Deconstructing Oppression

Paulo Freire, for all his focus on the intrinsic powers of the metaphysical subjects of freedom and humanity, fails to consider those ideals as concepts arising from discursive formulations within the oppressive systems they aim to flaunt. For Freire, there are very static and ambiguously defined concepts which everyone, nonetheless, seems to share in some common cultural currency, around which they can mobilize and operate collectively. Is the teaching of such concepts not, in and of itself, a form of oppression? Would it not be presumptuous to assume that all of the ‘oppressed’ folk have a common conception of, and concomitant aspirations sought from, their freedom and humanity? In embracing the reified definitions of freedom and humanity, as they are understood within the status quo they seek to revolutionize, is that revolutionary possibility not somewhat diminished in its concession to the totalizing metaphysical constructions of said status quo? It is often the case that freedom is defined in opposition to oppression, but when it is merely reduced to such a negative thesis its possibilities for progress become limited by the definitive terms of its oppressive antithesis. If we are to assume life-long wage labor in a capitalistic society represents the oppressive status quo, then it seems most definitions of freedom would simply propose a rejection of such a systematized lifestyle of endless work rather than considering a total redefinition and rehabilitation of the dehumanizing society that produces freedom seeking impulses in so many of its members.  Perhaps Freire would do well to analyze his own faith in the ability of conventional pedagogical processes to counter the dehumanization and oppression of the oppressive systems which rely on those very pedagogical processes for their own entrenchment, as, if any self-determining revolution is to be achieved in any meaningful way, surely it would have to start with the reconstruction of our understandings of the pedagogical process and self-definition first. Freedom and humanity can only be fully achieved on a collective level when the inherent plurality those terms are explored, negotiated and experienced by all individual members of society.


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