The Terror of Neoliberalism: Rethinking the Significance of Cultural Politics
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Under the reign of neoliberalism with its growing commercialization of everyday life, the corporatization of higher education, the dismantling of the welfare state, the militarizing of public space, and the increasing privatization of the public sphere, it has become more difficult to address not only the complex nature of social agency and the importance of democratic public spheres, but also the fact that active and critical political agents have to be formed, educated, and socialized into the world of politics. Lacking a theoretical paradigm for linking learning to social change, existing political vocabularies appear increasingly powerless about how to theorize the crisis of political agency and political pessimism in the face of neoliberal assaults on all democratic public spheres. As the vast majority of citizens become detached from public forums that nourish social critique, political agency not only becomes a mockery of itself, it is replaced by market-based driven form of cultural politics in which private satisfactions replace social responsibilities and confessional culture become a substitute for systemic change. This paper argues that in the face of a virulent neoliberalism that spawns a vast educational propaganda machine, educators, cultural workers, and others need to rethink the entire project of politics within the changed conditions of a global political/pedagogical sphere. This article attempts to address the current crisis of meaning and political agency as a fundamental challenge to educators, public intellectuals, social movements, and others who believe in the promise of global democracy. In addressing this challenge, it argues that the urgency of the times demands a notion of global politics in which pedagogy, international alliances, and new forms of solidarity play a prominent role in the call for educators and others to be able to imagine otherwise in order to act otherwise.
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