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Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy

Insurrection and Commonwealth


Charles Reitz

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.


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Chapter 9. Critical Education and Political Economy: Labor, Leadership & Learning


· 9 · critical education and political economy Labor, Leadership & Learning Corporate globalization has intensified social inequality and cultural polar- ization worldwide. Increasing globalization correlates directly with growing inequality both within and between nations (Sernau, 2006). This global polarization and growing immiseration have brought to an end what Herbert Marcuse (1964) theorized in One-Dimensional Man as the totally integrated and completely administered political universe of the liberal welfare/war- fare state. Neoliberalism has replaced this “comfortable, smooth, democratic unfreedom” (Marcuse, 1964, 1) with something more openly vicious.1 Peter McLaren (1997, 2) calls it predatory culture. Nonetheless, it was Marcuse who, forty years ago, first warned of the global economic and cultural developments that are now much more obvious given capitalism’s crescendo of economic failures since 2008. Political and philosophical tendencies that are often referred to as “neoliberalism” and/or “neo-conservatism” in much analytical work today, Marcuse clearly under- stood back then as organized counterrevolution (Marcuse 1972). He saw this political development as a preemptive strike undertaken by an increasingly 1 My economics colleague of long standing, Stephen Spartan, contributed several of the essential insights presented here. 160 philosophy & critical pedagogy predatory capitalism against liberal democratic change, not to mention the radical opposition ([1974] 1987b, 172). “The Western world has reached a new stage of development: now, the defense of the capitalist system requires the organization of counterrevolution at home and abroad.… Torture has become a normal instrument of ‘interrogation’ around the world.… even Liberals are not safe if they appear as too liberal.…” (Marcuse...

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