Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism

“Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism” 

Class, the Crisis of Neoliberal Global Capital, and the role of Education and Knowledge Workers 

The Culturalization of Class and the Occluding of Class Consciousness 

Education Toward War 

Neoliberalism and the hijacking of globalization and education 

How Shall We Live as Lambs Among Wolves? Reason-Passion-Power and Organization  

The Evolution of Knowledge Production in Capitalist Society 

A Call for Papers
“Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism” 
(prepared by Ravi Kumar)
A great deal has been written and said about how neoliberalism affects the different sectors of economy and society. Concerns have been expressed from different analytical positions and even dimensions of the emerging situation. There have been concerns at how it augments inequality in education (Sadgopal, 2006, 2008; Apple, 2004; Kumar, 2006, 2008).  Some of the educationists have raised the issue of how even the states swearing by their welfarist intentions have been only pursuing an agenda that fosters inequality. In fact, the system effected radical alterations in aligning areas and spheres so as to sustain the new changes in the sphere of education. Consequently, profound measures and impacts have been visible in the arena of culture and everyday life (Pathak, 2002; Giroux, undated, 2002).

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 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.


Allman, P., McLaren, P. and Rikowski, G. (2005) ‘After the box people: the labour-capital relation as class constitution – and its consequences for Marxist educational theory and human resistance,’ in McLaren, PeterCapitalists and Conquerors: A Critical Pedagogy Against Empire, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc: Lanham, pp.135-165

Althusser, Louis (2006), Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (Translated by Ben Brewster), Aakar Books: New Delhi

Apple, Michael W. (January and March 2004) Creating Difference: Neo-Liberalism, Neo-Conservatism and the Politics of Educational Reform, Educational Policy, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 12-44

Gibson, Rich (2006) ‘The Rule of Capital, Imperialism, and its Opposition: Radical Education for Revolution and Justice’, Social Change, 36(3), pp.92-120

Giroux, Henry A. (undated) ‘Neoliberalism and the Vocationalization of Higher Education’, available at, downloaded on 10th June 2008

Giroux, Henry (October 2002)The Corporate War Against Higher Education, Workplace, 5.2, available at, downloaded on 5th Septmber 2005

Hill, Dave (2004) ‘Books, Banks and Bullets: controlling our minds – the global project of imperialistic and militaristic neo-liberalism’ and its effect on education policy’, Policy Futures in Education, Volume 2, Numbers 3 & 4, pp.504-522

Kumar, Ravi (2008) ‘Against Neoliberal Assault on Education in India: A Counter-narrative of Resistance’,Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Volume 6, No. 1, available at, downloaded on 12th July 2008

McLaren, Peter (2005). Capitalists and Conquerors: A critical Pedagogy Against Empire, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc: Lanham

McLaren and Farahmandpur (2005). Teaching Against Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism: A Critical Pedagogy, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc: Lanham

Sadgopal, Anil (2006) ‘Dilution, Distortion and Diversion: A Post-Jomtien Reflection on Education Policy’, in Kumar, Ravi (ed.), The Crisis of Elementary Education in India, Sage Publications: New Delhi, pp. 92-136

Sadgopal, Anil (2008) ‘Common School System and the Future of India’, Radical Notes, available at, downloaded on 17th March 2008

Saltman, K. & Gabbard, D.A. (eds) (2003) Education as Enforcement: the Militarization and Corporatization of Schools, RoutledgeFalmer: London