Academic journal article Social Justice

Global Capitalism and the Restructuring of Education: The Transnational Capitalist Class' Quest to Suppress Critical Thinking

Academic journal article Social Justice

Global Capitalism and the Restructuring of Education: The Transnational Capitalist Class' Quest to Suppress Critical Thinking

Article excerpt

I IN RECENT DECADES WORLD CAPITALISM HAS BEEN UNDERGOING A process of globalization, or profound restructuring and expansion. What type of human capital does the emerging global capitalist system require in order for it to function (which is to say, in order for capital accumulation to overcome the technical and political impediments to its continuous expansion)? For one, it needs a cadre of organic intellectuals (1) who are to do the overall thinking and strategizing for the system, as well as a small army of technocrats and administrators who are to resolve problems of system maintenance and development. At the same time, this system needs a very large army, indeed, of people who will supply nothing but their labor, and who are not disposed or equipped to think critically and reflexively about their existence or that of a system sustained on great inequalities and ever more repressive and ubiquitous social control. Finally, it needs a mass of humanity as surplus labor--let us say a few billion people or so--who can serve as a reserve supply of manual and other forms of low-skilled and flexible labor in agriculture, industry, and services; who can be carefully controlled at all times; and who can be discarded when no longer needed.

What kind of an educational system would be able to deliver such a mass of humanity endowed with, or lacking in, the sets of skills, knowledge, and mental faculties needed to meet these requirements? Certainly, it would need a core of elite centers of education where the organic intellectuals who administer the system and engage in its ongoing design would study and train. Below it would be a tier of educational institutions producing every sort of vocational and technocratic expert, what Robert Reich (1992) once referred to as "symbolic analysts" and others have called knowledge workers--that is, people trained in the use and manipulation of symbols, whether as engineers, computer programmers, scientists, or financial analysts. In exchange for their services and their obedience, they would be rewarded with comfortable lifestyles. Then there would be the mass of humanity increasingly "precariatized" and thrown into the ranks of surplus labor, who only need basic numeracy and literacy skills in order to supply labor for the system, and whose potential for critical thinking could nevertheless pose a serious threat to the capitalist order. This tier in the educational system would be quite restricted in its pedagogical content (if not in its provision), serving the dual function of supplying the numeracy, literacy, and technical knowledge necessary to produce servile workers while suppressing the development of critical thinking that could mount a challenge to global capitalism and its punitive social control. In fact, this is just the kind of educational system that the transnational elite has promoted worldwide in recent years. (2)

The Trifurcation of Humanity: The 1 Percent, the 20 Percent, and the 80 Percent

On the eve of the 2015 annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, an event attended exclusively by the cream of the transnational business, political, and cultural elite (it cost about $40,000 to attend, and at that, one must be invited), the development NGO Oxfam released a report on global inequality, aptly titled "Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More" (Oxfam 2015b). The report observed that the wealthiest 1 percent of humanity owned 48 percent of the world's wealth in 2014, up from 44 percent in 2009, and that under current trends, this 1 percent would own more than 50 percent of the global wealth by 2016.

The obscenity of such concentrations of wealth becomes truly apparent when seen in the context of expanding inequality. The report identified the world's richest 80 billionaires among this 1 percent, whose wealth has increased from $1.3 trillion in 2010 to $1.9 trillion in 2014, an increment of $600 billion in just four years, or by 50 percent in nominal terms (ibid. …

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