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Henry Giroux

American academic

Henry Giroux (born September 18, 1943), is an American and Canadian scholar and cultural critic. One of the founding theorists of critical pedagogy in the United States.

QuotesEdit

  • As public discourses... cultural texts can be addressed in terms of how they are constituted as objects that gain their relevance through their relationship to other social institutions, resources, and non-discursive practices.
    • Henry Giroux . Breaking in to the Movies: Film and the Culture of Politics (2002), p. 81
  • Given the current assault on critical education by various right-wing groups, the increasing corporatization of the university, and the growing influence of the national security state, it is increasingly important that higher education be defended as a democratic public sphere and that academics be seen and see themselves as public intellectuals who provide an indispensable service to the nation.
    • "Higher Education Under Siege: Implications for Public Intellectuals," Thought and Action (Fall 2006), p. 64
  • Unfortunately, too many academics retreat into narrow specialisms, allow themselves to become adjuncts of the corporation, or align themselves with dominant interests that serve largely to consolidate authority rather than to critique its abuses. Refusing to take positions on controversial issues or to examine the role they might play in lessening human suffering, such academics become models of moral indifference and examples of what it means to disconnect learning from public life.
    • "Higher Education Under Siege: Implications for Public Intellectuals," Thought and Action (Fall 2006), p. 64

Interview with Media For Us, 2019Edit

Henry Giroux on His Latest Book — The Terror of the Unforeseen — and How Neoliberal Capitalism Sets the Stage for Fascism (August 19, 2019), Media For Us
  • [W]hat neoliberalism has done since the 1970s is it has created such economic misery, it has so accentuated levels of inequality, it has created such suffering, it has dismantled entire towns, it has concentrated wealth in the hands of the financial elite, and it has legitimated an enormous culture of cruelty. And it operates off the assumption that the market can solve all problems — not simply in the economy, but in all of social life — so it becomes a template and a model for all social relations. In doing so, it is at odds with any notion of the welfare state, any notion of labor unions, any notion of workers’ rights, and any notion of economic rights. It privatizes, deregulates, and commodifies everything. It sets up a series of competitive attitudes that degrades collaboration. It highlights self-interest at the expense of modes of solidarity. It so accentuates matters of inequitable relations in wealth and power that you have an enormous concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the financial elite, and this is enacted by all kinds of policies that undermine the foundations of a democracy — all of its basic institutions, from the press, to public goods such as schools and media, to politics itself.
  • Money drives politics. We all know that now. But the other side of this is that it’s not just an economic system, it’s also an ideological system. As an ideological system, what it generally does is three things that are pernicious and which set the groundwork for a kind of right-wing populism and a fascist politics. First, it operates off the assumption that all social problems are individual problems. Therefore whatever problems people face, the blame for those problems rests with themselves — whether we’re talking about ecological disasters, about poverty, about homelessness, about ignorance and illiteracy, and so forth and so on. Secondly, in doing so it tends to depoliticize people, and by depoliticizing them it becomes very difficult for people — operating under that notion of self-interest, a brutal form of competition, and this heightened notion of rugged individualism — to translate private troubles into larger systemic issues. Hence they find it very hard to understand the conditions in which they find themselves. Thirdly, it creates an enormous culture of ignorance.
  • Remember, we live in a culture of immediacy. We live in a culture in which simplistic answers override more complicated answers. We live in a culture in which language is reduced to its bare bones. We live in a culture in which language is now in the service of violence.
  • Fascism begins with the rhetoric of dehumanization, humiliation, and reification, right? It starts with the language of brutality, which it normalizes. It legitimates hatred and racism and violence. It views certain groups through rhetoric as enemies of the American people. It operates off of the rhetoric of war, anti-intellectualism, and white supremacy. It operates off of the language of disposability. That language doesn’t just simply normalize increasingly the notions of white nationalism, white supremacy, racism, and xenophobia; it also enacts policies and it creates a culture of utter stupidity, a culture of ignorance. And, unfortunately, it functions so as to enable violence against groups labeled as dangerous, other, excess, and a threat to the whitewashed notion of citizenship.
  • [W]hen people can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, they can’t tell the difference between good and evil. They can’t recognize a crime when they see one or what lawlessness looks like. All standards of truth go out the window. It’s a very dangerous moment because it means that people become more susceptible to demagogues, to people like Trump, and I think that the media has played an enormous role in creating a formative culture that at its worst legitimates and at its best enables what we see happening in the United States today.
  • Social hope means that hope is not limited to simply individual aspirations, that hope becomes a collective affair and is compatible with the assumption that people can collectively organize and in doing so they can imagine a different future. But more importantly, collectively in the name of hope, they can address the problems that prevent that future from emerging, and they can organize and become active through a mass social movement to make that hope possible. When we talk about social hope versus individualistic hope, we’re talking about a collective consciousness that is able in a sense to think otherwise in order to act otherwise — that’s the basic key here. I think there are promising movements all over the world.
  • People are waking up. The contradictions are becoming obvious. But the problem that plagues all of these groups is that they’re individualized. They tend to be autonomous, reduced to isolated issues, and they tend not to be part of a larger social movement in which each group can both articulate its own concerns but at the same time join with others in the call for a democratic socialist mode or a democratic mode of society.
  • “[S]low violence” refers to our public schools being increasingly defunded, transformed into machines for teaching to the test, and reimagined not as democratic public spheres designed to produced critical citizens, but workers willing to put up with boring work and labor abuses. As they’re increasingly defunded, it’s then claimed that they’re failing, and that then becomes an excuse to either privatize them or turn them over to charter schools. In a sense what you have here is a central element of neoliberal ideology, which is an attack on the public good, an attack on any institution that supports the public good, and an attack on forms of pedagogy that teach students about the past, critical thinking, and provide them with the tools for informed decisions and engaged dialogue. In that sense, schools are a prime target.
  • The other side of this, this slow violence, is that increasingly the racism, the segregation, and the discrimination, has become intensified. We saw it particularly with the rise of ‘zero tolerance’ policies in schools, which are basically nothing more than racial codes. Schools have really become school-to-prison pipelines; they’ve become militarized and the behavior of young people — not just black and brown people, but poor white kids as well — becomes criminalized. The school becomes modeled after the prison. You have all of the accoutrements of the prison there: you have metal detectors that people have to walk through, you have security guards and police, and the school is defined in terms of the language of surveillance. This is a creeping form of punishment that is now imposed on kids and on schools through a machinery of pedagogical repression.
  • Outside of that you have teachers who are increasingly deskilled through models of curricula that claim that objective assessments are all that matters, and that teachers just have to implement the assessments. So teachers are completely losing control over the conditions of their labor, they’re being abused, they’re not being paid properly, they’re losing their benefits, and their unions are being disseminated. This is a full-fledged attack. It’s an attack on one of the most important foundations of a democracy, it’s an attack on teachers, and it’s an attack on young people — particularly those who are marginalized by virtue of class, race, and ethnicity.
  • All pedagogy, when it matters, is contextual. Different kids come from different neighborhoods, they come from different experiences, they come from different classes, and they come from different backgrounds. Context always matters in an educational setting and matters of difference have to be addressed if you are going to connect with young people. In order for education to work, you have to make it meaningful, to make it critical, to make it transformative.
  • [T]eachers have to be involved in the community and connected with parents and others who shape the lives of young people. They have to be involved with a whole range of people. They have to bring people together. They have to make sure that students in some way find that the work that they’re doing has something to do with their lives and matters.
  • Schools are increasingly either engaged in massive forms of pedagogical oppression and discipline or they’re basically disimagination machines — they kill the imagination of students and prepare them to work in utterly boring jobs without the slightest notion that they should resist because the implication seems to be that this is normal. They’re normalizing idiocy. They’re normalizing anti-intellectualism.
  • One of the things that neoliberalism has done is it has taken notions that are really powerful and turned them around, basically hijacking them in ways that produce misery and suffering. Freedom doesn’t simply mean ‘freedom from’ in the traditional sense of the word, it also means the ‘freedom to’ do more than just survive or wallow in your own orbits of privatization. It means that you not only have political freedoms and individual freedoms — you have economic freedoms, and social freedoms. You cannot live in a society and believe in elections (if you believe in that myth), or believe in being an agent, or believe that you can have power, or believe that you can influence events, if you’re hungry all of the time, if you have to make a choice between medicine and food, if time is no longer a luxury but it basically incapacitates you by virtue of not having the time to do anything to develop the capacities that would allow us to be political, social, and economic agents. Freedom has been utterly distorted under this authoritarian neoliberal machine because it is a notion of freedom that has been regressively individualized and refuses to acknowledge that you cannot talk about choices without at the same time talking about constraints, whether they be economic, political, or social.
  • Today freedom also means the freedom to hate, it means the freedom to say anything, it means the freedom to disparage people, to dehumanize people, to believe in the culture of cruelty, to believe that kindness is not a virtue but a liability. Freedom has been extended into a discourse of violence and hate, which is really part of a larger cultural apparatus that has so undermined the relationship between freedom and justice, freedom and equality, freedom and social responsibility that those terms drop out and freedom becomes in a sense a liability with respect to what a democratic socialist country might look like. The other side of this is that there is a really demonic notion of freedom that seems to suggest we’re all equal and we can all make all of the choices that we want — it’s up to us. In other words, it suggests that choice in this one-dimensional sense of market freedom is defined without constraints. So you are free to sleep under a bridge at night, or you’re free to sleep in the Ritz. Well, that’s just nonsense. It seems to me that choice only becomes meaningful when people have the capacity to make real choices. That’s what freedom really is about in an economic and political sense.
  • Fascism first begins with language, and then gains momentum as an organizing force for shaping a culture that legitimates indiscriminate violence against entire groups — Black people, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, and others considered “disposable.” In this vein, Trump portrays his critics as “villains,” describes immigrants as “losers” and “criminals,” and has become a national mouthpiece for violent nationalists and a myriad of extremists who trade in hate and violence. One recent example can be found in the Trump-like language used in the manifesto posted by the El Paso shooter.
  • Trump does not just fan the flames of violence with his rhetoric, he also provides legitimation to a number of white nationalists and right-wing extremist groups who are emboldened by his words and actions and too often ready to translate their hatred into the desecration of synagogues, schools, and other public sites, as well as engage in violence against peaceful protesters, and in some cases commit heinous acts of violence.

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