VSM, CSM, and the fallacy of ideological consistency

In the first half of 2010, I had the honour to work for the awesomeness that was Salient under Editor Sarah Robson. One of the things that made it awesome was Sarah’s commitment to even-handed journalism – especially regarding the (then and now) contentious issue of Voluntary Student Membership (VSM).*

Thus, when I was asked to write an article on the subject, I eagerly pounced on the opportunity. The resulting article, which I am quite proud of, came with all the information needed to familiarise students with the arguments on both sides of the debate. I uploaded as much additional information as I could, including interviews with key individuals and reports on the effects of voluntary student unionism in Australia. My article was subsequently re-used by Critic and cited in the NZEI’s submission to the Education and Science Select Committee.

At the end of all that work, I felt sufficiently knowledgeable about the issue of student membership to make an informed decision as to where I stood. Thus, I came to what will undoubtedly be a surprising conclusion for many:

I am a supporter of Voluntary Student Membership.

Yes, that’s right – I, a History postgraduate of a socially-left, economically-moderate persuasion, am a supporter of VSM. Phew! Why do I feel like i’ve just admitted my alcoholism in front of an A.A. meeting?

However, being a historian, I must by necessity deconstruct what that decision means. Are there any underlying themes that can be exposed and more broadly contextualised? Read on, as I discuss the nature of something I have termed ‘ideological consistency’ – and why, as a concept, it is fundamentally flawed.

Continue reading “VSM, CSM, and the fallacy of ideological consistency”