14 January 2010

Freire the Brazilian

Paulo Freire the Brazilian

This is the last of the supplementary or optional material given to accompany Chapter 2 of Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (linked below). It is Chapter 1 of the same book, also linked below.

In the first sentence of the book”, Freire “problematises” humanization, immediately placing Freire side-by-side with Karl Marx, where Marx in the whole of “Capital” wanted to restore humanity to itself.

Freire is often described as a “Christian Marxist”, and Freire’s methods were widely adopted by the Christian advocates of the “Liberation Theology” that arose in South America from the 1960s onwards. Paulo Freire (1921-1927) was Brazilian.

Concerning the fundamental question of philosophy, which is the relationship between mind and matter, Freire has this to say, on page 3 of “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”:

“… 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 (meaning the free human being, or plural free human beings as a collective “Subject of History”) in Freire’s pedagogical scheme is clear all the way through the book, and is well demonstrated by these words from the last paragraph of Chapter 1:

“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 too, seek to educate, organise and mobilise, not to command the working class and the general masses, but to see them free. The problem of how to do so is the problem that Freire addresses in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” He writes of leadership and people, both Subjects, co-intent on reality. This is both a theory of education, and a theory of freedom.


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