zaterdag 11 mei 2019

As Capitalism Fails

As Capitalism Fails, We Need a Roadmap to Survive Climate Change

C.J. Polychroniou: Dr. Järvensivu, how did your research unit end up producing the background paper for the U.N. Global Sustainable Development Report?
Paavo Järvensivu: BIOS is an independent, multidisciplinary research unit, launched in Helsinki in 2015. Our basic task is to study the effects of environmental and resource factors on Finnish society and develop the anticipatory skills of citizens and decision-makers. To be able to do that, our research, of course, deals with the same issues also globally…. Moreover, we felt that due to the urgency to act on the climate crisis, researchers need to engage much more proactively outside the academic community. We dedicate much of our time on ongoing dialogue with decision-makers, journalists and many others…. There are few [other] research teams that would systematically aim at a comprehensive view of the political, economic and cultural changes caused by mitigating and adapting to climate change.
The paper your research unit produced for the U.N. claims with certainty that we will soon be entering a new energy era. What is this new energy era all about, and how will it replace the capitalism of today, which relies mostly on fossil fuels for supplying the vast majority of our energy needs and, subsequently, for growth? 
The question of future energy can be approached as a [carbon] source and [carbon] sink problem. According to some estimates, the depletion of accessible fossil fuels would drive dramatic changes in the human energy system. This is true in a certain time frame, but climate change, or the inability of ecosystems in their current state to handle all the emissions from the excessive use of fossil fuels, gets us there first. Mitigating climate change requires a rapid decarbonization of the energy system — not only electricity generation but also heating/cooling and transportation.
Most likely we need to reduce energy consumption in order to succeed in rapid decarbonization. Replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with low-carbon solutions is such a demanding task physically, financially and organization-wise that the chances for succeeding improve dramatically if we lower overall energy consumption at the same time. This would be in line with also other environmental goals, especially with fostering biodiversity. In practice, this would entail qualitative changes in people’s lives through an emphasis on public transport and walking and biking, and perhaps relaxing on the (very new to humankind) requirement to have the same temperature inside throughout the year.
If the major economies don’t succeed in decarbonization, the global fossil economy is in for a rough ride. As an example, in a world with escalating geopolitical tensions — for instance, due to climate refugees — the position of fossil fuel-importing countries is weakened. Those countries — such as Finland, where I’m from — would be better off with less dependence on fossil fuels. Acting on this proactively, investing a lot on low-carbon infrastructure, should be on the high priority list of current and next governments.
Yet, Donald Trump’s energy plan is all about more fossil fuels and fewer rules for environmental protection, so the question is this: Will the new energy era begin when fossil fuels run out?
Again, globally speaking, it is climate change that sits on the driver’s seat toward the new energy era. But locally, many fossil fuel plants are getting too expensive to operate. The depletion of cheap, good quality fossil fuel sources will damage many economic actors and investors.
For Trump, though, fossil fuels don’t seem to be about economics. Rather, he’s using fossil fuels to [say]: “I won’t let anyone come and take away the unnecessarily big, loud and gas-guzzling pick-up truck that you hold so dear.” This way, people are clinging on to certain symbols, and more or less artificial political divisions are being made. One sad collateral damage in all this is science-policy relations…. We are now seeing this also in Finland with the rise of the right-wing populist Finns Party. They are seeking to gain votes by saying that the “climate-hysterical” will come and get the sausages out of the mouths of the working people.
Climate change is linked in your report to some of the major economic and political problems confronting many of today’s societies, including economic inequality, rising debt levels, slow economic growth and unemployment. What exactly is the link between climate change and some of the economic challenges mentioned above? 
Looking forward, we can easily see that climate change is tightly linked to those challenges. Decarbonizing societies requires massive investments into basic infrastructure, which raises the costs of heating and cooling homes, transportation, and so on, at least for the next decade or two. Much of current economic capacity will be allocated to realizing the transition, leaving less capacity for doing all the other things. At the same time, we have to ensure that everyone has the means to satisfy their basic needs. With rising basic costs, this involves significant income transfers.
A managed transition of jobs will also be needed. A lot of jobs are currently directly or indirectly dependent on the continued use of fossil fuels and, thus, will be threatened by the low-carbon transition. The workers need to be re-skilled and new jobs will need to be created for them. It should be added that there is no point in creating jobs for jobs’ sake, but we can be sure that there is more work to do in decarbonization than there are workers.
Climate change will inevitably proceed to some extent due to historical emissions. Some will be more prepared than others to adapt to the effects. Generating these future capacities now is also a matter of justice and equality, having to do with physical infrastructure at hand, but also with skills and cultural practices.
Looking back, we can see that the growing use of fossil fuels was not an accidental but rather an elemental part of the growth of industrialized economies. We could not have had this kind of industrialization without catalyzing climate change. The growth in productivity was not only due to innovative technologies and human ingenuity in general; the machinery needed fossil fuels to function. Economic growth has meant growing energy use. Economic growth has stalled at the same time as the cheapest and best fossil fuel sources have become depleted and the costs of climate change have become more apparent. It is only now that we are gradually learning how to power some of our machinery without fossil fuels.
Some have also made the argument that with the overall energy costs rising, economies have been forced to seek growth through ever more debt, postponing the payback. And now that we are not seeing much growth — and growth in energy — the debt cannot be paid back in full. Private debt needs to be carefully managed, because there are a lot of economic expectations tied to fossil fuels that cannot be fulfilled. It is the job of governments to pave the path from current financial structure to the post-fossil fuel one.
Your report suggests that a new economic thinking is needed to address pressing issues such as human migration. What elements need to be incorporated into the new model of economic thinking for the era of energy transition and climate change? 
The low-carbon transition needs to be planned, financed and coordinated. We need economic thinking and tools that make this possible. Orthodox economics and market-oriented mechanisms are not enough, especially because they lack the power to direct different economic sectors and actors toward a shared low-carbon path.
First of all, we need a mid- to long-term vision, a decarbonization roadmap, so that economic actors can orient their thinking and strategies around something predictable. The roadmap must be based on a multidisciplinary scientific understanding. It will probably be layered to encompass cities, states and the nation. Or in Europe, cities, countries and the EU/Eurozone. A successful roadmap acknowledges the deep connections in and between economic sectors and large-scale infrastructure systems. For example, in transport, one cannot bet on electric vehicles, the other one on biofuels, and the third one on public transport. Although those all can coexist, we have to know where the emphasis will be. The choice has dramatic consequences for electricity and fuel production, vehicle production, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and city planning. With investment cycles of around 10 years, we don’t have the time for second guessing.
We can think of the economic challenge as having two components: limiting emissions and coming up with new solutions. Cutting down and investing. Carbon pricing, the market-oriented mechanism supported by most economists, punishes for bad behavior. That’s good, but that’s not enough. For many years, there has been a lack of long-term investments in the U.S. and in Europe. A central reason is that the investment horizon seems rather fuzzy. Everything seems to be in turbulence. The roadmap will help in this, but it also seems clear that significant public investment programs are needed as well. The public authority [i.e., the state] is the only body that has the funds, must think long-term and can stomach the financial risks associated with the transition. Modern monetary theorists have done a good job in analyzing economic sovereignty and defending the fiscal and policy room that governments in reality have.
The roadmap will also help in coordinating the activities related to the transition. But we need to go further. For instance, there are things we don’t yet quite know how to accomplish that need research and development. I am most familiar with the case of district heating in Helsinki — how to do it without burning coal, wood or anything else. There are both social and technical issues that need to be overcome. The mayor of Helsinki just promised a million euros for anyone that comes up with a solution. But of course, it’s a matter of continuous development rather than a stroke of genius.
Research and development efforts need to be much more focused than they have been for the last few decades. We need to start solving the most acute problems, and to accomplish that, we need to get cities, universities and businesses to collaborate around shared goals. Economist Mariana Mazzucato has described a model for this and labeled it mission-oriented innovation policy. This is how we got to the moon and built the internet. Or in Finland, created Nokia, the once-leading mobile phone maker. Why would it be impossible now to come up with things that actually matter for the world?
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

The Enemy is Not Resistance

The Enemy is Not Resistance

Photograph Source: International Solidarity Movement – CC BY-SA 2.0
The Islamic Resistance Movement began more than thirty years ago at an historical moment in time which it knew to be fraught with absolute peril for their people. The founders of this national liberation struggle examined the overwhelming military capabilities of Israel, fostered by its global superpower sponsor, the United States. They looked at Israel’s expansionist programs–the Zionist project of illegal settlements erasing their homes and villages, dispossessing mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers–and at the failure of the international community to stop them.  They  knew then that within a generation Palestinians would lose it all –their motherland and patrimony and their nation–leaving them homeless captives to the whims of another man’s door.  In that moment, resistance was not a lifestyle choice or a revolutionary pose. It was existential necessity, just as it is now.
Everything Hamas predicted then has come to pass. Here, a generation later, it should take no comfort reminding the world that they were right in their analysis. Israel has grown only stronger and more rapacious, more intransigent and murderous in its deeds.  Its “democracy” did not save it from becoming a racist, apartheid state presiding over a military occupation of millions of Palestinians. Israel’s policy of creating “facts on the ground”– that is, the illegal settlement project – has transitioned from a de facto expulsion and annexation policy into a de jure one, as its prime minister calls for the removal of Palestinians and the annexation of the West Bank, and the American president and congress pre-emptively applaud the crime-to-be. The Golan Heights–sovereign territory of another nation– is now Israel’s by force, cynically annexed, while Syria struggles in the throes of war.  And Jerusalem (al Quds) is ringed by new, fortified suburbs and restricted highways demolishing Palestinian neighborhoods and cutting off their city from them. America now calls Jerusalem Israel’s capital–in direct violation of international law. Since 1967, successive U.S. administrations have told Palestinians to trust in their good faith as brokers of a just peace.  This has been a lie, as Hamas anticipated then, America was running cover, a stalling tactic, for the slow-motion destruction of Palestinian national aspirations.  Tragically, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed and maimed and many more imprisoned by Israeli state violence since Hamas began. The international community has done little to stop the monstrous crime unfolding.
Palestinians were right to resist then. The world surely can see that now.  The tragedy of retrospection should, at the very least, accord Palestinians their due: resistance is morally right, history has proven it so.  Yet, even last month, in the pages of America’s official paper of record, the New York Times, the U.S. administration through its craven spokesman Jason Greenblatt, a Zionist real estate lawyer from New York, charged with shepherding the “peace process” for the President as the Special Representative for International Negotiations, heaps insult upon injury, twisting history and recent events in a grotesque parody of a policy statement, adopting the Likud Party platform as the publicly declared U.S. position. None of us should be surprised by the falsifications in the Trump Administration’s official pronouncements. It has proven itself, after all, to be a presidency built on lying.  Yet only the most gullible American readers could possibly believe its juvenile “blame Hamas” refrain.
Hamas did not create the thirteen-year siege of Gaza, cutting Palestinians off from the world.  It did not commence any of the three wars launched by Israel against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 or it’s countless other attacks and outrages since. It did not destroy their industries, their water treatment plant, their power generation, their hospitals, houses, mosques, schools, television stations and roads–Israeli missiles and bombs did that.  Hamas does not keep two million people penned in an open-air prison, with a prison economy in tatters–Israel does that.  The cynicism of the Administration’s statement is unparalleled: “The countries of the world have attempted to help the people of Gaza,” but their good works have been destroyed by Hamas, according to the Special Representative.  Perhaps he had in mind the post-Oslo airport, built by multinational leadership, attacked in 2001 by Israeli air forces, with its runways bulldozed by Israel a few years later?  Or the catastrophic damage wrought upon the water system by Israeli air strikes during Operation Cast Lead in 2008?  Or the extensive bombing of the sanitation system in Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012? Or Gaza’s only power plant, attacked in 2006, 2008 and finally leveled by Israeli missiles in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge?  All of these key infrastructure projects, indeed, were funded by international donors, but destroyed by American jet planes, flown by the Israeli armed forces. Empty-headed slogans, scribbled by a huckster and moral fraud that has no more business posing as a diplomat than he does as a man of sincere religious belief, cannot smother the truth. The continuing tragedy of Gaza, indeed, all of Palestine, is not so easy to conceal… and Palestinian resistance continues. There is no choice.
Israel daily blocks some 650 basic goods from entry to the Gaza Strip for alleged “security” reasons, including medicines, hospital equipment and even some types of baby formula.  Israel denies fishing nets to Gaza’s fishermen, or materials to repair boats. Infrastructure materials– from pumping equipment to water and sanitation piping, to electrical supplies and cement– are all but forbidden.  Communication supplies and the technology of the internet (server and switching equipment) are embargoed, leaving Gaza lagging behind in poverty and despair, cut off from the world.  A United Nations-approved system instituted after the cease-fire in 2014 exists for monitoring so-called “dual use” materials, yet, Israel continues to ignore it as it stifles the free flow of goods needed to rebuild Gaza… in a deliberate policy of attrition.  Hundreds of Palestinians die annually, per the World Health Organization, because they cannot travel for medical treatment and the health care infrastructure and supply chain is destroyed.
Gaza suffers, but not because of Hamas and its administration. Hamas has done everything in its power to spare the Palestinian people in Gaza the devastating effects of the Israeli siege. It opened the doors wide to facilitate international support reaching Gaza’s residents. It accepted that infrastructure and public health projects should be implemented under full international supervision in coordination with government agencies. It has sought to ensure the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will be open in both directions as an alternative to the dehumanizing caged passageway at Beit Hanoun (Erez). It has worked in coordination with the United Nations and Egypt to reach understandings that can achieve calm with the occupation and avoid escalation, a step on the road to lifting the siege and alleviating the hardships facing the people in Gaza.
At the strategic political level, Hamas has made great efforts to bring about Palestinian reconciliation, achieve unity, end the division and form an internationally recognized Palestinian unity government. But these efforts have been thwarted by the American veto and Israeli sabotage. Moreover, Hamas has worked with all its Palestinian partners to reach a consensus and internationally recognized formula on the national vision,  in order to find a way out of the current crisis, as expressed most recently in May 2017, wherein it again accepted a state configured upon the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, while simultaneously preserving the right of return for the millions in the Palestinian Diaspora.
Hamas is a national liberation movement, democratically elected by a majority of Palestinians in 2006 under the watchful eye of the world community. At its core it promotes and fights for the fundamental right of Palestinian self-determination fueled by full equality, independence and return. It does not embrace gratuitous violence. Nor, however, does it leave the people of Gaza defenseless at the mercy of an occupation force that has proven itself unworthy of trust and unwilling to exercise even a modicum of respect for international law. A long settled tenet of that law is the right of the occupied to engage in resistance, that includes armed struggle.  Palestinians continue to resist legally. They do not owe their occupier passive surrender.
Not long ago, Israel sent an assassination-squad surreptitiously into Gaza to kill Palestinian leaders. In the weeks since, it has repeatedly attacked civilian targets and infrastructure. It has been met by Palestinian defensive measures; and Israel responds, predictably, with F-16 attacks and tank shelling throughout Gaza, killing some two dozen including three children and two pregnant women, one who was clutching her 14 month old in her arms as both perished.  More than a hundred and fifty other civilians were wounded over several days of Israeli attacks. Almost a thousand civilian housing units, schools and businesses were damaged or destroyed. This latest assault does not yet have an operational name to sell it to the world–marketing Israel’s “bravery” narrative–but surely they’ll think of something catchy to disguise the carnage.
This past year, the Palestinian people, with all its factions and vital forces, including Hamas, took part in peaceful demonstrations… as affirmed by UN monitoring, along the separation fence at the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, demanding the lifting of the siege on Gaza and the right of return. How did the occupation respond?   With live ammunition and sniper fire intended to kill and maim.  Approximately 280 Palestinians have died and more than 28,000 have been wounded during this time, many of whom will live the rest of their lives disabled.  Not one Israeli on the other side was killed because of the demonstrations.   These protests also persist on a smaller scale in the West Bank where Israel continues to steal Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian homes and imprison Palestinian women and children at a pace second to none.
To the Greenblatts and Trumps and their Zionist choir, no amount of campaign sloganeering in puerile public statements can rewrite the palpable facts of Israeli aggression and its deadly occupation or recast Hamas from a lawful indigenous defense force into a mercenary political outlier.   Nor can the soon to come US “deal of the century” entice millions of Palestinians to surrender an age-old history and tradition to the cheap ring of a common real estate cash box.
Hamas is no rogue militant group, with anonymous, shadowy operators.  It will not disappear or shirk its leadership responsibility.  It remains an authentic and powerful part of the Palestinian experience, for over thirty years, much older than some of the current Israeli political parties in the Knesset. While many of its founders, all those years ago, have been killed by Israel, Hamas continues to speak on behalf of the dignity and hope of millions of Palestinians worldwide. Like them, it carries the kindle of resilience and self-determination of a People rendered stateless but neither hopeless nor powerless by a European colonial project. Like them, it will not cease to exist or fade into silence.
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enry Giroux: Pedagogical Terrorism

Pedagogical Terrorism and Hope in the age of Fascist Politics

The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized by the barbarians who echo the politics of a fascist past and have come to rule the United States, Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Brazil, the Philippines, and elsewhere. [1] The designers of a new breed of fascism increasingly dominate major political formations and other commanding political and economic institutions across the globe. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is legitimated, in part, in their control of a diverse number of cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This reactionary educational formation includes the mainstream broadcast media, digital platforms, the Internet and print culture, all of which participate in an ongoing spectacle of violence, the aestheticization of politics, the legitimation of opinions over facts, and an embrace of a culture of ignorance. Under the reign of this normalized architecture of neoliberal ideology, critical education is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.
Democratic institutions such as the independent media, schools, the legal system, certain financial institutions, and higher education are under siege worldwide. Some of the latest examples of this can be found in the United States with the resurgence of vigilantes and right-wing militia groups along the southern border and the intrusion of tech-based educational practices into schools producing curricula that some parents claim turn kids into zombies. Trump’s continued attack on higher education offers another highly visible example: His proposed 2020-budget request would enact a staggering $7.1 billion reduction in the Education Department as part of a policy to dismantle the department itself.
At the same time, the promise of democracy is receding as present-day fascists work to subvert language, values, courage, vision and a critical consciousness. Education has increasingly become a tool of domination as the entrepreneurs of hate deploy right-wing pedagogical apparatuses to attack workers, Black youth, refugees, immigrants and others they consider disposable. In the midst of a moment when an older social order is crumbling and a new one is struggling to define itself, there emerges a time of confusion, danger, and moments of great restlessness. We are once again at a historical juncture in which the structures of liberation and authoritarianism are vying over the future.
We have arrived at such a moment in which two worlds are pitted against each other and a history of the present is poised at a point when “possibilities are either realized or rejected but never disappear completely.”[2]  Two worlds are colliding: First, as a number of scholars have observed, there is the harsh and crumbling world of neoliberal globalization and its mobilizing passions that fuel different strands of fascism across the globe, including the United States. Power is now enamored with amassing profits and capital and is increasingly addicted to a politics of white nationalism and racial cleansing.[3]Second, there is the world of counter movements, which is growing especially among young people, with their search for a new politics that can rethink, reclaim and invent a new understanding of democratic socialism, untainted by capitalism.[4]
It is hard to imagine a more urgent moment for making education central to politics. If we are going to develop a politics capable of awakening our critical, imaginative, and historical sensibilities, it is crucial for educators and others to develop a language of critique and possibility. Such a language is necessary to enable the conditions to forge a collective international resistance among educators, youth, artists, and other cultural workers in defense of public goods. Such a movement is important to resist and overcome the tyrannical fascist nightmares that have descended upon the United States, Brazil and a number of other countries in Europe plagued by the rise of neo-Nazi parties.  In an age of social isolation, information overflow, a culture of immediacy, consumer glut, and spectacularized violence, it is all the more crucial to take seriously the notion that a democracy cannot exist or be defended without informed and critically engaged citizens.
The pedagogical lesson here is that fascism begins with hateful words, the demonization of others considered disposable, and moves to an attack on ideas, the burning of books, the disappearance of intellectuals, and the emergence of the carceral state and the horrors of detention jails and camps. As a form of cultural politics, critical pedagogy provides the promise of a protected space within which to think against the grain of received opinion This is a space to question and challenge, to imagine the world from different standpoints and perspectives, to reflect upon ourselves in relation to others and, in so doing to understand what it means to “assume a sense of political and social responsibility.”[5]
Education both in its symbolic and institutional forms has a central role to play in fighting the resurgence of fascist cultures, mythic historical narratives, and the emerging ideologies of white supremacy and white nationalism.  Moreover, at a time when fascists across the globe are disseminating toxic racist and ultra-nationalist images of the past, it is essential to reclaim critical pedagogy as a form of historical consciousness and moral witnessing.  This is especially true at a time when historical and social amnesia have become a national pastime, particularly in the United States, matched only by the masculinization of the public sphere and the increasing normalization of a fascist politics that thrives on ignorance, fear, hatred, social cleansing, the suppression of dissent, and white supremacy. Education as a form of cultural work extends far beyond the classroom and its pedagogical influence, while often imperceptible, is crucial to challenging and resisting the rise of fascist pedagogical formations and their rehabilitation of fascist principles and ideas.[6]
Cultural politics in the last 20 years has turned toxic as ruling elites increasingly gain control of commanding cultural apparatuses turning them into pedagogical disimagination machines that serve the forces of ethical tranquilization by producing and legitimating endless degrading and humiliating images of the poor, immigrants, Muslims, and others considered excess, wasted lives doomed to terminal exclusion. The capitalist dream machine is back with huge profits for the ultra-rich, hedge fund managers, and major players in the financial service industries. In these new landscapes of wealth, fraud, and social atomization, a brutal and fanatical capitalism promotes a winner-take-all ethos, a culture of cruelty and white nationalism, aggressively undermining the welfare state while pushing millions into hardship and misfortune.  The geographies of moral and political decadence have become the organizing standard of the dream worlds of consumption, privatization, surveillance, and deregulation. Within this increasingly fascist landscape, public spheres are replaced by zones of social abandonment and thrive on the energies of the walking dead and avatars of cruelty and misery.
The writer Pankaj Mishra is right in arguing that neoliberalism has created a society in whicth compassion is now viewed with disdain and empathy in a market driven society becomes synonymous with a pathology.  He writes:
The puzzle of our age is how [compassion as an] essential foundation of civic life went missing from our public conversation, invisibly replaced by the presumed rationality of individual self-interest, market mechanisms, and democratic institutions. It may be hard to remember this today, amid the continuous explosions of anger and vengefulness in public life, but the compassionate imagination was indispensable to the political movements that emerged in the nineteenth century to address the mass suffering caused by radical social and economic shifts. As the experiences of dislocation and exploitation intensified, a variety of socialists, democrats, and reformers upheld fellow feeling and solidarity, inciting the contempt of, among others, Friedrich Nietzsche, who claimed that the demand for social justice concealed the envy and resentment of the weak against their naturally aristocratic superiors. Our own deeply unequal and bitterly polarized societies, however, have fully validated Rousseau’s fear that people divided by extreme disparities would cease to feel compassion for another…. One result of mainstreaming a bleak survivalist ethic is that “most people, as they grow up now,” the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and the historian Barbara Taylor wrote in On Kindness, “secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers.”[7]
Education within the last three decades has diminished rapidly in its capacities to educate young people and others to be critical and socially engaged agents. Under neoliberal regimes now flirting with white supremacy, the apostles of authoritarianism have deemed the utopian possibilities formerly associated with public education as too dangerous to go unchecked. Increasingly public schools — which could have such a radical potential to promote social equality and support democracy — are falling subject to the toxic forces of privatization and mindless standardized curricula, while teachers are subjected to intolerable labor conditions. Higher education now mimics a business culture run by a managerial army of bureaucrats, drunk on market values, who resemble the high priests of a deadening instrumental rationality. The commanding visions of democracy are in exile at all levels of education. The struggle, however, is far from over. The good news is that there is an increasing wave of strikes by teachers, public servants, and workers both in the United States and abroad who are resisting the cruel machinery of exploitation, racism, austerity, and disposability unleashed by neoliberalism in the past forty years.
Critical thought and the imaginings of a better world present a direct threat to neoliberal rationality in which the future must always replicate the present in an endless circle in which capital and the identities that it legitimates merge with each other into what might be called a dead zone of the imagination and pedagogies of repression. This dystopian impulse thrives on producing myriad forms of inequality and violence—encompassing both the symbolic and the structural—as part of a broader attempt to define education in purely instrumental, privatized, and anti-intellectual terms. What is clear is that neoliberal modes of education attempt to mold students in the market driven mantras of self-interest, harsh competition, unchecked individualism, and the ethos of consumerism. Young people are now told to invest in their careers, pack their resumes, and achieve success at any cost.  It is precisely this replacement of educated hope with an aggressive dystopian neoliberal project and cultural politics that now characterizes the current assault on public and higher education in various parts of the globe.   Under neoliberalism, the mantra of privatization, deregulation, and the destruction of the public good is matched by a toxic merging of inequality, greed, and an obsession with profit.
It is crucial for educators to remember that language is not simply an instrument of fear, violence, and intimidation, it is also a vehicle for critique, civic courage, resistance, and engaged and informed agency. We live at a time when the language of democracy has been pillaged, stripped of its promises and hopes. If fascism is to be defeated, there is a need to make education an organizing principle of politics and, in part, this can be done with a language that exposes and unravels falsehoods, systems of oppression, and corrupt relations of power while making clear that an alternative future is possible. Hannah Arendt was right in arguing that language is crucial in highlighting the often hidden “crystalized elements” that make fascism likely. [8] Language can be a powerful tool in the search for truth and the condemnation of falsehoods and injustices. Moreover, it is through language that the history of fascism can be remembered and the lessons of the conditions that created the plague of genocide can provide the recognition that fascism does not reside solely in the past and that its traces are always dormant, even in the strongest democracies. Paul Gilroy argues correctly that it is crucial in the current historical moment to re-engage with fascism in order to restore it to its proper place in addressing the dark times, which threaten to push democracies across the globe into governments that mimic the fascist politics of the past.
I approach the concept of fascism with trepidation not just because it links together so many different historical and local phenomena. It has been engulfed by the way it has functioned as a term of general abuse and corrupted by the way it has been used to express a sense of evil that is frustratingly abstract but that remains hostage to fashionable contemporary fascination with obscenity, criminality, aggression, and horror. To re-” engage with the idea of generic fascism is, I hope, to work toward redeeming the term from its trivialization and restoring it to a proper place in discussions of the moral and political limits of what is acceptable….I think that pursuing a generic definition of fascism is not only possible and desirable but imperative…. It is essential, as living memory of the fascist period fades, to be able to identify these new groups and their influence on the volatile lives of postindustrial polities. Just maintaining a discussion about fascism as an ongoing heuristic project has additional value in a post-cold war setting from which the West has disappeared and where a reborn Europe must confront its past. [9]
Gilroy’s insight provides one more reason for educators to make the political more pedagogical and the pedagogical more political. The latter is crucial in order to recognize that pedagogy is always a struggle over agency, identities, desire, and values while also acknowledging that it has a crucial role to play in addressing important social issues and defending public and higher education as democratic public spheres. Making the political pedagogical in this instance suggests producing modes of knowledge and social practices that not only affirm oppositional cultural work and pedagogical practices but also offer opportunities to mobilize instances of collective outrage coupled with direct mass action, against a ruthless casino capitalism and an emerging fascist politics. Such mobilization must oppose the glaring material inequities and the growing cynical belief that democracy and capitalism are synonymous. At the very least, critical pedagogy proposes that education is a form of political intervention in the world and that it is capable of creating the possibilities for individual and social transformation.
Ignorance now rules America. Not the simple, if somewhat innocent ignorance that comes from an absence of knowledge, but a malicious ignorance forged in the arrogance of refusing to think hard about an issue, to engage language in the pursuit of justice.   As is well known, President Trump’s ignorance is on display daily. Not only is he a serial liar but his ignorance also serves as a tool of power to prevent power from being held accountable. In addition, it also functions as a way to rewrite the relationship between the demands of critical citizens and the demands of social and civic responsibility.   Under such circumstances, thinking becomes dangerous and becomes the object of organized disgust for any vestige of the truth. However, there is more at stake here than the production of a toxic form of illiteracy and the shrinking of political horizons. What we are witnessing is a closing of the political coupled with explicit expressions of cruelty and “widely sanctioned ruthlessness.” [10]   Moreover, the very conditions that enable people to make informed decisions are under siege as schools are defunded, media becomes more corporatized, oppositional journalists are killed, and reality TV becomes the model for mass entertainment. Under such circumstances, there is a full-scale attack on thoughtful reasoning, empathy, collective resistance, and the compassionate imagination. In some ways, the dictatorship of ignorance resembles what the writer John Berger calls“ethicide”: and Joshua Sperling defines as “The blunting of the senses; the hollowing out of language; the erasure of connection with the past, the dead, place, the land, the soil; possibly, too, the erasure even of certain emotions, whether pity, compassion, consoling, mourning or hoping.” [11]
Given the current crisis of politics, agency, history, and memory educators need a new political and pedagogical language for addressing the changing contexts and issues facing a world in which capital draws upon an unprecedented convergence of resources–financial, cultural, political, economic, scientific, military, and technological–to exercise powerful and diverse forms of direct and indirect control. If educators and others are to counter global capitalism’s increased ability to separate the traditional sphere of politics from the now transnational reach of power, it is crucial to develop educational approaches that reject a collapse of the distinction between market liberties and civil liberties, a market economy and a market society, and capitalism and democracy. Resistance does not begin with reforming capitalism but abolishing it. The move under neoliberal capitalism towards fascism echoes Max Horkheimer’s dictum of 1939 that “Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism.” [12]
After decades of the neoliberal nightmare both in the United Stats and abroad, the mobilizing passions of fascism have been unleashed unlike anything we have seen since the 1930s. The ruling elite and managers of extreme capitalism have used the crises of economic inequality and immigration and its “manifestly brutal and exploitative arrangements” to sow social divisions and resurrect the discourse of racial cleansing and white supremacy. [13]  In doing so, they have tapped into the growing collective suffering and anxieties of millions  in order to redirect their anger  and despair through a culture of fear and discourse of dehumanization; they have also turned critical ideas to ashes by disseminating a toxic mix of  racialized categories, ignorance, and a militarized spirit of white nationalism.
In this instance, neoliberalism and fascism conjoin and advance in a comfortable and mutually compatible project and movement that connects the exploitative values and cruel austerity policies of casino capitalism” [14] with fascist ideals. These ideals include: the veneration of war, anti-intellectualism; dehumanization; a populist celebration of ultra-nationalism and racial purity;[15] the suppression of freedom and dissent; a culture of lies; a politics of hierarchy, the spectacularization of emotion over reason, the weaponization of language; a discourse of decline, and state violence in heterogeneous forms. Fascism is never entirely interred in the past and the conditions that produce its central assumptions are with us once again, ushering in a period of modern barbarity that appears to be reaching towards homicidal extremes, especially in the United States. [16]
The deep grammar of violence now shapes all aspects of cultural production and becomes visceral in its ongoing generation of domestic terrorism, mass shootings, the mass incarceration of people of colour, and the war on undocumented immigrants. Not only has it become more gratuitous, random, and in some cases trivialised through the monotony of repetition, it also serves as the official doctrine of the Trump administration in shaping its domestic and security policies.  Trump’s violence has become both promiscuous in its reach and emboldening in its nod to right-wing extremist groups. The mix of white nationalism and expansion of policies that benefit the rich, big corporations and the financial elite are increasingly legitimated and normalised in a new forms of public pedagogy that amount to a legitimation of what I have called neoliberal fascism. [17]
Under such circumstances, critical pedagogy becomes a political and moral practice in the fight to revive civic literacy, civic culture, and a notion of shared citizenship. Politics losses its emancipatory possibilities if it cannot provide the educational conditions for enabling students and others to think against the grain and realize themselves as informed, critical, and engaged citizens. There is no radical politics without a pedagogy capable of awakening consciousness, challenging common sense, and creating modes of analysis in which people discover a moment of recognition that enables them to rethink the conditions that shape their lives.
As a matter of political and social responsibility, educators should do more than create the conditions for critical thinking and nourishing a sense of hope for their students. They also need to responsibly assume the role of civic educators within broader social contexts and be willing to share their ideas with other educators and the wider public by making use of new media technologies and traditional modes of communicating. Communicating to a variety of public audiences suggests using opportunities for writing, public talks, and media interviews offered by the radio, Internet, alternative magazines, and teaching young people and adults in alternative schools to name only a few. Capitalizing on their role as public intellectuals, educators can address the challenge of combining scholarship and commitment by using a vocabulary that is neither dull nor obtuse, while seeking to speak to a broader audience. More importantly, as teachers organize to assert the importance of their role and that of education in a democracy, they can forge new alliances and connections to develop social movements that include and expand beyond working with unions and traditional political formations.
Education operates as a crucial site of power in the modern world. If teachers are truly concerned about safeguarding education, they will have to take seriously how pedagogy functions on local and global levels. Critical pedagogy has an important role to play in both understanding and challenging how power, knowledge, and values are deployed, affirmed, and resisted within and outside of traditional discourses and cultural spheres.  In a local context, critical pedagogy becomes an important theoretical tool for understanding the institutional conditions that place constraints on the production of knowledge, learning, academic labor, social relations, and democracy itself.  Critical pedagogy also provides a discourse for engaging and challenging the construction of social hierarchies, identities, and ideologies as they traverse local and national borders. In addition, pedagogy as a form of production and critique offers a discourse of possibility—a way of providing students with the opportunity to link understanding to commitment, and social transformation to seeking the greatest possible justice.
This suggests that one of the most serious challenges facing teachers, artists, journalists, writers, and other cultural workers is the task of developing a discourse of both critique and possibility.  This means developing discourses and pedagogical practices that connect a critical reading the word with reading the world, and doing so in ways that enhance the creative capacities of young people and provide the conditions for them to become critical agents. In taking up this project, educators and others should attempt to create the conditions that give students the opportunity to become critical and engaged citizens who have the knowledge and courage to struggle in order to make desolation and cynicism unconvincing and hope practical. Hope in this instance is educational, removed from the fantasy of an idealism that is unaware of the constraints facing the dream of a radical democratic society. Educated hope is not a call to overlook the difficult conditions that shape both schools and the larger social order nor is it a blueprint removed from specific contexts and struggles. On the contrary, it is the precondition for providing those languages and values that point the way to imagining a future that does not replicate the nightmares of the present.
Educated hope provides the basis for dignifying the labor of teachers; it offers up critical knowledge linked to democratic social change, affirms shared responsibilities, and encourages teachers and students to recognize ambivalence and uncertainty as fundamental dimensions of learning.  Such hope offers the possibility of thinking beyond the given. As difficult as this task may seem to educators, if not to a larger public, it is a struggle worth waging.
In an age of poisonous capitalism and an emerging fascist politics, educators, students, and other concerned citizens face the challenge of providing a language that embraces a militant utopianism while constantly being attentive to those forces that seek to turn such hope into a new slogan or to punish and dismiss those who dare to look beyond the horizon of the given. Fascism breeds cynicism and is the enemy of a militant and social hope. Hope must be tempered by the complex reality of the times and viewed as a project and condition for providing a sense of collective agency, opposition, political imagination, and engaged participation. Without hope, even in the most dire times, there is no possibility for resistance, dissent, and struggle. Agency is the condition of struggle, and hope is the condition of agency. Hope expands the space of the possible and becomes a way of recognizing and naming the incomplete nature of the present.
Hope is the affective and intellectual precondition for individual and social struggle. Hope, not despair, is the precondition that encourages critique on the part of intellectuals in and outside of the academy who use the resources of theory to address pressing social problems. Hope is also at the root of the civic courage that translates critique into political practice. Hope as the desire for a future that offers more than the present becomes most acute when one’s life can no longer be taken for granted. Only by holding on to both critique and hope in such contexts will resistance make concrete the possibility for transforming politics into an ethical space and a public act. And a better future than the one we now expect to unfold will require nothing less than confronting the flow of everyday experience and the weight of social suffering with the force of individual and collective resistance and the unending project of democratic social transformation. At the same time, in order for resistance to take on the challenges posed by the rise of a fascist politics, it will have to develop an awakening of desire.  This form of educated desire is rooted in the dream of a collective consciousness and imagination fueled by the struggle for new forms of community that affirm the value of the social,  economic equality,  the social contract, and  democratic values and social relations.
The current fight against a nascent fascism across the globe is not only a struggle over economic structures or the commanding heights of corporate power. It is also a struggle over visions, ideas, consciousness, and the power to shift the culture itself.  It is also as Hannah Arendt points out a struggle against “a widespread fear of judging.” [18] Without the ability to judge, it becomes impossible to recover words that have meaning, imagine alternative worlds and a future that does not mimic the dark times in which we live, and create a language that changes how we think about ourselves and our relationship to others.  Any struggle for a radical democratic socialist order will not take place if “the lessons from our dark past [cannot] be learned and transformed into constructive resolutions” and solutions for struggling for and creating a post-capitalist society. [19]
In the end, there is no democracy without informed citizens and no justice without a language critical of injustice. Democracy begins to fail and political life becomes impoverished in the absence of those vital public spheres such as public and higher education in which civic values, public scholarship, and social engagement allow for a more imaginative grasp of a future that takes seriously the demands of justice, equity, and civic courage.  Democracy should be a way of thinking about education, one that thrives on connecting pedagogy to the practice of freedom, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good.[20] Neoliberal capitalism strips hope of its utopian possibilities and thrives on the notion that we live in an era of foreclosed hope, and that any attempt to think otherwise will result in a nightmare.  Yet, the fact remains that without hope there is no agency and without collective agents, there is no hope of resistance. In the age of nascent fascism, it is not enough to connect education with the defense of reason, informed judgment, and critical agency; it must also be aligned with the power and potential of collective resistance. We live in dangerous times. Consequently, there is an urgent need for more individuals, institutions and social movements to come together in the belief that the current regimes of tyranny can be resisted, that alternative futures are possible and that acting on these beliefs through collective resistance will make radical change happen.
[1] I want to thank Dr. Rania Filippakou for her insightful editorial comments.
[2] Peter Thompson, “The Frankfurt School, Part 5: Walter Benjamin, Fascism and the Future,” The Guardian(April 21, 2013). Online:
[3] See, especially, Stuart Hall, Chapter 1: “The Neoliberal Revolution,” The Neoliberal Crisis, ed. Edited by Jonathan Rutherford and Sally Davison,[London: Lawrence Wishart 2012]. Online:; David Harvey: A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, (Princeton University Press, 2008). Wendy Brown, “Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, (New York: Zone Books, 2015).Virginia Eubanks, Automating Inequality(St. Martin’s Press, 2017); George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage (Verso Press, 2017); Henry A. Giroux, American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights 2018).
[4] Charles Derber, Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance For Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times(New York: Routledge, 2017). Heinrich Geiselberger, ed, The Great Regression (London: Polity, 2017).
[5] Jon Nixon, “Hannah Arendt: Thinking Versus Evil,” Times Higher Education,(February 26, 2015). Online at:
[6] See, for example, Jane Mayer, “The Making of the Fox News White House,” The New Yorker(March 4, 2019). Online:
[7] Pankaj Mishra, “A Gandhian Stand Against the Culture of Cruelty,” The New York Review of Books,[May 22, 2018]. Online:
[8] Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers, New Edition, 2001).
[9] Paul Gilroy, “Against Race: Imagining Political Culture beyond the Color Line“, Chapter 4 -‘Hitler in Khakis: Icons, Propaganda, and Aesthetic Politics,’ (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 144-145, 146
[10] Pankaj Mishra, “A Gandhian Stand Against the Culture of Cruelty,” The New York Review of Books,[May 22, 2018]. Online:
[11] Joshua Sperling cited in Lisa Appignanesi, “Berger’s Ways of Being,” The New York Review of Books(May 9, 2019). Online:
[12] Cited in Roger Griffin, “Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies,” in Gunter Berghaus, ed. Fascism and Theater: Comparative Studies on the Aesthetics and politics of Performance in Europe, 1925-1945.(Providence: Gerghahn Books, 1996). Online:
[13] Paul Gilroy, Against Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 139.
[14] Paul Gilroy, Against Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 139.
[15] Paul Gilroy, Against Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 139.
[16] Chiara Bottici in Cihan Aksan and Jon Bailes, eds. “One Question Fascism (Part One),” Is Fascism making a comeback?”  State of Nature Blog, [December 3, 2017]. Online:
[17] Henry A. Giroux, “The Nightmare of Neoliberal Fascism,” Truthout (June 10, 2018). Online:
[18] Hannah Arendt, “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship,” in Jerome Kohn, ed., Responsibility and Judgement, [NY: Schocken Books, 2003]. Online:
[19] Nicola Bertoldi, “Are we living through a new ‘Weimar era’?: Constructive resolutions for our future,” OpenDemocracy (January 3, 2018). Online:
[20] Henry A. Giroux, The Terror of the Unforeseen (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Review of Books, 2019).
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Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013), Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014), The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2018), and the American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights, 2018). His website is www.


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