Tag Archives: democracy

Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society?

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Why Don’t Americans Care About Democracy at Home?

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Il Pleut des Etudiants, Premier de Mai – Montreal

The Toronto Media Co-op has posted this excellent video report by Zach Ruiter about the May Day march organized by the Quebec student movement. The video asks important questions about what it means to live in a society that denies young people affordable education and brutalizes them for engaging in democratic expression. Such a movement also gives us an opportunity to witness an emerging political culture in Quebec that engages the public and holds elected governments accountable to “change government policies towards more social justice, sustainable government, cultural autonomy.” Continue reading

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Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life
The permanent state of warfare in the United States has resulted in the expansion of cultures of violence to other public spheres. Henry Giroux reminds us in this Truthout article how resistance to the military-industrial-carceral and academic complex is a challenging, though increasingly imperative, task.

Soldiers acting as part of Operation Pranoo Verbena in order to disrupt Taliban operations in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 16, 2012 (Photo credit: MATEUS_27:24&25; reproduced courtesy of Truthout)

According to Giroux, the “normalization of violence” is accomplished through the reproduction of violent pedagogies in contexts that lack (and sometimes actively destroy) the critical apparatuses for the public to become sensitized to, and thus resist, the dehumanization, suffering and social costs entailed by acts of violence. In discussing U.S. popular culture, Giroux’s concern is not so much the intentions of the artists or the aesthetic merits of Hollywood movies such as The Hunger Games and organized sports that rely on extreme violence for ratings, such as mixed martial arts and professional hockey, but how they are promoted and commercialized in the public sphere in ways that tend to reinforce people’s identities as mindless consumers of violent spectacles rather than as thoughtful citizens capable of denouncing the degradation of themselves and others. Giroux is concerned with how this mass culture of violence leads to the gradual acceptance of violence in everyday life – seen for example in the increasing use of police crackdowns on peaceful protesters and other rampant forms of securitizing and militarizing of public spaces.

Giroux links consumer culture in North America to the emergence of the “warfare state”, which in turn is connected to neoliberal forms of late capitalism that drive policy phenomena such as tax breaks for private corporations and the rich, imposed concurrently with austerity measures for the working poor and middle class.  Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism and the mentality of war — not least of all by dehumanizing the other and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.   Public sanctioning of, or at least the absence of public outcry against, the extreme and horrific acts of violence perpetrated by the military in Afghanistan and elsewhere demonstrate the degree to which violence has been normalized in North American society.  Such an unrelenting commitment to the war machine demands that ethical considerations are ignored in order to remain dedicated to violence as the principal strategy of statecraft.

The future implications of Giroux’s analysis is a warfare state working in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage growing income inequality and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance, the endpoint of which is devolution into state terrorism, ironically not unlike that which is represented in The Hunger Games. The political ramifications of the turn toward violence and death are destined to be felt throughout society, and can already be witnessed in the expansion of the prison-industrial system and the militarization of elementary schools.

Giroux points to the challenges inherent in opposing the warfare state and its culture of cruelty, and insists that vilification of these ideologies is not enough.  Political and pedagogical interventions that enter the conversation in ways that offer both critique and hope should be central in the struggle to create the conditions for a more critical and engaged citizenry. The current efforts by the young, the unemployed, and the disenfranchised need the support of the broader public and progressive social movements if we expect a better future than the one toward which we are currently heading. In this call for accountability and transformative action, Giroux reminds us that ”[w]ar does not have to be a permanent social relation, nor the primary organizing principle of everyday life, society and foreign policy.” Read the article…

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By Alexandra Epp and Grace Pollock

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Violence USA: An Interview with Henry Giroux
Radio host Michael Slate speaks with Henry Giroux about his recent article “Violence USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life.” The interview contextualizes the article, making Giroux’s previous insights all the more valuable. Listen along as Giroux clarifies and explores some of the most salient points in his article:  the warfare state today as opposed to the warfare state of the past; the brutality of the entertainment industry; the link between militarization and privatization of schools, and more.
Listen to the interview…

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The “Suicidal State” and the War on Youth
Henry Giroux
 explores Paul Virilio’s notion of a “suicidal state”—defined as a government which “works to destroy its own defenses against anti-democratic forces”—and how the United States is moving ever closer to self-annihilation through the increasing alienation and isolation of its youth.

2013_0627lob2The suicidal state is one that has evolved from the forces of market fundamentalism and neoliberal ideology, which further empower the wealthy and erode the state’s ability to act as a defence on behalf of citizens. This is especially dire for society’s most vulnerable, who suffer disproportionately from inequality, unemployment, militarism, a harsh penal system, the shutting down of dissent and a lack of accessible, quality education, among other ruinous social and economic conditions. Capitulating to authoritarian tendencies, the state systematically disenfranchises its own youth, thus attacking “the very elements of a society that allow it to reproduce itself.”

The ongoing demonization of young people in the broader culture has escalated to violent attacks, evident in the homicides of Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd. In the United States, but increasingly everywhere, youth are subject to social conditions that are based on mistrust and fear; they are isolated by society and considered expendable or redundant. Giroux emphasizes the need for change and the duty that intellectuals have to reverse the pressures of the suicidal state and “develop social movements that can not only rewrite the language of democracy, but put into place the institutions and formative cultures that make it possible.”  Read the article…
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By Alexandra Epp

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Tony Judt on Intellectuals and Democracy

Tony Judt (1948-2010) On August 6, 2010, renowned historian Tony Judt died from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In the two-year span between his diagnosis and tragic death, Judt, incredibly, wrote three books. The final one has just … Continue reading

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“We are losing the very value of dialogue—especially respectful communication—in the name of the sheer force of naked power. This is the classic triumph of authoritarianism over the kind of questioning, compassion, and hope requisite for any democratic experiment.” – Cornel West, Democracy Matters (2004)

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Youth Movement in a Culture of Hopelessness
Henry Giroux in an interview with Al Jazeera English discusses the Wall Street protests in terms of why young people around the world, “a whole generation that now is being pushed into the waste barrel of history,” are speaking out against political and economic oppression. The Occupy movement is nothing less than a“fight for radical democracy.” Read the article…
Published by Al Jazeera English, 8 October 2011

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Does “Democracy” Still Mean Anything? (And in Case It Does, What Is It?)
Zygmunt Bauman
considers the “gruesome” implications of how particular words such as “democracy” can change meaning, yet continue to receive support from an unwary public. Perhaps an unbridgeable chasm has opened up in the midst of the democratic process itself, causing a permanent dissolution of “the link between public agenda and private worries” and the emergence of an unfathomable “illogicality.” Read this article…
Published by Truthout, 21 January 2011

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