Against Capitalist Education: What is Education for?

Against Capitalist Education: What is Education for?

by Nadim Bakhshov


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Out there in the so-called real world the education system is being crushed by the demands of capitalism and, in turn, is crushing those who pass through it, reducing them, diminishing them. The dream of the economic functioning unit. How do we break this? We need alternatives but not just one or two. We need the freedom and education to generate a trillion possibilities. An education system that is as broad as it is deep, that brings back a different type of thinking and a new use of fiction. This book signals the return of the dialogue and the conversation as the ground out of which new realities are born, the root out of which new alternatives are nurtured and explored.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781785350573
Publisher: Hunt, John Publishing
Publication date: 12/11/2015
Pages: 136
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Nadim Bakhshov has taken just under thirty years to develop a new category and field of mathematics that overturns the conceptual prejudices of the past four hundred years. He is currently working on a forthcoming application of an 'alien metaphysics' through the support of the Borges Library, Athenaeum House. He intends to generate a series of humanity reports through this work.

Read an Excerpt

Against Capitalist Education

What is Education For?

By Nadim Bakhshow

John Hunt Publishing Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 Nadim Bakhshov
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78535-058-0


Act One

Scene 1

When I came upon John Thoreau and George R Wells they were reclining on sofas in the lobby of the library with seven or so students who had already gathered around them, some I recognized from classes earlier that day, others from other universities. They were all sitting quietly, drinking, lost in thought, as if a question had been asked, or a challenge had been posed which none of them knew how to answer. I found a spare chair by the window. Through the thick frosted glass I saw people silently going about their business, the occasional black cab rushing off to its faraway destination, dodging cyclists. And just beyond the street, in the green square beyond, I found my eyes settle on the trees – oblivious to this human world, gently swaying in the autumnal winds, as if they were in a completely different time. Inside, immediately around me, the small group of students were beginning to chat, expressing some restlessness – is this going anywhere? Have we come to an end? Shouldn't we get back to halls? I manoeuvred my chair close to the edge of the cluster of sofas so I could see my friends John and George. There they were, sitting at the head of the group, lost in thought. I kept myself in the background, not wishing to be recognized nor interfere with the conversation that might unfold. John broke the silence.

John Let's just admit it's not working. Re-treading the same ground, looking for something amongst the ruins. Every time we find more withered seeds, nurture them, bring them back to life and see a possible future, it all breaks and crumbles. However hard we try to hold it, to keep it alive, we get two or three steps out and the capitalists get in our way. You have to pay for what you've found. By the time we persuade them to let us pass it's fallen apart in our hands, turned to dust. So go back, start again. Dig further down, go to the edges. You might find something no one else has. You might put something new together that won't fall apart, that might make a future. But it's not working. There are so few of us left, wandering amongst the dead earth and rubble. Haven't we exhausted this place? Haven't we tried too hard to take the smallest fragment to make a whole life?

John sighed.

John Where once stood an ancient castle now lies a ruin. And they keep us here, believing there's no other way. The wild forests beyond are empty and dark, full of danger. But here? What's left? I keep on finding broken stones concealing images of the Holocaust. Fragments of an abyss, a freedom to destroy. If we leave, if we fail, then the future is destined to repeat the past – another century of wars, nuclear bombs dropped on innocent lives – another Holocaust. Can you sense it? What will it be this time? The rot in our souls? The death of our home, this planet?

At this last comment several of the students murmured their agreement.

George So, what's left?

John Abandon all those revolutionary philosophies.

George Become pragmatists? We've had a century of pragmatism. It's made us deeply subservient to orthodoxies. Nothing should challenge the system because, as the pragmatists tell us, the system works.

John Science?

George Our love for science, that child of natural philosophy, has also been perverted, corrupted. Like Faust. Sold its soul. For what? A walk-on part in a television show? Paid in blood and become a prejudice. The prejudice grown into a dogma. And now education pays to defend this dogma with a new priesthood.

John That's unfair.

George Is it? This vast labyrinthine bureaucracy grows like a sickness in us. Everyday life, when we think we worry, we fear, we hide from the minotaur. Our everyday life is neither a tragedy nor a comedy but a banal television soap, endlessly repeating the same formulas, encountering the same souls with different faces. The world is becoming more claustrophobic, more hierarchical and the layers are smothering everything. Everyone's a policeman. Everyone's policing their own behaviour. Why? There's no God to do it for us.

John Have we all become Akaky Akakievichs?

There was a pause as one of the students dropped her notes. She muttered an apology.

George Mind games at work, petty politics everywhere, detached from any real concerns. I tell you, because I know these things. It's all about perception and who you know. Instead of life we have museums of dead thought. They're springing up everywhere. A veritable festival of pointless activity. Get kitted up. We've got a dig on this week. We found a corporate sponsor. They want some archaeological research to support an investment.

George sighed, then continued.

George Out there, the planet suffocates and burns. The red weed takes root across the Earth, polluting the ocean, killing off the forests. We don't need an alien invasion. We've got capitalism. And it's in permanent crisis, co-opting or generating – not sure which – greed, fear and terror, a contagion of the spirit – flattening everything in its path. The cybernetic dream – humans as functioning economic units. Why have civilisation and education when you can have technology? Can't you feel the grip of this destructive downward movement? We want to prove we are absolutely free. So let's drag Hell up into the world. As if we're trying to prove our freedom by destroying everything that matters.

John sighed and shifted awkwardly.

John Every night my anxiety haunts my dreams, every working day of my life I sense its presence slumbering below, like some Lovecraftian monster, waiting to destroy everything I love.

George I feel the same.

John Do we need a bloody revolution?

George But under what banner?

They paused.

Scene 2

George frowned. The students began to whisper between themselves.

John I'm sick of this. All this effort wasted on critical theory. It's only part of the picture. Let's shift the axis, put some energy into telling stories. Use fiction, myths and story-telling to understand and explain the world. We've done it for centuries. Before Derrida there was Sophocles. Let's cut back critical theory. Let's read Moore's Utopia instead, chase the tail of utopian fiction through the past four hundred years. Or Gulliver's Travels? Get stuck into a satire. Better still read Balzac. I read somewhere that Marx claimed all his most important insights came from Balzac. Or Kafka and Gogol – get every school child to study the Overcoat. I know you don't think much of science fiction, but Wells, Huxley and Orwell – now there were some profound things said in their writings, writing which was also popular.

George There is, no doubt, a clear connection between fiction and the revolutionary spirit.

John But?

George But there's still a problem here. We can't change the world solely through discussions of books and films. Nor can we rely on critical theorising. With one we get caught in the subtleties of metaphor, language and imagery, with the other we get trapped in technicalities. Two different paths, each one moving away from what is needed.

John To change the world?

George Yes. To change the world. We need a path through all of this that involves fiction and critical theory but doesn't just look at the world. It generates a world. A combination of the two that –

John That what?

George That might plant the desire for a revolution in the human imagination.

Some of the students began to write. A couple got up and rushed into the library, chatting quietly and urgently to each other. We all watched them go.

The last comment hung in the air.

Scene 3

Early evening began to settle over the library. Small groups filed past, books, tablets and notepads in arms.

John Are we stuck?

George I am. Like a broken record. I keep on saying that I need to do something – I need a new path. So I'll go into the woods below the hill and find my own path. Under my arm I'll have a book. It won't be a work of academic philosophy. That won't help me where I want to go. When I'm struggling at work, some petty tyrant overseeing my work, micro-managing me, I imagine myself entering this wood, away from everyone, free, able to think. I find a clearing and open my book. And I find the writer is trying to imagine a world, a just world. It haunts him. Work ends. I go home and at the weekends I talk about films, books, critical thinkers and philosophers with friends or sometimes I sit by myself. I can't shake it off. Something in that book. It keeps on flashing through my mind. Some hint, some possibility. A revolution? But the book is odd, unusual. It is a written conversation. And in the exchange of this written conversation I find something extraordinary. A way of thinking. A way of thinking that needs the imagination. A way of thinking that simply doesn't give some worked-out plan of a just world. A way of thinking that shows itself as a shared, social activity. All in a conversation. But a written conversation? Really? Am I serious? Who writes them these days? Who writes a drama of the imagination and reason? But there's something more. What if the written conversation can open up something revolutionary ...?

John Revolutionary?

Scene 4

George I have a thought. A crazy thought. I'd like to try something if you'll indulge it? Can we talk about a place, an invented place. I don't mean an alien world or a far-away utopia. What about a university? One designed on educational principles that runs counter to capitalism. One that is wired to the social, political and economic realities of our global world in a radically different way.

John An alternative university?

George How about it? We both know how discussions on the future of humanity end. In a museum of thought poring over some technical or specialised language – as if talking about change with the right words in the right order will make any difference. Or they pass the responsibility back to economics and politics. Or they give up thought. Or, for some, they abandon political change and fly off to some Californian new age guru who'll sort it all out. Round and round in circles we go, getting dizzier and dizzier, losing our balance. Every turn making promises, opening paths that are never pursued. The gap between theory and practice growing every day. We need to close this gap, find a bridge, a path between the two. Let's see if we can put flesh on alternative educational principles. See what a university might look like.

John Flesh?

George Concrete buildings, lecture rooms, seminar rooms, laboratories – yes, flesh. If we are going to imagine a university surely we're going to have to imagine the town or city it is located in? And, perhaps, the world that it exists in. But only minimally. We are not creating a whole world. We need to keep our focus narrow.

John It's quite an unusual way of conducting an argument. Build an imaginative place and university in some made-up town or city and then see how it all fits together?

George It's been attempted once before.

John Moore's Utopia?

George No. Plato's Republic.

Scene 5

A silence fell between them. One of the students to my immediate left shifted awkwardly. John glanced up at her.

John Where is this imagined university going to be?

George Here's a strange thought. Let's try and imagine it's actually out there. When we speak about it let's try and speak in the present tense. I want to make it as real as possible. Rather than get lost in the art of creating it in our conversation, even though we are creating it in our conversation. Instead let's talk as if it's out there now, in the real world.

John Well, George, that's so unusual that I think it's worth a go.

Scene 6

George So, there's a small town west of London, close to the M40 to Oxford. It's called Westhampton. If you were to draw a line straight up from Southampton you'd find it. It's less than a hundred years old. It grew out of seeking cheaper living costs for those working in the colleges of London University. There's a great train line between Westhampton and Paddington. Part of London's commuter belt. In addition to all those professors, doctors and poor research graduates it is actually populated by lots of people who service London. It's currently got a growing population of around 100,000. Okay?

John hesitated.

John You've started this crazy idea of yours, haven't you? You think we can really do this? Imagine a real alternative? Or are you going to say something even more dramatic? Are you going to say a revolutionary alternative?

George Well, that's the key question. On its own it cannot be revolutionary. But it is a start of a movement. If we imagine an education that is so radically different from what we have; if we try to visualise it out there – as if it really were there, living, breathing, trying to survive – don't you think it might lead to something?

John You're making imagination very political.

George Politics wouldn't exist without imagination.

John But if we fail?

George So what if we fail. If we don't do it because we fear failure, nothing will change. We will stay in the same state, go round the same circles, forever repeating the same mistakes and watch as our current educational systems are crushed under the force of capitalism. Is that what we want? Do we not want to try? Do we not want a different power, a power to change, a power to transform this fragmented world into a future of peace? I for one think this is worth doing even if it is doomed from the outset. Because I want a global civilisation that brings peace to life on earth, that overcomes capitalism and re-enchants existence. Are you with me? One thing we both agree upon is the need for alternatives, not just one, but an education system that generates trillions of them – we need imagination and thought working together. We need to start this movement today.

John Then I am with you. I've got nothing better to do than give this a go.

Scene 7

George paused, looked through his notes and then continued. He seemed slightly annoyed at that last remark.

George Westhampton recently opened up its own university. Let's start by talking about its founding educational principles.

John Why start there? Why not describe the building? The physical layout? Get a feel for how it looks? Is it a campus university? Does it have its own accommodation?

George We could, but it's not the physical building that makes it radical or different.

They stopped. A group of elderly scholars walked by from reception, passing them without looking their way. John glanced up, recognised one, lifted a hand but then noticed George staring at him and withdrew. When they had passed out of view a silence fell over the group.

John I think I see your point. Out there in the so-called real world, the education system is being crushed – as you say – by the demands of capitalism and, in turn, it's crushing those who pass through it, reducing them, diminishing them. The dream of the economic functioning unit. But how do we fight it from within? It's so easy to become a career academic – learn the specialised vocabularies, accept the rules and join in. Say the right things to the right people. Get that promotion. If they question you, show them all your publications. Show them how you've contributed.

George But don't worry if you don't have any impact on real lives?

John How do you stop the system from being corrupted from within?

They paused. The student next to me began scribbling down some notes.

George We need to be honest. The wasteland is growing. There's no doubt about that. And the system is being corrupted from within. People just don't see it. We need to shine a light into the heart of things. But to do that we need a light powerful enough to show the corruption for what it is. An alternative generates a different light. That's what we need. That's the first step.

John Okay. Then continue with this crazy idea of Westhampton University.


Excerpted from Against Capitalist Education by Nadim Bakhshow. Copyright © 2014 Nadim Bakhshov. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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