crítica radical de la cultura

Robert Kurz

The Soul´s commercialization




The time when, occasionally people dared to think still, embarrassed, in
their own venality and in that of their product, disappeared. More and more
the individuals transform themselves, in fact, in that « homo economicus »
which in the past was a simple image of the classic political economy. With
the economisation of all life's spheres, the economisation of the conscience
advanced in a degree, inconceivable until now -and that, thanks to the
globalisation, in the four cardinal points of the planet, not only in the
capitalist centres. When even both the love and the sexuality, as much in
the science as in the daily life, are thought more and more as economic
categories and estimated according to economic approaches, the soul's
commercialisation seems irresistible. It is licit to think that it doesn't
exist anymore any emotional, cultural or community oasis unaware to the
economic claws: the calculation guided by the abstract lucre and for the
managerial politics of costs crosses, in the beginning of the XXI century,
the whole circuit of existence. From this social tendency towards the full
economisation was born, evidently, a new type of socialization: the pattern
of nuclear fordist family (mother, father, a son, a dog, a car) was reduced
to the sexless post-modern bachelor's pattern ("hermetic monad", a computer, a cellular phone). Here we are again, in certain measure, with solitary individuals-competition, provided with high technology that, at the same time, returned socially to the phase of the infantile me: "Speedy, flexible, ready for work, selfish, treacherous, superficial" -this way a German
economic magazine describes the essential qualities of the call "generation
@". People with such a structure of character and way of conscience would be even considered in the seventies as mental perturbed and suitable for a
socio-pedagogic treatment; today they have been turned into social model.
This is only because a intelligence combination, technically reduced to the
domestic repairs, absolute cold blood and emotional immaturity, can
facilitate that the "adaptation to the market" on people's side arrives to
the end. It is exactly this norm of behaviour the one that requires the
global capitalism in crisis. It is not random that teenagers are frequently
seen with the mask of the success stamped in the face. These are the
supposed "founders" of the new impresarios in Internet, which work as madmen and identified themselves with their company until the point of resigning to themselves. Surrendering to their fantasies of omnipotence, they imagine changing the face of the world, although their personal content is
characterized by pitiful banalities and redounds in minimal technological
effects or in some propaganda form without grace. With the wordiness of pop
interviewers, they see themselves making a " revolution ", while truly they
are acritical and conformist to the end in front of the dominant order, in a
degree never reached by any generation in the last two hundred years.

Outlandish eccentricity

It is clear that this kind of intellectual and emotional poverty, that in
the bottom represents a curiosity worthy of compassion, cannot be imposed in any way as social reality. Most people are not under conditions of promoting such an affront to their personality, although they insist. But even the most odd intellectual or spiritual eccentricity can seem like a model to
follow when the society elevates it to kind of a cult. There is nothing, in
the society of the media that can be imposed in little time as a fashion of
masses, because the consumers´ conscience is been a lot that lost its edge
and is defenceless.

Because of that at the beginning, it doesn't "take" conscience of the "
Zeitgeist " [spirit of the time]. On the contrary, the blind development
process in the market societies always produces new tendencies and tastes at the beginning slightly clear, smelt out by the media like dogs in search of
an unknown scent. Immediately a profile is insinuated that, many times, it
is suffocated next, but in other occasions it is fortified as a model of a
certain epoch or formation of the market. This can be worth for isolated
spheres as the politics, the popular culture, the ideology, the products and
the marks, including fashionable diseases or other hysterias of masses; but
it can also be an extensive phenomenon that dictates its orders to an entire
society. Certain spiritual, cultural and social type that symbolizes, for a
social average in ascent, the segment social leader is suddenly raised to
the throne of the " Zeitgeist ".

Starting from this point, the tendency before spontaneous becomes program
and propaganda. In the same measure that the main characters of the new
economy, moved to water mineral, were forged as pop stars, the "economic
histories" also began to dominate the actions of the entertainment industry
and to melt in a kind of a neo-liberalism novel. "Nothing else more amusing
that the economy": this is the slogan of a German weekly publication for
investors. The facts of the Stock exchange, so sterile and boring, not only
absorb even more the economy and the politics, but rather in the nineties
they were raised to pop culture of wide diffusion -beyond the topics of the
programming private issuers -: The one who doesn't take communion with this
spirit, the message said in all channels, he is idiotic and antiquated. The
" daytrader " transformed itself, as character of the media, in adventurer
in the jungle of the markets, the impuberal capitalist in prince of fairy
tale, the expert in marketing in heroine of the emancipation. To all that,
the "global players" battles for the mergers and "hostile acquisitions" are
staged like a western, a football championship or an episode of the space
career. In the infantile parties, the children (as an announcement suggests)
no longer disguise of cowboys, but of Bill Gates.

Parallelly to the pop industry, and with logical coherence, the wild
economism also becomes program in the pedagogy. It was clear that the
educational and pedagogic system always followed the imperatives of the
official world vision. But in that case the original directives of the
functional elites stayed stable during a long time, and the pedagogy, as
socialization instance that transcended to the family, showed an undeniable
monopoly. Today, on the contrary, the mould of the " values ", objectives
and contents to be transmitted not only became insecure and unstable, but
rather also the schools and universities have been excluded in their
socialization task by the universal media company, and they have to render
an account before their judgments.

In the media, the economisation factor already advanced much more than in
the pedagogy: in accordance with their form, these became meantime (in their
majority) in pure commercial companies and, according to their content, they
became the big propagandist of a pop culture guided by the money and for the
capitalism of casino -and therefore, the promoters of the total
economisation. Under the pressure of this development, the own traditional
pedagogy starts dissolving in the economic totalitarianism, stimulated and
attended not only by the media, but also for all the official institutions.
Around the middle of nineties -in most of the European countries and
according with the Anglo-Saxon pattern - big campaigns were promoted to
guide the whole pedagogic and educational sector toward the demands of an
"economisation and commercialisation of the life". In a concerted action of
governments and political parties, banks and economic cashbox, cartels and
managers' associations, municipalities, directions of schools and university
unions, an incredible wave of favourable propaganda to the economic and
commercial mentality was swooped down to all the pedagogic sectors.
In an amalgam of economic instruction and ideological brain wash, there was
inculcated the image of a person who lives automatically, 24 hours a,
according to managerial criteria and assume from his interior "the market"
as destiny and opportunity, as life's content and identity, as attainable
circle of one-dimensional life. From the museum director up to the male
nurse, from the artist up to the beggar in the street, all the activities
and occupations, even those that were not understood as "economic" until
today, should be experience from the marketing point of view, and this
vision of the world should be exercised from the childhood. The objective is
the person as "own entrepreneur": all the social relationships should become
offer-demand relationships, all the contacts in "contacts with clients".
This dissolution of the life in the capitalist economism, like a new
abstract model of education, didn't simply substitute the traditional canon
of the bourgeois ethics, but it is also exercised in the practice. In the
'topo' of the pedagogic and institutional system, in the universities, as
much in the investigations as in the learning of several disciplines, an
immediate commercial orientation is imposed. In an economized society, thus the postulate says, each scientific discipline, independently of its
respective content, it is also an economic discipline. All the scientific
matters are lessened to subcategories. It doesn't matter if it is
linguistics, geology, physics, psychology or even philosophy: the students
should be taken from the beginning to consider all they learn from the point
of view of the venality. Students of all the schools frequent economic
courses in which they learn how to classify the knowledge according to its
evaluation by the "economy". Partly they are encouraged to exercise the
commercialisation of scientific contents directly in managerial simulations.
They are a lot of students that, in fact, mount their business even during
their studies, in order to abridge the way that goes from the learning to
the market. The same suits for the investigation. An increasing number of
professors does not only investigations for order of companies, but they
already consider to the own scientific institution as kind of company to be
organized according to the managerial points of view. Where the scientists
don't follow such an orientation voluntarily, this is demanded them
increasingly by the state institutions: It's like that the German federal
government, before ante the fierce resistance of the interested ones, wants
to force to all weight investigation works according to criteria of
immediate commercialisation. A step ahead was already given some time ago by the public teaching. The game of the stock exchanges like classroom topic is part of the day by day of many curricular programs. In Paris, Gilbert
Molinier, philosophy teacher in Auguste Blanqui school, protested last year,
in a public letter diffused by the press, against that stock exchanges
pedagogy: "For my great fright, I heard to say that the Auguste Blanqui
school, in collaboration with a bank, has participated in a 'game' called'
'Les Masters de l`Economie'. This game consists on distributing a portfolio
of virtual actions to the students. These are obligated, with the help of
their teachers, called 'godfathers'(!), to maximize the value of those
actions in a term of three months. Among the countless prizes to the
winners, the first one is a trip to know the New York Stock Exchange, the
temple of the world finances... ¿would somebody explain to me which is the
pedagogic interest of such 'game'? If by this game we learn that what cares
is only what money brings, please answer to this question: ¿are we forced,
for duty of the occupation, to administer the classrooms? ¿Will it also be
this school another cemetery of the culture?"

Education bureaucrats

Teachers like Molinier today are only seen like "killjoy". Everywhere the
school matters are programmed by the education bureaucrats to serve as axis to "young managers". Entire classes are already exercised in preparatory courses of constitution of companies, value of actions and market movements.

Following the pattern of the English and Irish "school companies", the
"German Foundation for the Childhood and the Youth" opened a campaign in
1997, in Berlin city, called "Managerial Spirit. A teaching": the students
had to found "authentic" micro companies and learn how to think depending of
the profits.

In the mass media circulate histories of success, very kitsch, about
teenagers thirsty of earnings whose micro companies program websites,
organize trips or sell sandwiches. A senseless wordiness, suspiciously
kindred to the propagandist cult of "worker boss" in the State socialism.
Any child, who is not able to accompany the mercantile thought, should feel
bad. In the United States, courses were created in the primary school under
the motto "The children learn the Capitalism", in those small children of
seven to ten years wind the brains with the rules of actions purchase and
sale and how to operate with derivatives.

Lastly the own school as institution is abandoned, to the "managerial
freedom". If it is possible to privatise infrastructures and prisons, ¿why
not the public teaching? Managers like the North American David Henry, that
wants to administer the childhood gardens as a fast food net and to take
them to the Stock exchange, give the example. But the own state schools have "to provide their sustenance" by means of the economic activity. In most
countries the prohibition of announcements inside the teaching
establishments falls down. Who, as a teacher, habituated himself to that the
corridors and the gyms of the schools are used as area of publicity, shortly
he won't find anything bad in circulating himself as a publicity boy. In the
German press the director of a Bavarian school was eulogized very much
because he no longer considered himself a "pedagogue", but a "company's
administrator of average size."

The consolation of all this is just one: the teaching institutions represent
everywhere the stern lighthouse of the society, since they are the most
conservative in all institutions. When an innovation comes to the school and
the teaching in general, it is usually already outside of fashion. From this
perspective, the economism inflation in the teaching institutions perhaps
indicates that the epoch of the totalitarian trade is already draining.

Published in Folha de Sao Paulo, February 11, 2001.
Translation from German to Portuguese: José Marcos Macedo.
Translation from Portuguese to Spanish: Round Desk
Translation from Spanish to English: Comunistes de Catalunya
Raoul Hausmann: Der Geist Unserer Zeit, Mechanischer Kopf (The spirit of our time, Mechanic head), 1919.