Marx, Capital, and Education

Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Becoming

by Curry Stephenson Malott (Author) Derek R. Ford (Author)
©2015 Textbook XX, 165 Pages
Series: Education and Struggle, Volume 5


With the contradictions of capitalism heightening and intensifying, and with new social movements spreading across the globe, revolutionary transformation is once again on the agenda. For radicals, the most pressing question is: How can we transform ourselves and our world into something else, something just? In Marx, Capital, and Education, Curry Stephenson Malott and Derek R. Ford develop a «critical pedagogy of becoming» that is concerned with precisely this question. The authors boldly investigate the movement toward communism and the essential role that critical pedagogy can play in this transition. Performing a novel and educational reading of Karl Marx and radical theorists and activists, Malott and Ford present a critical understanding of the past and present, of the underlying logics and (often opaque) forces that determine the world-historical moment. Yet Malott and Ford are equally concerned with examining the specific ways in which we can teach, learn, study, and struggle ourselves beyond capitalism; how we can ultimately overthrow the existing order and institute a new mode of production and set of social relations. This incisive and timely book, penned by two militant teachers, organizers, and academics, reconfigures pedagogy and politics. Educators and organizers alike will find that it provides new ammunition in the struggle for the world that we deserve.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Marx, Capital, and Education
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword. Being and Becoming Communist: Toward a Revolutionary Critical Pedagogy of Becoming
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Becoming through Negation: Revisiting Marx’s Humanism
  • Chapter 2. From Revolution to Counterrevolution and Back Again? The Global Class War and Becoming Communist
  • Chapter 3. Becoming Communist in the Global Class War: Centering the Critique of the Gotha Programme
  • Chapter 4. The “Cynical Recklessness” of Capital: Machinery, Becoming, and Revolutionary Marxist Social Studies Education
  • Chapter 5. Teaching Ferguson, Teaching Capital: Slavery and the “Terrorist Energy” of Capital
  • Chapter 6. Connecting “Economic Bondage” to “Personified Capital”: Another Step toward a Critical Pedagogy of Becoming
  • Epilogue: Negate the Present!
  • References
  • Index
  • Series Index




Is communism the indisputable and irrevocable horizon of the present historical juncture? This question is of grave discernment for humanity. Marx, Capital, and Education represents an extended and exhilarating exegetical “yes” to this question.

The political trajectory of this book alone should explode the mainstream debate over education into a frenzy of contradictions, omissions, and analytic paralyses, sending shards of hope flying through the air like Fourth of July bottle rockets whistling The Internationale. But honesty demands that we ask: What fate will such a book truly enjoy in a field in which critical pedagogy continues to be burdened by the scars of its compliance with the neoliberal academy and where tinkering with capitalism underwrites the ne plus ultra defiant act of the critical pedagogue? This is an especially important question in a world in which capitalism remains synonymous with democracy, and the struggles for democracy effectively mean democracy for the capitalist class alone. In the short run, Marx, Capital, and Education will obviously both polarize and mobilize. It will polarize the left, provoking the majority of liberal and left liberals to run shrieking from its essential premises and to take refuge on the wrong side of the ramparts (which is almost always the side populated ← ix | x → with the best of intentions and the most highbrow of qualifications). As soon as readers learn that the authors are unrepentant “communists,” they will earmark the book for the office dustbin or for the bonfire at the next church retreat, after the Bible trivia games and the speed-dating event for the parish singles. Or else they will blame the book when they rush out of the prayer tent screaming after being bitten by the yellow timber rattlesnake they were handling during the service.

Ignoring Marx, Capital, and Education because of its communist foundations comes at a price, the least of which is forfeiting an important opportunity to learn what it takes to be a transformative educational warrior in a global war. In rejecting a priori the book’s critiques and strategies for the revolutionary transformation of our planet, a reluctant public will impotently stand by in frozen disdain and under pain of remaining oblivious to what is most specifically human about us, only prolonging the agony of the wretched of the earth. Here, as is too often the case, a formidable indifference to the suffering of others will form the blackest residue of our being.

I have been an educator since 1974, and during the ensuing years up to the present, I have rarely encountered an educational book like Marx, Capital, and Education that speaks so clearly and potently the truth about what it will take to bring justice to the immiserated of this world. Marx, Capital, and Education will be a terribly uncomfortable book for most educators to read because the mass media and the rest of the ideological state apparatuses will have already predisposed them to reject it outright, probably within the first few pages.

Education is a decidedly conservative field, after all, and even those few truly radical philosophical and theoretical books that have made it onto the library shelves of colleges of education—Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed immediately comes to mind—have been politically domesticated in the process of bringing such works to bear on the actual service of teaching. Freire’s ideas have been uprooted from their soil in working-class communities and repotted in reading lists in graduate schools more for decoration than for substance, like the glass terrarium orchid vases that brighten up the exposed brick walls of urban lofts. Transformed into luxurious discursive amenities for conversations taking place in graduate seminars and student lounges, these ideas eventually become refunctioned in the service of student embourgeoisement. Academic careers in the United States depend upon a reflex demonization of Marx for many reasons, not least of which has to due with the fact that, when scrutinized under a Marxist optic, the work of many scholars is revealed ← x | xi → to be as porous as the cell membranes of the Wicked Witch of the West, who melted into oblivion on contact with water in The Wizard of Oz. Hence, most attacks on Marx come from a dismissal of his work as an example of economic reductionism or teleological theorizing, from the claim that his writings prefigure the historical inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat or that all alienation will cease as soon as factories collectivize. While some critical educators give ground for the reproach of being against Marxism, this attitude is due more to an incomplete understanding of Marx than of boasting a greater sociological understanding than the old bearded devil himself. These critics frequently make their claims while ignoring Marx’s own writings and avoiding works that have already been written by Marxists that have already addressed these issues and put them to rest.

To write a book such as Marx, Capital, and Education requires courage and steadfastness to the cause of liberation, especially during these unholy times of national security corporate capitalism that has begotten the national security state. Likely, the book will be featured prominently on the review lists of left academic journals eager to bring a Marxist optic to the field of education, of which this book clearly ranks among the most pathfinding and important, and this will be a good thing. But this is a book that demands to be read and rigorously digested not only by professional intellectuals but by teachers who work in institutions ranging from kindergartens to universities and by radical organizers. Hence, the importance of getting this book into the hands of as many educators and activists as possible as quickly as possible.

In my own educational life, it took me many years to grasp and to be comfortable with the positions taken in Marx, Capital, and Education. As a former comparative symbologist with a penchant for what I called a “critical postmodernism,” there were many theoretical and political hurdles that were necessary for me to overcome in order to be able to put forward positions in my post–1995 work similar to or compatible with those of Malott and Ford. First and foremost, I needed to engage in the original works of Marx and Marxist scholars while developing a thorough understanding of the arguments made by Marx’s defenders and critics; second, I needed to be able to understand Marx’s contribution to a critique of political economy when read against the prevailing trends in philosophy, social theory, political science, and economics, including their postmodern and neoliberal variants; and third, I needed to be able to weigh Marxist critiques of education against critiques employing other theoretical and philosophical trajectories. The point that I am trying to make is that engaging Marx, Capital, and Education by the ← xi | xii → rank-and-file educator will require a steadfast commitment to undertaking a long and difficult journey of discovery. This is a journey that I believe is absolutely necessary if humanity is not to sink into a barbarism the likes of which we are loath today to contemplate, simply because the image we are likely to conjure will be worse than all the ravages of historical wars of empire combined. Reading this book will serve as an important and necessary conceptual catapult in helping us to contemplate our being-in-the world as activist protagonistic agents, to grasp the nature of what it means to be human, and to reveal precisely what our normalized and normalizing approaches to everyday life are meant to conceal.

I opened this preface by saying that I believe this book will both polarize and mobilize. How, then, will it mobilize readers? In its brilliant adumbration of neoliberalism as a counterrevolutionary strategy within capitalism and its perceptive attribution of liberation to the realization of a communist society, it will immediately have the effect of assisting radical left educators who have already committed themselves to a Marxist analysis in their various efforts to mobilize communities against corporate efforts to privatize education and transform education into a subsector of the economy. But I believe it will have an even larger and more enthusiastic audience outside the United States and that once its international influence is felt, it will then be reengaged enthusiastically by larger and growing numbers of educators in the United States as a means of rerooting Marxism here among U.S. educators. Hence, I believe there should be efforts made to have this book translated into as many languages as possible as soon as possible.


XX, 165
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (June)
Communism Social movement Alternative economies Anti-Capitalism Left Wing
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XX, 165 pp.

Biographical notes

Curry Stephenson Malott (Author) Derek R. Ford (Author)

Curry Stephenson Malott (PhD in curriculum and instruction, New Mexico State University) is Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations in the Department of Professional and Secondary Education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Malott is a regular contributor to the Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies. Derek R. Ford’s (PhD candidate in cultural foundations of education, Syracuse University) professional writing has appeared in Educational Philosophy and Theory; Critical Studies in Education; Policy Futures in Education; and Studies in Philosophy and Education. He currently teaches in the Social Justice Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.


Title: Marx, Capital, and Education
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190 pages