Revolutionary Multiculturalism

Having advocated ‘critical and resistant multiculturalism’ in the 1990s, McLaren has subsequently abandoned it in favour of revolutionary mul- ticulturalism. This parallels his move from postmodernism to Marxism.7

McLaren and Ramin Farahmandpur (McLaren and Farahmandur 2005, p. 147) advocate revolutionary multiculturalism, as opposed to ‘critical multicultural education’, as a framework ‘for developing a pedagogical praxis ... [which] opens up social and political spaces for the oppressed to challenge on their own terms and in their own ways the various forms of class, race, and gender oppression that are reproduced by dominant social relations’. McLaren and Scatamburlo-D’Annibale (2010) explain the move. They argue that:

while racism often does take on a life of its own, its material basis can be traced to the means and relations of production within capitalist society—to the social division of labor that occurs when workers sell their labor-power for a wage to the capitalist (i.e, to the ownership of the means of production). To ignore class exploitation when you are talking about racism is a serious mistake.

Addressing the ‘multiculturalist problematic’ and following E. San Juan (2004), Scatamburlo-D’Annibale and McLaren argue that the separation of ‘race’ and racism from the social relations of production effectively treats them mainly as issues of ethnicity and the politics of ‘difference’. In doing so, they go on, this ‘effectively neutralizes the perennial conflicts in the system by containing diversity in a common grid and selling diversity in order to preserve the ethnocentric paradigm of commodity relations that structure the experience of life-worlds within globalizing capitalism’.

The educational implications are that it is important to bring education into conversation with movements that speak to the larger totality of capitalist social relations and which challenge capital’s social universe. The strategic focus for Marxist educators, if we are to have effective anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic struggles, should be, they argue, on capitalist exploitation (ibid.). Critical Race Theory and non-revolutionary multiculturalism, they continue, fail to foreground the fundamental importance of the social division of labor in the capitalist production process as a key factor in understanding racism. ‘The reason we need to focus on a critique of political economy in our anti-racist efforts’, they argue, ‘is that racism in capitalist society results from the racialization of the social relations of capitalist exploitation’ (ibid.). They cite J. B. Foster (2005):

The various forms of non-class domination are so endemic to capitalist society, so much a part of its strategy of divide and conquer, that no progress can be made in overcoming class oppression without also fighting.these other social divisions.

Ultimately, McLaren and Scatamburlo-D’Annibale (2010) conclude that ‘race’ alone is too blunt an analytical tool to effectively elucidate complex social phenomena, even when, as with Katrina, social inequalities are expressed in such blatantly racial disparities. McLaren is unequivocal and his commitment to a class analysis, and to the struggle for socialism. As McLaren and Jaramillo (Suoranta et al. 2013) put it:

Our own attempts to develop a radical humanistic socialism—in part by dewriting socialism as a thing of the past—assumes the position that socialism and pedagogical socialist principles are not dead letters, but open pages in the book of social and economic justice yet to be written or rewritten by people struggling to build a truly egalitarian social order.

The role of revolutionary educators is to:

invite students to recollect the past, to situate the present socially, politically and economically ... In this way, critical scholars can help students to challenge the particularities of their subjective existence in relation to the larger socio-cultural and economic frameworks that give them meaning, thereby contesting the erasure of their cultural and subjective formations while at the same time dialectically refashioning their self and social formations in their struggle to become the subject rather than the object of history. And this means remembering that the pedagogical is the political. And creating pedagogical spaces for self and social transformation, and for coming to understand that both are co-constitutive of building socialism for the twenty-first century--a revolutionary praxis for the present in the process of creating a permanent revolution for our times (McLaren 2008).

My own suggestions for critical classroom practice are outlined in chapter 9.

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