vol.9, no.1, (March 2003)




Paideia was at the centre of political philosophy in the past, from Plato to Rousseaua tradition which, as the late Castoriadis pointed out, died in fact with the French Revolution. However, the need to revisit paideia today, in the context of the revival of democratic politics after the collapse of socialist statism, is imperative. This is the reason the present issue of D&N is entirely devoted to the crucial question of education, which is one of the main victims of present neoliberal globalisation. It is hoped that the significant contributions on the matter, from various political perspectives within the Left, will initiate a rich dialogue that will continue in forthcoming issues of the journal. 

The discussion opens with a paper (Takis Fotopoulos) aiming to consider the institutional preconditions of a democratic paideia, both at the social level and the educational level itself. A basic tenet of the approach adopted by this paper is that education is intrinsically linked to politics as the very meaning of education is assumed to be defined by the prevailing meaning of politics. On the basis of this thesis, the paper then moves on  to examine a transition strategy for the move from present (mis)education, as it evolved in modernity, to a democratic paideia, through an emancipatory education process.

Douglas Kellner’s bright paper attempts to develop a critical theory of education for the new millennium. His argument is that a democratic reconstruction of education should synthesise perspectives of classical philosophy of education, Deweyean radical pragmatism, Freirean critical pedagogy, post structuralism, and various critical theories of gender, race, class, and society. Such a critical theory inevitably draws on the Hegelian concept of theory as well as on Marxian critique of ideology. Furthermore, as he rightly points out, such a democratic reconstruction should also meet the challenges posed by important technological, demographic and socio-political changes in the present era of neoliberal globalisation, which creates new social divides based on education. However, as the libertarian critique of education is ignored whereas, at the same time, the present socio-economic system as well as the technologies developed to meet its needs are taken for granted, one wonders whether a critical theory of education -- although completely adequate as far as improving the present system of education is concerned—would be sufficient enough to deal with the huge challenges that the transition to an alternative democratic society creates.

Peter McLaren develops a very powerful critique of critical pedagogy which he rightly accuses on account of its present purely reformist character. As he aptly points out, ‘critical pedagogy has become so completely psychologized, so liberally humanized, so technologized,  and so conceptually postmodernized, that its current relationship to broader liberation struggles seems severely attenuated if not fatally terminated’. He proposes instead the development of a critical revolutionary pedagogy, which will be enthused by Marxist class analysis and historical materialism. No doubt, all sections of the radical Left (including the libertarian Left) will agree with the author’s insightful analysis of reformist education and the imperative need for emancipatory education (if we see it as an integral part of the transitional process towards a liberated society) to be inspired by a form of antisystemic analysis, as part of an antisystemic movement. However, the point of dispute is whether Marxist analysis is the appropriate tool for this purpose, given its one-dimensional character which focuses on one aspect of the power spectrum: the economic one. In other words, one may argue that  although economic dominance is a crucial form of dominance in a social system based on a market economy, still, the other forms of dominance (political, military, ideological, cultural, sexual etc.) can not simply be reduced to means in exploiting the subordinate units, (not even 'in the last instance'), as they constitute ends in themselves and important components of the privileged position of the dominant social groups. In this sense, the concepts ‘exploitation’, ‘class struggle’ etc constitute the particular in comparison to the much broader concepts of dominance/ subordination.  The issue therefore is whether we need today a new democratic pedagogy based on a project for a genuine (inclusive) democracy that aims at the elimination of all forms of subordination, either they are based on economic power, or any other form of social power.

Henry A. Giroux’ starting point in an perceptive paper on the need for what he calls a ‘pedagogy of educated hope’ is the present ‘marketisation’ of education, following the marketisation of society in the era of neoliberal modernity. This implies, as he aptly puts it, that ‘as the space of criticism is undercut by the absence of public spheres that encourage the exchange of information, opinion, and criticism, the horizons of a substantive democracy disappear against the growing isolation and depoliticization that marks the loss of politically guaranteed public realms in which autonomy,  political participation, and engaged citizenship make their appearance.’ His conclusion is that the overriding political project at issue suggests that educators and others produce new theoretical tools for linking theory, critique, education, and the discourse of possibility to creating the social conditions for the collective production of ‘realist utopias’. Although one may raise some serious reservations on the author’s welcoming of the post Marxist idea of ‘democratization’ in the sense of  ‘the struggles over social citizenship, particularly those struggles aimed at expanding liberal freedoms, the equality of resources, and those forms of collective insurance that provide a safety net for individual incapacities and misfortunes’, and possibly his implicit adoption of the postmodernist stand on universalism, still, his call to fight the profound anti-utopianism that marks the era of neoliberal globalisation is significant.

Peter Pericles Trifonas insightful paper gives a postmodernist view of the ethics of knowledge and research based on the works of Derrida and Lyotard. As he rightly points out, the external financing of both education and research in today’s universities is a crucial factor determining their direction, i.e. their very nature. This is why, he aptly concludes, ‘academic responsibility therefore must take into account not only the duty to questions of knowledge and truth but to the nature of who that knowledge will serve and how’. However, one may raise some reservations on his unqualified adoption of the postmodernist thesis that it was the ‘principle of reason’ that ‘tended to guide the science of research toward techno-practical ends’ i.e. towards technological determinism. Instead, one may argue that this determinism was the inevitable effect of the attempt to ‘objectify’ reason in the form of an objective science—an attempt that characterised even liberatory analyses like the Marxist one. Furthermore, one may argue that the orientation of research ‘as an instrumental process of usable outcomes for human progress’ is not an inevitable implication of the principle of reason but, instead,  that it was the effect of the use of objective reason as a means to Progress, which was the main imaginary signification of  the growth economy—the offspring of the market economy. In other words, it could be argued that it was the requirements of the growth economy in terns of optimizing efficiency for greater productivity that established efficiency as the main principle of production organisation rather than, as Lyotard argues, ‘the quest for technical apparatus that required an investment of capital and energy’.

Finally, in the Dialogue section, John Sargis, in an excellent intervention on the discussion on liberatory ethics that D&N began in the last issue, shows the crucial interconnection and inner dynamic between emancipatory education, Paedeia and Democracy with particular reference to the US educational experience.


Takis Fotopoulos, Editor