Paulo Freire, Globalisation and Emancipatory Education

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Paulo Freire, Globalisation and Emancipatory Education

Transcript Of Paulo Freire, Globalisation and Emancipatory Education

Andragoške studije, issn 0354–5415, broj 2, decembar 2014, str. 21–38 © Institut za pedagogiju i andragogiju; Pregledni članak UDK 37.01:929Freire P.]:316.42
Peter Mayo
University of Malta, Malta
Paulo Freire, Globalisation and Emancipatory Education1
Abstract: Paulo Reglus Neves Freire is surely one of the most cited and iconic figures in the contemporary education literature. This paper explores his relevance for an age characterised by the intensification of globalisation, and the mobility of capital, in which education is often equated exclusively with the development of the so-called ‘human resources’ (sic). It analyses his pedagogical approach, contrasting it with some of the main features in the dominant policy documents in education such as the EU’s Lisbon objectives. Key words: intensification of globalisation, emancipatory education, authentic dialogue, ecopedagogy.
Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (1921-1997) is surely one of the most cited and iconic figures in the contemporary education literature. His work becomes all the more relevant in an age when, in view of the intensification of globalization, and the mobility of capital, education is often equated exclusively with the development of the so-called ‘human resources’ (sic) (see the critique in Gelpi, 2002), a feature
1 This essay draws on material previously published in: 1. Chapters 3 and 4 of Mayo, P. (2004), Liberating Praxis. Paulo Freire’s Legacy for Radical Education and Politics, Westport: Praeger. 2. The entire section on Neoliberalism in Borg, C and Mayo, P. (2005), ‘The EU Memorandum on Lifelong Learning. Old Wine in New Bottles?’ in Globalisation, Society and Education, Vol. 3, No.2, pp. 257-278, and in Ch. 1, Borg, C and Mayo, P. (2006), Learning and Social Difference. Challenges for Critical Pedagogy, Boulder: Paradigm (forthcoming). 3. Mayo, P. (2005), ‘Antonio Gramsci and Paulo Freire. Some Connections and Contrasts’ in Encyclopaideia, No. 17, pp. 77-102. 4. The introduction in Mayo, P. (1999), Gramsci, Freire and Adult Education. Possibilities for Transformative Action, London: Zed Books.


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of some of the dominant policy documents in education such as the Lisbon objectives with regard to the EU member states.

Intensification of Globalization and Neoliberalism
In an interview with Roger Dale and Susan Robertson (2004), the Portuguese sociologist and legal expert, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, states that “Neoliberalism is the political form of globalization resulting from US type of capitalism, a type that bases competitiveness on technological innovation coupled with low levels of social protection” (p. 151). He goes on to state that “The aggressive imposition of this model by the international financial institutions worldwide not only forces abrupt changes in the role of the state and in the rules of the game between the exploiter and the exploited…but also changes the rules of the game among the other kinds of developed capitalism” (de Sousa Santos, in Robertson & Dale, 2004, p. 151).
Since the early eighties, Neoliberalism provided the dominant hegemonic discourse surrounding economic development and public policy (Burbules & Torres, 2000). It was very much a feature of the Pinochet regime’s ideology in Chile,2 Thatcherism, Reaganomics (Pannu, 1996), the IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs in much of the industrially underdeveloped world (Pannu, 1996; Boron and Torres, 1996; Mulenga, 1996) and the WTO’s polices that would also affect educational ‘services’ (Rikowski, 2002). It is now also a feature of parties in government that have historically been socialist (see Ledwith, 2005, for a discussion of British labour politics on this). The presence of this ideology on either side of the traditional political spectrum in Western democracies testifies to the hegemonic nature of Neoliberalism. This point is worth keeping in mind with respect to dominant discourses on education and their social-democratic trappings.
The presence of the Neo-liberal ideology in education, as well as in other spheres of activity, can easily lead one to think and operate within the logic of capitalist restructuring. As a result of this process, once-public goods (education among them) are converted into consumption goods, as the ‘ideology of the marketplace’ takes hold. Neo-liberal strategists advocate increasing privatisation and related cuts in public spending on social programs, leading to the introduction of

2 International guidelines for a market economy were introduced in Chile in 1975, with most of the influential members of the relevant ministry having been products of the University of Chicago (they were referred to as the ‘Chicago Boys’) and having been strongly influenced by the ideas of Milton Friedman - (Quiroz Martin, 1997, p. 39).

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user charges and cost recovery policies. Popular access to health, education and other social services would therefore be curtailed. Neo-liberal policies also lead to public financing of private needs. The onus for social and economic survival is placed on individuals and groups. The debate on rights and responsibilities is rationalized, with ‘self-help’ being advocated for those who end up as the victims of these policies.3 These policies also lead to a decline in real incomes. The whole question of ‘choice’ becomes a farce as people who cannot afford to pay for educational and health services are fobbed off with an under-funded and therefore poor quality public service in these areas (Mayo, 1999). Neo-liberalism also entails a deregulation of commodity prices and the shift from direct to indirect taxation (Boron & Torres, 1996; Pannu, 1996; McGinn, 1996). Its orthodoxy also includes, as indicated by Mark Olsson (2004, p. 241), the opening of borders, floating exchange rates, abolition of capital controls, liberalization of government policy, developing integrated private transnational systems of alliances and establishing, within countries, central banks that “adopt a market-independent monetary policy that is autonomous of political interference” (Olsson, 2004). With respect to the USA, Henry A. Giroux refers to the economist William Greider who argues that Neoliberalism proponents “want to ‘roll back the twentieth century literally’ by establishing the priority of private institutions and market identities, values and relationships as the organizing principles of public life” (Giroux, 2004, p. 107).
The foregoing are, in the main, features of one particular kind of globalization, often referred to as hegemonic globalization (Dale & Robertson, 2004, p. 148). This is not the only kind of globalization in existence. There is also “counter-hegemonic” globalization (de Sousa Santos, in Dale & Robertson, 2004, p. 150) or “globalization from below” (Marshall, 1997). This “consists of resistance against hegemonic globalization organized (through local/global linkages) by movements, initiatives and NGO’s, on behalf of classes, social groups and regions victimized by the unequal exchanges produced on a global scale by neoliberal globalization” (de Sousa Santos in Dale & Robertson, 2004, p. 150). They include social movements from the South and North playing a major role in monitoring compliance of governments regarding such targets as, for instance, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and advocating for more and better aid (in the early seventies, the wealthiest nations had committed themselves to 0.7 % of their GDP to be reserved for international aid), ‘justice in trade’ (fair trade) and debt write off as key to the attainment of the proposed and alternative goals. It also entails different movements, previously

3 I am indebted to Dr Margaret Ledwith for this point.


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identified with a rather fragmentary identity and specific issue politics, coming together “on a scale previously unknown” (Rikowski, 2002, p.16) to target global capitalism and the meetings of the institutions that support it, such as the IMF, World Bank and the WTO, thus invoking “an anti-capitalism of real substance and significant scale” (Rikowski, 2002, p.16).
The foregoing exposition of the two types of globalization4 within the context of an all-pervasive Neo-liberal politics (one cementing and the other confronting neo-liberalism) is central to the use of Freire as an antidote to the current dominant discourse in education characterised by the emphasis on technical rationality and marketability and which presents this discourse as having no alternatives.

Freire’s Antidote
Freire rejected the view that the conditions of our time determined the limits of what is possible. Freire recognized developments within capitalism, witnessed during his lifetime (the intensification of globalisation and Neo-Liberalism), for what they were - manifestations of Capitalist reorganization to counter the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, owing to the ‘crises of overproduction’ (Allman & Wallis, 1995; Foley, 1999). Understanding the contemporary stages of capitalist development according to what they represented was a crucial step for Freire to avoid a sense of fatalism and keep alive the quest for working to attain a better world driven by what Henry A Giroux calls an anticipatory utopia prefigured not only by critique of the present but by an alternative pedagogical/cultural politics (Giroux, 2001). “The fatalism of neo-liberalism, buttressed by the propagation of an ‘ideology of ideological death” (Freire, 1998b, p. 14), was a key theme in Freire’s later writings. It was intended to be the subject of the work he was contemplating at the time of his death (Araujo Freire, 1997, p. 10). Freire could well have been on the verge of embarking on an exploration of the conditions that the present historical conjuncture, characterized by Neo-liberalism, would allow for the pursuit of his dream of a different and better world. Alas, this was not to be.

4 Carlos Alberto Torres (2005) mentions two other types of globalization, the globalization of human rights and globalization linked to the issue of security as he precondition of freedom (p.205).

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Freire’s respective works are embedded in a Marxian conception of ideology based on the assumption that “The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make one class the ruling one, therefore the ideas of its dominance” (Marx & Engels, 1970a, p. 64). Not only does the ruling class produce the ruling ideas, in view of its control over the means of intellectual production (Marx & Engels, 1970a), but the dominated classes produce ideas that do not necessarily serve their interests; these classes, that “lack the means of mental production and are immersed in production relations which they do not control,” tend to “reproduce ideas” that express the dominant material relationships (Larrain, 1983, p. 24).
Freire sees popular consciousness as being permeated by ideology. And this is crucial to dismantling or unveiling ‘common sense’ (used in Gramsci’s sense of the term) thinking deriving from Neoliberalism. In his earlier work, Freire posited the existence of different levels of consciousness ranging from naïve to critical consciousness, indicating a hierarchy that exposed him to the accusation of being elitist and of being patronizing towards ordinary people (Kane, 2001, p. 50). In his early work, Freire reveals the power of ideology being reflected in the fatalism (see Rossatto, 2005 on this) apparent in the statements of peasants living in shanty towns who provide ‘magical explanations,’ attributing their poor plight to the ‘will of God’ (Freire, 1970a, p. 163). Nowadays, this fatalism expresses itself in the cynicism regarding alternatives to anything within the market ideology: this is often referred to as the loss of utopia.
Freire provides a very insightful analysis of the way human beings participate in their own oppression by internalising the image of their oppressor. As with the complexity of hegemonic arrangements, underlined by Gramsci and elaborated on by a host of others writing from a neo-Gramscian perspective, people suffer a contradictory consciousness, being oppressors, within one social hegemonic arrangement, and oppressed within another. This puts paid to the now hackneyed criticism that Freire’s notion of oppressor and oppressed is so generic that it fails to take into account that one can be an oppressor in one context and oppressed in another. The notion of the oppressor and contradictory consciousness suggests otherwise. This consideration runs throughout Freire’s oeuvre ranging from his early discussion on the notion of the ‘oppressor consciousness’ to his later writings on multiple and layered identities (Freire, 1997) where he insists that one’s quest for life and for living critically is tantamount to being an ongoing quest for the attainment of greater coherence. Gaining coherence, for Freire, ne-


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cessitates one’s gaining greater awareness of one’s ‘unfinishedness’ (Freire, 1998a, p. 51, p. 66) as well as one’s ability to see through the ideology that provides a mystification of the existing economic and social conditions. This includes the ideology of Neoliberalism.

Emancipatory Resources of Hope
Freire accords an important role to agency in the context of emancipatory activity for social transformation. He explicitly repudiates evolutionary economic determinist theories of social change, and regards them as being conducive to a “liberating fatalism” (Freire, 1985, p. 179), a position to which he adhered until the very end, stating, at an honoris causa speech delivered at Claremont Graduate University in 1989, that “When I think of history I think about possibility – that history is the time and space of possibility. Because of that, I reject a fatalistic or pessimistic understanding of history with a belief that what happens is what should happen” (Freire, in Darder, 2002, X). His notion of history as possibility challenges the so-called ‘end of history’ thesis.

Freire was concerned with more than just the cognitive aspects of learning (Darder, 2002, p. 98). He regards educators and learners as “integral human beings” (Darder, 2002, p. 94) in an educational process that has love at its core (Darder, 2002, p. 91). Just before he died he was reported to have said: I could never think of education without love and that is why I think I am an educator, first of all because I feel love.
The humanizing relationship between teacher and taught (teacher-student and student-teacher, in Freire’s terms) is a relationship characterized by love. It is love that drives the progressive Freire-inspired educator forward in teaching and working for the dismantling of dehumanizing structures. And the entire process advocated by Freire is predicated on the trust he had in human beings and on his desire to help create “a world in which it will be easier to love” (Freire, 1970a, p. 24; see Allman et al., 1998, p. 9). This concept has strong Christian overtones as well as revolutionary ones. In the latter case, the influence could well derive from Ernesto Che Guevara who, according to Freire, “did not hesitate to recognize the capacity of love as an indispensable condition for authentic revolutionaries” (Freire, 1970b, p. 45).

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Education in its Broadest Context

The terrain for education action is a large one in Freire’s conception. Throughout his writings, Freire constantly stressed that educators engage with the system and not avoid it for fear of co-optation (Horton & Freire, 1990; Escobar et al., 1994). Freire exhorted educators and other cultural workers to ‘be tactically inside and strategically outside’ the system. Freire believed that the system is not monolithic. Hegemonic arrangements are never complete and allow spaces for “swimming against the tide” or, to use Gramsci’s phrase, engaging in ‘a war of position’(Freire, in Escobar, 1994, p. 31, p. 32). In most of his work from the mid eighties onward, Freire touches on the role of progressive social movements as important vehicles for social change, movements that can contribute to what is referred to as counter-hegemonic globalisation, in de Sousa’s terms, or ‘globalisation from below.’ This particularly applies to social movements having an international character. It also applies to the kind of invigorating social movements that emerged in Latin America in the last years of Freire’s life, such as the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Brazil and the Frente Zapatistas in Chiapas with its ‘internet war’ (confronting hegemonic globalisation, especially NAFTA, and at the same time availing itself of some of its media as a form of ‘globalisation from below’), that have strong international support in other parts of the world.
Freire himself belonged to a movement striving for a significant process of change within an important institution in Latin America and beyond, namely the radical current within the Latin American Catholic Church. When Education Secretary in São Paulo, a position that allowed Freire to tackle education and cultural work in their broader contexts, Paulo Freire and his associates worked hard to bring social movements and state agencies together (O’Cadiz et al., 1998; O’Cadiz, 1995). These efforts on behalf of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) continued to be exerted by the party itself in other municipalities, most notably the city of Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul, where the PT had, until recently, been in government since the late eighties, and presumably the other municipalities and states where the party won the elections in the Fall of 2000. There were also high hopes that these efforts would be carried out throughout the entire country once the PT leader, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, won the federal presidential elections, though perhaps too much was expected of Lula who, in the words of many Brazilian sympathizers, won the government but not the State.
The last years of Freire’s life were exciting times for Brazilian society with the emergence of the MST, a movement that makes global connections with indigenous movements worldwide. The Movement allies political activism and mo-


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bilization with important education and cultural work (See Ch. 4, Kane, 2001). The movement is itself conceived of as an “enormous school” (Kane, 2001, p. 97). As in the period that preceded the infamous 1964 coup, Paulo Freire’s work and thinking must also have been influenced and reinvigorated by the growing movement for democratisation of Brazilian society. In an interview with Carmel Borg and me, Ana Maria (Nita) Araujo Freire states:
Travelling all over this immense Brazil we saw and cooperated with a very large number of social movements of different sizes and natures, but who had (and continue to have) a point in common: the hope in their people’s power of transformation. They are teachers - many of them are “lay”: embroiderers, sisters, workers, fishermen, peasants, etc., scattered all over the country, in favelas, camps or houses, men and women with an incredible leadership strength, bound together in small and local organizations, but with such a latent potential that it filled us, Paulo and me, with hope for better days for our people. Many others participated in a more organized way in the MST (Movimento dos Sem Terra: Movement of Landless Peasants), the trade unions, CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores), and CEBs (Christian Base Communities). As the man of hope he always was, Paulo knew he would not remain alone. Millions of persons, excluded from the system, are struggling in this country, as they free themselves from oppression, to also liberate their oppressors. Paulo died a few days after the arrival of the MST March in Brasília. On that April day, standing in our living-room, seeing on the TV the crowds of men, women and children entering the capital in such an orderly and dignified way, full of emotion, he cried out: “That’s it, Brazilian people, the country belongs to all of us! Let us build together a democratic country, just and happy!” (Nita Freire, in Borg & Mayo, 2000, p. 109)
Freire insisted that education should not be romanticized and that teachers ought to engage in a much larger public sphere (Freire, in Shor & Freire, 1997, p. 37). This has been quite a popular idea among radical activists in recent years, partly also as a result of a dissatisfaction with party politics. The arguments developed in these circles are often based on a very non-Gramscian use of the concept of ‘civil society.’ In his later work, however, Freire sought to explore the links between movements and the state (Freire, 1993; O’Cadiz et al., 1998) and, most significantly, movements and party, a position no doubt influenced by his role as one of the founding members of the PT.

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Freire argues that the party for change, committed to the subaltern, should allow itself to learn from and be transformed through contact with progressive social movements. One important proviso Freire makes, in this respect, is that the party should do this “without trying to take them over.” Movements, Freire seems to be saying, cannot be subsumed by parties, otherwise they lose their identity and forfeit their specific way of exerting pressure for change. Paulo Freire discusses possible links between party and movements. The question to be raised is: how can such an alliance have a global dimension?
Today, if the Workers’ Party approaches the popular movements from which it was born, without trying to take them over, the party will grow; if it turns away from the popular movements, in my opinion, the party will wear down. Besides, those movements need to make their struggle politically viable (Freire, in Escobar et al., 1994, p. 40).
One further question would be: how would the forces of globalisation, through such means as Structural Adjustment Programmes, place pressure on a party in government to make it toe the line in terms of paying its debts and cutting down on its social expenses, the kind of expenses to which it was committed as a result of its links with progressive social movements? To what extent are the Lula governments and the other newly elected left leaning governments in Latin Americavictims of this process?
Freire explores links between the party and movements within the context of a strategy for social change. At the time when Paulo Freire was still alive, the PT enjoyed strong links with the trade union movement, the Pastoral Land Commission, the MST and other movements and exercised a leadership role when forging alliances between party, state and movements in the municipalities in which it was in power. Alas, this no longer seems to be the case. The Participatory Budget project in Porto Alegre, an exercise in deliberative and participatory democracy, provides some indication of the direction such alliances can take (Schugurensky, 2002). Furthermore this alliance must take on an international character if it is to contribute effectively to globalisation from below and the World Social Forum would be a perfect example of this type of effort.

The discussion has veered towards a macro-level analysis, as is expected in a discussion on globalisation. But the global must interact with the local, which includes the kind of micro level activity that allows people to unveil ideology in order to gain the type of political awareness necessary to work collectively


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and internationally for social transformation. It would be opportune therefore to dwell on the micro level context of education with an emphasis on concepts that lie at the heart of the pedagogical relation as propounded by Freire. He regarded praxis as one of the key concepts in question. Praxis becomes a constant feature of his thinking and writing. It constitutes the means whereby one can move in the direction of confronting the contradiction of opposites in the dialectical relation of oppression (Allman, 1988; 1999). It constitutes the means of gaining critical distance from one’s world of action to engage in reflection geared towards transformative action. The relationship between action-reflection-transformative action is not sequential but dialectical (Allman, 1999). Freire and other intellectuals, with whom he has conversed, in ‘talking books’, conceive of different moments in their life as forms of praxis, of gaining critical distance from the context they know to perceive it in a more critical light. Exile is regarded by Freire and the Chilean Antonio Faundez (Freire & Faundez, 1989) as a form of praxis. The idea of critical distancing is however best captured by Freire in his pedagogical approach involving the use of codifications, even though one should not make a fetish out of this ‘method’ (Aronowitz, 1993) since it is basically indicative of something larger, a philosophy of learning in which praxis is a central concept that has to be ‘reinvented’ time and time again, depending on situation and context.

Authority and Freedom
Freire emphasised the notion of authentic dialogue throughout his work, regarding it as the means of reconciling the dialectic of opposites that characterises the hierarchical and prescriptive form of communication he calls ‘banking education’. Knowledge is not something possessed by the teacher and poured into the learner who would thus be conceived of as an empty receptacle to be filled. This would be a static use of knowledge. Freire insisted on a dynamic process of knowledge acquisition based on epistemological curiosity involving both educator and educatee who regard the object of knowledge as a centre of co-investigation. Both are teachers and learners at the same time since teachers are prepared to relearn that which they think they already know through interaction with the learner who can shed new light on the subject by virtue of insights including those that are conditioned by his or her specific cultural background. The learner has an important contribution to make to the discussion. Having said this, Freire warns against laissez faire pedagogy that, in this day and age, would be promoted under the rubric of ‘learning facilitation’ (sic). This is the sort of pedagogical treachery that