Sep 102012
 

Interesting discussion on The Stone of our mistaken ideas about work and leisure. It takes a surprising (and welcome) turn when it explains how liberal, non-instrumental education is necessary for any of the benefits of a capitalist system to be realized among the general population. The most important section is quoted below. The full article, “What Is Work Really For” can be found at the NYTimes.com.

From our infancy the market itself has worked to make us consumers, primed to buy whatever it is selling regardless of its relevance to human flourishing.  True freedom requires that we take part in the market as fully formed agents, with life goals determined not by advertising campaigns but by our own experience of and reflection on the various possibilities of human fulfillment.  Such freedom in turn requires a liberating education, one centered not on indoctrination, social conditioning or technical training but on developing persons capable of informed and intelligent commitments to the values that guide their lives.

This is why, especially in our capitalist society, education must not be primarily for training workers or consumers (both tools of capitalism, as Marxists might say). Rather, schools should aim to produce self-determining agents who can see through the blandishments of the market and insist that the market provide what they themselves have decided they need to lead fulfilling lives.  Capitalism, with its devotion to profit, is not in itself evil.   But it becomes evil when it controls our choices for the sake of profit.

Capitalism works for the good only when our independent choices determine what the market must produce to make a profit. These choices — of liberally educated free agents — will set the standards of capitalist production and lead to a world in which, as Aristotle said, work is for the sake of leisure.  We are, unfortunately, far from this ideal, but it is one worth working toward.

 

 Sep 10, 2012  Teaching

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