5 November 2009


[CU for Friday, 6 November 2009]

In the first sentence of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of The Oppressed” (3 chapters are linked below, but take Chapter 1 for discussion), Freire “problematises” humanisation, immediately placing himself side-by-side with Marx, where Marx in the whole of “Capital” wanted to restore humanity to itself; or where in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx wrote: “Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.”

Here, on page 3, is Freire’s answer to “Dialectical Materialism”:

“… one cannot conceive of objectivity without subjectivity. Neither can exist without the other, nor can they be dichotomized. The separation of objectivity from subjectivity, the denial of the latter when analyzing reality or acting upon it, is objectivism. On the other hand, the denial of objectivity in analysis or action, resulting in a subjectivism which leads to solipsistic positions, denies action itself by denying objective reality. Neither objectivism nor subjectivism, nor yet psychologism is propounded here, but rather subjectivity and objectivity in constant dialectical relationship.

“To deny the importance of subjectivity in the process of transforming the world and history is naive and simplistic. It is to admit the impossible: a world without people. This objectivistic position is as ingenuous as that of subjectivism, which postulates people without a world. World and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction. Man does not espouse such a dichotomy; nor does any other critical, realistic thinker. What Marx criticized and scientifically destroyed was not subjectivity, but subjectivism and psychologism.”

The significance of the Subject in Freire’s theoretical scheme is clear all the way through and is demonstrated by these words from the last paragraph of his Chapter 1, for example:

“Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators.”

The Communists, in their own minds and in their explicit intentions, seek to educate, organise and mobilise, not so as to command the working class and the general masses, but to set them free. The problem of how to do so is exactly the problem that Freire addresses in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” It requires the formulation quoted above: “World and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction.” Nowhere does he refer to materialism, dialectical or otherwise. He writes of leadership and people both being Subjects, co-intent on reality.

John Turner, author of “Housing by People” (see the linked chapters below), was preoccupied with the same problem. In his case he problematised it as a question of “paternalism and filialism”, which is immediately recognisable as the very opposite of the “co-intent Subjects” proposed by Freire. Turner writes:

“Paternalism and filialism, the modern descendents of attitudes more generally associated by Europeans with the Middle Ages, are still very common attitudes in Britain. These are especially evident in the common assumption that the 'ordinary' citizen or 'layman', is utterly dependent on the 'extraordinary' citizen or the 'professional', who cultivates the mystery of his or her activity in order to increase dependency and professional fees.”

Click on these links:

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 1, 1970, Freire (9382 words)

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 2, 1970, Freire (5218 words)

Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Chapter 3, 1970, Freire (13444 words)

Housing by People, C1 & 6, Who decides, 1976, Turner (7901 words)


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