W. remembers the first time they tried to destroy philosophy. It was the ’80s, and he was a young student. He remembers the departmental closures. He remembers the demonstrations. And he remembers questions in the House of Lords about the closure of the humanities. About the closure of philosophy!
Of course, philosophy survived the cuts of the ’80s, just about, W. says. They closed half the departments. They made half the teachers of philosophy redundant, or moved them across to jobs in other subject areas. It was a terrible time.
But at least the government recognised philosophy as the enemy back then, W. says. At least they understood its power. The humanities are the enemy of capitalism: that’s what they understood. Philosophy is the eternal adversary of capitalism … Yes, the government understood that.
But now? The government no longer understands the humanities as an enemy, W. says. The government have nothing in particular against philosophy. They don’t hate us, W. says. They don’t even take us as their enemy. They have no idea that we’re their enemies, W. says. They have no notion that the weapons of our thought are turned against them …
They do not oppose us on ideological grounds, or because they suspect us of subversion. They are not concerned that philosophy is training terrorists of thought. They’re simply going to marketise education, W. says. They’re simply going to turn the university over to the free market, just as they are turning all the sectors of the economy over to the free market. It’s got nothing to do with philosophy in particular …
We can’t become martyrs to philosophy, because its destroyers do not even see philosophy. We can’t become warriors for philosophy, because there is no particular battle against philosophy. We cannot set ourselves on fire for philosophy, because no one would understand the meaning of our sacrifice.