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Editorial by Carole Ferrier

`The most disputed frontier of all,’ says Pierre Bourdieu, `is the one which separates the field of cultural production and the field of power.’ In Bourdieu’s analysis, those with the most disposition to challenge those who control capital and the state are artists and writers, who are involved in a continual struggle for autonomy against capitalism’s compulsions and constraints in relation to human advancement. Cultural producers who take responsibility for the state of things, who repeatedly contest the dominant assumptions in the institutions in which they work, are also thereby seeking the fullest humanity.

Politics and culture is habitually written for by intellectuals like this, who are involved in a continual struggle over `the frontier delimiting the territory held by the competing agents’. The articles in this issue are no exception. Martin Hirst’s engages with the increasingly current discourses in the field of journalism that suggest that new technologies increasingly determine cultural relationships in ways that increasingly seem to absolve the individual from responsibility for the social impact of their work. Diane Brown’s discusses how many feminists working in publishing are being seduced into `territories we never planned to enter’ through assumed pressures for economic survival. Few seem willing any more to see themselves as able to `lay siege to Empire’, as Arundhati Roy put it.

It is not only in the realm of ideas that frontiers are continually under siege and traversed. Border crossings occur for refugees from wars and famines that are caused by economic competition; guest workers and the sexually enslaved, discussed in Segrave’s review, are economically compelled to displace themselves. Military operations transfer large numbers of people to another country (where in the words of the old 1960s joke they `Travel the world, meet new and interesting people, and kill them!) In 1942, as the chapter from Radical Brisbane outlines, tens of thousands of American soldiers were in Queensland. Nationalist ideologies that solidify borders continually seek to deny the heterogeneity, and function to assert the uniformity, of their local populations. Peta Stephenson discusses some of her new research into a minority group within a minority group – Aboriginal Muslims. Much mythologising of the `typical Australian’ surrounds the Eureka Stockade rebellion a hundred and fifty years ago; following it, surprisingly enough, the first Ballarat digger to appear in court was, as Eric Petersen outlines, an African American, with the state seeking to `Hang a nigger for the Governor!’ Dan O’Neill muses upon the huge importance of access to the history of the struggles of the past for continuing them in the present. As Gramsci put it of `the new cultural world for which one is fighting by stirring up passions and human warmth’:

One must speak of a struggle for a new culture, that is for a new moral life that cannot but be intimately connected to a new intuition of life, until it becomes a new way of feeling and seeing reality … ‘ (Q 23.6)

With capitalism globalizing at an accelerated rate some things are changing but many remain the same, most centrally the logic of capitalist profit (unconnected to moral life) that seeks to maintain its hegemony at every level through every institution. New technologies have impacted considerably upon work in the academy as elsewhere, with some print texts and publications being replaced by, or also having, electronic versions. This has been of benefit to us in putting out (without paying for printing and postage and distribution) journals such as Politics and Culture – although most of the texts we discuss remain monographs or periodical articles in the print media; it will be quite some time before hypertext becomes the or a dominant medium! But there are many downsides to the uses to which institutions are putting new technologies. Libraries are now spending a large proportion of their budgets on digitised rather than printed materials, and especially on grossly overpriced journals in fixed bundles from big multinational publishers such as Sage, Routledge and Blackwell. The concentration of control is staggering: when Reed Elsevier took over Harcourt in 2000 this gave them control of 1700 journals, and of getting on for half of university spending in this area. Paul James and Douglas McQueen Thompson, writing in Scholars and Entrepreneurs: The Universities in Crisis, comment:

Of the tens of thousands of journals in the world, as few as 150 journals account for half of what is cited in the academic literature, and in most fields these are published by the world’s transnational giants: these are the journals that are sold at obscene rates on the basis of their corporately sustained cultural capital.

Journals are now seen much more frequently as a source of individual articles to be accessed on the net, less as a collection regularly produced by particular editors in which one might expect to find much of interest.

Higher costs of journals for libraries have also meant a drop in book ordering that has intersected with changes in book publishing that authors have noticed: pressures for shorter books and author subsidies, and the construction of a mythologised `general reader’ appealing to whom (in the new dominant publisher logic) will allegedly guarantee wide or at least adequate sales. The University of Western Sydney in the late 1990s provided perhaps the most extreme recent example of contempt for the book in print form, burying thousands of them in the ground (including some rare first editions) because it allegedly could not afford to store them.

Some scholars in Humanities are standing against these pervasive pressures, how and where they can. In their small way, journals like Politics and Culture reach out round the globe reminding us that there are still, everywhere, intellectuals who consistently oppose corporate capitalism: its economic thuggery, its recourse to wars to maintain its sway, and its ideological poverty of spirit.

Bourdieu, Pierre, The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity, 1993.
James, Paul and Douglas McQueen Thomson, `Abstracting Knowledge Formation.’ In Simon Cooper et al. eds. Scholars and Entrepreneurs: The Universities in Crisis. Melbourne: Arena, 2002.

This issue of Politics and Culture is the yearly Australian issue prepared by Carole Ferrier and a board of editors.
Review articles in this number have been anonymously refereed by members of the Board and other specialists.

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