Conflicts of Globalization and Restructuring of Education

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“The Conflicts of Globalization and Restructuring of Education” Douglas Kellner

The September 11 terrorist attacks have generated a wealth of theoretical reflection as well as regressive political responses by the Bush administration and other governments (Kellner, 2003b). The 9/11 attacks and subsequent Bush administration military response have dramatized once again the centrality of globalization in contemporary experience and the need for adequate conceptualizations and responses to it for critical theory and pedagogy to maintain their relevance in the present age. In this article, I want to argue that critical educators need to comprehend the conflicts of globalization, terrorism, and the prospects and obstacles to democratization in order to develop pedagogies adequate to the challenges of the present age. Accordingly, I begin with some comments on how the September 11 terror attacks call attention to key aspects of globalization, and then provide a critical theory of globalization, after which I suggest some pedagogical initiatives to aid in the democratic reconstruction of education after 9/11.1 September 11 and Globalization The terrorist acts on the United States on September 11 and the subsequent Terror War throughout the world dramatically disclose the downside of globalization, and the ways that global flows of technology, goods, information, ideologies, and people can have destructive as well as productive effects.2 The disclosure of powerful anti-Western terrorist networks shows that globalization divides the world just as it unifies, that it produces enemies as it incorporates participants. The events reveal explosive contradictions and conflicts at the heart of globalization and that the technologies of information, communication, and transportation that facilitate

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globalization can also be used to undermine and attack it, and generate instruments of destruction as well as production. The experience of September 11 points to the objective ambiguity of globalization, that positive and negative sides are interconnected, that the institutions of the open society unlock the possibilities of destruction and violence, as well as democracy, free trade, and cultural and social exchange. Once again, the interconnection and interdependency of the networked world was dramatically demonstrated as terrorists from the Middle East brought local grievances from their region to attack key symbols of US military power and the very infrastructure of Wall Street. Some see terrorism as an expression of “the dark side of globalization,” while I would conceive it as part of the objective ambiguity of globalization that simultaneously creates friends and enemies, wealth and poverty, and growing divisions between the “haves” and “have nots.” Yet, the downturn in the global economy, intensification of local and global political conflicts, repression of human rights and civil liberties, and general increase in fear and anxiety have certainly undermined the naïve optimism of globophiles who perceived globalization as a purely positive instrument of progress and well-being. The use of powerful technologies as weapons of destruction also discloses current asymmetries of power and emergent forms of terrorism and war, as the new millennium exploded into dangerous conflicts and military interventions. As technologies of mass destruction become more available and dispersed, perilous instabilities have emerged that have elicited policing measures to stem the flow of movements of people and goods across borders and internally. In particular, the U.S. “Patriot Act” has led to repressive measures that are replacing the spaces of the

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open and free information society with new forms of surveillance, policing, and restrictions of civil liberties, thus significantly undermining U.S. democracy (see Kellner, 2003b). Ultimately, however, the abhorrent terror acts by the bin Laden network and the violent military response by the...
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