Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life

Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life

Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life

Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life

Synopsis

For all of its promise, US public education in the twentieth century never lived up to its democratic potential. Promises to Keep takes a serious look at the slow erosion of the fuller democratic meaning of a public education and a public life and explores the possibilities offered by emerging new progressivism. Inhabiting the intellectual and political space established by recent work in cultural studies, the essays collected here present the significant beginnings of a dialogue among various movements and discourses of democratic education and public life. Blending diverse approaches and distinguished scholars, this ambitious and timely volume struggles with the unfulfilled promises of history and offers hope for the future.

Excerpt

Dennis Carlson and Greg Dimitriadis

The year is 2019, and the place is Los Angeles, an environmentally degraded, postnuclear war space of ominous dark rain that never seems to stop. Those few who still inhabit LA (most have fled to the “off world, ” a human colony on Mars) live in a chaotic, violent, inhumane world. The poor and the homeless roam the streets, fearful of others and of the all-seeing, all-pervasive police in their hovercrafts, while other people make homes for themselves in abandoned, run-down buildings. The workforce, meanwhile, has become more racialized, with Chinese assigned the role of street vendors. This is the dystopian future represented in one of the most written-about film of the past two decades, Blade Runner (1982). Re-released in 1990 in a somewhat reedited form, director Ridley Scott's film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? raises troubling questions about where we are headed as a culture, and about the very real possibility that the promises of democratic public life may become hollow and meaningless in the decades ahead if certain tendencies continue. The film, to this extent, reflects the growing sentiment among many that the promise of democracy, of a better, more humane, equitable, and freer future that lies ahead, always has been a false promise.

In Blade Runner, global corporate capital, along with what is left of a crumbling state infrastructure, reigns supreme-along with the police. Douglas Kellner, Flo Leibowitz, and Michael Ryan observe that the film “projects a future city which perpetuates corporate capitalism's distinguishing features-urban decay, commodification, overcrowding, highly skewed disparities of wealth and poverty, and authoritarian policing” (1984, p. 100). As the infrastructure of society deteriorates, and as the fragile fabric of community life breaks down, order depends more and more upon a police force. The inner city is virtually an occupied zone, and its citizens kept, as much as they can be, under the gaze of surveillance cameras and bands of roving police. Meanwhile, the final dream of those with power is being realized. People are both figuratively and literally

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