For Uselessness

I’ve been ranting about the importance of waste, the value of uselessness, for a while now — at least since I had the task of introducing a programme of Graduate Attributes at the University of Glasgow: a list of promises toward the salutary effects that University study would effect on its consumers students. At the time, I argued that an undergraduate degree in the Arts should not be understood as instrumental toward improving someone’s job prospects, increasing their pay, transferring to them measurable knowledge, or making them docile stooges for ideological governmental or institutional apparatuses. Rather, study in the Arts engenders the question ‘Wouldn’t you rather admire this? Why do you want to be that? What further possibilities can you envision? How do these beautiful things work? How might we learn to do something such as that?’ Three (UK) or four (Scottish/US) years of study should support the capacity to grow up, to form sound judgements and to apprehend quickly what one observes — or at least that’s what I say. That process involves, necessarily, a certain amount of wasted time, or uselessness, and though that be a mortal sin to neoliberal culture, I’m not in the least embarrassed to advocate that alleged waste.*

I will buy a copy of this when I have a little time to read:

Jenny Odell's book, How To Do Nothing

* I am not in favour of consumer-based wastage, not a bit. I am in favour of recognising that human well-being involves time and pursuits that aren’t economically productive, not quantifiable, have no exchange-value to the wider polis. I am against razor-thin margins in employment, in resources, in human welfare.

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