Politics of Indignation

Politics of Indignation

: Imperialism, Postcolonial Disruptions and Social Change.

This work focuses on contemporary issues within the context of neoliberalism and colonial legacies, while exploring decolonizing  spaces.


Politics of Indignation is a challenging, accessible and exciting book. Not only does it provide a critical analysis of the neoliberal onslaught on public education in many countries including Cuba, Nicaragua and the Arab world, it also offers new insights into the dynamics of control, while demonstrating how and where resistance has succeeded.


By imparting a consciousness of human struggle against neoliberal violence and its ramifications, Politics of Indignation provides a discourse which seeks to disrupt the process through which citizens have become fodder for imperialist powers to consolidate a destructive political system. Capitalism created a culture of oblivion, distorting international solidarity through globalization. The fragmenting of human rights discourse alienated the scope of internationalism, thus enabling imperialism and the media to create an imaginary platform of unity which strives to consolidate divergences, geopolitical stereotypes and control over freedom. Mayo discerns a flow of coercion which, through playing upon concepts such as citizenship, identity and the value of humanity, threatens to rupture unity within the oppressed. With human rights fast becoming a bargaining tool in the hands of oppressive institutions, citizens’ indignation at the manipulation is increasing and social movements are gaining momentum. The state’s transformation from provider of welfare to a market regulator deprives many citizens of basic fundamental freedoms and necessities, such as education, housing and health care. The transformation from necessities to commodities exploits the people as mere puppets whose sole worth is to prop up governments thriving upon the plunder of natural resources and the eradication of culture in order to create a stereotype that can be modified with each imperialist aim. Chile’s September 11, in 1973 paved the way for an onslaught upon Latin American countries. The US aided military coup brought an end to an established system of parliamentary democracy. The torture and disappearances inflicted upon Chileans reverberated in other Latin American countries, creating both a challenge to authenticate history and a struggle to recover dignity within countries engulfed by capitalist policies. Chilean market reforms ushered by Milton Friedman privatised education, resulting in poor quality education for low income families and indigenous people which is being challenged by the student movement and their protests in favour of free quality education for all. The US’s September 11, in 2001 brought about devastation for thousands of people within the country due to the terror attack, as well as in the Middle East through the US War on Terror. Wars and the subsequent military occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq on the pretext of hunting down terrorists devastated the countries and the region. Terror suspects – a number of them being dispensable bargains for militias far removed from terrorist activities, ended up tortured in notorious prisons such as Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Whilst imperialist powers and the media lauded the wars, human rights violations existed within a vacuum in which the perpetrators were neither held accountable nor responsible. Mayo portrays how the Cuban revolution and the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua were demonised, despite the reforms in education and healthcare. Educators in Nicaragua were targeted aiming to prevent the spreading of revolutionary pedagogy. In Cuba, health and educational reforms took on an internationalist approach, with doctors and educators providing assistance in various countries and amongst minority communities. Despite US efforts to undermine the Cuban revolution through counter revolutionary operations, Fidel Castro persisted in a worldwide revolutionary commitment, offering aid to countries and communities ravaged by war or natural disasters. The book emphasises the significance of education to combat the imperialist attitude of disregarding human value. Creating a public space for education as opposed to neoliberal experiments would combat imperialism and its political violence manifested in various spheres, such as state violence, violence against minorities, the annihilation of indigenous cultures, the prohibition of protests and commemoration of workers’ struggle. Mayo describes how the workers’ struggle should become a focal point of internationalism, especially considering that right wing policies wield the power to fragment the workers’ struggle through exploiting their fears and displace their collective aspirations. “Unless such an education strategy is developed, it is more likely that the working class people become attracted to the populist right wing and often neo fascist discourse that plays on their fears and leads to further segmentation and antagonism among workers on ethnic lines.” Neoliberalism also created a global culture of incarceration, as seen in the case of migrants. Whilst globalization trends necessitate migration, migrants tend to become victimised repeatedly after leaving their countries of origin. The affirmation of ‘the other’ embodied by migrants facilitates the host state’s repressive policies of detention and marginalisation. Mayo insists that education should incorporate and promote “a critical and genuine anti-racist education.” With regard to indigenous communities, it is essential that the West stops projecting its education principles as the only viable solution in order to reap profits from the plundering of natural resources and human labour. The importance of implementing education “as a public and not a consumer good” is brilliantly portrayed in the chapter entitled Education and the MDGs. The United Nation’s eight goals with regard to education have been accepted by many countries. However, many of these same countries are embroiled in a global oppression which prevents their achievement. The arms trade, war and conflict, and institutions such as the IMF and the World Trade Organization persist in exploitation and endorsement of imperialism; strengthening the previous history of colonialism, fuelling conflict between tribes and enhancing the conditions for social injustice. Mayo insists that education cannot assume neutrality. An education system which allows oppressors to consolidate their reign with the aim of accumulating profits at the expense of humanity needs to be met with an opposite philosophy – one that embraces social obligations and defends the social sciences in order to liberate education and ensure the survival of culture in order to contribute in a tangible manner towards social justice. “Education is not an independent variable.” Hence, isolating education from social processes is an error that imbues education with powers above its role, giving rise to the hypocrisy of tolerance instead of aiming for inclusion. A striking aspect of the book is its graceful sequence and absolute respect towards history and the masses’ narratives. Mayo’s writing reinforces a commitment towards education and revolutionary struggle in an authentic manner – a profound philosophy determined in its denunciation of the treachery perpetrated by global, imperial violence. ~ Ramona Wadi, Irish Left Review

Peter Mayo’s fascinating book is as timely as it is important. It is incisive and trenchant in its critique of global capitalism, and presents cogent and informative analyses of liberal and neoliberal policies that buttress it. It is courageous and provocative as it develops alternative perspectives on central social and political questions facing the world such as race, migration, education and socio-economic inequality. It is well written and well argued, as well as engaging and engaged. It is a book that will appeal to both the specialist and the general reader. ~ Benedetto Fontana, Professor, Political Science,Baruch College, CUNY, New York.

Peter Mayo shows us with his most challenging and original new book not only the central problem of a globalizing Mediterranean world (including the Arab world and its indignant youth), but he also provides us with most important insights how to develop new concepts for new learning situations . One common and most important element of Mayo’s publication is that he underscores the political basis of education. He shows that education is not a neutral enterprise (unlike the way neo-liberal economy presents it) but is serving either to ‘domesticate’ and strengthen the status quo of subaltern groups, or else ‘liberate’ in the sense of contributing to the ushering in of a new world in which principles of social justice and ecological sustainability are held uppermost. Education is viewed in the broadest sense, the way Gramsci viewed it, seeing it as central and integral to the workings of hegemony itself. This includes a more holistic view of critical engagement in the public sphere, 50 years after the release of Habermas’ famous book on this issue. ~ Ursula Apitzsch, Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Goethe-University of Frankfurt/Maine

Politics of Indignation is a challenging, accessible and exciting book. Not only does it provide a critical analysis of the neoliberal onslaught on public education across a range a countries, it also offers new insights into the dynamics of control, while demonstrating how and where resistance has succeeded. It is a hopeful book; it encourages and inspires the reader to act to protect public interest values in education, not least because action is shown to be effective in different contexts and countries. I strongly recommend it to all of those who wish to comprehend and to resist the attacks on public education. ~ Kathleen Lynch, Professor, UCD Equality Studies Centre, School of Social Justice, University College Dublin

Education and healthcare are spheres in which the failures of capitalism and neoliberalism are unmistakable and mounting. Peter Mayo's masterful book provides fabulous insight connecting Cuban successes in medicine and education, Nicaraguan literacy campaigns, the centrality of the crisis of higher education in Europe today and the recent uprisings in the Middle East. Working through particular cases of atrocity as well as success, Mayo gives an intimate sense of the obstacles and political possibilities facing us today. His broad conception of education and the continuing role of the state within global capitalism are essential. Emphasizing South-South cooperation and non-profit oriented exchange, Mayo provides hopeful alternative to common North-South dynamics. ~ Peter Ives, Professor, Dept. of Politics, University of Winnipeg

Politics of Indignation covers a wide canvas, and is an Insightful and eclectic book that engages us in a discussion on controversial and topical themes including the politics of the new right and privatization, and the role of the welfare state and social politics. Addressing the key issue of inequality Mayo offers new approaches, emphasizing the importance of solidarity, social justice and political engagement sustained by a new social contract, between a reformulated state and a more prescient and involved civil society. This book will appeal to all of those out there who are trying to come to terms with and understand the radically transformed world of 2012. ~ Isabelle Calleja, Head, Department of International Relations, University of Malta

Peter Mayo
Peter Mayo Peter Mayo is a Professor in sociology of education and adult education in the Department of Education Studies at University of Malta, where...
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