Revolutionizing pedagogy: education for social justice within and beyond global neo-liberalism

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This reflects the subjective experiences and lived manifestations of neoliberal narratives that work to pushes agents into becoming neoliberal subjects. These include:. These themes not only co-exist, but also interweave, permeating various areas of life. As David Harvey notes:. Neoliberalism has, in short, become hegemonic as a mode of discourse. It has pervasive effects on ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense way many of us interpret, live in and understand the world.

This includes how people conceive of and understand themselves as individuals: how, in short, they develop their identities. The extent to which this commodification applies to subjects, not just the goods and services they need, will be explored below. Similarly, others exploring identity and subject positions have also adapted his concept of the self Hall, ; McNay, ; Rose, It seems appropriate then that an attempt to understand the subject positions of neoliberalism should start with a reflection on Foucault.

In his later work, Foucault made an important theoretical shift, moving his focus from the body and the disciplinary power that binds it, to the self. His earlier work focused on the productive nature of power on a grand scale to regulate, discipline, and produce subjects. However, from The history of sexuality onwards this conception of subject formation was complemented by a recognition that there must also be a response from the subjects themselves.

Crucially, Foucault argues that in order to understand the modern subject:. Instead, individuals can be understood as active subjects who construct themselves through processes of self-constitution, recognition and reflection — or what Foucault terms technologies of the self. It is from these technologies that practices of the self arise. Foucault himself was not explicit about the difference, but it is important to understand how the elements differ. It is in the practices associated with these technologies that Foucault finds the means by which individuals self-regulate, self-fashion, and self-produce.

It is through these different practices of the self that the technology is reworked to fit with the dominant narrative of the time. Crucially, these processes are still influenced by dominant narratives. As such, the subjects enacting them will also be influenced by these narratives. Foucault finds technologies of the self in practices of liberation, rather than in domination McNay, , but stresses that such freedoms are still conditioned and determined through the socio-cultural context in which they operate Hall, These practices rely on the mutual dependency between structure and agency.

In other words, while subjects may exercise a degree of choice in how they conduct themselves, that choice is still shaped by larger social and cultural narratives. This dependency is not one-sided: agency plays as much of a role in subject formation as narrative. Significantly, there is always more than one system imposing narratives and structures on subjects, and these may have conflicting effects. While individuals are influenced by these different systems they have some agency given their current influences, so different individuals may come to embody the same systems differently.

This act of subject positioning works in both verbal and non-verbal ways ibid. They conceptualise this through the practice of conversation, arguing that this interactive practice allows one person to position another within different narratives. Or, a person may position themselves through internal conversation.

The Poverty of Capitalism > American Educational Research Association

However, they do caution that such positioning does not always happen intentionally. The forms these internal conversations take are varied, from short ruminations through to vivid daydreams, and they do not necessarily take the form of a dialogue or conversation. However, they do have to have a central focus for the subject to consider a course of action and then to set about achieving it. Whatever project we set for ourselves, this element of reflexive thought is crucial as it gives us agency to act.

She theorises the different types of reflexivity that subjects may experience and suggests that different people will be more prone to certain types of reflexive thinking.


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Like Foucault, Archer recognises that there is a balance to be struck between the self-steering actions of individuals driven by these different modes of reflexivity, and the influences of social and organisational narratives. These influences work automatically, though they are dependent on human activity in both their origin and exercise. Agency works reflexively, either following these influences or in anticipation of them. The internal conversations involved in reflexive thinking could be conceptualised as a practice of the self, and while such conversations will take cues from the social world, by their very nature they are internalised and dependent on how a subject chooses to talk to their self.

This is important as it allows room for subjects to process their own histories and experiences, and as such it reinforces their agency ibid. The concept of reflexivity becomes especially useful when addressing issues of personal choice, a key theme of neoliberalism, as it adds an element of agency. In accepting that subject positions must be embodied and acted upon in order to enact the discourses they operate within, it becomes imperative that they are studied empirically as well as theoretically.

For example, Hardy and Thomas studied how market discourses within organisations intensified as actors engaged in practices that helped to normalise and diffuse them. My own empirical research explores how students at English universities position themselves in relation to the neoliberal discourses directed at them by the higher education sector and wider society.

One particular cog of the last four decades is the marketisation of higher education and the positioning of students as consumers of education, although reducing changes in higher education to the simple introduction of market forces ends up missing wider neoliberal mechanisms at play.

Much has been written on the student-as-consumer Molesworth et al. Instead of consumers, universities encourage students to think of themselves as and reflect on themselves as being enterprising individuals. While discussing capitalism in graduate programs in education is hardly forbidden, to my knowledge it rarely occurs.

Paradoxes of Neoliberalism

This strikes me as odd in light of the fact that we not only live in a capitalist society, but most societies around the world are impacted profoundly by transnational capitalism. One reason for this is obvious: any alternative to capitalism appears to be socialism or communism, two historical formations thoroughly discredited. While the totalitarian dictatorships that called themselves communist deserve our derision, I remain convinced that a socialist alternative to capitalism still remains a worthy goal, and perhaps our only alternative to the barbarism of capital I regret that I do not have time in this short blog note to discern the emancipatory potential of socialism.

We live in an era of neoliberal capitalism or unregulated, casino style, speculative capitalism that creates laissez-faire economic conditions by means of unfettering the economy or freeing it up by removing barriers and restrictions to what entrepreneurs and corporate or business actors can accomplish in order to maximize profits.

We hear this echoed in terms such as broadening the tax base by reforming the tax law, limiting protectionism, removing fixed exchange rates, privatizing state-run businesses and deregulating the economy. Neoliberal capitalism is like a vampire tying its wings to the smiles of the poor, carrying its unsuspecting victims to their doom. Capitalist social relations take on a certain form of value in which human relations take on the form of relations between things.

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It is this form that needs to be abolished and this can only be done through the abolition of value production, that is, through the abolition of capitalism. Hedge fund managers and CEOs have become rabid advocates for market reforms which are driven by the desire to create a less expensive teaching force, one that is shackled by narrow-minded test-based accountability measures, and one that has less union power to fight back.

Federal education mandates have moved away from supporting equality of access and outcome and have focused instead on cutting back on school funding, on promoting shame and blame policies, on merit pay or on firing school staff, and on supporting standardized tests based on common core standards which have little to do with the production of critical, meaningful knowledge and problem-solving. We know that US students who attend schools that are well-funded score as well or higher than students from other countries in international tests.

Yet all too often the struggle for educational equality masks the fact that the US has one of the highest percentages of children in poverty of all the industrialized countries. We also know that children from poor families and that attend underfunded schools score below the international average. So it is clear that poverty is not only a problem but the problem.

That term itself suggests that it is natural for some people to be poor and some people to be rich, and undresses poverty in such a way that the process of exploitation is leeched out of it. Which is why we need a Marxist approach to class struggle that can uncover the basic causes of poverty in contemporary capitalist society.

Revolutionizing Pedagogy: Education for Social Justice Within and Beyond Global Neo-Liberalism

I want to make the general argument that the elimination of poverty should be our goal as much as, if not more than, creating equality of access and outcome through educational reform policies. Yet conventional wisdom holds that educational reform is the best way to create job opportunities for the poor.

Certainly school reform is a necessity, but education has only a limited role to play in reducing economic inequality. We need the state to attack inequality through more direct policies. I also want to argue that the greatest impediment to educational success and prosperity is inequality. The solution to educational reform and the quality of social life in general in the US is more economic rights that are not attached to educational reform.

John Marsh makes the case that education should be treated as a political—not a market—phenomenon and I agree. Clearly, we need social programs and non-educational interventions into the market. Some of these could include, for instance, redistributive tax rates, massive public works projects, a living wage law, or a renaissance of labor unions.


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But it seems clear that more workers with college degrees will not stem the rise of low-wage jobs nor will it reduce inequality. Part of the reason that the US is one of the most unequal countries in the world is that we have limited economic rights. The ruling elite maintains that our main vehicle for economic success should be connected fundamentally to our right to a decent education. But this is a dishonest ploy, I believe. As Marsh argues, we need more economic rights and every right we have must have an independent status, such as the right to a useful and remunerative job, the right to adequate food and clothing, the right to a decent education, etc.

In the United States, education is seen as a requirement for all the other rights, and it is assumed that once you are given the right to a good education all the other rights will take care of themselves. This is a flawed assumption. They must remain separate. European countries achieve lower poverty rates because they provide more social programs aimed at the poor and unemployed.

Without government programs, Sweden would have

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