Henry Giroux on the ‘market society’ that creates the context for the corporate education reform movement. (From his recent interview in Truthout, The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth: An Interview With Henry Giroux) Understanding the ways in which the neo-liberal agenda makes the market the sole arbiter of value is key to understanding the destruction of the common good being felt on the front lines by educators and children!
I used the term market fundamentalism to highlight the ways in which the market has become a template to organize all aspects of society. In doing so, I attempted to make a distinction between a market economy and a market society. In a market economy, the forces that drive the market are subordinate to larger democratic political forces and corporations do not have the driving force or power to replace political sovereignty with a form of market sovereignty.
On the other hand, a market society is one in which any democratic vision of a just society and good life have been replaced by the totalizing notion that the only framing mechanisms available in which one can address such questions are now supplied by market modes of governance, ideology, values and policies. Under a market society, pedagogy produces political quietism; the quest to survive for many Americans becomes the order of the day; the experience of a better life is replaced by the trauma of trying to stay alive, and as Lauren Berlant points out, in such a society in which the good life is only possible within a market society “one can only imagine oneself as a solitary agent”(4) In measuring everything by the accumulation of capital and the yardstick of profit, market societies erode the effective dimensions of solidarity and the public good while emptying the language of democracy of any substantive meaning. And in doing so, the notion of a free market is oxymoronic and gives way to the swindle of individual choice and a notion of market freedom that seeks to maximize one’s self interest. As I point out in the book, a market society signals not only a change in values and policies but a revolution in the restructuring of politics and modes of governing in which the ideas and institutional basis of the welfare state, along with the social provisions which supported it, are gradually eliminated. (Emphasis added)