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Strange Educators: de Sade, Loyola, Rousseau, Fourier
Today education is formalised in institutions and oriented in its arrangement, curriculum and delivery by the demands and priorities of the ‘state’ – economically, first, and socially and culturally thereafter. Formalised as it is, it is the predominant means of social reproduction. This reproduction is however not free of antagonism and this is in fact immanent to the process. Education must transform its subject into one capable of social reproduction – of being in its desires, beliefs and actions in accord with the demands of the state. However, that a subject capable of being ignorant of such demands must be presumed points to a knowledge of this demand that is not that of this state as such – an other knowledge exists, even if it is just in the form of the ignorance of the correct forms of social reproduction.
Furthermore, transformation is itself inherently unstable for it by no means means only the transformation of ignorance into knowledge in the form of the demand of social reproduction. Transformation can also mean the transformation of these social relations themselves. In this sense, education aims at (the existence of) something beyond or despite or other than the demands of the state for social reproduction. Hence the everywhere evident desperation of states today to make sure that no such knowledge of transformation remains over in their formalisation of education. This is what is known as reform – the contest in ways to make this knowledge (of transformation) unknown.
If we understand that this antagonism is inherent to education we can also understand that the history of the present form of education is a divided one: in the double sense that there is no linear progress in its concept or practice that today’s version realises; rather it is the outcome of a concerted struggle over its constitution and institution. Moreover, and hence it being a site of this struggle, education is always already that which threatens to undo the very knowledge of it at any given time in its history. That's to say, to be the means of the transformation of social relations as such.
With this immanent division or antagonism setting the scene this series looks at four ‘strange educators’ who in some strange way make up the history of our present education: D.A. F. de Sade, Ignatius of Loyola, J-J. Rousseau and Charles Fourier. These four are strange in terms of the ways they organise, force, formalise and transmit this division between what we can call the pedagogy of the world as it goes and its derealisation through transformation itself.
In a certain sense, each in their own way – sometimes absolutely different from each other, sometimes in strange accord – seek to formalise the ‘free’ ignorance of the subject vis a vis the demands of social reproduction as the very basis of what is for them a true education. Thus to be truly educated is in one way or another to participate in the transformation of social relations as such, which is to say, to push education toward its ‘natural’ end and not have it subject to the reductive demands of the current state. Of course, they are strange too in the content and curriculum, in organisation and discipline, in theory, means and manner of transmission and also in the failings of these efforts, and the series will investigate how these – content, transmission, transformation – relate to each other.
What we are especially interested in is the conception of education apparent and active in each strange figures’ educational trajectory and procedure: thus what is it in the bedroom of de Sade; what is education for the counter-reformationist Society of Jesus; what is it in nature for Rousseau; what is it in the phalanstery of Fourier? Ultimately, we ask, what can we learn from these strange educators that education has taught us to forget?