Bourgeois education and barbarism



The education crisis is the inevitable result of the current dynamics of the production process

In the contemporary world, the crisis of education has an intrinsic relationship with the crisis of cultural formation. Education and the pedagogical process are conditioned by the reality objectified by reification: “The more education seeks to close itself to its social conditioning, the more it becomes a mere prey to the existing social situation” (Maar, 1995, p.11).

For Theodor W. Adorno (1995d, p. 71), the social conditions are at the origin, in relation to which we are all powerless, they “are to blame for the insufficiency of the emphatic concept of formation: the majority did not have access to those previous experiences at all times”. explicit education, from which cultural formation is nourished”. The education crisis, therefore, is the inevitable result of the current dynamics of the productive process. Training needs to take into account the conditions to which the production and reproduction of human life in society are subordinated (Maar, 1995). In the capitalist world, the fact that education does not aim at full cultural formation is not something occasional, but imposed by forms of social domination, which transform the school into a vehicle for the ideological reproduction of the dominant classes.

Adorno, in his reflections, does not think of education as an isolated phenomenon, since it is part of the social world. With this, education can only be thought of by the category of totality. The formulated concepts encompass the whole of society, as it is through it that the particular phenomena studied are constituted. The analysis of the particular always allows us to recognize this concrete totality. In this way, education is thought dialectically in constant tension with social reality: “[...] the presence of the dialectic between the general and the particular, between the deep and the superficial, between the concrete and the subjective, between the real and the another possibility, defines, for sociology, according to Adorno, the conditions for understanding reality. In each social phenomenon and in each social relationship, it is necessary to unravel this field of tension between what appears and its genesis, between seeing and what is revealed and the immanent possibility of its change. This makes Adorno's sociology a means of recognizing and apprehending what is true in what is apparent” (Vilela, 2007, p.228).

Today, educational training reproduces the dominant values, imaginary and social conditions of the cultural system. The sole purpose of the school is to adapt individuals to the existing forms of social domain, developing a set of social roles and values, whose objective is to constitute subjects adapted to the social, economic and political order. The result of this is that it creates the objective conditions for the coldness and barbarism present in our time. From this diagnosis, it becomes necessary to rescue education as an instrument of awareness and critical reflection of reality, in the fight against these forces that make men's existence an instrument of violence and barbarism.


Education and social work

Education as a social phenomenon is an integral part of the social, economic, political and cultural relations of a given society. In current Brazilian society, the social structure is divided into classes and social groups with distinct and antagonistic interests; this fact has repercussions both in economic and political organization and in educational practice. Thus, the purpose and means of education are subordinated to the structure and dynamics of relations between social classes, that is, they are socially determined. This means that the objectives and contents of teaching and teaching work are determined by social, political and ideological purposes and requirements (Libânio, 2006).

Capitalist society is a class society, stratified by the power of capital. The power relations between the constitutive groups and forces of this social formation place the bourgeois class in a dominant position. However, domination is not only imposed by the monopoly of material power, but also by the monopoly of spiritual power: “The thoughts of the ruling class are also, at all times, the ruling thoughts, in other words, the class that is the power dominant material in a society is also the dominant spiritual power” (Marx, 1976, p 48). For this reason, the school assumes a fundamental role in the reproduction of ideas, values ​​and forms of behavior of the bourgeoisie. According to Saviani (1987), the bourgeois class, which holds financial capital and determines the prevailing culture, has no interest in transforming the school. In this way, it creates mechanisms that prevent this transformation, causing the school to reproduce the forms of social dominance and the division into classes, so that everything remains as it is.

Education, as Marx well demonstrated, emerges as a reflection of the economic structure, reproducing the values, the imaginary and the dominant social conditions of the cultural system. If the material conditions of men's existence are determined by work, the school becomes the privileged place of the hegemony of the bourgeois class, since it is within the scope of persuasion and consent. It is through the school that the bourgeois class persuades and naturalizes the conditions of exploitation, forming the workforce for the maintenance of capitalism. Education emerges as the means by which the social domain system is constituted, maintained and perpetuated.

Thus, the exercise of domination is perpetuated at the level of the legal, political and ideological superstructure, based on the dominance that the bourgeois class holds over the economic structure. In this sense, the school in the capitalist system reproduces social inequalities and the bourgeoisie's ways of thinking. This is what Libânio (2006, p.20) shows in this passage: “Inequality among men, which in origin is an economic inequality within the relations between social classes, determines not only the material conditions of life and work of individuals, but also the differentiation in access to spiritual culture, to education. In effect, the dominant social class retains the means of material production as well as the means of cultural production and its dissemination, tending to put it at the service of its interests. Thus, the education that workers receive is aimed mainly at preparing them for physical work, for conformist attitudes, and they must content themselves with partial schooling. In addition, the dominant minority has the means to spread its own conception of the world (ideas, values, practices about life, work, human relations, etc.) to justify, in its own way, the system of social relations that characterizes the capitalist society. Such ideas, values ​​and practices, presented by the dominant minority as representative of the interests of all social classes, are what is usually called ideology”.

In capitalist society, when analyzing the purposes of education, it is noted that its entire structure, its entire organization, the disciplinary contents, the transmitted knowledge and the expectations in relation to it are focused on the labor market. In this way, the nature of education is linked to the destination of work. A system based on the separation between work and capital, which requires the availability of an enormous mass of labor power without access to the means for its realization, needs, at the same time, to socialize the values ​​that allow its reproduction. If capitalist society is the most unequal in all of history and requires individuals to accept domination, an ideological system is needed that proclaims and inculcates these values ​​on a daily basis in people's minds (Sader, 2008).

As Mészáros (2008) rightly evaluated, institutionalized education, especially in the last 150 years, served the purpose of not only providing the necessary knowledge and personnel to the expanding productive machine of the capital system, but also generating and transmitting a framework of values that legitimizes dominant interests. The story itself had to be totally doctored, and indeed frequently and grossly falsified for that purpose. For the social order to be legitimized and established as a natural order, history had to be rewritten and propagandized in an even more distorted way, not only in the bodies that largely form political opinion, from large circulation newspapers to radio stations. and television, but even in supposedly objective academic theories.

With the advent of monopoly capitalism, society became increasingly managed, with that reforms in education began to be established by the interests of big business. Needs are created more than ever and the mode of production is based on technological rationality. Man becomes an appendage to the machine and must be trained as a machine to increase its efficiency. For the reproduction of this society, intellectual and cultural training is no longer necessary, but one that deals with technical rationality, which is the thought that relates means and ends (Crochik, 2009).

In this way, it did not go unnoticed by Adorno the fact that technical instruction has been given in the interest of the ruling classes to parts of the working class, so that workers, who according to traditional criteria would be uneducated, have long needed to master a certain kind of knowledge linked to the natural sciences to carry out their work. This fact demonstrates a predominant trend in late bourgeois society: the overvaluation of knowledge that enables the domination of nature and the disregard of everything related to the cultural sphere, with everything being reduced to the performance of technical tasks (Duarte, 2003). The result of this is that technical instruction develops and is valued to the detriment of human training. The separation between technique and humanism appears determined by a split and reified society, which has alienated itself.

In the excerpt below, Adorno (2010, p.4) bluntly expresses this idea: “The conception of a culture of the spirit that is hidden from technology is born from society's lack of knowledge about its own essence. Every spirit has technical elements and only those who only observe the spirit, only those who know it as a consumer, let themselves be fooled by the idea that spiritual products would have fallen from the sky. Consequently, due to these considerations, one cannot ignore the observed antithesis between humanism and technique. It belongs to a false consciousness. In the divided society, the different sectors do not know what they are, just as they do not know what the others are. The very fracture between technique and humanism, as it seems to me irremediably, is a part of the socially produced appearance”.

In an emancipated society, which reconciled universal interests with particular interests, technique should be intertwined with spiritual culture: “technique could become that social essence that is immanent to it, enabling, in society, the interdependence of so-called culture with technical progress” (Adorno, 2010, p. 4). However, historically, technical development has become more beneficial to labor productivity than the emancipation of men, being appropriated by class interests. The result of this was that technical careers emerged in capitalism from the need for a great demand for skilled labor.

Education subordinated to the world of work emerges as a consequence of the demands of the capitalist industrial world. Industrial society originated in England at the end of the XNUMXth century and lasted until the first half of the XNUMXth century. It was characterized by the mechanization of productive forces and the advent of salaried work. With the development of new technologies and machine manufacturing, manufacturing capitalism began to give way to industrial capitalism. Manual work, which was done with the aid of tools, was replaced by the machine, whose movement was determined by hydraulic force and, later, by steam energy.

The worker ceased to be the producer and became the one who works subject to the movement of the machines. As a result, it was only with the separation between work and capital that a school for all began to be thought of. According to Aranha (1990), the attention given to the school resulted from the interests of the nascent bourgeoisie that rejected the medieval school of religious inspiration and excessively contemplative, to claim a realistic school adapted to the world in transformation. From then on, this request became more acute, since work in the factory required that the worker know how to read, write and count. From there, in the middle of the XNUMXth century, the universal, free, mandatory and secular public school appears.

However, it was only in the second half of the twentieth century, with the advent of post-industrial society, that there was a greater democratization of education to meet the demands of the labor market. This period was marked by the development of new information technologies and microelectronics. The service sector (tertiary sector), which includes activities such as telecommunications, information technology, education, health, tourism and commerce, has surpassed agricultural production (primary sector) and the industrial sector (secondary sector).

The post-industrial society gave rise to the age of information and knowledge. Specialized technical work became more valued than manual work. This demanded solid specialized training from the worker, with diverse knowledge and skills, with a broader view of the various work processes. The result of this was an advance in higher education, which became a necessity for the reproduction of capital.

Historian Hobsbawn (2001), in his book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, shows us that before the Second World War, even the most developed and educated countries, such as Germany, France and England, with a total population of 150 million inhabitants, did not have together 150 thousand university students, a tenth of 1% of their summed populations. However, in the late 80s, students numbered in the millions in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USSR and the USA. In Europe, between the 60s and 80s, the number of university students quadrupled. In countries like Federal Germany, Ireland and Greece, the number of students could be multiplied by five. In countries like Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Italy the number of students could be multiplied by seven, and in countries like Spain and Norway it could be multiplied by nine. Not to mention underdeveloped countries like Brazil, India, Mexico and the Philippines where the number of students has quadrupled.


Education and the production of cold and technological people

In this new society that fetishizes technology, the culture of the spirit and humanist education were relegated to the background. Education has become increasingly specialized and technical. The result of this was a greater atomization of the individual, who became incapable of reflecting on his historical and social condition, and on his true interests. His thinking was reduced to the concrete world of things, serving only as calculation, performance and efficiency to adapt in an increasingly better way to socially required standards and modes of behavior. Deprived of a full cultural and spiritual background, their minds were filled with the entertainment, values ​​and worldview imposed by the cultural industry.

In this regard, Olgária Matos (2001, p.144) states: “The void left by the failure of humanist education – which sought to form 'excellence in talents and ability' – is filled by the values ​​of the media and the market. Mass education does not aim to form the spirit, on the contrary, it adapts the individual to the entrepreneurial values ​​of profit, competition and success, on the one hand, and the vicissitudes of the market, on the other. Competition may perhaps improve goods, but 'necessarily make men worse'. The values ​​linked to the individual converted now into entrepreneur or consumer disappear”.

The generalization of higher education with a greater appreciation of technical careers demonstrates the failure of education in our time. Education abandoned cultural formation by reducing all human activity to the performance of mechanical tasks. By limiting teaching to technical instruction, education produces types of individuals that society needs socially, technological, efficient people with a reified mind. The “technological veil” permeates everything and reduces everything to a technical solution. With that, the autonomous subject disappears in a world in which men become predictable, interchangeable, that is, superfluous. It is the world of indifference and bourgeois coldness (Matos, 2001).

The advent of technology also contributed to the deterioration of memory in capitalist society. In your article, What does it mean to elaborate the past, Adorno detected the disappearance of the consciousness of historical continuity. He recalled that many young people in his time were unaware of Bismarck or Emperor Wilhelm I. In his point of view, bourgeois society is subordinated in a universal way to the law of exchange. This by its very nature is timeless, just like calculation, commodities and industrial production. There is no time in exchange relations, just as there is no time in technical rationality. They are determined by continuous and pulsating cycles.

With that, “memory, time and remembrance are liquidated by bourgeois society itself in its development, as if they were a kind of irrational remainder” (Adorno, 1995a, p.33). For the Frankfurtian thinker, the loss of memory is very useful in the reproduction of capital, since it has the function of adapting individuals to the prevailing forms of social domination: “When humanity alienates itself from memory, exhausting itself breathlessly in adaptation of the existing, an objective law of development is reflected in this (Adorno, 1995a, p.33).

What has most contributed to the current education crisis is that it has become a business like any other. This fact can be noticed in the abandonment of the formative character of education, which nowadays has become a commodity. In current school education, technical rationality, which Adorno criticized, is present in administrative thinking, which approximates the school to a commercial enterprise, and in bureaucratic thinking, which facilitates mass education (Crochík, 2009). In this way, education as a social phenomenon is a moment of the false, since, in a reified existence, determined by the universal form of the commodity, it is subordinated to the same logic of exchange relations.

In Brazil, at the end of the 1960s, at the height of the military regime, “an attempt was made to adjust education to the new situation through new teaching reforms” (Saviani, 1999, p. 29). With this, there was a great expansion of technical education in the field of education. Law 5692/71 regulated the new guidelines and bases for teaching 1st and 2nd grades. From then on, technical pedagogy was regulated, which officially became one of the State's educational policies. According to Saviani (1987), based on the assumption of scientific neutrality and inspired by the principles of rationality, efficiency and productivity, technical pedagogy advocates the reordering of the educational process in order to make it objective and operational.

The main element becomes the rational organization of the means, occupying teacher and student, a secondary position, relegated as they are to the condition of executors of a process whose conception, planning, coordination and control are in charge of specialists supposedly qualified, neutral, objective, impartial. The organization of the process becomes a guarantee of efficiency, correcting the teacher's deficiencies and maximizing the effects of his intervention.

The reforms at the time of the military regime also culminated in greater schooling and massification of higher education. Marilena Chauí (2016, p. 267) called these new changes the “invention of the functional university”. The objective was a quick training of professionals required as highly qualified workforce for the job market. These reforms aimed to adapt the university to the demands of the market (and to the economic miracle), changing curricula, programs and activities to guarantee, on the one hand, social ascension and, on the other, rapid professional insertion. With schooling, there was a loss of the idea of ​​training and research as a university activity, which requires time for work and research. In turn, massification aimed to guarantee the support of the urban middle classes and their desire for social ascension through a university degree (Chauí, 2016).

In the nineties the situation did not change, we also had the experience of an extreme conservatism intensified by the rise to power of neoliberal governments, such as Collor, Itamar and Fernando Henrique. Since that time, education has become a lucrative business and has responded to the new demands of the job market. The collapse of the Fordist mode of production around the world enabled a new organization of work: the advent of the flexible mode of production. This new form of production associated intensive use of technology, outsourcing and flexibility in production. The uses of automation, information technology, microelectronics and artificial intelligence have intensified as a requirement of this new change in the world of work. Since then, there has been a major transformation in education.

In this regard, Fogaça (2001) states that it would be necessary to prioritize reforms in the educational systems of industrialized countries or those in the process of industrialization, in order to better prepare their human resources for this new stage of capitalist production, in which the school would play a fundamental role. in the basic professional qualification of all segments of the occupational hierarchy. In this sense, this new workforce should have a high technical training. The mobilization of knowledge, skills, knowledge and attitudes became requirements of the new profile of the worker.

In a 1965 radio conference, Education After Auschwitz, Returning to the analyzes of Dialectic of Enlightenment, from 1944, Adorno observes that if people were not profoundly indifferent to what happens to everyone else, then Auschwitz would not have been possible. In this text, he shows that there is an intrinsic relationship between technique and coldness. People formed in an environment where technique becomes an end in itself, where it is fetishized, end up becoming reified personalities. They are incapable of love, they have a conscience disconnected from human feelings and affections. Adorno (1995b, p. 133) evaluated this fact in this passage: “It is not known with certainty how the fetishization of technique is verified in the individual psychology of individuals, where is the transition point between a rational relationship with it and that overvaluation, which ultimately leads to whoever designs a railway system to take victims to Auschwitz. In the case of the type with tendencies to fetishize technology, it is simply a matter of people incapable of love. This should not be understood in a sentimental or moralizing sense, but denoting the lacking libidinal relationship with other people. They are completely cold and must also deny the possibility of love in their hearts, refusing their love in advance in other people before it settles in”.

According to Adorno's studies (1995b), there is an intrinsic relationship between a reified mind and the absence of experience. When the individual through education is cut out to do things (doing things), to manipulate objects, worshiping efficiency, organization and control; when he is educated to be an active, productive and efficient subject, he loses the ability to carry out direct human experiences. He loses the ability to love and acquires a manipulative character. It was these characteristics that Adorno found in Nazi leaders.

Coldness is the fundamental principle of bourgeois subjectivity. Education in our time, based on technical specialization, competition, meritocracy and individualism, is the prerogative of a world that encourages coldness and creates the objective conditions for barbarism. It is guided by the principle of competition as a pedagogical method. With that, it values ​​dispute, performance and personal effort, perpetuating the law of the strongest, turning men into enemies of each other.

From this perspective, it reproduces the social conditions of competition in the capitalist system, propagating coldness as the main commandment for survival. Reflecting on education today, Chauí (2016, p. 276) points out that competition in schools has become natural: “Most primary and secondary school teachers belong to the lower strata of the urban middle class and, therefore, the majority adheres to the ideology of this class, in which education is the transmission of information and training to obtain a diploma, so that the pedagogical practice aims to reinforce and not criticize the dominant ideology, which is taken as the truth of things. In this perspective, individual competition, winning at all costs, the refusal of companionship and solidarity is seen as natural (and, in the case of most private schools, it is encouraged), and society as it is, is seen as a duty. to be."

Adorno, in his time, was already aware that education had competition as a fundamental principle, and that this was one of the main elements that encouraged barbarism. For him, “competition is a principle contrary to human education” (Adorno, 1995e, p. 161). Nowadays, what educational institutions most value and make their watchword is competition. What we experience today is the commoditization of individuals. Each must seek to outdo the other and become better as a commodity. Each one should seek in education the necessary skills and qualifications to do well in the competitive world of work. In a society stratified by capital, the differences between individuals are determined by the position they occupy. As a result, there is fierce competition for a better social position.

Some roles bestow prestige, money, fame, glory, and power. This means that each one must acquire, through education, the skills, behaviors, resources and values ​​that are necessary for a given social position. Competition becomes the fundamental principle of education, producing an exacerbated individualism and deforming the original function of education, which is the integral formation of man. For Adorno (1995e), the unregulated motivation of competitiveness contains something inhuman. For this reason, it becomes essential that education changes and wean people from elbowing each other. Elbowing is undoubtedly an expression of barbarism.

The cultural industry as a privileged area of ​​cultural formation also contributes to the coldness of individuals. Reality appears in the mass media as a promise of happiness, where everyone must defend their interests in the struggle for existence. In a competitive society, merit, resilience, sacrifice and perseverance appear as indispensable individual values ​​to reach a place in the sun. In films, soap operas and advertisements, competition, performance and personal effort are valued.

The consequence of this is the propagation of coldness among individuals as a general rule to get along in life: “The statement that coldness is a fundamental principle of bourgeois subjectivity is categorical, a subjectivity that common sense – soap operas, newscasts , finally, the cultural industry – but also the school, the church, the unions, the policies help to build, “without violence”, progressively and intensively, on a daily basis, in each of us” (Pucci, 2012, p. .10).

One of the main characteristics of bourgeois society is not only the crisis of cultural formation, which was replaced by semi-formation, produced by the standardized entertainment of the cultural industry, but it is also the loss of sensitivity, that is, the coldness and insensitivity of modern man. We are heirs of bourgeois apathy. Modern man becomes apathetic to events until he becomes completely insensitive. In this way, he is invited to nothing more than share the poor and uniform experience of modernity.


Education, violence and barbarism in civilization

From the end of the 1950s onwards, Adorno participated in various debates, giving lectures on education. In a radio debate in 1968, Education Against Barbarism, with Helmut Becker, famous German educator, Adorno (1995e) sought to show that there are elements of barbarism, repressive and oppressive moments in the concept of education, since the repressive moments of culture produce and reproduce barbarism in people subjected to this culture . As a result, there is a mismatch between the technological development of our time and the training of individuals. There is a delay of people in relation to their own civilization, mainly because they are taken by a primitive aggressiveness, an impulse of destruction that opposes the civilized world.

Adorno understood barbarism as a type of irrational violence, since it is a primitive regression, without a transparent connection with rational objectives in society. This is not a violent protest by young people in the name of rationally claimed social demands. Nor are these acts of violence by the population in the streets against the police over the death of an innocent worker. It is a type of violence linked to physical aggression, in an irrational and meaningless way.

In the modern world, fully socialized individuals would regress to an earlier evolutionary state of the human species. This regressive condition is immanent in our society, since the objective conditions for barbarism are produced by the process of socialization. The capitalist world transforms individuals into objects, into impotent beings, weakened by the social conditions of a reified reality. Every individual, without exception, is subjected as part of the social machinery, being prevented from developing their individuality. It is, therefore, through this great repression and social oppression that aggressiveness and violence emerge as parts of our culture.

To corroborate this argument, Adorno (1995e, p.164) refers to the Freudian theory: “Freud based the tendency to barbarism in an essentially psychological way and, to this extent, he undoubtedly got the explanation right for a series of moments, showing, for For example, that across culture people continually experience failure, developing underlying feelings of guilt that eventually translate into aggression. All of this is very relevant, has a wide dissemination and could be taken into account by education to the extent that it finally takes the conclusions pointed out by Freud seriously, instead of replacing them with the pseudo-depth of third-hand knowledge”.

Thus, the Freudian theory arises from the comparison between civilization and barbarism. It reveals the antagonism between Eros (love) – principle of pleasure, the fair distribution of goods necessary for life and Thanatos (death) – principle of reality, marked by destructive and antisocial tendencies that are born from the sacrifices imposed by institutions to the instinctual organization of subjects. . Adorno contributes to clarifying the determinants of the limitation of human cooperation, the experience of the failure of the humanization of civilization, the generalization of alienation and the dissolution of the formative experience of the human being (Habowski; Conte; Flores, 2018).

In debate with Becker, Adorno (1995e) also suggested that coldness and violence are encouraged by a rigid, disciplinary education that values ​​pain. He was a major critic of authoritarian education in his day. Rigid teaching, which subjects children to punishment and a disciplinary regime, was condemned by him. “In educational relationships, authoritarianism leads to the reification of the other, the objectification of childhood” (Habowski; Conte; Flores, 2018, p. 235).

All disciplinary actions, rites of passage and hazing at school, which inflict physical pain on individuals, are brutal experiences that arose in the bosom of the family and became customs by force of habit in traditional education. It is the type of education that prevents children from developing affective human experiences, where trust and shared projects are valued. All those who had a severe family education, with authoritarian parents, are very likely to become cold and indifferent people to human suffering. Adorno suggests that this may be one of the reasons that contributed to the development of Nazism in Germany: "The brutality of habits such as hazing of any order, or any other ingrained customs of that kind, is an immediate precursor of Nazi violence" (Adorno, 1995b, p.128).

It is common nowadays to value an authoritarian education, based on severity and discipline. This idea is disseminated in the collective unconscious, as a remnant of a disciplinary education from the military regime, which was in force for many years in Brazil. It is common for parents in casual conversations to say that a good slap, belt or spank would be good for the child to acquire discipline. That punishment is the best way to get respect. That boys must be strong, virile and not allowed to cry.

Severity played a fundamental role in the traditional education of Germany at the time of Weimar. For Adorno (1995b), severity created sadistic individuals. The educational practice of severity that many believe in is totally wrong. Virility, understood as the ability to endure pain, results in masochism, which is easily identified with sadism. The "hard" aim of such an education means indifference to pain. Those who are severe with themselves acquire the right to be severe with others, taking revenge for the pain whose manifestations they had to hide or repress (Adorno, 1995b).

Adorno was totally opposed to an education that valued the ability to endure pain. Education by severity obliges children to repress their fear and endure the severest sufferings. With that, for him, education should not repress fear. When fear is not repressed, when we really allow ourselves to be as afraid as this reality requires, then in this way much of the deleterious effects of unconscious and repressed fear will really disappear (Adorno, 1995e).

What Adorno diagnosed in his works was the bankruptcy of our culture. This bankruptcy is the main reason for the spread of barbarism. In a culture that promises but does not keep its promises, frustration, resentment and aggression arise as a consequence of a world that condemns men to permanent dissatisfaction. The division of society between those who think and those who work, between those who command and those who obey, between those who enjoy and those who live in permanent need, condemns the vast majority to frustration.

As Adorno (1995e, p. 164) himself points out: “Culture, which according to its very nature promises so many things, has not fulfilled its promise. She divided men. The most important division is that between physical and intellectual work. In this way, it has robbed men of confidence in themselves and in their own culture. And as usually happens in human affairs, the consequence of this was that men's anger was not directed against the non-compliance with the peaceful situation that is properly found in the concept of culture. Instead, the rage turned against the promise itself, fatally expressing that this promise should not exist.”

For Adorno, education plays a fundamental role against all forms of barbarism and all forms of violence, since aggressive impulses are underlying in the subject as a result of the process of coercion of life in society. The educational process emerges as a possibility of re-education of these suffered and sublimated aggressions towards openness to the other. It is also necessary to point out that violence is part of the process of human civilization and that it can be exacerbated or diminished according to the capacity for critical awareness built by educational processes (Habowski; Conte; Flores, 2018).

Following in the footsteps of Adorno, for the feminist thinker Bell Hooks, education has empowerment, liberation and transcendence as its fundamental purpose. It is the possibility for the individual to find himself and claim himself, seeking his place in the world. However, authoritarian practices, promoted and encouraged by many educational institutions, undermine democratic education at school. By attacking education as a practice of freedom, authoritarianism in the classroom dehumanizes and therefore destroys the “magic” that is always present when individuals are active learners (Hooks, 2019).

Today, in Brazil, authoritarianism has gained more and more space in the political scenario and has been conquering space through military schools. However, these movements have been increasingly resisted within the school. The “educational systems that, although structured to maintain domination, are not closed systems and, therefore, have within them subcultures of resistance in which education as a practice of freedom still takes place” (Hooks, 2019, p. 206). Today, it is already common in schools to discuss cultural and social diversity. The debate on topics such as gender, racism, inequality, feminism and LGBT causes (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, Transgender and Transgender) have become common subjects in classrooms. These themes first appeared in the faculties of human sciences. Academic discourse, both written and spoken, about race and racism, about gender and feminism, meant a major intervention, linking struggles for justice outside academia to modes of knowledge within it. Educational institutions that were founded on principles of exclusion began to consider the reality of prejudices and to discuss the value of inclusion (HOOKS, 2019).


Final considerations

In an era of integration of consciences and social regression, it is imperative that education becomes an instrument of resistance. Today, the great challenge for education, in the light of Adorno's thought, is the critique of semi-formation, as it appears not only in the macro-social context, but in the space of the classroom itself, seeking to capture, in a critical way, its trends intrinsic. Only through this path will it be possible to bring about a cultural formation that will contribute to broadening the horizons of individuals, to the emergence of subjects aware of their potential and artificers of their own history (Bandeira and Oliveira, 2012).

In this regard, Maar (2003, p. 473) states that, “for education to be effective, it is critical of the real semi-formation, resistance in the present material society to the limits imposed on life in the 'plan' of its effective production. Emancipation is a central element of education”. Education as an instrument of emancipation is above all a critical reflection of a reified society, which must make individuals aware of social contradictions and their production and reproduction through the objective spirit of semi-education. As Paulo Freire states, education can only become a “practice of freedom”, when the pedagogical process makes “oppression and its causes an object of reflection for the oppressed, which will result in their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation” ( FREIRE, 1987, p.17).

Thus, the pedagogical process must develop the capacity for information and understanding for an analysis and evaluation of the society in which we live. It must prepare individuals for non-acceptance, manifestation, confrontation and revolt, as it teaches us to break with the ways of seeing, feeling and understanding things. From this, it is necessary that all those who are committed to emancipation use all their energies “so that education is an education for contradiction and for resistance” (Adorno, 1995c, p. 183).

*Michel Aires de Souza Dias He holds a PhD in Education from the University of São Paulo (USP).

Originally published in the magazine philosophy and education, vol. 13, No. 3.



ADORNO, Theodor. On technique and humanism. San Carlos: UFSCAR, 2010.

ADORNO, Theodor. What does it mean to elaborate the past. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1995a.

ADORNO, Theodor. Education after Auschwitz. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1995b.

ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1995c.

ADORNO, Theodor. Philosophy and teachers. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1995d.

ADORNO, Theodor. Education against barbarism. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1995e.

ARANHA, Maria Lúcia de Arruda. Philosophy of education. São Paulo: Moderna, 1990.

BANDEIRA, Belkis and OLIVEIRA, Avelino. Cultural training and semi-training: Theodor Adorno's contributions to thinking about education today. Education, Porto Alegre, vol. 35, no. 2, p. 225-232, May/August. 2012. Available at 8028> Access in May 2021.

CHAUÍ, Marilena. Paths of Marilena Chauí: philosophy, politics and education. Interview given to Homero Silveira Santiago, Paulo Henrique Fernandes Silveira. Education and Research Magazine. São Paulo, vol.42 no.1, Jan./Mar. 2016.

CROCHÍK, JL Education for resistance against barbarism. In: Education Magazine: Teacher's Library, São Paulo, v. 2, no. 10, p. 16-25, 2009.

DUARTE, Rodrigo. Critical theory of the cultural industry. Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 2003.

FOGAÇA, Azuete. Education and professional qualification in the 90s: discourse and fact. In: OLIVEIRA, Dalila Andrade; DUARTE, Maria RT (Org.). Politics and work at school: management of public basic education systems. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2001. p.55-68.

FREIRE, Paul. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1987.

HABOWSKI, AC; CONTE, E.; FLORES, HRF Education and violence in Adorno's Critical Theory. Fragments of Culture, v. 28, p. 231-245, 2018.

HOBSBAWN, Eric. The Age of Extremes: The Brief Twentieth Century (1914-1991). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2001.

HOOKS, Bell. Democratic education. In: CASSIO, Fernando (Org). Education against barbarism. São Paulo: Boi Tempo, 2019. p. 199-207.

LIBÂNEO, Jose Carlos. Didactics. São Paulo: Cortez, 2006.

MAAR, Wolfgang Leo. By way of introduction: Adorno and the formative experience. In: ADORNO, Theodor. Education and Emancipation. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1995.

MAAR, Wolfgang Leo. Adornment, Semiformation and Education. in: Education and Society., Campinas, vol. 24, no. 83, p. 459-476, August 2003.

MARX, Karl, ENGELS, Friedrich. German Ideology. Lisbon. Editorial Presence, 1976.

MATOS, Olgaria Chain Feres. Theodor Adorno, the philosopher of the present. Psychology & ssociety, v.13, nº.2, Jul/Dec. 2001, p.142-146.

MESZÁROS, István. Education beyond the capital. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Boi Tempo, 2008.

PUCCI, Bruno. Theodor Adorno and the bourgeois coldness in times of digital technologies. Ideas IHU notebooks, São Leopoldo, v.10, nº 172, p. 3-16, 2012. Available at>.

SADER, Emir. Preface. In: MESZÁROS, István. Education beyond the capital. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Boi Tempo, 2008.

SAVIANI, Demerval. School and democracy: theories of education, bending the stick, eleven theses on education and politics. São Paulo: Cortez, 1987.

SAVIANI, Demerval. Educational supervision in historical perspective: from function to profession through the mediation of the idea. In: FERREIRA, NSC Educational Supervision for a quality school. São Paulo: Cortez, 1999.

VILELA, Rita Amélia Teixeira. Criticisms and possibilities of education and school in contemporary times: Theodor Adorno's lessons for the curriculum. Education in Magazine, Belo Horizonte, n.45. P. 223-248, Jun. 2007.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • The melancholic end of Estadãoabandoned cars 17/06/2024 By JULIAN RODRIGUES: Bad news: the almost sesquicentennial daily newspaper in São Paulo (and the best Brazilian newspaper) is rapidly declining