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New Left Review I/43, May-June 1967


Anthony Barnett, Gareth Stedman Jones and Tom Wengraf

Student Power: What Is to Be Done?

Until this year, Britain, perhaps uniquely, has lacked any significant student movement. During the past 15 years sections of British students have played an active, if not predominant role in the agitation over Suez, campaigns against racism and colonialism, and, most auspiciously, cnd. But none of this political activity reflected anything that could be termed, a specific student consciousness. Traditionally the ideal self-image of the student was the ‘undergraduate’—a debased version of the renaissance polymath, a gentleman taught by gentlemen, freed from prejudice by the austere pleasures of socratic debate. Collective student consciousness was precluded by such a schema. The liberal philosophy of academic freedom and the non-vocational university fused both teacher and taught in the abstract and unfettered quest for wisdom. Even the concept ‘student union’ was confiscated by liberal academic terminology to mean either nursery training in the rhetorical skills of parliamentary repartee or cheap passes to foreign museums and youth hostelling in southern climes.

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