13 SES 16 A, The Paradox of Public Education: A European Exploration
The aggressions toward society as a distinct space shared by all but owned by no one, in particular, tend to be a fundamental characteristic of liberal/conservative (re-)formations of European nation-states today. Margaret Thatcher's' infamous speech in 1987, in which 'society needed to be destroyed' expressed this desire most clearly. That is, the ideology that has been called neo-liberal, is essentially an aggressive ideology of destruction of the social, or what Butler (2015) names as the destruction of popular sovereignty as the basis for liberal democracies, and a shift towards self-serving interests instead as the driving force for social order and cohesion as well as ‘the economy’. Such shifts imply that education is to supply self-serving individuals who by developing their talents and abilities to the full will operate in competition with everyone else, regulated only by a market. The market is what fundamentally is to replace 'society' and that which is to define the space in which public forms of living take place. In the wake of neoliberal ideology, what remains for us today, according to Berardi (2017), is a culture of aggression, competition and war of all against all regulated by the logic of ‘the market’. The society as a public space and a public place (agora), on which anyone can speak (isogoria/parrhesia) has not so much disappeared as fundamentally been changed to its core. That means, so I will be arguing, that the one who can be heard is the one who embraces and support an aggressive competition and comparison to get ahead of everyone else to develop one's potential to the fullest. The problem though is that the abilities and talents are essentially understood as beyond education itself, and only to be brought out and be perfected by teaching and education but otherwise essentially naturally given. In this paper, I will trace such convictions as part of (social) liberal society more generally on the one hand, and as expressions of a particular aristocratic principle in education on the other, a principle that also, I will claim, is foundational for what has been called 'the new right'. Against such principle, I will, as did the Sophist 500 BCE, be arguing for a democratic principle in education as a condition for both education and democracy.
Berardi, F. (2017). Futurability. The age of impotence and the horizon of possibility. London: Verso. Butler, J. (2015). Notes towards a performative theory of assembly. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
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