Educating radical democracy: theorising counter-capitalist possibility in neoliberal social systems

Amsler, Sarah (2016) Educating radical democracy: theorising counter-capitalist possibility in neoliberal social systems. In: Sociology Seminar Series, 2 March 2016, University of Warwick.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Lecture)
Item Status:Live Archive


In this talk, I explore themes in a project to understand the politics of possibility in dominating social systems, with particular interest in claims that prefigurative, autonomous and radical democratic politics are effective strategies for resisting neoliberal power and appropriate methods for generating viable counter-capitalist forms of life. After briefly outlining some common endorsements and critiques of radical democracy, I argue that in conditions of advanced neoliberal hegemony we must move beyond asking why the ‘balance of social forces is very powerfully against hope’, as Stuart Hall once described it, and towards understanding how certain kinds of political possibility are created or foreclosed through attempts to redress this balance. Drawing on research with educators who are fighting injustice and working to democratise social relations and institutions in neoliberal Brtain, I illustrate how reading their experiences through the lens of Ernst Bloch’s critical philosophy of possibility and his category of the ‘Front’ discloses the multi-layered and multi-sited complexities of such struggle. This work, which highlights conditions of possibility for creating critical rather than repressive encounters with power in this context, suggests that critical analysis and political strategy are most powerful when part of holistic projects which valorise radical learning and unlearning, the creation of new forms of reason – particularly those that render emergent potential and possibility intelligible, and everyday experimentation with counter-capitalist modes of thinking, feeling, acting, relating and being. In other words, I suggest that radical democratisation can be understood as a practical pedagogy of autonomy and hope rather than as a hopeless utopia or as a method for effecting radical change. I also share some critiques of this argument in order to invite a wider conversation which might advance our collective understanding of the politics of possibility today.

Keywords:radical democracy, autonomy, pedagogy of possibility, counter-capitalism, Ernst Bloch, education, neoliberalism
Subjects:L Social studies > L222 Democracy
L Social studies > L370 Social Theory
X Education > X990 Education not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
ID Code:25558
Deposited On:06 Jan 2017 12:35

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