neoliberalism (3)



Henry A. Giroux

 Professor of Culture and Education and Media Studies, Henry A. Giroux has for over 50 years been critically analyzing "Education" and "Culture" and "Politics" --and the underlying worldview and values that shape the learning and teaching of citizens. Recently he has written an article on "Gangster Capitalism" and argues where we are going, and how even neoliberalism (as 'mainstream' economic ideology) has been failing so badly in some ways, that it needs to now engulf and perpetuate neofascism to survive--meaning, to spread the culture of fear even more virally. Not good. 


Gangster Capitalism and the Politics of Fascist Education

— from LA Progressive

Capitalism has always been constructed on the basis of organized violence. Wedded to a political and economic system that consolidates power in the hands of a financial, cultural social elite, it construes profit making as the essence of democracy and consuming as the only obligation of citizenship. Matters of ethics, social responsibility, the welfare state, and the social contract are viewed as enemies of the market, thus legitimating the subordination of human needs to a relentless drive for accumulating profits at the expense of vital social needs and the larger public.[1] Driven by a ruthless emphasis on privatization, deregulation, commodification, a sclerotic individualism and ruthless model of competition—neoliberal capitalism has morphed into a machinery of death—an unabashed form of gangster capitalism.

No longer able to live up to its promises of equality, improved social conditions, and rising social mobility, it now suffers from a legitimation crisis. No longer able to defend an agenda that has produced staggering levels of inequality, decimated labour rights, provided massive tax breaks to the financial elite, bailouts to big capital, and waged an incessant war on the welfare state, neoliberalism needed a new ideology to sustain itself politically.[2]

As Prabhat Patnaik, observes, the most radical fix to the potential collapse of neoliberalism “came in the form of neofascism.”[3] Neoliberalism’s failure has resulted in its aligning itself with appeals to overt racism, white supremacy, white Christian nationalism, a politics of disposability, and a hatred of those deemed other. As an unapologetic form of gangster capitalism, violence is wielded as an honourable political discourse and education as a cultural politics has become both divisive and injurious. The flattening of culture, elevated to new extremes through the social media and the normalization of manufactured ignorance, has become a major educational weapon in the annihilation of the civic imagination, politics, and any sense of shared citizenship.







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Jennifer Gidley is a futurist-educator of the highest calibre as a thinker and with great experience in educational alternatives and critique of education systems that are largely a couple of hundred years out-of-date with the challenges young people face in the early 21st century. I agree and applaud so much of what she has offered over the years, including her latest book Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (2017).

That said, my brief book review here is going to focus on what I think are major flaws in her philosophy of education, her use of Integral Theory, and developmental psychology discourse in general. The quickest way to say my critique in a nutshell is: Gidley is a political liberalist and it influences most every interpretation of education, of Integral Theory (e.g., of Ken Wilber's work) and of developmental psychology and evolution I read in her work. In other words, she is so enthralled with cognitive development of the higher orders (e.g., vision-logic, postformalism, fifth-order thinking) to analyze and solve the world's problems, she ends up not very radical at all. I find her quite a liberal thinker. I also find this true of Integral Circles and Schools of thought today, most everywhere. They are "gutted" for consumer culture (i.e., marketability) not so much for radical pursuit of the "truth" and liberation. Sure, she is critical of neoliberalism and its take-over of much of education today. Good. But it is not a very sophisticated critique or a good ideological and political critique (using critical theory) as background context for how she pursues educational philosophy and postformalism in general. I like Kincheloe & Steinberg's views of postformalism somewhat better in terms of critical and radical perspectives [1].

So, I am disappointed again in an integral book on education, that is supposed to be for the betterment of future generations. I am not pleased how she defaults on "love" as so core to her integral future curriculum design and how she says nothing of any depth about "fear"--many of you reading this will know that I am a big critical of all kinds of folks using the love-default and general pc positivism [2] in their philosophies to save the world. But let me return to the "politics" that she so ignores (or skirts around). 

To keep this critique short (someday I may write a longer critique of this book): Gidley's book does not have in the Index terms like "oppression" or "emancipation" or better yet, "liberation." I find this tells of just how "gutted" and "watered down" his her philosophy, theorizing of "integral" and her thinking in general. Her curriculum is anything but radical from this perspective, because she has no philosophy (or psychology) of oppression and liberation at the core of her curriculum conceptualization. I am convinced her training as a professional psychologist all these decades has muted and liberalized her radical-edge which is truly sitting there in her work and writing but not quite blossoming; she seems afraid to let it out. And, of course, one would be much less financially successful if they took the liberation path fully and spoke truths that are prophetic and very uncomfortable to the masses and even the liberal leftists, etc. 

For my part, I put the 'Fear' Project as the major oppressive force on the planet. It is worse in negative impact today than ever before because of complex structuration and new media means of public pedagogy that puts people in so much fear that it hampers how they perceive, think, learn, and believe and act on fear-based messages from elites and others. Unfortunately, most do not see the fear ('fear') construction everyday. It is called the context of the postmodern era--that is, the context of the "culture of fear." (Again, I have written lots about that). Gidley doesn't mention this context at all. She operates without a radical identification of oppression and liberation. I end my critique there. It is not a book worthy of a future that she wants and most of us want where people are "free" and a healthy sane and sustainable society is potentially unfolding. She thinks cognitive development (leading) and some emotional and social development etc. will take us out of this nightmare of the culture of fear--or, at least, it appears to me she thinks so. The politics of such cognitive development (and healing of cognitive pathologies of the old paradigms) is not an easy task and will not be accomplished without a powerful "shadow" work. I do not see Gidley entertain depths like this in her book and any of her writing. 

Yes, much of her book can be useful in the future of curriculum design, teaching and learning theories, etc. Fine. But neoliberalism, which she admits is gutting Education everywhere in very negative ways, has to be 'hooked' to its root in a society extremely anxious, if not terrified of the future--especially, of economic security. That is, a culture of fear and neoliberalism cannot be unhooked as she does--or ignores the fact of it. Many critics (like Henry Giroux) have said as much as I am. However, none of the educational critics has given a critical integral attention to analyzing how fear ('fear') moves in and shapes all things today on massive scales to micro scales of operations. Education is a reproducer of that fear-based structuration--that is, what I have called the 'Fear' project. So, we need a counterhegemonic Fearlessness Project--and Movement. 

Honestly, I would rather Gidley (and her many followers) look carefully at how to build a curriculum and philosophy for a liberational futures and not get so distracted by complex futures. That's my ultimate critique of this book and Gidley's project. I think with good open dialogue, her and I and others may bring our work together and move forward in a truly prophetic and pragmatic futures education for all... one that has a theory of oppression and liberation at the core--not complexity alone. 


1. Kincheloe, J. L. & Steinberg, S. R. (2011). A tentative description of post-formal thinking. In K. Hayes et al. (Eds.), Key works in critical pedagogy: Joe L. Kincheloe (pp. 53-76). Amsterdam, Holland: Sense Publishers.

2. My complex theorizing on "positivism" is way beyond the rational positivism notion in epistemology but includes cultural hegemonic formations of everything from political correctness (and identity politics), be gentle loving and caring and be positive (e.g., positiive thinking) ideologies that have flooded North American culture (at least) for the past 3 or more decades. It is like one cannot say anything really "critical" because victim culture that accompanies the positivism ideology will attack you for being mean and saying something offensive to some one (while, they themselves attack with viciousness because you are not conforming to their positivism). 

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Dr. Barbara Bickel, my life-partner, and co-founding member of FMning, sent me this e-mail to a few of her colleagues in Canada. She was fine with me posting it here:

"We [Michael and I] too are fitting in all the details of my retirement and our move while I plug through the end of the teaching term with students that seem to be in perpetual crisis and as an administrator I live with not knowing who will be teaching my program courses in the fall as we live through the unknown of how we will survive with another 30 million dollar cut to the [state] university [Southern Illinois]. We went through this last year as well. There is nothing extra left and we are still having to cut. Courses, program and colleges and faculty are on the chopping block. The administration here has no vision for restructuring while they restructure based on numbers only. At the same time more upper administrators are being hired. I want to tell all of my students to leave Illinois fast. Last year 80,000 people left Illinois and 16,000 of those where students. The brain drain of this state is severe. Living the tragedy of a decimated educational system each day.
AERA reminded me that my state is by far the worse off state in the country education wise. Other faculty are doing okay - although most of them are at the private Universities and not state universities. And that is the way education is going. Only the rich will be well educated at private institutions. I should end here as I am pretty jaded in the moment. The disappearance of quality education from the youth is so hard to live with. I have been watching this slowly take place my 9 years here and know it will get worse before it gets better. I am feeling survivor guilt leaving. And Michael and I look to create an alternative off the institutional grid when I return to Canada. We had this 20 years ago in Calgary before we both entered academia. 
Soooo really looking forward to this retreat. As I head into my detoxification time from the death driven neoliberal patriarchal system. This needs to be turned into art and poetry.
May 4, 2017
Carbondale, IL
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