Neolib kritik – umich starter packet 2017

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neolib kritik – umich starter packet 2017

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Education reform within the current economic system is a neoliberal adjustment that empowers the ruling class--- even if they improve educational access, they merely indoctrinate more students to submit to capitalist ideology more effectively

McLaren 15 [Peter McLaren, Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, author of over 45 books, one of the leading architects of critical pedagogy, Cummings, Jordy. “The Abode of Educational Production: An Interview with Peter McLaren,” Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research 26, 2015]
Clearly from where I sit, a spontaneous wave of indignation has swept throughout the United States, an uprush of animosity against intolerable indignities suffered by the working-class, and people of color. The social character of our life-activity, forged by the hammer blows of value-producing labor and stamped by the impact press of capitalist social relations, rests on the pervasive dependence and dehumanization of workers, the ever-increasing interdependence of capital and labor. The ontological conception of alienation was unpacked magnificently by Marx and that was what first drew me to his work. There is nothing more alienating than schools, which serve as conceptual, emotional, and epistemological prisons for too many students.

The miasmic system of capitalism in which we are inextricably enmeshed is one whose flexibility, omnipresence and omnivalence of oppression has been as expansive as the air that we breathe. But our labor power is both key to our enslavement and our liberation. Everywhere people are clamoring for justice. We have been stricken to the quick by an outlawry and scoundrelism exercised with prideful efficiency by the ruling class but the problem is not with personal behavior of capitalists, as egregious as that might be, but with the structure of capitalism itself. Youth here in the United States are fed up with war, yet I teach classes where the entire population of students who enrolled in my courses have never not known a time where their country was at war. At this time of endless wars against terror, there are no wistful interludes between wars. Wars today are forever ongoing and we merely suffer between the exasperating diminuendos and crescendos of events.

Now, for instance, the latest crescendo is the push forward by the Islamic State. We are a society that fights symptoms and refuses to treat the root causes of our ongoing crises – of the environment, of terrorism, of resources, of personal security, of education and so on. One of the most entangling of these disconcerting relationships is how capitalism structures, organizes and mediates all of these antagonisms in contextually specific ways. In the current interregnum we are, for all intents and purposes, existing as human capital. We have sold our life-activity to other people and some sections of the population (such as the African American populations who are being replaced as cheap labor by the Latino/as), are relegated to surplus populations that are unable to sell their labor-power. To acknowledge that we live in a capitalist society is to tremble and shudder. Witness today the prodigious and virulent expansion of surveillance technology beyond the exigencies of any agreed-upon notion of decency, technologies that efface the divisions between the real, the hyperreal and the suprarenal and lock us into a scenario much worse that even Orwell envisioned, a scenario where will become willing agents of capital.

We have sold our labor-power for a wage and we can only use those silver dollars squeezed out of the profit ledger of the capitalist to cover the eyes of our corpse and hope that the ferryman of Hades will convey our soul across the waters of the Styx or Acheron as quickly as possible. We are prone in this society to be critical of primary assumptions and of course to protect them from attack they are solemnly made sacerdotal, and hide behind religious prerogatives. As I have argued for decades, the capitalist marketplace is the new God. I live in Old Town, Orange, in California and the most convenient coffee shop for me is in a Wells Fargo bank. Truly, the building from the inside looks like a cathedral. My friend at UC Santa Barbara, Bill Robinson, notes that the negative of an anti-capitalist movement does not necessarily involve the positive (and here we can clearly see he is echoing Hegel’s negation of the negation) of an alternative post-capitalist or socialist project. Which is precisely why, along with my Marxist humanist comrades, I have called long and hard for a philosophy of praxis grounded in absolute negativity. Here, I have been influenced greatly by the work of Hegel and Marx, and Dunayevskaya’s theory of state capitalism. I’ve learned that you can’t separate Hegel’s dialectical method from this Absolute Idea (the transcendence of the opposition between theory and practice). Just as Hegel advised us to always, ceaselessly, call into question the grounding ideas from which a phenomenon is grasped, we need to break down external as well as internal barriers to liberation through a philosophy of praxis grounded in absolute negativity.

Regrettably, Marx’s ideas have been ripped out of their revolutionary soil by decades of toxic bombardment by the corporate media and repotted in greenhouse megastores where, under hydrofarm compact fluorescent fixtures, they can be deracinated, debarked and made safe for university seminars and condominium living alike for highly committed twentysomethings who like to whistle to ballpark tunes in their faux-Victorian bathtubs. For me, Marx provides a dizzying macro-level montage of society filled with autonomous narratives that evoke ineluctable paradoxes that take on new meaning when put all together. In other words, what I find most useful in Marx is his dialectics of internal relations, how all of social life is internally related. To stick with a film metaphor, Marx gives you that tracking shot with voiceover spiked with the ambient noise of workers marching forward…a relentless tracking shot that won’t let you escape…and you have to follow it. Once the setting of the drama has been established, you become the protagonist and you are obligated to play the drama out. As we struggle for the supersession of property and labor determined by need and external utility, we look to Marx for direction in building a new society based on co-operation and production absent the pressures of external determination, where all manner of people interact and collaborate in freely associated, spontaneous and unpredictable ways.

As a teacher, I am interested in how global capitalism is dialectically interwoven with underdevelopment, and how this process is related to the production of knowledge, specifically in school systems and how such school systems teach us how to think, to research, and to develop our methodological skills that often leave us degage and docile. Prior to the ascendency of neoliberal capitalism, the primary mission of mass schooling was to create the “deep character” of the nation state by legitimizing the superiority of elite culture, trans-coding the culture of the ruling class with the culture of the nation state so that both were essentially seen as ‘natural’ symmetrical reflections of each other. Schools were important mechanisms in the invention of the identity of the modern nation state in the era of industrialization and played an important role in developing the concept of the citizen (a concept always contested by many groups, including conservatives, liberals and radicals).

However, schools today (since the mid-1980s), are discernibly shifting their role from building the nation state and creating democracy-minded citizens to serving the transnational corporations in their endless quest for profits. The nation state, it appears, is losing its ability to control capital by means of controlling the transnational corporations. Corporations have become in many instances more powerful than nation states (although I am not diminishing the role of nation states here). Schools that were once an important political entity that had a public code-setting agenda in creating conventional rules and regulations to be followed by each citizen are fast becoming part of the private sector bent on creating consumers within the capitalist marketplace. As society abandons its outmoded historical garb and takes on new forms, the perpetuity of the existing social order is increasingly called into question. So-called non-political forces – those associated with financial and commodity markets – are now the dominant forces of indoctrination and code setting within our market society and this has greatly impacted education.

Our collaborative existence as consumers has produced a closure on meaning through the very activity of opening up our desire to consume market commodities by means of a default set of blinders created by a capitalist imaginary that provides the formula or criteria of choice. Industrial capitalist schooling was occupied with conventional problem solving designed to provide students with the rules and conventions to solve particular problems via rule-based reasoning. Knowing the rules of the democratic state was the most important goal and this was often taught by means of a text book-assignment-recitation pattern. With the advent of consumer society and the replacement of Western high culture with transnational corporate culture (which relies on well-trained technical workers), the focus has moved away from conventional thinking to technical thinking. What this ultimately excludes, of course, is critical reflection, or producing knowledge from real-life problems or what Richard Quantz calls “meaningful action.”

Meaningful action does not always take place in situations where relevant knowledge is available or where people are aware what the right choices and actions might be. Meaningful knowledge does require some knowledge of technical reasoning but it requires as well the ability to interpret and critique – to make moral choices and to commit to some action even when relevant knowledge is not available. It requires larger patterns of understanding and reasoning – and it requires us to create and recreate its own foundations and goals as it goes along. Given the abandoning of political institutions such as schools by the state, the focus has been on technical problem solving as a means-ends reasoning that involves selecting from available rules those that will help individuals achieve a particular given end. In short, critical reflection is not a priority. It is in fact, the enemy of today’s education, even as schools tout the value of critical literacy and social justice agendas. Being a Marxist educator means that I see education as a path to socialism. Simply put, my struggle as a teacher is to create protagonist agency to fight three very powerful forces, what I call the ‘triplecides’—genocide, ecocide and epistemicide. I see capitalism as a form of genocide (see the work of Gary Leech) and a number of my students have been developing the field of ecopedagogy (turning traditional forms of environmental education on their heads) –addressing the issues of ecoside, sustainability, ecosocialism and alternative epistemologies found often in first nations cultures.

The moral imperative behind today’s neoliberalism reflects a distinct form of neo-mercantilism. The move in the US economy in the 1970s towards financialization and export production helped to concentrate wealth in the hands of CEOs and hedge-fund managers – and, as Chomsky and others have noted, this led to a concentration of political power, which in turn leads to state policies to increase economic concentration, fiscal policies, deregulation of the economic, and rules of corporate governance. Neoliberalism as it factors the field of education reflects the logic of possessive individualism, urging all citizens or potential citizens to maximize their advantage on the labor market; and for those who are unable to accomplish this requirement – a requirement, by the way, that functions as a moral imperative – such as undocumented workers, they must as a non-market underclass live in a bottom-tiered netherworld of sweatshop labor that serves those of more fundamental worth to the social order – the more successful capitalist class.

All that is to have worth in neoliberal democracies must be directly linked to the functional needs of capitalism, so that capitalism and the capitalist class can reproduce itself along with capitalist society, and the capitalist worldview that legitimates the entire process. So here we can see neoliberalism linked to legal systems and mechanisms of legitimation that will help secure the market as the only authentically potent form of political and social organization. The state, in other words, becomes synonymous with the market. Certainly global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank comprise the ramparts behind which neoliberal ideology is to be protected at all costs, and it is important to view these institutions as basically controlled by the wealthy western powers, the United States in particular. And it is in this sense that neo-liberal ideology is an imperialist ideology. Anything left outside market forces would be under suspicion of being subversive of civilization – after all, there is no alternative to neoliberal capitalism.

We could even say that we are living in a neoliberal modernity, in which the capitalist class is gaining power by dispossessing the working-class and selling or renting to the public what was commonly owned. Neoliberalism is a revolution from above on the part of the transnational capitalist class to give ever more structural advantage to the global capitalist production system. Between this global ruling-class and the working class still exists the shrinking middle class, a fragile buffer between the rich and the poor. According to sociologist Bill Robinson, we inhabit a loosely constituted historic bloc, a social base in which the transnational capitalist class produces the consent of those drawn into this bloc and exercises moral, political and economic leadership – hegemonic leadership in the classical Gramscian sense. My focus as a Marxist is on this emerging transnational hegemony – this new historic bloc based on the hegemony of transnational capital – where, of course, the US is definitely playing a leading role.

While national capital, global capital and regional capitals are still prevalent, the hegemonic fraction of capital on a world scale is now transnational capital. The purpose of the transnational ruling class is the valorization and accumulation of capital and the defense and advance of the emergent hegemony of a global bourgeoisie and a new global capitalist-historical bloc. This historical bloc is composed of the transnational corporations and financial institutions, the elites that manage the supranational economic planning agencies, major forces in the dominant political parties, media conglomerates, and technocratic elites. Capitalism, which Marx portentously argued was written in letters of blood and fire, continues to be reproduced as robbery, as outlawry. As a Marxist educator, I raise these issues with my colleagues, with my students, but mostly I raise them in the context of arguing that critical pedagogy must not remain solely in the classroom but become part of a transnational social movement.

Reformist approaches like the plan refurbish neoliberal institutions and sap energy from growing radical movements --- the impact is creeping authoritarianism that promises global immiseration and planetary destruction --- only the alternative’s politics of refusal can produce critical transformations

Giroux 17 [Henry A. Giroux, professor in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada, “Henry A. Giroux on Militant Hope in the Age of Trump,” Tikkun, Jan 18, 2017,]
Crucial to rethinking the space and meaning of the political imaginary is the need to reach across specific identities and to move beyond single-issue movements and their specific agendas. This is not a matter of dismissing such movements, but creating new alliances that allow them to become stronger in the fight to not only succeed in advancing their specific concerns but also enlarging the possibility of developing a radical democracy that benefits not just specific but general interests. As the Fifteenth Street Manifesto group expressed in its 2008 piece, “Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals,” many groups on the left would grow stronger if they were to “perceive and refocus their struggles as part of a larger movement for social transformation.”[7] Any feasible political agenda must merge the pedagogical and the political by employing a language and mode of analysis that resonates with people’s needs while making social change a crucial element of the political and public imagination. At the same time, any politics that is going to take real change seriously must be highly critical of any reformist politics that does not include both a change of consciousness and structural change.

If progressives are to join in the fight against authoritarianism in the United States, they will need to create powerful political alliances and produce long-term organizations that can provide a view of the future that does not simply mimic the present. This requires aligning private issues to broader structural and systemic problems both at home and abroad. This is where matters of translation become crucial in developing broader ideological struggles and in fashioning a more comprehensive notion of politics. Movements require time to mature and come into fruition and depend on an educated public that is able to address both the structural conditions of oppression and how they are legitimated through their ideological impact on individual and collective attitudes and modes of experiencing the world. In this way radical ideas can be connected to action once workers and others recognize the need to take control of the conditions of their labour, communities, resources, and lives.

Struggles that take place in particular contexts must also be associated to similar efforts at home and abroad. For instance, the ongoing privatization of public goods such as schools can be analyzed within increasing attempts on the part of billionaires to eliminate the social state and gain control over commanding economic and cultural institutions in the USA. At the same time, the modeling of schools after prisons can be connected to the ongoing criminalization of a wide range of everyday behaviors and the rise of the punishing state.

Moreover, oppressive economic, political, and cultural practices in the U.S. can be connected to other authoritarian societies that are following a comparable script of widespread repression. For instance, it is crucial to think about what racialized police violence in the United States has in common with violence waged by authoritarian states such as Egypt against Muslim protesters. This allows us to understand various social problems globally so as to make it easier to develop political formations that link such diverse social justice struggles across national borders. It also helps us to understand, name and make visible the diverse authoritarian policies and pedagogical practices that point to the parameters of a totalitarian society. This is especially true in addressing the ongoing criminalization of Blacks and the rise of new forms of domestic and state terrorism. As Nicholas Powers points out,

“The old racial line between ‘Black’ and ‘White’ has been redrawn as the line between criminal and citizen. Up and down the class hierarchy form poor to wealthy, Black people have to dodge violence, from macroaggressions to economic sabotage and from public shaming to physical attacks… every day another person of color is shot by police, and the hole left inside families are where love ones used to breathe. The cops not only steal the lives of our children; they steal the lives of everyone who loved them. A part of us freezes, goes numb.”[8]

Critical Thinking, Critical Culture

In this instance, making the political more pedagogical becomes central to any viable notion of politics. That is, if the ideals and practices of democratic governance are not to be lost, there is a need for progressives to address and accelerate the production of critical formative cultures that promote dialogue, debate and, what James Baldwin once called, a “certain daring, a certain independence of mind” capable of teaching “some people to think and in order to teach some people to think, you have to teach them to think about everything.”[9] Thinking is dangerous, especially under the cloud of an impending neo-fascism, because it is a crucial requirement for constructing new political institutions that can both fight against the impending authoritarianism and imagine a society in which democracy is viewed no longer as a remnant of the past but rather as an ideal that is worthy of continuous struggle. This merging of education, critical thinking, and politics is necessary for creating informed agents willing to fight the systemic violence and domestic forms of repression that mark the authoritarian policies and repressive practices of the Trump administration.

Under the Trump presidency, the worse dimensions of a neoliberal order will be accelerated and will include: deregulating restrictions on corporate power, cutting taxes for the rich, expanding the military, privatizing public education, supressing civil liberties, waging a war against dissent, treating Black communities as war zones, and dismantling all public goods. Such actions make it all the more imperative for progressives to challenge a market-driven society that erodes the symbolic and affective bonds and loyalties that give meaning to social existence. Appealing to the economic interests of the public is important, but it is not enough. Hope has to be fed by the lessons of history, the recognition for collective action, and the willingness to “feel one’s way imaginatively into the situation of others.”[10] Hope is not only about expanding the limits of the radical imagination, it is also about recognizing that resistance is a necessity that has to be rooted in a realistic assessment of the roadblocks ahead.

Refusing a politics of disconnection means taking on the crucial challenge of producing a critical formative culture along with corresponding institutions that promote a form of permanent criticism against all elements of oppression and unaccountable power. One important task of emancipation is to encourage educators, artists, workers, young people and others to use their skills in the service of a politics in which public values, trust and compassion can be used to chip away at neoliberalism’s celebration of self-interest, the ruthless accumulation of capital, the survival-of-the-fittest ethos and the financialization and market-driven corruption of the political system. Political responsibility is more than a challengeit is the projection of a possibility in which new identification, affectations, and loyalties can be produced to enable and sustain new forms of civic action, political organizations, and transnational anti-capitalist movements. A radical democracy based on the best principles of a democratic socialism must be written back into the script of everyday life, and doing so demands overcoming the current crisis of memory, agency and politics by collectively struggling for a society in which matters of justice, equity and inclusion define what is possible.

Neo-fascism thrives on the disparagement of others, nativism, ultra-nationalism, an appeal to violence, an unchecked individualism, and the legitimation of an alleged preferred people to dominate others. These are the elements of a formative culture rooted in nihilism, cynicism, economic insecurity, unrestrained anger, a paralyzing fear, and the collapse of public values and the ethical grammar that gives a democracy meaning. At work here is the undeniable fact of how education is at the center of politics, and can be used for either oppressive or emancipatory ends. This suggests strategies aimed at the development of alternative, progressive educational apparatuses, grounded in the pedagogical necessity to make knowledge and ideas meaningful in order to make them critical and transformative. This means appropriating and using the symbolic and intellectual tools of persuasion, identification, and belief as crucial political strategies. I am not talking about a facile appeal to a notion of consciousness raising. Rather, I am emphasizing the necessity for progressives to work in conjunction with labour unions, educational unions, and other social movements to develop the institutions necessary for a critical formative culture that can change the consciousness, desires, identities, investments, values, while providing a sense of agency of those who lack the tools of civic literacy and critical frames of reference necessary for understanding the conditions that produce misery, exploitation, exclusion, and mass resentment, all the while paving the way for right-wing populist movements.

Under the reign of casino capitalism, democratic public spheres along with the public they support are disappearing. One consequence is a warfare state built not only on the militarization of the economy but also on what my colleague Brad Evans calls “armed ignorance.” Such ignorance represents more than a paucity of ethical and social responsibility, it is also symptomatic of an educational and spiritual crisis in the United States. A culture of fear, hate and bigotry has transformed American politics into a pathology. Fear cripples reason and makes it easier for authoritarian figures to engage in what might be called terror management. Trump’s speeches mobilized millions with the drug inducing appeal of uncertainty, fear, and hatred. David Dillard-Wright insightful commentary on Trump’s use of fear makes clear how he used it as both a political and pedagogical tool. He writes:

“The Trump rally speeches go through a litany of perceived threats to the American worker: the immigrants taking ‘our’ jobs, the terrorists who want to kill ‘us’, the media who want to silence ‘us’. Trump is no social psychologist, but he has an instinctive sense for crowds: the purpose of this rhetoric is to tear down the listener to a point of malleability, at which point, he ‘alone” supplies the answer (as in his ‘I alone can fix it’ speech at the Republican National Convention in the summer). He drowns the listener in fear and then reaches out a helping hand from the threat that he, himself, has conjured. This verbal waterboarding breaks down the Trump fan into a panicked rage and then channels that fear and anger into the pretend solution of a giant wall or jailing Hillary Clinton, which not incidentally, also places Trump at the center of power and control over his fans’ lives. Fear actually short-circuits rational thought and gets the rally-goer to accept the strongman as the only way to avoid the perceived threat.”[11]

The appeal to mass produced fear legitimates a politics that tramples the rights of minorities, young people, and dissidents. Moreover, it reinforces a violent and corrupt lawlessness that extends from the highest reaches of government and big corporations to the para-militarization of our schools and police forces. Domestic terrorism becomes normalized as unarmed Blacks are killed by the police almost weekly, while more and more members of the population are considered excess, disposable, redundant, and subject to the bigotry of escalating right-wing groups, corrupt politicians, and policies that benefit the financial elite. And with the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency, a fog of authoritarianism will all but diminish any vestige of democracy and civic literacy. Such a prophecy is not simply the stuff of science fiction. As David Remnick predicts the Trump administration will usher in both a withering of public values and a democratic sensibility leading to a dystopian social order immersed in misery, violence, and cruelty:

“There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event – and it’s a stretch – is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.”[12]

The world is on the brink of nuclear war, ecological extinction, an accelerating refugee crisis, and a growing culture saturated in violence; yet, the public is persuaded that the burning issues of the day focus on the breakup of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian’s loss of $11-million in jewelry to thieves, or the endless focus on the banality of Reality TV and celebrity culture. In addition, violence is now treated as a theatrical performance paving the way each day for the next news cycle operating primarily as spectacle and entertainment. Moral and political hysteria is in fashion and has undermined the public spheres that promote self-reflection, dialogue, and informed judgment. Informed exchanges and arguments that rely on evidence have been displaced by a culture of shouting, emotion, lying, and thuggery. War comes in many forms and is as powerful as a form of ideology and identification as it is in the service of multiple forms of violence. Once we recognize the metrics of war as both crisis of politics and education, we can mobilize against both its ideological and material relations of power. But time is running out.

The alternative refuses neoliberal recovery in favor of developing collective anti-capitalist pedagogies --- only delinking education reform from capitalism cultivates revolutionary subjects capable of radical structural change

Slater 15 [Graham Slater, Department of Education, Culture, and Society, University of Utah, “Education as recovery: neoliberalism, school reform, and the politics of crisis,” Journal of Education Policy, Volume 30, 2015 - Issue 1]
The neoliberal logic of recovery constitutes what De Lissovoy (2012) calls violation: The ‘simultaneous process of building and breaking, of construction and destruction, which seeks its surplus and satisfaction in the injury to the very identities it is complicit in producing’ (463). In this sense, violation can be understood as a process of subject formation. For De Lissovoy, education is a central mechanism in the process of cultivating student subjectivities that are prepared ‘for a fundamental demoralization, marginalization, and punishment’ (465). Mainstream educational discourses of meritocracy and the ‘American Dream,’ which purport a post-Brown vs. Board equality of opportunity and encourage students to develop their ‘human capital potential,’ all serve to build a promissory educational mythology (Pierce 2013) that is regularly broken by the symbolic and epistemic violence of Eurocentric curricula, high-stakes testing ‘failure,’ and the school-to-prison pipeline regime targeting students of color across the nation. Recovery, like violation, is similarly duplicitous. As crisis becomes an increasingly plangent characteristic of social life, the logic of recovery attempts to desensitize social subjects to this ontological assault. Forcing alternatives to neoliberal dependency to recede in social memory, neoliberals seek to cultivate subjectivities that are inured to the cycle of crisis and recovery. Because crisis is a structural element of capitalism, the active proliferation of neoliberal reforms under the guise of recovery is an act of bad faith – a violation.

The logic of recovery is a complex and adaptive thread in the fabric of neoliberal education reform. At its heart is the notion that neoliberalism is the sole arbiter of social health in the early twenty-first century. As crises proliferate, neoliberals use recovery to obscure their complicity in that very process. Recovery is an insidious brand of politics that seeks to normalize the exceptionality of crises and to cultivate subjectivities that are increasingly accustomed to crisis, destruction, and neoliberal rehabilitation. In doing so, neoliberalism undermines alternative responses to crisis that might seek to exit the cycle of crisis–accumulation–crisis that has become central to capitalist profiteering (De Lissovoy, Means, and Saltman 2014).

Refusing the terms of neoliberal recovery: autonomy, community, and educational exodus

If neoliberal theorists and policymakers have incorporated a material and discursive mechanism of recovery into education reform, how should communities, teachers, and students respond in the face of crisis? What modes of resistance are they to enact? How are they to exert transfigurative forms of agency on precarious, violent, and dispossessive circumstances? Indeed, the extent and magnitude of neoliberal crises make both political theory and activism a delicate endeavor. Without a doubt, crises have an indelibly affective character (DeLeon 2011). Historically, this has played to the favor of neoliberal reformers, as the immediate need for safety, health, and recuperation in the face of crises often forestalls radical political transformation.

Against the misappropriation of political potential, I draw upon two rich theoretical and political traditionsblack radicalism and post-Marxism – in order to make a case for rethinking education reformagainst neoliberal recovery,in the hope of delinking the relationship between crisis and recovery in neoliberal society.

Developing a collective position of refusal to future crises is a complex endeavor. Just as crisis and recovery works on individuals and communities at the level of subjectivity, cultivating a politics of refusal is an equally subjective project. Žižek (2009) suggests that when faced with coercive politics, we should resist the impulse to act uncritically – either to accept recovery or to respond impulsively – and instead ‘should control our fury and transform it into an icy determination to thinkto think things through in a really radical way, and to ask what kind of society it is that renders such blackmail possible’ (17). Perhaps, in the context of recovery, this might mean simultaneously embracing crisis, naming it as a structural element of capitalism, and dwelling in that inherent absurdity. Cazdyn and Szeman (2011) offer a useful clarification of this notion. They write, ‘crisis occurs in capitalism not because capitalism has gone wrong but because it has gone right – it has worked as it is designed to work.’ For this reason, they continue, ‘one must be open to – and try to hold – the contradictions of capitalism rather than try to immediately manage, resolve, or repress them’ (141). This is important, not to delay recuperation or redemption from crisis, but rather to work to cultivate radical subject positions – indeed, revolutionary subjectivitiesfrom which transfigurative action can emerge out of bounds of normalized or prescribed possibilities. In this sense, the difference between ‘recovering’ and ‘not recovering’ should be understood as a subjective response, rather than as a strictly material or physical matter. Far from arguing that being against recovery implies that communities violated by neoliberal crises should not attempt to recuperate from capitalist-inflicted traumas, taking a stance against recovery might mean cultivating a collective position of refusal, in which communities affirm their ability to break the circuitous logics of neoliberal recovery and create post-crisis futures in healthy, autonomous, and fundamentally anti-capitalist terms.

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