Sunday, April 6, 2008

Education for More Anarchy

by Denis G. Rancourt (Professor of Physics, University of Ottawa)

Education should not create experts. It should make experts irrelevant.

“[we call for] full education, all-round education, and complete education, so that no class may exist above [the masses of the people] superior by its knowledge, so that the aristocracy of the intellect may protect and direct them – that is, exploit them. We say that this so-called aristocracy of the intellect is the most hateful, scornful, insolent, and oppressive of all the aristocracies that have, each in its turn and sometimes all at once, oppressed human society.”
- Bakunin, The Hypnotizers (~1870)

Call it “the knowledge economy” and believe that patents are something other than capital’s tax on the commons of creativity – that patents are something other than contracts for exploitation of the militarily-contained Third World, and of the First World citizenry (e.g., pharmaceuticals) and of everything. Or call it “economics” and believe that it is something other than a religion of wage slavery and capitalist exploitation. Or call it modern medicine and believe that it has something to do with health rather than sustaining sickness and its profits. And on and on.

Institutionalized education brings us into The Lie, that we may serve the master and not rebel. We are taught that the “power of ideas” must substitute revolutionary action, that mind-masturbation in elite circles will free humanity from injustice.

Bakunin sees the purpose of all-round education as making an individual who “grasps more fully the nature of his surroundings because he better understands those facts which are called the laws of nature and society and which interconnect natural and social events – that that person will feel freer in nature and society […]”
- Bakunin, All-Round Education (~1870)

By contrast, my learned colleagues expound that the masses of the people should “learn more science” but their clear intent is to make them more receptive to the authority of the expert scientists, who themselves are specialized into unquestioning servitude.

My colleagues confuse “freer in nature and society” with “more able to integrate the hierarchy of relative advantages.” They confuse freedom and servitude. They confuse independent thought and ass-licking (to use a biological term).

There are two kinds of “education”: all-round education that frees the human spirit and indoctrination. In our modern plutocracies, the latter is dispensed by the state, in the service of the capital masters and is achieved by the perfected devices of the grades carrot-and-stick (regurgitation on demand) and mindless specialization. In this scheme, “critical thinking” means seamless indoctrination, total assimilation of the master’s ideology.

All-round education cannot be achieved by a series of parallel classrooms in which academic subjects are disciplinally detached from each other and from student realities. However, such a scheme is by design perfect for disrupting natural thought and development patterns, disallowing discourse, and instilling Pavlovian responses to segmented technical abilities to serve capital.

All-round education requires freedom and makes more freedom. All-round education requires relevance and involvement, not forced abstraction and detachment, and creates more relevance and involvement.

Apathy and cynicism are the natural outcomes of state education, which produces infantile consumers, atomized automatons, and service intellectuals at the highest levels. Fortunately, the system is only near-perfect. Nature has a way of preserving itself.

Fight the system or be neutralized. Take back your life.


The Basic Bakunin, Writings 1869-1871. Translated and edited by Robert M. Cutler, Prometheus Books, 1992.

Disciplined Minds. By Jeff Schmidt, Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.