Friday, May 27, 2011

Education in Capitalist Societies

"We have needs beyond the needs to consume and these aren't recognized by capitalism. We have a need, for example, to develop and exercise our talents. When our capacities lie unused, they don't enjoy the zest for life that comes from having one's capacities flourish. People are able to develop themselves only when they get good education. But in a capitalist society, the education of children is threatened by those who would contort education to fit the narrow demands of the labor market.

The ruling class wants education to be geared toward restoring profitability to the system. It's dangerous to educate the young too much, because they will become cultivated people who are likely to be less satisfied with the low-paying jobs the market offers them. This might create aspirations that capitalism can't match. This, for obvious reasons, is dangerous for the ruling class. People must be "educated to know their place".

The state is trying to fashion individuals who will be willing sellers of low-grade labor power. It is deliberately underdeveloping large sectors of the population. The elites think that it's dangerous to give the masses too much education. It's hard to imagine a more undemocratic approach to education. There's a lot of talent in almost every human being. But in a lot of cases that talent goes undeveloped, because people lack the time, energy, resources and facilities to develop it. Throughout history, only a leisured minority has enjoyed this fully on the backs of the toiling majority. This should no longer continue to be the case. We have superb technology to restrict toil. Capitalism doesn't use that technology in a liberating way; it uses it to confine people to largely unfulfilling work and it shrinks from providing the enriching education that the technology makes possible."
-G.A. Cohen, "Against Capitalism"

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