Globalization and education after Trump and Brexit
For the past few years, the Globalization and Education Special Interest Group of the Comparative and International Education Society has hosted an annual keynote address focused on cutting edge issues in the study of globalization and education. In early March 2016 at the CIES conference held in Atlanta, Fazal Rizvi gave the annual address. Fazal Rizvi is a well-known and prolific scholar on issues related to globalization, and was one of the first guests on FreshEd in 2015.
He is a Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne, where he joined in 2010 after being based at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, where he directed the Global Studies in Education program. Along with Professor Bob Lingard, who also joined FreshEd, Fazal is the author of a widely-read book, Globalizing Education Policy.
His keynote address was entitled “Globalization and education after Trump and Brexit”.
Following his remarks, we will hear a few words from Dr. Mario Novelli, who is Professor of Political Economy of Education at the University of Sussex.
Enjoy the hour-long address!
Citation: Rizvi, Fazal with Mario Novelli, FreshEd, 66, podcast audio, March 27, 2017.https://freshedpodcast.com/fazalrizvi-2/
Fazal Rizvi 1:35
At this conference, there is an elephant in the room sitting at the table. And yet, it is in everyone’s mind, but it’s not being talked about, okay, in an explicit fashion. But in conversations that I have encountered in the corridors, in the coffee shops, it’s quite ubiquitous. And that elephant is Trump. Okay. And I want to actually say something about why it is that I think it’s important to talk about the Trump circus, which has actually taken up a huge amount of my time over the last year. I think, I calculated on the average, I spent something like an hour and a half everyday thinking, looking at the websites, reading about the various newspapers. It has kind of consumed me. And at one level, it might sound as frivolous and as wasting of time. But I think there is something very important that’s happening that we should actually analyze a little more carefully using all the theoretical resources that our disciplinary practices give us. And that’s why I thought that I would speak quite explicitly about what the Trump victory means for the changing nature of our field, and the kind of questions that it is raising for us that we cannot actually ignore and have to take a position on. And if there is any kind of interesting, new insights that we can develop from our analysis, then the field would be better for it. Of course, countless number of words have been written over the past year in an attempt to understand the electoral victory of Donald Trump and the Brexit weight vote, as well as the rise of an aggressive nationalism in mainland Europe and around the world including Japan, as Keita pointed out, and India as Sengeeta pointed out the other day.
Most of these commentaries, both academic and popular, in United States and Britain have focused on the idea of globalization and how these political shifts we have witnessed over the past few years represent a backlash against various forms and effects of globalization. There is indeed no denying that discontents around globalization have become widespread and widely recognized. Various aspects of globalization have been shown to have not delivered on the kind of promises that were made merely three decades ago. Economically, it has been noted that globalization has benefited a very few minority of people, while a large majority have had their lives dispersed, disrupted, and even destroyed. Economic globalization has led to unsustainable and unacceptable levels of inequality. Politically, it has been suggested that the new world order that globalization has spawned has left power in the hands of a very small, transnational elite, squeezing out the democratic voices of most of the citizenry, not only in the United States, but around the world. It has led to a democratic deficit in that sense. And culturally, deeply held values and traditions have been upended, especially as a result of growing levels of migration and cultural exchange across national boundaries, so it has been argued.
Now these discontents, to my mind, have raised a number of very important questions about globalization and its future. Are these discontents even justified, we need to ask? Or are they simply manufactured and exploited by expedient politicians? To what extent are the globalization sentiments new? And what kind of threat do they pose to the existing liberal economic and political order forged after the Second World War? Why should this be a matter of concern to anybody? And indeed, should we not celebrate the demise of globalization? Are we entering a new period of history in which nation states will once again become dominant, and perhaps even more strident and aggressive within their borders and across the borders? Is it possible to stop the global flows of people without severely damaging an economy that is now increasingly based on knowledge and cultural exchange, especially the services economy? Are we not already so interconnected and interdependent that ethnonationalist sentiments belong to another era, and are either obsolete or dangerous, or indeed, both? Are the populist solutions pursued in recent years addressing the discontents of globalization even realistic, especially those that have been proposed by the populist movement representing Brexit and Trump? Do they have the capacity to create a set of conditions in which higher level of economic growth on the one hand, and equality and democracy on the other hand, even possible? Or are the contradictions of their proposals so great that they are not likely to exasperate equality and democracy? These are really quite significant questions for education and educational thinking generally but to comparative education and international education, in particular. For that they hold out the possibility that the comparative may need to be yet again rethought. And indeed, the international part of comparative and international might also need to be rethought. International, in terms of what? For there is now a particular view that international has begun to be defined under the regimes of globalization. “Do we need to think about international in new ways”? becomes a fairly significant question for our field, for this association, and indeed for our intellectual work.
Now, over the past three years, systems of education have become increasingly interconnected. They have put a premium on sharing of information, ideas, and ideologies, as well as on borrowing of policies and developing them jointly in various regional and international fora. International assessment and accountability technologies have been developed through which performance of national systems are now judged, compared, benchmarked against supposedly common standards. Global mobility of students has become a commonplace phenomenon, creating an industry upon which the financial sustainability of many institutions -especially at the level of higher education- is now inextricably dependent. These developments display a distinctive trend towards convergence. Some 10 years ago, my friend and colleague, Steven Carney coined the phrase educational policyscapes to show how an understanding of nation states and systems study of education to quote “must be informed by understandings of the nature of globalization, and especially the new imaginative regimes that it makes possible”. Now given their commitment to rearrange the world, the Trump victory and Brexit have the potential to destabilize the educational policyscapes that exist currently. So, we need to ask, what kind of policyscapes are we likely to see in the future? And what are the alternatives that are available to us? Can we imagine a kind of policyscape that does not leave out attention to the global flows of ideas, capital, and indeed, but rearranges them differently than the rationality of neoliberalism suggests? In other words, we need to ask new kinds of questions about flows and the scapes that Stephen has written about.
Now we know that the political left has come up with a whole range of criticisms of globalization, both its logic and its consequences. It has repeatedly been shown that neoliberal processes of globalization are undemocratic and result in uneven and unequal outcomes. In this talk, I want to argue that Trump and Brexiteers have largely embraced the leftist critiques, as paradoxical though it might sound. But they have bolted on to that critique a ethnonationalist politics. And I think it’s the notion of bolting on that I want to pay attention to. How has it been possible for a set of neoliberal ideas to be embraced and perhaps even doubled down on along with an ethnonationalist politics? We need to figure out this black box of bolting on and how that has been done. So, what has happened is it is possible to say that the success of Trump and to a lesser extent, Brexit, lies in tying the legitimate concerns that people legitimately have of their economic insecurity to cultural issues. In other words, the cultural and economic have been joined together in a fashion that Marxists did in a particular way but now we might be witnessing it being done in very different ways. In other words, there are a whole range of issues that this bolting on is giving rise to. Now this line of thinking of bolting on, this way of thinking, has obscured how it is that economic shifts and public policies associated with neoliberal rationality that has played a more decisive role in producing social inequalities and insecurities. Yet both the Trump administration and post-Brexit Britain have doubled down on neoliberal rationality in a whole range of ways that are now becoming quite evident, and I will talk about that very shortly.
Now, I want to argue that this has produced a political terrain that is deeply, deeply contradictory. And as is the case with most contradictions, it provided fizzes and gaps in which progressive possibilities may allow. And in my view, the new politics that has emerged, will indeed find it difficult to reconcile its continuing adherence to neoliberal rationality, and its attraction and its appeal towards ethnonationalism. Those two things are difficult to reconcile in an era of globalization, and yet, the efforts are going to be made to reconcile them. And much of the trouble that might arise may come in the attempts to bolt on. And I think that’s the thing that we need to pay the most attention on.
Now for more than three decades, scholars and activists on the political left have shown how globalization of economic activities has had negative effects on marginalized communities both within and across the nations. While in some countries such as China and Korea, globalization has arguably created new opportunities. In others, it has exasperated various types of social stratification, including with respect to class, gender, race, religion, age and urban-rural divide. Even in those countries that have benefited from globalization, gaps in people’s life chances have widened. In China and in many parts of Asia, their global cities, their shining cities, have enabled some to enjoy the lifestyles of their advanced economies. While in rural areas, the benefits of globalization have been scarce, if not entirely absent. The stories of suicides amongst farmers in India, for example, have now become legendary. So, while in Europe and the United States, many believe that the process of globalization has led to the export of their jobs and wealth to Asia. Within Asia, the picture is starkly much more complex and uneven. In Europe, and in the United States, the industrial cities have had to carry much of the burden of global economic transformations. The combined forces of technologization of work and globalization of production have reduced the availability of employees that was once plentiful. Unemployment rates have soared, forcing people to move to find new jobs. People have had to train for these jobs. And yet, the privatization regimes have made sure that this training is provided at cost to the people themselves. Okay, they have had to make investments that many indeed cannot afford.
At the same time, the welfare provisions have been cut as governments have either not been able to afford them or have an ideological objection to them. They have assumed that state subsidies and programs frequently encourage inefficiencies and make people dependent on handouts. There has been a relentless ideological campaign that has celebrated the logic of the markets, suggesting that the individual should be responsible for themselves and their own lives and their own futures no matter how disrupted they are by forces outside their control. While most people’s capacity to enjoy the various benefits of globalization, like the availability of a vast array of consumer goods has declined, they are constantly subjected to lifestyle choices that are often beyond their grasp. We need to better understand the logic of consumption. The mass advertising campaigns are designed to elicit desire for goods and services that only few can access. There’s clearly a growing gap between those who can afford the cosmopolitan taste and those who are left to simply fantasize about them. As Zygmunt Bauman, in his very famous article, Tourist and Vagabond pointed out, globalization has given rise to new forms of social differentiation around what he called consumptive desires between those who can realize these desires and those who are left outside the gates wishing that they could, often with accompanying anger, and envy.
This qualitative account of social inequality, of course parallels the quantitative accounts, such as that provided by Piketty in recent years, with global levels of wealth and income inequality under the conditions of globalization, but even before that, shown to be growing. What both quantitative and qualitative analysis indicate is that economic inequalities have always had cultural dimensions and political outcomes. The Trump and Brexit campaigns have tried to put another spin on that connection. Indeed, Guy Standing has probably done much more work in trying to understand this relationship and has elaborated the nature of these political outcomes of globalization of economy, in and through, cultural formations of various kinds. He refers to a class of people badly affected by the processes of globalization as “The Precariat”. If you haven’t read that book, it is well worth having a look at. It’s polemical and easy to read. The emerging precariat class, Standing argues -his book came out in 2010- is a heterogeneous group. An amalgamation of several different social groups that include young, educated people, and those who have fallen out of the old-style industrial working class. The precariat is, however, not only suffering from job insecurity but have also got a whole range of cultural concerns about their identity. They feel that recent public policies have diminished the cultural advantages in the economic space that they once enjoyed. And that they have lost democratic control over the destinies that they had assumed they once had, which has been transferred on to people who have been able to make noises around identity politics.
Well, before Trump and Brexit, Standing had warned that this group was politically volatile and dangerous. Not only because it was internally divided but also because its members are susceptible to the siren calls of political extremism, including the ideologies promoted by the politically expedient politicians who were not reluctant to stoke fears by creating a cultural chasm within the marginalized and disadvantaged communities. Thus, we have witnessed, in recent years, the villainization of migrants, of refugees, of Indigenous people and other vulnerable groups. Standing’s precariat are convinced that the loss of their political and cultural voice is largely due to globalization, which has undermined the conventional democratic institutions in their view, especially as power has shifted from national self determination to global institutions. Their assumption is that suprastate agencies and regimes, both global and regional, like the EU, have created substantial democratic deficits for THEM as the political authority of nation has undermined. The global markets, global communication systems, and the incipient global civil society, they’re convinced, has weakened THEIR state. Not anyone’s state -Their state. The main beneficiaries of these developments, in the view, have been the transnational elite, for whom greater space is now available for cultural enjoyments and democratic activity outside the public governance institutions. According to William Robinson, for example, as stakeholders and globally mobile people, the transnational elite control the operations of the emerging global institutions and communication systems and are able to steer the state in their favor.
Now, some of these accounts of globalization and its discontents are not new. Earlier on, in a very widely read book Globalization, Jan Scholte showed how globalization led to three forms of ins -IN with a bracket- (in)security, (in)equality, and un-democracy in other words. Security not only ecological, economic, cultural and psychological but also of other kinds. Inequality of various kinds, as well as un-democracy. And Manfred Steger in his little book, has also shown globalization benefits to be unevenly and unequally distributed. Around the turn of the century, no less than three books emerged with the title globalization and its discontents, one by Joseph Stiglitz, one by Saskia Sassen, and one by an author whose name I forget -deliberately. Each of these books suggests that global processes and the current forms were unsustainable, and sooner or later, they will create conditions of considerable political volatility, and I think their predictions are coming to show themselves to be true. In response, Sassen proposed a set of radical alternatives to global capitalism, such as many of them and precisely advocated by the Occupy movement. Stiglitz, on the one hand, on the other hand, presented a very different way forward, re-emphasizing the need to reform international agencies, such as the World Bank, not surprisingly, and IMF and a greater responsibility of the nation states to protect the vulnerable.
Now, these criticisms are familiar enough to all of us. In ways that may appear some somewhat ironic political movements around Brexit and Trumpet have largely embraced most of these criticisms of globalization that the political left had advanced. They have accepted, for example, that globalization has produced unacceptable levels of social inequality. That is, practices are fundamentally undemocratic, and have led to various insecurities. They’re critical of the ways in which globalization has destabilized communities, labor markets, and national norms. They’re mindful of the jobs that no longer exist and of declining economic opportunities and prospects. They have questioned the political legitimacy of supra and regional agencies such as European Union, especially what they regard as their overstretch into aspects of life that they believe are are best handled either at the local or the national or indeed at the individual level. In other words, their individualism is assumed to be threatened. They have assumed that the new world order is to be inherently unfavorable to their interests and have demanded the New Deal in which global trade is a national rather than corporate interest. Now, as compelling as these concerns are, both Trump and Brexit here, however, bolted on the term that I’ve used before, on to a new politics, new cultural politics of ethno nationalism. They have captured and exploited the rhetoric of those who are suspicious of global migration, and have decided to hold the migrants themselves responsible for many of the infliction of the economically vulnerable people across the communities. They consider the ease with which people are supposedly able to move across national borders to be a major threat to their job prospects and the kind good life that they imagine they once had.
They argue that globalization has undermined their cultural and religious tradition and is forcing them to accept the values of diversity and cultural exchange and against their wishes and their interest. They’re fearful of cultural heterogeneity, even if the numbers of immigrants and refugees in their communities is relatively small, as pointed out in Appadurai’s book, Fear of Small Numbers. Their fear is of the cultural other, whose demands and rights demand for rights and privileges that many of us in CIES make, are they are afraid might compete with theirs. In other words, a situation of competition has been set up in relation to their rights and privileges arising out of very different set of considerations. One of them, national and privilege origin and the other one, of human rights of generalized kind. Of course, many of these fears are unfounded. The success Trump and Brexiteers have, however, had is in capturing these fears into a relatively persuasive narrative to which a large proportion of the electorate can relate. In this way, the Trump victory and Brexit represent a story of political mobilization. And I think we need to understand, better, political mobilization successfully converted into a populist movement.
Now populist movements are of course as old as politics itself. They can be both right wing and left wing, but only some reach a critical mass of power, while others remain on the sidelines. populism is best viewed as a political strategy to mobilize people around a loosely connected set of ideas. Now, “loosely connected set of ideas” is an important phrase that there is no claim to coherence, there is simply a claim to something that is linked to sentiments and feelings. It is not constituted by a coherent set of concepts, but various discursive assemblages, that are grounded in effect and emotions, and are often based on a sharp differentiation between us and then our feelings and their feelings. A loose and shared characterization of enemy is often also necessary for populism to get political purpose, as is a state of victimhood, requiring the construction of an exploitative elite who is in control and who needs to be fought against. Thus, the populist rhetoric surrounding the Trump victory and Brexit has tentative threads that are lumped together into an ideologically convenient fashion -not an ideologically coherent fashion, ideologically convenient fashion- without any serious attempt to ensure coherence across its claims. These threads include a complaint about global groups of trade and how it has allegedly disadvantaged Americans and the British ahead of others who have benefited from it. Allied to this is the assumption that national authority and power has shifted to global institutions. It is assumed that this transfer has adversely affected us, the American and the British industries, the workers who other countries have been able to take advantage of them. And because their leaders have displayed ineptitude in negotiating better deals. So, a claim about ineptitude is fairly central to their logic. It is asserted that global corporations and managers are the most direct beneficiaries of the political weaknesses of our leaders at the national level. And they have been able to dupe and transcend the weaker entities such us. In other words, you hold yourself to become a victim of the follies that are not necessarily done by others. But they’re also done by us to ourselves, and hence, the political mobilization.
Along with this focus on the effects of global trade, the populism of Trump, for example, has been highly successful in linking economic anxieties to cultural concerns therefore. It is suggested that global economy has enabled unfettered flows of not only capital, but also people across national boundaries. A discourse of losing control over our borders has become a rallying cry as prejudices against immigrants and refugees have intensified. In America, it is assumed that jobs are being lost to the cultural “others”. They’re not only being lost, but then being lost to somebody, you know. It’s not simply a loss, it’s a loss to somebody, either within the nation or elsewhere. And that they can only come back if the global flows of people are more rigorously controlled, or better still, stopped altogether. At the same time, a powerful narrative of national security has emerged in which Islam and Muslims are assumed to be the major culprits. Despite their small numbers, other minorities too are assumed to have the potential to dilute local, cultural, and religious traditions with Anglo American values becoming undermined by a globally homogenizing culture on the one hand, and unjustifiable tolerance of foreign cultural practices on the other. That is, we have taken tolerance too far underpinned by the ideologies of diversity and multiculturalism and that globalization has promoted, supposedly. Now this populism thus ties issues of economic decline to a set of cultural factors in a way that appears seamless to its supporters anywhere. It presents a most diffused and often contradictory account of discontents. Its success lies in its capacity to bring together under one ideological umbrella, a range of often conflicting ideas. It does seemingly manage to satisfy a diversity of political interests and cultural prejudices from the overtly xenophobic sentiments to economically nationalist sentiments.
What it does not do, however, is consider in any serious way, the main tenants of neoliberalism that have arguably contributed more to economic distress of the precariat than the cultural concerns. In other words, there has been an absence of analysis, as well as foregrounding of analysis. And that is deliberate as I will show very shortly. The injustices of globalization, that’s assumed to be inherent in the global flows of people, and not necessarily global flows of capital, the excesses of global institutions and transnational elite rather than in the neoliberal approaches to the new geography, new scalar logic, if you like. The failures of the nation state are assumed, moreover, to lie in not getting a favorable deal in trade rather than in the contradictions inherent in the system of trading that World Trade Organization, for example, represents. In this way, the populist rhetoric of Trump masks the fact that global interconnectivity may not be the problem afflicting the American precariat as such. But the neoliberal terms in which interconnectivity is defined and enacted. Interconnectivity is not the problem but the ways in which it is defined. Trump is a devotee, of course, as we know, of the main creed of neoliberalism and in particular, its assumptions regarding the ways in which societies and their institutions are best organized and governed. He continues to stress the importance of free markets, finding their policy expressions in the ideas of deregulation of industries and capital flows, the radical reduction in welfare state provisions, and the privatizing of private goods and services. He assumes human beings to be largely motivated by, as indeed he is, economic self-interest. In other words, he’s projecting himself onto others, always seeking to strengthen their competitive advantage within the markets.
Trump’s arguments are thus located in a system of thought, a distinctive mode of reason, that assumes what Wendy Brown, in a wonderful book that she wrote two years ago, refers to as economization of subjects. The neoliberal rationality imagines that economics can remake other fields of existence in and through its norms, its terms and its metrics. In this logic, human beings are figured as human capital across all spheres of life, including education. This line of thinking is consistent with my own work with Bob Lingard on neoliberal imaginary through which people try to make sense of their identity and their social relations. As an imaginary neoliberalism suggests both the ways in which we need to interpret the world, imagine the ways in which and un-imagine the ways in which it should be. In other words, the normative and the descriptive are fused together. As Brown puts it with a neoliberal rationality, human capital is both our is and our ought -what we are said to be, what we should be, and what the rationality makes us into through its norms, through its construction of its environments. What Trump and his supporters refuse to see, however, is that these norms are blind to the social outcomes that it has directly produced in entrenching economic inequality. When everyone and everything and everywhere is defined in terms of capital investment and appreciation, the notion of public good necessarily loses its significance. Everyone, including the government, is no longer identified with the public but is increasingly viewed as merely another economic actor amongst many others. As economic actors, corporations feel obliged to work with their shareholders rather than for the community at large. They demand greater tax breaks so that they can compete in the market more effectively and efficiently. It is not in their interest to agree to a minimum wage, for example, because such egalitarian measures invariably disadvantage them in the market, and invariably cut into their profits that they’re expected to make for their shareholders.
Now, if this is so, then social inequality and discontent are outcomes of unequal distribution of wealth within nation states and its public policies rather than global processes, and global interconnectivity, as such. As Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest companies said in January at the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos that contrary to the popular view, the United States has benefited disproportionately from globalization of trade in industries such as telecommunications, tourism, and retail services. But, he argues, it has not used its profits wisely, preferring to spend it on military misadventures, and giving tax cuts to the rich instead of looking after the dislocated members of its society. Dislocated because of globalization. The problem, he has noted, is not globalization of trade, but the failure of the United States to pursue policies that are more redistributed, preferring policies that are punitive and uncaring. Jack Ma’s analysis -although he comes from a different worldview to mine-nonetheless underlies a very complicated relationship between globalization on the one hand and neoliberalism and the other. In other words, there is a hyphen between neoliberal-globalization, and we need to actually understand not only the neoliberal and globalization, but also the hyphen. That to me, is very important. This complication, this difficult kind of relationship is further evident in the realization that neoliberalism is, in fact, a product of Anglo-American political priorities and political preferences. The neoliberal definition of globalization, the hyphenation that I’ve talked about, is an outcome of the American post-war efforts to remake the world in its own image. The Marshall Plan, for example.
Indeed, it is the United States, far more than any other country that has had the decisive votes in determining the content of the policies and procedures that have accompanied neoliberal globalization. Its say remains dominant in multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, the OECD, IMF, and it has played a powerful role in shaping the content of the rules of the World Trade Organization, which now seeks to enforce, much to the chagrin of Trump and his supporters. In other words, having made the rule, the United States says that those rules were not fair to us, and they need to be even fairer than they are already in terms of the benefits. Similarly, United Kingdom was not a bystander in forging the Schengen Agreement. Not a bystander that encouraged the mobility of people without visa across countries within the Schengen area. Largely on the basis of its earlier conviction that the mobility of people and capital across Europe was fundamental to its economic growth, it’s economic productivity, and prosperity. In other words, they have changed their mind about Schengen. If these arguments are valid, then ethnonationalism promoted by both Trump and Brexit is in fact a rouse masking the contradictions of neoliberal rationality, as well as its impact on the life chances of the marginalized. What is clear is that unless progressive, redistributive policies are introduced within the United States, no attempt by Trump administration at reordering the nation’s cultural politics can be productive in improving the economic prospects of its citizens for a better life. Holding immigrants and refugees responsible for unemployment and deteriorating labor conditions and fueling the fires of Islamophobia may play well with certain sections of American and British society. But they’re unlikely to lead to either economic productivity or to social cohesion and community harmony that are so fundamental to ensuring capital accumulation and financial stability, as Roger and I had pointed out some 30 years ago. Improvements in the working conditions of people cannot occur by blaming globalization as such but attending to the contradictions and the definition of globalization and the neoliberal rationality within the terms of which its hegemonic conception is currently defined.
And yet, far from recognizing the problems associated with it, the Trump administration has doubled down, which is an American phrase not used in Australia all that much but doubled down on the assumption of neoliberal rationality. It has promised to cut taxes in unprecedented ways. In all likelihood, it will attempt to balance the budget by cutting back on expenditures on social programs insofar as it can. It has indicated a determination to stimulate the economy by an expansive program of deregulation and privatization. Trump has appointed a cabinet that is wedded to the interests of the big end of town, or to a more ideologically rigid form of capitalism, if you like. Some members of the Trump cabinet are hostile to the goals of the very agencies they have been asked to oversee, as well as to the various forms of unionization. The idea of minimum wage has effectively been ruled out at the federal level. In short, the Trump administration, in displaying a strong commitment to neoliberal and perhaps even stronger commitment to neoliberal rationality than the Obama and earlier regimes, applied initially to the operations of the state, but then extended to the renegotiation of treaties and international trade. Though in ways not as muscular, the British government too is similarly committed to the application of neoliberal principles to state policies and practices. Even as it has decided to go it alone outside the purview of the European Union.
In education, the Trump commitment to neoliberal rationality could not be clearer with the appointment as his secretary of state, Betsy DeVos -one of the most ideologically driven in recent history- with no experience in running a public system or state university and shaping statewide education policy. Her signature issue, school voucher, is based on her commitment to a free market ideology in education. She argues, and I quote, “Let the education dollars follow the child instead of forcing the child to follow the dollars. People deserve choices and options”. And we know about $20 billion that has been allocated to pursue that policy. As a former chairwoman of the Republican Party in Michigan, and a major donor to the party, she has supported various policies and programs of voucher, privatization, and deregulation charter schools. DeVos argues that charter schools invariably improve the quality of provisions and represent a way of providing greater access to educational opportunity to the marginalized in poorer communities. In other words, she does have a view of equity defined in terms of access for those who can afford it. Neither of these claims is supported by evidence, however. A recent meta review of research on publicly-funded private school in the United States indicates no clear advantage or improvement in academic achievement among students attending private schools. According to Chris and Sarah Lubinski, the evidence about charter school effectiveness is equally missed. More disturbing is the finding that private schools are more economically and racially segregated than public schools, and that they underrepresent students with special needs. For the more poorly funded schools are less likely to provide access to new technologies, science laboratories, secure environments, and so on and so on. In the end, they exasperate cultural tensions, as well as social inequalities, perpetuating social conflict, social division, social segregation without doing anything to minimize level of economic inequalities and despair.
In his book, my friend David Hirsch, The End of Public Schools, the book’s title has shown how privatization policies also undermine democracy. He argues that public schools were created as learning communities that supported the development of trusting and caring relationships. The very opposite of the world of competition and the deals that Trump and his supporters committed to. Yet, in schools where students are viewed as customers and parents as shareholders, this democratic function of education is necessarily diluted, as students are prepared for a world of competition. In the end, the idea of privatization grounded in neoliberal rationality projects a different view of society, as our award-winning book suggests, as shown, in which individuals are encouraged to compete for scarce resources in which the market defines modes of social relationships. The ideas of democracy and equality are not abandoned but are re-articulated in market terms. The concept of democracy becomes largely representative rather than participatory, symbolic rather than substantive. While equality is redefined in terms of entitlement, suggesting that individuals deserve water they have earned rather than what they might share. This, of course, really points to the conditions for social tension that partly is supposed to be expressed in Trump’s victory but is likely to make it much more extensive and much more wide ranging. It’s hard to see how the doubling down on neoliberal rationality can bring any benefits to the precariat class in the United States or indeed in Britain. Nor is it clear how their decision to go it alone and put nation first likely in the long run to be productive. In education policymaking in the United States has seldom been keen to draw on elsewhere, as it has not been reluctant to promote its vision of education throughout the world through development aid programs and its active guidance of global agencies such as the OECD.
Trump’s national agenda is unlikely to change this to any great extent. And since as a strong state, he’s promised to go it alone, it has an appeal for his supporters. However, what his prescription for others is likely to be much more dangerous. The consequence of Brexit, however, are more serious and more direct for educational institutions in the UK, as Susan Robertson and others have pointed out. The support that Britain receives for academic and student mobility and exchange programs from the EU are likely to be severely diminished. As indeed the funding for programs of collaborative research. It will also lose an important forum in which educational ideas are explored and debated, and programs of educational reform compared and benchmarked. The financial benefits derived from international students in its universities will also decline. The question arises, then; then what kind of policyscapes might emerge in the United States and Britain against these political conditions and against this particular view of the contradictions that I have defined in which neoliberal assumptions are doubled down on? But they have not abandoned globalization, but at the same time have embraced ethnonationalism. So, ethnonationalism, some idea of global intervention not entirely abandoned, as well as neoliberal assumptions together, forge a very, very toxic mix indeed. Certainly, it’s possible for US and UK to promote more rigorous nationalist regimes and close their borders to refugees and migrants who do not serve their immediate interests -and this appears, of course, likely. Also, possible to imagine is further restrictions on flows of goods and services. Perhaps also, although a lot less likely, capital in education, it’s possible to imagine a United States in which its traditional commitment to multiculturalism, human rights education, internationalization and so on, might be wound back promoting instead a curriculum that underlines the importance of religious and patriotic values. Indeed, DeVos has already indicated her interest in encouraging schools, both private and public, to return to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Other countries might be required to follow these trends.
Yet, it’s hard to imagine educational institutions anywhere turning their backs on an era of nation states, once again, separating themselves from global forces and opportunities. There are some aspects of global interconnectivity that now appear ontologically fixed. Developments in information and technologies are not going away, for example, which have rendered inevitable the global flows of ideas, ideologies and images. They have intensified transnational connectedness and awareness of such intensification. They have disembedded social relations from local context and interactions, leading to accelerated change through time space compression. Most communities have already become transformed through the global flows of people. Cultural diversity, exchange, and hybridity have become a fact of life in both the United States and Britain and cannot simply be wished away. These things are grounded in our communities, and it’s much more difficult to pull back from them than it’s often assumed. The new economies are increasingly centered on services economies, such industries, as tourism, education, retail, and these are predicated fundamentally now on globalized exchange. Australia’s economy is 70% services. 80% of that 70% is in terms of global exchange of one kind, including education, including tourism and so on. So, in other words, global exchange has become part and parcel of the composition of our economies. And I think that needs to be recognized -that transfer from service goods to services industry has been significant, but I think its cultural significance is often under-recognized.
At the same time, there is now a deep awareness, amongst the young in particular, that many of the serious problems facing humanity, such as the environment are global requiring. In other words, there are reasons to be pessimistic but there are also reasons to realize that there are grounded conditions, there are ontological realities that will be difficult to bounce back from. These historical, ontological realities, I want to say, make it difficult to imagine a world without global interconnectivity and continuing exchange. Many aspects of globalization are here to stay. The idea of post-globalization, therefore, appears to be something of a mirage. The issue now is, not whether there will be some aspects of global interconnectivity but how these might be defined. In other words, how the terms of our global interdependence and our global interconnectivity might be couched. This, to my mind, is conceptual, and political but also most fundamentally, a moral question. As we have noted over the past few decades, the terms of global, economic, political and cultural exchange have been framed in neoliberal terms. Neoliberal terms prescribes a morality, as well as it prescribes an economics. In other words, it prescribes the way human beings should relate to each other. That suggests, to me, that we need to actually be careful not to abandon moral discourse and really not look at the moral concerns of our field and not simply, its conceptual, and its empirical aspects.
Globalization has not only been about material structures of power, but it has also constituted and is constituted by a particular way of interpreting and representing the world, a particular way of forming and forging the social of the social exchange. And in particular, in that sense, it involves representing the world -in short, a common sense as Stuart Hall pointed out many years ago. One of the unexpected benefits of a Trump victory and Brexit might be that they have served to unmask the common sense generated by neoliberal directionality. They have shown how the benefits of neoliberal globalization have been unevenly distributed, and how it has disempowered communities. They have pointed to the need to develop a new common sense. Where might this common sense come from? That is the question that we need to ask, and that our field should set itself the challenge of working on. While the neoliberal common sense cannot simply abandon globalization, the ontological realities that it now represents, it is possible to interrogate further, the neoliberal assumptions in which the hegemonic common sense has been framed of globalization, as a way of better understanding its effects and its discontents.
The challenge before us is to explore ways of rescuing globalization from the clutches of neoliberalism -a question that keeps many of us awake, I’m sure. Imagining a conception which is not wedded to its deeply ideological structure. But nor does it fall back into, as Trump and Brexit do, dangerous nativism. Into a common sense in which nativism, along with neoliberalism, is trying to define a globalization that is deeply, deeply contradictory but deeply, deeply dangerous as well. But the danger with this kind of ethnonationalism that Trump and Brexit advocate is that it’s likely to produce a cultural politics that is based on a permanent state of fear, resentment, and conflict, but nor is it able to deliver the economic and social benefits that it falsely promises. An alternative to neoliberal globalization must begin with the realization of a paradox. That, as David Held, points out, the collective issues we must grapple with are of growing cross border extensity and intensity, yet the means of addressing these are local and national. If it must recognize that the world is multipolar, and the power exists in the world, and that we are going to be pulled here and there everywhere, where some states are strong in almost all respects, while others are not. The stronger states such as the United States and Britain, even with their weakened condition are now tempted to go it alone and put themselves first. But the problem with the neoliberal logic of competition is that in an increasingly interdependent world, this does not only harm the weaker state but also the weaker sections of the dominant -or if you like-, stronger states as well. In other words, it has a double banger effect. This suggests that while nation states retain their importance, and will invariably pursue their own interests, this pursuit should become accompanied by an ethical outlook of care towards members of their community but of others as well. This demands a new rationality, a new way of defining and interacting and understanding interconnectivity. A new way of prescribing global exchange. A new way of defining interdependence. Interdependence is here to stay. The terms of which still remain to be negotiated. Thank you very much.
Mario Novelli 1:00:31
Thanks, Fazal. It’s really a great privilege to be able to make some comments about your work. I was thinking whilst you’re speaking about 20 years ago, I walked into Leon Tikly’s office in the University of Birmingham and started a master’s program. And I think that was the first time I got introduced to the ideas of globalization and education. And later on, joining the University of Bristol and working with Susan Robertson and Roger Dale, I feel like I had a privileged entry into what is a very interesting field, a very interesting SIG that we now have, and also a very interesting and I think, quite promiscuous and curious field that isn’t afraid of exploring different disciplines and the intersections between international relations and geography and sociology and politics. And it’s also a serious field. I think that the globalization and education work that’s done really tries to address some of those issues that really matter to people in the real world. Issues around inequalities and public and private and many of the challenges that we face. So, I feel, in a sense, happy that I can recognize all the references that you used in your text and grateful for those that guided me. I think that my discussion is not a critique. What I think it is, is the beginning of a dialogue. And the dialogue, I think, has already begun and begun through Will Brehm and the fantastic spaces that he’s created over the last year. The many podcasts that have been broadcast. Also, the discussions that have been going on over the last few days around what is going on, and where does the state fit in? And I hope that that carries on over the next years.
So, I think that I’m going to start the discussion with the question about the relationship between neoliberalism and authoritarianism and cultural conservativism. Because there’s a sense that a lot of the work that we have done over the years -for the last 20 odd years- has been about economic neoliberalism and the rolling back of the state in education and in broader society. And there is also a sense that punctuated periods of neoliberalism have been deeply conservative and authoritarian. They’re not all Trudeau’s. They are also Pinochet’s, and Thatcher’s who were deeply conservative in their outlook, deeply homophobic, deeply sexist. So, I think that there is a continuity in the neoliberal project that maybe we haven’t picked up. And I almost feel, at the moment, like there is a second rollback going on. You know, thinking about Jamie Peck’s work on rolling back the state. And in a sense, we feel like the democratic state is being rolled back now. A lot of the gains of the civil rights movement from the 1960’s are being rolled back, the rights of transgender communities, gay communities, Black communities, Muslim communities, all of these people are under attack at the moment. And so, in a sense, you kind of feel like this is the second coming of some of those. They’re saying, like we’ve done the economic, now we’ve moved on to the cultural. And actually, if you go to -and I don’t advocate everybody to read this- but if you read the 2,000 page dossier that the Norwegian neo-Nazi Brevik released on the day when he carried out these massacres, he talked an awful lot in them about cultural Marxism, which had dominated our societies and brought in all these liberal ideas that we had to eliminate from societies and bring back -a lot of the stuff that he was writing was about multicultural. A lot of it is public discourse now in many circles in the UK, and the US. And so, I think that there’s something about that that is not -maybe it is a contradiction, but I don’t think it’s precisely the way that you have explained that.
And I think that the second thing I would like to say is that, in a sense, the way that you present ethnonationalism as a kind of retreatist, nativist project. But it seems to me that it’s also a global project. Because if you look at for example, Nigel Farage’s frequent visits to the US after Brexit, and the discovery over the last week of the amount of money that UKIP was getting from the US to support the Brexit campaign, there seems to be interconnections. Bannon apparently has been advising Nigel Farage and Nigel Farage has now begun a career as a radio presenter in London as a part of this kind of cultural process of winning the debate for the right. So, this Gramscian debate that’s gone on a bit in the sessions this week, I think, is really pertinent. But we shouldn’t think that the left is the only ones that are interested in Gramsci and building hegemony. The right is also. So, I think there is an issue around a global project of nativism that has its links and has its broader objectives. The third thing that that leads me to is that -and this is a positive one- I think that Trump brings people together. Brings a lot of subjects together in disliking Trump. So, you’ve got a whole range of communities that are being persecuted now and there is a potential to build a unified movement. But that needs a pedagogy that recognizes difference in unity. And how do you develop that? Because we’ve already seen that immediately after the Brexit, or immediately after the Trump vote, we also had a kind of Trump march in London. A women’s march against Trump similar to the one that was held in the US. And it ended up in two marches because it was led by white feminists who excluded Black feminists from the organizing committee of the march and it ended up in a split. And it was all around issues around who has the right to talk about the issue? Who has the right to be included, and who has the right to be excluded? And I think that if you’re going to build a movement now that is broad enough to start to challenge some of these issues, then we need a pedagogy of respect in the spaces that we organize in to help that.
And I think that that’s fundamentally an educational phenomenon. It’s about trying to find the conditions under which people feel comfortable to come together and organize together and feel that their issues are being taken seriously. And they’re not just a vehicle for somebody else’s objectives. So, I think that that’s important. And I think that the second thing around the cultural dimension and resistance is it’s a very educational thing. I think that this whole cultural rollback, is penetrating the schools already. I was reading in the paper yesterday, that there was an attempt by an Arkansas Republican to eliminate Howard Zinn’s works from the curriculum. In the UK, we’re being told in the national curriculum not to teach books from foreign authors, that we should be promoting English authors. So, there is a real sense that teachers in universities, in schools, in kindergartens need to hold their ground and need to challenge a lot of these areas. Because the ground is moving very quickly under our feet, and we can lose many more of these. And that’s why I think that the whole challenge that I think we face in relation to that is that many people are kind of nostalgic for Tony Blair or Hillary Clinton. And the thing is, is that I don’t think we’ve fully analyzed the fact that it was many of their politics that have produced the reason why the white, working-class communities in many parts of the world did not have any faith in their so-called representatives. In particular, in the UK, we see Tony Blair having made millions entering into Parliament and then leaving Parliament after having made millions. So, it’s little surprise that the left has little credibility. So, I think that we’re in a kind of period where the center has kind of collapsed. And either you build an alternative and a more radical project or I don’t think that you can have much of a chance of building an alternative.
And I think that the last point I wanted to raise Fazal was that there is a danger of the kind of focus on Brexit and what’s going on in the US or forgetting about the many other places around the world that are facing massive struggles and stress. 1000’s of academics have lost their jobs in Turkey over the last year. People have been dismissed, people have been imprisoned. The situation in the Philippines, the situation in South Africa of students and the police violence, There are so many different things. So, I think that we have to counter nativism with solidarity -international solidarity as well as internal solidarity. And that means building those links and solidarities amongst our colleagues and engaging with them in those ways. So, I think that there is a big potential of a range of things that we can do both as an academic field but also as a field of practice that many of us occupy as teachers, as education workers, as community activists, that we really need to move forward. Thank you.