“Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism”
“Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism”
The knowledge system that we all are aware of emanates from the different institutions that the system brings into existence. Our imagination fails to register anything outside the boundaries of the given, defined institutional framework as developing any kind of knowledge system. Hence, there have not only been debates about how to understand and resurrect the hegemony and domination that characterises the very processes of knowledge production. This hegemony is bolstered by ever renewing processes of strengthening the presence of State within the educational arena. Scholars have gone on to argue that a process of militarization and corporatisation of schools go simultaneously under this system (Saltman, & Gabbard, 2003; McLaren, 2005). Efforts have been made to understand and explain how these changes are at different levels – ranging from the need to redefine role of schools (as evident in number of experiments in alternative schooling) to the idea of looking at the education as a product of the capitalist system and therefore emphasis has been towards understanding the processes of education as embedded in the systemic characteristics of capitalism (McLaren, 2005; Farahmandpur, 2006; Allman, McLaren and Rikowski, 2005; Hill, 2004; Gibson, 2006). What we confront today in the educational sphere need not be taken as a surprise as it flows as a natural consequence of the character of capitalist expansion and its tendency towards uncontrolled commodification of our existential realities and its different aspects.
The discourses in contemporary world trying to understand the neoliberal impact on societies emanate from different vantage points. Some of the discourses look at its inequality generating characteristic as evil and argue for better and more enhanced role of state as against the increasing role of the private capital. But such discourses get trapped in the framework of ahistorical analyses. They fail to disclose the character of the state as a conjunctural venue where interests of capital intersect with the interests of masses (seen as demands for employment, better livelihood, improved living conditions etc.) in an oppositional manner. This is more so evident in the current phase of neoliberal times in which we live. This oppositional relationship many a times does not appear as such (i.e., as opposed to each other), especially when the economy is booming and the pretence of everyone being happy and committed to the expansion of capital dominates the imagination.
In such a situation, the need is to establish that the relationship between state and education extends beyond the institutional framework provided by the system. Education, unlike its reified image, moves beyond the schools, prescribed curriculum and the teaching-learning transaction within the school. While the significance of the formal structures remain as relevant as ever but they are understood in a framework that relates them to and treats them as an intrinsic component of the larger system. In other words, education gets fused into the notion of knowledge production, which is constituted by numerous aligned elements. The idea of knowing becomes the dominant paradigm and teaching and learning (which always keep on switching their positions and functions for one another) emerge out of a process which is characterised by conflict, transformations and efforts to survive on the part of the larger mass.
Being part of a process entails that the knowledge production in a society though determined by the Ideological State Apparatuses is also constituted by the other sources – such as movements, acts of resistance, and different types of anti-systemic impulses. However, from this process different kinds of knowledge will be produced – in many cases quite contrary and opposed to each other. Hence, the need for addressing the system and the need to emphasise the relevance of dialectics as a method of understanding education as embedded in the system arises. The system, capitalist mode of production in this case, needs to survive and expand. And there are definite ways in which it sustains and expands itself. “…in order to exist, every social formation must reproduce the conditions of its production at the same time as it produces, and in order to be able to produce it must therefore reproduce: (1) the productive forces, and (2) the existing relations of production” (Althusser, 2006, p. 86). It is essential that the labour power is reproduced for sustenance and expansion of capitalism, and it’s reproduced through the provision of “material means with which to reproduce itself: by wages” (ibid, p.87). However, it is essential that along with reproduction the labour is competent as well. Hence, the issue of skills, posts, jobs etc., become important. Althusser would argue that this is taken care of by the processes outside the production, i.e., through the education system. The educational system becomes a part of consensus creation to generate support for the politics of capital and also nurtures new ideas that would expand the rule of capital. While it teaches the ‘know-how’ (techniques and knowledge), it also teaches children rules of good behaviour, attitudes towards things, rules of morality etc.
Within this framework when one situates the processes of knowledge production significant changes have taken place due to liberalisation of economies across world and more so with the onslaught of what we term the neoliberal regime. Changes within culture, within institutions as well as outside the institutions have taken place. Educational institutions have become sites of producing skilled labour force, in a never before manner. Global discourse has been insisting on vocationalisation of education so that students can become part of the labour force as early as possible and this also allows, simultaneously, weakening of the critical education possibilities. To think of education as a tool that enables one to transcend the limits of appearances and allows them to delve deeper into the reality would demand that it (education) be seen as a process of resistance, fostering a sense of dissent and dialogicity within the students. However, contemporary regime does not allow that. Education rather becomes a method of control, a tool of disciplining and a scheme of consensus building that would facilitate the reproduction of the system.
Within this backdrop Radical Notes proposes to organise an e-symposium on the theme ‘Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism’. This symposium aims at looking at the nature of changes that have been experienced after the take over by neoliberal capitalism. In other words, it would look at the different aspects of the educational system and the much larger realm of the knowledge production that are geared to produce not only labour power but labour power with definite competencies to serve the rule of capital. Hence, the scope of the contributions would extend beyond schools, formal curriculum, teacher education to the politics of knowledge of production. The symposium would make an effort to answer the following questions:
1. How are processes of knowledge production affected by the neoliberal capital’s agenda (a) within school as an institution; (b) in institutions of higher education; (c) in curriculum in formal institutions; and (d) in the orientation of the teaching community?
2. Are resistances shaping the world of knowledge production as a counter narrative to neoliberal assault and in what way?
3. Can we consider movements against capital as producing challenges to the reproduction of capitalist social relations and becoming a course of pedagogy? If such is the case how can one conceptualise it?
The contributors are requested to send their contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The papers will be of a length of 5,000-8,000 words. Acceptance and publication of submissions will be the prerogative of the editors of the journal.
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Althusser, Louis (2006), Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (Translated by Ben Brewster), Aakar Books: New Delhi
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