Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Say Hello to Dr Phil

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.

57 comments:

Jeremy Stangroom said...

Well done!

Sister C said...

Yay Doctor Phil!

Congratulations- which I can spell on a computer but I can't in a text message.

I think a KPA dinner and a cup of tea would be a suitable way to celebrate whenever you have some free time.

Proper Tidy said...

Well done Phil, get cracking on that book because I wouldn't mind giving it a read!

Everyones Favourite Comrade said...

from what I know off your PHD thesis it sounds like it would make a very interesting read

Brother G said...

Congratulations Phil! I guess we can add a congratulatory drink to the one I owe you for all your help over the weekend.

Are they letting you keep your office?

raincoatoptimism said...

Fantastic news, really well done, I can't wait to read that

Jim Jepps said...

Congratulations!

Will it be published online?

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

Congratulations, (Dr) Phil! As Tennyson wrote in his poem, 'Ulysses':

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
Forever and forever, as I move.


Loads of folks who completed their thesis felt like this - that the end of one project merely suggested the beginnings of many others. A reassuring thought, that.

Sara Hannam said...

Congratulations Phil. This is a great achievement! Good for you. All that hard work finally comes to an end and as you said, the best is yet to come (apart from anything else not having your PhD hung round your neck like a giant chain of steel will be a relief eh!). You are an inspiration and I hope to not be too far behind you.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Congratulations you clever bastard!

Dave Semple said...

Let me be among the first to congratulate you Phil. I don't think I've ever had the patience to sit at the same topic for longer than a week (my MA dissertation was written in three days) so massive kudos that you can do this for four years.

Darren said...

Congrats on the PhD, Phil.

Are you looking to get it published or will you just whack it on the internet?

Tea Drinker said...

CONGRATULATIONS!

I hope you will be celebrating before you start worrying about all that other stuff.

My PhD viva is now a complete blur, but I think that's how it's supposed to be.

bristle said...

Well done, doctor!

Now, I've been getting these pains in my lower back...

Phil said...

Many, many thanks for the messages, comrades.

There might be problems re: publishing the thesis as a book if I simply put the thing online, but when the corrections are done I'll be happy to email it to anyone who's interested. It is quite hefty so be warned! But on the plus side, both examiners thought it was written well and is accessible to a non-specialist audience :)

When it does come out as a book AVPS readers can get a limited edition signed copy, lol.

CathElliott said...

Brilliant news Phil. Congratulations!

said...

Congratulations, Dr Phil!

Highlander said...

Well done Phil.

Left Outside said...

Well done Phil, that's fantastic!

I'll buy you a pint to say well done if I ever leave my cloak of anonymity behind.

Paul said...

I never doubted you, except for the times I thought you'd never get it done. Oh and when I thought your epistemological underpinnings were deeply flawed. Apart from that, hardly even, other than that suspicion I had that the 16 interviewees were simply figments of your imagination.

No, no doubts at all reallu

Jim Jepps said...

Don't forget his shocking ontology Paul... shakes head sadly

Phil said...

The epistemological tensions between my dual use of grounded theory and the deduction of categories from pre-existing social movement literature was a topic we touched on :)

Andrew Conroy said...

Fine work, Squire, and much deserved.

One thing though: bourgeois respectability demands that you lay off the pints and we hit the distinctly un-Loachian cocktails in Fat Cat's before the miner's gig next week.

A

jgw said...

Congratulations!!!

I look forward to reading the book.

Ms Chief said...

Well done Dr Phil, however if I was on the panel I would have asked is this a doctorate on English or British Trotskyism and your answer would have been?

A serious but muted point however good for you ...... perhaps we could debate such a subject what is British Trotskyism and is there such a thing as English Trotskyism?

Red Mike said...

Congratulations, If your paper is anything like your Blog I wouldn't mind giving it a read.

Oh and since your a doctor now could help with some prescriptions for morphine?

ModernityBlog said...

Congratulations Dr. comrade !

Callum said...

Congratulations. It's an admirable thing.

Anonymous said...

As a long time lurker, I felt compelled to break the habit and finally leave a comment. AVPS has been bookmarked and regularly visited for some time now, my genuine thanks for keeping it regularly updated and of course, congratulations! I hope you're merrily celebrating somewhere as I type.

Damon Lord said...

My heartfelt congratulations.

Michael Fisher said...

After you have made your corrections etc, you should consider placing a PDF version on your blog. It sounds like an interesting thesis.

Chris H said...

Nice work Doctor! Congrats.

Phil said...

Ms Chief, it's a wonder I passed my viva - I got my title wrong in this post. It's actually A Reflexive and Value-Added Analysis of *Contemporary Trotskyist Activists in Britain*.

All the comrades were English but their activist careers sometimes took them abroad. But it is a fair question - can we speak of a distinctively British Trotskyism anymore? I would say yes - the main trends and the ultra-left are committed to organising on an all-Britain basis. But for historic reasons (as you know from your day to day politics) there has been a distinctive Scottish Trotskyism for roughly 20 years.

The question is can the models I developed in my thesis be generalised beyond the small sample of volunteers who took part. I think yes. Despite the distinctive positions of core SSP and Solidarity cadre (assuming the latter still leads an existence), had I done this project in Scotland I really don't think my conclusions would have been that different. If you'd like me to email you a copy of the thesis after I've done the corrections, let me know.

Tobireg said...

Well done Phil. Hope your long involvement with the UK Left Metwork was of some additional value along with your intreviews.

David Ellis said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter. Congratulations to you Phil on a mammoth achievement.

Don't forget Welsh trotskyism. It is the best of the Trotskyisms.

Joseph Edwards said...

Congratulations, comrade. I'll say it before and I'll say it again: I gotta get me some of that PhD. ;)

Tom said...

Well done and congratulations. I reckon I have another four years before I get to blog about my viva!

luna17 said...

Excellent - congratulations. I look forward to my signed copy of the book!

Gary Elsby said...

Would you like to deny that you are to drop the SP and apply for Labour Party membership?

harpymarx said...

Well done comrade!! More time to spend on the LP activity!!
:)

Phil said...

Gary, why would I deny what is already an accomplished fact? See this.

Catch you at a CLP meeting very soon ...

Ms Chief said...

I am joshing with you Phil, well done.

I wonder though if someone in Scotland had written a similar thesis with the same title and only spoke to people in Scoltand if they would be picked up for it! I think they would have.

Perhaps someone else can write the thesis on Trotskyism in Scotland - a break away faction. There are few Trotskyists left and even those who are do have a Scottish tinge to tem.

I would love to read your phD

Phil said...

I don't know. I guess it depends on the sorts of claims it makes. I was very careful not to overstate the case, but I do think the models I've come up with can be useful for analysing other forms of activism. All this is gone into in laborious detail in the thesis proper.

I'll send you a copy when the corrections are done - which shouldn't be more than a day's work. Still feeling chuffed!

Jim Jepps said...

I think an analysis of Welsh Trotskyism would have been much shorter than either the English or Scottish versions - could have been done in half the time!

Everyones Favourite Comrade said...

"Don't forget Welsh trotskyism. It is the best of the Trotskyisms."

couldn't agree more

Chris Brooke said...

Many congratulations.

Seán said...

Just like to add my belated congrats. Congrats.

Snowball said...

Well done Phil - congratulations.

Just hope that your recent turn towards social democracy means you are not now in danger of abandoning Trotskyism...(joke)

socialrepublican said...

Well done, Doctor

Might I be able to sneak a read too? My plan for my PhD would probably touch on similar areas

Ta either way

Entdinglichung said...

congratulations!

thespanishprisoner said...

Congratulations!

When this comes out as a book, I would be interested in reading it.

Mark W said...

Congratulations Phil

ian said...

Congratulations.

Eddie Truman said...

Swot

BenSix said...

Hey, congratulations!

If you'd been feeling nervous, of course, you could have broken the ice by saying that you were going through a nasty case of the trots. Damn, it's a mystery that I haven't shattered the academia...

Merseymike said...

well done from a fellow sociology PhD. There's bugger all work around so welcome to sessional part-time lecturing! Actually, I rather enjoy it and I'm fortunate enough not to be the main wage earner, so....

Try Peter Lang publishers for getting it into print, and plead poverty so you don't have to make a contribution

Kit said...

Congratulations