Knowing the World and Changing it

With last week’s readings in mind (e.g., McManus and Stengers) coupled with these readings, I realized am beginning to understand a different critique of capitalism that I had not noticed before. That is, Capitalism is not only an economic system organizing production to increase profits, but it systemically seeks to sever the intimate links of emotions from our everyday lived experiences, labor power. This point was brought up by Shannon’s Reading Marxism, in which Shannon argues the capitalist logic “for society would run like a business, creating the best conflicts for production, technological advance, and accumulations. With its emphasis on predicating the best outcomes for profit, Capitalism has significantly downplayed the importance of feelings and emotions. Shannon makes this point clear when he writes, “Reducing teachers and students to factors in the scripted system of test score production requires that both lose emotional, cultural, and social attachments to the process of teaching and learning”(2006).

It was interesting to see how Zeus Leonardo discussed Derrick Bell’s stance toward racism. On the one hand, his writings are characterized by a “racial realism” that abandons the notion that racism will one day disappear. On the other hand, his ethical idealism calls for fighting racism. It is interesting how Leonardo referred to this tension as “sometimes warring” position. This may be contradictory, but I think there is strength in interrogating these opposites into one’s position.  According to Giroux (2004), Gramsci referred to this as a contradictory consciousness whereby elements of accommodation and resistance exist in an unsteady state of tension” (1963). Thus, Leonardo (2013) continues the discussion of ideology and the need to understand it as a site for resistance and change.

An instance of how profound ideology is in our lives was the example of the Arizona’s HB 2281 in Leonardo (2013). The curriculum in one of Arizona’s school district, La Raza Studies Department was teaching Paulo Freire and other liberation thinkers. Legislators and teachers accused this curriculum and the department as “vehemently anti-Western culture” that threatened the United States and its power. Yet, these authority figures – I assume – view their own curriculum as “neutral” without a standpoint or aim for any causes.  With their criticisms, it is clear to me that they are unaware (I would say have a false consciousness) of their own conservative agenda and how it has institutionalized in the curriculum and culture of their education system.

I have to admit that I am already very much in agreement with Freire, not to mention Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book that has had a profound influence on my life. Thus, while reading Biesta and Galloway I had to challenge myself and come to terms with my own ideology on education for emancipation. I will start with my disagreements with Rancière and then reflect how he provides good points to Freire’s gaps. For one, Rancière reduces people to intelligences and argues that “all intelligences are equal.” Although I do agree with the equality part, the is no no mention of how mind is distributed and considers mind as disembodied. Rancière according to Galloway, Rancière considers inequality an opinion. There are objective and subjective instances of inequality in our world. I am concerned with this point the most because it may be interpreted that Rancière’s notion of opinion can be used to deny someone’s reality or conditions.

An interesting debate that came across several of the readings is the notion of false consciousness and its implications for emancipation. This concept came up in Biesta, Galloway, and Giroux. According to Biesta, false consciousness is “the idea that ‘the real motives impelling [the agent] remain unknown to him’ (Engels, quoted in Eagleton 2007, p.89). Biesta then continues to argue false consciousness implies that someone else, whose consciousness is not subjected to the workings of power, needs to liberate others. It is not clear whether Biesta sees as a reason for abandoning false consciousness. False consciousness can be used for social emancipation. I would argue that someone else liberating you doesn’t always imply that person(s) have authority over you. Rather false consciousness and the need for liberating others and ourselves through others is a testament of our profoundly social nature as people. There is always someone liberating ourselves and transforming the way we making meaning and how we engage in the world. For instance, Vygotsky in Thought and Language provides a case how the baby’s reaching gesture becomes transformed into a signifier gesture, which is only achieved through social interaction with an adult. Although I can see how false consciousness can be used as a tool for imposing social change on people and it should be critically embraced.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Can Marxism be used to combat the isolation and downplay of emotions in our lived experiences?
  2. What is false consciousness and what is the implications for emancipation in believing in false consciousness?
  3. Within Friere’s account does false conscious imply that the oppressed cannot know the world?
  4. Giroux argues ideology must understand how meaning is constructed and materialized within signs and symbols. Giroux calls for a more fully developed theory of mediation and reception. Hasn’t Vygotsky and his later collaborators (Perhaps Ilyenkov?) made this pathways into this contribution?
  5. Rancière’s says “man is a will served by an intelligence”. What does Rancière mean by will? Is this will from the Hegalian sense? Where is will located?


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