Liber amicorum: A Philosophical Conversation among Friends: A Festschrift for Michael A. Peters.

Position:OUTSTANDING TITLES - Book review
 
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Michael A. Peters is Professor in the Wilf Malcolm Institute for Educational Research at Waikato University, Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Professorial Fellow at James Cook University. He is the executive editor of Educational Philosophy and Theory and founding editor of several other journals, including the Open Review of Educational Research and The Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy. His interests are in education, philosophy and social policy and he has written over sixty books, including most recently The Global Financial Crisis and the Restructuring of Education (2015), Paulo Freire: The Global Legacy (2015) both with Tina Besley, Education Philosophy and Politics: Selected Works (2011); Education, Cognitive Capitalism and Digital Labour (2011), with Ergin Bulut; and Neoliberalism and After? Education, Social Policy and the Crisis of Capitalism (2011). He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ in 2010 and awarded honorary doctorates by State University of New York (SUNY) in 2012 and University of Aalborg in 2015.

The notion of an academic friendship implied in "book of friends"--Liber amicorum--suggests a mutual caring about ideas and their representation, an intimacy that differs from the impersonal and bureaucratic relationships that distinguish neoliberal universities, and shared activity in the joint pursuits of conferences, seminars, books and papers implied in co-authorship, in a shared body of literature, in shared perspectives. Academic friendship is built into the notion of philosophy and is not only a shared love of wisdom in the original Greek meaning of the term but an essential relation that is at the basis of being a colleague: it is inherent in the idea of dialogue, communication and the very possibility of conversation.

This Romantic analysis that revolves around academic exchange, mutual acknowledgement, and shared standards of scholarship stands in marked contrast to the knowledge hoarding and privatisation of research that characterises the neoliberal university that imposes its industrial line management psychology to police, monitor and increasingly spy on the performativity of its faculty. In the "university of friends" it is our special responsibility to be critical of one another and to learn to take criticism in a positive sense as the lifeblood of scholarship: criticism without meanness, without rancour, and without nastiness.

What have I learned about Michael, having known him and worked closely with him for such a long period of time? Should anyone ever ask me to provide one word to characterize him, it would probably be this: energy. Michael never seems to stop. He loves to write, to share in conversation, and to initiate new projects. His enthusiasm is infectious. When Michael becomes involved with another group of people, the dynamic of the group changes; no one can stay the same once Michael has entered their lives. These thoughts are intended not merely as idiosyncratic reflections on Michael's personal characteristics (as I see them) but also as stepping stones for the exploration of philosophical and pedagogical questions. In the figure of Michael Peters, we have a distinctive example of how to live as a certain kind of intellectual, friend and teacher.

From Michael we can learn that writing, as a mode of intellectual activity, constitutes both a process of clarification and a means for exploration. Reading and writing are always related to each other: writing becomes the basis for finding out what one does and doesn't know, simultaneously permitting a new 'reading' of not only the texts under examination but the wider contexts--intellectual, political, historical--in which they are embedded. Michael is anything but technocratic in his reading and writing endeavors. He does not follow a linear, step by step method, reading first, taking notes, then writing...

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