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Essay on the scientific proletariat. Part 1

Очерк о научном пролетариате. Часть 1

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation, which until then were considered honored and looked up to with reverent awe. The doctor, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science it was turned into its paid wage laborers.”
The Communist Manifesto

“Scientists say more about money than about Science. From Professor claim to be businessman, while most professors are bad businessmen.”
Andrey Solovyev, PhD

Очерк о научном пролетариате. Часть 1

Exclusion of scientific work

With the development of capitalism workers are informed of the “noble professions” more proletariats, that is, subjected to exploitation and alienation. Scientists are no exception. Science has long ceased to be a toy for rich gentlemen and became the most important productive force of modern society, requiring enormous investments by the state and private capital. In science, employed millions of people, the overwhelming majority of which belong to the proletariat. We are young scientists working in one of the Russian research Institute will show how the inevitable process of proletarianization of the worker binds the future of science it (science) development, as the prostitution of science capital alienates the work of a research worker from himself as a creative process of obtaining new knowledge about the world becomes dull work, devoid of vsjakogo creative component.

Just say that it will be mainly about the workers in the field of fundamental natural Sciences. Out leave researchers working in secret government agencies and industry. The position of the Humanities in our time, deserves separate articles.

Ask yourself the question: what makes a scientist? For this, we have to remember that the role of science under capitalism. In the periods of the formation of capitalism science was needed for a new, progressive class of bourgeois. Of course, for a capitalist new knowledge about the world around us does not in any way valuable in themselves, but only insofar as it is possible to intensify the work with them. That is, science becomes the main factor of increasing the productivity of labor. Increasing the role of science in the production of goods and their means of production increases significantly the role of information, the possession of which makes it possible to create new use value. For example, knowledge that a particular substance is able to selectively kill cancer cells, making it possible to create a new drug based on it. Drug in turn will serve as a means of production (or rather, reproduction) of the workforce, and in their trademark shell – source of profit for the capitalist. Use value this information about a new anticancer substance is information about the possibility of creating new drugs that will benefit society.

So, science officer, and another representative of the working class creates by his labor a new value, i.e. produce goods. These products can have as property (in our example, the already finished product), and informational (information about the active ingredient of the drug, the technical documentation regarding the use of the drug, etc.) or services (expertise, study on economic agreements). In the first case we are talking about applied science, and the second is fundamental. The more labor (in our case mental, “high”) spent on the production of a commodity, the higher its value.

Even if the information produced by the scientist, for example, the description of a new species of bacteria, does not carry an obvious practical use, she multiplies our knowledge of the world (specifically in this example, the diversity of the microbial world) and contains the potential to transform this world in the future for the benefit of society. In our case, the scientists described the bacteria may have useful for biotechnology and medicine enzyme. Such cases, when the first “useless” knowledge of nature has found its application in the history of science a lot. But the main problem is that the use-value of such information for companies in conflict with the value of information as a commodity. That is produced by the researcher, the information may simply not find your application, because it can not be set to private. And if so, immediately enveloped in shell commodity, appropriated by the capitalist. So we come to the second question: who exploits the work of the scientist, or, in other words, who owns the means of scientific production?

First, it is the state (which owns a research Institute or educational institution), private corporations or universities with varying degrees of state involvement. This may be a petty capitalist, who himself often comes from the same environment science of the proletariat. The countries of the capitalist centre has developed a system of venture financing and the so-called business incubators, and in our country, such “innovation” entrepreneurs can use their services. This creates the illusion that it is a small innovative business is the engine of the economy, although in fact this system is used exclusively for pre-testing new high-tech production in small scale in the interests of the large capitalists [1]. Detailed study and criticism of venture capitalism, innovative entrepreneurship and the “knowledge economy” deserve a separate article, if not books.

Secondly, it is the capitalists engaged in the trade of scientific goods. To this group we refer large publishing house has the exclusive right to publish journal articles, manufacturers and distributors of scientific equipment and consumables. Scientific conference, which is a scientific report, often sponsored by the latter. Detailed consideration of this deserves a separate article, now for us the main thing is that the vast majority of scientific employees are deprived of their own means of production and forced to engage in academic institutions. To talk about the alienation of labor, let’s look at how, under capitalism, organized production of new production of information.

Obtaining new scientific knowledge – is its search. The search includes the hypotheses, experimental verification, data processing. The output is a product produced new knowledge. Since we are talking about searching, the use-value in this case has it produced new information. For example, you discovered that substance X has an antimicrobial effect. In this case us important information about its possible use as drugs, and use-value the substance will have only after its production will be put on stream.

To conduct scientific research, you need the means of production (equipment, supplies, space). They are possessed by the capitalist. In the case of the fundamental science that “capitalist” is usually the state or the University, it pays for your College or University from your budget. And here we encounter the main feature of scientific research: the results are difficult to predict. But at the same time, under capitalism science is a major branch of the economy, because the results of expensive scientific work will be assigned monopolies. Therefore, the state is invested in the most promising industry, but the “whole science” stands, taking into account non-state investment is not more than 4.5 % of GDP [2]. To get the additional funds you will need to either grant, or the state assignment, or to participate in commercial projects of the Institute. Grants can be public or private. For scientists in natural scientific specialties to a grant is virtually the only way to do “normal” science, and in Russia and peripheral countries –and even get paid for more or less bearable existence.

So, research teams, consisting of the service of the state, are forced to compete with each other for a place at the trough. Supporters of the grant system will object us that the competition will inevitably eliminate the “parasites” that wins the best, and therefore most in need of scientific workers. And in some ways they are right: competitive funding cuts do pseudoscientists and outright bums. However, science has long ceased to be a pastime for the wealthy and became the most important productive force of society. The fact that the contribution to the scientific study may not guarantee immediate profit, makes science in General unprofitable industry. But if, under socialism, surplus labor creates the surplus value, goes to the benefit of society, including science (as a society interested in the development of science in General), under capitalism, are sponsored by only a few, the most promising from the point of view of the capitalist direction. Scientists, like flies to dung, fly to the mainstream of the mainstream. Best for the grantor is not better for society: a “risky” project, which will bring a guaranteed result, you just can not give funding. Losers can stay without any means solely due to formal errors in the application: the use of professional slang, a few vague goals, etc.

A huge number of applications with limited resources creates competition: caught about 70% – 90% of applicants. It is important to assess not only the content of your application, but formal criteria: number of publications of a scientist, previously received grants, teaching experience. All this cannot but lead to the fact that the original purpose of your study (to obtain new knowledge) is substituted to obtain the grant. And, as the biologists R. Levins and R. Lewontin in his article “the Commodification of science” [3], a grant ultimately becomes an end in itself. Enough “rich” laboratory can hire a special worker who will deal exclusively accounting records, but not the production of knowledge. More often this has to do either the researcher, which reduces time for research or the Director, who is not doing the experiments myself, and deals with the administrative work and making money. There is a widespread practice of temporary recruitment of scientific personnel for the period of performance under the grant.

Under capitalism, the scientist is in a strange position: his work is necessary to society, but he constantly has to prove the necessity and importance of their work to the capitalist, since his work does not bring immediate profit. To do the actual science, you need to do additional work on writing the grant application and prepare reporting documentation. And if large laboratories possible distribution of roles in small groups this extra work can be involved all its members. Employees of research departments (R&D) of private firms engaged in scientific research in the field of applied tasks, opportunities to justify their existence denied: the failure to address the problem will lead to dismissal, and even if the capitalist and gives you the opportunity to engage in “free scientific creativity” in the framework of a specific task, in a period of crisis would prefer not to invest in the unprofitable direction and throw, the cold will reduce our proletariat-the Creator.

Person feels satisfaction from his work, only when his work is creative, intelligent and contributing to society. The need for a scientist to prove the importance of his social labor leads to the alienation of scientific work from him. More and more researchers are forced to engage not in what is their soul, and the direction of investment, or to participate in the trade of scientific goods (to go to private firms and sell equipment, etc.). The inability to immediately use the products of scientific labor under capitalism is a special case of the main contradiction of capitalism between social production and private form of appropriation. Scientific proletarian, man is a Creator, or forced to sell their labor power more engaging to those who possess a grant or going into a trade or try to get to the place under the sun yourself.

Alienation of scientific work evidenced by the growing number of mental disorders among scientific workers: burnout, depression, workaholism. A recent study conducted in Belgium shows that every second graduate student is experiencing psychological discomfort, and one in three risk of getting a mental illness (e.g., depression) [4]. This leads to the state called “limbo”. It is due to the unstable position of the scientist, competition, routine, reporting. A situation where an academic employee works 12 hours a day and more on weekends and holidays, no surprise. Of course, it often happens that the very nature of the work, for example, a long experiment requires such a regime, however, not every “boss” will give you relaxation. Sleeping in the lab, the Chinese graduate student – this is the modern image of the scientific proletariat, the engine of progress.

Here are some quotes of researchers, found in the network:

Doctor from abroad, 40:

“I drove myself, trying to finish this article, because if you don’t publish it in a good journal, they will not include me in a research report, not once there, I can forget about improving and just a few days before my end. Pure teaching contract, without research, that’s what I get! Feel like you’re climbing, clinging to the nails.” [5]

A young researcher, Ukraine:

“To submit an article in a foreign magazine, you can either do the experiment on European equipment, or pretty decent pay. Or already have foreign publications. A vicious circle. Instead of solving some important problems thumb scientific topics: a) can be done haphazardly, using scales and a ruler, b) like the Director of the institution) will help earn money (but this is not science, because the work is sponsored by all sorts of large companies, who need to confirm their results and to sell your product).” [6]

Russian scientist, complains about the workload and multitasking:

“It must be multitasking. This is a very serious point, and in fact destructive. It seems to me that people can’t do per unit of time over a certain number of cases – and it units, the weak dependence of prematuramente each. But if things are quite similar, routine, they seem to merge into one – like a change machine at the factory. There is, of course, can suffer from monotony, but not going anywhere, working hours and all. Another thing, when you have experiments, manuscripts, students and plus here still need to sign some crap. And that’s why so enraged these requirements are assholes from FANO to urgently draw up a new plan or report. Why? Really it takes about 15 minutes… it Seems like you would be easy to adapt to moderate forms of bureaucratic sabotage.”[7]

A young Russian studying in Oxford:

“Here’s an example: I was sitting at the computer, watch spoilers of new cards to Magic. Rest the head. Wait until the end to spin the centrifuge to samples that I’ve been cooking all day without a lunch break. On the clock is half past eight in the evening. Suddenly on my right (I distinctly remember) shoulder appears a huge head Kim Asmita, a prominent biochemist and the head of a neighboring lab. Without any foreplay, and with undisguised contempt, he gives “When I was young, we didn’t have these… distractions. We worked (When I was young, we didn’t have these… distractions. We worked, TRANS. ed.)”.

Two months later this is my craziest race was culminicola. I needed to make 24-hour experiments. Every hour to measure the phosphatase activity of the devil, the preparation of the samples took half an hour. That is, from the day I spent 12 hours working, 12 hours waited. When I finished one of the daily experiment, it was six in the morning. I somnabulist went to sleep, slept until ten in the morning and returned to the lab by eleven. I was greeted by a note from the instructor with a request to immediately come to her office. It was lucidly explained that the experiment or not, but I have to be in the workplace at nine in the morning. Without delay.” [8]

Comes up to the fact that the scientific worker’s boss forces even to outright fraud. From a conversation with a graduate student at a prestigious Moscow University K.:

“Our leader told us to apply for the grant. But clearly hinted that grant money, if received, will be cut. If we get them, but want to spend at the fair, according to the plan, all paper work will be fully borne by us. I wrote my application somehow, though we didn’t get it!”

Has already shape the global market of scientific labour. From the dependent capitalist countries of the periphery are flowing to the countries of the centre for working hands and brains. According to the data taken from Forbes magazine in 2013, 70% of graduate students in US are foreigners [9]. After all, in order to be on the top of the career, it is necessary to obtain the degree of doctor of philosophy (PhD, the analogue of the domestic “candidate of Sciences”), and then to work out some time postdocs (approximate foreign equivalent of our researcher with a degree). It is necessary to complete graduate school, and prestigious University (Institute) developed capitalist countries, as the home of people from the periphery do not always have the opportunity to realize your talent. However, the PhD does not guarantee scientific employee stable employment. Newly hired post-doctoral research fellowship on temporary contracts, if he handles his project, extend the contract.

The scientific community can be compared with the medieval workshop at the stage of its decline: a huge number of eternal apprentice, mercilessly exploited by the masters. Alexander Alfonso in his article “The Academy reminds the cartel” [10] shows that the market research workers resembles a pyramid with successful people at the top who have achieved success in those days, when competition was not so high. The “outsider” agreed to work on part-time and temporary contracts in the hope sooner or later to a professorship. Because wanting to get a cushy Professor’s place, no rebound, this system works very smoothly.

To be continued…

Young scientists

Note refer to the source

© 2019, paradox. All rights reserved.

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