a bid to construct a history to justify an account or power-play in the present. My foisting of a model from 'another' field amounted to what Derrida, following Claude Lévy-Strauss, calls bricolage, i.e. using a 'means at hand'.(11) However, my model, or the modelling process, was breached by a flight of critical discourses. Its bricolage was mythopoetic (myth-spinning), just as the notion of the engineer who supposedly breaks with all forms of bricolage is a myth produced by intellectual activity of the bricoleur. (Claude Lévy-Strauss cited in Derrida 1978 pp.278-93) Perhaps most narratives of social reform may be regarded as attempts to impose a framework onto innumerable diverse situations. In The Postmodern Condition (1984, as cited in Yeaman 1994, p.15) Jean-François Lyotard describes "metanarratives" as 'rationales for automation that call on the emancipation of humanity ... the grand myths of technological and scientific progress'. The relations of higher education with society at large (so to speak) are dominated by socio-economic grand projects or myths (as they are respectfully called in Hughes 1995). Some myths are specific to formal education, others are more general. Each is contested through a variety of discourses. Whilst the agenda is mostly neo-realist and pragmatist, there is a persistent neo-liberal resistance. Lifelong learning currently pervades the programmes of most other projects. Whilst the topic of lifelong learning is relatively untheorised, it has strong links with continuing education and professional development to which some poststructural approaches have been applied. Myths of the virtual society? [sic] and The Global University involve 'open' and 'distance' modes of learning, and are particularly discussed and theorised both on and off the Internet. As each such initiative, project or programme seeks a widening consensus, it necessarily diffuses its early ends and structures in aporias.

I shall now focus on the question of relations between wider and higher education and learning, the university and society. The notion of The Learning Society has been promoted and contested at least since the 1960s (e.g. in Hutchins, 1968). Hughes and Tight's (1995) analysis of this concept claims that it encapsulates further myths of Lifelong Learning and The Learning Organisation. Each of these in turn encapsulates elements of productivity and change. They argue that "the United Kingdom cannot currently be considered to be a learning society, nor is it likely to become one in the foreseeable future. But the idea of the learning society retains an important one as a myth, in drawing together and channelling energies in directions sought by policy-makers." (Hughes, 1995 abstract p.290) Many dichotomies can be mapped onto questions of grounding of knowledge. These were particularly addressed in modernity by the philosophers Kant and Heidegger - and as it turned out, provided points of departure, or nesting places, for the so-called linguistic turn in literary studies. Broadly, interpretation of a present (or past, immanent or yet-to-come) truth is contrasted with aesthetic attention to what is seen (from a 'centred' perspective) as relative, transient and expedient. In seeking to avoid such polarities, Jacques Derrida puts the notion of deconstruction to work on the play (in the engineering sense of tolerance, or limited scope for movement) as yielding imaginative associations from, or in, texts. His technique seeks to open possibilities in situations that matter, such as quests for justice. The destabilising and re-creative components he 'uncovers' are treated as supplementary to the text - literally, adding and substituting - rather than arbitrary. Deconstructive practice is resistant to being pinned down in theory or practice. However Christopher Norris (Norris, 1996, p.8) outlines the broad approach as follows:

"One begins by locating those key-points in the text where its argument depends on some crucial opposition of terms, as between speech and writing. Then it is a matter of showing: 1. that these terms are hierarchically ordered, the one conceived as derivative from, or supplementary to, the other; 2. that this relation can in fact be inverted, the 'supplementary' term taking on a kind of logical priority; and 3. that the pattern of unstable relationships thus brought to light is characteristic of the text in every last detail of its rhetorical organisation."

Note that in this account, the aim of deconstructive reading is not to violate a text in any anti-realist, relativist or nihilistic manner. (Norris, 1987 pp.86-9).(12)

As briefly as possible: The Learning Society, even as a shibboleth (i.e. a doctrine, formula or principle) privileges one pole of each of several dichotomies, which are inherently unstable or self-referential. For instance, its rhetoric promotes flexible attitudes and transferable skills, and learning to learn rather than knowing specifics since the latter are always about to be superseded. That would seem consistent with the traditional role of the university in imparting theoretical, practical and learning skills. Yet what the university provides is an opportunity to specialise, to learn in depth (as it were). This undermines the notion that a training in adaptability enables people to take responsibility and be held accountable for their own survival in a global market-place for skills. Other components of The Learning Society are unstable in terms of polarities of auditory culture (listening, learning) and visual culture (e.g. in early forms of the World Wide Web); and of the emphasis on acquiring knowledge and skills (thus hiding the Heideggerian notion of a finite 'clearing' with necessary displacement and forgetting). This brief scrutiny of The Learning Society may seem dismissive, yet points to dangers arising when particular elements are pursued at the expense of others. It may also point towards ways of thinking otherwise than the established norms, and to openings or opportunities for critical thinking by its supposed participants. Lifelong Education can be also flexed to yield anomalies and creative possibilities. For example, if learning is considered a consumable good, then by analogy with a learned society, it may have an interest and a duty to its learned (i.e. qualified) members to defend the status quo. Also, the notion is only 'scaleable' within limits. In the extreme where everyone became preoccupied with learning, no productive or decisive capacity would be available, thus leading to a bankrupt society.(13) Hughes and Tight argue (1995, p.300) that the myth of The Learning Organisation 'obscures its own nature and prevents advances towards other levels of learning and change'. This conjures Martin Heidegger's notion of Dasein - literally, there-being - in which the focus of attention shifts between beings rather than extends 'visibility' to more beings. What may be extended or transformed in The Learning Organisation is that hegemony whereby employees and other suppliers learn to forget, or are blocked from learning, their relations to the distinct interests of capital. Hughes and Tight (1995, p.299) call for empirical, longitudinal studies of the effects of these myths, as a participative form of learning by research. I would note that a long-term and perhaps essentialist view conflicts with a declarations of 'unprecedented change' (which Hughes and Tight question, 1995, p.294). However a deconstructive approach may assist researchers to engage creatively with both structuralist and relativist strands of thinking. For instance, such a view may treat learning effectively as becoming another being (person, society or organisation). In that way, learning would supplement society, and deconstructive approaches (as a kind of learning and forgetting) would complement diverse approaches to creative thinking.

Steve Smith (1995, p.21) warns against 'picking and mixing' of theories, and Chris Norris (1997, p.3) cautions against epistemological confusions. Yet a tendency of deconstructive action is to nomadise, i.e. to hybridise with other approaches. In empirical research, deconstructions might thus serve at least help researchers to examine their, and their institution's, positions and perspectives. In critical theoretic research, such an approach might admit of affirmative scruples, rather than be dismissed as anti-realist or relativist. In deconstructive investigations, researchers may respectfully examine culture-specific truth claims and habits of thought. This would supplement academic disciplines, while respecting their distinct epistemologies. The potential for a radical questioning of education in general and wider and higher learning in particular is illustrated in Smith A. (1997, p.2) as follows. Matthew Arnold in 1867 described the purpose of schooling as being to expose students to 'the best that has been thought and known in the world' . His idealism stands in stark contrast to a view of education that is about survival rather than enjoyment. In the survivalist situation, higher education sustains a stage of consumption in which mature students turn to higher education in part to construct alternative (symbolic) identities (Brown 1997 p.98); and some distinguished academics claim to be 'marginalised', 'victimised', or 'Third World' (Jacoby, 1997 pp.64-6). Smith and Webster also emphasis a reluctance on the part of higher education to articulate a motivating purpose, a raison d'être (Smith A, 1997 p.4). This brings us back to Jacques Derrida's Principle of Reason.

Affirmative interruption

To offset my focus on Jacques Derrida's deconstructions and take leave with an opening gesture, I suggest that Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus also offers potential for creative re-thinking of wider and higher education and learning, e.g. through affirmative, nomadic modelling of representational 'state philosophy' of higher learning (Deleuze 1988, pp.xi-xiii). But that is another (hi)story. Perhaps the choice and interpretation of a critical approach to complacent, programmed tradition matter less than arousal of attention to a politics of idealized sameness and unthinkable difference. In this working paper I deployed a strange structuralism - Foucault's genealogy of power relations - towards the question of the roles of the university. A discursive aporia amongst educationalists prompted a closer, deconstructive look at myths of The Learning Society. I did not attempt to track recent semantic changes (and non-changes, and partial regressions) in those myths in Britain, nor their importation to South Africa partly through the European Union. Rather, I invoked Norris's account of Derrida's thinking around the mid-1980s to favour affirmative, aleatory (through chance or choice) decision-making over programming of guarantees. Such affirmation 'redeploys within what had hitherto been seen to dominate from without', to 'allow for the unintended', for that 'which cannot be predicted'. It 'involves the maintenance, but displacement [within what Derrida has called 'a space of interruption'] of teleology [which] becomes rewritten in terms of the belonging together of the different.' (Norris, 1996 p.42)(14) I seek to affirm potentials for societies to learn of the university by working on that space, towards that interruption.


Booth, Ken and Steve Smith (1995) International Relations Theory Today Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Brown, Philip and Richard Scase (1997), in Smith, A (1997) .

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1988, orig. in French 1980) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia London: Athlone Press, translation and foreword by Brian Massumi.

Derrida, Jacques (1978 ) Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences in Writing and Difference London: Routledge pp.278-93.

Derrida, Jacques (1984) The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of its Pupils Graduate Faculty Philosophical Journal vol.10 no.1 Spring 1984 pp.3-29 (Modified version of a paper first presented at Cornell University & published in Diacritics vol.XIX Fall 1983; and Les pupilles de l'Université, Le principe de raison et l'idée de l'université in Du droit a la philosophie.).

Evans, J. Claude (1991) Strategies of Deconstruction: Derrida and the Myth of the Voice Minnesota, USA: University of Minnesota Press.

Jacoby, Russell (1997), in Smith, A (1997).

Hedges, Warren Using Deconstruction to Astonish Friends & Confound Enemies (In Two Easy Steps!) Southern Oregon University (on the Internet in Oct. 1998 at::

Hughes, Christina and Malcolm Tight (1995) The Myth of the Learning Society in British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 43 no.3, pp.290-304.

Hutchins, Robert Maynard (1968) The Learning Society London: Pall Mall Press.

Lechte, John (1994) Fifty Contemporary Thinkers: From structuralism to postmodernity London & New York: Routledge.

Lyotard, Jean-François (1984; in French, 1979) The Postmodern Condition: A report on Knowledge Manchester: Manchester University Press (trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi; appendix trans. by Régis Durand) in the series 'Theory and History of Literature', Vol.10.

Norris, Christopher (1993) The Truth about Postmodernism Oxford UK and Cambridge USA: Blackwell.

Norris, Christopher (1997) New Idols of the Cave: On the Limits of Anti-realism Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.

Norris, Christopher and Andrew Benjamin (1996) What is Deconstruction? 2nd. edition London: Academy Editions.

Salter, Brian and Ted Tapper, (1994) The State and Higher Education London: The Woburn Press.

Scott, Peter (1984) The Crisis of the University London: Croom Helm.

Smith, Anthony and Frank Webster, eds. (1997) The Postmodern University? Contested Visions of Higher Education in Society Buckingham, England and Bristol, PA USA: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.

Smith, Steve The Self-Images of a Discipline: A Genealogy of International Relations Theory in: Booth, Ken and Smith, Steve (1995) International Relations Theory Today Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press in association with Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Veblen, Thorstein (1918) The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of Universities By Business Men (available on the Internet at October 1998 at:

Williams, Jenny ed. (1997) Negotiating Access to Higher Education: The Discourse of Selectivity and Equity Buckingham, England & Bristol, PA 19007, USA: SRHE & Open University Press.

Wolfreys, Julian (1998) Deconstruction Ÿ Derrida Houndsmills and London: Macmillan Press Ltd. and New York: St. Martin's Press Inc.

Yeaman, Andrew R.J. Deconstructing Modern Educational Technology in Educational Technology Feb.1994.

1. literally: ground or reason for being (Derrida, 1984 p.6).

2. For a brief gloss on debates on rigour, philosophy, satire etc. as attributed to Derrida's writings, see Evans (1991, pp.xi-xiii).

3. See Evans (1991, p.xix) for an account of Derrida's adaptation of Heidegger's Destruktion for 'a loosening of the sclerotic tradition'. Rodolphe Gasché also explains Abbau, Destruktion and deconstruction (1986, pp.109-20))

4. All the same I commend initial guides to deconstruction, on the basis of reading such guides, interspersed with originary texts (to point to reductions and arguable misreadings in the former) and with attempts to apply their approaches in particular situations. For instance, see Hedges (1998), and Norris (1987 pp.86-9) cited in this text.

5. When asked, the audience for this session of the conference chose an impromptu discussion rather than a graphic presentation or a reading of the paper. Even if shown or read, the latter choices would remain simulacra of the event.

6. For that gloss I thank Carolyn Wilde who chaired the ad hoc committee that recently reviewed this research project. 'Carolyn works in and between the areas of ethics, aesthetics and cultural theory, with particular emphasis on visual culture.' (on the Internet in Oct.1998 at:, University of Bristol).

7. For a humanist manifesto of The Learning Society, see Hutchins (1968); e.g. pp.viii-ix for communitarian duty, pp.40-1 for the perils of national vocationalism, pp.105-121 for threats to academic autonomy, and pp.134-6 for its ancient Athenian ideal of self-improving leisure (contrasted with African educational examples, pp.41-2, 46-9, 67-8).

8. diaphragm: a barrier or fence; or in this context, an eyelid or visor.

9. It later turned out that such materials had already been analysed in ways similar to those I proposed.

10. These are described in Williams (1997) as 'icon words' or 'condensation symbols', citing Edelman (1977).

11. c.f. Martin Heidegger's ready-to hand (zuhanden) and deconstruction, which borrows resources from the heritage in question; also the preface to Thorstein Veblen (1918).

12. For a critical commentary on Christopher Norris's gloss on deconstruction, see Julian Wolfreys, 1998 (pp.40, 56-7). Though I do not pursue this here, I would suggest that Norris tends to play down the exuberant side of Derrida's writing.

13. My remarks here point to paradoxes of the myths, though these might be pursued into useful deconstructions.

14. Andrew Benjamin there discusses Peter Eisenman's pictures of 'dislocating' architectures. Thus: 'What has been handed down must nonetheless be housed and maintained, but it can no longer provide the explanation and raison d'être of architecture itself.' (p.42)

Paper presented at the 4th Annual Qualitative Methods Conference: "Histories of the present"
3 & 4 September 1998, Johannesburg, South Africa
critical methods society - -