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Strategies of Power Cultures: the Co-Option of the ANU and lessons from Sun Tzu.

Strategies of Power Cultures: the Co-Option of the ANU and lessons from Sun Tzu.

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Published by Jason Andrews
A brief essay on developments of the Australian National University's deepening ingratiation with the Australian government.
A brief essay on developments of the Australian National University's deepening ingratiation with the Australian government.

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Published by: Jason Andrews on Jan 24, 2011
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12/04/2013

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Strategies of power cultures: the co-option of the ANU & lessons from Sun Tzu.
Winter 2010.Jason Andrews.
It was John Dewey who said that one of the key principles of educations was"intellectual freedom and ethical responsibility."
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It is not merely the individual academicthough that should embody these virtues, Dewey was commenting upon academiccultures. An academic culture, though perhaps a vague notion, is a palpable phenomenonwithin any university campus. It is found not in the public announcements of management,but in the photocopy rooms, the academic hallways, the public spaces for beverages andconversation between colleagues, or the absence of them. Cultures are grown andimposed, the former with the potential for healthy democratic discourse and interactions(though this not always the case), and the latter crippled from the outset by the processesof imposition. This does not mean that academic culture is not complex, on the contrary,the relationships between students, academics, management, chancellory, treasury andgovernment weave an intricate cloth of vested interests and contending perspectives. It iswith great suspicion then that Dewey would regard any academic culture that, in suchcomplex relations, appeared calm, contented and in agreement. An academic culture inwhich the meeting of colleagues in a photocopy room results in merely mutteredacknowledgement, where the hallways are silent, where available office hours are tackedto doors, where public spaces are non-existent, suspicions must be raised. Therefromthen, how are we today to regard the cultures of our modern universities? As centres for learning? As independent oases for reflection upon the issues and problems facing our societies? Or as extensions of government authority subject to the capricious whims of theincreasingly sclerotic industrial rationality? Certainly the first two considerations must todaybe discarded as whimsy and unrealistic, the latter on the other hand, cannot be equallydismissed.On Saturday the 8th of May the federal government announced that it will be funding anew National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) at the ANU to the sum of almost $111.7million dollars. An auspicious occasion indeed. Lauded by Vice Chancellor Ian Chubb as a"very tangible sign that ANU is a strategic endowment for the nation, working in thenational interest."
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You would not be mistaken for thinking that this announcement was anoccasion for celebration, that is until the fine print is quietly passed behind the smokymedia haze. For in a much less public fashion,what the NIPP represents is yet another affirmative step by government in the leashing of public institutions to the demands of power.How are we to reconcile this announcement with the prerogative of the academic andthe modern university as social and political institutions integral to any realisation of democracy? In short, we cannot. The declaration of the new NIPP at the ANU is public
 
confirmation of this fact, as now, the ANU, at least in it's capacity as Australia's leadinginstitution on international relations and Australian politics, is now further ingratiated uponthe knee of the parents for whom it is it's democratic duty to hold accountable.So what is the NIPP? Firstly it will house the Australian Centre on China in the World,the National Security College (NSC) and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, with the express aim of drawing more public servants to the ANU for further tertiary education.
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From the ANU's business perspective, in view of the unveiling of thethe Excellence in Research for Australia Initiative (ERA), this translates to a even moreprofound emphasis on servicing the Australian Public Service (APS) whilst satisfying thegovernment's new audit program inorder to obtain a greater slice of the financial pie. Interms of international relations, it represents the continuance of Australia's nationalsecurity (agoraphobia induced) paranoia of shifting power trends in South East Asia.In domestic political strategy though, the signs are even more worrying. Indeed, let usrecall for a moment the wisdom of Sun Tzu's on espionage; "[i]n the whole army, noneshould be closer to the commander than his spies, none more highly rewarded, none moreconfidentially treated."
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The establishment of the NIPP within the boundaries of the ANU istantamount to subversive espionage, with the caveat that the "spies" introduced in thisinstance, are not lowly messengers or foot soldiers, but key lieutenants and generals. Thisis unfortunately not unfounded hyperbole, the NSC stands testament to this strategy. If wetake a glance at the available positions section of the NSC's website for the positions of Deputy Director Executive and Professional Development, Deputy Director Academic,Outreach and Research, Manager Development Courses and Lecturer National SecurityStudies we note this particularly worrying caveat;
All applicants for these secondments will be expected to have a broad background in nationalsecurity departments, and must be currently employed under the Public Service Act 1999 or similar, such as the Defence Act 1903 or Australian Federal Police Act 1979. All applicants musthave, or be able to gain, an Australian Government security clearance to at least Secret level.Applications must be accompanied by a covering letter, from a suitable person in thecandidate's agency, stating that the relevant department/agency will be supportive of asecondment arrangement. Applications without such a letter will not be considered. The terms of the secondment arrangement will be negotiated at the time of appointment, but these conditionswill include an offer from the College to reimburse the relevant department or agency for thepayroll costs of successful candidates.
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So, not only will the NSC focus exclusively on post-graduate education, but key positionswithin the department are to be filled by public servants, who will not only seemingly retaintheir APS salary, but these positions are solely for public servants. Add to this the fact thatthe NSC's director is Professor Michael L'Estrange, appointed as Secretary to the Cabinetby John Howard from 1996-2000 after which he took up the position of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom until 2005. Lets finally consider the aims of the NSC "[to] contributeto the development of a new generation of strategic analysts; and achieve effectiveoutreach to business and the wider community."
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From which graduates of the program should have:
"a clearer sense of their role in the broader national security community and the importance of ongoing engagement; an enhanced capacity to lead or contribute to collaborative strategydevelopment within government, and to build networks of cooperation with areas of nationalsecurity expertise outside government."
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Suddenly, one of the key departments in the NIPP, the NSC, seems more-so an extensionof the APS than an independent policy institute. But then again, it's not meant to be.Within the modern university, the battle being fought is not merely one of money andpower, but of subservience to money and power through academic culture. This is theessential dimension of the strategy, and indeed, possibly the most subtle and insidious. Inestablishing an institution within the bounds of the ANU, servicing the government andserviced by the government, power protects the cultures that establish power. It is herethat we must recall possibly the most famous of Sun Tzu's analects: "[u]ltimate excellencelies not in winning every battle, but in defeat the enemy without ever fighting."
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The academic cultures which resonate across the world today are reminiscent of corporate reptiles whom with each passing year gradually shed their vestiges of humanityin view of something more tangibly calculable. It is lauded as processes of accountability,productivity, responsibility, fiscal security and most importantly in terms of relevance.Relevance is the critical term behind all these rational obfuscations when it comes tocultural practices. Throughout history, the determining of relevance functions to preclude,exclude and define that which is, that which can, that which should, that which is not,cannot, should not and therefrom will and will not. Adorno and Horkheimer were trenchantin their critique of such delimiting practices wherein "[t]hinking objectifies itself to becomean automatic, self-activating process; an impersonation of the machine that it producesitself so that ultimately the machine can replace it."
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The key issue is against what system of values is the relevance of academia to beworthy of support or un-worthy of support via the university and the government? Again,this is not hyperbole, Ian Chubb has admitted this already as the NIPP's purpose is to"conduct research relevant to the public policy priorities of the government."
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It is clear that we face a contestation of academic cultures. In view of the declaration of the NIPP, it is also clear that the system of values against which academia is deemed tobe relevant and "good"s one which accedes independent freedom and therein ethicalresponsibility to the commands of structural authority and power. The culture ingratiatedand imposed by such institutions as the NIPP is one of obeisance, of truth only if and whenpower deems truth to be necessary to the operations of good policy. Furthermore, itenables power to add another dimension of faux legitimacy before the media and other institutions. From now on government can indicate publicly to the institute and declarethem as independent assessments of truth concerning a host of issues and power will

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