1Preparations for this issue of the Journal of the CIPH began in 2017 following the protests against the El Khomri law, [1] which led to the blockade of several institutions of higher learning and strikes that went on for months. At the time, discussions were taking place on the need to "reinvent the university," to confront the managerial mediocrity controlling it, and to refound it "in freedom, scrupulousness and emancipation," as recommended by a report from the Groupe Jean-Pierre Vernant. Three years later, we found ourselves in yet another period of nationwide strikes. High school teachers had denounced the harmful effects of a reform of the baccalauréat[2] that would only weaken educational standards by devoting more time to testing than to reflection and learning. More than 300 university research groups and 145 journals were prepared to cease all scientific activity and mobilize against the LPPR[3] that, with its long-term contracts for the most driven "young researchers," further heightens the entrepreneurial logic, competitiveness and insecurity currently undermining the world of research and teaching.

2With the call for action on 5 March 2020, followed by the beginning of the lockdown that put a halt to all the reforms underway, we decided to postpone the publication of the issue until now. Politics of Teaching does not directly address the problems raised by at-home educational continuity, which is a crucial issue at this time when we seem to rediscover the importance of public service ("there are goods and services that must not be subject to the laws of the free market") and, more specifically, the importance of the school as a place that may reduce some forms of social inequality. From the very first days of the lockdown, the managerial logic structuring our public services has hastened to call on teachers’ inventiveness, even as none of those teachers were in a position to choose their own constraints. The experimentation and educational freedom that were increasingly threatened by the standardization of the profession have quickly become mandatory through injunctions from several principals and head teachers. "A teacher works no matter what happens, even in a historic moment when the schools are closed!" And as our contracts are still in effect, why not take advantage of the opportunity to think up "alternative," "innovative" educational propositions that will put our institutions in the spotlight once the lockdown is over? It is still too soon to know how the educational trial and error that has characterized this period will disrupt our teaching practices. But we can hope that the struggles currently in abeyance due to the public health emergency, and the concerns it engenders, are not neglected.

3For years, teachers have been constantly demonstrating, as well as publishing articles and opinion pieces attacking the transformation of their profession that the recent reforms are putting in place. In one piece for Le Monde, Fanny Capel, a literature teacher, did not hesitate to stress that the new baccalauréat is above all "a powerful lever for transforming the meaning of schoolwork and the teaching profession. Both teachers and students are commanded to adapt to impossible requirements, with permanent testing, immediate results, and lower costs as mantras." [4] So we see the arrival in high schools of the same entrepreneurial model that the LRU law [5] has brought into higher learning. In La Destruction de l’université française, the historian Christophe Granger has provided one of the most enlightening analyses of this world, characterized by the weakening of universities, their newfound openness to business interests and the submission of education to free-market precepts. Public universities, subject to the state’s disengagement, experience an "autonomy" that in fact forces them to seek their own financing, a regime to which they must submit in order to maintain the quality of their scientific activities. Ultimately, this not only casts doubt on the ability of academics to choose their own research topics (which must now be in line with the priorities and agendas of funders and businesses): it also creates an untenable situation leading to all kinds of work-related stress. Academics are so busy with matters beyond the work of research and teaching – assembling proposals, searching for partners and financing, writing agreements and carrying out administrative tasks – that they no longer have the time to do their jobs. This absurd situation, which Antonia Birnbaum attacked in a satirical text, "À quoi bon alors l’université?" ("What Good, Then, Is the University?"), [6] reveals what the assimilation of universities by the economy ends up eliminating: the very possibility of learning.

4The burden of professionalization and the subsequent need to relate everything to some immediate usefulness means that higher learning is no longer, as Granger emphasizes, a "special time" exempt from the laws of production, performance and profitability. This temporality of learning is now to be cut short in high schools, where the E3C tests [7] create a profusion of deadlines in quick succession in the hope of guaranteeing immediate results. This "special time" is now threatened everywhere one would hope to find pockets of resistance to the managerial measures structuring the system of teaching and, more generally, of all public services. We could think in particular of the advanced schools of art and design that, following the LMD reforms, [8] ended up modeling the organization of their programs on those of the universities. While art teachers constantly defend the specificity of artistic research, [9] insisting upon the importance of separating artistic experimentation from any productivist or normative logic, it becomes increasingly difficult to leave room in students’ schedules for studio work, which is not necessarily governed by the logic of "doing" but by what Fernand Deligny called an "acting" (un agir) without immediate purpose. This "fear of emptiness," this terror of unproductive time makes it that much harder to permit students to come face to face with themselves, alone. The words of Deleuze, for whom the role of the teacher is "to reconcile students with their solitude," seem somewhat outdated in schools focused on professionalization, where art students as well as high schoolers become entrepreneurs of their development and their studies, which they themselves design by choosing what interests them in the educational "offer." They are invited to "use the school," to select from the menu of internships that they layer over their courses, which are increasingly reduced to "modules" or "capsules," just so many quick shots of teaching adapted to their new attention spans. Obviously, this does not just endanger the long timeframe needed for a search in search of itself; it also threatens to modify what Barthes called "the teaching relationship." [10] While teachers gradually transform themselves into service providers, students run the risk of developing one of two attitudes: one of a dissatisfied customer, skeptical about the effectiveness of the "capsule" they have just taken, or one of a persuasive seller capable of presenting their project or their artistic method in a few minutes (in a "Three Minute Thesis" [11] style) during a speed dating [12] session – the new format par excellence of professional encounters, primed for inclusion into study programs.

5How can we resist this new way of managing and governing humans known as "the business of the self" [13] and return to the idea of teaching as a "technique of the self," as the process of working out a way of behaving, a way of life? People constantly say that we must change our way of life, but they don’t allow education the possibility of being the lever of this change. Instead of having the properties of a market, the university – and higher learning in general – must "first constitute a form of collective living, a whole way of establishing contact with one another and organizing ourselves, arranged around values that are definitively both collective and collectively practiced." [14] How can our teaching contribute to the reinvention of these ways of connecting with one another? What affects are they likely to arouse? What forms of equality and what inclusive relationships are they in a position to establish? What can our politics of teaching do when faced with the rigid formatting of learning methods and the growing standardization of our profession? What room is there for experimentation (and a certain level of impenetrability that results from it) in a "gridded" [15] world that persists in testing everything constantly and continually in order to best measure the submission of every activity to the economic norms and criteria that govern that world?

6Today, as universities everywhere are relying on business models and a professionalizing conception of teaching, the focus of this issue is to bring these debates out into the open, to gather the viewpoints of university professors, art school teachers and high school teachers who wish to examine teaching itself as a matter of research, to allow room for experimentation, or to see the teaching of philosophy as authentic "fieldwork" that puts the concepts and methods of the philosophical tradition to the test. The experiments analyzed by each contribution – in the form of essays, first-hand accounts or interviews – show the way in which the teaching of philosophy attempts to evolve and renew itself, whether in a vocational high school or in a school of art or architecture, even if this means taking the form of a "philosophizing" that some would no longer consider "philosophy."

7While the possibility of experimenting with new configurations of teaching seems to define the specific educational situation of art schools, it is also explored in high schools, particularly concerning those students who return to school after dropping out. The goal of these experiments with "flipped classrooms" is to construct a creative, active relationship to knowledge that encourages the students’ own initiative and offers them a place in the group, which then acquires a different structure from the traditional classroom arrangement. We will examine these experiments in teaching alongside those underway in schools of art and design. These new configurations, conceived by guest artists or by the teachers themselves – who for the time being still have the freedom to envision work environments whose effects cannot be calculated or anticipated – seek to place students and teachers in a research-oriented attitude that forces them, more often than not, to come to terms with their lack of knowledge, undermining any sense of mastery. Most of all, they give rise to that special kind of joy that comes about when we decide to invest our time and energy in building something together without necessarily knowing where that will lead us and what the result will be. At a time when integral calculability seems to be the condition of knowledge, this "opening to what surpasses any calculation," which Bernard Stiegler and many other contributors discuss here, proves to be essential, even if only through the emotions it stirs up. For if we keep to a Spinozist approach, [16] only those emotions likely to increase the ability to act and think for oneself let us put a logic of emancipation into practice, and work politically.

8"I want to work politically." This requirement that the artist Thomas Hirschhorn has given himself has led him to distance himself from any qualitative logic, preferring work environments where the energy expended is all that matters: "Energy: Yes! Quality: No!" [17] The images in this issue come from a workshop entitled What Can I Learn from You? What Can You Learn from Me? that took place in 2018 at the Remai Modern art museum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The workshop, lasting 27 days, proceeded according to a set of rules that the artist devised throughout a series of projects, rules that he describes as "Presence and Production." These include: carrying out preparatory "fieldwork" in order to present his artistic project to people who aren’t necessarily used to visiting museums; paying fees to those who agree to participate through teaching; and making sure that all the participants receive free admission to all the museum’s exhibits. In addition, he is present for the entire workshop to meet the participants and take part in the process, while adopting a principle of "non-programming," and therefore one of "non-satisfaction" of the public, which does not exclude the possibility of a disappointing experience. These rules, which the artist has revised and reconsidered over the course of his work, allow him not only to distinguish his artistic proposition from a mere cultural event, where the satisfaction of the target audience prevails, but also to include within his project what he calls a "non-exclusive" audience, which does not exclude non-specialists of contemporary art – the very opposite, then, of a select, predetermined audience. [18]

figure im1

9The experimental configuration of this workshop resembles the "ideal game" that Deleuze described in Logic of Sense: a game in which the set of rules does not exist before the game itself, but emerges as the game is played and varies as it is invented. While this game without preexisting rules may seem unplayable, Deleuze points out that this ideal is nothing other than the reality of thought, in other words "that by which thought and art are real and disturbing reality, morality, and the economy of the world." [19] That autonomy, that set of rules that one gives oneself, is what allows Thomas Hirschhorn to offer a situation of teaching, transmission and sharing that has the power to redefine the museum itself and reenvision its relationship to the public. If we think of the original project of the University of Vincennes, or the creation of the Collège international de philosophie – i.e. the idea of a university or college "without condition" [20] intended for a "non-exclusive" public, without catering to the public at large – we readily see how his artistic proposal harmonizes with some of the teaching and research situations that have been able to participate in the work of defining the institution that welcomed them.


  • [1]
    Translator’s note: A reform of labor laws known simply as the "work law" (loi Travail) in France, which was presented to the National Assembly by the then labor minister, Myriam El Khomri. The proposed legislation would have made it easier to fire workers, among other provisions. It was withdrawn after a sustained campaign of strikes and demonstrations by several sectors of French society.
  • [2]
    Translator’s note: The final exam that French high school students must pass in order to obtain their diploma.
  • [3]
    Translator’s note: Loi de programmation pluriannuelle de la recherche, which could be translated as "Law for the long-term programming of research".
  • [4]
    See Fanny Capel, "Le Bac républicain est mort. Vive le… quoi?," Le Monde, 3 March 2020.
  • [5]
    Translator’s note: La loi relative aux libertés et responsabilités des universités, aka la loi Pécresse, after Valérie Pécresse, former education minister during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. The law offered to grant universities more autonomy, but in exchange for a reduction in state funding. Following a campaign of student demonstrations, the law was substantially modified to increase available funding and reduce trends toward making schools more selective, but remains in effect.
  • [6]
  • [7]
    Translator’s note: "Épreuves communes de contrôle continu," which could be translated as "common continuous assessment tests".
  • [8]
    Translator’s note: "Licence / master / doctorat," the reforms in the early 2000s that brought the French university system of diplomas into agreement with those in the rest of Europe and the US, where the "licence" is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
  • [9]
    See, in particular, issue 72 of the journal Hermès, titled "L’Artiste, un chercheur pas comme les autres" (2015), as well as issue 130 of the journal Culture et recherche, titled "La Recherche dans les écoles supérieures d’art" (Winter 2014-2015).
  • [10]
    "[T]he teaching relationship," wrote Barthes, "is nothing more than the transference it institutes; ‘science,’ ‘method,’ ‘knowledge,’ ‘idea’ come indirectly, are given in addition – they are left-overs." Roland Barthes, "Ecrivains, intellectuels, professeurs," Tel Quel 47 (Autumn 1971), republished in Œuvres complètes vol. III (Paris: Seuil), 887-907 ["Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers," Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 196]. On the current mutations of the teaching relationship, see also the work of Plinio Prado, in particular Le Principe d’université and "L’Université, le soi et le marché contemporain," L’Humanité, 31 December 2009, as well as the subsection titled "Libéraliser les études" of the previously cited work by Christophe Granger.
  • [11]
    Translator’s note: a competition with its origins in Australia that has become widespread in Quebec and France, where students present their PhD project in less than three minutes while remaining clear yet entertaining.
  • [12]
    Translator’s note: "Speed dating" – in English in the original text.
  • [13]
    See in particular Sarah Abdelnour and Anne Lambert, "’L’entreprise de soi,’ un nouveau mode de gestion politique des classes moyennes?" (2014), on the website.
  • [14]
    Christophe Granger, La Destruction de l’université française (Paris: La Fabrique, 2015), 174.
  • [15]
    See the joint publication Derrière les grilles: Sortons du tout-évaluation, ed. Barbara Cassin (Paris: Mille et une nuits, 2014), as well as the brilliant text by Bertrand Ogilvie, "L’inévaluable," in Le Travail à mort, au temps du capitalisme absolu (Paris: L’Arachnéen, 2017), 121-142.
  • [16]
    See Pascal Sévérac’s Spinozist reading of Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster and, in particular, the opposition he establishes between "anti-cognitive affects," which lead to a feeling of one’s own powerlessness to think (e.g. the student’s admiration for their teacher) and the "affects of knowledge" that inspire confidence in the equality of each person’s intellectual capacity. Sévérac, "La position du maître: enseigner, abrutir, émanciper," Rue Descartes 71 (2011): 102-108.
  • [17]
    See Thomas Hirschhorn, Critical Laboratory: The Writings of Thomas Hirschhorn, ed. Lisa Lee and Hal Foster (Cambridge MA / London: The MIT Press, 2013).
  • [18]
    For more on this project, see the "Conversation between Thomas Hirschhorn and Sandra Guimaraes" published on the artist’s website: See also the catalog published by Remai Modern in 2018, Thomas Hirschhorn: What can I learn from you. What can you learn from me (Critical Workshop).
  • [19]
    Gilles Deleuze, Logique du sens (Paris: Minuit, 1969), 76 [The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 60].
  • [20]
    See Jacques Derrida, "The future of the profession or the university without condition (thanks to the “Humanities,” what could take place tomorrow)," Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, ed. Tom Cohen (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 24-57. On the theoretical foundations of the Collège international de philosophie, see François Châtelet, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Pierre Faye, and Dominique Lecourt, Le Rapport bleu: les sources historiques et théoriques du Collège international de philosophie [1998] (Nanterre: Presses universitaires de Paris-Nanterre, 2019)