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

Review by Shantam Goyal, University at Buffalo

Last Word

As Ford's comprehensive bibliography shows, the idea of reconfiguring and reimagining the very foundations of higher education and academia is not by any means a shocking or new thought. Neither is new the idea of embracing instability and non-sense, the idea of "patience with what is hidden, what withdraws, what remains unsaid in the said" (p. 102). Where he goes beyond is in always making a return to pedagogy, and in his insistence on grounding his theoretical flights in material histories of education and political struggle. Near the beginning of his final chapter, Ford talks about the three volumes of Marx's Capital, mentioning their respective foci, and affirming, "At heart then, Marx poses communism as a pedagogical problem, as a quandary that demands the intervention of magical educational thinking" (p. 108, emphases original). His affirmation also pins communist pedagogy against technology's uncreative service of communicative capitalism, or the unrevolutionary service of sporadic systematic disruption, such as Anonymous's attacks on Syria and Libya (pp. 31–32).

I will add here a remark about the hitherto unmentioned short conclusion to the book, titled, "A Pro-Test Protest." Here, Ford speaks of Lenin in 1922, urging his comrades to "embrace the test" (p. 128, emphases original). This test is the party's grand economic experiment, and, unlike familiar standardized tests, it stands for the potential and possibilities of newness. I infer that teachers often mention this test, unlike an exam, when we try out a new syllabus, or a new plan, or a new arrangement, and it is usually clear whether we have passed or failed because students do not mince words. Ford's communist pedagogy, as much as it "defies measurability" (p. 129), is a test of similar imaginative possibilities.

For me to say that Ford's work is a vindication of communist pedagogy would be as unfair as the assumption that communist pedagogy needs vindication. Neither is it possible right now to say whether Ford's (un)communicative communist pedagogy goes far enough in its realizable praxis, but as these past years continue to move into the present and the future, we will know sooner rather than later.