Politics and Pedagogy in the "Post-Truth" Era: Insurgent Philosophy and Praxis by Derek R. Ford

Review by Shantam Goyal, University at Buffalo

blurry photo of someone reading at an outdoor library; handwritten The People's Library sign in forefront
A scene from the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011 (Zoriah, 2011).

For the Resistance

It would be wrong to say that Ford imagines political resistance and struggle as outside of pedagogy. Its possibility is embedded within the work that teachers and students perform. In setting up a pedagogy from within the party framework, Ford also borrows instances from protests, looking at them as moments of "radical study" (p. 22). Drawing on Tyson E. Lewis's work, he cites Occupy Wall Street as a movement where the protestors breached the expected rhythm of protesting, which would have involved them articulating demands and the state formulating a response to those demands. With no clear demands, no urge to get specific results, and no hierarchical leadership structure, the movement became an "ongoing study of politics" (p. 32). The same is true for the history of the Communist Party of the United States of America, formidable but much weaker than its counterparts in China or the USSR. The ground-level party-work was not done with an external objective but with an internal vision, sustained by the flurry of the party members' activity (p. 34). In these examples, Ford manages to broaden the meaning of study and pedagogy, seeing education and politics as both dependent on and informing each other.

With this determined, Ford's project emerges from the classroom and into the city in the chapter "Stupid Urbanism," which is a promising study between the city and the urban, the former a utilitarian spatial arrangement and the latter an aspiration and way of being rife with possibilities of confrontation. The city, as an ordered and sensible moving force of capitalism, is limiting and no longer a tenable conceptual category if we want to think of confrontation. The urban therefore "escapes the city" and opposes it by becoming the site of difference, unpredictability, confrontationality, and stupidity (p. 80).

It is clear by this moment in Ford's book that his study is moving toward a clarion call for resistance, and for mutability as the answer to democratic communicative capitalism's predictability. He ends this chapter with the declamation, "It is not blindness we must overcome, but our insistence on sight. It is not stupidity we must overcome, but our insistence on knowledge and communication" (p. 87). His imaginative mode of engagement promises to be affective, and is just barely content with staying on the white of the page. If the capitalist city thrives on taming that which cannot be understood, then non-understanding is where the left can find its home on the ground.