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Tuesday, 09 April 2013 09:11By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed
At a time when higher education is under siege all over the globe by market mentalities and moralities, there is an urgent necessity on the part of the American public to reclaim the academy in its multiple forms as a site of critique and a public good, one that connects knowledge and power, scholarship and public life, and pedagogy and civic engagement. The current assault on higher education by the apostles of neoliberalism and religious fundamentalists makes clear that it should not be harnessed to cost-benefit analyses or the singular needs of corporations, which often leads to the loss of egalitarian and democratic pressures. Universities should be about more than developing work skills. They must also be about producing civic minded and critically engaged citizens - citizens who can engage in debate, dialogue and bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance. Universities are some of the few places left where a struggle for the commons, for public life, if not democracy itself, can be made visible through the medium of collective voices and social movements energized by the need for a politics and way of life counter to authoritarian capitalism. We are living in a time in which democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish from public schools to health care centers - there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values and the common good. We increasingly live in societies based on the vocabulary of 'choice' and a denial of reality - a denial of massive inequality, social disparities, the irresponsible concentration of power in relatively few hands, and a growing machinery of social and civil death. 1 More and more individuals and groups are becoming imaginary others defined by a free-floating capitalist class that inscribes them as disposable, redundant and irrelevant. The American public
consumerism. 5 Hence. one goal of those concerned about creating engaged citizens capable of struggling for a radical democracy is to develop new pedagogical practices and modes of civic literacy that connect rigorous scholarship to important social issues. the attack on the welfare state." 4 The university likewise should not collude with the ongoing assaults against social provisions that are waged by policymakers who view marginalized populations as disposable." and subject to the vicissitudes of the national security state. 3 This grim reality has been called a "failed sociality" a failure in the power of the civic imagination.increasingly inhabits zones of hardship. There is a need to reclaim those vibrant ideologies. a quality education and a future that matters. under the guise of professionalism. in dilapidated schools and prisons than provide them with decent social protections. political will and open democracy. As the welfare state continues to be attacked and the punishing state increasingly criminalizes social issues. the increasing militarization of all aspects of society. This is all the more reason for scholars to address important social issues and for the university to defend itself as a democratic public sphere. but also as a broader civic educational force that enables the development of the formative culture necessary for all 2 . We live in a world in which everything is now privatized. jobs. legacies and struggles that served and continue to serve as a reminder of how important the liberal arts are. suffering and terminal exclusion. the growing assault on women's civil and reproductive rights and the escalating destruction of the environment. freedom and democracy are actively traded for the forces of privatization. not just as specific fields of study. particularly poor minorities. remove themselves from ethical considerations and the power relations that impact them and the world. as waste products of a society that would rather warehouse its citizens. health care. academics and other cultural workers should not. equality. unchecked individualism and "a political culture of hyper punitiveness.one that is "stripped of the thick mesh of mutual obligations and social responsibilities to be found in" any viable democracy. Nor should they claim disinterestedness at a time when the very concepts of justice. transformed into "spectacular spaces of consumption. such as the war being waged on youth today. 2 One consequence is the emergence of what the late Tony Judt called an "eviscerated society". extending from homelessness and peaceful protest to dress code violations in public schools.
she combines individual rights with social rights and argues that any viable notion of agency is impossible without providing the economic and social conditions that enable people to exercise their political and individual rights. one that moves far beyond the narrow liberal notion of freedom that enshrines the right of the individual to do what he or she wants unchecked by any impediments. as the poet Robert Hass points out. She has worked in difficult and shifting circumstances to remind us of the power of education as a central element of inspired self-government. one that recognizes that education is. recognize the ethical grammar of suffering and connect public values to collective struggles that expand and deepen the processes of democracy. or simply falsified.students to enliven the imagination. "is to refresh the idea of justice going dead in us all the time." 6 We find ourselves at an important historical moment in which there is a need to reclaim the most robust and democratic versions of the discourse of freedom. 7 Instead. What is particularly crucial about her legacy is that it not only focuses on specific issues. a democratic notion of freedom. political commitment and rigorous scholarship. history and legacy of intellectuals who symbolize that rare combination of civic courage. turned into a commodity. think critically. She argues that freedom is about providing choices for people without the constraints that are imposed 3 . but it also addresses society at large. Her work advances. Occasionally. collective struggle and history. ethically and culturally is being erased . She has struggled bravely and with great dignity for decades to demonstrate that education is a form of political intervention in the world and that learning is not about processing received knowledge but actually transforming it as part of a more expansive struggle for individual rights and social justice.either ignored. as Robin Kelley points out. we are confronted with the unsullied images. in part. justice. Angela Davis is one of those exemplary activists and public intellectuals. moral or otherwise. Informing such a project would be an attempt to develop a language of critique and possibility. a moral and political practice whose mission. Her scholarship and activism demonstrate the educational force of political and intellectual commitment in its attempts to enlighten the mind and create powerful social movements against a wide range of oppressions. Americans occupy a historical conjuncture in which everything that matters politically. flatly rejecting identitarian politics.
regardless of the social costs. Collective freedom provides the basic conditions for people to narrate their own lives. freedom is the ability to not only understand the world but to act on that understanding and be able to shape the commanding forces that bear down on one's life. a struggle that demands the shared conditions that would ensure all people could live a fully realized life. She is not an icon. As a condition. while abolishing the prisonindustrial complex and the ever expanding punishing state. corporate power. she is a 4 . housing. if not burden of freedom. it acknowledges that no viable mode of self and social determination can develop without the social and economic conditions that free people from those material deprivations that cripple matters of choice. racial equality and the common good.by subjugation." 8 Freedom in this context is freedom that comes with the struggle against injustice. food and education. a member of the Forbes 400 has over forty million dollars. collective agents and social movements that embrace the individual but organize collectively. cannot be understood in the privatized language of mega corporations and the ultrarich. but in the discourses and struggles of social movements that fight for economic justice. power and agency. Freedom at its best speaks to both a condition and a practice. deprivation and the type of inequality evident in the fact that "For every one dollar of assets owned by a single black or Hispanic woman. one that is inclusive and provides decent health care. As a practice. Edgar Hoover because she understood that the struggle for freedom was not only a struggle for political and individual rights but also for economic rights. education is linked to the struggle for a democratic conception of community. Freedom is always part of an ongoing struggle for new subjects. The weight. Reagan and J. Davis's notion of freedom rejects the neoliberal understanding of the term as freedom from interference by the government and freedom to merely pursue one's own private interests. Collective freedom is one devoid of material bondage and one that supports the institutions necessary for democracy. unchecked individualism and pernicious consumerism. This is a notion of freedom that depoliticizes freedom in the name of greed. Angela Davis's legacy as a freedom fighter made her an enemy of the state under the increasingly neoliberal regimes of Nixon. In this notion of freedom. and embrace a capacious notion of human dignity. hold power accountable.
" 9 I can think of no one who embodies the commitment to theoretical rigor. Andrews. 5 . see Annette Fuentes. her humility and bristling intelligence. 3. What is invaluable about Angela Davis' work is that she does not limit her politics to issues removed from broader social considerations. waiting to address and take seriously the promise of a democracy to come.” Review of Education. on the turning of public schools into prisons. Angela Davis is the other America.freedom fighter who has given most of her life to join with the dispossessed and excluded in the struggle for freedom. Michelle Alexander. Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse (New York: Verso. Angela Davis is a model for what it means to be a public and engaged intellectual dedicated to what she calls "protracted struggles [that refuse] the pitfalls of the particular version of democracy represented by U. on the severe costs of massive inequality. Quoted in Michael L. “(Re)Presenting Baltimore: Place. See. 2. capitalism. the America waiting in the shadows to be born again. and her insistence that pedagogy is the formative basis of not just dissent. waiting once again to tip the scales of justice toward a new ethical horizon.S. 2010). Politics. For her. The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (New York: Norton. and Cultural Pedagogy. human dignity and collective resistance more so than Angela Davis. 1. 2012). Stiglitz. her struggles over the last few decades. social justice. We have a lot to learn from her work. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press. but collective struggle. Joseph E. Policy. p. Pedagogy. for instance. and Cultural Studies 33 (2011). democracy is not only a promise and ideal but also a practice. Silk and David L. but connects every aspect of her scholarship and public interventions to what the contours of a truly democratic society might look like. 2011). 436. on the rise of the racist punishing state.
Angela Y. 5.” Alternet. (October 2010). “Reappraisals: What is the worth of social democracy?” Harper’s Magazine. “Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City. Giroux. “Foreward. 2005) pp. “Robert Hass. Hass cited in Sarah Pollock. and Torture. 72-73. (Seven Stories Press. 2013). 2012). Robin Kelley. 6 . 22. (San Francisco. p. U. pp.” Mother Jones (March–April 1992). Prisons. p. The Education Deficit and the War on Youth (New York: Monthly Review Press. Paul Buchheit.Terry Eagleton. 757.” Angela Y. Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire.: City Lights Books. The Meaning of Freedom. Davis.” Antipode (2006). p.S. Education and the Crisis of Public Values (New York: Peter Lang. 4. 7. 9. 2013). Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown. 2013) and Henry A. Henry A. (March 24. 78. “Five Ugly Extremes of Inequality in America – The Contrasts Will Drop Your Chin to the Floor. 8. Giroux. 7-16. 6. Davis.
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