Education, neoliberalism and/or managed society



The school constitutes a privileged space in the fight against the objective conditions of fascism


in your text Education after Auschwitz, from the 1960s, Adorno argues that no principle for education should be more important than preventing Auschwitz from happening again; he argued that if educators were not aware of this, the repetition of the catastrophe could be repeated, not least because the objective conditions did not change and fascist purposes also survived in social democracies. How to modify the social conditions at that time, and it seems that nowadays too, it was not possible, we should turn to the formation of the individual, of his conscience, and education should become political and analyze the existing social forces.

As the issues relating to genocide are currently a matter of concern, even considering that this concept has been expanded in relation to that referred to by Adorno, it is up to education, which also involves school, to understand politically what happens, notably about the formation of conscience that can give shelter for individual fascist impulses that help sustain the catastrophe, to try to at least prevent its manifestations.

In this sense, politically, it would be appropriate to think about neoliberalism, which, for some time now, has not only gained hegemony, thanks to the defense of its propositions and developed practices, but also for becoming the main target, if not the only one, of its opponents. Certainly, as it is a worldwide phenomenon that has been strengthened since the 1970s, strong and precise criticisms must be made, and this has occurred, indicating the existence of a fundamental resistance to the advances of capital and to the proposals and practices fostered by that set of ideas. It would be appropriate, however, to reflect on whether these criticisms are not detached from the previous ones made to this social regime that transforms everyone into things to be exchanged for an equivalent that eliminates any possibility of differentiation, of individual formation and of its creations, also determined by the social system existing, since, according to Adorno (2015), at each moment, society leads to the individual regression it needs to reproduce itself.

Thus, the objective of this work is to think about the current formation of individuals, either by their personality characteristics or by their abilities and competences socially required and targeted by school education, and their relationship with characteristics attributed to neoliberalism, in what they can configure it as ideology, so that the real concentration of capital is not faced. To fulfill this objective, the exhibition will be divided into three parts; the first will bring elements to think about neoliberalism as an ideology, and, thus, the limits of the criticisms made to it, as if its implantation were real; the second will focus on individual training, whether in terms of personality characteristics, favorable or contrary to democracy and related to forms of school violence, or how to be a productivist and entrepreneur; and the last part will bring considerations about the relationship between this ideology and the formation of the individual.

Neoliberalism as an ideology

If there is nothing new in what is conceived as neoliberalism, if it basically consists of being an ideology, visualizing a new target, when it essentially does not exist, can lead to the defense of previously criticized forms, such as the welfare state and the social democracy. In relation to the latter, neoliberalism may appear to be a greater social regression, but it is the continuation of a conflict, in which antagonistic poles – such as the State and the market – take turns as agents considered to be the main ones.

In Adorno's text Late capitalism or industrial society?, the interweaving between the new and the old is visible; the author argues that capitalism, in the XNUMXth century, maintains the relations of production as in the XNUMXth century, at the same time that it gains an industrial aspect, proper to the development of the productive forces. Contrary to Marx's prognosis, the latter instead of "exploding" the production relations are imprisoned by them.

In recent times, the neoliberal ideology, strengthened since the 1970s, has been criticized, considering the weakening of the State's role, which tries to minimize the social injustices caused by the capitalist system (BRESSER-PEREIRA, 2009). The welfare state, which emerged as a response to the socialist threat in the first half of the last century, should guarantee a dignified life for its citizens, with health, education, security.

This State even changed the situation of impoverishment of the proletariat: “Proletarians have more to lose than their chains. Their standard of living has not worsened, but improved in comparison with English circumstances a hundred years ago, as presented to the authors of the The Manifest. Shorter working hours, better food, housing and clothing, protection for family members and old age itself, with the development of technical productive forces, workers have had a high average life expectancy” (ADORNO, Reflections on class theory).

in relation to the text Late capitalism or industrial society? It is also interesting to note that Adorno uses neither the concept of a “capitalist state” nor that of a “capitalist state”.Behemoth”, developed by his colleagues at the Institute of Social Research, but “late capitalism”, which makes it possible to understand that it is an anachronistic social and economic system, and as explicitly defended by him, contrary to predictions, revived until it is not known when.

For Harvey (2008), neoliberalism is more a project that managed to re-establish the conditions conducive to the accumulation of capital than the reorganization of international capitalism. When there is conflict between neoliberal principles and the need to reestablish elite power, the latter prevails, and those principles are abandoned or distorted.

Among these principles, according to this author, there is the market, which, as Korsch stated in 1941, ceased to exist: “Leaving the terrain on which the class struggle of workers against capitalism was waged in the previous era to the terrain on which that it should be continued today presupposes a complete view of a historical fact that is no less a fact because it served as a base theory for the claims of fascism. This historical fact that has finally arrived today can be described as a first approach, negative or positive, in any of the following terms: End of the market, End of competitive capitalism, “End of economic man”; Triumph of bureaucracy, administrative rule, monopoly capitalism; era of Russian four-year plans, Italian battles in wheat, Wehrwirtschaft German; Triumph of State Capitalism over Private Property and Individual Enterprise”. (KORSCH, 2020).

If there is no longer a market, it becomes an illusion that hides concentrated economic power. Therefore, there is no need to criticize something in neoliberalism that no longer exists – the market –, but the ideology to which it refers. If the market was never free, with monopolies, prices are directly managed by those who sell them and not by free competition. The aforementioned market becomes the financial and labor market: money and the worker are still the commodities to circulate, but for the latter, formal employment is increasingly rare, due to the growing and desirable automation.

The ideology of integration, as Adorno (2004a) names it, also tries to elide the existence of class struggle; and the welfare state, in its time, should reduce social injustices, to the point of, in the name of the bourgeoisie, taking care of the interests of the workers: “Marx's prediction was unexpectedly verified: the dominant class perceives itself so radically nourished by the work of others, that it takes its fate, having to feed the workers, as its own matter, and guarantees the 'existence of the slave within his slavery' to consolidate his own (ADORNO, Reflections on class theory).

If the working class is not class conscious (ADORNO, 2004a; LUKÁCS, 2018), it continues to occupy a social position conducive to overcoming the scarcity of material production, and as this has reached a level that would allow eliminating all existing misery, so that the work sacrifice is still demanded, it is necessary to create, according to Marcuse (1981), professions without occupation, so that the exploitation of work by capital can continue. If capitalism is an anachronistic system, all the new forms it assumes, including the neoliberal one, are reproductions of something that desperately tries to survive what is contradictory to it: the possibility of overcoming it.

Capital, however, continues to reproduce itself through surplus value, and the formula for this continues to be “money-commodity-money”, which makes it irreducible to financial capital; even financial crises, therefore, must be understood as crises of capital, and not because they are speculative; if financial speculation generates illusions about material production, it is its weakening, as it is not as profitable and more susceptible to risks, which leads capital to speculate. More than that, neoliberalism, being the concealment of the few groups that concentrate power, must guarantee the absence of risks, which is possible, paradoxically, with the elimination of the market and, therefore, of competition. In this direction, Harvey (2008) argues that the market, ideologically described as a way to promote competition and innovation, became a vehicle for the consolidation of monopoly power. And the groups that concentrate income directly influence political decisions in their favor.

The thinkers of the Frankfurt School criticized the existing welfare state in the countries of the so-called first world, which made possible, as highlighted, in these countries, a life with some comfort for all citizens, even though the distinction between social classes continued (ADORNO, 2004a; MARCUSE, 1982). Dissatisfaction with a narrow-knit society was expressed by the various social movements of the 1960s, indicating that the expansion of the distribution of material goods to everyone in those countries did not necessarily bring well-being. It was a society that should manage the interests of a few, with effective means, to the detriment of the majority of the population, which was already present during the Second World War.

In 1947, Horkheimer and Adorno (1985) wrote: “In current conditions, the goods of fortune themselves become elements of misfortune. While in the past the mass of these goods, in the absence of a social subject, resulted in the so-called overproduction, amid the crises of the internal economy, today it produces, with the enthronement of the groups that hold power in the place of this social subject, the threat international fascism: progress becomes regression” (HORKHEIMER; ADORNO, 1985, p. 15).

The fascist conduct of concentrated capital, it seems, continued under the aegis of neoliberalism. In practice, according to Anderson (1995) and Harvey (2008), neoliberal governments raised interest rates, lowered taxes on high incomes, removed controls on financial flows, increased the level of unemployment, fought unions, cut social spending. and initiated the privatization of state-owned programs and enterprises.

Trade unions, such as Horkheimer and Adorno (1985), already in the 1940s, and Marcuse (1982), two decades later, they pointed out, started to become unions of results, when not conducive to leaders who did not fail to threaten also the workers who resisted them. This pragmatism was also highlighted by Harvey (2008), but due to the increase in unemployment, which made unions more moderate in their demands. Now, here are three different reasons for the change in the objectives of the workers' unions. For Horkheimer and Adorno (1985), it is an elite of workers who manage their power over other workers; for Marcuse (1982), there was a separation between the struggle for the socialist revolution and the struggle for better working conditions, and the latter continues to restore the power of capital; and for Harvey (2008), it is a matter of saving what is possible, considering the ever-increasing industrial reserve army; but in none of these perspectives is the individual freedom to achieve social ascension based on merit, something present in neoliberal discourses on the merit of the worker.

The anachronism of Capital makes it go wrong, preventing, as mentioned before, a freedom already possible, taking into account the advance of the productive forces; and the more this is true, the more ideology must act to conceal the ever-increasing contradiction between the existing oppressive reality and the possibility of liberation. And as Horkheimer and Adorno (1973) have shown, ideology, which is also historical, has changed from Marx's time to the present, and it is no longer the contrast between discourse and reality that it is denounced; to convince people it is necessary to act, according to Marcuse (1981), with behavior engineering; for Horkheimer and Adorno (1973), psychic mechanisms must be activated to deny the verifiable: existing exploitation. Before understanding, the senses are already affected, which is endorsed in the exposition that these authors make of the cultural industry, which puts itself in the place of the beforehand Kantians.

And neoliberalism is also, and above all, ideology, and as stated in the paragraph above, it must affect thought and senses. It is not just a question of hiding reality, but of eliminating the possibility of conceiving other social forms of existence. According to Bresser-Pereira (2009), already in the 1960s, the separation between economics and politics proposed by American economists reduced economics to mathematics, trying to make it independent of politics. This reduction, also present in neoliberalism, is emphasized by Bourdieu (1998), who calls it “mathematical fiction”, by abstracting the real social conditions that make it possible. Horkheimer and Adorno (1985), at the end of World War II, already indicated that thought began to coincide with mathematics, which converted the enlightenment movement into the myth that it aimed to overcome.

Leda Paulani (1999) points out that neoliberalism is not an ideology as false consciousness, typical of liberal doctrine, but a sermon, a dogma, which does not admit contestation. Marcuse (1982) will name the ideology of industrial society or one-dimensional thinking and Habermas (1983) the ideology of technological rationality the affirmation of reality as perceived as being the only existing one; point out that thought is no longer able to go beyond the visible, the existing, and perceive the “determined negation”, as discussed by Horkheimer and Adorno (1973). In this way, criticism is reduced to the improvement of what exists and not to the possibility of already having enough material production for society to be constituted in another way, other than through the exploitation of alienated labor, and to realize freedom and equality between the individuals.

If Frankfurt thinkers were able to delimit, already in the 1940s, before the strengthening of neoliberalism, the concentration of capital, the change in the objectives of the unions and the new constitution of ideology, it can be said of this ideological proposal that it defends a non-existent market, that its components, and thus itself, are not new.

According to Paulani (1999), the objective of neoliberalism was to free capitalism from rules, facing State intervention in the market. For its proponents, the equality promoted by the welfare state was contrary to individual freedom and, consequently, contrary to social prosperity; the defended notion of individualism is different from the one that served as the basis for the concept of individual in liberalism; the doctrine focused on politics, with philosophical ballast, becomes an ideology that defends an economic policy aimed at deregulating the market in the midst of monopoly capitalism.

Bresser-Pereira (2009) is incisive in defending that neoliberalism is an ideology produced by the rich against the poor, against social democracy. Harvey (2008) also stresses that neoliberalism was a project to return power to the ruling class. Thus, once again, there is nothing new in neoliberalism that has not already been presented before. But even the devolution of power to capital is something to be considered, since the welfare state, prior to neoliberalism, did not fail to favor capital.

Harvey (2008) indicates the strengthening of social democracy in several countries after the Second World War, when the State should expand its interference in the economy to solve problems such as unemployment, promote economic development, and also well-being. of citizens. The use of “Keynesian” fiscal and monetary policies made it possible to reduce the suffering of the poorest; according to the author, a “class compromise” was established between capital and work. The working class was represented, through parties and unions, influencing State intervention. But, conflict remained between those who advocated state intervention and the main beneficiaries of monopoly capitalism.

For Perry Anderson (1995), Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira (2009) and Leda Paulani (1999), neoliberalism originated after the Second World War, especially in the 1950s; the text The Path of Serfdom, by Friedrich Hayek, from 1944, was its theoretical basis. According to Anderson (1995), the equality promoted by the State, for Hayek, harmed the possibility of competition, vital for the progress of all. Before the period of neoliberalism, however, the Cold War already expressed that capital continued as one of the existing social forces, and this new ideology can serve to strengthen it and not to create new social alternatives.

If neoliberalism defends individual freedom, to be found in an illusory market, it does not necessarily defend democracy. According to Anderson (1995), England was the first developed country to adopt the liberal perspective, followed by the United States of America. In the early 1980s, several countries – Germany, Denmark and other countries in northern Europe – also adopted a shift to the political spectrum considered to be right-wing. The US, according to Anderson (1995), which never managed to establish a Welfare State, had a distinct variation of neoliberalism, which prioritized competition with the Soviet Union, indicating, as in the Cold War, the continuation of dispute between social systems.

This opposition between the two main world powers was also reflected, according to Harvey (2008) and Anderson (1995), in several countries that, after the golden years of capitalism, overthrew dictatorships and elected governments considered leftist: France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Poland and Hungary. They were alternatives to neoliberalism and were based on workers' and popular movements. However, in a world where the interests of capital are preponderant, the leftist governments that come to power will have their limits and will be forced to follow the neoliberal orthodoxy, as it happened, which indicates that the criticism should not be made to neoliberalism , but to the profit mentality, whether provided by the State or by private companies, with the strengthening of the economic elite being the rule (HARVEY, 2008) – this author also shows another trend that strengthened capital from the end of the 1970s onwards. XNUMX: the liberalization of the Chinese economy, led by a communist government, making China a country with high growth rates.

As a result, in the 1970th century, two models of society were opposed. At first, with the Soviet Revolution and the New York Stock Exchange crisis, the progressive version, with state intervention in the economy, came to predominate; From the 2008s onwards, the field of forces is reversed. Regardless of the political regime, the concentration of income increased, decreasing wages and giving more profit to capital. To confirm this, Harvey (1970) shows that, in addition to ideological effects, neoliberalism, after its implementation in the late XNUMXs, concentrated income in the United States of America, England and several other countries and substantially increased wages. of company directors compared to other workers. In Russia, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a small and powerful oligarchy gains strength; in China too, income inequality has increased; in this way, democracies and dictatorships were able to take advantage of neoliberalism so that, in different ways, the concentration of capital and the creation of new economic and, therefore, political elites continued.

Despite the emphasis on a market that does not exist in monopoly capitalism, the neoliberal ideology needs, as highlighted, a strong State with regard to the tasks of inspection, collection and favoring of oligopolies and monopolies, either by sanctioned laws or by the infrastructure funded by taxes, and the first experience occurred, according to Harvey (2008), in the dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile. Thus, both the non-existent market and the false neutral state aim at the management of goods and people, also, and increasingly, converted into goods, in favor of the few dominant groups, which do not dispense with the use of the legal apparatus to protect their interests. . In this way, neoliberalism should not be considered a novelty, but a new way of hiding the administered society, and as a way of hiding it is ideology, which defends the non-existent: a free market and/or a neutral state in favor of the regulation of this false Marketplace.

The passage from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism is highlighted by Horkheimer and Adorno (1985); with this passage, there is a need for a more centralized, fascist administration, as can be seen in the passage written by them exposed pages ago; it is no longer a question of the production of goods in a society without a collective subject, which represents humanity, but of a society in which that production is owned by groups that exercise power in place of that humanity. Everything becomes the target of an apparently neutral administration, which reduces everything to the order of what is manageable: also culture, also people.

A culture reduced to managed material goods, however, according to Adorno (2004b), is something that has lost the possibility of criticism, a possibility that requires a distance to better reflect what is distanced, corroborating the ideology of technological rationality mentioned above. Such administration can be carried out by the State or by private initiative, but it has the same feature: it hides the main beneficiaries of this administration. Not by chance, even in the area of ​​personal relationships, the term “people management” is used, with which the manipulation of “things” is clearly manifested, and thus the production of reification. And of course, the social conflict between classes is also managed, that is, denied by those who praise meritocracy.

As indicated before, social contradictions do not disappear with the change of capitalism, but take on another form. An essential change takes place in those who dominate: they are also dominated by the system that benefits them; in the words of Adorno: “Dominion over human beings continues to be exercised through the economic process. Objects that are not only the masses, but also those who command and their supporters” (Reflections on class theory). As Marx (1984) can enunciate, it is not about analyzing and criticizing the capitalists, even if they are not worthy of greater praise, but about thinking about the relationship between capital and work. In the study by Wright Mills (1951), it is evident how the owners of smaller companies become employees of the larger companies that integrate those in their equity: the number of capitalists decreases, who become stronger, because the capital is more concentrated .

Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse, in their work, criticized totalitarian social systems: Nazi-fascism, Stalinism and formal democracy, but not real, the latter present, above all, in developed countries. The issue of domination is central to her works and is not restricted to the exploitation present in capitalism. By defending that Odysseus was the prototype of the bourgeois individual and that society at the time of the Iliad and the Odyssey presented itself with traits of what would be considered a mercantile society much later, they mark a historical perspective that describes domination in various forms, and also the possibility of overcoming it. By understanding our history as that of the bourgeoisie, they indicate that the contradiction between its conservative and progressive moments must be sought in its immanence. It doesn't matter where domination comes from: from the market, from the State, from fascist groups that manage power, but rather its denunciation and the overcoming of the objective conditions that express it.

The domination of nature, which also involved the domination of human nature, characterized and still characterizes our history, but its objective necessity is no longer justified, if it ever was justified. The advance of the productive forces, as mentioned before, reached favorable conditions for the elimination of extreme poverty; if this does not occur, it is for political reasons and no longer, predominantly, economic ones. Thus, their critique should not be directed only at present forms of domination, such as so-called neoliberalism, but at the perpetuation of domination, regardless of its form. For Adorno (2004e), the sources of fascism, used for capitalist administration, transcend the economy, and therefore, his criticism, as highlighted, expands to all forms of domination: “The tendency – I expressly speak of tendency – according to the which current society, if its political forms should adhere radically and by force to economic ones, is directed immediately, in a pregnant sense, in a meta-economic way, that is, no longer by forms defined by the classical mechanism of exchange. There should be no dispute between us as to the existence of such tendencies. So, the concept of dominance once again achieves a certain preponderance over purely economic processes. From a structural point of view, the forms seem to have been produced or delineated, through an immanent socioeconomic movement, forms that extrapolate the context of determining the pure economy and the immanent dialectic of society, becoming independent to a certain extent, and of in no way for good” (ADORNO, 2004e, p. 54).

At the end of the so-called Golden Age of capitalism, in 1969, Horkheimer and Adorno (1985) republished their work Dialectic of Enlightenment. Even though it was a decade of important cultural transformations, such as counterculture movements, student movements, revolutionary movements, its authors state: “[…] the development that we diagnose in this book towards total integration is suspended, but not interrupted ; it threatens to complete itself through dictatorships and wars” (HORKHEIMER; ADORNO, 1985, p. 10). In fact, in Brazil, for example, in 1969, the dictatorship inaugurated in 1964 expanded its powers. But the fight against this and other dictatorships also appeared, in that decade, in those movements. Dictatorships, wars and movements against them show the social contradictions, which tend to be suspended, but not eliminated by the administration as an end in itself, which apparently neutral, serves the dominant powers. The split between individual and society has widened and individuals are more directly manipulated by the latter, especially by the alienation resulting from this split.

The formation of the alienated individual

The formation for a society that manages and secures the assets of the most powerful must also be managed by these interests. For the maintenance of a fascist leadership, authoritarian personality types are needed who occupy leadership positions, in politics and in public or private companies, and those who support them. Executives are needed who use technical rationality for their good performance, regardless of business purposes: the same rationality is used for the manufacture of weapons and medicine; rationality prone to greater productivity; and culture and, among its institutions, the school must prepare these goal executors, as well as those who must follow the hierarchy and obedience to keep jobs, which are increasingly rare, according to Marcuse (1982), due to automation growth and industrial obsolescence planned so as not to reduce profit.

As this is structural unemployment, according to Marcuse (1981), considering that, contrary to the time analyzed by Marx (1984), in relation to the advance of machinery, new jobs were not and will not be created to replace the previous ones, apart from the production of goods to satisfy false needs, it is not by chance that, after the growth of franchises, a way of paying to work under the mandatory recommendations of the owner, the incentive to entrepreneurship appears. The school, with its objective of preparing for the labor market, must be concerned with developing, in its students, technical skills and competences to work in hierarchical teams or alone to manage to invent something to sell.

Silva (2018), when analyzing the recent National Common Curricular Base (BNCC) for High School, highlights the adaptive character; this “administered training”, according to the expression he uses, is contrary to a training that includes a historical-cultural dimension, conducive to individual differentiation and autonomy, and little prone to reflection. This new legislation, which according to the author is not new, already had its disposition set out in the educational legislation of the 1990s. and Sociology. Still according to this author, the skills required in training are conducive to that adaptation and not to criticism.

The modification proposed in the BNCC considers adapting to the supposed changes in the labor market, which, as we argue, is increasingly restricted due to structural unemployment, brought about by increasing automation.

Favero, Consalter and Tonieto (2020) also highlight this instrumental character of the current proposal for Secondary Education, which is based on the “Pedagogy of competences”, proper to utilitarian learning.

The criticisms made by Silva (2018) refer to the pseudo-training described by Adorno (2004a), in the 1950s: a tendency towards an external relationship with the contents taught and proper to serve for the adaptation of the individual to a society that excludes everyone, and this pseudo-formation occurs in two ways: adaptive (pragmatic) and by valuing culture as an end in itself. The former, by all indications, gained primacy, and the latter should not only be linked to superficial scholarship, but also to criticism of society. Adorno (2004a) defends a relationship between society and culture – in which formation occurs through the incorporation of this culture –, in which there is an initial movement of distancing, so that there is reflection on society and a return to it, so that it can be criticized and, if and when possible, modified. Thus, the mere teaching of Philosophy and Sociology is not enough, by itself, for the criticism of pseudo-formation and, consequently, for the society that objectively provides it.

Favero, Consalter and Tonieto (2020) indicate the controlling nature of education through a standardized assessment by the State based on market needs and, like Taffarel and Beltrão (2019), associate these changes with the neoliberalism present in education. Taffarel and Beltrão (2019) indicate that the BNCC for High School is a way to further impoverish the training of students from the working class. However, it should be noted that these authors do not have an understanding similar to that defended in this text that it is not a new form of capitalism – neoliberalism –, but the concentration of continuous income. Favero, Consalter and Tonieto (2020) even present the centralization of private education in powerful groups that are increasingly smaller in number, thus characterizing monopoly capitalism, and, even so, maintain the criticism of the ideology that denies the existence of these monopolies.

The development of knowledge and skills contributes to maintaining progress within order, on and off the job. But, as society is contradictory, school education also includes criticism of this type of training. as adornment et al. (1950) argue, in self-reflection and reflection on the world, which, despite their distinction, are correlated, it is not appropriate to separate, in the training made possible by the school, the personal characteristics, behaviors and skills developed from the knowledge acquired, which are fundamental for overcome alienation.

If, as defended at the beginning of this text, education must be political, aimed at the formation of conscience, the alienated conscience of social conflicts and the reified conscience, which converts everyone into objects of administration (manipulation), must be criticized, and, as developed in the previous part, ideology, either by occupying consciousness by a reduced vision of the existing world or by being a manifest lie, must be fought, in the direction of removing the subjective basis of support for objective extermination. It should be emphasized that violence and the tendency towards non-violence, present and encouraged at school, are socially mediated (ADORNO, 2004a).

With regard to social violence and personality formation, Horkheimer and Adorno (1985) argued that in the Nazi period it was no longer anti-Semitism that existed, but the mentality of the ticket; adherence to a set of adjectives – conservative or progressive – that reduced beings to these qualities and to the fixity of the relationship between these adjectives; stereotyped thinking. In the study on authoritarian personality, Adorno (2019) indicates some types, in addition to the characteristic sadomasochist – among them, the psychopath stands out, whose desire for destruction is visible, and the manipulator, whose pleasure is found in “doing things”, in the efficiency –; social alienation and the transformation of life and people into things to be manipulated are clearly perceptible. As Adorno (2004a) indicates, there are important psychic elements that constitute pseudo-formation, including narcissism and paranoia, correlates of an education for alienation, for indifference. There is no experience per se, but superficial contact with content that makes no sense to those who study it, which leads the Frankfurtian to state that what is learned must soon be “erased” so that new content can, superficially and briefly, occupy the thought that it does not focus on understanding the object, but on repeating its appearance.

At that moment, in the 1940s, in the domain of monopolies, an individual more psychically regressed than the classic authoritarian was present (CROCHICK, 2019); in this type, the constitution of an object of passion – of hatred – no longer needed to be configured, what mattered was the movement of the destructive impulse, no matter against whom. Thus, the Jew, at the time of Nazism, was a target designated by the German State to be persecuted, but he was neither loved nor hated, just an object allowed so that the fury of the feeling of real impotence could be discharged.

In a text published in the mid-1950s, therefore in the golden years of capital, Adorno (2015) argues that the neurotic individuals studied by Freud are replaced by narcissists, who abdicate consciousness and act solely in terms of their interests, and may be socially nice. Narcissism, however, is a movement of the drive that must return to the ego, in times of suffering, and returns to collective narcissism – love of country or another ideal – when individual narcissism is criticized. In short, if in liberalism a portion of the population had to develop an ego in its relationship with the objective world, so that it continued to be produced, in managed society, individuals must turn to themselves, and no longer to production, but for the consumption of superfluous goods, since the permanence of a fragile ego is nourished by this consumption.

If narcissism had already been indicated as the psychic regression present in the golden years of capitalism, it was only from the end of the 1970s that outstanding works on narcissism began to appear. In 1979, Lasch published The culture of narcissism (LASCH, 1983); in 1982, Green publishes Life narcissism, death narcissism (GREEN, 1988). Coincidentally, without dealing with a relationship between cause and effect, neoliberalism and the discussion on narcissism are strengthened from that decade onwards.

In the 1980s, another phenomenon emerged, according to Crochick (2019), correlated with more psychically regressed personalities: the bullying, aimed at satisfying primitive desires for omnipotence, such as the full domination and destruction of those who do not react sufficiently to violence; it does not have a delimited object, as is the case with prejudice. Some researchers (ANTUNES; ZUIN, 2008) have argued that the discussion of bullying it impoverishes the one made by the Frankfurtians about prejudice; recent research data (CROCHICK, J.; CROCHICK, N., 2017), however, indicate that both phenomena are related, but not confused, and that if prejudice can bring a defense of the existing moral and social order and a latent desire to destroy her, the bullying it only contains the latter, and anyone can be the target to be destroyed; prejudice would indicate a less regressed personality, as it needs a delimited object (Jew, black, disabled person) to project its forbidden desires and anxieties; on the other hand, for the author of the bullying, any object that does not resist serves his desire for domination and violence, which leads one to think that the bullying it is a more primitive form of violence than prejudice (CROCHICK, 2019).

As defended by Adorno (2015), the more society improves from a technical and administrative point of view, the less individuals are needed, and the individual formed with a more fragile ego – common to narcissists, psychopaths and manipulators – illustrates this transformation. : society tends to generate more regressed individuals, either for social relations or for understanding the world. A culture that does not provide an experience, a substantial contact with the world, is the one that makes possible insensitivity, indifference towards the objects with which the regressed individual relates according to his imaginary desires and fears; in this sense, an education that makes it possible to be open to experience with objects would be contrary to violence, but, for that, training should not be external, alien to students, but based on the understanding of social contradictions that must be overcome , contradictions that can be perceived in each object to be transmitted and in each skill to be developed in its historical relationship with society.

If narcissism is more current than sadomasochism in terms of existing social conditions, these correspond, as developed earlier, to the greater concentration of capital, and it is to its ideology that individual desires are associated. As analyzed by Freud (2011), ideational content is based on strong psychic needs, and Adorno et al. (1950) present as a hypothesis of their study on the authoritarian personality that a set of ideas has adhesion of individuals through their desires expressed by their personality structure. Culture mediates the relationship between individuals and society, it serves as a filter so that it can be perceived and interpreted; as, as mentioned before, it comes from a contradictory society, culture not only contains a distorted perception of the world that characterizes ideology, but also the possibility of its critique; in this way, the more diversified and rich a culture is, the more individuals manage to differentiate themselves and express their desires; the less diverse and poorer a culture is, the less individuals are able to express their desires.

The cultural industry, however, according to Horkheimer and Adorno (1985), brings the fetishism of cultural goods, and, in this sense, transmits ideology, in this case the fixity of the existing reality. It promotes the imitation of appearance as if the latter were the real thing, and thus forces one to adapt to what exists; thus impoverishes the possibility of perceiving social contradictions; these are sometimes perceived, and when this occurs some individuals adhere to the manifest lie to satisfy primitive and not always allowed impulses, such as cruelty and imitation made possible when the object of imitation is ridiculed.

If the cultural industry is characterized by the repetition of what is always the same, it does not offer specific objects to which individual impulses can be associated. According to Freud (1997), the objects offered by culture allow individual differentiation, through the contrast between fantasy and reality; if culture, like that transmitted by the cultural industry, does not provide objects, it produces a drive that is satisfied by repetition, which characterizes compulsion. If, as argued before, the bullying can do without objects for its destructive impulse, the cultural industry helps in its development, obstructing, in turn, the possibility of the individual to differentiate himself through the experience with the objects offered by culture.

For individual development to be possible, according to Adorno (2004a), a substantial relationship between the student and the content offered is fundamental, which cannot be less substantial for adapting to existing society and for overcoming its limits. The two modes of pseudo-formation mentioned above – the culture learned as a means of adaptation alone or the exaltation of culture as culture – are fostered by the cultural industry and strengthened by the school; when the latter does not criticize it and reproduces the absence of substantial content transmitted by the former, it becomes part of it.

If school education should not only address issues of violence, which are not restricted to school life, and if it is reproduced in the lives of adults in society, it also has as its fundamental objective the transmission of content and the development of skills. Thinking about trends in Brazilian education in recent decades, one can think of the emphasis on the scientific method to the detriment of knowledge specific to the humanities in the 1970s, the emphasis on skills and abilities, with the curricular parameters of the 1990s, which extend in the current proposal of the National Common Curricular Base, as mentioned before, in encouraging the discussion of personal projects, proactivity and entrepreneurship. Such proposals, according to Taffarel and Beltrão (2019), contribute to social conformation to the precariousness of work, including the acceptance of underemployment.

Now, in monopoly capitalism, with jobs becoming increasingly rare, it is difficult to think of alternatives for an individual project, and also for entrepreneurship, which serve as a clear indication that everyone has to learn to take care of themselves, without depending on social options, which are, in turn, less and less real. Thus, education is provided on what to do in a society of structural unemployment. If the objective interests of capital are safeguarded, individuals can conflict with each other without those interests being threatened. Thus, more than ever, education is for alienation, above all alienation and ignorance of the life that would already be possible. A formation for alienation that does not need the incorporation of culture, as culture increasingly loses the possibility of reflection through experience with substantial objects, such as freedom, equality, justice, happiness, solidarity and autonomy; reflection that should not be constituted externally to these objects.

Neoliberalism and training for alienation

If in the first part of this work the ideological character of neoliberalism was highlighted, which hides the advance of capital concentration as a continuation of monopoly capitalism, the criticism of the formation of the individual for alienation by Adorno (1995 and 2004a) at the end of the 1950s and the 1960s was also highlighted. By the way, the failure of education was already described in Horkheimer and Adorno's “Elements of anti-Semitism” (1985). The diversion of attention from the disgrace of the poorest strata to hatred of the Jew, the resentment that turned against him, was already, according to these authors, an interchangeable object.

At the time of Nazism, the most primitive psychic characteristics of individuals were already targeted by power, and this continued after the defeat of that system. It is not neoliberalism that leads to this regression, but the ownership of capital, present both in the Welfare State and in the theological doctrine of the market, as Hobsbawm (1995) refers to neoliberalism. It is certainly not indifferent, especially to the poorest, that the State offers compensation for the social injustices produced by the market, but as the market no longer exists, the benefits offered by this State, representative more of capital than of society, prevent the overcoming of the conflicts, because they are not even perceived.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was: (1) the strengthening of the doctrine of neoliberalism, to hide the concentration of capital; (2) discussions about narcissism, a more regressed psychic personality formation in relation to the past sadomasochist; and (3) discussions about the bullying, a more primitive form of violence than prejudice, especially in school life, and its impacts on psychic, school and adult life. And these phenomena occur in a society that is increasingly perfected from a technical and administrative point of view, which makes it possible to forget about social conflicts, safeguarding the interests of those who belong to the social elite, and the formation of individuals can become increasingly regressed; the relationship with culture and society is external, alien to the most pressing interests of the individual himself: his self-preservation, and more than that, the possibility of his self-determination. Identification between individuals must be denied, in the name of self-preservation, and education, including school education, favors the development of coldness, insensitivity, the inability to differentiate between oneself and others and among others; but sensitivity, the ability to differentiate expresses human intelligence, and when this is reduced to the repetition of what exists, it regresses.

Neoliberalism and the concomitant psychic regression, which is heading towards more primitive forms of destruction, express the continuity of the domination of the few over the many, and everyone finds it difficult to admit the impotence they have in the face of what they perceive: the existing false life and the possibility of its overcoming. Forming an awareness that makes it possible to perceive the falsity of neoliberalism's proposals and the consequent individual demands is fundamental, and educators should not abandon this objective, either by transmitting culture, as a historical property of all, whose acquisition allows individuation, or by the possibility that students can express themselves through the languages ​​learned. This individuation and possibility of expression of desires and fears can avoid irrational violence so that we can identify, with precision, the targets against which we must fight, so that the threats to life, generated by society, are extinguished, since the conditions fascism's objectives still remain, promoting new Auschwitz, indicating that the maintenance and strengthening of power given by the concentration of income in the name of a few and to the detriment of the majority of the population continue to be one of the greatest ills to be fought for a substantially democracy, which has the school as a privileged institution.

*Jose Leon Crochick He is a professor at the Institute of Psychology at USP. Author, among other books, of Prejudice, individual and culture (Psychologist's House).

Article originally published in Educar em revista, v. 37, 2021 []


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