Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy

Insurrection and Commonwealth

by Charles Reitz (Author)
©2016 Textbook XVI, 255 Pages
Series: Education and Struggle, Volume 7


Critical pedagogy, political economics, and aesthetic theory combine with dialectical and materialist understandings of science, society, and revolutionary politics to develop the most radical goals of society and education. In Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy: Insurrection and Commonwealth, Marcuse’s hitherto misunderstood and neglected philosophy of labor is reconsidered, resulting in a labor theory of ethics. This develops commonwealth criteria of judgment regarding the real and enduring economic and political possibilities that concretely encompass all of our engagement and action. Marcuse’s newly discovered 1974 Paris Lectures are examined and the theories of Georg Lukács and Ernest Manheim contextualize the analysis to permit a critical assessment of the nature of dialectical methodology today. Revolutionary strategy and a common-ground political program against intensifying inequalities of class, race, and gender comprise the book’s commonwealth counter-offensive.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This ebook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction : Education and Struggle
  • Chapter 1. Materialism & Dialectics: Nature, History, and Knowing
  • Chapter 2. The Dialectic of the Concrete Concept: Ernest Manheim
  • Chapter 3. Liberating “the Critical” in Critical Theory
  • Chapter 4. The “Linguistic Turn” and Anti-Foundationalism
  • Chapter 5. Herbert Marcuse and the New Culture Wars: Campus Codes, Hate Speech, and the Critique of Pure Tolerance
  • Chapter 6. Education Against Alienation
  • Chapter 7. The Labor Theory of Ethics and Commonwealth
  • Chapter 8. Global Capitalism and Radical Opposition: Herbert Marcuse’s Paris Lectures at Vincennes University, 1974
  • Chapter 9. Critical Education and Political Economy: Labor, Leadership & Learning
  • Chapter 10. Decommodification & Liberation: Commonwealth as Aesthetic Form of an Alienation-Free Society
  • Chapter 11. The Commonwealth Counter-Offensive
  • Appendix No. 1: Engaging a Radical Past: Socialist Germans in N.Y.C., 1853
  • Appendix No. 2: Engaging a Radical Past: Anti-Racism in Kansas Free State Struggle, 1854
  • Bibliography
  • Series index


Peter McLaren and Michael Peters have my heartfelt appreciation for their key support for this volume on critical social theory and critical pedagogy and for its inclusion in their series with Peter Lang Publishing on “Education and Struggle.” Christopher S. Myers, managing director at Peter Lang Publishing, and his team of Stephen Mazur, Sophie Appel, and Bernadette Shade sped this project along and ensured the excellence in the appearance of the finished volume; hence my deep debt of gratitude. Peter Lang's New York City team leader, Farideh Koohi-Kamali, finalized the process with flair.

Several long-time colleagues also deserve very special thanks: Tamara Agha-Jaffar, Kevin Anderson, Morteza Ardebili, Frank Baron, David Brodsky, Patricia Pollock Brodsky, Ken Clark, Lloyd Daniel, Jodi Dean, Douglas Dowd, Arnold Farr, Henry Giroux, Ronald K. Goodenow, Gene Grabiner, Jerome Heckmann, Georg G. Iggers, Melanie Jackson-Scott, Peter-Erwin Jansen, Douglas Kellner, Alfred Kisubi, Andrew Lamas, James Lawler, John Marciano, Peter Marcuse, Mehdi Shariati, Michael L. Simmons, Jr., Curtis Smith, David N. Smith, Stephen Spartan, Fred Whitehead, and Valdenia Winn. Roena L. Haynie, my partner of 37 years, has lovingly and painstakingly expedited my endeavors. Weaknesses that persist are mine alone.

← ix | x →Among the essays offered here are several materials previously published. I wish to acknowledge publishers who generously granted permission to reprint, and to thank also those whose formal permission was not necessary when republishing my own work.

Chapter One: Transaction Publishers, Piscataway, NJ, for “The Dialectification of Science and Philosophy,” which appears in Gabriel R. Ricci (ed.), Culture & Civilization, Volume 8.

Chapter Two: Johann S. Koch director of Synchron Verlag, Munich, for “The Call to Concrete Thinking: Rediscovery of Ernest Manheim,” which appeared in Frank Baron, David N. Smith, and Charles Reitz (eds.), Authority, Culture, and Communication.

Chapter Three: Taylor & Francis Group for “Liberating the Critical in Critical Theory” from Freirean Pedagogy: Praxis and Possibilities edited by Stanley F. Steiner et al.; also State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, for excerpts from my Art, Alienation and the Humanities: A Critical Engagement with Herbert Marcuse.

Chapter Four: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, for permission to republish the segment, “Revolutionary Multiculturalism: Social Action for Justice,” from Chapter 13 of my edited collection, Crisis and Commonwealth.

Chapter Five: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, for permission to republish “Herbert Marcuse and the New Culture Wars: Campus Codes, Hate Speech, and the Critique of Pure Tolerance from Marcuse’s Challenge to Education, Douglas Kellner, Tyson Lewis, Clayton Pierce, and K. Daniel Cho, eds.

Chapter Six: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, for permission to republish “Herbert Marcuse and the Humanities: Emancipatory Education vs. Predatory Culture” from Marcuse’s Challenge to Education, Douglas Kellner, Tyson Lewis, Clayton Pierce, K. Daniel Cho, eds.

Chapter Seven: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, for permission to republish Chapter 12, “A Labor Theory of Ethics and Commonwealth: Recalling a New Marcuse,” of my edited collection, Crisis and Commonwealth.

Chapter Eight: Heathwood Institute and Press for the online publication of my “Global Capitalism and Radical Opposition: The 1974 Paris Lectures of Herbert Marcuse.”

Chapter Nine: appeared in Herbert Marcuse, Paris Lectures at Vincennes University 1974 edited by Peter-Erwin Jansen and Charles Reitz (Frankfurt a. M. and Kansas City: Jansen/Reitz, 2015).

← x | xi →Chapter Ten: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, for excerpts from my “Introduction” and Chapter 1 “The Political Economy of Predation and Counterrevolution” from my edited collection, Crisis and Commonwealth.

Chapter Eleven: Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, for excerpts from my “Conclusion: The Commonwealth Counter-Offensive,” from my edited collection, Crisis and Commonwealth.

Appendix No. 1: The Yearbook of German-American Studies, Lawrence, KS, for permission to republish “The Socialist Turners of New York City, 1853.”

Appendix No. 2: The Yearbook of German-American Studies, Lawrence, KS, for permission to republish “Horace Greeley and the German Forty-Eighters in the Kansas Free State Struggle.” Also Walter de Gruyter Verlag, Berlin, for “Horace Greeley, Karl Marx, and German 48ers: Anti-Racism in the Kansas Free State Struggle, 1854–64,” from the Marx-Engels Jahrbuch 2008.← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →FOREWORD

Philosophy and Pedagogy of Insurrection

Peter McLaren

In these times of dark limos, gated communities, drone warfare, secret torture centers, and endless austerity for the masses, where narcissism and greed among the ruling class are as prevalent as dust mites, we have witnessed a deflationary enthusiasm over critical analysis in our institutions of learning. In this era of guileful artisanship in news broadcasting, when communication and monopolized information are meant to deceive and instill hate, we, as critical educators, are compelled to struggle for meaningful, emancipatory knowledge and effective teaching strategies. Above all in importance, however, there is a special need for philosophy today among those of us working in the field of revolutionary critical pedagogy. I have stressed this in a recent essay, “On Dialectics and Human Decency.”1 We need a philosophically grounded alternative to capitalism. We need to consider alternatives to capitalist value production. We need a sustainable form of economic organization in order for the planet to survive and human and non-human life along with it.

← xiii | xiv →Charles Reitz has prepared a full-dress response to my call with this volume, Philosophy & Critical Pedagogy: Insurrection & Commonwealth. His new work is more than a major contribution to critical pedagogy and its ongoing dialogue with continental philosophy, particularly the work of Marcuse; it is a signal effort that speaks to the distemper of the times through a path-finding exercise in critical theoretical and historical exegesis. Reitz has a root and branch commitment to the power of a liberal education and the critical dimension of the classical philosophical tradition; also a willingness to challenge both statist and free market capitalism through his strategic commitment to transcend [in the sense of aufheben] the capitalist order itself. He knows that barriers to our full humanity are continually negotiated by the critical agency of the people, whose capacities for dialectical reasoning have been enhanced, not only by their engagement with theoretical traditions in isolated seminar rooms, but more importantly by their struggle on the streetcorners of everyday sorrow and strife. This is what gives his work its cutting edge vitality and its history-fashioning impact.

In a series of critical philosophical and historical studies Reitz attains detailed insight into the emancipatory kind of knowledge dialectical philosophy makes possible. His analytical considerations of the several controversies in the meaning of dialectics, materialism, science, and learning, combine to liberate the meaning of “the critical” in critical pedagogy and critical theory. His discussion marches from the theory of knowledge, science, and learning, to develop an ethical and political perspective on the meaning of human liberation. It acknowledges that we need to know what we are fighting for, as well as what we are against. It makes clear why humanity needs a new way of holding resources, and how to accomplish a socialist humanist political-economic alternative. He develops a distinctive philosophical view of commonwork and common ownership: commonwealth, showing that—and why—a comprehensive critical social and educational theory must stress the centrality of labor in the economy.

Marx’s humanism that I have attempted to recover and integrate into critical pedagogy is sure to provoke long-standing antagonists of the Old Moor and inspire new attacks by critics who, adverse to Marx’s storied critique of political economy, are steadfastly fixated on preventing his work from being discussed in positive terms and thus arresting any progress that might result from his dialectical insights and from social movements worldwide dedicated to building upon his signature leitmotif—a humanist philosophy of praxis.

← xiv | xv →We are dialecticians who seek veridical patterns of thinking. We conceive of social structure and human agency as interpenetrating manifestations of each other. Similarly, we do not cleave apart mind and body, approaching these concepts haltingly, as if they were inexorably divergent and irredeemably polarized, as if they were two diametrically opposed relations fixed in time. We do not truck with those whose immutable admonitions preclude the possibility of error or who wish to know the answer to their questions in advance. We cultivate a philosophy of praxis, not a philosophy of propaganda where we are sure to convict ourselves of our own convictions. We do not leave fate to the supra-historical whims of metaphysicians but to the struggle of humanity as history-making beings, as beings who create their own meaning in and through history. We are not unchanging beings that exist in a Platonic playground outside of history. We exist in a dialectical unity with ourselves and our world as we make our own pathways by our own walking.

We are all-too-aware of how the public mind in the U.S. has been politically incapacitated through the learned ignorance cultivated by capitalist cultural power. Reitz’s revelatory studies of critical theory and commonwealth break through this barrier. In order for schools to succeed in their assigned roles of shaping the labor power of their students and adjusting them to a culture of alienation partially disguised by consumption, students must remain sufficiently unaware of the role that they have been chosen to play in relation to the needs and interests of the larger transnational capitalist state. Similarly, teachers must be kept in the dark about their role as custodians of the culture and sentinels of the transnational capitalist state. I feel obliged here to register my astonishment that this has been relatively an easy accomplishment in a system in which learning is stylized into test scores, and in which knowledge is kept isolated from its relation to genocide, ecocide, epistemicide and imperialist violence.

Reitz helps us understand that critical knowledge “is knowledge that enables the social negation of the social negation of human life’s core activities, the most central of which are neither being-toward-death [as Heidegger would maintain], nor subservience [as Kant would argue], but creative labor.”2 Capital’s efforts at reconstituting itself have created conditioned possibilities that can lead to new forms of economic want, political unfreedom and planetary destruction or human emancipation, but it appears that great efforts ← xv | xvi →are being made in planning for reprisals against social movements such as Black Lives Matter or Idle No More.

Reitz has pioneered educational projects to raise awareness of the U.S. political-economy of rent-seeking, its new “industry” of finance, and its use of racism as an economic weapon.3 He continues to promote a vision where basic incomes are distributed without reference to individual productivity, but rather according to need. He holds that a substantial reduction of hours of labor is both reasonable and possible, and that socialist general education can facilitate the well-rounded and scientific and intercultural development of the young.4

This volume concludes with two essays embodying radical historiography to illumine certain hitherto underappreciated moments in the struggle for socialism in the 19th century U.S.A. as well as the many-sided battle against racism prior to the Civil War. Reitz’s interdisciplinary work in this volume and his earlier publications remedy what Nietzsche and Marx saw as “the congenital defect of philosophy”—its lack of historical sense.

Certainly today’s intensifying levels of global economic oppression necessitate intellectual and political innovation. Reitz ingeniously demonstrates the power of what he has identified as a labor theory of justice and commonwealth to energize a socialist humanist counter-offensive. This is a rare achievement indeed. His book will serve for generations to come as a glimmering testament to this critical vision. His writing discloses the philosophical foundations of our humanist ethics, multicultural egalitarianism, our critical pedagogy and revolutionary politics.

1 Peter McLaren, “On Dialectics and Human Decency: Education in the Dock,” Open Review of Educational Research, January 2015. See also my Pedagogy of Insurrection (New York and Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, 2015).

2 Charles Reitz, Art, Alienation, and the Humanities: A Critical Engagement with Herbert Marcuse (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000) p. 263.


XVI, 255
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (May)
political economics theory of ethics Marx Manheim Marcuse Critical pedagogy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XVI, 255 pp.

Biographical notes

Charles Reitz (Author)

Charles Reitz studied philosophy at Freiburg University, attaining his PhD in educational studies from the State University of New York. He is the author of Art, Alienation, and the Humanities: A Critical Engagement with Herbert Marcuse and editor of Crisis and Commonwealth: Marcuse, Marx, McLaren.


Title: Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy
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276 pages