At 11 o'clock this morning I had a very important appointment. It was the moment four years of PhD work had been leading up to - the end point, the oral exam, the viva voce. And, thankfully, it went very well. The examiners spent the next 90 minutes quizzing me about my thesis, A Reflexive and Value-Added Analysis of Contemporary Trotskyist Activists in Britain. It's very difficult to remember the detail of their queries, but I can recall them asking why I settled on this topic, why the thesis drew on the sociology of social movements rather than political science, the relationship between the work and Marxism, the role of emotion and ideas in processes of radicalisation and commitment, the senses in which the work could be described as scientific, the importance of relationships, the contributions of Marxist anthropology and no doubt a few more things I've left out.
About half past 12 they sent me out the room to confer over their final verdict. When I walked back in it was crunch time. Had I passed? Or would I have to return to the coal face and resubmit after a substantial rewrite? There was no need to worry - the verdict was positive! I passed only with the need to undertake minor corrections - a few font size errors here, a couple of grammatical howlers there, and the addition of a short paragraph to flesh out what I mean by 'value-added'. But that's it. I'm a doctor. I can put the initials PhD after my name should bourgeois respectability demand it.
There are many people I need to thank for this. But most of all I'll forever be in debt to the 16 comrades in the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers' Party who very kindly sat down with me for up to four hours and told me about their lives as socialist activists. The thesis would never have got off the starting blocks without them freely giving their time.
So what now? Sort out the corrections ... write a few papers ... work the thesis up into a book ... try and find a job ... think about new projects ...
The PhD may be finished. But in many ways, I'm only just starting.