Skip to main content

Neoliberal, post-modern ideological 'hijack' of India's higher education system

By Paramjit Singh* 

Education, under the rule of late capitalism, is institutionalized into helping the rich prevail at the expense of everybody else. If we try to locate the education system through a historical materialistic perspective, then it is designed to meet the interests of the economic and political ruling classes of any particular time.
From time to time, internal and external forces bring about changes in the economic and political ruling class or in their ideology which automatically transpires into changes in the education structure. With the advent of neoliberal capitalism in India in 1991, the crisis in the education system has deepened. The mounting crisis is an outcome of two important changes.
First, the subjugation of the education system, educationists and students under the economic logic of capitalism that is neoliberalism. Second, their subjugation under cultural logic of capitalism, namely postmodernism.
Neoliberalism and postmodernism have together created a scenario where the young students are convinced that there are only two alternatives available; first is the cult of existing power structure where the student builds brick by brick a lucrative career, working as an open associate of the ruling classes, while the other is the nihilist cult of short-lived reactions, where students immerse themselves into dazzling but directionless rebellions.
Neoliberalism has transformed higher education into a profit earning commodity. This commodification of education in India, is richly rewarding for the capitalists given the size of Indian higher education market. Each year, millions of young students (or customers) enter this market to get education.
Now, the price (fee) of each type of education is determined by the possibilities of employment under the neoliberal capitalist system. In this context, new courses are regularly introduced and the curriculum of existing course revised as per the requirements of the labour market. Neoliberalism has given birth to an intensive competition among those who are inspired to become a part of the capitalist economic system.
In this context, neoliberal ideology has successfully replaced the ‘interest’ of students and parents with the cost of degree, time required to complete it and rewarding employment possibilities (mostly in terms of material or power) after attaining the degree. Bulk of the students are victims of the economic logic of late capitalism. They enter into esteemed colleges and universities to earn a degree that can take them near to the economic and political ruling classes.
One group of these students take the aspirational road to become a civil servant. Each year over a million young aspirants appear in these exams to become a part of the coveted bureaucracy. In these exams neoliberal logic of filtration works. From appearing to becoming a part of bureaucracy their number falls from millions to hundreds.
Subsequently, the aspirant turned officer – with honorable exceptions – is seldom able to break away from the rigid and rigged system, perhaps ignorant of the fact that under the capitalist system, not only the bureaucracy but the political class too is recruited to serve not the common masses but the economic bosses.
The fate of the second group of students taking routes to material richness other than bureaucracy is more or less the same. In-fact, there is perhaps roughly an equal proportion of institutionalization of employees to serve and strengthen the economic elites in the corporate sector, in politics, in the media (from paid news to fixing deals) and even professional service firms (consultants who aid tax evasion to those who lobby for it) and so on.
While neoliberalisation of the education structure in India has transformed a majority of the students into associates of capitalism through its economic logic, there are still those who want to fight the system and not be enslaved by it. At least not directly. For them and their kind, late capitalism has employed another strategy that has targeted the curriculum in higher education.
This strategy represents the cultural logic of late capitalism also known as postmodernism. The 1980s were the boom time for postmodern ideology in Western education. This movement, first seized the higher education systems of North America and Western Europe and then gradually spread to the third world countries including India.
Crisis of higher education is an outcome of disappearance of critical pedagogy and any real discourse on broader struggles against capitalism
In addition to Ihab Hassan, who was one of its principal propagandists, the work of Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari has strengthened the foundations of postmodernism in higher education. Since 1991, the invasion of Indian higher education by postmodernist thinking has resulted in and intensified the all-encompassing individualism – personal freedom has overshadowed societal wellbeing – a mindset or temperament that necessarily makes one believe that liberty is closer to selfishness and economic inequality is not so bad.
Despite their disagreements, postmodernist discourse negates metanarratives, presented by Hegel, Marx and Freud, to understand the dynamics of societal progress as an integrated whole. Hence, postmodernism is nothing but an anti-thesis of grand narrative. With metanarratives, ethics and value, and any appeals to ‘truth’ scuppered, postmodernism reflects a certain celebration of aimless anarchism in the contemporary pedagogy.
Hence, postmodernism, like in other parts of the world, has made education in India more consumerist, fragmented, media-saturated (hyperreal) and pluralist. The postmodern thinkers present this whole new narrative in a special sophisticated language that exudes a sense of superior intellect.
It attributes the highest importance to ‘language’ in educational and theoretical discussions. Indeed, it has transformed teaching and research in India into a depthless, ideology-free, history-free, fragmentary, heterogeneous, surfaced and individualistic discourse.
In postmodernist methodological discourse that rules over the contemporary education system in India and elsewhere, economic exploitation, economic inequality, poverty, misery, class analysis and class struggle, which are central points to understand the capitalist system have disappeared and replaced by issues of identity, race, caste, religion, gender, free voice, personal freedom, environment, etc.
We would like to emphasize that there is no doubt that all the above issues are important and need to be addressed. But the fundamental problem is that, when postmodern methodology is employed to understand these questions, it divorces the intellectual discourse from the egalitarian project of progressive emancipation of society and ends up in radical separatism.
Since 1991, a group of teachers, researchers, and students in Indian universities who want to make the Indian society a better place to live in, have been hijacked by this ‘false consciousness’ created by postmodernism.
They follow the postmodern mode of protest and dissent which is acceptable to the economic logic of late capitalism because their dissent neither comprehensively critiques nor challenges it. The progressive teachers, researchers and students think that they are struggling for social change and no doubt they are, however, the root cause of all the problems i.e., capitalist system does not effectively become the subject of critique in their struggle. Because capitalist system is not a subject of their critique, the alternative to capitalism is also not a subject of their debates, deliberations and struggles.
Hence, the crisis of higher education in India is an outcome of the disappearance of critical pedagogy and any real discourse on the broader struggles against capitalism which is the root cause of all oppressions.
The neoliberal and postmodernist ideological hijack of the Indian higher education system has been exploiting (both economically and mentally) teachers, researchers, students and in a way the whole society. It has not only transformed education into a tradable commodity but also diluted the path of discourse from fundamental to surficial questions.
In this whole process, on one hand, the crisis of higher education system is deepening and on the other, capitalist system has escaped from discourse and critique. It is important today, for intellectuals, teachers, researchers, and students to see beyond the veil of postmodern ideology and the charms of neoliberal capitalism.
In order to bring higher education out of crisis, we need an alternative paradigm that can bring back critique of the capitalist system into intellectual discourse. For this, we must carry out a radical revolution in our ideas through a long, painful and difficult re-education.
---
*Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Panjab University, Chandigarh. Inputs: Pargat Singh

Comments

Bernard Kohn said…
Many people who write interesting articles like Paramjit Singh, on education
make wordy yet interesting analysis, but offer NO PROPOSAL OR POSSIBLE SOLUTION.
This is a worldwide dilemma, but strong in India....
He, in his article could refer to all kind of existing educational alternatives! But no, the article just end there!
We could imagine thru the Counterview blog that we could initiate a debate.
Education is such a critical subject, now becoming wordy, wordy, and more wordy, away from doing, figuring out, investigating...., manual dexterity which also initiates thinking!

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

PLFS data: Is rising employment good news? Deeper analysis suggests contrary results

By Ishwar Chandra Awasthi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav*  Results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2020-21 , released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (GoI) on June 14, 2022, show improvement in work force participation rate (WPR) and labour force participation rate (LFPR) and declining unemployment rate. Four rounds of data have been released from 2017-18 to 2020-21 based on PLFS. The general trend in the last four rounds clearly shows consistent increase in WPR and LFPR and falling unemployment rates by usual status (PS+SS). Though increase in WPR and LFPR is reported highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19, yet rising trend in these two key indicators continues throughout, and similarly fall in unemployment is registered highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19. Clearly, the recent results give some solace and relief after unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has entailed enormous loss of human lives and livelihoods and crippled economic activit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Drop all falsed charges': 150 citizens demand early release of AltNews co-founder

Counterview Desk  About 150 concerned citizens have demanded the release of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checkng newsportal AltNews, arrested over a 2018 tweet which allegedly hurt religious sentiments, even as booking for criminal conspiracy and having received foreign funds in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Denied bail last weekend and sent to 14-day judicial custody, the concerned citizens, in a statement, regretted that while the Delhi High Court issued notice to the Delhi police on a petition filed on behalf of Zubair challenging the legality and propriety of his police remand and the seizure of his electronic devices, the “frivolous case” continues. Excerpts: The illegal arrest of Mr. Mohammed Zubair happened on June 27, 2022, by the Delhi Police for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity over a tweet from 2018. The IPC Sections included 153(a) (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race,

Chennai residents 'suffering': Faulty design, implementation of storm water project

By NS Venkataraman*  The Greater Chennai Corporation is now implementing storm water drainage project in 559 roads, covering a distance of 1033 kilometres, which cost around Rs 4,070 crore. For this massive project, which is targeted to be completed between April and September this year, huge loan has been availed from World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others. Several technocrats have pointed out that the project has been designed with outdated technology and quality of the implementation is so poor that the residents have been put to great hardships. As part of the project, digging of the road has been done to around 5 to 6 feet deep and width of around 4 to 5 feet. The drains are being constructed using steel reinforced cement concrete with two walls on either side with provisions for manhole, chute etc. This has been done in front of several houses leaving little space between the gate of the house and that of the drainage structure. As the work has been going on for mor

Prime Minister's 'affordable' housing policy fails to help Gujarat slum dwellers: Study

By Rajiv Shah  A new study on the implementation of one of the major policy initiatives for the urban poor by the Narendra Modi government after it came to power, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), has said that in Gujarat, which happens to be the Prime Minister’s home state, has quoted state officials as “confirming” that no progress towards tenure regularization, a key requirement for providing housing to the state’s slum dwellers. Stating that this particularly true of smaller town, the study, carried out by the non-profit Homes in the City (HIC), which is based in Bhuj, district headquarter of Kutch that saw a devastating earthquake in 2001, says, the failure to provide affordable housing is there despite the fact that there has been “significant demand” in all the 83 out of 153 Gujarat municipalities studied by experts involved in the study. According to the study, out f a total of 1.41 lakh demands for housing under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) category, 94,232 (66.7%)

'Contractor-official nexus led to RTI activist's murder': Fact-finding team seeks probe

Courtyard inside of PWD office where Ranjeet Soni was killed Counterview Desk  A fact-finding team* visited Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh (MP) on June 19, 2022 to meet with the family of Ranjeet Soni, who was shot dead on June 2, 2022 inside the premises of the PWD office in Vidisha. The objective was to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ranjeet Soni and his work on exposing corruption through the use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A report prepared by the team members says that Ranjeet had been extensively using the RTI Act to access information from the government, and upon receiving documents showing misuse of public funds or corruption, he was filing complaints to various authorities including the Lokyukta, Publi Works Department (PWD) and the Chief Minister’s Office. It notes, Ranjeet used to work as a contractor and often undertook government works in collaboration with other contractors, including those being investigated for his murder. A f

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria