Falling Rate of Learning and the Neoliberal Endgame, The
Our education system is chained to the hold of a sinking capitalist ship. Is there any escape?
The current neoliberal mutation of capitalism has evolved beyond the days when the wholesale exploitation of labor underwrote the world system’s expansion. While “normal” business profits plummet and theft-by-finance rises, capitalism now shifts into a mode of elimination that targets most of us—along with our environment—as waste products awaiting managed disposal.
The education system is caught in the throes of this eliminationism across a number of fronts: crushing student debt, impatience with student expression, the looting of vestigial public institutions and, finally, as coup de grâce, an abandonment of the historic ideal of universal education. “Education reform” is powerless against eliminationism and is at best a mirage that diverts oppositional energies. The very idea of education activism becomes a comforting fiction.
Educational institutions are strapped into the eliminationist project—the neoliberal endgame—in a way that admits no escape, even despite the heroic gestures of a few. The school systems that capitalism has built and directed over the last two centuries are fated to go down with the ship. It is rational therefore for educators to cultivate a certain pessimism. Should we despair? Why, yes, we should—but cheerfully, as confronting elimination, mortality, is after all our common fate. There is nothing and everything to do in order to prepare.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- While it is no surprise that casino capitalism is in crisis and is spurring protests all over the world, few theorists connect the dots and analyze how this crisis moves through and is affected by a range of institutions. David Blacker has written a superb book in which matters of education, agency, economic justice and collective struggle come alive in both a language of critique and possibility. There will be no endgame to neoliberalism without critically thinking subjects who fight back collectively. This is the book that should be read to create the formative culture that makes such a struggle possible. ~ Henry A. Giroux, author, America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth, Professor of Communication Studies, McMaster University
- David Blacker provides a mordantly clear-eyed assessment of our predicament. He asks hard questions, in the tradition of our best gadflies, and reveals even harder truths, doing us and our 'democracy' (such as it is) a great potential service. Read rightly, Blacker's book, far from making you want to bury your head in the sand even deeper, will inspire you to shake yourself out of your slumber and do your part to arrest this pernicious development. We ignore his important work at our own peril. ~ Christopher Phillips, author, Socrates Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy, Senior Writing Fellow, University of Pennsylvania
- Invigorating pessimism. ~ Mark Fisher, author, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London
- David Blacker’s book should be required reading for everyone marching circles in schools and universities. ~ Douglas Lain, author, Billy Moon: 1968 and host of the Diet Soap Podcast
- The notion that widespread educational attainment is the key to widespread prosperity has long been a pillar of the dominant ideology. David Blacker’s central—and centrally important—insight is that the Great Recession has made this notion (which was always dubious) hopelessly anachronistic. When so many people have become superfluous to the capitalist system--mass joblessness persists four years after the recession officially ended--what have also become superfluous are these people’s skills, the schools that educate them, and the spending that funds the schools. And a capitalism mired in crisis just isn’t a capitalism that can afford to pay for what it doesn’t need. But isn’t this only a temporary situation? Drawing on Karl Marx’s falling-rate-of-profit theory and his associated theory of relative surplus (superfluous) population, Blacker warns that it may well be permanent and he urges us to face this prospect soberly and respond accordingly. ~ Andrew Kliman, author, The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession, Professor of Economics, Pace University