4. Value/Evaluation
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121 4. Value/Evaluation To designate an activity or set of activities “work” is to assign it a particular value, distinct from the value of other kinds of activities—not work, not real work, labor, and, of course, play. That is, as I discuss in chapter 3, “work” serves to hierarchize forms of labor (“labor” as “manual” and “low” unlike mental/intellectual “work,” say), as well as to mark some forms of activity as work and others not at all. As this practice illustrates, value is not something inherent to particular entities or activities but, rather, produced through language. It should but cannot go without saying that value is thus the product, not the object, of acts of evaluation: the application of particular criteria produces a sense of the value of a particular object or act. Brokers participate in such acts of evaluation, working to achieve consensus on value—to persuade to “recognition” of the claimed value of a particular object or act. Thus, so long as language continues (that is, for all practical purposes, forever), the contingent character of the value assigned an entity or action—what is identified as its value—continues. This is true of both “exchange” and “use” value. Use value is realized only in use and is therefore contingent on use, on practice. Exchange value is likewise “realized” only in the act of exchange and is likewise, if more obviously, contingent, as fluctuations in the stock market demonstrate. Language contributes to the evaluation/value for use and/or exchange of labor and entities, thereby troubling not only what counts as labor—that is, what is given the value of being recognized as labor by being called “labor”—but (thereby) also its value (or lack thereof) in relation to other phenomena also designated “labor.” The value of the work of composition, like the value of any other work, is thus contingent on language—or, to be more precise, language Value/Evaluation ______________________________________________________ 122 practices. At least some of the efforts discussed in chapter 1 to rename or add other terms to “composition” as a “field” or discipline (rhetoric , multimodality, American studies, cultural rhetoric, etc.) evince language practices aimed at changing the recognized value of the work being named. Such practices, I have argued, in attempting to affiliate composition with these other fields, accept dominant valuations of these and, therefore, implicitly accept dominant valuations of composition itself as lacking, in need of these others. (Note that none of the other fields attempt to add “composition” to their names to increase their perceived value.) That is to say that such moves evince an acceptance of dominant frameworks even in their efforts to change the valuation of composition, thereby reinforcing, rather than escaping from, the terms set by the dominant responsible for its devaluation in the first place. Chapter 1 focused on efforts to rename, add to, or leave composition . Here, focusing on dominant WPA discourse and what I will call here the discourse of unionism, I examine similar moves in efforts to change the valuation of specific kinds of work within the purview of Composition: the work of WPAs, teachers, and (by implication) students. My argument is that in the claims they make for the value of this work, dominant WPA discourse and a discourse of unionism1 contribute to the debasement of their work by effectively acceding to dominant terms of valuation by which that work must be judged negatively. In so doing they (unsurprisingly) contribute to its continuing denigration: the seemingly inevitable angst of the WPA and the poor working conditions of composition teachers so prevalent in colleges and universities across North America. I begin by examining confusions in the kinds of value accorded work in composition and the role of commodification in the valuation of that work. I then show the operation of these confusions in specific arguments for the value of work in composition: the Council of Writing Program Administrators’ position statement “Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Administration,” and recent exchanges in composition forums about labor relations in composition. The discourses in these, I argue, participate in commodifications of the work of composition that operate to the detriment of its value in the economies in which those commodities circulate. They do so by occluding the labor involved in the realization of the value of that work, distorting and undercutting its demands and its potential as work both within and on the social. 123 _____________________________________________________ Value/Evaluation I then turn to consideration of WPAs’ brokering...


Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching.
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