All in the name of fighting terrorism

Post-September 2008, the political landscape of the country has further revealed what lies in the belly of the so-called ‘secular’ politics. The bomb blasts in Delhi and the subsequent ‘encounter’ in the Batla House area, which has been shrouded in controversy, gave us certain new tendencies that have been there in our polity but could never come out so overtly. The mass media, along with other instruments of state reminded how Muslims are potential terrorists. This message was conveyed wide across the country reflected in an image construction of Jamia Millia Islamia as a university where potential terrorists find a safe haven. So, media told us how the new face of terrorists is educated, urban, Muslim, somebody who lives with us without revealing his actual anti-national identity, may be as our friend or neighbour. The profiling of a religious community has reached a new stage. While political formations are out there proving their nationalist credentials, particular religious communities are also compelled to prove their nationalism. An era of homogenised perception of nation is being carved. Irrespective of political colours, these trends are fostering an overall right-wing fascist character of polity to become dominant and the only possibility.

For more read Radical Notes.

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Beyond the Terror Attacks

It is impossible not to condemn the barbaric acts of terror such as the one that took place in Bombay, though, due to its own compulsions of profiteering, the electronic media played down the death of ‘others’ (those who died at the railway station, on road or elsewhere) than those who died in the two hotels or the Cafe. While condemnation of such acts is overwhelming but they are not bereft of their own ideological and political ramifications. Take for instance the case of how electronic media became ‘concerned’ with such an incident and in what language did it express its concern. The analysis and acts of brazen political allegiance hidden under garb of value neutrality and ‘truth’ that is partisan, partial and blatantly elitist told us to do many things and think in a particular fashion during the course of those three days.

Equipped with the art of, what Goffman would have called, ‘role-play’ some of them told us, panting, with voices choking out of concern, stories of how people died and how terrorists broke glasses, fired shots and burnt down halls. Sensationalism sells, there is no point arguing about it, and therefore everyone was trying to give us information which was different from others. While telling us that one could capture ‘live’ the encounter between police and terrorists and a hostage drama, something that we could have watched only in films, the news channels were also putting their ideas onto us.

In between Suhel Seth, Alyque Padmse, Shobha De and others came out virulently against ‘politics’ (not telling us overtly that they were, therefore, arguing for another kind of politics), for a citizen’s initiative to be led by news channels. A typical attitude that appeals to the post-liberalisation middle class and moneyed segment, which argues for stringent security measures (in fact one of the ‘serious’, pro-people, pro-encounter, ‘nationalist’, news channel boss did suggest something along Patriot Act or Homeland Security Act for India as well), stronger bureaucracy and army and less space for dissent.

The representation by media, which came under serious criticism from different quarters (including the Navy Chief) did highlight how hollow the ‘coverages’ are. But they failed to tell us that the media was adopting a serious right-wing, fascist approach, which has been telling us that if you question encounters at the Batla House in Delhi or if you raise any finger of doubt at the acts of instruments of state that may amount to being anti-nation. Hence, while many of the Left formations prefered to abstain from raising doubts at the ‘encounters’ by police, the ‘secular’ party in power – the Congress along with its allies – furthered the trends towards profiling of Muslim communities in the country.

The state has been adopting an authoritarian stance. Dissent is seen as abetting violence (radical notes) and physical repression of intellectuals who question state, tribal or working class is on anvil. This is only furthered by the way media has been acting as the effective ideological state apparatus. There is a need to go beyond the instrumentalities of what has happened (though that is also important) and look into how the essence of the apparent realities unfolds.

Knowledge Production under Neoliberal Capitalism

A Call for Papers
on
“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
ravi@radicalnotes.com. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
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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.

References:

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, Peter Capitalists 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 http://www.henryagiroux.com/online_articles/vocalization.htm, downloaded on 10th June 2008

Giroux, Henry (October 2002)The Corporate War Against Higher Education, Workplace, 5.2, available at http://www.cust.educ.ubc.ca/workplace/issue5p1/giroux.html, 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 http://www.jceps.com/index.php?pageID=article&articleID=112, 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 http://radicalnotes.com/content/view/61/39/, downloaded on 17th March 2008

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

Indian State enumerates “Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas”

[Government of India (2008, April) Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas, Report of an expert group to Planning commission, Planning Commission, Government of India, New Delhi]

It may seem surprising that the Indian state and its ruling political elite constituted a committee to study the radical left movement in the country. However, beyond this apparent incongruity, it is essentially a stocktaking exercise in order to design the initiatives for undermining class politics and mass upsurge against the free rule of capital unleashed under neoliberalism.

It is no longer a surprise that we have today a ‘powerful’ voice in the country, categorised as ‘democratic’, ‘pro-people’, ‘progressive’, and ‘secular’, but certainly not pro-working class, which has substituted the class based analysis. The report, which is being discussed here in brief, is also an addition to that burgeoning non-class, pro-people, humane capitalism framework of analysis. In this sense, one may read the report not only in terms of a response to radical left politics, but to any political movement which demands an alternative to capitalism.

Read more at Radical Notes

Not a CIA agent but a Red-Baiter

One can have criticisms of the way Indian Left has not defended the cause of the working class. But such a criticism could come only from someone committed to the working class struggle. However, there are many other forms of criticisms too. One such criticism has recently been forwarded by Ramachandra Guha, a respected intellectual.

A self besotted concluding line that “I run the risk of being labelled a CIA agent” demonstrates how Ramachandra Guha, in an Independence Day special issue of the magazine Outlook, operates within the discourse of labelling and counter-labelling. In the whole article he has not posed anything beyond the commonsensical right-to-centre arguments against the communist left, which we heard during the recent parliamentary discussions on the “Confidence Motion” – because the left and the right were opposing the same motion, hence they are the same.

For more read at: Radical Notes