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[Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
As for what constitutes (literally!) an ideology of individualism, I
(re)turn to Marx's critique of capitalism.
As I read Marx, one of the distinctive features of capitalism is
individualism. In Marx's view, wage labor fundamentally transforms society.
Whereas prior to capitalism (aka "modernity"), labor was primarily communal
and one's labor was contingent on connections with others, with capitalism,
the labor is suddenly freed of all constraints of caste and tradition.
Labor is "up to" the individual.
The good part about this for Marx (and this is the aspect that Francine and
Michael have been pointing to) is that you have the emergence of rich
individuality. This is a new development that, although previously present
in small measure, is the hallmark of modernity and of capitalism and it
creates the possibilities for the flourishing individual (lots to be
Yet, something fundamentally important is lost in this moment. In gaining
ourselves, we lose our connections with others. Those complex relations
that were previously had between human and human are now transferred to the
commodity such that commodities now take on the complex relations that were
once between persons. This is Marx's fetish of the commodity - the
commodity that takes on the lives of persons (e.g., the table that develops
grotesque ideas out of its woody brain).
I don't know how Francine and Michael read Marx here, but my reading of his
work is not that he is suggesting that we go back to a bygone era in which
the individual was subsumed by the collective. Rather, I read Marx as
suggesting that we recognize the remarkable things that capitalism has
given us - most notable of which is rich individuality. But what seems to
me to be key for Marx is precisely the point that Annalisa makes - that we
see ourselves in others and recognize our fundamental connectedness one
with another. That is, following Hegel, our individuality (our very being!)
is constituted through others. I see this as a fundamentally different
position from "group think" or the kinds of "collectivism" that Francine
and Michael are concerned about. As a dialectical thinker, Marx is
proposing a sublation of the simple opposition of individual and collective.
It bears mentioning that despite the rampant ideology of individualism, the
fact of our interdependence and inter-relatedness is perhaps truer in this
moment in time than at any other time in history. Just take a moment to
consider the hands that made the most intimate items of our everyday lives
- the shirt on your back, your pants, your socks, even your underwear! Or
your consider the gadgetry with which we spend most of our lives - who made
the parts for that iPhone that you nestle up to every time you wish to
speak to loved ones - or anyone. Or the computers with which we while away
our hours on this earth. Whose hands were responsible for assembling these
variously intimate items?
Chances are good that the clothes that touch us every day were handled
(touched?) by a woman somewhere in Bangladesh, Camobodia, or the Dominican
Republic, and that the gadgetry that we hold so dear was handled by a man
or woman in China, Japan, Taiwan or Mexico.
But, I think Marx's point still holds today: just as those laborers remain
alienated from the products of their labor, we remain alienated from those
laborers to the point that we can hardly imagine the hands that once
handled these most intimate items of ours (a different sort of "invisible
hand" than Adam Smith spoke of!).
That's my sense of what an ideology of individualism is, and also why CHAT
is so important. But I imagine that others may have something else in mind.
On Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 5:31 AM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Actually, Mary Wollstonecraft died about twenty years before Marx was born,
> so she wasn't exactly contemporary. But she certainly did use the word
> "man" as you say.
> We often assume that previous ages had stunted, oppressive language while
> of course our own is somehow completely liberated; not too far down in this
> assumption is the assumption that it is possible to have an ungendered
> language while we still have a highly gender-oppressive society.
> Similarly, Annalisa seems to be assuming that compassion and feeling is
> what needs to be taught, and that teaching it will somehow change the
> exploitation rate, and the violence of the status quo. Actually, if we were
> to look for an innate feeling on which higher psychological functions might
> naturally build, compassion and feeling are a good place to start. I have
> seen no evidence that "teaching" love and compassion to fellow human beings
> is either possible or necessary.
> It is curious how many people in New York City, for example, are wlling to
> pay the price of occasional black deaths through overpolicing simply
> because the crime rate has fallen there. It is not that curious, though,
> because so many of the people who feel this way are white. Nothing kills
> like leaving things alone.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> On 6 January 2015 at 16:44, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
> > The quote is of course a translation. Marx wrote in German. In any case,
> > the 19th century concept of "man" which he references, was used also
> > without qualification by the great feminist, and English-speaking
> > contemporary of Marx, Mary Wollstonecraft. The discovery of the
> > function of gendered language was a gain of Second Wave feminism of the
> > 1960s of which we are all the beneficiaries.
> > Andy
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > *Andy Blunden*
> > http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/
> > Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
> >> Hi Andy!
> >> With regard to this:
> >> "The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and
> >> upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed
> >> circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who
> >> change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated.
> >> Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one
> >> of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of
> >> circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived
> >> and rationally understood only as **revolutionary practice**."
> >> First I'd ask, what about the women? Where are they in this scheme?
> >> Second, does this education that Marx considers (educating the educated)
> >> concern the care of others? Where is the feeling? How is compassion
> >> What is the view on the pain of others? How is that "rationally
> >> Third, revolution frequently is bloody. How does Marx answer for that?
> >> is that just an inconvenience?
> >> Also, I'm not certain how this defines the pedagogy of the oppressor. It
> >> certainly identifies a need for "re-education," but what IS the
> >> that the educator must let go?
> >> Kind regards,
> >> Annalisa
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602