Normally it would be expected that providing more opportunities for higher education would produce a population that is not only better educated and likely to earn better incomes and so forth but, also, are more tolerant, understanding of the situations in which other people find themselves and able to diagnose problems in society and the economy on rational grounds. Yet, in Thailand, opinion polls (many of which are very suspect methodologically, of course) consistently show that the majority of people with university degrees and graduate degrees appear to support the bourgeois right (Democrats) and the feudal/Fascist right (PAD/NPP) and their predilection for state murder, double standards, manufacturing of evidence etc.. Why is this?
Well, initially I assumed this was an artifact of the dual educational system in Thailand: higher educational places are reserved for the children of the middle classes through keeping costs up, insisting on English language and academic standards (which are denied to the children of the poor because of the deliberately-maintained low standards of the schools they are permitted to attend) and concentration of higher institutes in urban locations. This leads to middle class children reproducing the conditions of the existing class system, of course.
Goran Therborn (I met him, you know, when he came to a workshop here) goes a little further:
“Contemporary monopoly capitalism has generated immense strata of subaltern intellectual employees, who tend to send their children for academic qualification; at the same time, rising employment opportunities for intellectual labour have attracted young people to higher education in far greater numbers than previously. As a result, the huge wave of qualification disintegrated the traditional means of bourgeois academic subjection – instruments which, in the imperialist countries, had functioned so successfully since the times of the bourgeois revolutions, preparing students for their future roles as members or hangers-on of the ruling class, and providing a pool of militant strike-breakers and, at certain times and places, dedicated Fascist storm-troopers.”
In 2006, the forces of feudalism, personified in the army, joined forces with the rightist bourgeois forces to expel the forces of progression in a military coup – the Thai Rak Thai government wished to complete the bourgeois revolution from feudalism to capitalism which had begun in 1932 but which had been resisted, often with the use of enormous amounts of violence, by the aristocracy and its lackeys.
* Goran Therborn, What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules? (London and New York: Verso, 2008) (originally 1978), pp.177-8. It is the book I read on the trips to and from the main campus – that’s why I quote it on Wednesdays and Thursdays, of course.