Global Neo-Liberalism, the Deformation of Education and Resistance

Dave Hill

University College Northampton, UK
The Institute for Education Policy Studies, UK

Citation information
author: Dave Hill Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies
Volume 1, Number 1 (March 2003)
ISSN 1740-2743

In this paper I position the increasing inequality inside and between education and economic and social systems within the policy context of global neo-liberal Capitalism. Restructuring of schooling and education has taken place internationally under pressure from local and international capitalist organisations and compliant governments. In this paper I examine some effects of neo-liberal policies. These have increased inequalities globally and nationally, diminished democratic accountability and stifled critical thought-by compressing and repressing critical space in education today.

I critique neo-liberal theory in education policy and suggest how the marketisation of education has deformed a number of aspects of education: its goals, motivations, methods, standards of excellence and standards of freedom in education. Capital and neo-liberal ideology and policy seek to neutralise and destroy potential pockets of resistance to global corporate expansion and neo-liberal Capital, serving to perpetuate the interests of Capital at the expense of the global and national working class. The intrusion of Capital into education threatens to undermine one important site for its contestation.

I conclude by looking at sites of resistance to the global neo-liberal deformation of education and society and by calling for education and other cultural workers to work towards economic and social equality.

Keywords: Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism, Resistance, Neo-Liberalism, Globalisation, Education, Business, Inequality, Social Class


The Contexts of Educational Change
The current anti-egalitarian education system needs to be contextualised in two ways. Firstly, the ideological and policy context, and second, the geographical global/spatial context.

The restructuring of the schooling and education systems across the world is part of the ideological and policy offensive by neo-liberal Capital. The privatisation of public services, the capitalisation and commodification of humanity and the global diktats of the agencies of international Capital- backed by destabilisation of non-conforming governments and, ultimately, the armed cavalries of the USA and its allies and surrogates- have resulted in the near-global (if not universal) establishment of competitive markets in public and welfare services such as education. These education markets are marked by selection, exclusion and are accompanied by and situated within the rampant- indeed, exponential- growth of national and international inequalities.

It is important to look at the big picture. Markets in education, so-called `parental choice´ of a diverse range of schools (or, in parts of the globe, the `choice´ as to whether to send children to school or not) privatisation of schools and other education providers, cutting state subsidies to education and other public services are only a part of the educational and anti-public welfare strategy of the capitalist class.

National and global capitalisms wish to, and have generally succeeded in cutting public expenditure. It does this because public services are expensive- a tax on Capital. Cuts in public expenditure serve to reduce taxes on profits, which in turn increases profits from capital accumulation. In addition, the capitalist class in Britain and the USA have:

a Business Plan for Education: this centres on socially producing labour-power (people´s capacity to labour) for capitalist enterprises,
a Business Plan in Education: this centre on setting business ´free´ in education for profit-making,
a Business Plan for Educational Businesses: this is a plan for British and US based Edubusinesses to profit from international privatising activities.
The Current neo-liberal Project of Global Capitalism
The fundamental principle of Capitalism is the sanctification of private (or, corporate) profit based on the extraction of surplus labour (unpaid labor-time) as surplus value from the labor-power of workers. It is a creed and practice of (racialized and gendered) class exploitation, exploitation by the capitalist class of those who provide the profits through their labor, the national and international working class (1). It is a creed and a practice that is expanding both geographically and sectorally.

As Raduntz (forthcoming) argues,

globalisation is not a qualitatively new phenomenon but a tendency, which has always been integral to capitalism´s growth... Within the Marxist paradigm there is growing recognition of the relevance of Marx´s account expressed in the Communist Manifesto that globalisation is the predictable outcome of capitalism´s expansionary tendencies evident since its emergence as a viable form of society (Raduntz, 2002) (2)
For neo-liberals, `profit is God´, not the public good. Capitalism is not,
essentially, kind. Plutocrats are not, essentially, philanthropic, even though some individuals may well be so. In Capitalism it is the insatiable demand for profit that is the motor for policy, not public or social or common weal, or good. With great power comes great irresponsibility. Thus privatised utilities, such as the railway system, health and education services, free and clean water supply are run to maximise the shareholders´ profits, rather than to provide a public service (3), sustainable development of Third World national economic integrity and growth. These are not on the agenda of globalizing, or indeed, of national neo-liberal Capital.

Furthermore, McMurtry (1999) describes ´the Pathologization of the Market Model´. He suggests that the so-called `free-market model´ is not a free market at all, that to argue for a ´free market´ in anything these days is a delusion: the ´market model´ that we have today is really the system that benefits the ´global corporate market´. This is a system where the rules are rigged to favour huge multinational and transnational corporations that take-over, destroy or incorporate (hence the ´cancer´ stage of capitalism) small businesses, innovators, etc. that are potential competitors.

It is a system where the rules are flouted by the USA and the European Union, which continue to subsidise, for example, their own agricultural industries, while demanding that states receiving IMF or World Bank funding throw their markets open (to be devastated by subsidised EU and US imports) (4). Thus, opening education to the market, in the long run, will open it to the corporate giants, in particular US and British based Transnational Companies - who will run it in their own interests.

Rikowski (e.g. 2001, 2002a, b and others (e.g. Coates, 2001; Robertson, Bonal and Dale, 2001, Mojab, 2001, Pilger, 2002)) argue that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other `global clubs for the mega-capitalists´ are setting this agenda up in education across the globe, primarily through the developing operationalizing and widening sectoral remit of the GATS, the General Agreement on Trade in Services.

Education, Class and Capital
How does education fit into the neo-liberal agenda? Glenn Rikowski´s work, such as The Battle in Seattle (2001) develops a Marxist analysis based on an analysis of `labour power´. With respect to education, he suggests that teachers are the most dangerous of workers because they have a special role in shaping, developing and forcing the single commodity on which the whole capitalist system rests: labour-power. In the capitalist labour process, labour-power is transformed into value-creating labour, and, at a certain point, surplus value - value over-and-above that represented in the worker´s wage - is created. Surplus-value is the first form of the existence of Capital. It is the lifeblood of Capital. As Rikowski notes, without it, Capital could not be transformed into money, on sale of the commodities that incorporate value, and hence the capitalist could not purchase the necessary raw materials, means of production and labour-power to set the whole cycle in motion once more. But, most importantly for the capitalist, is that part of the surplus-value forms his or her profit - and it is this that drives the capitalist on a personal basis. It is this that defines the personal agency of the capitalist!

Teachers are dangerous because they are intimately connected with the social production of labour-power, equipping students with skills, competences, abilities, knowledge and the attitudes and personal qualities that can be expressed and expended in the capitalist labour process. Teachers are guardians of the quality of labour-power! This potential, latent power of teachers why representatives of the State might have sleepless nights worrying about their role in ensuring that the labourers of the future are delivered to workplaces throughout the national capital of the highest possible quality.

Rikowski suggests that the State needs to control the process for two reasons. First to try to ensure that this occurs. Secondly, to try to ensure that modes of pedagogy that are antithetical to labour-power production do not and cannot exist. In particular, it becomes clear, on this analysis, that the capitalist State will seek to destroy any forms of pedagogy that attempt to educate students regarding their real predicament - to create an awareness of themselves as future labour-powers and to underpin this awareness with critical insight that seeks to undermine the smooth running of the social production of labour-power. This fear entails strict control, for example, of the curriculum for teacher education and training, of schooling, and of educational research.

It also, as Boxley (2003, in this journal) points out, entails strict regulation and self-regulation by teachers of their own pedagogy, where `teachers are aware that the very ways in which they themselves relate to their students are being constrained by the expectations of performative measurability´. Boxley asks the question, `are they becoming to their very hearts Standardised Assessment Task teachers? and quotes Fielding (1999), `How many teachers of young children are now able to listen attentively in a non-instrumental way withourt feeling guilty about the absence of criteria or the insistence of a target tugging at their sleeve?´ (p.280).

Neo-Liberalism and its Effects
Neo-liberal policies both in the UK and globally have resulted in

a loss of Equity, Economic and Social Justice
a loss of Democracy and democratic accountability
a loss of critical thought within a culture of performativity.
The Growth of National and Global Inequalities
Inequalities both between states and within states have increased dramatically during the era of global neo-liberalism. Global Capital, in its current Neo-Liberal form in particular, leads to human degradation and inhumanity and increased social class inequalities within states and globally. These effects are increasing (racialized and gendered) social class inequality within states, increasing (racialized and gendered) social class inequality between states. The degradation and capitalisation of humanity, including the environmental degradation impact primarily in a social class related manner. Those who can afford to buy clean water don´t die of thirst or diarrhoea. In schooling, those with the cultural and economic capital to secure positional advantage in a local school quasi-market do so. Those who can´t, suffer the consequences (Ball, 2003a, b).

Kagarlitsky has pointed out that `globalisation does not mean the impotence of the state, but the rejection by the state of its social functions, in favour of repressive ones, and the ending of democratic freedoms (2001, quoted in Pilger, 2002, p. 5). Many commentators (5) have discussed the change since the mid-1970s in many advanced capitalist economies from a social democratic/ welfare statist/ Keynesian state to a neo-liberal state, to what Gamble (1988) has termed The Free Economy and the Strong State. The strong state, the repressive apparatuses of the state, have, of course, been dramatically upgraded (in terms of surveillance, control, e-privacy, policing in its various forms) in the wake of September 11th 2001 (6).

In Britain the increasing inequalities, the impoverishment and creation of a substantial underclass has also been well documented (e.g. Hill and Cole, 2001) (7). In Britain the ratio of chief executives´ pay to average worker´s pay stands at 35 to one. In the USA it has climbed to 450 to one (from around 35 to one in the mid-1980s) (Hutton, 2001). Brenner has noted how in the USA CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) owned 2% of market capitalisation in 1992, yet by 2002 they owned 12%, `the greatest of the appropriations by the expropriators´ (Brenner, 2002a. See also Brenner, 2002b, c).

Myoshi, speaking in approximate terms, has argued that the gap between the richest and the poorest in the USA, expressed in terms of the income of CEOs in relation to the poorest groups in society was 30:1 in 1970, 60:1 in 1990, and by 1997-98 had grown to 500:1- without perks (Myoshi, 2002). Susan George (2001) has pointed out that

If workers had been rewarded like their chief executive officers they would be making an average $110,000 a year, not $23,000, and the minimum hourly wage in the US would be $22 not $5.15 (p.19)
In the USA, for example, the economic apartheid nature of capitalism has been widely exposed in the work of Peter McLaren (e.g. 2000). To give an USA example, the top 1 percent of the richest people have wealth--financial wealth- equal to the bottom 95 percent (8).

To take one more country, in Brazil the richest 10% of the population are 78 times better off than the poorest 10%, the 20 biggest landowners own more land than the 3.3 million small farmers (Socialist Worker, 2002).

The current form of globalisation is tightening rather than loosening the international poverty trap. Miyoshi has pointed out the exponential nature of the growth in inequalities, showing that in 1900 the gap in per capita wealth between the richest countries and the Third World was around 5:1, in 1970m it was still only 7:1, by 1990 it was 260-360:1, by 2002 it has become 470-500:1 (Myoshi, 2002). Living standards in the least developed countries are now lower than thirty years ago. 300 million people live on less than a dollar a day.

Global inequalities have been well described with the IMF/World Bank inspired cuts in health and welfare budgets throughout the third world. The World Development Movement (WDM), Globalise Resistance, Attac, and myriad other movements and organisations, together with the Marxist and left-liberal press expose the cause and the effects of global neo-liberal Capital (e.g. WDM, 2002). Most TV programmes and newspapers don´t.

The Growth of education quasi-markets and markets and the growth of educational inequality
There is considerable data on how poor schools have, by and large, got poorer (in terms of relative education results and in terms of total income) and how rich schools (in the same terms) have got richer. Whitty, Power and Halpin (1998) examined the effects of the introduction of quasi-markets into education systems in USA, Sweden, England and Wales, Australia and New Zealand. Their book is a review of the research evidence. Their conclusion is that one of the results of marketizing education is that increasing `parental choice´ of schools, and/ or setting up new types of schools, in effect increases school choice of parents and their children and thereby sets up or exacerbates racialized school hierarchies (9).

Markets thus exacerbate existing inequalities. Governments in, for example, Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand have marketized their school systems. Racialized social class patterns of inequality have increased. And at the level of University entry, the (racialized) class based hierarchicalization of universities is exacerbated by `top-up fees´ for entry to elite universities- pricing the poor out of the system- or at least- into the lower divisions of higher education. On an international level, World Bank and IMF diktats have resulted in the actual disappearance of formerly free nationally funded health and education services.

The Growth of Undemocratic (Un)accountability
Within education and other public services business values and interests are increasingly substituted for democratic accountability and the collective voice. This applies at the local level, where, in Britain for example, private companies- national or transnational- variously build, own, run and govern state schools and other sections of local government educational services (Hatcher and Hirtt, 1999; Hatcher, 2001, 2002). As Wilson (2002) asks,

There is an important democratic question here. Is it right to allow private provides of educational services based outside Britain (and, I would add, inside Britain, too, indeed, wherever they are based). In the event of abuse or corruption, where and how would those guilty be held to account? ´Who is the guarantor of `the last resort´?.
This anti-democratisation applies too at national levels. As Barry Coates has pointed out, `GATS locks countries into a system of rules that means it is effectively impossible for governments to change policy, or for voters to elect a new government that has different policies´ 2001, P.28).

The Loss of Critical Thought.
The increasing subordination of education to the demands of Capital, including university education, and its commodification, have been well-documented (10). As Rikowski (2003) points out, there are three Modes of Critique´. These are:

The difference between the Ideal (how things should be) according to government policy, or a mission statement, or various aims and objectives and how they actually Are. These are differences between theory and practice.
Questions of individual fairness and justice, and social justice (fairness in terms of relative equality as between social groups).
Fundamental critique: how the core processes and phenomena of capitalist society (value, Capital, labour, labour-power, value-creation and capital accumulation and so on) generate contradictions and tensions in `everyday life´ - for individuals, groups, classes, societies and on an international scale.
Critical Space consists of those social places and spaces where critique (especially Mode 3 - Fundamental Critique) is possible. Effective critical space comprises those social places and spaces where such critique actually occurs. Of course, these social spaces will vary as between the different Modes of Critique. Some critical spaces may incorporate more than one mode. Critical space is about the potential and actuality for criticism of existing society and the search for alternatives. The argument Rikowski advances is that critical space - space for critical education studies and research- is being compressed in education today. ). For example, education research in Britain is being channelled into uncritical technicist (an obsession with `what works´). There are becoming fewer opportunities for engaging with critiques of society and education within formal education (see also Hill, 2001a, 2003b; Boxley, 2003, and Ball, 1999 -criticised in Boxley´s article in this journal).

One aspect is that, other than at elite institutions, where the student intake is the wealthiest and most upper class, there is little scope for critical thought. In my own work I have examined how the British government has, in effect, expelled most potentially critical aspects of education, such as sociological and political examination of schooling and education, and questions of social class, `race´ and gender from the national curriculum for what is now termed `teacher training´. `Teacher Training´ was formerly called `teacher education´. The change in nomeclature is important both symbolically and in terms of actual accurate descriptiveness of the new, `safe´, sanitised and detheorised education and training of new teachers (11)

McMurtry (below) discusses the philosophical incompatibility between the demands of Capital and the demands of education, inter alia, with respect to critical thought. Governments throughout the world are settling this incompatibility more sand more on terms favourable to Capital.

What neo-liberalism demands
The difference between classic (laisser-faire) liberalism of the mid-nineteenth century Britain, and the neo-liberalism of today, based on the views of the neo-liberal theorist Hayek, is that the former wanted to roll back the state, to let private enterprise make profits relatively unhindered by legislation (e.g. safety at work, trade union rights, minimum wage), and unhindered by the tax costs of a welfare state.

On the other hand, neo-liberalism demands a strong state to promote its interests. Andrew Gamble´s (1988) depicted the Thatcherite polity as The Free Economy and the Strong State: The Politics of Thatcherism. The strong Interventionist State is needed by Capital particularly in the field of education and training- in the field of producing an ideologically compliant but technically skilled workforce. The social production of labour-power is crucial for capitalism. It needs to extract as much surplus value as it can from the labour power of workers.

The current globally dominant form of capitalism, neo-liberalism, requires the following within national states:

Inflation should be controlled by interest rates, preferably by an independent central bank.
Budgets should be balanced and not used to influence demand - or at any rate not to stimulate it.
Privatisation/Private ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
The provision of a Market in goods and services- including private sector involvement in welfare, social, educational and other state services (such as air traffic control, prisons, policing, railways).
Within education the creation of `opportunity´ to acquire the means of education (though not necessarily education itself, as McMurtry notes, below) and additional cultural capital, through selection.
Relatively untrammelled selling and buying of labour power, for a `flexible´, poorly regulated labour market (Costello and Levidow, 2001), deregulation of the labour market - for labour flexibility (with consequences for education).
The restructuring of the management of the welfare state on the basis of a corporate managerialist model imported from the world of business. As well as the needs of the economy dictating the principal aims of school education, the world of business is also to supply a model of how it is to be provided and managed.
Suppression of oppositional critical thought and much autonomous thought and education.
Within a regime of denigration and humbling of publicly provided services.
Within a regime of cuts in the post-war Welfare State, the withdrawal of state subsidies and support, and low public expenditure.
Internationally, neo-liberalism requires that:

Barriers to international trade, capitalist enterprise and the extraction of natural resources -such as oil- should be removed
There should be a ´level playing field´ for companies of any nationality within all sectors of national economies
Trade rules and regulations are necessary to underpin ´ free´ trade, with a system for penalising ´ unfair´ trade policies
The above three restrictions do not apply in all cases to the USA (or other major centres of capitalist power). These may impose the above by diplomatic, economic or military means
Capitalism´s Business Plan for Education
How, in more detail, do education markets fit into the grand plan for schooling and education? What is capitalism´s `Business Plan for Education´?

In pursuit of these agendas, New Public Managerialism- the importation into the old public services of the language and management style of private Capital, have replaced the ethic and language and style of public service and duty. Education as a social institution has been subordinated to international market goals including the language and self-conceptualisation of educators themselves (see Mulderrig, 2002, 2003; Levidow, 2002). Mulderrig (in the current edition of this journal) shows how,

Education is theoretically positioned in terms of its relationship with the economy and broader state policy (where) an instrumental rationality underlies education policy discourse, manifested in the pervasive rhetoric and values of the market in the representation of educational participants and practices.
She theorises this

as an indicator of a general shift towards the commodification of education and the concomitant consumerisation of social actors (within which) discourse plays a significant role in constructing and legitimising post-welfare learning policy as a key aspect of the ongoing project of globalization. (12)
Within Universities and vocational further education the language of education has been very widely replaced by the language of the market, where lecturers `deliver the product´, `operationalize delivery´ and `facilitate clients´ learning´, within a regime of `quality management and enhancement´, where students have become `customers´ selecting `modules´ on a pick´n´mix basis, where `skill development´ at Universities has surged in importance to the derogation of the development of critical thought.

The Business Agenda and Education
Richard Hatcher (2001, 2002) shows how Capital/Business has two major aims for schools. The first aim is to ensure that schooling and education engage in ideological and economic reproduction. National state education and training policies in the business agenda FOR education are of increasing importance for national capital. In an era of global Capital, this is one of the few remaining areas for national state intervention- it is the site, suggests Hatcher, where a state can make a difference.

The second aim- the Business Agenda IN schools- is for private enterprise, private capitalists, to make money out of it, to make private profit out of it, to control it: this is the business agenda IN schools.

The Business Agenda FOR Schools
Thus, business firstly education fit for business- to make schooling and further and higher education subordinate to the personality, ideological and economic requirements of Capital, to make sure schools produce compliant, ideologically indoctrinated, pro- capitalist, effective workers.

This first agenda constitutes a broad transnational consensus about the set of reforms needed for schools to meet employers´ needs in terms of the efficiency with which they produce the future workforce. The business agenda for schoolsis increasingly transnational, generated and disseminated through key organizations of the international economic and political elite such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In that global context there is a project for education at the European level, which represents the specific agenda of the dominant European economic and political interests. It is expressed in, for example, the various reports of the European Round Table (ERT) of industrialists, a pressure group of 45 leaders of major European companies from 16 countries, and it has become the motive force of the education policies of the European Commission and its subsidiary bodies. Monbiot quotes the ERT as saying `the provision of education is a market opportunity and should be treated as such (ERT, 1998, cited in Monbiot, 2001, p. 331. See also Hatcher and Hirtt, 1999).

The Business Agenda IN Schools
Secondly, it wants to make profits from education and other privatised public services such as water supply and healthcare.

In the USA the work of Alex Molnar (e.g. 2001), and work by Richard (e.g. 1999, 2001), George Monbiot (e.g. 2000, 2001, 2002). Susan Robertson (e.g. Robertson, Bonal and Dale, 2001) and by Glenn Rikowski in Britain (2001, 2002a, b, c, d) highlights another aspect of what national and multinational Capital wants from schooling and education- it wants profits through owning and controlling them. Thus privatisation of schools and educational services is becoming `big business´. (so, too, are libraries- see Ruth Rikowski, 2002). Of course, ultimate responsibility within private company owned schools and colleges and libraries is not to children, students or the community- it is to the owners and the shareholders.

Such privatisation and loss of tax/publicly funded clean water, clinics and schools results directly in death, disease and dumbing down.

The Business Agenda Internationally- The GATS and British and United States Companies in the vanguard of privatisation internationally
Rikowski (2002a) examines the gathering pace of GATS and the British government´s role in seeking to give British companies the lead in educational privatisation internationally.

He points out that since February 2000, a whole series of GATS negotiations have taken place. These discussions were consolidated in March 2001 through an intensive series of meetings, and there will be a final deadline of December 2002 for an agreement on a strengthened GATS process. This explains the urgency regarding privatisation of public services in the UK today. As Matheson (2000) notes

Backed by the US and UK Governments, the WTO aims to liberalise the service sector further. The immediate impact would be the privatisation of some services that have so far been provided by governments. Governments would be obliged to sell off such services as housing, education and water. (p.9, cited in Rikowski 2002b p. 14).
The drive to privatise public services is powered by a number of forces, but in terms of the GATS the urgency derives from two main considerations. First, home-grown operators need to be nurtured - and quickly - so that when a more powerful GATS process exists then UK operators in education, health, social services and libraries can fend off foreign enterprises.

This is not just because the Government believes that more of the profits from these privatised public services are likely to remain in the UK; it is primarily because of the need to ´ sell´ the idea of private companies running schools, hospitals, libraries and social services to the British public. Whilst French companies might be tolerated in providing electricity or water, the UK Government perceives there may be more of a problem with American or other nation´s companies running schools as profit-making ventures.

Secondly, as Monbiot (2002) indicates, drawing on the work of Hatcher (2001), the Government is also mightily concerned that the fledgling UK businesses currently taking over our public services can develop rapidly into export earners. This is already happening. For example, the education business Nord Anglia is already exporting its services to Russia and the Ukraine as well as running schools and local education authority services in the UK. Many UK universities have franchised operations and a whole raft of deals with other colleges and universities in other countries. UK University Schools of Education generate income through consultancies that advise countries like Chile, Poland and Romania how to restructure school systems. The Government is keen to maximise this export potential across all the public services.

The WTO has identified 160 service sectors, and British and US businesses would benefit particularly if the GATS could liberalise trade in services still further by incorporating currently ´ public´ services into their export drives.

In 2000, Britain exported £67 billion worth of services. New education, health, library, and social services business would provide ´ new opportunities for this export trade to expand massively´ (Tibbett, 2001, p. 11). Thus, ´ International businesses have now seized on service provision as a money-making opportunity´ (Matheson, 2000, p. 9). As the WTO Services Division Director David Hartridge said in a speech in 2000, ´ [GATS] can and will speed up the process of liberalisation and reform, and make it irreversible´ (ibid.).

The pressure from corporations on the US, British and other EU governments to deliver on the GATS is colossal. As Allyson Pollock argues, ´ [business] sponsors and the Treasury are clear that the future of British business rests on trading in public services on an international scale regardless of the social costs´ (Pollock, 2001).

Kaplan notes that

Privatization and deregulation are the declared public policy goals now pursued by many governments across the globe, seeking to erode and eliminate government services such as health care, education, and social services, with the goal of giving over as much as possible of these public services to private companies. This includes the integration of schooling into the rules governing trade that were negotiated within the framework of the World Trade Organization. To date more than 38 member countries of the WTO have already agreed to reduce or even completely eliminate barriers to the supply of educational services from abroad. The leaders in educational trade include the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. (Kaplan, 2002)
Finally, the leading capitalist powers (the ´Quad´ - the US, EU, Japan and Canada), driven on by major corporations and business interests, are

"trying to revise GATS so it could be used to overturn almost any legislation governing services from national to local level. ... Particularly under threat from GATS are public services - health care, education, energy, water and sanitation... A revised GATS could give the commercial sector further access and could make existing privatizations effectively irreversible. (Sexton, 2001, p. 1)
This is what the end game is for the GATS timetable in late 2004. This helps to explain the British Government´s determination to push through privatizations, to provide de-regulatory frameworks for state services (e.g. the recent Education Bill) and to nurture the growth of indigenous businesses that can virus public sector operations.

Neo-liberal Theory and Policy Deforming Education
I now want to look at one theoretical and academic aspect of some neo-liberal arguments and suggest where they fall down. Neo-liberals such as James Tooley (2000; see also 2001) make a number of unwarranted implications or conclusions about the role of the state in education and about the role of the market in education. These relate to their assumption that the market/privatisation is compatible with education.

But education is not a commodity, to be bought and sold. One can buy the means to an education, but not the hard graft of autonomous learning itself. John McMurtry (1991, pp.211-214), among others, has noted that education and the capitalist market in terms of their opposing goals, opposing motivations, opposing methods, and opposing standards of excellence.

The Goals of education and the Goals of markets
Firstly, the goals of education. McMurtry (1991) notes that private profit is acquired by a structure of appropriation, which excludes others from its possession. The greater its accumulation by any private corporation, the more wealth others are excluded from in this kind of possession. This is what makes such ownership `private´.

Education, in contrast, is acquired by a structure of appropriation that does not exclude others from its possession. On the contrary, education is furthered the more it is shared, and the more there is free and open access to its circulation. That is why learning which is not conveyed to others is deemed `lost´, `wasted´ or `dead´. In direct opposition to market exchanges, educational changes flourish most with the unpaid gifts of others and develop the more they are not mediated by private possession or profit.

The Motivations of Education and Motivations of Markets
Secondly, opposing motivations. McMurtry notes that `the determining motivation of the market is to satisfy the wants of whoever has the money to purchase the goods that are provided. The determining motivation of education is to develop sound understanding whether it is wanted or not´ (my italics). `The market by definition can only satisfy the motivations of those who have the money to buy the product it sells.

The place of education, on the other hand, remains a place of education insofar as it educates those whose motivation is to learn, independent of the money-demand they exercise in their learning´. In addition, `development of understanding is necessarily growth of cognitive capacity; wherein satisfaction of consumer wants involves neither, and typically impedes both´.

The Methods of Education and The Methods of Markets
Thirdly, opposing methods. `The method of the market is to buy or sell the goods it has to offer to anyone for whatever price one can get. The method of education is never to buy or sell the item it has to offer, but to require of all who would have it that they fulfil its requirements autonomously´... Everything that is to be had on the market is acquired by the money paid for it. Nothing that is learned in education is acquired by the money paid for it´.

Standards of Excellence in Education and Standards of Excellence in Markets
Fourthly, opposing Standards of Excellence. `The measures of excellence in the market are (i) how well the product is made to sell; and (ii) how problem-free the product is and remains for its buyers. The measures of excellence in education are (i) how disinterested and impartial its representations are; and (ii) how deep and broad the problems it poses are to one who has it´. the first works through `one sided sales pitches...which work precisely because they are not understood´, the second `must rule out one-sided presentation appetitive compulsion and manipulative conditioning´.

In analysing the relationship between neo-liberalism and education, the last critical theoretical point I wish to make here is that the Market suppresses Critical Thought and Education itself.

Standards of Freedom in Education and Standards of Freedom in Markets
McMurtry concludes, powerfully, `this fundamental contradiction in standards of excellence leads, in turn, to opposite standards of freedom. Freedom in the market is the enjoyment of whatever one is able to buy from others with no questions asked, and profit from whatever one is able to sell to others with no requirement to answer to anyone else. Freedom in the place of education, on the other hand, is precisely the freedom to question, and to seek answers, whether it offends people´s self-gratification or not´.

McMurtry succinctly relates his arguments above to the `systematic reduction of the historically hard won social institution of education to a commodity for private purchase and sale´ (1991, p.216). `The commodification of education rules out the very critical freedom and academic rigour which education requires to be more than indoctrination (p.215).

Much of my own work calls for critical education and for the development of teachers as critical transformative public intellectuals. Big business and their government agents now call most of the shots in University research- hence the potential importance of independent radical think tanks and research units such as the Institute for Education Policy Studies ( and radical groups such as, in Britain, the Hillcole Group of Radical Left Educators, the Socialist Teachers Alliance; in the USA, the Rethinking Education collective and publishers/ activists ( and the Rouge Forum. Hence, too, the importance of counter-hegemonic journals such as this one, the Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies (

Important, too are the collective efforts of radical egalitarian and socialist political organisations and their publications and demonstrations- their fight-back against exploitation and oppression.

Restraining and Resisting Neo-Liberalism
There are three major restraining forces on the activities of neo-liberalism- infrastructural, consumer-related regulation, and legitimation. The first is the need for an educational, social, transport, welfare, housing etc. infrastructure to enable workers to get to work, to be trained for different levels of the work-force, to be relatively fit and healthy. This restraint, though, is minimal - it can cope with extreme poverty and the existence of billions of humans at the margins of existence. It is a basic needs provision that says nothing. It has no implications at all for equality in society or in education. Indeed, as Pilger (2002) points out, it has no implications even for the maintenance of human lives. In effect, the depradations of neo-liberal globalizing Capital condemns millions- in particular those in the Third World displaced by the collapse of national agricultural industries who are of no use as either producers or consumers, to death.

The second restraint on capitalism is consumer dissatisfaction and consumer protection in the form of regulations. These, and inspectors of various sorts are criticised as `red tape´ and as bureaucrats. Yet without regulation, and enforcement in Britain, BSE and foot and mouth disease have flourished and been exported to continental Europe, and, following the privatisation of Railtrack in Britain, with its subsequent reduction of maintenance workforce and monitoring of safety, the number of dead in rail accidents has shot up.

State regulation operates against the freedom of capitalism to do as it pleases. Hence, in Britain, Conservative Party policy on schools and universities is to de-regulate them, to `set them free´, to allow them to charge what they want and run their own affairs. Similarly with the `anti-bureaucracy´ policies of the Republican Party in the USA and its demands for privatised `public sector´ education and for education vouchers.

The `regulatory´ model, of the state regulating standards can be weak or strong. It can demand only basic standards (perhaps failing to inspect regularly, and frequently open to corruption) or it can demand strong controls, including controls over profits. It is interesting that in a number of states such as Britain, some of the most vigorously enforced standards are those in education- testimony perhaps to the crucial nature of the state apparatus of schooling.

The third, and most powerful, restraint is that Capital (and the political parties they fund and influence) needs to persuade the people that neo-liberalism- competition, privatisation, poorer standards of public services, greater inequalities between rich and poor- are legitimate. If not, there is a delegitimation crisis, government and the existing system are seen through as grossly unfair and inhumane. The government and existing system, nationally and globally, may also be seen as in the pocket of the international and/or national ruling classes, impoverishing millions while `fat cat´ bosses and their politicians consume the surplus value produced by sweat shop deregulated workers- indeed the working classes per se, throughout the world.

To stop this delegitimation happening, to ensure that the majority of the population consider the government and the economic system of private monopoly ownership is legitimate, the state uses the ideological state apparatuses such as schools and universities to `naturalise´ capitalism- to make the existing status quo seem `only natural´, to hegemonize its `common sense´.

Articles such as this one are written to contest the legitimacy of the legitimacy of government policy and its subordination to/ participation in the neo-liberal project of global Capital. Clearly for the European and North American eco-warriors of what Rikowski describes as The Battle of Seattle (2001) and for various groups of socialists, trade unionists, social movements, greens, and groups such as the World Development Movement, Attac, and Globalise Resistance, the current system is not legitimate.

Nor is it so for groups of workers and others throughout the world, who see their governments bowing before the might of international Capital, who see their national government elites and accompanying military cavalries and riot police seeking to ensure that all spheres of social life are incorporated within the orbit of global Capital. Educators are implicated in the process, like everyone else. The school or university, and other areas of cultural and ideological reproduction (such as newsrooms and film studios) are no hiding place.

Increasingly, across the globe, educational debate is turning, in the economically rich world from debates about `standards´ and `school effectiveness´ to wider questions such as `what is education for? And in the economically poorer world to questions of free access to schooling and higher education- and why they do not have it any more where once it existed.

The Resistant Role of Critical Educational and Other Cultural Workers
Critical transformative intellectuals seek to enable student teachers and teachers (and school students) to critically evaluate a range of salient perspectives and ideologies - including critical reflection itself - while showing a commitment to egalitarianism. For McLaren, ´critical pedagogy must ... remain critical of its own presumed role as the metatruth of educational criticism´ (2000:184). This does not imply forced acceptance or silencing of contrary perspectives. But it does involve a privileging of egalitarian and emancipatory perspectives. It is necessary to be quite clear here. This does mean adhering to what Burbules and Berk (1999) have defined as ´critical pedagogy´, as opposed to ´critical theory´, since ´critical thinking´s claim is, at heart, to teach how to think critically, not how to think politically; for critical pedagogy, this is a false distinction´ (idem: 54) (14).

Giroux and McLaren (1986) give their definition of a ´Transformative Intellectual´ as:

one who exercises forms of intellectual and pedagogical practice which attempt to insert teaching and learning directly into the political sphere by arguing that schooling represents both a struggle for meaning and a struggle over power relations. We are also referring to one whose intellectual preferences are necessarily grounded in forms of moral and ethical discourse exhibiting a preferential concern for the suffering and the struggles of the disadvantaged and oppressed. Here we extend the traditional use of the intellectual as someone who is able to analyse various interests and contradictions within society to someone capable of articulating emancipatory possibilities and working towards their realization. Teachers who assume the role of transformative intellectuals treat students as critical agents, question how knowledge is produced and distributed, utilise dialogue, and make knowledge meaningful, critical, and ultimately emancipatory (Giroux and McLaren, 1986: 215).
Giroux (1988) emphasizes the interrelationship between the political and the pedagogical:

Central to the category of transformative intellectual is the necessity of making the pedagogical more political and the political more pedagogical Within this perspective, critical reflection and action become part of a fundamental social project to help students develop a deep and abiding faith in the struggle to overcome economic, political and social injustices, and to further humanise themselves as part of this struggle (Giroux, 1988: 127-128)
McLaren (2000) extends the ´critical education´ project into ´revolutionary pedagogy´, which is clearly based on a Marxist metanarrative. Revolutionary pedagogy,

would place the liberation from race, class and gender oppression as the key goal for education for the new mille

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