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Glenn Rikowski





This is a paper I prepared for the International Conference on Critical Education VIII, University of East London, Stratford Campus, 25 – 28 July 2018. The Abstract is below, and the paper itself can be viewed at Academia and at ResearchGate.

Glenn Rikowski



Why Marxism? Why Marxist educational theory? Through addressing these questions, this paper proclaims the importance of Marxism as a theory that intellectually disrupts and ruptures capitalist society and its educational forms. With reference to the work of John Holloway, it is argued that the significance of Marxism resides in its capacity to pinpoint fragilities and weaknesses in the constitution of capital. Grasping these fragilities in the rule of capital in contemporary social life sharpens the critical edge of any politics aimed at social transformation. Marxist educational theory plays an important role in this enterprise. These points are illustrated through consideration of the following ideas and phenomena: fragility, crisis, critique, negativity and social form(s). It is argued that fragility must be the starting point as Marxism is primarily a theory of capitalist weaknesses, and not the opposite: a theory of capitalist domination. Following Holloway, Marxism is a theory against society, rather than just another mainstream theory of society. Against Holloway, it is argued that the forms that fragilities for labour take also need to be understood. Paradoxically, our strength vis-à-vis capital is also the place for apprehending the fragilities and dependencies of labour. This vicious duality also exists in terms of crises in capitalism, and this flows into the phenomena of critique and negativity too. Finally, on the basis of this theorisation, the doors of capitalist hell are opened through a consideration of social forms in general and commodity forms in particular and their relations to educational processes and institutions. It is at this point that Marxist educational theory enters the stage, although in a transfigured form. In 1997, I wrote an article for the British Journal of Sociology of Education called ‘Scorched Earth: Prelude to Rebuilding Marxist Educational Theory’. Twenty-one years later, this paper can be viewed as my definitive first element in a programme of rebuilding Marxist educational theory.


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The full paper can be downloaded from Academia, at:

The full paper can be downloaded from ResearchGate, at:



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