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Giroux on Democracy in crises

Henry Giroux was interviewed on his position on the destruction of democracy, the ethos of critical thinking and free, autonomous and critical agency by neo-liberalism


Henry Armand Giroux was born September 18, 1943, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Armand and Alice Giroux.

Giroux received his Doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon in 1977. He then became professor of education at Boston University from 1977 to 1983. In 1983 he became professor of education and renowned scholar in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also served as Director at the Center for Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to Penn State Univeristy where he took up the Waterbury Chair Professorship at Penn State University from 1992 to May 2004. He also served as the Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to McMaster University in May 2004, where he currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.


Here is the link to the interview

Giroux calls upon the leftist intellectuals to


engage the issue of economic inequality, (my italics) overcome its fragmentation, develop an international social formation for radical democracy and the defense of the public good, undertake ways to finance itself, take seriously the educative nature of politics and the need to change the way people think, and develop a comprehensive notion of politics and a vision to match.


He notes that democracy has been undermined and transformed into a form of authoritarianism unique to the twenty-first century, but there is also an existential crisis that is evident in the despair, depoliticization, and crisis of subjectivity that has overtaken much of the population, particularly since 9/11 and the economic crisis of 2007.


And that


many people have surrendered to a neoliberal ideology that limits their sense of agency by defining them primarily as consumers, subjects them to a pervasive culture of fear, blames them for problems that are not of their doing,


He argues that


Trust, honor, intimacy, compassion, and caring for others are now viewed as liabilities, just as self-interest has become more important than the general interest and common good.


He cites the present Pope who describes our currenty zeitgeist as that of the “tyranny of unfettered capitalism,” where "the corporate, financial, and ruling elites shape politics, assault unions, mobilize great extremes of wealth and power, and enforce a brutalizing regime of neoliberalism".



where“Liberty and freedom are now reduced to fodder for inane commercials or empty slogans used to equate capitalism with democracy”.


And where 


a war waged by the financial and political elite against youth, low income groups, the elderly, poor minorities of color, the unemployed, immigrants, and others now considered disposable.  


He talked about education as “being defunded and defined as a site of training rather than as a site of critical thought, dialogue, and critical learning”.


And notes that


State sovereignty has been replaced by corporate sovereignty and this constitutes what might be called a new form of totalitarianism that as Michael Halberstam once stated “haunts the modern ideal of political emancipation


and that


Public education is under siege by the forces of privatization and advocates of charter schools, rendering public education a dead zone bereft of curiosity, imagination, and critical pedagogy.


and that 


Critical thought and learning have been replaced by mind numbing testing agendas just as teachers have been reduced to clerks of the empire.


and that


higher education is under massive attack by the apostles of corporatization just an entire generation has been plunged into life-draining debt that stifles the imagination and reduces young people to a culture of precarity and an endless struggle for survival. 


He also describes a


culture of cruelty in which those who suffer the misfortunes of poverty, unemployment, low skill jobs, homelessness, and other social problems are the object of both humiliation and scorn.




A period that lacks any sense of social and economic justice, a historical moment in which the existing norms, values, and for that matter language itself legitimate the production of zones of social and civil death, death spheres—driven by a mad violence rooted in a dystopian theater of cruelty.  


He contends that


The new authoritarianism is not just tantamount to a crisis of democracy it is also about the limits now being placed on the very meaning of politics and the erasure of those institutions capable of producing critical, engaged, and socially responsible agents.




He points out that


Neoliberalism considers the discourse of equality, justice, and democracy quaint, if not dangerous and must be either trivialized, turned into its Orwellian opposite, or eviscerated from public life.



 Talking about higher education, he says



The increasing corporatization of higher education poses a dire threat to its role as a democratic public sphere and a vital site where students can learn to address important social issues, be self-reflective, and learn the knowledge, values, and ideas central to deepening and expanding the capacities the need to be engaged and critical agents.


Under neoliberalism, higher education is dangerous because it has the potential to educate young people to think critically and learn how to hold power accountable. 


He says


education is now largely about training, creating an elite class of managers, and eviscerating those forms of knowledge that conjure up what might be considered dangerous forms of moral witnessing and collective political action.  



He describes life under the neo-liberal ethos as a


war zone and as such the number of people considered disposable has grown exponentially and this includes low income whites, poor minorities, immigrants, the unemployed, the homeless, and a range of people who are viewed as a liability to capital and its endless predatory quest for power and profits




Posted by Alon Serper on 02 June 2014 11:33:24

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