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The claustrophobia of automated learning

According to Berardi (2017), there is no education, as I understand it here, possible in a post-political world: only schooling as automation of behaviour in a society heading towards authoritarian and autocratic governments.

Schooling in such a society, says Berardi (2017) citing Deleuze (1992), is managing “the pervasive embodiment of a principle of automation of behaviour that is replacing the old principle of obedience to an external order” (Berardi, 2017, p. 104).

In consequence, this means that education as the possibility of radical change, of the possibility to break out of the neoliberal claustrophobic and aggressive universe in order to address the love of the other and the world over difference, to verify the diversity of the social, is conclusively erased through learning and instruction in schooling, according to Berardi. Moreover, education is reduced to schooling as a successive adoption of a self-referencing framework of automation of behaviour within a neoliberal hegemonic order distributing talent, abilities and skills over the social spectrum. In other words, education becomes instruction and training to be employable (as the life-long learner) within continuously expanding authoritarian capitalism controlled by corporations:

as the corporations replace the factory, continuous training tends to replace the school and continuous control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way of delivering the school over to the corporation. In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything.

(Deleuze, 1992 cited in Berardi, 2017, p. 104)

Therefore, what is at stake for a pedagogy of the depressed is the very possibility of education for anyone, and a social imaginary that is not already foreclosed by the neoliberal ideology with its instrumentalism and paradigm of distribution within a claustrophobic, individualistic and competitive reality of aggression. Such ideology, says Berardi, has created a historical situation of “unbounded growth, and aggressive competition [which] has underpinned the two pillars of capitalist development; they have nourished the romantic and nationalist ideologies that have aggressively mobilized Western society in late modern times” (Berardi, 2017, p. 95).

Such aggressive mobilization has challenged the core of our democratic societies and resulted in a state of depression and impotence in which the diversity of social life is violently repressed, as well as repressing the very idea of future as something other than an endless repetition of what is already the case. The teachers I mentioned in the introduction to this chapter were all without hope, without the ability to act; they could only express their depression, their aggression without love turned inwards, as not-good-enough teachers in the eyes of the public as well as in their own eyes. They had no plan, no alternative, no ability to act, only depression. As such, I think, they embodied a collective depression of our times rather than expressions of the individual state of mind.

A pedagogy of the depressed therefore needs to be clear on the intrinsic radicalness of educational theory and pedagogy, of the energy of democratization, and refrain from understanding this radicalness as motivated by personal hope for a better future than the one we are currently living in. I think a pedagogy of the depressed needs to verify a commitment to the educational impulse (Safstrom, 2018a,b) rather than hope, since commitment places us in the here and now, while hope jumps ahead of itself and leaves the presence emptied of resistance to neoliberal aggressions and destructions.

Commitment in education means to be dedicated to the educational impulse, and through such impulse to unfold the present as a gift to someone without demanding return. That is, the educational commitment is ethical to its core, and requires us to work hard in the here and now to redirect aggressions on humanity towards verification of a society made up of a plurality of liveable lives, to confinn a culture of polyvalence, of pluralism and change, a pluralist democracy.

The educational impulse as the instantiation of a split in reality

The educational impulse, I think, is foremost to be understood as an instantiation, an event of immediacy, and not as a process given meaning by being directed towards a distant goal. The educational impulse is that which demarcates education from other processes with which it is often associated, such as communication or information. The educational impulse signals the radical presence of a split in what is understood as real: an event of immediacy repeatedly unfolding in the reality of the here and now. Education as such is an instantiation that is the very energy (energía) of change. It is an energy, an impulse, splitting that which presents itself as an unchangeable and unified reality.

Education is also, as Ranciére (1999) says, the very expression of democracy, of the moment in which plural democracy emerges as a reality in the moment and presents itself as a potentiality of change. It opens the possibility of difference, that is, of relations that are not only confirming, what Emmanuel Levinas (1994) calls self-same, but that verify an ethically based relation to an other that is not me (Safstrom, 2003a) and, insofar as that verification is based on the opinion of equality, as Ranciére (1991) says, instantiate the political subject as well.

The word instantiation is carefully chosen since it signifies the immediate and simultaneous realization of a split in the total, in the whole, in the oneness of hegemonic power. It is a split in hegemonic reality by the simultaneous unfolding of what immediately is and what is not, a split in the self-explanatory reality of a claustrophobic and aggressive neoliberal worldview. In this split, the educational impulse embodies the potentiality of change.

In other words, the ambiguity between what is and what is not keeps open the potentiality of change, leading us out of a closed universe of training, of what already exist as unchangeable givens — talents, ability, skills, and announces the new beyond oneself, but not without oneself. It keeps open being as “verb on the verge of lapsing into substantive” as Levinas (1994) says: as a constant unfolding rather than fixated as a thing.

A pedagogy of the depressed faces head-on the violent aggression of political instrumentalism here and now, not through turning aggression inwards, since there is no hope; not even by turning aggression outwards through so-called progressive and affirmative schooling of talent, skills and abilities; but by dividing its oneness, its singularity, its supposedly natural objectivity. It is dividing its fundamentally racist universe, and thereby committing to the plurality of living a life in democracy and education, and committing to teaching through the love of the other over difference in a diverse reality.

To partake in the continuously dividing of that which presents itself as one is what Jacques Ranciere (1999, 2007a) calls democracy. Therefore, the educational impulse is intrinsic to the workings of democracy and education: it is another name for the energy of democratization.

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