Published in Defending Public Schools [Four Volumes],

edited by David A. Gabbard & E. Wayne Ross (Praeger, 2004).

The State, The Market & (mis)Education

printable version




Democracy, Paideia and Education

Culture, the Dominant Social Paradigm and the Role of Education

Education is a basic component of the formation of culture[1], as well as of the socialisation of the individual, i.e. the process through which an individual internalises the core values of the dominant social paradigm.[2] Therefore, culture in general and education in particular play a crucial role in the determination of individual and collective values. This is because as long as individuals live in a society, they are not just individuals but social individuals, subject to a process, which socialises them and induces them to internalise the existing institutional framework and the dominant social paradigm. In this sense, people are not completely free to create their world but are conditioned by History, tradition and culture. Still, this socialisation process is broken, at almost all times —as far as a minority of the population is concerned— and in exceptional historical circumstances even with respect to the majority itself. In the latter case, a process is set in motion that usually ends with a change of the institutional structure of society and of the corresponding social paradigm. Societies therefore are not just “collections of individuals” but consist of social individuals, who are both free to create their world, (in the sense that they can give birth to a new set of institutions and a corresponding social paradigm), and are created by the world, (in the sense that they have to break with the dominant social paradigm in order to recreate the world).

A fundamental precondition for the reproduction of every kind of society is the consistency between the dominant beliefs, ideas and values on the one hand  and the existing institutional framework on the other. In other words, unlike culture[3] which has a broader scope and may express values and ideas that are not necessarily consistent with the dominant institutions (this has frequently been the case in arts and literature), the dominant social paradigm has to be in consistence with the existing institutions for society to be reproducible. In fact, institutions are reproduced mainly through the internalisation of the values consistent with them rather than through violence by the elites which benefit from them. This has always been the case.  The values, for instance, of the present system are the ones derived by its basic principles of organisation: the principle of heteronomy and the principle of individualism which are built-into the institutions of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’. Such values involve the values of inequity and effective oligarchy (even if the system calls itself a democracy), competition and aggressiveness.

Still, what is wrong is not the very fact of the internalisation of some values but the internalisation of such values that reproduce an heteronomous society and consequently heteronomous individualsPaideia will play a crucial role in a future democratic society with respect to the internalisation of its values, which would necessarily be the ones derived by its basic principles of organisation: the principle of autonomy and the principle of community, which would be built into the institutions of an inclusive democracy.[4] Such values would include the values of equity and democracy, respect for the personality of each citizen, solidarity and mutual aid, caring and sharing.[5]

However,  the institutions alone are not sufficient to secure the non-emergence  of informal elites. It is here that the crucial importance of education, which in a democratic society will take the form of Paideia, arises.  Paideia was of course at the centre of political philosophy in the past, from Plato to Rousseau. Still, this tradition, as the late Castoriadis[6] pointed out, died in fact with the French Revolution. But, the need to revisit paideia today in the context of the revival of democratic politics, after the collapse of socialist statism,  is imperative .

Education, Paideia and Emancipatory Education

Education is intrinsically linked to politics. In fact, the very meaning of education is defined by the prevailing meaning of politics. If politics is meant in its current usage, which is related to the present institutional framework of representative ‘democracy’, then politics takes the form of statecraft, which involves the administration of the state by an elite of professional politicians who set the  laws, supposedly representing the will of the people. This is the case of a heteronomous society in which the public space has been usurped by various elites which concentrate political and economic power in their hands. In a heteronomous society education has a double aim:

* First, to help in the internalisation of the existing institutions and the values consistent with it (the dominant social paradigm). This is the aim of explicit school lessons like History, introduction to sociology, economics etc but , even more significantly —and insidiously of schooling itself, which involves the values of obeyance and discipline (rather than self-discipline) and unquestioning of teaching .  

* Second, to produce ‘efficient’ citizens in the sense of citizens who have accumulated enough ‘technical knowledge’[7] so that they could function competently in accordance with ‘society’s aims, as laid down by the elites which control it..  

On the other hand, if politics is meant in its classical sense that is related to the institutional framework of a direct democracy, in which people not only question laws but are also able to make their own laws, then we talk about an autonomous society.[8] This is a society in which the public space encompasses the entire citizen body that in an inclusive democracy will take all effective decisions at the ‘macro’ level, i.e. not only with respect to the political process but also with respect to the economic process, within an institutional framework of equal distribution of political and economic power among citizens. In such a society we do not talk about education anymore but about the much broader concept of Paideia. This is an all-round civic education that involves a life-long process of character development, absorption of knowledge and skills and —more significant—practicing a ‘participatory’ kind of active citizenship, that is a citizenship in which political activity is not seen as a means to an end but an end in itself. Paideia therefore has the overall aim of developing the capacity of all its members to participate in its reflective and deliberative activities, in other words, to educate citizens as citizens so that the public space could acquire a substantive content. In this sense, paideia involves the  specific  aims of civic schooling as well as personal training. Thus,  

Paideia as civic schooling involves the development of citizens’ self-activity by using their very self-activity as a means of internalising the democratic institutions and the values consistent with them. The aim therefore is to create responsible individuals that have internalized both the necessity of laws and the possibility of putting the laws into question, i.e. individuals capable of interrogation, reflectiveness, and deliberation. This process should start from am early age through the creation of  educational public spaces that will have nothing to do with present schools, at which children will be brought up to internalize, and therefore to accept fully, the democratic institutions and the values implied by the fundamental principles of organisation of society: autonomy and community.    

Paideia as personal training involves the development of the capacity to learn rather than to teach particular things, so that  individuals become autonomous, that is, capable of self-reflective activity and deliberation. A process of conveying knowledge is of course also involved but this assumes more the form of  involvement in actual life and the multitude of human activities related to it, as well as a guided tour to scientific, industrial and practical knowledge rather than teaching, as it is simply a step in the process of developing the child's capacities for learning, discovering, and inventing.  

Finally, we may talk about emancipatory education as the link between present education and Paideia. Emancipatory education is intrinsically linked to transitional politics, i.e. the politics that will lead us from the heteronomous politics and society of the present to the autonomous politics and society of the future. The aim of emancipatory education is to give an answer to the ‘riddle of politics’ described by Castoriadis,[9] i.e. how to produce autonomous (that is capable of self-reflective activity) human beings within a heteronomous society, and beyond that, in the paradoxical situation of educating human beings to accede to autonomy whileor in spite of teaching them to absorb and internalize existing institutions. Not less than the breaking of the socialisation process, which will open the way to an autonomous society, is involved here. The proposed by this essay answer to this riddle is to help the collectivity, within the context of the transitional strategy, to create the institutions that, when internalized by the individuals, will enhance their capacity for becoming autonomous.  

Therefore, autonomy politics, i.e. the kind of politics implied by a transitional strategy  towards a democratic society,[10] emancipatory education and  Paideia  form an inseparable whole through the internal dynamic that leads from the politics of autonomy and emancipatory education to an autonomous society and Paideia. It is therefore clear that as paideia is only feasible within the framework of a genuine democracy, an emancipatory education is inconceivable outside a democratic movement fighting for such a society.  

Education in mondernity

The Shift to Modernity    

The rise of the present system of education has its roots in the nation-state, which did not start to develop until the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. The idea of a ‘nation’ was unknown in antiquity and even in the Middle Ages. Although in the territorial regnum of the Middle Ages some monarchies did indeed have their national territories and made claims to sovereign power within them, these monarchies were just part of European Christendom, so that there was little of a national state or indeed of any sort of state. In fact, it was not until the end of the Middle Ages and specifically in the seventeenth century that the present form of the nation-state emerged. The nation-state, even in its early absolutist form, extended its control beyond the political and into the religious (with the creation of the established church) and educational fields, as well as to almost all other aspects of human life. As the state bureaucracy was expanding, the need for well educated civil servants was significant and universities of the time became more and more training institutions for higher civil servants whereas, at the same time, elementary education for the middle classes developed further, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries.  A basic distinguishing characteristic of premodern schools and universities compared to modern ones was that whereas up to the 17th century the aim of education was conceived as a religious one, in the 18th century the ideas of secularism and progress, which constituted the fundamental components of the emerging new dominant social paradigm ,  began to prevail.

As I attempted to show elsewhere,[11] the two main institutions which distinguish premodern society from modern society are, first, the system of the market economy and, second, representative ‘democracy’, which are also the ultimate causes for the present concentration of economic and political power and, consequently, for the present multidimensional crisis. In this problematique, industrial production constituted only the necessary condition for the shift to modern society. The sufficient condition was the parallel introduction —through decisive state help— of the system of the market economy that replaced the  (socially controlled) local markets that existed for thousands of years before. In both cases, it was the emergence of the nation-state, which played a crucial role in creating the conditions for the ‘nationalisation’ of markets (i.e. their de-localisation), as well as  in freeing them from effective social control —the two essential preconditions of marketisation. Furthermore, it was the same development, i.e. the rise of the nation-state that developed from its early absolutist form at the end of the Middle Ages into the present ‘democratic’ form, which led to the establishment of the political complement of the market economy: representative ‘democracy.

The shift to modernity therefore represented in more than one ways a break with the past. The new economic and political institutions in the form of the market economy and representative ‘democracy’, as well as the parallel rise of industrialism marked a systemic change. This change was inescapably accompanied by a corresponding change in the dominant social paradigm. In premodern  societies, the ‘dominant social paradigms’ were characterised by mainly religious ideas and corresponding values about hierarchies, although of course there were exceptions like the Athenian democracy. On the other hand, the dominant social paradigm of modernity is  dominated by market values and the idea of Progress, growth and rational secularism. In fact, the flourishing of science in modernity has played an important ideological role in objectively justifying  the growth economy—a role that has been put under severe strain in neoliberal modernity by the credibility crisis of science. Thus, just as religion played an important part in justifying feudal hierarchy, so has science, particularly social science, played a crucial role in justifying the modern hierarchical society. In fact, from the moment science replaced religion as the dominant worldview, it had objectively justified the growth economy, both in its capitalist and ‘socialist’ forms.

However, although the fundamental institutions which characterize modernity and the main tenets of the dominant social paradigm have remained essentially unchanged since the emergence of modernity more than two centuries ago (something that renders as a myth the idea of postmodernity, into which humanity supposedly has entered in the last three decades or so), there have, nevertheless, been some significant nonsystemic changes within this period that could usefully be classified as the three main phases of modernity. We may distinguish three forms that modernity took since the establishment of the system of the market economy: liberal modernity (mid to end of nineteenth century) which, after the first world war and the 1929 crash, led to  statist modernity (mid 1930’s to mid 1970s) and finally to today’s neoliberal modernity (mid 1970s-to date).

The various forms of modernity have created their own dominant social paradigms which in effect constitute sub-paradigms of the main paradigm, as they all share a fundamental characteristic: the idea of the separation of society from the economy and polity, as expressed by the market economy and representative ‘democracy’ with the exception of Soviet statism in which this separation was effected through central planning and Soviet ‘democracy’. On top of this main characteristic, all forms of modernity share, with some variations, the themes of reason, critical thought and economic growth. As one could expect, the non-systemic changes involved in the various forms of modernity and the corresponding sub-paradigmatic changes had significant repercussions on the nature, content and form of education, on which I now turn.

Education in Liberal Modernity

During the period of liberal modernity, which barely lasted half a century between the 1830s and the 1880s, the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy led to an increasing internationalisation of it, which was accompanied by the first systematic attempt of the economic elites to establish a purely liberal internationalised market economy in the sense of free trade, a ‘flexible’ labour market and a fixed exchange rates system (Gold Standard) —an attempt that, as I tried to show elsewhere,[12] was bound to fail given the lack of the objective conditions for its success and in particular the fact that markets were dominated by national-based capital, a fact that led to two world wars with the main aim to redivide them.

The rise of the system of the market/growth economy in this period created the need to expand the number of pupils/students in all stages of education: at the primary level, because the factory system that flourished after the Industrial Revolution required an elementary level of literacy; at the secondary level, because the factory system led to the development of various specialisations that required further specialised training; and, finally, at the tertiary level, because the rapid scientific developments of the era required an expansion of the role of universities to train not just civil servants, as before, but also people who would be able to be involved in applied research on new methods of production, both as regards its physical and its administrative/organizational aspects.   

All these developments had significant repercussions on education, one of the most significant ones being the gradual acceptance of the view that education ought to be the responsibility of the state.  Countries such as France and Germany began the establishment of public educational systems early in the 19th century. However, this trend was in contradiction to the dominant social (sub)paradigm of liberal modernity. This paradigm was characterised by the belief in a mechanistic model of science, objective truth, as well as some themes from economic liberalism such as laissez faire and minimisation of social controls over markets for the protection of labour. This is why countries such as Great Britain and the United States, in which the dominant social paradigm has been better internalised, hesitated longer before allowing the government to intervene in educational affairs. The prevailing view among the elites of these countries was that “free schools” were to be provided only for the children of the lowest social groups, if at all, whereas general taxation (which was the only adequate way to provide education for all) was rejected. Still, when liberal modernity collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century, for the reasons mentioned above, governments across Europe and the US “legislated to limit the workings of laissez-faire —first by inspecting factories and offering minimal standards of education and later by providing subsistence income for the old and out of work”.[13]  As a result, by the beginning of the twentieth century, social legislation of some sort was in place in almost every advanced market economy.[14]

However, it was not only the access to education that changed during the nineteenth century. The nature of education changed as well, as the new social and economic changes also called upon the schools, public and private, to broaden their aims and curricula. Schools were expected not only to promote literacy, mental discipline, and good moral character but also to help prepare children for citizenship, for jobs, and for individual development and success. In other words, schools and educational institutions in general were expected to  help in the internalisation of the existing institutions and the values consistent with it (i.e. the dominant social paradigm), on top of  producing ‘efficient’ citizens in the sense of citizens who have accumulated enough technical knowledge so that they could function competently in accordance with ‘society’s aims, as laid down by the elites which control it. Similarly, the practice of dividing children into grades or classes according to their ages —a practice that began in 18th-century Germany— was to spread everywhere as schools grew larger. Massive schooling, which was to characterize the rest of modernity up to date, was set in motion.

Statist Modernity, Education and Social Mobility  

Statist modernity took different forms in the East (namely the regimes of Eastern Europe, China etc.) and the West. Thus, in the East,[15] for the first time in modern times, a ‘systemic’ attempt was made to reverse the marketisation process and create a completely different form of modernity than  the liberal or the social democratic one in a sense, another version of liberal modernity. This form of statism, backed by Marxist ideology, attempted to minimise the role of the market mechanism in the allocation of resources and replace it with a central planning mechanism. On the other hand in the West[16], statism took a social-democratic form and was backed by Keynesian policies which involved active state control of the economy and extensive interference with the self-regulating mechanism of the market to secure full employment, a better distribution of income and economic growth. A precursor of this form of statism emerged in the inter-war period but it reached its peak in the period following the second world war, when Keynesian policies were adopted by governing parties of all persuasions in the era of the social democratic consensus, up to the mid 1970s. This was a consensus involving both conservative and social democratic parties, which were committed to active state intervention with the aim of determining the overall level of economic activity, so that a number of social democratic objectives could be achieved (full employment, welfare state, educational opportunities for all, better distribution of income etc)

However, statist modernity, in both its social democratic and Soviet versions, shared the fundamental element of liberal modernity, namely, the formal separation of society from the economy and the state. The basic  difference between the liberal and statist forms of modernity concerned the means through which this separation was achieved. Thus, in liberal modernity this was achieved through representative ‘democracy’ and the market mechanism, whereas in statist modernity this separation was achieved either through representative ‘democracy’ and a modified version of the market mechanism (Western social democracy), or, alternatively, through soviet ‘democracy’ and central planning (Soviet statism). Furthermore, both the liberal and the statist forms of modernity shared a common growth ideology based on the Enlightenment idea of progress—an idea that played a crucial role in the development of the two types of ‘growth economy’: the ‘capitalist’ and the ‘socialist’ growth economy.[17] It is therefore obvious that although the growth economy is the offspring of the dynamic of the market economy, still, the two concepts are not identical since it is possible to have a growth economy which is not also a market economynotably the case of actually existing socialism’. However, the Western form of statist modernity collapsed in the 1970s when the growing internationalisation of the market economy, the inevitable result of its grow-or-die dynamic, became incompatible with statism. The Eastern form of statist modernity collapsed a decade or so later because of the growing incompatibility between, on the one hand, the requirements of an ‘efficient’ growth economy and, on the other, the institutional arrangements (particularly centralised planning and party democracy) which had been introduced in the countries of ‘actually existing socialism’ in accordance with Marxist-Leninist ideology.[18]

The dominant (sub)paradigm in the statist period still features the same characteristics of liberal modernity involving a belief in objective truth and (a less mechanistic) science, but includes also certain elements of the socialist paradigm and particularly statism, in the form of Soviet statism based on Marxism-Leninism in the East and a social democratic statism based on  Keynesianism in the West. Both types of statism attempted to influence the education process although Soviet governments, particularly in the early days after the 1917 Revolution, had much wider aims than Western socialdemocrats who mainly aimed at widening the access to education in order to improve social mobility.

Thus, the Soviets, immediately after the Revolution, introduced free and compulsory general and polytechnical education up to the age of 17, pre-school education to assist in the emancipation of women, the opening of the universities and other higher institutions to the working class, even a form of student-self management. On top of this, a basic aim of education was decreed to be the internalisation of the new regime’s values. No wonder that, as soon as a year after the Revolution, the Soviet government had ordered by decree the abolition of religious teaching in favour of atheistic education,

As regards the social democrats, their main achievement was the welfare state which represented a conscious effort to check the side effects of the market economy, as far as covering basic needs (health, education, social security) was concerned . An important characteristic of the ideology of the welfare state was that its financing (including education) was supposed to come from general taxation. Furthermore, the progressive nature of the tax system, which was generalised during this period, secured that the higher income groups will take the lion’s share of this financing, improving thereby the highly unequal pattern of income distribution that a market economy creates. However, the expansion of education opportunities was not simply necessitated by ideological reasons. Even more important was the post-war economic boom that required a vast expansion of the labour base, with women and, sometimes immigrants, filling the gaps. On top of this, the incessant increase in the division of labour, changes in production methods and organisation, as well as revolutionary changes in information technology required a growing number of highly skilled personnel, scientists, high-level professionals etc. As a result of these trends, the number of universities in many countries doubled or trebled between 1950 and 1970,  whereas technical colleges, as well as part-time and evening courses, spread rapidly  promoting adult education at all levels

Still, despite the fact that massive education flourished in this period, the effects of this rapid growth of education opportunities on social mobility has been insignificant. If we take as our example Britain, in which a bold social democratic experiment was pursued in the post-war period to change social mobility through educationa policy pursued (in various degrees)  by both labour and conservative governments the results were minimal. Thus, an extensive study by  three prominent British academics concluded that the post-war expansion of education opportunities brought Britain no nearer meritocracy or equality of opportunity.[19] Another study, also carried out during the period of social democratic consensus, concluded that despite the ‘propitious’ circumstances, no significant reduction in class inequality has in fact been achieved[20] a situation that has worsened in today’s neoliberal modernity in which, as Goldthorpe showed, the chances of manual workers sons not doing anything but manual work have risen. But, if the results of social democratic education policies on social mobility and social change in general have been so meagre,  one could easily imagine the effects of neoliberal policies to which I now turn.   

Neoliberal Modernity and the Privatisation of Education  

The emergence of neoliberal internationalisation was a monumental event which implied the end of the social democratic consensus that marked the early post war period. The market economy’s grow-or-die dynamic and, in particular, the emergence and continuous expansion of transnational corporations’ (TNC) and the parallel development of the Euro-dollar market, which led to the present neoliberal form of modernity, were the main developments which induced the economic elites to open and liberalise the markets. In other words, these elites mostly institutionalised (rather than created) the present form of the internationalised market economy.

An important characteristic of the neoliberal form of modernity is the emergence of a new ‘transnational elite’[21] which draws its power (economic, political or generally social power) by operating at the transnational level —a fact which implies that it does not express, solely or even primarily, the interests of a particular nation-state. This elite consists of the transnational economic elites (TNC executives and their local affiliates), the transnational political elites, i.e. the globalising bureaucrats and politicians, who may be based either in major international organisations or in the state machines of the main market economies, and, finally, the transnational professional elites, whose members play a dominant role in the various international foundations, think tanks, research departments of major international universities, the mass media etc. The main aim of the transnational elite, which today controls the internationalised market economy, is the maximisation of the role of the market and the minimisation of any effective social controls over it for the protection of labour or the environment, so that maximum ‘efficiency’ (defined in narrow techno-economic terms) and profitability may be secured.

Neoliberal modernity is characterised by the emergence of a new social (sub)paradigm which tends to become dominant, the so-called ‘post-modern’ paradigm The main elements of the neoliberal paradigm are, first, a critique of progress (but not of growth itself), of mechanistic and deterministic science (but usually not of science itself) and of objective truth, and, second, the adoption of some neoliberal themes such as the minimisation of social controls over markets, the replacement of the welfare state by safety nets and the maximisation of the role of the private sector in the economy.

As regards scientific research and education, neoliberal modernity implies the effectual privatisation of them. As a result, the non–neutral character of science has become more obvious than ever before, following the ‘privatisation’ of scientific research and the scaling down the state sector in general and state spending in particular.[22] As Stephanie Pain, an associate editor of New Scientist (not exactly a radical journal) stresses, science and big business have developed ever closer links lately: “Where research was once mostly neutral, it now has an array of paymasters to please. In place of impartiality, research results are being discreetly managed and massaged, or even locked away if they don’t serve the right interests. Patronage rarely comes without strings attached.”[23]

Also, as regards education in general, as Castoriadis pointed out,[24] for most educators it has become a bread-winning chore, and, for those at the other end of education, a question of obtaining a piece of paper (a diploma) that will allow one to exercise a profession (if one finds work) – the royal road of privatization, which one may enrich by indulging in one or several personal crazes.

The effects of the neoliberal privatisation of education on access to education in general  and social mobility in particular are predictable. Thus, as regards the former, it is not surprising that, as a result of increasing poverty and inequality in neoliberal modernity, the reading and writing skills of Britain’s young people are worse than they were before the First World War. Thus, a recent study  found that 15 per cent of people aged 15 to 21 are functionally illiterate, whereas in 1912, school inspectors reported that only 2 per cent of young people were unable to read or write.[25] Similarly, as regards the access to higher education, the UK General Household Survey of 1993 showed that, as the education editor of the London Times pointed out, ‘although the number of youngsters obtaining qualifications is growing rapidly, the statistics show that a child’s socio-economic background is still the most important factor in deciding who obtains the best higher education’.[26]  Thus, according to these data, the son of a professional man was even more likely to go to university in the early 90s than one from the same background in the early 60s (33 percent versus 29 percent). Finally, an indication of the marginal improvement to access to education achieved by social democracy is the fact that whereas at the end of the 1950s the percent of the sons of unskilled workers going to university was too small to register, by the early 90s this percentage has gone up to 4%! Needless to add that the situation has worsened further since then. The difference between the proportion of professionals and unskilled going to university has widened 10 points during the nineties and by the end of this decade fewer than one in six children from the bottom rung were going to university  compared to nearly three-quarters of the top.[27]

No wonder therefore that social mobility in Britain has declined in neoliberal modernity. This is because, although the working class has declined in size following neoliberal globalisation, the middle classes have not been displaced. As a result, over the 20th century, the trapdoor beneath the upper social groups became less and less the worry it was in the 19th Victorian society and as sociologist Peter Saunders[28] put it, the safeguards against failure enjoyed by dull middle-class children are presently strengthening. Despite therefore a small increase in social mobility for children from lower social strata, at the same time, as a team led by Stephen Machin of University College London has found, more children from higher-class backgrounds have remained in the same social class as their parents. This could explain the paradox that the amount of "equality of opportunity" may actually have fallen in recent years, despite the expansion of educational opportunity.[29] Another study by Abigail McKnight[30] of the University of Warwicks confirms this. Thus, whereas between 1977 and 1983, a full 39 per cent of workers in the bottom quarter of the earnings distribution had progressed into the top half by 1983, in the period between 1991 and 1997, that had dropped to 26 per cent.

Similar trends are noted everywhere, given the universalisation of neoliberal modernity. Predictably, the effects are even worse in the South where education was seen by the newly liberated from their colonial ties nations as both an instrument of national development and a means of crossing national and cultural barriers. No wonder that, worldwide, 125 million children are not attending school today (two-thirds of them girls) despite a decade of promises at UN conferences to get every child in the world into a classroom. Thus, as cash-strapped governments have cut education budgets, forcing schools to charge fees, schools have become little more than child minding centres.[31] 


In conclusion, in exactly the same way as the present neoliberal form of the internationalized market economy represents a synthesis of the liberal with the statist forms of it, neoliberal education expresses a similar synthesis of the liberal and statist types of education that I described above. Thus, the present neoliberal form of the market economy may be seen as completing the cycle which started in the 19th century when a liberal version of it was attempted. So, after the collapse of the first attempt to introduce a self-regulating economic system at that time, a new synthesis is attempted today. The new synthesis aims to avoid the extremes of pure liberalism, by combining essentially self-regulating markets with various types of safety nets and  controls, which secure the privileged position primarily of the “over-class” and secondarily that of the “two-thirds (or less!) society”, as well as the mere survival of the “under-class”, without affecting the self-regulation process in its essentials. Therefore, the ‘security state’ still has a significant role to play today not only in securing, through its monopoly of violence, the market economy framework but also in maintaining the infra-structure for the smooth functioning of the neoliberal economy. Similarly,  free schooling and its financing through general taxation  may be part of the safety nets being built at the moment for the underclass but the privileged social classes, including the vast middle classes in the North, should safely be expected to pay for the education of their children, particularly in higher education, where one government after another introduces at the moment various schemes of fees-based education financed by student loans which, ultimately, aim at integrating the youth into the existing system, at the very first stages of their adult lives.   


[1] Culture is frequently defined as the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behaviour. This is a definition broad enough to include all major aspects of culture: language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies and so on.

[2]  By this I mean the system of beliefs, ideas and the corresponding values which are dominant (or tend to become dominant)  in a particular society at a particular moment of its history, as most consistent with the existing political, economic and social institutions. The term ‘most consistent’ does not imply of course any kind of structure/superstructure relationship a la Marx. Both culture and the social paradigm are time- and space-dependent, i.e. they refer to a specific type of society at a specific time. Therefore, they both change from place to place and from one historical period to another and this makes any ‘general theory’ of History, which could determine the relationship between the cultural  and the political or economic elements in society, impossible.

[3]  For the differences between culture and dominant social paradigm, see Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Mass Media, Culture and Democracy’, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No 1 (March 1999), pp. 33-64.

[4]  See Takis Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy (London/N.Y.: Cassell/Continuum, 1997).

[5]  See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Towards a Democratic Liberatory Ethics’, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Nov.2002), pp 361-396.

[6]  Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 162.

[7]  Technical knowledge’ here means  the absorption of some general skills (reading, writing) as well as the introduction, at the early stages of schooling, to  some general scientific and technological ideas to be supplemented, at  later stages, by a higher degree of specialisation.     

[8]  Following Castoriadis, we may  call autonomous “a society that not only knows explicitly that it has created its own laws but has instituted itself so as to free its radical imaginary and enable itself to alter its institutions through collective, self-reflective, and deliberate activity.” On the basis of this definition Castoriadis then defines politics as “the lucid activity whose object is the institution of an autonomous society and the decisions about collective endeavours” –something that implies, as he points out, that  the project of an autonomous society becomes meaningless if It is not, at the same time, the project of bringing forth autonomous individuals, and vice versa . In the same sense, he defines democracy as the regime of collective reflectiveness [C. Castoriadis, World in Fragments, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 132].

[9]  Castoriadis, World in Fragments, p.131.

[10] See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Transitional Strategies and the Inclusive Democracy Project,’ Democracy & Nature, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 2002) pp. 17-62.

[11]  See Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The Myth of Postmodernity’, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 7, No. 1 (March 2001), pp. 27-76.

[12]  See Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 1.

[13]  Will Hutton, The State We’re In (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), p. 174.

[14]  See Nicholas Barr, The Economics of the Welfare State (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987), ch. 2.

[15]  See Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 75-79

[16] See Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 21-33.

[17]  See Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, ch 2.

[18]  See Fotopoulos, Towards An Inclusive Democracy, pp. 73-85 and 100-104. See also, Takis Fotopoulos, ‘The Catastrophe of Marketisation,” Democracy & Nature, Vol. 5, No. 2 (July 1999), pp. 275-310.

[19]  A. H. Halsey et al Origins and Destinations, Family, Class and Education in Modern Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980).

[20] J. H. Goldthorpe, Social Mobility & Class Structure in Modern Britain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), p. 252.

[21]  Takis Fotopoulos, ‘Globalisation, The Reformist Left and the Anti-Globalisation Movement’, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 7, No. 2 (July 2001), pp. 233-280.

[22] See Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, pp 33–46.

[23]  See Stephanie Pain, “When the Price Is Wrong,” The Guardian (27 Feb. 1997).

[24] See  The Castoriadis Reader, ed. David Ames Curtis (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997) p. 260.

[25] Tracy McVeigh, ‘Level of Illiteracy Among Young is Above that of 1912’, The Observer (August 19, 2001).

[26]  Ian Murray, ‘Class and Sex Still Decide Who Goes to University’, The Times (29 April 1993).

[27] Will Woodward , Students are the New Poor, The Guardian (June 27, 2001).

[28] David Walker, ‘Snakes and ladders’, The Guardian (March 28, 2002).

[29]  ibid.

[30] See Will Hutton, ‘The Class War Destroying Our Schools’, The Observer (May 26, 2002).

[31] Charlotte Denny, Paul Brown and Tim Radford. ‘The Shackles of Poverty’, The Guardian (August 22, 2002).