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

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

US rights groups claim 'continued violation' of basic freedoms in J&K since August 2019

By Our Representative  Top US-based non-profit, Human Rights Watch (HRW), headquartered in New York, and the Washington DC-based Indian diaspora group, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), recalling the abrogation of Article 370 three years ago, have taken strong exception to "continued restrictions" on free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Claiming that after revoking the region’s special autonomous status on August 5, 2019, the government’s “repressive policies and failure to investigate and prosecute alleged security force abuses have increased insecurity among Kashmiris”, in a statement, HRW said, “The government action was accompanied by serious rights violations including arbitrary detention of hundreds of people, a total communications blackout, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.” It added, “Since then, the authorities have released many of the detainees and restored the internet, but have

Why global recession is 'big threat' to India, despite Nirmala Sitharaman’s bravado

By Prasanna Mohanty*  It would be imprudent to assume that a global recessionary trend will bypass India. In fact, a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman categorically ruled out the possibility of recession and stagflation (with high unemployment and high inflation India is technically witnessing stagflation) hitting India in her responses to the Parliament earlier in the week, Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam dropped a bomb shell. He released latest trade data showing fast deteriorating trends. The data showed, in July 2022, exports fell to five-month low of $35.2 billion and imports sequentially increased to $66 billion. The details revealed a fall in seven of top 10 export items: engineering goods, petroleum products, gems and jewellery, pharmaceuticals, readymade garments, cotton yarn and plastics. All this happened, Subrahmanyam acknowledged, due to the growing recessionary trends in developed countries and elevated commodity prices. The trade deficit (merchandise g

Bangladeshi women crossing borders: Demand to sensitise cops, BSF personnel

Counterview Desk  Bringing more instances of how the security personnel along the borders in West Bengal refuse to probe the human trafficking angle while arresting Bangladeshi women, human rights leader Kirity Roy has said, they are treated as accused in violation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh on Bilateral Cooperation for Preventing of Human Trafficking, especially trafficking in Women and Children. In a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, said, “The victims should be immediately repatriated to their own country and the criminal charges against them must be withdrawn at the earliest”, insisting, “The matters must be handled by the police or the BSF personnel with a human approach.” Text: I am writing this complaint regarding det

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

Draft notification: MoEF&CC should 'critically protect' eco-sensitive Western Ghats

Counterview Desk  In a detailed representation to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Shankar Sharma, power and climate policy analyst, commentin on the draft gazette notification of the MoEF&CC dated July 6, 2022 on the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) of the Western Ghats (WGs), has said that the political class, having vested interests in Karnataka, has been opposing such a move for many years. Stating that there is no “rational basis to do so”, and stating that the opponents do not even seem to have even read the recommendations of Dr Kasturi Rangan committee report or the actual draft notification itself, Sharma underscores, the only aim of the vested interests, who have “unauthorisedly occupied massive pieces of forest lands”, to continue to do on in near. “These vested interests are continuing to be ignorant of the fact that Western Ghats not only harbour rich biodiversity of critical importance to our people, but also support