As social movements amplify across the globe, activists and researchers are increasingly interested in the pedagogies of revolutionary transformation. To provide a rich resource for political educators and organizers, this article formulates what we call an (un)communicative communist pedagogy that is oriented against communicative capitalism. We show that there is a taut connection between capitalism and democracy that consists of a shared logic, pedagogy, and aesthetic that revolves around communication, inclusion, and transparency. Without grasping this aesthetic connection, anticapitalist struggles are reduced to liberal reforms that end up reinforcing and deepening capitalist production relations. To break out of this trap, we block together several political, philosophical, and aesthetic theories that might otherwise be thought of as mutually exclusive. In particular, we return to Immanuel Kant and his theory of the beautiful and the sublime to make a case that connections between capitalism and democracy rest on an unexamined aesthetic of the beautiful. To sever this link, and thus to push democratic struggles for equality toward a communist horizon, we suggest a new alignment between radical politics and aesthetics of the sublime via the Communist Party. Importantly, we find in the work of Jean-François Lyotard the point of intersection between communist pedagogy and sublime aesthetics. In closing, we read this aesthetic communist pedagogy through a communist study group in the Jim Crow South. What we find is a different aesthetic relationship between self and world that is not prefigured in various forms of liberal reformism. Rather, an excessive surplus is discovered that presses beyond the boundaries of what can be known and what can be imaginatively figured, provoking a sense of ineffable sublimity or political opacity. We call this excess the aesthetic dimension of (un)communicative communism.
On the Freedom to Be Opaque Monsters: Communist Pedagogy, Aesthetics, and the Sublime
Derek R. Ford is assistant professor of education studies at DePauw University. He studies the pedagogy of revolutionary struggle and has written and edited six books, including Communist Study: Education for the Commons (2016). He is an organizer with the Answer Coalition, chair of the education department at the Hampton Institute, and cocoordinator of LiberationSchool.org.
Tyson E. Lewis is associate professor of art education at the University of North Texas. He has published articles on biopolitics, educational philosophy, and Marxism in such journals as Cultural Politics, Cultural Critique, and Rethinking Marxism. He is the author of several books, most recently Inoperative Learning: A Radical Rethinking of Educational Potentialities (2018).
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Derek R. Ford, Tyson E. Lewis; On the Freedom to Be Opaque Monsters: Communist Pedagogy, Aesthetics, and the Sublime. Cultural Politics 1 March 2018; 14 (1): 95–108. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-4312940
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