Regulating Subjectivity to Control the Conduct of Our Conduct: 21st Century Government

Have you noticed that ‘limited government’ is another one of those catch phrases like Liberty, Freedom, High Standards for All, and Competency-Based Education that is suddenly ubiquitous, but not quite working in the way we might conceive? See if this sounds limited to you?

“Government refers to all endeavours to shape, guide, direct the conduct of others…it also embraces the ways one might be urged and educated to bridle one’s own passions, to control one’s own instincts, to govern oneself.”

Suddenly all the deceit about learning standards like the Common Core and student privacy makes more sense, doesn’t it? They are tools of control just like GDPR when accurately understood. Law itself and education from preschool to management training on weekends all become tools to bindingly, and largely invisibly, impose:

“more or less rationalized schemes, programmes, techniques, and devices which seek to shape conduct so as to achieve certain ends. [Outcomes!!]

Such rationalized practices should be distinguished from the controls on conduct that have, no doubt, existed in all human collectivities at all times and places. This distinction hangs on the elements of thought, intention, and calculation…To dominate is to ignore or attempt to crush the capacity for action of the dominated. But to govern is to recognize this capacity for action and to adjust oneself to it. To govern is to act upon action. This entails trying to understand what mobilizes the domains or entities to be governed: to govern one must act upon these forces, instrumentalize them in order to shape actions, processes and outcomes in desired directions. Hence, when it comes to governing human beings, to govern is to presuppose the freedom of the governed. To govern human beings is not to crush their capacity to act, but to acknowledge it and to utilize it for one’s own objectives.”

If this blog had a musical feature instead of two-dimensional print, the sound you would be hearing is the song “I Can See Clearly Now that the Rain Has Gone”. Reading plans like that from a new ethics of politics and public policy in the 21st century globally taken from footnotes as I was researching ‘data-driven governance’ is like San Francisco Bay on the first non-foggy day of a visit or Denali when it is not encased in the typical clouds. Magnificent clarity, isn’t it? The activities of Global CXI from the last post, UNESCO, and the OECD all make perfect sense once we are aware that the successor to ‘the collapse of state socialism and ‘free-market liberal democratic individualism’ is “political power [that] takes as its object the conduct of its subjects in relation to particular moral or secular standards, and takes the well-being of those subjects as its guiding principle.”

Now imagine hiding those aims in phrases like “student-centered learning” or Teaching Students How to Think, Not What to Think. Here’s another revealing quote: “the activity of government [becomes] inextricably bound up with the activity of thought. It is thus made possible by and constrained by what can be thought and what cannot be thought at any particular moment in our history.”

Suddenly, those redefinitions of Marxism as synonymous with Totalitarianism and big-C Communism, the ignoring of all the documentable scholarship around a very real Marxist Humanism, and the reimagining of what the developed West could be in a sought Human Development Society, makes perfect sense. No wonder I kept stumbling across it as I was trying to get to the bottom of what was being mandated into education of any type. No wonder we keep encountering redefinitions of what used to be differently understood common historic terms and an insistence now that Knowledge is not a body of facts, but rather specified concepts to be used and applied.

“concepts are more important for what they do than for what they mean. Their value lies in the way in which they are able to provide a purchase for critical thought upon particular problems in the present.”

I really did write “Bingo!” in the margin after that last quote. It certainly puts Disciplinary Core Ideas and the conceptual emphasis and new conception of history as about “present problems” we encountered in Reading and Thinking Like a Historian, History Matters, and the Discipline of Anticipation. That would make sense as each of those had their genesis from funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Let’s see what the professor I have been quoting throughout this post, Nikolas Rose, wrote: “as us ex-Marxists like to say, the Rockefeller Foundation played a conscious and very wide-ranging role in trying to invent non-communist forms of government in the first half of the twentieth century.”

My documentation shows they kept it up in the second half too as all those Bellagio convenings around education in the last several years clearly show. But that’s the admitted Left. I have pointed out before that the Bradley Foundation seems to be funding a redefinition of American Founding Principles in a more communitarian direction as well. Is their funding of School Choice just another example of a technique of invisible governing in the 21st century? It certainly looks that way to me and this reimagined conception of Freedom from a source they support financially in commemoration of July 4 https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/270626/independence-day-and-recovery-true-freedom-bruce-thornton supports that view. Another source from an entity they support, ISI, wanted to recently contrast License with True Freedom https://home.isi.org/word-freedom-lost-meaning in a way that also struck me as redefining concepts and using them to remake the future.

Since I was struck by what seemed to be an Independence Day pattern this year let’s also link to another reimagining https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/independence-forever-the-eternal-principles-behind-the-declaration this time with links to Hillsdale College and its Barney Charter School/Classical Ed template. See Mom, I have found a good use for my history major in my adult life. Ferreting out ahistorical accounts set out to change how we are to be governed in the future through misleading references to the past. Perhaps we should see all the Tranzi OBE initiatives described in my book Credentialed to Destroy and these Classical Ed or Portrait of a Graduate pushes now through yet another Rose quote reimagining what Freedom and governing in the name of it can become:

“this practical work of government is especially focused on schooling, where a variety of programmes try to modify older techniques of citizen formation to shape the cultural capacities and interests of these new multicultural citizens. But these attempts to programme ethics in the service of political objectives…”

would be a great reason to misrespresent everything going on in education through an organized pattern of deceit via financed books, blogs, testimony, and conferences, wouldn’t it? No one can fight this new vision of government imposed at the level of thought itself, motivations to act in the future, and emotion if there is no widespread recognition of what is going on. That’s especially true if the volume of the False Narrative and the Truly Strange Bedfellows involved from all spectrums of politics drown out the Truth. Since I am in a linking mood here is https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-06-19-how-a-classics-education-prepares-students-for-a-modern-world another piece of proof about normative citizen formation as the true aim.

Has the phrase ‘limited government’ become ubiquitous because no one is telling us about a shift from seeing Freedom “as neither a state of being nor a constitutional form but as a politics of life”? Do we have “personalized learning” as a modern means to “abandon the conventional ways of ascribing ethical value to the opposition between subject and object, in which subjectivity is privileged as the authentic and natural locus of moral autonomy: we are governed as much through subjectivization as through objectivization.” Those articles linked above are all rationalizing going after subjectivity in the name of qualities needed for citizenship for a Republic. We also keep hearing about the need to instill certain Virtues and an appreciation for the Good, True, and Beautiful, but nary a mention of any ties to what Rose called the “radical civic republican tradition.” Let’s end with another of his quotes:

“The name of Aristotle, here, denotes the possibility that individual human actions should be guided towards the good through the exercise of a set of interrrelated qualities–virtues–agreed upon and exercised within a moral community or polis which can provide the standards against which the goodness of each of its citizen members can be judged.”

You’ll never believe another name for that set of interrelated qualities or virtues. That’s right. It’s a devolved vision of the local community operating “around a shared common core and this can be embraced and empowered within a common constitutional framework.”

Maybe the Rockefeller Foundation can fund the initiative in the name of Resilience and Futures Literacy, while Bradley and Koch can fund it in the name of Liberty, free markets, Moral Sentiments, and Founding Principles of Self-Government.

Maybe no one will notice we are converging to the same vision of education using different rhetoric or that this instilled interrelated set of qualities is to form the “core” to serve as the basis of an “ethico-politics” in the 21st century.

But someone did notice and document it all despite the organized deceit. No wonder I feel tired.

 

6 thoughts on “Regulating Subjectivity to Control the Conduct of Our Conduct: 21st Century Government

  1. They don’t teach the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence in school any more. That’s a real cry for freedom. Instead they teach that other Preamble, to the Constitution, talking about the “more perfect union”. They even make kids memorize it in our district.

    And you have to be in honors history now to get any facts. In non-honors history, everything is categorized neatly for you, like various -ism’s, and the analysis is abstract and simplistic, coming down a lot to what the student feels about something. The teachers say, probably rightly, that the kids wouldn’t be able to learn and start to make sense of all the facts required in the other approach. But maybe they should learn some but fewer facts, rather than vapid fact-free -ism’s. I think that’s what they used to do. Then the students knew what they did and didn’t know, rather than having a habit of thinking everything should be analyzed according to the prepackaged categories.

    • Hi David–

      https://ssir.org/articles/entry/civic_virtues_and_the_healing_of_partisan_divides tells us the purpose of those ‘isms’ now is to create a worldview that will allow “participation in civic society.” I thought it fit right in with Nikolas Roses’s insight that public policy and government could control people by regulating subjectivity. Notice it’s always the heart that is aimed at first, then the mind.

      http://bostonreview.net/politics/melvin-rogers-democracy-habit-practice-it from a few days ago shows us that John Dewey’s vision I covered so thoroughly in CtD is alive and well now. The vision, as above, is to cultivate the necessary “habits and dispositions”. The articles I linked to here are pushing that same aim except they push it in the name of Good, True, Beautiful, and Founding Principles instead of Dewey’s Democracy or Social Justice. It’s all about motivating future behavior though in the name of ‘principles’ and ‘categories of thought’ without enough accompanying facts to recognize you are being fed what is actually a Guiding Fiction.

      Data & Society recently had its second Future Perfect conference and was pushing the idea of knowledge where “Ultimately, we must also imagine and craft the worlds we cannot live without, just as we dismantle the ones we cannot live within.” The italics were in the original quote, but this aim is also what we saw in those Charlottesville curricula that were all developed prior to the March in anticipation of an incident.

      I wonder what is planned for the upcoming anniversary.

    • Also take a look at this created with NSF funding for a similar category of student. http://oceansofdata.org/projects/strengthening-data-literacy-across-curriculum-sdlc

      It makes no bones about its intention in Exploring Social Science Data that “creates a set of multidisciplinary curriculum modules, focused on social justice issues with direct relevance to students’ lives. That’s Dewey’s instilled Habits and Dispositions without saying so. It’s also where that Civic Virtues vision appears to be going. It also fits right in with History Matters and what we saw from the Stanford History Education Group that turned out to be tied to Media Literacy K-12 standards. All essentially determined to regulate subjectivity at the level of the mind and emotions while hiding behind course names like history, Language Arts, or math.

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