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Conscientization and the Cultivation of Conscience


Keqi (David) Liu

Conscientization and the Cultivation of Conscience constitutes a major contribution to the international literature on the work of Paulo Freire, one of the most influential educationalists of all time. It provides a fresh perspective on the Freirean notion of conscientization, rethinking this pivotal concept in the light of the history of ideas on conscience. The author offers a holistic, philosophical reading of Freire’s texts and argues for the cultivation of conscience through love and dialogue. Such a reading, he suggests, allows us to better respond to the moral crises that face us in the age of global capitalism. The ideas advanced in this book have important implications for philosophical and cultural understanding and for educational theory and practice.
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Chapter One: Paulo Freire: Life, Work, and Theory



The essence of Freire’s radical, critical, and revolutionary theory of liberation is the idea of becoming a subject through education for conscientization. A better command of Freire’s conceptualization of conscientization is required for a holistic and critical reading of his life experience and theory of critical pedagogy.

There are many remarkable moments in the life story behind Freire’s educational theory of liberation. As Torres (1998b, p. 1) said, “If you scratch a theory, you would find a biography.” This biography starts with a brief sketch of the historical and social contexts in which Freire decoded their limit-situations.

The Historical and Sociocultural Contexts in Which Freire Lived

Culturally and historically, Brazil is identified with the blend of African lifestyle and Indian customs with Roman Catholicism. It has “a sexually permissive but sexist culture founded on patriarchy, slavery and class oppression” (Taylor, 1993, p. 16). ← 7 | 8 →

Economically, the production relations in the region where Freire lived were primarily semifeudal; campesinos’ or peasants’ access to land was controlled by the rural landowning class, who had a close relationship historically with the national indigenous bourgeoisie in the southeast, the Sao Paulo area (Mayo, 1999). This kind of production relations produced a severely divided society characterized by widespread poverty and exploitation and incredible inequality and injustice in the distribution of resources, worsened by natural catastrophes (Roberts, 2000). Taylor (1993) noted the following:

There are sections of the North-east where the...

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