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The function of hope in the distributive paradigm

The function of hope in the distributive paradigm of schooling is not about a radical change of the conditions in which the poor and powerless find themselves, but rather about making a certain distribution of privilege seem natural and justified. What hope does in a consumerist society is attach wants and desires to those things and privileges that are already in the possession of the rich and powerful.

Hope in the distributive paradigm is for the material life we live, it is about the material world and not eternal salvation, even though it has its origin in Christian thought. One definition of hope is:

in Christian thought, one of the three theological virtues, the others being faith and charity (love). It is distinct from the latter two because it is directed exclusively toward the future, as fervent desire and confident expectation. When hope has attained its object, it ceases to be hope and becomes a possession. Consequently, whereas “love never ends,” hope is confined to man’s life on Earth.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica; my emphasis)

Interestingly enough, the meaning of hope in ancient Greek (elpis), in contrast, pointed to an ambiguous, open-ended future, which I will return to and develop as the only way hope is possibly constructive in educational thought (chapters 5 and 6).

When hope in its Christian meaning has attained its object, it ceases to be hope and becomes a possession. That is, it establishes the possessor, the one who has, at the same time as it establishes the one who does not have. It gives rise to a logic of ownership, but also of desire. The distributive paradigm of education makes the individual desire and hope for a distant future that might never arrive, while justifying the possessions of those who already have them. That is, hope as I understand it here, and as expressed through the distributive paradigm of schooling, and in line with Encyclopaedia Britannica, is the hope for possessions of and in the material world. None of these are particularly helpful in educational thought.

Hope, then, rather than being a prime motivational factor for change and emancipation within schooling, tends to feed the drive of successive incorporation of oneself into the norms and principles of the distributive paradigm, in which what to hope for is already giving meaning and function within a capitalistic society of possessions. Hope here is not the ancient Greek elpis, that is, concerning an open-ended ambiguous future, but rather signifying the possessions of the material world of those who already have what one desires.

The function of hope within the paradigm of distributive schooling is to attach the circulation of value in political economy to individual bodies, and to translate their desires and wants into goods and privileges provided by, and circulating in, capitalist society. The school-system in such society is a system for differentiation of talent by the distribution of grades and other measures, but also making it possible to prioritize between those talents by the value they have on the market. Such a school-system needs no commitment to equality, but is fed by the hope of results in terms of goods, money and power from individual competition, rather than by the collective commitment to emancipation, change and a liveable life for all.

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