Rage and Hope

Peter McLaren
Peter McLaren

My heart still beats steadily enough to try to confront in the bowels of today’s body politic all those individuals and groups and institutions and affiliations who have made an historical compromise with capital.  In this struggle I am destined to meet strangers of all type and stripe and strange kinds of people such as those who go by the name “corporation” (the absurd result of an 1886 Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad).  It is this corporate personhood  absurdity that has resulted from the deep integration into society of the capitalist mode of production that has enabled companies to acquire the status of legal personalities and to enjoy the same legal protections as actual people, that makes them so dangerous.  Under the consolatory banners of privatism, finance capitalism and post-industrial consumer culture, they consistently subordinate the pursuit of shareholder gain to the public good.  Thus I grow weary, as I recognize with a lucidity that had erstwhile escaped a more youthful eye, that I am not fully of this world. I live with the dead in a temple of bone, ensepulchered in moss-covered marble vaults with the pious stink of putrefaction.  Yet I sense always the presence of those as yet unborn, their chorus of voices occasionally rising from the ashes of progress, beckoning me to take notice of them in the name of some unnamed hope: “Send a message to the living, dear teacher, that we are on our way.  Those who are on the ramparts fighting the capitalists, they are not alone!”

This is the message I shall take to my readers:  “You are not alone.”

In addition to denouncing the pretentions of all sorts of ideologies, I will speak a great deal about the danger of corporatocracy (alliances of corporations, banks and governments), paying close attention to the neoliberal globalization of capital, schools, education and youth, but I will also speak on other topics of interest to those who wish to resuscitate a dying planet.

We need a substantive rather than a formal vision of a world less populated by suffering and misery and I will attempt in a modest way to participate in the formation of such a vision.

Schools consciously and unconsciously justify oppression and the tyranny of governments.  Government officials claim that schools in capitalist societies such as the United States are equal and that as long as students remain comfortably ensconced within the cultural hegemony of consumerism, and adhere to the dictates of the administration (which are meant to be in tandem with the logic of the market), the country can enhance the value of its international capital and can compete within the international market.

I oppose the priestly admonitions of the education aristocracy  that represent the dominant political forces of the day and that unleash mass ideological warfare on students, teachers and administrators and recalcitrant community members who refuse to go along with the charade.

Schools caution  the poor and the downtrodden among us to escape from the temporal world of strife and necessity and to escape into the metaphysical netherworld of their inner life—a reality beyond existence—forcing them away from potentially manning the picket lines in favour of contemplating their salvation.  Worldly existence is deemed insignificant when compared to contemplating one’s own mortality, and schools thus deny immanence and affirm transcendence and force students and teachers to accept the social world as something fixed and incapable of being transformed.  What is rejected tout court by the sentinels of our consumer culture is the conscienticizing evangelization of a socialist alternative to capital’s law of value.  For school officials, harmony is either divinely appointed or established by natural law, and not co-constructed in the interaction between social beings. To rise up against injustice is seen as a challenge to the relative approximation of the school to the ideals of democracy, without taking into account how democracy itself can no longer live up to its own definition as long as it is attempting to function within capitalist laws of value. While some schools do encourage students to engage in limited actions designed to ameliorate injustices they do so in further preparation of students as consumer citizens, co-extensive with the corporate paternalism and fetishism of commodities that informs existing social structures.

The technoscientific  agenda of capital is ominous and has resulted in epistemicide and the destruction of many indigenous approaches to the relationship between humans and planetary ecosystems.  While there are efforts to create counter-knowledges that take into account self-reflexivity and recursive interactions between nature and technology, how can they be de-linked from capitalist appropriation of social knowledge in all of its forms? Marx talked about the possibility of machines becoming organs of participation in nature. But capitalism will always hijack this process which is why we need to create a social universe  that is not ruled by the sovereignty of  labor’s value form. The violently wielded dominative power of machine technology can only be contested through the creation of a non-capitalist commonwealth based on democratic socialist principles.

There has been a failure of leadership among the intellectuals of the left that has thrown the socialist movement into disarray.  Without a coherent anti-capitalist alternative it appears that there will be no long-term solution to the crisis of capital and the ecological crisis that follows in its wake.

Most progressive movements in the United States are accommodationist, and have made a fatal compromise with capital. We need to advance a socialist alternative to America’s political economy.  We need an economic Magna Carta for the poor, limiting the divine right of corporations  and the wealth-holding class. We need a socialist revolution.

No magazine is sufficient to address the entreaties of the poor and powerless, nevertheless Iberoamerica Social is an important step forward.



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Doctor en Educación por la Universidad de Toronto, Canadá.

Docente Distinguido de Estudios Críticos, Universidad Chapman, Estados Unidos.

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